Monday morning we woke up in our hotel room in Alamosa, Colorado. We had a two hour drive ahead of us before we reached Leadville, and finally, our Yurt.
We had been warned on the phone ahead of time that unless we had 4 wheel drive, it would be a long hike to the 2 Yurts hidden in Leadville back country. Petey has 4 wheel drive, so we headed confidently into the mountains, expecting to drive right up to our destination.
We spent a little time in Leadville, a historic city built in the mountains. Once an old mining town, it is full of museums, antique stores, and run down mine shafts.
The city is surrounded by the 14ers, and it's absolutely breath-taking. It feels like no tiny bit of world exists outside of what your eye can see.
Every store we went into proudly displayed tshirts, posters, and souvenirs naming each and every one of the 54 mountains in the area that you could summit. And at the top of every list was Elbert. I felt sick, knowing that in 3 days it would be me on that mountain.
Before we left town to spend 2 days in the middle of nowhere, we stopped at a few old mines. Still intact, 100 + years after they were first used.
The road to the Yurts was rocky, steep, and slow. With every minute that passed we stretched farther and farther away from anyone or any thing familiar. Our phones lost service, the woods grew thicker, and Petey dragged on.
And then about half an hour into our drive, he gave up. We backed up and tried pushing forward faster, but not even our 4 wheel drive was enough to climb the steep rocks that were marked "road." I wondered what kind of vehicle actually could make it up these mountains.
So we had to abandon Petey. We parked him in some trees and peed all around him in case some bears decided to come sniff out the food we had to leave behind. And as we packed 100 pounds of gear and started our long hike to the Yurts, it started to rain. Perfectly ironic.
One backpack on the front, one on the back, carrying almost 40 pounds of extra weight, I wasn't doing so well.
And then before I knew it, I was sick. Really sick. I told Michael to get the backpack off my stomach because I felt like I was going to pass out. Two seconds later I was gone. Laying on the ground and feeling cold mountain rain on my cheeks. All I wanted to do was poop. Seriously. It is all I could think about at that point. My dear husband was in charge of finding me the most soft, supple leaves possible, and I made like a bear and pooped in the woods.
Not even a week later, I was standing in the bathroom staring at 2 lines, and suddenly my moment of getting sick, passing out, and pooping in the woods made complete sense. Little did I know I was almost 4 weeks pregnant that day, backpacking to our Yurt in Leadville back country.
Finally the sun came out and the trees thinned. We knew we were almost above treeline, and almost to our Yurt. We stopped at an old abandoned cabin, and I may or may not have brought home a little piece of it.
We passed a reservoir along the way, that was home to 3 sweet lady cows. We named them all Bessie, and saw them quite a few times over the next 2 days that we stayed.
The last leg of the hike was the worst. It was the steepest part of our hike, and the air had thinned now that we were above treeline. I wanted nothing more than to be there. We didn't know what to expect, but I knew it was better than what I was feeling at that point.
And then we found our Yurt. With one map and directions on how to get there, we made it. And it was perfect. Two Yurts, one outhouse, and one wood shed.
Inside we found everything we needed. No running water, electricity, or phone service, but we had towels, firewood, pots and pans, a wood burning stove to keep us warm and cook on, and prayer flags hung from the ceiling.
I started cooking our soup while Hunter snoozed at my feet, tired from our long hike to the Yurt. I should have made him carry the backpack full of canned food.
Michael chopped extra wood and I explored and found some old bones. I wonder who they belonged to.
The Yurt was like a dream. Two full days away from everything. No tv, internet, phones, people, cars, or static. We were a 45 minute drive away from Leadville, with nothing around for miles. Perfect.
After dinner we headed back down to the watering hole to look around. Hunter went for a swim and we rested our tired bones.
It was so quiet. A kind of quiet I've never experienced before. One that echos so loud in your head that it's almost deafening.
There was a steep mountain up above our Yurt, so we decided to hike up it and see what was on the other side.
And there was Leadville. Reality sunk in that we were just that far away from the closest person. They couldn't even see us standing on top of that mountain if they squinted, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.
On one side we had Leadville, one big squint away. And on the other side below us, we had our Yurts. I felt like I was standing on top of the world.
And up there was something else. Miles away we were staring at the monster. Elbert towered in the distance, reminding me that I wasn't even close to being on top of the world. 2,300 feet higher than where we stood was the summit of that mountain. It was in the clouds, tipped with snow and intimidation.
We waited for the sunset, and stayed until it was so cold that we had to run back down to our Yurt to start a fire.
We turned on our lantern and made some hot tea on the stove while dinner was cooking: cornbread, beans, and rice. I think every moth in the Rocky Mountains was inside our Yurt, and we took turns smooshing them so I could sleep that night, without worrying about moths in my hair.
Finally it was dark, and it was the first night I got to run outside and completely disappear into one of my favorite things about Colorado: the stars.
We ate dinner outside. If it hadn't been 30 degrees, I could have slept out there under that sea of lights. The stark spine of the mountain against that night sky, I didn't want to be anywhere but there.
We went to bed early, because when morning came, it would be time to tackle Horeshoe Mountain. Tomorrow we would be hiking to it from the Yurt, and climbing to the top. One more full day of hiking to prepare us for Thursday. Elbert, here we come.
next: Part Three: Day two in the Yurt, and a day of hiking.