"Albert Camus wrote that the only serious question is whether to kill yourself or not."

Leadville Day 1 – Turquoise Lake

After a good night’s sleep, we woke up around 5:30 AM. The house was freezing cold, and the dog sauntered over and stuck her nose in my face, for her morning greeting.

Sunrise on Mt. Massive

We woke up and went for a walk through Leadville. We headed East, and I wanted to find the “Miner’s Trail”, which is a 12 mile paved loop around the town. We didn’t find it, and having since looked at a map I realize now it’s quite a ways out of the city.

Sweet building, not so sweet snowflake decorations.

Instead, we found lots of cool little old houses. We found the 6th St. Gym (meeting place for the Leadville 100 events). Not that it was tough to find, since I live exactly 3 blocks away, also on 6th St.

6th St. Gym. Where the Leadville magic happens!

The houses vary greatly, from total dump to really cool retro (and I do mean retro, as in, cowboy era!) cottages. Coming from a place like Canada, where “history” is basically non-existent (other than the Citadel in Halifax, and Vieux-Quebec?) it really is cool to think that once upon a time this was prospectors and cowboys and six-shooters. I guess I just have a thing for the wild west. Anyway, Leadville hasn’t done a great job of preserving that, or rebuilding it, and only sporadic examples remain.

This building is very blue.

We saw a couple of cats, and Tona stood stock-still (is that a Cowboy term?) until I muttered something, possibly “Okay let’s go” which was a mistake, because “Okay” is really the command for “have at ‘er!” and so she took off after the cats. I had a miserable hold on the leash, and on my camera, and ended up having to let her unreal like a fish on a hook, to keep from losing her. Well instead I lost two huge chunks of skin from my hands. The combination of rough leash, bone-dry skin and freezing cold resulted in gouges that would have bled a whole lot more, had my blood not been so cold that it was basically congee.

A few seconds later, I was seriously injured in a tragic dog-leash accident.

Anyway, I nearly passed out (seriously) from the excitement. It turns out that the altitude isn’t so bad if you breathe heavily, but once you stop breathing, you just immediately run out of oxygen. When you are preoccupied with a rabid, insane dog, you stop breathing. So anyway, I nearly fainted. I would later discover this while trail running, as well: drinking water or chewing food resulted in an almost instantaneous gasping for air. It seems that there’s just no excess oxygen in my blood. “Just keep panting, just keep panting!” is my mantra. I have also discovered that it’s nearly impossible to hyperventilate.

Another Leadville house.

After the morning, we did some shopping. We went to the Forestry Station to pick up some maps, where I promptly left my Akubra on the counter. This is the way it goes, for me. I lose everything. Nothing is worn out, only lost.

Next we went to explore Turquoise Lake.

First view of the lake through the trees.

Turquoise Lake is the first “destination” on the Leadville 100 trail run. After running down 6th street, you run some boring roads and whatnot (I’m not sure of the exact course yet) until you reach the lake. Then you run almost along the lakeshore, about halfway around. So we drove there, trying to follow the running route (without a map, I don’t think I was very successful) and then parked and started walking the lake trail.

Lake plus Dog

It has all the charm of a seemingly man-made lake. Rough, rocky shore, depressed water level, and lots of hot, dusty campsites. The trail was pretty easy to follow, but I don’t think it’ll be easy to follow at night! Hard to get lost though, what with a massive lake on the your right. The trail did get confusing at one point, and I was having a hell of a time hiking anyway, what with the lack of oxygen. The dog played in the water for a while, and zoomed around on the beach like a bat out of hell. She obviously had some pent-up frustrating from spending 2 days in the back of a truck being cooked alive.

We left the start of the Lake trail, and drove to the end of the lake trail, near May Queen campground. Again, it’s not super obvious where the trail goes, because there’s a million ways it could go. But the gist of it is that after the campground, you head West a bit, then join up with the Continental Divide Trail. Unfortunately none of this is very obvious from the very high level course map they have online, but I haven’t read the detailed course description yet. I also heard they might be releasing more detailed maps very soon, maybe within the week.

The trail from May Queen Campground to Haggerman Pass. Very runnable!

Another shot of the terrain on CDT from May Queen to Haggerman Pass.

But anyway, we got into the trail, and though I haven’t checked my Garmin data yet, I think we were on the right path. We turned back pretty quickly though, since I was dying of oxygen deprivation and it was cooking hot out. Tona found a great little river to swim in, and zoomed frantically through the forest for a while longer, and then we headed home.

Good little swimming hole, if you are 2 feet tall.

Awesome little forest stream. Beautiful trail out here.

Home, by the way, is a great little carriage house, owned by the people who own the Leadville Antique mall. It is simply perfect for my needs, although it could use a little more hot water in the shower. I guess semi-cold showers makes the rustic Leadville-esque adventure all the more palpable.

Our lovely little living room.

I’ve got parking, and the house is actually right at the start line. As in, right out the front door. Alas, I have to move out of this place before my time in Leadville is up, and I have another place booked for race week. I actually think it’s better not to have your house right on 6th St., because the street will be closed, so our car would be a pain in someone’s ass. But for now having a house 2 blocks from the main drag is perfect.

The dog’s crate is set up, her little doggy bed is set up, and I’m pretty well set up too, although my internet connection disappeared the other day, so I’m writing all these posts offline, which is a bit of a bummer.

Anyway, our plan for tomorrow is to wake up early (4 AM!) and head out to Mt. Elbert to hike my first 14,000+ foot peak. Gonna try to hit the sack really early (8 PM) but I’m not sure how well that’s going to go… How exactly does one fall asleep in the middle of the day!?

I’ll let you know how it goes…

Mitch out.


  1. Kowboy Jackson

    Run strong Miguel.

  2. Dad

    Way-ta-go Michi… your doin it !!!!!
    It’l be an incredible adventure/// life long memory !!!!
    Love you !

  3. Tina H.

    God Damn your are so funny! I just had the best laughs I’ve had in months reading this post. Hope your hands heal fast. Tona’s just being the gorgeous dog she is. I am glad she is still kicking after being cooked alive in the back of the truck on your journey down. Have a great hike tomorrow!

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