First though, we had to load up with food and water for the day by backtracking to the convenience store at the I-70 exit near Copper, which didn't open until 7 AM. We didn't get the early start we wanted, but sleeping in has it's advantages:
The morning resupply turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We were able to score hot burritos and coffee for breakfast, which was very welcome. Rob even got two burritos and carried one with him. The convenience story had a real coffee shop next door, which we didn't realize until we had already settled for convenience store coffee. Oh well, it was hot, that's the main thing.
Loaded up with food and water, we headed back to the Colorado Trail trail head and commenced the long climb to the first pass of the day, Searle Pass. The trail climbs through the Copper ski area, under a few of the lifts:
At some point the morning chill dissipated, the muscles got warm, and I called out a stop to remove leg warmers and jacket, and apply sunscreen. Rob took the opportunity to make some business calls as we still had cell phone signal from Copper. For Rob, this was a working vacation in more ways than one:
The climb started out nice but as we got higher we saw more and more steep sections which, with tired legs, heavy bikes, and many miles still to go, warranted getting off and pushing:
At some point, I noticed my rear tire (the one I flatted and repaired on Day 1) was soft, so I began to ride more attentively, and noticed the occasional hiss of escaping air. Taking a look, it was clear I had punctured again right at the same place I cut my tire the previous day. The leak was slow, it appeared the residual Stans in the tire from my previous tubeless installation was trying to seal the puncture in the tube, so I elected to just add some air and keep going, delaying more drastic action until absolutely necessary.
At the top of Searle Pass at 12,000 ft. we ran into some company. These guys were fun to talk to (and share Twizzlers with), they were Specialized bike industry guys from Europe, specifically Portugal, Italy, and Poland. As part of their job, they were staying at Copper trying out 2014 model year bikes for Specialized. Unlike us, they were just out for a day ride and turned around here at Searle Pass to go back to Copper and (presumably) drink beer. Beats my desk job! They asked what the altitude was here, and we had a bit of fun trying to convert feet to meters:
Another view from Searle Pass, looking west in our direction of travel. Our next supply opportunity, Leadville, is somewhere beyond the horizon, and my bike is urging me on:
Past Searle, the next milestones are Elk Ridge and then Kokomo Pass. Kokomo Pass is the same altitude as Searle, at 12,000 ft. but Elk Ridge is actually the high point at 12,300 ft. From Searle we were forced to drop a bit before climbing again to Elk Ridge. Here Rob crosses one of many streams as we approach the high point:
I love this picture, the trail climbs relentlessly up to the ridge:
And here's Elk Ridge, the high point of the day at 12,300 ft. At this point, it's a long technical downhill through Kokomo Pass towards HW 24 leading to Leadville. My rear tire had been continuing to leak slowly and was too soft to ride the downhill without damaging the rim, so I elected to put in another tube at this point. Thankfully the weather held here above tree line while I worked, again with Rob's help:
One of the easier parts of the downhill just past Kokomo (which is why I was able to get the camera out):
After a long decent (during which my wounded tire held together, thankfully) we paused to rest the hands after some aggressive braking and realized we were both low on water. We found a stream, filtered about 40 oz. of water apiece, and continued on. After more downhill, we bottomed out at the old Camp Hale barracks where the 10th Mountain Division lived and trained during WWII. An interesting side note, camping is not allowed here due to the risk of unexploded ordinance:
While the Colorado trail continues on, roughly parallel to HW 24 towards Leadville, we elected to bail to the highway early, partly to save energy, partly due to my tire, and partly due to what appeared to be weather moving in. Once on pavement it was a long haul south, initially up to Tennessee Pass, then a long slight downhill with rollers into Leadville. Here's Tennessee Pass, the second divide crossing which put us back on the Atlantic side of the continent:
We saw some pretty good rain just past Tennessee Pass, during the next hour or so it took to get into Leadville. All rain gear got used, including jacket, pants, and in my case, water-proof over-gloves.
Finally, we rolled into Leadville, stopped immediately for a Gatorade and did the usual smart phone research. I decided not to chance my rear tire any further, so we needed a bike shop to do the work, followed by food. The local bike shop on the far south end of town got a new tire installed for me, set up tubeless, and the friendly folks there recommended a pizza place just down the street called High Mountain Pies. Man it was good! Rob and I got a 14" pizza apiece and proceeded to get to work:
With full bellies and improved morale, we packed up what little pizza we had left over, headed back north through town, loaded up with food and water at a grocery store, then set off west towards Turquoise Lake to find a place to camp:
We saw a nice sunset starting just past the Turquoise Lake dam:
Out initial plan was to camp in this area, near Turqouise Lake. However, perhaps due to the excellent pizza, we were feeling pretty decent and decided to keep rolling. We rode a good hour past sunset and made good progress up the next climb, Hagerman Pass. Unfortunately, the price of our ambition was we passed up all the good camp sites, so we had to settle for a spot near a drainage right beside the road. However, given it was jeep trail at this point, no one came by overnight to bother us.
Tomorrow - our final divide crossing at Hagerman Pass, to Basalt, then Aspen. Continue reading, day 3.