Two miles high, then into The Hole

July 16, 2010

July 10

The Fireside Inn--a great place to meet active travelers in Breckenridge

The Fireside Inn seemed to be the closest you could get to budget accommodations in Breckenridge. It offered private rooms, but also hostel bunks, at what was likely a low rate (for Breckenridge ) of $31. It had been recommended to me by a westbound cyclist who said it was a meeting place for both hikers and bikers. I met a hiker in the post office, but this day there were only bikers, mountain bikers to be precise. I roomed with a young cyclist from Memphis who was in the area for some racing. She said the flatlands of Memphis had not prepared her for these elevations. Also in my room was a downhill mountain biker from Phoenix. He would spend the weekend riding ski lifts up local mountains to scream down the slopes on his bike. Finally, there was a group of six who were doing traditional single track mountain biking on some of the high trails. Later in the year, one of the women would be participating in a ride in northern Minnesota. I got to recommend the local highlights–Split Rock lighthouse, Betty’s Pies, the Soudan Mine.

We all were foregoing the wonderful hostel breakfast to meet our challenges for the day. Mine was to crest Hoosier Pass, the highest point on the TransAm trail, 11,500 feet. My elevation gain would be a little under 2000 feet. I had done similar climbs in the past. What was uncertain in my mind was the elevation’s effect on my climbing ability.

I left early to miss any afternoon storms and traffic–this was Saturday and the end of the 4th of July week. In eleven miles I would be two miles high in the sky.

The climb was pretty gradual until four miles from the summit. A tight switchback turn suddenly jerked me up a steeper grade. I could not always follow the advice of the White Bird café owner to ride the turns high because of the oncoming traffic.

I stopped a few times more than usual to rest my legs and lungs. I used my bike computer to keep close watch on the remaining distance to the top. When I hit the three mile mark I looked up and saw cars travel the road above me. I had to go there in under a mile? Of course I did, and I wasn’t going to get this close and not complete the climb.

Atop Hoosier Pass. At this point it was finally time to get in the picture.

The summit was not an inspirational place. The was a large, unattractive gravel parking lot used by hikers and drivers wishing to stop and record the moment. Views higher up and down were somewhat obscured by trees. But there was the sign. 11,539 feet. That was satisfying.

Standing there, knowing I was only 11 miles from Breckenridge, gave me an idea. Phone home. Laughingly, there was cell phone service at the top of Hoosier Pass. While being rained and briefly hailed upon, I spoke with Anne and Ellen.

Looking back at the Hoosier Pass area

The precipitation quickly passed, so I was ready for the descent. It turned out to be 30 miles long. The elevation loss and a strong north wind pushed me along. I really didn’t have to pedal very much, but did so occasionally, feeling like the Space Shuttle astronauts who forcibly exercise because of the lack of resistance in space.

I took a lunch break in Hartsell at an opportune time. A patch of rain moved in, and quickly passed, just I as got ready to head for the second, lower, and last pass of Rockies.

Approaching my final pass of the Rockies, Currant Creek Pass

Currant Creek Pass was a two hump pass. Another wave of rain was moving in as I began climbing the final hump. At the top I took one more quick look at the Eagles Nest mountains I left earlier in the morning and zoomed down the other side.

A few miles away was the little town of Guffey. A British couple I met a Hoosier Pass said it was a town, and lodging experience not to be missed. The Guffey Garage and Historical Hostels were owned by a guy who rode on the original TransAm trek in 1976. As I turned off the main road onto the 1 mile spur to Guffey I had to put my faith in the couple’s good recommendation because the road was uphill into the wind.

The Guffey Garage--Registration Desk for the Historical Hostels

Nearly all of Guffey was an eclectic sculpture town. In its center were facilities and constructions of various kinds–an outdoor  bowling alley; a walk-up platform for the annual Chicken Fly (from which people released chickens to see how far they would fly); and various small storage building adorned with old farm implements, signs and animal bones.

I circled this art menagerie once trying to find some sort of office. Finally, I pulled up to a building that had more found art sculpture, animal skulls mounted on the awning, and a scruffy, bearded guy who was the only person I had seen so far.

The patio of The Hole

The cozy environs of The Hole

Charlie was the guy to talk to. He was minding the store (and the town, seemingly) for the owner who had gone off to Iowa. He gave me 3 options: camping, a lodge, or one of the cabins. Now having full faith in the English couple’s recommendations, I opted for a cabin. “Do I get to choose the one I want?” I asked. He didn’t say anything, so I knew that wasn’t to be the case. “You can be close to the bar and bathrooms, or, if you’d like something quieter, I’ll put you in The Hole. I’ll show it to you.”

The Hole was an underground cabin built in was once the basement of an above ground structure. We walked down a steep set of stairs. On my left was the outdoor patio, complete with a glider swing and a gas grill. Inside, to the right, were the accommodations. Queen sized bed, rocking and arm chair and a fireplace. “There’s no electricity in these cabins,” he informed me. “Let me know if you need water.”

Looking around I saw a propane lantern, a gallon jug of water in a metal pan, a full supply of wood for the fireplace and a tin full of mints.

I cooked my dinner out on the patio. Looking out, I could only see the sky, and through an opening that once held a window or door, views of the cars and trucks that passed by.

I took a nap after dinner, then stepped outside again to look at the stars. Finally it was time to sit in front of the fireplace for the rest of the evening. Despite the chill outside, I was comfortably warm the rest of the night, content within my creative surroundings.

The Guffey Bowling Lane

My favorite sculpture

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