Leadville Colorado Summer Trip 2022
July 30 to August 6, 2022
Trip Leaders: Mike and Laura Whittington
Mike, Laura, Chris, Kristina and Callum Whittington
Jerome Blunck and Brenda Karczag
Bob and Kathy Besch
Dean and Daunne Fraley
Bob Boltner, Corey Hivey and Corey’s girlfriend Becky
Chad, Joanna, Scott and Nash Oellien
Rich and Corkey Wohlers
Garth and Nicky Thomas
Bruce Phillips and friend Mark
Mike, Kristy, Hannah and Katelyn Demer
Mike and Terey Sidlinger
Leadville Summer Trip 2022 was amazing with as many as 14 vehicles on the trail, beautiful scenery, almost perfect weather, fantastic four wheeling and as always, great friends to share the experience with.
Base camp was the town of Leadville, Colorado. For those that have never been to Leadville, it is an old mining town situated at 10,152 feet in the Rocky Mountains. It was the second largest city in Colorado in the late 1800's with peak population around 30,000 people. It has the distinction of being the highest incorporated city in North America. Now it is more of a tourist town with many old mines and lots of jeep trails nearby to explore.
On Sunday, we set out for Wearyman Creek Trail north of Leadville which begins by driving through Camp Hale. Camp Hale was created during WWII to train a new Army unit; the 10th Mountain Division. The unit was formed and trained especially for winter warfare with training in mountaineering, skiing, survival, etc. Today the only thing that remains are the remains of foundations, buildings and plaques to tell visitors about what happened there 80 years ago. Wearyman Creek trail is a loop that included fantastic views of the surrounding mountains, green meadows with a plethora of wild flowers, and valley below.
On Monday, we did a trail system known as the Miner’s Loop. The trail begins and ends in the semi ghost town of Saint Elmo. From there we crossed Tin Cup pass and down into the town of Tin Cup where we stopped for lunch. We then continued over Cumberland Pass and on to an old railroad grade that has now been turned into a “rails to trails” route. We wanted to visit the Alpine Tunnel, an old railroad tunnel but the trail was closed. I found out later it was closed due to a bridge that could no longer support full sized vehicles. Bypassing the turnoff, we continued over Hancock Pass and back to Saint Elmo. This entire area was once home to many mines and processing mills, tramways and narrow gauge railroads.
Tuesday was an off day for wheeling. Folks spent the day relaxing, visiting the Mining Museum in Leadville, rafting on the Arkansas River, zip lining or just walking Main Street in Leadville visiting the antique shops and other stores. On Tuesday evening, we all met in camp for a potluck dinner. If you wanted a main course, you either brought it yourself or cooked it on one of two grills we had set up for that purpose. As always for this kind of thing, we had plenty of delicious food for all.
On Wednesday, we did my favorite trail in the Leadville area; Holy Cross. This is probably the most challenging trail in the area that I know of. It’s an in and out trail, ending at the abandoned ghost town (or what is left of it) of Holy Cross City where we ate our lunch among the amazing wildflowers. The only things remaining are a half dozen log cabins in various states of collapse. The trail itself has a little of everything including challenging stair steps, lots of rocks, a fun creek crossing and of course, the never ending beautiful scenery. Add to this the trail was wet due to daily afternoon or night rains and the result was lots of fun. Due to the slick conditions, we had to do quite a bit of winching. The only mishaps that occurred during the week happened then. Bruce tested the limits of his suspension articulation on his ram assist steering during one of the stair step climbs. One of the hoses broke at a fitting. Bruce had caps for the steering gear and the ram. We had him “repaired” and back on the trail in no time…without ram assist. The other mishap was incurred by Mike Sidlinger. While setting up to use his winch at the last obstacle, the connection between the control pigtail and motor failed creating a non-functioning winch. Without use of his winch, we thought it unsafe for him to continue on. He waited for us to return from Holy Cross City. Thankfully it was at the last obstacle before Holy Cross so he didn’t have to wait long for the group to return.
When returning via Hwy. 24 to Leadville, Bruce experienced death wobble due to the loss of his ram assist (it’s also a steering stabilizer). He tried to fix it on Wednesday evening and even went to Napa where they made up new hoses for him but he still couldn’t fix it. Since each day’s run requires a fair amount of highway time, he decided his week was finished.
On Thursday, we headed to my second favorite trail in the area; Wheeler Lake, located north of Fairplay, Colorado. After passing Montgomery Reservoir, Wheeler Lake Trail starts out by passing under the remains of the Magnolia Mill. In the 1860’s, a town called Montgomery filled the mouth of the valley where Montgomery Reservoir now stands. About three quarters of a mile into the trail there are two gate keepers to keep the mini vans out. After that, the trail climbs about 3000’ in less than 4 miles topping out at 12,200’ at Wheeler Lake. The trail is unique in that you spend a lot of time in a creek with lots of cobble. After lunch at the lake, we returned using the same trail.
On Friday, our last day of wheeling, we did something a bit different. Immediately after leaving the RV campground, we turned right and drove past Turquoise Reservoir. Hagerman Pass Trail starts on the southwest side of the Reservoir. Much of this trail was old railroad grade. In fact, the railroad that was once here was the first standard gauge railroad to cross the Continental Divide. After crossing Hagerman Pass we continued on, eventually ending at Basalt, Colorado where we ate lunch in town. Heading south on Highway 82 we traveled to Aspen (you wouldn’t believe how many private jets were at the airport). Much of the group decided to stop in Aspen to mingle with the rich and famous while the rest of the group headed over Independence Pass and back to Leadville.
Saturday morning found all of us packing up and headed for home. What a great week of wheeling in the high Rockies!