Thirty-Nine: Hypoxia (Fairplay to Breckenridge)

by davidharries

Miles: 25

It was in the forties this morning when I struck out from Fairplay. Forty-four degrees in July. I broke out my long-sleeve wool t-shirt for the first time and layered it under my rain jacket, though it was most definitely not precipitating.

There’s a nice six-mile bike path between Fairplay and Alma. I felt stiff and slow, from the temperature (the first time I’ve been cold on the trip), and the 1,000′ gain didn’t help. But I’m in no rush. Alma’s America’s highest incorporated town (10,578′). All kinds of superlatives: highest saloon, highest coffee shop, highest bar (Alma’s Only), highest dispensary (“Get your rec before Breck”) I was excited about a cuppa, and heard from a shower-goer this morning in Fairplay that the coffee was good. I pulled in about 7:10 a.m., 10 minutes after opening and they just tapped the second urn. A good sign.

I lingered over coffee and waited for the mercury to rise before the final 1,000′ climb to the top of Hoosier Pass. It’s a four-mile climb, and the southern face is an easy ascent, with good sight lines, limited switchbacks and little traffic early on Sunday. While tall, it’s not nearly as tough as some of the climbs in Virginia or Kentucky, or even Currant Creek Pass just outside Guffey. Still, it’s the highest point on the TransAm (11,540′), and a milestone.

The descent was a treat. Looking at the back of the map, it’s downhill from Hoosier Pass all the way to Kremmling, more than 100 miles. It’s not a straight shot down the north face — there are tight turns and switchbacks to negotiate. I had a blast, and with few cars on the road, bombed down taking the lane for miles at a time.

I met my sister in Breckenridge at the public library (closed, but with great outdoor seating, wifi and electricity). These perks drew Jason, a Chrysler-Concorde-piloting vagabond from just outside Richmond, Virginia. He drives to an area of national forest, parks and hikes for a few days before coming back and picking a new place to explore.

Time for an intermission in Boulder, land of granola eaters and soft cotton towels. Back to the trail in a week or so.