Top of The Rocks (USA Day 58)
We began the morning deep in negotiations: our young host Bella was keen to claim our belongings as hers, particularly Amy’s attractive pink foam roller, then caught us with the old trick we regularly dodged in Egypt of a ‘gift’, followed by demands for some sort of payment. In the end, we came out of it very well. I swapped a pack of gummies for her rubber duck, and Amy got a plastic butterfly in exchange for a St Louis police badge.
Armed with these new tools, we set off up the Hoosier Pass, the highest point on the entire TAT. Having already climbed to Fairplay yesterday, there remained twelve miles of consistent climbing, with only the last four being steep. It still took almost two hours, but the rewards were phenomenal. This was our first crossing of the western continental divide, and at 11,542 feet we were at the top of the treeline, level with many of the inhospitable snowy peaks across the valleys. We celebrated with various peanut-butter-based foods and took deep breaths of the rarefied air, trying to figure out how much thinner it really was. To be honest, it was hard to discern, mainly since we were already out of breath from the enormous climb.
The descent was a trip. The same distance as the way up, but completed in less than a quarter of the time, around alpine switchbacks that required a whole lot of planning to navigate safely. Before we had a chance to prepare for it, we’d freewheeled into Breckenridge, a bustling ski-resort, all luxury homes and cosy bars, equipment shops and giftshops, with the dozens of snow-free but neatly-shaved slopes on display on the mountains to the west.
We settled into our beautiful WarmShowers house, then headed out to see Michelle, an old friend from London who, co-incidentally, had found herself in the same town on the wrong continent on exactly the same day. It was a gorgeous evening spent sharing stories of our recent travels, and we came out of it feeling like totally different people from the cyclists who rode into town. Perhaps it was the first time we truly stepped off this journey since we began.
It’s been 393 miles since our last rest day, but we’ve booked ourselves a couple here. It seems like the perfect place to get used to the altitude, enjoy the incredible views and do a bit of hiking. I’m already feeling a little queasy, but I don’t know if that’s the thinner air or the mountains of chips I just ate at dinner. I guess we’ll see in the morning.