Shrine Ridge and the Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad

This morning Blue entertained herself by chewing on the wall instead of waking us up right away. Fortunately, I was in the process of waking up, heard something not quite right, and caught her before she did much damage.

We had a full day planned and wanted to get an early start anyway, so we got up, grabbed a yogurt and headed out for our hike. Unfortunately, this hike was 40 minutes away, right off I-70, so we backtracked over roads we covered yesterday. However, the drive went quickly and soon we were on the gravel road that leads to Shrine Pass. The road was rough and rutted, even by Colorado standards. Our gratitude that we didn’t attempt the road with the trailer was tempered by regret that we didn’t get to try dispersed camping this trip. Maybe another time. We made a pit stop for birding and then backtracked to the rest area for an actual pit stop. Blue was particularly hyper as we climbed the road and managed to wiggle her way into the front seat.

The trailhead for Shrine Ridge was unmistakable with a dozen cars already in the lot by 8:30am. It felt good to be out on a trail again and this trail immediately traversed a high elevation meadow. This walk alone would have been worthwhile. The bushes teamed with Pine Siskin, White crowned sparrows and Wilson’s Warblers. A couple with their adult son passed us early on and they assured us this hike would be outstanding. In briefly chatting, we discovered they were also from Cincinnati.

We soon ascended through a pine forest. The meadows interspersed between the trees teamed with asters, paintbrush and yarrow. The climb was challenging for us flatlanders, but very manageable as we made lots of stops to observe the birds and flowers. The trail itself was layers with fine red grit that soon coated our boots and throats, but that just ensured we drank enough water.

A steady stream of people hiked in front of and behind us. The crowds didn’t approach the numbers we encounters at St. Mary’s, but this is not an unknown trail. Many hikers brought their dogs and quite a few were walking off leash.

The views around every bend were outstanding, although a fine haze was creeping in to obscure some of the more distant ranges. Eventually we reached the ridge, found a good sittin rock and enjoyed a snack.

We decided to push onto the nearby peak for more views and ran into the same family as from the beginning of the hike and chatted some more. The Ernsts assured us the wildflowers were normally ten times more abundant which is hard to imagine. We also connected over a few of our favorite local Cincinnati places. As is the way on a beautiful day, in a beautiful place, talking with great people, time passed very quickly and Blue reminded us we had more trail to cover. We explored a little further and then realized we needed to head back quickly if we wanted to take part in our afternoon adventure.

The descent was rapid, and the trail became increasingly crowded. We arrived back to the car just before 12:30, ate our PB&J and cruised on back to Leadville. Bad traffic on i-70 had us concerned, and we wished we had a chance to clean up after our hike, but we arrived at our next destination just in time – the Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad!

Yesterday at the dog park I internet surfed for interesting places that might be dog friendly. I was shocked to learn the train ride welcomed well-behaved dogs. We had been so limited by what we were able to do that we jumped on the chance to play the tourist, so we boarded the train at 1:30.

Blue was wiped from the day’s hike, but a family boarded behind us with four kiddos, including a six year old that loves dogs. This boy terrorized Blue with his affection for the entire 2 ½ hours. Of course, Ted made fast friends with the parents and learned they were farmers from Oklahoma. They were all very nice people and again the pleasant scenery and company made time pass quickly. It wasn’t the most exciting thing we have ever done, but it was a different experience and I am glad we did it, notwithstanding the tremendous amount of soot that we were all covered with.

To top off Blue’s exhaustion, we swung by the dog park. This time, we were glad to find a local woman with Luna, her lab mix. Luna was resisting going home, so she and Blue completed a few sprints. Then Blue petered out and we left the poor woman to continue to try to coax Luna back home.

A final stop was made at Safeway so Ted could buy hiking supplies – water, tape for his blisters, and canned oxygen. Hiking at elevation is weird!

Back at the campsite, Blue protested getting out of the truck and finally got the nap she had been waiting for all day. Ted and I made Joe steak and are now enjoying a fire.

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