Wow! The air does seem thin up here we thought, as we stepped down out of our Unity travel van. We were in Leadville, Colorado for the weekend. Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the United States, sitting at an elevation of 10,152 ft. We were here this particular weekend for a running race. Well … maybe Teresa was, but I was really here to cheer her on, at least at the start and finish, and then ride my mountain bike while she was out of sight! To call this a ‘running’ race may be stretching it a little though. I did see people running, but I probably saw even more people making a quick walk or slow run of it. Regardless, it was a race and no matter how you finished, running or walking, it was a huge task and even bigger accomplishment!
The race is called the Leadville Trail Marathon and Heavy Half. You get the option to choose which torturous distance you wish to subject yourself to. For the non-runners reading this, a typical half-marathon is a distance of 13.1 miles. As you may have noticed in the title of the race, this is called the ‘Heavy’ half. Well, to add a little more excitement?… challenge?… torture?, the half is actually 15.46 miles. Don’t worry though, the marathon distance is only 26.2 miles, yep…. twenty six point two miles!! Did I mention were at the highest city in the United States? And, to add to the difficulty of the event, you were not only going to start the race at 10,152 ft, but you were going to immediately climb… and climb… and continue to climb until you topped out at a maximum elevation of 13,185 ft. Then, once you got there, you would turn yourself around and head back to the start/finish line.
Now, I don’t want to make this all about a running race, that none of you may have interest in. I really want to tell you about Leadville and our experience camping there and enjoying this quaint historic mining town with an extensive history and amazing views. This was our first time to Leadville and we weren’t sure what to expect. We parked Pedro (our Unity CB) at the Leadville RV Corral. It’s located on the south end of town right off the main street, which isn’t called main, but Harrison Street. This is a great location in that it allows you to walk everywhere! The RV park itself isn’t anything fancy, but it’s got all the necessary hookups and amenities. We ended up not using the showers and bathrooms so I can’t report on that, but I can tell you the WiFi service was good enough to stream movies over. The owner and manager lives directly on the property and uses a white-board to manage reservations, so don’t expect automatic emails or any type of electronic confirmation when you reserve a spot. But… rest assured, if you reserve a spot, he will have one for you!
As far as things to do and places to grab some food and drink, there are plenty. They even have an Oxygen Bar to get a dose of oxygen if the lack of it is wearing you down or you’re suffering from a little bit of altitude sickness. You can purchase a session and sniff on some flavored oxygen to revive your senses, or you can even purchase portable oxygen cans with an inhaler. In addition to O2 bars, there are also some regular bars and a local brewery. We did try some of the local restaurants too. My favorites were High Mountain Pies and Tennessee Pass Cafe. High Mountain Pies is a little pizzeria on one of the side streets right off the main street. They offer pizza, calzones, and sandwiches. It’s got a very small dine-in area and then some outside seating as well. The other establishment, Tennessee Pass had more room both inside and outside. When we went, they had live music playing outside in their large patio area. Their menu is more extensive with various options and they also provide a good assortment of adult beverages. The food was quite good!
Be prepared though, depending on the time of year you go there it could potentially be a little chilly! Even when we went there in June, the night temperatures dropped! Remember, you’re at over 10,000 ft., so when the sun goes down so does the temperature. The main street also has quite a few shops. Everything from cycling and outdoor gear, to clothing and local arts and crafts. Leadville is the center for some very extreme running and mountain biking events, as well as festivals. Some of the events are world class and have even enticed Lance Armstrong to race here. There is even a movie called, Race Across the Sky, that was filmed about one of the extreme mountain bike races here in Leadville. So if you plan to go there, you may want to check ahead and see what events may be occurring during your travel time frame.
Leadville was originally a mining town. The vast majority of miners have since left but the history remains. We went by the Matchless Mine and checked out the old cabin of Baby Doe. The Matchless Mine involves one of Colorado’s most famous Silver Kings, a love triangle and a life from riches to poor. If you want to know more about the history of Leadville and mining you can visit the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum there.
We had a great time in Leadville! We experienced the town, the mountains, some cycling and the views. It gave us one of our first excursions in the beautiful state of Colorado and made us want more! Best of all, Teresa finished the race and still had the energy to do more!