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KINDNESS across AMERICA - Chapter 10: Serendipity

KINDNESS across AMERICA - Chapter 10: Serendipity

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Published by Kirk D. Sinclair
Chapter 10 about our journey along the American Discovery Trail
Chapter 10 about our journey along the American Discovery Trail

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Published by: Kirk D. Sinclair on Sep 23, 2012
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CHAPTER 10: SERENDIPITYLeadville to Denver; Days 112-125 (5 rest); Distance = 127 Miles; People Met = 82Leadville is the highest incorporated town in the United States at 10,161 feet and the temperaturereflects that. During the Continental Divide Trail Expedition we came down into Leadville for a respitefrom snowstorms—at the end of September—and spent an evening in the fire station while thetemperature dipped to single digits. Recalling the trials of our CDT hike, the reason we hiked twenty plus mile days through the desert over the summer was to get to the Divide before the bad weather started. I thought that coming through here a couple weeks earlier than we did in 1985 would besufficient.Coming into Leadville we did not know where we were going to stay. For old times sake I hadhoped the fire station again, but as we were hiking into town we met John Nicholas. We chatted for awhile and he invited us to stay at his place. His “place” was really two places plus a few outbuildingscramped together, along CO 24 south of town. You did not think “affluence” while passing by the homesalong that stretch.John was there because he left his air conditioning and heating business along the Front Range totake care of his elderly Uncle Louie. The property was now his, including all the antique furniture thatmade Ky envious. In Ky's estimation John could have sold those antiques for a fortune. John did notview his family's homestead through the lens of dollar signs, though he was not set on remaining there,either. He worked a temporary job driving a huge hauler for a molybdenum mining operation; he hopedto get a more permanent gig elsewhere.We at first declined to stay with John, because at the time I had my heart set on the fire station. In parting John tried to give us money for our cause but we declined that as well. This was not aneighborhood where you felt right taking money from people. When we were about a half mile up theroad John drives up, hops out of his car and declares we dropped something. As I held out my hand hesnuck a twenty dollar bill into it and took off back for home.
 
I'll confess something that I'm ashamed to admit. John had such an incredible aura of gentlenessabout him that upon first impression I thought he was simple. Here I am touting kindness across thecountry, yet when I find the embodied spirit of kindness I judge there must be something unusual aboutthe person. We ended up staying with John after all, as the fire station did not work out, and wediscovered he was not “simple,” just a genuinely kind and gentle man; the kind of person you never forget no matter how brief the encounter. There was something unusual about John after all.John wanted us to sleep in his own bed, but we drew the line in accepting this kindness. We slepton the floor of the “other” house on the property, the one teeming with rare antiques. Because John gotup so early to work we never saw him outside of the first day, even though we proceeded to take a restday and spend two nights in Leadville. On the morning we left we could not say good-bye to this gentlesoul, which for a little while became my biggest regret on the journey.Given past history, perhaps we should have been satisfied with the cloudy, cold, raw weather wefaced heading out of Leadville, but this was supposed to be our vacation. Ahead was Argentine Pass, thehighest point along the American Discovery Trail at 13,183 feet, which we were supposed to cross onSeptember 19, our 25
th
anniversary. Up until now the little “vacations” we intended on the journey werelike week-end retreats. This now was supposed to be our grand anniversary vacation, but the forecastwas not promising.Much of the second day out of Leadville was on roads, with approaching storm clouds lookingmore ominous throughout the day. We crossed the Divide back to the west side at Fremont Pass, whichset us up for that final crossing of the Divide back to the east side at Argentine Pass. Before reachingFremont Pass we crossed the Arkansas River for our first time, at this point flowing through a smallculvert underneath the road we were on. We would approach this river again many more times east of theDivide, in different shapes and conditions.The day was supposed to be “only” twenty miles, as we would camp near a trailhead at Copper 
 
Mountain before heading up to the Colorado Trail. We had been on both the Colorado and ContinentalDivide Trails already and, unlike the less known trails, were well maintained and a delight to hike on. Wewere looking forward to hiking on these well groomed trails again, though with also some apprehension because of the darkening clouds.We took a break just before the trailhead at Daylight Donuts near Copper Mountain, whereAndrew and Natalie gave us some of their pastries that they otherwise would throw out at the end of theday. Andy Held, a resident of nearby Frisco, came in and spotted our full packs as well as myMountainsmith camera bag. One of his clients as a web marketer was Mountainsmith, as was the Copper Mountain ski resort that brought him to this same doughnut shop. We engaged in conversation over our common interests of outdoor recreation and having a positive impact on society. He noticed the poor condition of Cindy's backpack; I commented I would ask Mountainsmith for a backpack as areplacement. He said he would put in a good word for us, which turned out to be the least of hisassistance.I asked him directions for the Colorado Trail trailhead. Andy obliged but added that at least teninches of snow was expected in the mountains that evening. He suggested that if we continued down a bike trail to Frisco instead he would put us up for the night. We took his advice and went the six extramiles to Frisco, finishing at dusk. This became our longest day of the journey with full packs, 26 miles,aggravating the occasional troubles with my left foot. When we reached Frisco we gave Andy a call andhe instructed us to go to the Hotel Frisco where he paid for our lodging.Bad weather lasted through the next day. The mountains were cloaked in white as Andy predicted, though Frisco was being drenched instead with a cold rain. We met Andy and his wife Wendyat Rocky Mountain Coffee Roasters to chat some more; I created a podcast regarding his communalexperiences with an art gallery. He set us up for an interview at the Summit Daily, our next stop after  parting company for good with Andy.Had we gone on the Colorado Trail we would be hiking nearer to Breckenridge than Frisco. Ky

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