I-70 looks like a fun road to drive, but I was in a rented Mazda , which looks at a hill like I do now, “I’m pretty sure I can make it, but it’s going to be a long, slow haul.” If I didn’t pay close attention and kep my food to the floor, I’d end up going 40 and pissing off even the truck drivers. I eventually made it to Leadville, despite my putzy little car and all the stop-the-car-it’s-gorgeous! scenery. At 10,000 feet above sea level, Leadville is surrounded by mountains that tower above the small town. If the view doesn’t take your breath away, the thin air will certainly do it.
Saturday morning I met up with the Live by Living crowd: 7 volunteers and 5 participants (nice odds!) I’d realized the night before that my body wasn’t going to let me hike that day. Even walking across the Safeway parking lot left me winded. There was no way a 4 mile hike with 1300 foot climb was in the cards. So, two of the volunteers and I dropped the rest at the trailhead then drove up a tricky and steep dirt road to the hut.
The 10th Mountain huts are a series of huts on federal land that are open to the public. Our hut, Uncle Bud’s, situated at the top of a meadow, provides about a 180 degree view which is dominated by Mount Massive to the south. Inside, there’s a kitchen, dining area, woodstove, lots of seating, and sleeping for around 20 upstairs. To the side of the cabin are the outhouses, with windows. That’s right. Even the bathrooms have a great view.
Saturday was spent waiting for the rest of the group to arrive, getting to know the volunteers and participants, exploring the cabin and immediate area, and, most of all, enjoying the views, the sun, the fresh air. The volunteers cooked dinner – pasta with chicken and vegetables, a couple of different salads, and, of course, cake to finish. We spent the evening around a campfire outside.
On Sunday, I woke up feeling good and ready to hike. After breakfast, we strapped on our packs and headed up the mountain. It was slow going for me; both the thin air and my previous breathing issues made it necessary for me to stop every hundred feet or so. But we made it to our goal of the treeline, and spent a while just enjoying the views. During the hike, we got some rain – a pleasure for me, since California has been so dry. Plus, I got to pull out my wet weather gear for a change! That evening, we held a guided meditation under the stars and nearly full moon. We followed this up with time spent talking, enjoying the moonlit vistas, and drinking hot tea.
While the setting was fantastic, what made this retreat truly special were the volunteers. Their attentiveness and anticipation of our needs was extraordinary. I felt completely pampered – quite a feat in a cabin with pit toilets and no running water! The volunteers cooked delicious and healthy meals, plied us with water, tea, coffee, and gave us all emotional support during our hikes.
I can’t say that this retreat changed my life, but it did give me a few days of peace, pampering, and relaxation. being up in the mountains forced us all to turn of civilization for a while. to look at the horizon instead of our hand held devices. To interact with nature and each other.
I plan to go again next year!
Live by Living provides transformative outdoor experiences for cancer survivors and their caregivers. They offer several retreats in the Rockies each summer, as well as day hikes in the Denver area year round. You can donate to Live by Living on their website.