Some friends of ours who moved to Wisconsin a few years ago, invited us to join them for two nights in one of the 10th mtn division huts. I have been wanting to check out these huts for some time so we jumped at the chance. The 10th Mountain Huts are a network of 30 back-country huts. They are named after the light infantry division who trained at Camp Hale (near Leadville) during WWII.
Our hut (The Continental Divide Cabin)
We left Castle Rock at 8:30 AM, and made the 2.5 hour drive to Leadville. Angela has a crappy, heavy mountain bike from Walmart. Her birthday is this week, so I rented her a nice hard-tail 29er from Cycles of Life in Leadville.
We arrived at the Tennessee Pass trailhead at 12:20. Highway 24 is closed at the trailhead due to a 100ft deep sinkhole on the shoulder. Apparently an old mine shaft collapsed after the unusually warm weather thawed the ground deeper than normal. We quickly readied our bikes and packs. Our destination this afternoon was the continental divide hut. We were meeting two other couples who both have a one year old baby. The huts are well equipt, so even with extra food and clothing our packs weighed less than 30lbs. Angela was nervous about being on a new bike and clipped in with a full pack on. She took a few laps around the parking lot to get the feel of the bike. I had taken a short ride in our neighborhood with my bright yellow 70l pack. I am sure my neighbors were quite amused.
The skies were quickly darkening, so we soon located the Colorado trail and set off. The first part of the trail is steps which were challenging with a full pack. Overall riding with a pack wasn’t bad. I wouldn’t want to do anything long or super technical, but it is an efficient way to cover distance. We didn’t have far to go with just over a mile to the cabin.
The route to the hut is easy to follow. You take the Colorado trail from Tennessee pass. You will reach a swing, and a sign for the cabin. Follow the small side trail past the Point Breeze Cabin, and you will see the Continental Divide Cabin. Here is a GPX file with the route to the hut.
After we turned off the Colorado trail towards the cabin, the trail became more technical, and Angela took a tumble. Fortunately she only suffered a scraped knee.
Soon we arrived at the Continental Divide Cabin. I was instantly impressed with how nicely set up these places are. The hut had the following amenities:
- Eight comfortable single beds complete with pillows. Four of the beds are split between two private bedrooms
- A propane stove with two burners, and an outdoor propane grill. A large propane tank supplies the cabin.
- Plenty of dishes and cooking utensils, so no need to bring any cooking gear.
- A large solar panel / battery system power a small refrigerator, and LED lights.
- There is a large wood stove, a clothes drying rack around the stove, and plenty of wood.
- Water is obtained from a pump in the cabin. The water source is a spring-fed cistern (note it will need to be filtered). Soap, bleach, and iodine tablets were available.
- A large deck with comfortable chairs
- A private wash room, outhouse, and outdoor shower.
- A short walk to a TP where kids can play or even spend the night
- A selection of books and games to keep you entertained
- Multiple types of Off, Sunscreen, and Hand Sanitizer
- Toilet Paper, Paper Towels, and Trash Bags
We spent an hour or so catching up with our friends, and getting to know the 3rd couple. We were itching to get a ride in, and the impending rainstorm looked like it had passed over. We decided to take a short 7.7 mile ride on the Mitchel Creek Loop. We left the cabin and rode the trail counter clock wise (due to the fact I left my helmet in the car). If I had it to do over I would ride this trail the opposite direction. The trail was pretty easy. There was a few short technical sections, some fast downhill, and some skinny single track. The trail follows the Colorado trail, the Mitchel Creek Trail, and Wurtz Ditch road. The weather turned nasty halfway through the ride. We ended up getting soaked, but had a great time anyway. Here is a GPX track of the ride
We spent the remainder of the afternoon lounging around, reading and talking. Since the cabin had a refrigerator / grill we enjoyed BBQ burgers on bagels for dinner. They were quite tasty. The others had Fajitas a la Lynn (who is a great cook).
After dinner we walked up to check out the TP. It was well put together and the kids loved it. As the sun set we enjoyed good conversation. A few mule deer came up the clearing near the cabin. We were all tuckered out, and so we turned in pretty early.
The next morning we enjoyed breakfast, then all prepared to set off and enjoy some activities. The other two couples were heading off to hike, and we were planning on getting in another ride. We decided to ride the Colorado Trail from the cabin down to Camp Hale. Camp Hale was a U.S. Army training facility constructed in 1942 for what became the 10th Mountain Division. It was named for General Irving Hale. As soon as Angela sat on the saddle she winced in pain. It seems the 29er hard tail had given her rear end quite a beating on the rocky section of the trail the previous day. She knew it was going to be a tough day. Due to where we were located we had to ride downhill first, then grunt back up. I hate riding trails configured like this. The downhill was fast and fun!! We covered several miles fast, and were soon riding across a beautiful meadow. Angela was in quite a bit of discomfort, so she decided to turn around after the meadow. I crossed 24 and continued up the ridge towards Camp Hale. The trail here turned quite a bit more technical. I didn’t want to get too separated from Angela so I turned around a few miles further without making the decent into Camp Hale. On the return we ran into our friends Lynn and Craig. We decided to walk down 24 and check out the sink hole that had the road closed. I ended up with about 12 miles of single track riding for the morning.
That afternoon Craig was itching to get in a ride. He decided to ride down to Camp Hale as well. I agreed to accompany him for a few miles on the rented 29er (he borrowed my full suspension bike). I turned around after about 3 miles, and Craig went the full distance to Camp Hale.
We spent the rest of the afternoon reading / napping in our hammocks. After dinner we fired up the stove and sat around enjoying conversation.
The next morning we were up early. The other two couples were headed 5 miles farther to a hut near Slide lake. Angela and I were headed to Halfmoon Creek to climb Mt Massive. After cleaning the cabin we said our goodbyes and parted ways. Angela and I headed to Leadville for a shower (well worth $5 after a few days in the woods). We enjoyed lunch at High Mountain Pies, and then headed for part two of our adventure. You can read about our climb of Mt Massive Here