Date- September 15, 2019
Location- Twin Lakes
Distance Traveled Today- 19.2
Distance Traveled Total- 1,660.1 miles
Pain level- zero
Wildlife encounters- zero
Days without shower- 1
Days without laundry- 8
I was the last one to hit the trail this morning a little after 7 am. It was only about 20 miles to the tiny road-stop town of Twin Lakes; the trail would scoot right by it. Coma said he would meet us there.
The trail was once again incredibly well maintained and graded. I was able to hike leisurely and still get miles fairly quickly.
Around 11 miles into the day, I came to the trailhead for Mt. Elbert – the second tallest mountain in the lower 48 states at 14,439 ft . The tallest is Mt. Whitney in the Sierra Nevada in California at 14,505 ft.
The CDT didn’t go over Elbert, but it would only add an extra 3 miles to my day if I made the side climb. I’d been seriously considering doing it until I actually got to the trailhead. Cars filled the parking lot and lined the gravel road for as far as I could see. For about a mile, where the side trail up to Elbert and the CDT were one, there was a conga line of people coming and going from the mountain. No thanks. I couldn’t get past the junction where the CDT branched off the Elbert side trail fast enough. Not my idea of a relaxing day in nature.
I kept on and finished up the short day into Twin Lakes by about 3:30 pm. Then, I joined Jetpack and Swift for lunch at the Twin Lakes Inn & Saloon. Lunch was good, but dinner would end up being a little more… tense.
I guess I’ll go ahead and introduce Swift since it looks like she’s going to be hanging around. Swift is a 26 year old female from southern California who is currently southbound thru-hiking the 500 mile Colorado Trail. We met her in Leadville. She rode back to trail with us and has been hiking around us since. This is her first long hike, so when she met Jetpack and I, she seemed to think we were some kind of “hiking role models”… at least that’s how she’s treated us. We’ve both been more than happy to share our knowledge and experience with her. She is a literal ray of sunshine, optimism, and outgoing friendliness!
So there were seven hikers in Twin Lakes: Three CDT hiker’s (Jetpack, Twigsy, and I); five CT hikers (Swift, Blue, and two guys named Luke); and Coma. We all sat around a picnic table sharing stories, conversing, and otherwise having a hell of a fun time together for the rest of the afternoon.
The plan was for all of us to have dinner at 6:30 pm at the Twin Lakes Inn & Saloon – the only place open for dinner. Around 6:30 I took it upon myself to go into the restaurant and give a heads up for our larger party. I told the manager (a guy in perhaps his mid-thirties) that I had a party of eight wanting to dine. He told me it would be 30 minutes, and I told him that was fine.
I let everyone else know. Since it was warm and comfy in the lobby, I decided to sit and wait in there to be called. When the 30 minutes was almost up, the manager came to me and asked if the entire party was hikers. I told him it was. He then preceded to say that we couldn’t eat there because we smelled bad and people would complain (and had complained in the past). He literally said this, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “We can’t eat here?” I asked, making sure I’d heard correctly. “I can do a to-go order for all of you, and that’s the best I can do,” he said. There was a pause where neither of us said anything else, and then he added, “Will that work?” I looked at him and replied, “I don’t think so.” But what I was really thinking was… “Wait until Jetpack hears this.” I followed up by telling him that I was going to check with one of the members of the party.
Jetpack had already paid for a room, so there was no way they were going to deny a guest. I found her and told her what the guy said. I swear I saw the devil in her eyes! She found him and let him know that she was a guest and that all of us would be having dinner. I’ll be damned if he didn’t hold his ground and double down on how bad we smelled and that he wouldn’t be letting us eat there. This resulted in a heated and awkward back and forth that ended in somewhat of a compromise. In the end he said four of us could eat there, but not all eight. The stipulations would be that only the guests and showered individuals could be part of that four. This ended up being Jetpack, Coma, Swift, and myself.
Honestly, I wish we could have just taken our business elsewhere; unfortunately, there was no other business around. The only way to win this battle of wills and discrimination was to demand to be seated and served. In the end, we reached a bitter compromise.
I’ll Have Mine To-Go
We got a bunch of food to-go after we were done and brought it to Twigsy and the other CT hikers. They weren’t going to spend any money there, but we made sure they were going to enjoy some food nevertheless.
I guess businesses have the right to refuse service to anyone. However, to actually have it done to you… and get told the reason is because you smell bad, is pretty rough. I’ve never been discriminated against because of my smell. While it is kind of humorous, it’s also kind of infuriating – especially when there were no other options. The parallels of this situation are not lost on me, as I now have somewhat of a micro view into the window/experience that was segregation not too long ago. To be refused a service based on any type of discrimination hurts.
I’d be willing to bet that y’all’s opinions on this situation would vary greatly. I can see both sides of the situation – but being on the butt end of it makes me very biased. Discrimination in a restaurant (not even a fancy one) based on smell… Thoughts? I’ve gone into countless restaurants right off the trail (even fancy ones) and nothing close to this has ever happened -except once in New Jersey, but that’s New Jersey.
Tomorrow we begin a 70+ mile stretch through the Collegiate Mountain range to Salida. We’re getting closer to the bottom of Colorado; the race is on!
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