Skip to main content

The Pilgrims of Mosquito Pass

Leadville, CO. The Benchmark Atlas labeled nearby Mosquito Pass, elevation 13,186 feet, as the "highest auto (jeep) pass in the US." Which of my four bicycles would be best?

I smiled thinking of the beginning of the Spaghetti Western, "For a Few Dollars More." The bounty hunter, Lee Van Cleef, has only a few seconds to shoot the bad guy who is getting away. The bounty hunter pulls a string on his saddle, and a leather rack of four guns rolls down the side of the horse: his tools of the trade, for every occasion.

The road started smooth and steep, which is my favorite kind of road. It wasn't long before I saw something unusual: a large group of fully-loaded backpackers, who would coalesce and then disperse. It was a church group from Texas, on its way over the pass. We caught up with them at the last mining tower, near tree-line, where you can faintly see the two thousand feet of switchbacks that await these hikers from sea-level homes. Faith can move mountains, indeed!

They were quite impressed with the intrepidness of my little poodle. When I told them that he was adopted in "Krrvull", Texas, and therefore "ain't no li'l dashboard dawg," they nodded their approval.

They didn't mention the name of their church, but presumably it was a Bible-oriented Protestant church. Can we at least agree, without hurting any feelings, that Protestants have always been rather un-picturesque compared to Catholics? And that is what made this chance encounter so special to me. When people backpack over rough roads, they look down and move slowly, solemnly. They appear to be praying. 

With the high country in the background, they seemed like peregrinos (pilgrims), walking through the Pyrenees on their way to the shrine of Santiago de Compestela, in the northwest corner of Spain. This famous old pilgrimage has been going on for more than a thousand years.

It's too bad one of them didn't have a shaggy, white Great Pyrenees dog to guard them on the way. Actually, I'll bet my little poodle could have out-skedaddled him. Here is the little poodle celebrating triumphantly at Mosquito Pass.