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Chicago Basin from Purgatory TH
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mini location map2016-09-03
36 by photographer avatarJohn9L
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Chicago Basin from Purgatory THSouthwest, CO
Southwest, CO
Backpack avatar Sep 03 2016
Backpack20.22 Miles 5,332 AEG
Backpack20.22 Miles3 Days         
5,332 ft AEG
1st trip
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We originally planned this trip for 4th of July but heavy rain in the forecast forced us to reschedule till Labor Day weekend. There was more rain in the forecast but this time it was more manageable. We would spend three days in Chicago Basin and had a fun train ride into the backcountry.

Friday, Sept 2nd
We left Phoenix after work and found the highways a disaster. The I-17 NB was closed for a brush fire and the alternate route through Payson was backed up at least an hour. We ended up taking the I-60 east and headed up through the Salt River Canyon. We arrived in Gallup, NM around midnight and got a hotel for convenience. I slept really crappy and this would affect me all weekend.

Saturday, Sept 3rd
We got up early and hit the road. We had to be in Silverton to catch our train at 2:30pm. The drive up was uneventful, besides the rain, and I felt awful from a lack of sleep. We arrived in Silverton with a couple of hours to spare so we had lunch and got all geared up. We parked Chumley’s truck at the Train Depot and walked over to 12th St where the train boards. We’re riding the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to Needleton where it will drop us off. The train ride was nice but more bumpy than I anticipated. Plus there was a light rain falling for the hour train ride.

The rain let up when we stopped at Needleton around 3:30pm and at least 30 backpackers exited the train. Everyone retrieved their backpacks from the cargo hold and then started the hike into Chicago Basin. The going is very easy for the first mile and then the trail gradually gains elevation. The hike in was seven miles and gains roughly 3,000 ft but wasn’t too bad. I felt better as we hiked in plus a light rain fell and the temps were cool.

The three of us arrived in upper Chicago Basin around 7pm and got lucky with a prime campsite on the east side of Needle Creek. We set up camp on a cold evening in the basin. We’re camping at roughly 11,000 ft elevation. I’m very tired from my lack of sleep and know I sleep poorly at elevation. It’s going to be a long night & weekend. After having dinner and hanging out for a bit all of us were in our tents by 10pm. I slept on and off all night and it started raining right before sunrise and lasted into the morning.

Sunday, Sept 4th
We woke and took our time in camp as the rain finally cleared. I felt okay and decided to hike up to Twin Lakes with Chumley & Claire starting around 10am. We started our hike up and Claire was not feeling all that great. She had a lot of congestion and sinus issues. She decided to head back to camp. Chumley and I continued to Twin Lakes which sits at roughly 12,500 ft. Once to the lake we took a short break and talked about our options. I decided to explore the basin and then head back to camp to check on Claire. Chumley continued up towards Mt Eolus. I had a nice time checking out the lake and then headed back down. The return was very easy and the weather looked better with each passing hour. Once back to camp I found Claire doing much better compared to the morning.

Claire & I hung out in camp for a couple of hours and then Chumley returned after his successful summit of North Eolus. We talked about heading to lower elevation to camp but decided to stay put. Chumley took a nap while Claire & I explored Chicago Basin. Afterward we returned to camp as evening set in. The temps were much colder tonight and all of us were in our tents by 9pm. I was warm in my zero degree bag but couldn’t sleep at all because of the elevation. It was another long night!

Monday, Sept 5th
The three of us woke around 7am and immediately started packing up camp. We had to return to Needleton for 11:10am to catch the train back to Silverton. The hike out was very easy and we made quick time down. We arrived in Needleton at 10:30am and found a large group of backpackers waiting for the train. A rough count tallied 50+ people. Once the train pulled up there was a long line to load backpacks and then everyone boarded the train. It was a beautiful day today and a very pleasant hour riding back to Silverton. From there we loaded up and headed for Durango where we spent a night and then returned to Phoenix on Tuesday.

This was a solid trip but my lack of sleep put a damper on things. I need to figure out a way to get better sleep before and during a trip like this. I know a big part of it is drinking plenty of water & proper nutrition. It’s something I need to work on. Besides that the train ride was really fun and I can’t thank Chumley enough for doing all the driving and putting up with Claire & myself.
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