|Poison Park to CDT Lasso, CO|
|Poison Park to CDT Lasso, CO|| |
Poison Park to CDT Lasso, CO
|Backpack||50.63 Miles||4 Days |
|9,206 ft AEG|
|With too much vacation time in the bank and not enough adventures in the plan book, I put together a map of options in the San Juans. Quite by accident I got an unexpected report from skatchkins regarding trails here that were desperately in need of maintenance and it prompted me to do extensive research in the 3 preceding days to assure which routes had been cleared, and which were still deadfall mazes. This heads-up, and subsequent research was a real joy-saver as it hadn't really occurred to me that some of these prominent named trails were in states of impassibility. The extent of the beetle-kill is really quite mind boggling, so if you head this way in the next few years, ask some questions to people who know!|
We took a lazy Friday and drove to the mountains. My biggest mistake of the weekend was forgetting that they change their clocks there. I don't change mine either way, but it did mean that the time I was anticipating the sun to set was an hour later than when it actually did set. Nonetheless, we managed to find a spot to camp near the trailhead and I was able to cut a few trees down before dark to light outdoor heater.
12.49mi, 2,844aeg, 6:05
We started from Poison Park and headed north on Weminuche #592. The trailhead had a dozen vehicles — about a dozen more than expected — along with a couple of big horse trailers. As we began, we were passed by a horse train and upon chatting with the riders learned that they outfit a handful of bougie hunter camps deep in the wilderness. It's bow season for elk, so there would obviously be no elk sightings, and also no echoes of gunfire.
We didn't see many others, but everybody we did see was out there hunting. They all looked at us like we were crazy to be out here just for the fun of it. There was one guy on his own on foot who didn't think the multi-thousand-dollar outfitter fee was worth the benefit of horseback travel, dry tent camps, and catered dinner. Another guy carrying a rifle informed us it was also sheep season, but he was one of only two tags and he hadn't seen the other guy all week.
We only saw one guy after passing Elk Park. At the high point of the day, we followed the wrong path off the saddle and the trail petered out completely. A few minutes of bush-whacking had us back on route, descending across Snowslide Canyon and heading toward our planned camp along Los Pinos.
15.49mi, 2,844aeg, 6:52
From our 10,200ft camp, we headed out for a loop up to the divide. We weren't sure if there would be a dry crossing of Los Pinos ... and there wasn't. It was wide enough that we had to be in the water for enough seconds that the needles of pain made an appearance before reaching the other side. That is some shockingly cold water for September! Crossing La Osa was aided by a couple of dead trees that had been placed across the stream, 99.6% sure it's the work of the hunting outfitters, and not the forest service!
There were a couple of hunters out on horseback in the morning, even at this elevation. It's about 2 miles to reach Weminuche Pass, at a very modest 10,500. This is the least passy pass I've ever seen. It's just several miles of meadow/valley that apparently has a high point. There must be obstacles lower down in the drainages that approach it because I was surprised there wasn't a historic pre-wilderness 2-track constructed here.
From Weminuche Pass we headed up on La Vaca #714, which is the route of the CDT here. This was a 5 mile, 2,000 foot climb to reach the divide at 12,600. After passing the Window and Rio Grande Pyramid, we began our descent along La Osa #525. This valley had perhaps the most extensive beetle kill we saw all weekend, but I found it to be a far more scenic route than the La Vaca ascent.
Near the bottom we ran into three more hunters on horseback and noticed they had a big camp set up about half a mile from where we were camped.
9.57mi, 1,091aeg, 4:22
From here we threw a bomb the initial conceptual plan and decided to listen to our tired bodies and take a less-strenuous route over the next two days. So we headed downstream on Pine River #523 (comical that the river is named "Los Pinos" but the adjacent trail is named "Pine River"). Anyway, it's a beautiful trail in a beautiful valley and it's pretty flat and pleasant.
Upon reaching the Divide Lakes junction, we dropped our packs and headed up the short side trip to Granite Lake. There's a nice little climb to get up there, but it was worth the effort. A handful of nice campsites suggest that backpackers do visit these spots too. It's not just hunters.
After Granite, we continued on Divide to complete the loop and begin heading back on the lasso we began with. We set up camp on the banks of Weminuche East Fork. It was an early arrival, so after setting up, I headed out on a day hike. 9L stayed at camp and won the lazy lottery with a visit from a moose that decided to walk between our tents as he sat at camp.
5.6mi, 1,275aeg, 2:44
From camp I decided to head up East Fork #659. This one wasn't in the pre-trip plan, but I was able to draw a route on my phone and based on topo maps decided there might be some nice creek things about two miles up.
This canyon had some of the least beetle-kill affected areas that we saw all weekend. There were stretches of pine forest that appeared to be pristine. And one of the nicest camp sites I've ever seen. I did find some waterfalls and cascades along the way, along with a couple hunters on horseback that had set up a base camp near where I turned around.
7.56, 1,146aeg, 2:59
There is no cell service anywhere in here. Not even on the highest peaks. On Thursday, the forecast suggested that Tuesday could be a washout. Four days later, who knows? It sprinkled on us once, but we made it back to the trailhead without enduring the storms we had expected. One fun thing about hiking from Poison Park is the 500 foot climb at the end. No easy exit here!
As we were about ready to begin the drive back to AZ, couscous, a CDT sobo hiker emerged from the trail. I offered him a ride to town as he was looking to avoid the next couple days of forecasted miserable weather with a haitus in Pagosa Springs. We had some good conversation and he was happy with the cold beer I had to offer for the half-hour ride from the trail to town.
There's much more Weminuche to explore. The beetle-kill is a bit depressing, but there's still a lot of amazing stuff to see out here. With an easy drive from PHX, I'll have to get up here more often in the future.