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The Best Hikes in Weminuche Wilderness

43 Triplog Reviews in the Weminuche Wilderness
Most recent of 19 deeper Triplog Reviews
38 mi • 7,050 ft aeg
The San Juan National Forest reopened on Thursday at 3pm and Chloe and I hit the road 24 hours later with Chicago Basin from the Purgatory TH as the goal. We arrived at the trailhead parking lot at 1am Colorado time and despite being exhausted, I couldn't fall asleep. Between being cold, the anticipation of waking up a few hours later, and Chloe growling at another hiker who pulled up next to us at 4am, I barely got any sleep. Luckily I had an iced coffee ready to go for the morning! After repacking by bag four times (it has never been so full!), Chloe and I hit the trail just before 6:30am.

The Purgatory Flats trail is a misnomer; it is not flat at all! There was a steep decline right off the bat that I knew would kick my butt on the way out (it did). The next few miles are rolling hills along Purgatory Creek (very scenic and peaceful) until the first bridge crossing at the Animas River Trail junction. After crossing the railroad tracks and scoffing at the lazy way most people approach the basin ;) we continued on the Animas River Trail, which was quite possibly my favorite section of trail the entire trip. This portion is mostly flat, allowing you to properly gawk at the gorgeous Animas River right next to the trail. I still had those fresh hiking legs, so Chloe and I averaged 3 mph until the Needle Creek junction 10 miles in. We took a snack and water filter break at the Needle Creek bridge, then headed out on our climb up to the basin. After a few minutes on the Needle Creek trail, we passed the cutest wilderness sign I've ever seen - but this was just the beginning of photo ops on this trail. The countless waterfalls along the trail made the next 7 miles of steady - and at times very steep - climbing much more bearable. However, I think our speedy start eventually caught up to me and the last 2-3 miles to the basin were pretty tough.

I've had Chicago Basin on my list for a few years, but was always deterred by its popularity. But when backpacking alone, I really don't mind having a few camping neighbors. When I talked with a ranger on Friday, he warned me that I would have a hard time finding a campsite because there would be 30-40 people camping in the basin this weekend. However, when Chloe and I reached the basin, I was shocked to see no one... no one at all!! We passed a few amazing campsites, but I was weary about camping completely by myself, so we continued on towards the meadow in hopes of finding a few people. We passed one tent (never saw its owner), and I decided to claim a spot somewhat nearby. I hung my food bag and backpack and grabbed a day bag to continue exploring and searching for a better campsite. There were two herds of mountain goats (each about 15 goats, with babies) that had laid claim to this entire area and kept blocking the trail every time Chloe and I needed to pass to filter water or check out campsites. Yeah, mountain goats are cool to see, but not when you have a dog that's whining and pulling towards them. A few of the larger goats were getting pretty aggressive with us, and actually cornered us back in our campsite a few times. After seeing one of the herds surround the lone tent we saw on the way in, I decided we definitely needed to find a new campsite, as the goats were unlikely to leave us alone the rest of the night. (I later learned from some other hikers that goats are attracted to human urine, so you shouldn't pee right outside your tent. They also said that goats hate coyote urine, so these guys actually brought some out with them...)

After exploring around and checking out a couple waterfalls, I finally heard some voices and was excited to run into three guys who were coming down from summitting a couple of the 14ers. In addition to imparting the coyote urine knowledge on me, they told me that the train from Silverton hadn't started running again yet (it apparently will start back up on the 30th), hence the lack of backpackers in the basin. I ended up relocating my campsite closer to them, about 1/4 of a mile away from their spot. It ended up being possibly the MOST AMAZING campsite I've ever had. The view of the peaks was incredible, and I couldn't take my eyes off them for the rest of the night. I had a little more difficulty hanging my food bag at this site than I did at the first one. All the trees in the area were skinny pines with really short branches. I enlisted one of the coyote urine guys to help me, and he basically just tried to convince me not to hang it. I ended up finding a decent spot later on and was pretty impressed with my food hanging abilities (first time I'd ever done it!). Chloe and I turned in around 8:30pm and again, despite being exhausted, I did not get nearly enough sleep. I really wasn't concerned about bears (or any other animals), but little Chloe woke me up several times throughout the night - shaking uncontrollably, wedging herself into the back corner of the tent, acting more terrified than I have ever seen her. She was on high alert most of the night, which obviously freaked me out. We were camped next to a creek, so I couldn't hear anything above the sound of the water, but Chloe must have. I'm assuming it was just deer, sheep, or goats, but I guess I'll never know! The nighttime temps were perfect. I was worried about being cold, camped over 11k feet, but it was very pleasant.

We woke up fairly early and enjoyed a lazy morning of breakfast, coffee, and strolls along the creek before packing up. I had originally planned on hiking about 10-12 miles out on Sunday and saving the last bit for Monday morning. However, after two sleepless nights, I really didn't feel like camping alone and dealing with Chloe's freakouts for another night. I figured the hike out might take all day - but what else did we have to do? Within the first mile, I realized I was totally beat and the entire hike out would be a struggle. I had bouts of energy for a few miles at a time and despite being exhausted, I still reveled in the absolute beauty of this area. We were super lucky with wildlife on this trip, and saw a moose and four bighorn sheep on our hike out! (More perks of not seeing a single soul in 17+ miles). The last couple miles out were really tough for me; I seriously can't remember being more exhausted on a hike or backpack. That last mile climbing out of Purgatory Flats was even steeper than I remembered and my back was killing me. Back at the car, I let Chloe cool off in the lake while I packed up and changed into Chacos, and then we were off for celebratory beer at Animas Brewery!

Mileage/AEG: This is based on my watch, which is sometimes over and sometimes under. I low-balled both the mileage and AEG quite a bit just to make sure I wasn't overstating what we did.

Final Thoughts: Although I had specifically selected this trip in order to have plenty of people to camp near to ease my nerves about bears, murderers. etc., I'm actually super happy we had the basin largely to ourselves. I'll never forget the views from our campsite, and the feeling of accomplishment in being completely self-sufficient and crushing nearly 40 miles at elevation in two days. I may never get the opportunity to have Chicago Basin to myself again and I'm very thankful that I was able to share this amazing experience with my badass trail dog.

*For anyone that actually read this entire triplog, sorry for its excessive length; this is what happens when you write trip logs while watching the Bachelorette for two hours...
12.22 mi • 3,354 ft aeg
We celebrated Indigenous Peoples' Day with a road trip to Pagosa Springs. The main goal was to observe autumnal colors and soak in hot springs. But we managed to fit in this nice hike!

The original plan was to hike up the Fourmile Creek Trail and take the Anderson all the way back to the TH, making this a nice 14-15 mile loop. Our group was tired from the night before, so we decided on a 10.5 mile out and back to Lower Fourmile Lake. Once we arrived at the lake, I solo scrambled/hiked up to Upper Fourmile Lake while the rest of the group took lunch at the lower one. On my scramble, I saw a bear and quite a few marmots (they're so happy!).

The trail is in good condition and relatively easy to follow. There were quite a few sections that were muddy or submersed in running water from recent rains! There was also a few inches of snow last week on Pagosa peak. It was free of snow on our hike, so I hypothesized that some of the excess water running down the trail was from the recent snow melt.

I normally prefer to avoid out-and-backs, but this trail sustained amazing views through beautiful mixed forests and alpine environments.
489.7 mi • 91,103 ft aeg
Colorado Trail Thru Hike
From August 12 to September 5, I thru-hiked the Colorado Trail. :y:
Superstition Wilderness Loop Hike
Superstition Wilderness Loop Hike

The hike was split into five distinct phases, so I'll break this triplog into those sections then make additional comments afterwards

Waterton Canyon to Breckenridge
5 days, 104.1 miles, 17,612' AEG

(20.5 miles) I met a lot of people starting their thru-hike the first day. It was exciting to be starting my journey. The first six miles are along a service road and there were a lot of runners, cyclists, etc. on the trail. I saw and walked through a herd of bighorn sheep. I had dinner at the S. Platte river after a thunderstorm, then hiked a few more miles to camp. A couple I met earlier camped there too.

(22.4 miles) The second day started out finishing a section through a large burn area. Then I hiked a section of trail popular with the mountain bikers. It was a great section of trail but mostly in the forest.

(21.6 miles) The third day I ended up hiking with a couple people. First Larry from Texas, then Berno from Germany. Berno quit his job and has been hiking since February. He did Hayduke, Denali, GDT, etc. A big storm rolled in so we stopped a bit early to set up our shelters for the night.

(26.8 miles) Fourth day we hiked together until Jefferson Creek where the trail starts to climb to close to 12K' Berno is much stronger climbing than I. This climb was the first time the trail gets above tree line and the views were great!

(12.8 miles) Fifth day I had a short day into Breckenridge. First an uphill, then mostly down the rest of the way.

Breckenridge to Twin Lakes
4 days, 72.6 miles, ~15,000' AEG

(15.9 miles) Resupplied in the morning and was on trail 10. Very tough climb up and over the Ten Mile Range. That was the first time the trail exceeds 12K'. About 1/2 mile of trail was scorched from the Type 2 fire earlier this year. Breck Epic Mt. Bike race was on and I was following the cyclists and missed a turn. Went about a mile down the wrong trail before I figured that out.

(25.2 miles) Went over Searle Pass, then dropped down to Kokomo Pass, then a long descent to Camp Hale. There was a large herd of sheep past Searle Pass. Met David Fanning at camp. Last year he wrote, "Voices of the Colorado Trail." It's stories of CT hikers he interviewed on trail. It's a good read, check it out.

(22.5 miles) I felt tired today. Leapfrogged with David throughout the day. There was some tough climbs and part of the trail was flagged for the Leadville 100 race. At the top of one climb, people were setting up an aid station for the race. I passed by the trail up Mt. Massive. I was hoping to set myself up to climb Elbert tomorrow but didn't make it as far as I wanted.

(9.0 miles) I decided I was too tired to climb Elbert today so I just went into Twin Lakes. There was a trail crew working on the trail in one point. There was some nice views of Elbert and of Twin Lakes. I made it to Twin Lakes before noon, then hung out all day.

Twin Lakes to Monarch Pass (Salida)
4 days + zero day in Salida, 84.6 miles, ~20,000 AEG

(23.3 miles) First I walked around Twin Lakes. People suggested skipping that, that it would be hot and boring. I really liked that stretch of trail though. I got in the lake two different times. It was refreshing. The eclipse was today. I didn't have glasses to watch it with. I don't even know when it occurred; I couldn't tell. Everything was quiet for a bit, perhaps it was then. I took the Collegiate West alternate. The climb up Hope Pass was steep and hard. The Leadville 100 contestants raced up it yesterday. I can't imagine. It was nice to get beyond hope. :sl:

(16.0 miles) The day started out climbing Lake Ann Pass. It's another tough climb. I saw two people I met at Twin Lakes. They skipped going around the lake. I was tired today and never really got going. I took a 40 minute nap this afternoon. I had an early dinner, and then I called it a day early too. It actually was a good place to stop as there probably isn't a good place to camp for another 7 miles or so. I camped by a pond a couple miles below Cottonwood Pass.

(26.1 miles) Today was the best yet. It followed the divide for miles, most of it above tree line. The views were great. The trail is amazing. Miles of it through talus but the tread is made of crushed rock so it isn't too bad to walk on. I can't imagine the labor that went into creating this trail. I would have liked to stop earlier, but there was no place to camp and I finished in the dark. It sets me up for tomorrow though.

(19.2 miles) I had a sucky camp and my shelter was soaking wet this morning. It was damp for the first few miles. I had a few up and downs in the morning, then a good climb up onto the divide. It started hailing on my way up, and really started coming down hard once I was on the divide. The umbrella worked perfectly. It blocked the hail/ran and the wind. Once the sweat from the climb dried, I was comfortable. The trail was a bit confusing once I reached the ski area but I made it through without any wrong turns. I got ice cream at the Monarch Pass store and found a ride into Salida.

Monarch Pass to Spring Creek Pass (Lake City)
5 days, 101.2 miles, ~16,000 AEG

(23.4 miles) I found a ride to Monarch Pass in the motel parking lot and made it on trail by nine. I was worried I wouldn't get on trail until much later. There were a lot of Mt. bikers and some dirt bikers on the trail today as it was Saturday and is a favorite trail to ride. The terrain was fairly easy and I made good time.

(25.6 miles) Lots of forest and meadows today, cows too. Also had longer water carries but all under ten miles. I met three CT hikers at one water source and we hiked to the next source together, nine miles. I stopped and had dinner there, then hiked several more miles before stopping. Light rain setting up camp then for the next few hours.

(26.5 miles) If I wanted a 30 mile day, today would have been the day to do it. There was a lot of roads today and the walking was easy. There was more water than yesterday, so my pack was lighter. The day ended with several miles along the Cochetopa Creek. I had dinner near a stream but cows were slowly nearing me so I yelled at them. I found a collapsible lantern on the trail and was able to return it to the owners when I reached them later. they were happy to get the lantern back.

(20.2 miles) I saw a moose early on. It was in a pond just off the trail. I saw Heather "Anish" Anderson on her CT FKT attempt. We said our good mornings when we passed each other. I wish I got my picture with her. There were some hard climbs today. If I was going to do a 14er, today would have been the day as San Luis Peak is very accessible from the trail. One climb was really steep and I was short on water. It was nice not carrying the weight, but I really could have used it. I finished the day camping on Snow Mesa near a pond. This was my first night camping above 12K'.

(5.5 miles) I got a late start since I didn't have far to hike today. It got cold last night and my tarp was covered with frost. I enjoyed the walk across Snow Mesa.

Spring Creek Pass to Durango
6 days, 127.2 miles, 22,528' AEG

(18.5 miles) I hiked with Eric today. He stayed at the hostel and we both got a ride to the trailhead together. We made it much farther than I had hoped too. There was lots of spectacular views today and we passed the CT high point, 13,271'.

(21.8 miles) I went to put a shoe on to go pee last night and my foot wouldn't go in the shoe. I thought the sock was bunched so I straightened it and tried again. That didn't work so I figured the insole was out of whack. I stuck my hand in the shoe and felt something furry. I pulled my hand out and dropped the shoe. I think it was a pika. :o It rained last night and my tarp was all wet this morning. Today there was a lot of up and down, all of it above 12K', so it was a tough one. It was worth it though, so much eye candy today, the views were amazing! A big hailstorm blew in near the end of the day and the temperatures dropped a lot. I put my fleece hoody on so I could put my hands in the pocket to keep them warm.

(21.0 miles) The day started with a big descent to the Animas River. Eric took the train to Silverton for resupply. I waited for the train at the tracks but got impatient and continued. there was a climb up to Molas Pass but it wasn't too bad. I'm not sure if it was because the altitude was low enough I could breath instead of gasp or it wasn't so steep. I stopped at the Molas Lake campground to get some more food and ice cream. Yum. There was some more rain this afternoon but not too bad. It was raining when I set up camp and then it stormed for awhile.

(25.8 miles) A doe hung out at camp all last night. Wherever I'd pee, it would lick it up. I peed farther from my tarp than I normally would. Unlucky for me, but lucky for it, I had to get up and pee a lot. The storm stopped early enough during the night that everything was dry this morning. There were some good views on trail today along with a lot of forest. The forest seems to be much healthier since Molas Pass. I thought I was going slow this morning but I made really good time this afternoon. There was a hailstorm along the way. The hail stones were marble sized and made a lot of noise on my umbrella. I was able to stay dry, even with all the water on the trail. I'm really liking this umbrella. Supposedly there's a 22 mile dry section so I drank as much as I could at the last water source and filled up 3 liters (the most I can carry).

(26.6 miles) I slept good last night. It wasn't cold so that probably helped. Archery elk is in season and I saw several hunters out. The trail passed near a road and there was two trucks parked and two bucks by the trucks. One had a really nice rack. I laughed because the hunters probably have a deer tag too. I stopped to take a picture and just up the trail, I heard a crack, smash, and a snag fell right on the trail. I'm glad I stopped. :scared: The trail passed over the last ridges above 12K' today then dropped thousands of feet into a lush and deep canyon. I caught a hiker I met yesterday and we finished the day together about a mile up from the bottom of the canyon. There were two people finishing their hike camped at the bottom and then there are five of us finishing our hike camping together. It's funny how suddenly we all converge together.

(13.5 miles) I finished the trail today! :y: There was a short climb, maybe 600', then the rest of the day was pretty much descending. The trail went by a creek so I stopped and rinsed my shirt and wiped my face and body off. I don't want to be too stinky at the end. There was a part where the trail started looking a lot like Arizona with Ponderosa Pine and scrub Oak. I was a bit nostalgic finishing the hike. I was excited to be finishing but was a bit sad knowing that I'll be off trail too. I met a couple that used to live in Arizona. The man had a Show Low t-shirt on. After I reached the trailhead and had my mini celebration, I started walking/hitching to Durango. A few cars had passed me by but then a truck stopped for me and it was that couple. I'm glad I talked to them while on trail. They dropped me off right in front of Carvers Brewing Co. Carvers gives a pint of their Colorado Nut Brown Trail Ale to all CT finishers. Yum!

Overall Impressions
Going into this hike, I had two big personal questions: Would I be able to handle the altitude and hike the miles day to day and recover or would I become exhausted? Would I enjoy being on the trail for an extended period of time or would I get tired of it all and want to get off trail? Well, I didn't become exhausted and felt I was getting stronger the longer I was on trail and I never wanted to get off trail. Yes, I would be anxious to have a town day, but I was always happy to get back to the trail. On my one zero day, it seemed wrong that I wasn't hiking. I did need the break, but it just seemed wrong.

The people you meet on trail are the best! I met a fair number of other CT thru-hikers. Maybe more than most since I was covering more miles than most of the others. Whatever, the case, it was always a pleasure to talk to the other hikers and maybe walk a few miles together. The day hikers and cyclists seemed to especially want to see how I was doing and hear about my hike. It was fun to meet up with the other thrus at the town stops too. Dinners with groups of hikers was a lot of fun.

The forests are decimated. It's really sad to see. Large swaths of trees were dead from the beetle kill. This was especially prominent from Breckenridge to Molas Pass. There are a lot of young healthy trees growing amongst the dead trees so hopefully in time the forests will recover. In the meantime, all the dead trees are sure to be a tinder box and I worry that there will be some devastating fires.

Planning
For planning, I first used both DallinW's triplog and friendofThundergod's triplog from 2016.

I also used the Colorado Trail Foundation's website, along with PMags' Colorado Trail End to End Guide, of which I saved as a PDF on my phone so I would have access to it during the hike.

I bought both The Colorado Trail Guidebook, 9th ed. and, The Colorado Trail Databook, 6th ed. The databook is compact and is for on trail reference, so I took it with me for navigation/reference and my wife followed me using the guidebook.

Also, for navigation, I bought and installed the Atlas Guides (Guthook) CT App on my phone. This is the official CT App promoted by the Colorado Trail Foundation and distances, etc., match what's in the databook.

I decided to buy my resupply as I went and not send any resupply packages. My plan was to resupply in Breckenridge, Twin Lakes, Salida, Lake City, and Silverton. During the hike, I was a bit worried about meeting my schedule, so I decided to resupply for six days in Lake City and skip the Silverton resupply.

Logistics
Originally, I wanted to only use 3 weeks of vacation but decided it would be difficult to travel to/from the trail and be able to complete the whole hike, so I decided to bracket Labor Day and use 17 days of vacation. That gave me three more days to complete the trail. I knew it would be difficult but doable and I also knew if I was behind schedule I could bail out around Silverton if necessary.

I ended up booking a Friday evening flight to Denver on August 11, and an afternoon flight out of Durango back to Phoenix (via Denver) on September 6, the Wednesday after Labor Day. I booked my flights June 13, about two months before my departure and got what I think is a really good price of $180. I added the $20 flight insurance just in case something came up and I wouldn't be able to use them.

I got lucky when a friend of mine offered to be my, "Denver logistics support for Friday and Saturday." He picked me up at the airport Friday, let me stay at his place, picked up a canister of stove fuel for me, and took me to the trailhead Saturday morning. It worked out perfectly, I can't thank him enough!

TSA doesn't allow trekking poles as carry on and my plane ticket only allowed one "personal item," not a carry on (it's smaller dimensions) so I packed my poles, umbrella, shelter, knife, food, etc. in a box and checked the box as luggage. That made my pack small enough to carry on the plane. For my return, I stopped at a UPS store in Durango and just shipped that stuff back home.

Resupply/Town Stops
My first town stop was in Breckenridge. It's really easy getting around Breckenridge as the bus system is free and convenient. I stayed at The Bivvy Hostel. It's a bit more than some other hostels, but it's nice, clean, serves breakfast, and there's a nearby bus stop. I resupplied at the City Market. It had a good selection of food and reasonable prices.

My second town stop was in Twin Lakes. I got into town around noon and hung out at the Pass Gas general store all afternoon with other hikers. The resupply was expensive. I dropped $70 for resupply, including $10 for a small canister of stove fuel. On the bright side, the beverages were reasonably priced. I got a a 20oz Gatorade and a 16oz IPA for $5. I had lunch at the Twin Lakes Lodge and then had dinner there with three other hikers. My plan was to stay at the hostel there, but it had "issues" and was shut down for the season. The lodge had no vacancies, so I just headed back to the trail for the night.

I stayed in Salida for my third town stop. I didn't feel like sharing a room at a hostel, so I stayed at the Super 8. I had a nice room and the motel was pretty nice for a Super 8. I took a zero (rest day) in Salida. Salida is sort of spread out, but the motel had bikes guests could use so it made it easy getting around town. I resupplied at a Walmart so the prices were good.

My last town stop was in Lake City. It took awhile to hitch from the trail into town; the road is lightly travelled. Lake City was providing a shuttle service from the trail into town and back which is really nice (leaves Lake City at noon, arrives at trail ~12:30), especially if you don't get a hitch. I stayed at the Raven's Rest hostel. It's run by a triple crown hiker (hiked AT, CDT, and PCT) that liked the town when he did the CDT and decided to move there. He was out of town so I never met him. It's a pretty laid back place. Only me and two others were staying there so I had a room to myself. It's a nice town. Resupply was pricey but not too bad. I had to resupply for six days so that might be why it seemed a bit pricey.

I decided I was a bit short on food on my last stretch, so I also walked to the Lake Molas Campground, where there is a small store. It's maybe a half mile off the trail. It actually had a nice choice of items and I could have easily resupplied for a few days. I got cookies and a bar each for the next three days and a Klondike Bar and Gatorade for there. I was also able to dump my trash. The store will accept resupply packages too, so it's a convenient place to resupply, more so than Silverton as you wouldn't need to hitch into town from Molas Pass.
7.49 mi • 2,200 ft aeg
A little early in the season, but the falls were flowing nicely. We hiked past the upper set of falls, but were eventually turned away by some pretty deep snow around 10,200 feet. No chance for the Anderson Trail loop, which was kind of expected. There was a ton of deadfall on the trail, however a trail crew has cleared the trail to the wilderness boundary, but after that there are a couple of annoying spots. The creek crossings were a little high, but we stayed dry. We really enjoyed both falls and the basin where they were located was very scenic, especially with some significant snow still lingering. A great hike to kick off our trip to Colorado and we beat the crowds, did not see anyone on trails until long into our way back.
12.2 mi • 0 ft aeg
Durango & Silverton NG Railroad
To access the Needle Creek Trail to Chicago Basin, we opted for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad rather than the 12 mile hike from Purgatory.

Departing from Durango at 8:30a was a little early since we were driving from Arizona, so we opted for the 2:30p departure from Silverton. This doesn't work for everybody since you have to start hiking so late in the day. But Silverton has benefits such as free parking. Plus it's a fun little historic mountain town to spend some time in.

The train ride from Silverton to Needleton is about an hour and didn't disappoint. We had seats in the closed passenger cars, but I'd recommend the open air car in all but the most miserable of weather. It was raining for part of the trip and it was still nice in the open air car (it has a roof). If it's not too busy you can always wander from car to car if you need and there's a bar car with snacks, booze, and Ska beer! :)

Apparently weekends are not the busiest times, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are busiest. So keep that in mind.

The full trip from Durango to Silverton might be a little much ... I think it takes 3.5 hours, but using it as a means to get to a cool backpacking destination is highly recommended. The Animas River valley/canyon is spectacular.
5.6 mi • 3,044 ft aeg
We were gonna do a day hike from Chicago Basin. I knew of Sunlight, Windom, and Eolus but had done zero research on them. :oops:

We woke to rain, hail, and thunder, so didn't get out of the tents until a few hours later. Started uphill around 11 with the intention of at least getting to Twin Lakes and deciding the next plan from there based on weather, etc.

We split up along the way and I ended up on my own. I saw a few groups of people heading toward Eolus and decided that I would enjoy the comfort of other people around and decided to push for the extra 1,500 feet to the summit. The wind was fierce and I took a 10 minute break in the shelter of some of the large boulders I was ascending, wondering if I wanted to fight what would surely be worse the higher up I climbed. Others were visible above me so I decided to continue.

I saw a group making the final push to Eolus and I gotta say I was a little bit intimidated. :scared:

At the top of the boulder scree, the route steeply traverses a rock slope and I stopped to talk to a girl on her way down. She told me of some of the route-finding issues she had, mentioned some catwalk thing that sounded sketchy in the wind, and then pointed out North Eolus to me. I decided to hit North first and reassess from there. The push to the "saddle" between Eolus and North Eolus was a bit messy with numerous routes and cairns on all of them. Didn't really matter as they all ended up in the same place. It just required a little extra attention to get from one little level to the other.

The final 200 feet of gain to the summit of North Eolus is an easy class 3 scramble, though one person I saw was basically crawling and ultimately stopped short of the summit. Other more confident climbers managed it on two feet with just an occasional hand for balance.

There were three people on the peak when I arrived and we chatted for a bit and I took the time to take photos. Somehow the peak was wind free. I still don't understand that one. But it was a pleasant surprise! Two of the guys on the peak were discussing heading over to Eolus, and we watched as a few people made their way across the catwalk and up the puzzle to the peak.

Nothing there looked out of my comfort level, but I figured it would take me at least an hour to get there and back, and with uncertainty as to the rest of my day and the possibility of packing up camp and hiking 3-4 miles once I returned, I decided I should begin the trip back down.

I probably should have just done it while I was so close! :roll: Nonetheless, North Eolus is an awesome peak with fantastic views. As a "child" with only 179 feet of prominence over "parent" Eolus, North Eolus apparently isn't on the list of fourteeners. Because that's important to me. :roll: It was over 5900 feet from where I started hiking, so I feel like I got my money's worth! :DANCE:
14.8 mi • 3,287 ft aeg
Chicago Basin is an outstanding backpacking location ... if not a little bit overcrowded. Despite our arrival on Saturday evening on Labor Day weekend, we were happy to find a pretty good campspot out of the way of the numerous others. In fact, despite there being well over 100 people in the basin, it was actually surprising how peaceful it was. There was quite a bit of room for everybody to spread out.

The hike up after the train dropped us off in Needleton was steady but not difficult. The grade was moderate with only a couple of short steeper sections. The trail was almost always along the creek, so the sound of flowing water was plentiful. We reached the basin just before sunset, got camp set up and dinner finished before staying up for a couple hours. I'm pretty sure we were the only camp in the basin with party lights. :y: They're a near necessity here since there is a permanent fire ban.

In the morning we stayed in our tents and waited out some rain before heading out on various day hikes (described in a separate triplog).

That night the skies cleared and it got really cold. OK, it wasn't that cold (mid to upper 30s) but without a fire and a steady breeze, plus the air and ground raw with moisture from the earlier rain, it just felt cold. We all retired to the warmth of our sleeping bags fairly early.

Monday morning we hit the trail at 8, leaving plenty of time to get to the train before 11:15. For a Labor Day departure, we were not alone! :o Nonetheless, the hike downhill was pleasant and it was great to hop on the train back to Silverton.

One of two rangers I spoke with (rangers who actually hike and spend time in the wilderness! :o ) said he counted 62 tents in the basin on Sunday morning and from his count at the train stop it was girl power weekend with the ladies outnumbering the gents. : queen :

I'd love to come back here again sometime. There are so many worthy destinations that are accessible from Chicago Basin! :)
20.22 mi • 5,332 ft aeg
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.
39 mi • 9,020 ft aeg
Squeezed a second trip into the Nuche. After the hike out from our first trip we went into Durango for some cheeseburgers and beer before heading over to the Purgatory TH for a short hike down to the Animus. Day 2 was 12mi up and over to Chicago basin where the local mountain goats were out in force. On day 3 we were up at 3:30am to make our run up Windom. There was some snow on the way up, but nothing too major. After we made the summit we headed back to camp for a short nap before we hiked back over to the Animus, made for a 17.5mi day with 3000' up and 6000' down. It's not easy to nap in Chicago Basin, our camp had at least 30 goats in it when we got back. Day 4 was a short and stiff 5mi back up to the Purgatory TH.
11.72 mi • 2,264 ft aeg
Our final hike of our Colorado trip on fourth of July! We pulled in to a relatively packed trailhead by Andrews Lake. We parked in an unofficial spot & started hiking around 10:30am. The first mile of this hike makes a nice climb and then has two rolling climbs. From there it's easy going as you hike through forest and open sections. The views of Engineer to the west are breathtaking & North Twilight Peak dominates to the south. These mountain views never get old! We eventually hit Crate Lake and admired this area. The Lake is nice and there are several campsites around the perimeter. I opted for a lunch spot on west side while Chumley & Claire worked their way around.

After lunch we started our return as some clouds moved in. There were a few sounds of Thunder and then some rain started to fall. We put on our rain gear and continued. The rain was not bad & didn't last too long. We made good time on the return and then headed back down to Purgatory for an early dinner.

This hike completes our trip to Colorado. We hiked five trails over the course of four days and made stops in Durango & Silverton. We covered a lot of ground and it left me thirsting for more. Colorado is such a beautiful state and is paradise for a hiker!
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