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Archive for the ‘Weminuche’ Category

Trip Report 11

  • Points:  1
  • Trip Dates:  August, 1994
  • Wilderness Area:  Weminuche
  • Wilderness Size:  488,210 acres
  • Location:  SW Colorado
  • Destination:  Lime Creek entrance to the Animas River
  • Total Miles:  10
  • Duration:  Day hike

The West Needle Mountains

This was another hike that started at the trail’s high point off of Hwy 550 north of Durango, Colorado.  The trail drops down into a lightly visited, but very nice, valley with Lime Creek flowing through the middle.

Once Lime Creek is reached, the trail turns right following the creek downstream as it enters something of a small gorge or canyon.  The trail usually hugs the steep slopes and ledges somewhat above the stream. 

I remember suddenly and unexpectedly reaching the mouth of the little gorge and seeing a stunning sight:  The wild Animas River running through a wide flat park-like area.  This was my destination and I returned the same way uphill to the high trailhead.

This trail is in the West Needle Mountain area of the Weminuche which is separated from the main section of the wilderness by the corridor allowing the Durango-Silverton Narrow Guage Train.

The picture above was found on the internet.

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Trip Report 10

  • Points:  2
  • Trip Dates:  August, 1994
  • Wilderness Area:  Weminuche
  • Wilderness Size:  488,210 acres
  • Location:  SW Colorado
  • Destination:  Trailless drainage near Animas River Gorge
  • Total Miles:  Approximately 12
  • Duration:  2 nights

The train coming around the corner near Elk Creek

With one strap on my pack removed from my left shoulder in case of a slip, I slowly made my way through the swift knee-deep waters of 100 foot-wide Animas River to the east side.  My destination was a trailless stream drainage that I think is named Tenmile.

Regardless of the labels, the tributary stream flowed into the Animas from the east but a couple miles south of Elk Creek, which was my terminous in a day hike I had done weeks earlier.

The Molas Trail drops steeply into the Animas gorge from the high elevation of Molas Pass on Hwy 550.  From there, I followed the tracks of the Durango-Silverton Narrow Guage south (downstream) for a couple miles to the point where I saw the tributary come in from the other side.  Finding a nice wide and shallow crossing, I found a stick and made my forde of the big river.

Now the going got rough.  With no trail, I crisscrossed across the stream, hopping boulders and climing over fallen logs, making my way up valley.  At one point I spied on a nice fat little trout circling around in a plunge pool in the stream.  This is what I was here for, some real wilderness small-stream trout fishing.

I made it a good way up the valley before dusk, but I had to pitch my tent in a slightly sloped clearing near the stream.  Next morning, I was so excited to continue that I didn’t eat breakfast.  I made it to a nice meadow with towering spires of rock above and decided to camp there.  I fished the rest of the day in the stream, catching dozens of chunky brookies.  For some reason I never went all the way up to the lake at the head of the valley which I regret to this day.

I re-traced by route on the return.  The four-mile, 2,000 plus-foot climb out of the gorge back up to Molas Pass was brutal.

The picture above was found on the internet.

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Trip Report 9

  • Points:  1
  • Trip Dates:  June, 1994
  • Wilderness Area:  Weminuche
  • Wilderness Size:  488,210 acres
  • Location:  SW Colorado
  • Destination:  Los Pinos Creek Headwaters
  • Total Miles:  27
  • Duration:  Day Hike

Los Pinos River Valley

I had planned to do either 12 miles or 18 miles on this day.  But, I was so enchanted with this valley, that I finally forced myself to turn around after 13.5 miles making for an incredible 27 mile day hike.  It was by far the longest I had ever hiked in a day and I seriously doubt I will ever top it.

The Los Pinos Trail, starting at the head of Vallecito Reservoir, goes for 6 easy miles before even entering the wilderness area.  Even after that, it continues on an easy incline for mile after beautiful mile.  I saw heards of elk, beautiful waterfalls across the valley, and serene meadows.

Los Pinos Creek was there the whole way until finally, just after fording Flint Creek, I stopped under the shade of a big tree next to the stream.  Wanting to continue I knew I had already hiked 13.5 miles and would have to hike the same 13.5 miles back to the trailhead.  My feet were hurting pretty bad when I finally got back.  It took 14 hours total.

The picture above was found on the internet.

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Trip Report 8

  • Points:  1
  • Trip Dates:  July, 1994
  • Wilderness Area:  Weminuche
  • Wilderness Size:  488,210 acres
  • Location:  SW Colorado
  • Destination:  Animas River Gorge/Elk Creek
  • Total Miles:  8
  • Duration:  Day Hike

Near the Molas Pass trailhead above the Animas River Gorge

Durango-Silverton Narrow Guage rolling through the beautiful Animas river Gorge

I could see the huge brookie in the water in a small but deep hole next to the rock I was standing on.  I slowly dropped my worm in the current ahead of the trout and watched as the big guy drifted over to investigate.  Then I felt the heavy weight of a good fish and saw the flashy sides of the trout as it struggled in the water.  After a short battle, I lifted the fish out of the stream and held it in my hand.  It was a fat 12-incher–a bonafide lunker for a brookie, a fish that usually does not exceed 9 inches in mountain streams.

This was lower Elk Creek in the Weminuch Wilderness.  I had just hiked down a steep four miles from Molas Pass into the bottom of the iconically western and rugged Animas River Gorge, where the Durango-Silverton Narrow Guage Train runs through a corridor in the Wilderness seperating the relatively smaller West Needles section from the very large eastern portion of the wilderness.

This is really wild country, and the trout fishing was great as well.  The hike back up to the trailhead is quite steep.

The pictures above were found on the internet.

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Trip Report 1:

  • Points Earned:  3
  • Trip Dates:  August, 1985
  • Wilderness Area:  Weminuche
  • Wilderness Size:  488,210 acres
  • Location:  SW Colorado
  • Destinatin:  Fourmile Lake
  • Total Miles:  14
  • Duration:  5 nights

Wilderness Characteristics:  The Weminuche is Colorado’s largest and it is one of the finest wilderness areas in the country.  80 plus miles of the Continental Divide run in an east-west direction through the middle.  The entire area is characterized by rugged peaks, trout-filled lakes and streams, and long, wild valleys.

The Hike:  This was my first trip into a real wilderness area and the one that sparked my passion for wilderness hiking for life. 

The Fourmile Lake Trail is in the southeastern part of the wilderness near Pagosa Springs.  I was eleven years old carrying a 22 pound pack on a trip with a group of fellow scouts. 

The seven miles to the lake has two distinct sections.  The lower section is a relatively easy walk through dry ponderosa forest with Fourmile Creek usually just out of sight.  The scenery changed dramatically at about the half-way point as we suddenly came upon a pair of towering waterfalls, one on the main stem of the stream, the other on a tributary.  The tributary fall is well over 200 feet in my estimation, no exaggeration.  And the main fall is probably 100 feet.  Both are “straight down” plunges of water over spectacular volcanic cliff faces.

The trail climbed steeply right between the two waterfalls and soon crossed Fourmile Creek above the falls.  The next couple of miles were fairly steep switchbacks through the cooler firs of the higher elevation forest.

After the long slog the trail flattened out and the forest opened up into a fantastic high mountain meadow, with upper Fourmile Creek winding through the middle.  There were remarkably few willows crowding the banks making for a paradise of grass and wildflowers with the gin-clear water of the three-foot-wide creek flowing through it.

At the far end of the mile-long meadow, the trail entered the forest again and climbed over a short ridge to beautiful Fourmile Lake at 11 thousand some odd feet in elevation. 

We arrived at the lake at dusk and quickly set up camp.  We spent the next four days at the lake and I had the time of my childhood.  We caught beautiful cutthroat trout in the lake as well as in the stream in the meadow below the lake.  I caught a 13-incher out of the stream which I could easily step across.

We built a natural raft by lashing rope around a bunch of fallen logs, and I remember spending hours floating on the surface of this alpine lake on this raft of logs, unsuccessfully casting for the many 16-inch trout that I could see in the water.

One day a buddy and I climbed up the side of the tumbling waterfall above Lower Fourmile Lake to Upper Fourmile Lake, which was just above timberline.  A moment of pure wilderness euphoria swept over me as I stood on the lip of that waterfall gazing down on the lower lake.  I stood there, with the gliding water of the stream slipping over the falls next to my feet, looking down at hundreds of yellow sun-reflected trout cruising the surface of the lake for insects.  This moment is still, to this day, my quintessential wilderness moment.  From this point forward Wilderness was my thing.

When I was in college at Fort Lewis in Durango almost 10 years later, I went back to Fourmile on a long day-hike in June.  The lakeshore was still choked in snow and that glorious meadow below the lake had not greened up yet for the summer.  But, it brought me back to that first trip into the wild.  I imagine that I may return to Fourmile a few more times over the years to come.

I don’t have any digital photos from this trip, so the pics below are not mine.  But one is of the high tributary falls described above, the other is a shot of Fourmile Lake.

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