Chicago Basin Backpack Trip - July 2004
A few years ago, my life partner Beth Johnson and I rode the Durango-to-Silverton narrow-gage railroad. This rail line follows the Animas River north from Durango along the western edge of the Weminuche Wilderness, the largest wilderness in Colorado. I had heard wonderful stories from friends who had hiked into the Chicago Basin area of the Weminuche from the train, and now I had the bug to do it myself. I’ve hiked other areas in the Weminuche, and they are all very nice.
It turns out that my good friend Kent Trulsson also wanted to hike Chicago Basin, so this summer (July 2004), he organized the trip and sent out an email to a bunch of our friends. Turns out they all wanted to go, so we ended up with a large group.
If you look at the pictures from the trip, you might get confused. During the trip, a number of the trip participants seem to disappear. Later, some of them come back, along with a couple of new faces. Here is a very condensed narrative of the trip that should help make sense of the pictures.
Monday, July 26 – All of the trip participants (except two guys who would join us later) met at the Durango train station. (Most of us got together the day before at the Vallecito Campground, our trip exit point, to organize the car shuttle.) At the station were Kent Trulsson and Laura Kimberly, Ken and Linda Woolley, Beth Johnson and Arthur Kuehne (me), Dana See, Judy Cato, Beth Harty, Rita Beving Griggs, and Karen Davison. We all took the very scenic trip up to Silverton, where we had lunch and did a bit of looking around. After about two hours in Silverton, we re-boarded our train for the trip back toward Durango. At the Needleton train stop, all of us except Beth Johnson got off to start our hike. Beth J. continued back to Durango and then spent the rest of the week exploring and riding her mountain bike.
Our exit from the train was a bit chaotic because it was raining and there were a bunch of people getting both off of the train and back on to the train. After collecting our packs and getting our rain gear on, we hiked about a mile and set up camp for the evening.
Tuesday, July 27 – After breaking camp, we started backpacking up the Needle Creek trail toward Chicago Basin. At the far western end of the Basin, Dana, Judy, Beth H., Rita and Karen stopped and set up camp. Kent, Laura, Ken, Linda and I continued on up to the east end of the Basin and set up camp.
Wednesday, July 28 – Kent, Laura, Ken, Linda and I left camp about 7:30 to attempt to climb Windom Peak (14,082 ft). Laura’s goal was to get above 13,000 feet and she made it. Kent, Ken, Linda and I wanted to summit and we made it to the top about noon. The weather cooperated pretty well. All we got was a brief sleet storm. We got back down to our camp a little before 5:00 p.m.
While we were climbing, Karen and Rita backpacked up the Basin and looked for our camp. They did not find it, so they continued up the trail toward Columbine Pass and camped. Meanwhile, Jay Davison and David Griggs took the train from Durango to Needleton and backpacked up to the Basin and looked for our camp. They also could not find it, so they hike on up the trail toward Columbine Pass and found Karen and Rita, and the four of them camped together.
Thursday, July 29 – The group I was with broke camp and started hiking up the trail toward Columbine Pass. We soon ran into our friends, and the combined group (9 of us) continued our backpack up to Columbine Pass and then down Johnson Creek. We stopped for the night near where Johnson Creek flows into Vallecito Creek.
Meanwhile, Beth H., Judy and Dana backpacked back down the Needle Creek trail to the train stop at Needleton. They took the train back to Durango and then spent Friday exploring and shopping.
Friday, July 30 – We (the group of nine I was with) backpacked down Vallecito Creek to the trailhead at Vallecito Campground. After retrieving cars and people from Durango, we all ended up in Pagosa Springs for showers, food and a soak in the hot springs.
Click HERE to see a bunch of pictures from the trip. Special thanks go to Kent, Ken and Laura for letting me use so many of their great pictures.