Over the 4th of July this weekend I went on a backpacking trip with my mom to the San Juan Mountains down by Silverton, CO. I’ve been wanting to do this trip for quite some time now and since she ad some days off work, and I had just finished my last day working at my old job, we decided we should go give it a try.
The trip consisted of riding the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railwayup into the Weminuche Wilderness. They drop you off in the middle of the wilderness area where Needleton Creek flows into the Animas River. From there you pack up 6 miles with an elevation gain of 2,800 feet into Chicago Basin. From there we set up our base camp for the next few days.
When we awoke in the morning we started heading up to hike Windom Peak. Upon setting out at 6 AM to summit our first 14er (14,000 foot peak) we came across probably close to 100 mountain goats. Most of them were hanging around in people’s camps. They sure were curious buggers. According to the forest service, and I witnessed it myself, they are addicted to urine (I know .. gross huh). I guess they have become addicted to the salt in our urine. Since this is the case the forest service asks you to make sure to pee on rocks for reasons that would become apparent to me later on.
We reached the Twin Lakes area where you can split up and go to one of the three 14,000 foot peaks right there in the basin. Due to it being less technical and less exposure than the other two we chose to summit Windom Peak (14,982’). The other two had some pretty damn sketchy places on them and since mom is afraid of heights (Though she did damn good on what we did) we chose not to combine Sunlight or Eolus in our trip.
From there we headed up the standard route to Windom Peak. On the way up we didn’t really pass anyone. Though at the top we did have a young kid come right up behind us. He had previously hiked Sunlight and had far more energy than either of us had. We sat at the Peak and snapped some photos then headed down off the mountain. All in all it took us around 9 hours round trip. Though we weren’t by any means rushing ourselves.
The next morning we slept in till around 9 or 10 AM. After getting up and getting our stuff sorted out a herd of the mountain goats decided to pay us a visit. It turns out that the head of the pack was hoarding the rock I had peed on earlier that morning. Every time another goat would get near it would chase it off. After it got it’s fill of all my salt they became curious of what I was doing. I was down by the creek filling our camelbacks when I looked over my shoulder and one of them was creeping up on me with it’s ever watchful eyes. I stood up and it continued to inch closer until it was probably 5 feet from me. Then after a stare down of a couple minutes it decided to head back up to where the rest of the herd was. I’m not sure if it was just curious what I was doing, threatened by me being there, or if it was just waiting for me to pee so it could get some more!
That day we decided to check out some of the mines in the area and just generally explore the area. We headed up the trail that goes up over Columbine Pass. We passed several camps, herds of goats, and a couple hikers. We also passed one major camp that looked like it was a big base camp for workers on the trail. I bet they had most of their stuff hauled in via helicopter since they were up by treeline and they had several big boxes that wouldn’t be easily hauled any other way. We then came across some really cool mines but didn’t venture into any of them. I’m sure they are very unstable these days. We also had one goat with a radio collar that stalked us down the trail a half a mile or so.
The next day (the 4th of July) we got up early, packed our camp up, and made the hike back down to the railway. The train picked us and 6 other backpackers up around 11:30 AM. After getting back into town on that beautiful ride, we went and grabbed a beer and burger while watching all the interesting folk striding through town.
Quite the trip overall and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in a couple day outing to bag a 14er or three!