These were all taken during my 2014 San Juan National Forest backpacking trip, which included portions of the Weminuche Wilderness and occurred in Mid-June. We took the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to the Needle Creek Trailhead. It mostly shuttles tourists between Durango and Silverton for shopping, dining, and other boring stuff, but stops halfway through to drop off and collect back-country hikers.
The main Chicago Basin hiking season runs May thru August and thanks to the train service more than 4000 people visit the Chicago Basin, mostly in July and early August when the temperatures are warm. The area has easy access to a number of peaks above 14 thousand feet so the area is especially popular with amateur mountain climbers looking to add to their list of hiking accomplishments.
The train tracks follow the Animas River and is quite popular with
the tourist crowds... which is a good thing because its an expensive
operation, especially later in the season when the fire danger is
high and helicopters need to follow the trains to make sure
stray embers don't start wildfires. During wetter times they
just send a little maintenance tram behind to put out occasional
In spite of the traffic the area is still considered
wilderness area so no chain saws or power tools
are allowed. Because we arrived at the very beginning
of the official season we came across a contingent of
friendly backcountry Forest Service rangers who were
putting in long days clearing downed trees and debris
with hand saws and axes. Many of the trees were
huge and took them several hours to cut and move by hand.
Without crampons we were somewhat limited because there
was a fair bit of snow in the mountain passes. We still
managed to visit the Twin Lakes and covered much of the
aptly-named Purgatory Trail.
The area had a number of abandoned mine tunnels and
While hiking we saw some wildlife, mostly Marmots
and Mountain Goats. While the Marmots are natives
of the area the Mountain Goats were actually imported
as a game animal. Unfortunately hunting permits
haven't kept pace with their population and human
activity tends to scare off local mountain lions
that keep their numbers in check elsewhere.
As we'd seen in
Glacier National Park Mountain Goats seem to see
humans as clumsy, slow herbivores that pose no danger
so they become habituated to people fairly easily.
However, since their numbers are high and the amount
of salt in the local vegetation is low they mostly
seem to see people as magic salt-lick producers and
will often hang around people waiting for them to go pee.
While the mammals were losing their winter coats and
some looked a little shaggy, the Robins didn't
have to worry about that as they worked on their
On the way back to Denver we spent a couple hours going through
a park in Colorado Springs called the
Garden of the Gods.
It's free and wonderful, I'm including a few of my pictures here
because laziness prevents me from making a separate page.
I got a few nice pictures but had been fiddling with my
camera settings so some of their colors are somewhat over-saturated.
And of course as always I took an obligatory group shot...
Last Updated: 9/8/2014 - Anthony Anderberg - email@example.com