San Juan Stroll

When I hiked the CDT in 2006, a series of major snowstorm hit the Colorado mountains in early and mid-September. Three feet of snow was at Vail Pass and people were skiing!

I was in a snow storm near the San Juans, bailed out and ended up taking a lower route through the mountains.

During my CDT trek, I was fortunate enough to hike places that are the "official" route (the Highline Trail), in addition to alt routes that are higher and lonelier (Indian Peaks Wilderness, Wind River Range) than the designated route.

My only regret from that trip was missing the southern Weminuche Wilderness. I have hiked the northern part of the San Juans from a Colorado Trail thru-hike in 2004. I have also been fortunate enough to spend long weekends on memorable trips to this awesome area in previous years. In short, I have seen the San Juans quite a bit.

However, the southern part of the Weminuche was still unknown territory to me. So, at the tail end of my summer vacation, I decided to walk the stretch from Molas Pass (and hike the 11 miles to where the Colorado Trail meets the CDT) and go south. My original intention was Cumbres Pass about two days and a half further. At Wolf Creek Pass, I said the heck with it (did not look forward to the multistage hitching) and hitched into Pagosa Springs to make a nice ~90 mile hike.

The hike started by driving to Durango. A friend of mine is now a professor at Ft. Lewis College there.

Durango is honestly my favorite place in Colorado. Near the San Juans (the best mountains in Colorado IMO), is also near Utah, New Mexico and Arizona for red-rock and canyon lands fun. Naturally, skiing abounds in the winter. Lack of jobs though is the stopping point. If I ever found my dream job or was independently wealthy, I'd move to Durango in a heartbeat. The lower-case "l" libertarian vibe also fits my own vibe vs the sometimes "granola yuppie" feel of Boulder.

In any case, I stayed with my friend that evening. Suzie used to live in Boulder but moved to California to finish her Ed.D. Oddly enough her father once took me in during a hike. Suzie's Dad lives in Wrightwood (off the PCT) and put me up for the night back in 2002. Long history now of the Nulls helping wayward hikers.

Suzie dropped me off in the morning, and I caught the Greyhound to Silverton. The bus driver was nice enough to drop me off at Molas Pass the early afternoon. Apparently the drivers are used to backpackers hiking the Colorado Trail and starting their trek from this pass. The manager of the station station said during the summer they see a fair amount of backpackers.

I was again on the CT and walked northwest and crossed the Durango and Silverton RR. This popular stop made for the most people I'd see on the entire trip!

I made my up out of the Elk Creek drainage and quickly spied the divide.

On the divide again, I decided rather descend going north and then ascend again going south, I'd stick to the physical divide.

No surprise, there was a use trail that lead to kite lake not far from where I'd pick up the CDT again.

The following day was overcast and not the crisp, fall weather I was hoping for.

No worries. The views were still stunning. The hightlight of the day was seeing the iconic view of The Window right on the Continental Divide.

The following morning I was greeted with great weather and saw well down the very large valley I was camped at.

I was on the physical divide for most of the day and enjoyed the solitude. The only people I saw were the occasional horsepackers. No backpackers were seen!

My last full day on the trail again had a beautiful morning.

The Black Feet Nation referred to the Continental Divide as the "Backbone of the World". Walking along a narrow ridge and seeing the mountains south before me, it is very easy to see this concept illustrated in full.

The day, however, quickly grew black as I was getting closer and closer to Wolf Creek Pass. Plus, I just was not in the mood for (possible) multi-stage hitch. At the pass, I managed to get a hitch and called my friend in Durango. She picked me up and we soaked in the nearby hot springs at a locals rate. A burger and beer were had, I watched the delightful Coraline at Suzie's house and drove back to my humble abode by the following evening.

Not a bad little stroll.

All the photos here

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