Last summer we hiked with Powder River's uncle Dean near Independence Pass in CO. This summer we convinced Dean once again to strap 25 pounds on his back and hoof it over some mountains. Dean and Beth (Powder River's cousin), like to hike the 14,000 footers of CO but they do so with small day packs. Our short trip in the Weminiche Wilderness was Beth's first time backpacking. We found her a pack on Craigslist for $30 and she borrowed one of our down bags. Hopefully Beth will keep backpacking in her native CO mountains so we can live vicariously through her experiences :)
We drove on the infamous Million Dollar Highway to Cunningham Gulch trailhead near Silverton, CO. Powder River was excited for me to experience this highway. He drove on it at the end of his Colorado Trail thru-hike in 2010 (much to his mother's shagrin- she was forced to ride over it as a passenger). If you have a fear of heights or visions of plummeting to your death inside a rolling car down a steep slope, we cannot recommend this road. If you however, like living on the edge- you will really enjoy this ride. The trailhead is a hub for ATVs. In fact, on our drive back down to Silverton at the end of our hike, we joined the ATV rush hour, and filed in to a stream of them heading down the mountain. Silverton is a really neat tiny mountain town. We wondered what it's like for the community in the winter, the town must be very hard to access! Then again, maybe everyone drives snowmobiles! We enjoyed watching the old narrow track steam train pull into the middle of town. You can ride it to Durango and back for $100.
Back to the Weminuche Wilderness Hike: We hiked to the Highland Mary Lakes from the Cunningham Gulch Trailhead. Here's a great website that covers some of the hikes in the area, if you are planning your own trip: http://www.coloradoswildareas.com/weminuche-wilderness/. We gave our Nat Geo trail map to Dean at the end of the hik (with hopes he would continue to use it) so my memory is a little shakey as I write about specific place names.
Powder River was most excited to show me a view of the Grenadier Range, his favorite part of his thru-hike of the Colorado Trail in 2010. Check out his blog about this area here. Yes... it was truly amazing. Now that I am back in Baltimore, looking at these photos, I can hardly believe that we were up there in that heaven.
We ran into a couple of thru-hikers (one on the C.T. and one on the C.D.T.). They are easy to spot, one because we used to be them, and two; they typically have smallish backpacks and don't want to stop and talk for very long. Thru-hikers on these trails need to make 20+ miles everyday if they are to finish in one season. Amazing feat at such high elevation. I suppose their lungs have adjusted- mine certainly hadn't! Which sadly cut our trip a bit short. We were both feeling the nausea and headaches. This feeling made me want to cry: it was such a stunning place and I felt really crappy. So it is in God's country. You must take the time to walk in this place so that you can adjust to being there to cover more ground. His ways truly are mysterious, as is His AWEsome nature.
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