The Weminuche Wilderness area of the San Juan National Forest is the largest in Colorado and we’ve just toured a portion of it in the last ten days. It is about the moments – not the miles, probably less than 100 – and there have been many, really beautiful moments. Other hikers at the trailhead asked us where we were headed… we told them we weren’t sure, but that we planned to explore and get back to the car in nine or ten days. And that we did. Let curiosity be our guide.
Lucy and Dexter Harding are spending a year exploring the world around them and taking that opportunity to participate in data collection and research efforts through ASC. For July and August they are trekking in the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado searching for signs of pika and yellow monkeyflowers.
From Luce & Dex:
Part of what we are up to here is is collecting data on two projects to share with scientists through Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation. Specifically we are documenting locations of monkey flowers (a yellow flowered sort of snapdragon that seems to like its roots damp) and pikas (the sweetest sort of rabbit you ever did see.)
Next we drove to Molas Pass – between Durango and Silverton – to camp in a very simple, beautiful, free campground, the night before setting out. As we measured out gorp and sunscreen and such, we met Piet, our neighbor to the right who has stories to tell of world travels and was readying a big campfire. Then sounds of clawhammer banjo playing sounded from the campsite to the left. Soon we were all around Piet’s campfire enjoying songs, tunes, stories, banjo, mandolin, harmonica, whistle, shaker eggs, and ocarinas. Lovely times under a lovely starry sky. We found – to our delight – that these fellow travelers shared a level of fascination and knowledge of mountain floral and fauna. Phil, the banjo player, and Rebecca, the egg shaker, are spending the summer in lynx habitat surveys for the Forest Service.
We packed food for nine days and headed south from Molas Pass along The Colorado Trail the next morning. Colorado has both (part of) The Continental Divide Trail (of which we have already hiked some, where it passes through the Weminuche Wilderness) AND its own Colorado Trail, which runs Denver to Durango. We quickly found that we liked the trail very much; the high mountain meadows, the tall, widely spaced trees, lots of pikas and monkey flowers for us to record, and lots of inviting, off-trail ridges and valleys for us to explore. We didn’t exactly have a firm plan about how to get back to the car. After a few days we realized we could make it all the way to Durango on the food we had or we could hike till the food was half gone and turn around. But we hatched another great plan. In the middle of day four we took a detour down a dirt road to another trail and by the morning of day five we were walking down the ski slopes (and though the mini-golf course, before opening hours) of the Durango Mountain Resort.
Getting over that culture shock, we crossed the highway and were suddenly back in the Weminuche Wilderness, crossing the Animas River and walking along the Silverton-Durango Railroad! Pretty soon we were making our way across some of the San Juan Mts’ highest passes to complete our nine day circuit back to Molas Pass.