Pine River Trail (Los Pinos River) to CDT to Chicago Basin

Pine River Trailhead (Los Pinos River) to CDT to Ute Lake over to Rock Lake to Vallecito Trail to Chicago Basin 9-3-12 to 9-15-12

Dwayne Freeman trail name “Shannon-Lewis & Clark” Sister judy eidson

Temps 25 to 80’s, 75 to 80 miles total,pack weight  30lbs total!

My first long trip with no supplies for 2 weeks. Even when I did the Arizona t beat that! The journey begins!!

9-2 Stayed at Blue Spruce RV & Park, cabin # 8 twin beds $100 total. Nice dinner Pasta, bread & salad. Breakfast was omelet in a baggie.

9-3 Parked one car at Vallecito (don’t forget the keys) where we were planning on exiting. Drove jeep to Pine River Trailhead about 11 miles away, where we would start our hike. Warmer than I expected, my buff came in handy, had to wring it out a few times. Hiked about 9 miles in, what a great way to start the trip, no rush, was able to take pictures, study the plants & trees, check out the snakes ( 4 total) talk to twins in there 70’s that was fishing & backpacking-dressed alike) a family horseback riders that had the cutest 5yr old cowboy that the hat was as big as he was, & a pack horse with a dash hound balancing on the back, a kodak moment that I missed. The trail was easy today, a couple said they saw moose just past the 3 mile marker.

9-4 Hiked in lots of Aspen meadows, not changing yet, stayed at Granite Ranger Station. Lots of dead trees, beetle bug & mistletoe disease.  Nice river below cabin, closed for season. Lots of wood cut, old Kentucky bottle of Bulleit Whiskey, above door hanging on a lucky horseshoe.  Dwayne knew history of this from a VFW Magazine from Vietnam Vet that started his own distillery. A young buck came to visit, seemed almost tame. It’s bow season, watch out! Due to cold nights I sleep warm with the correct sleeping bag & night clothes we would trade every so often sleeping bags through this trip so Dwayne could get some sleep. Not to mention that I was sleeping in my tarptent the Moment. Dwayne had a homemade tarp made into to a tent, a bag that was good for about 45 degrees – theory was to wear all his clothes to bed. A big Agnes summer matt, it just wasn’t good enough for the cool & damp nights. He’s a Ray Jardine fan, so am I, but he needs to perfect it to his body type.

9-5 the 3 days have been moderate in the hike, which has been wonderful, hiking up to above 12000 feet. Stopped off at a waterfall to do some trout fishing, we did well off lures & power bait. Dwayne skinned the trout to boil later. We hiked a few miles when we found out that Dwayne’s boot sole was coming off, we stopped off at a great campsite, with a homemade king chair with the right amount of twine we needed to take with us, for future repairs. I had a tie wrap to mend the boot with duc tape, along the trip the boot would need to be continued to be repaired. We hiked for a few miles later, which we were glad we did as it was very steep & made the next day easier. Our camp was near a beaver pond, we saw female moose with a youngster. Colder due to camp in a low area & near water, condensation was a problem, my new Trails Design stove was not working as well as expected with wood, but esbits works well. 32 degree’s, top layer of ice in our water bag the next morning. It was good to have a cold breakfast & get going.

9-6 Past Avalanche Field over the CDT Divide a lung buster day, but the most beautiful scenery you will ever see!  UteLake which was off trail about ¼ mile, fishing was biting off power bait. Again by water so colder night around 32 degrees but beautiful days! Grouse was in the area

9-7 beautiful scenery as we hiked higher in elevation, 12,300  meet up with Flat Foot a CDT hiker from Georgia around Twin Lakes he was representing it is like wish foundation, he is a Triple Diamond hiker with over 8,000 miles completed, his true name is Gene Butcher. We hiked on to a steep trail on the Rock Lake Trail, camped at Rock  Lake an alpine lake. We believe this was winter kill for fish due to others I talked to in July.  Two Llama’was near us on a hill with 2 other tents, also others were hiking over RockLake to the South looks like they were hiking towards Emerald Lake, very steep. Scary eyed creature that turned out to be deer, but at night all you could see was green eyes when flashlight shinned on it. Worried about Dwayne through the night as it was raining, cold but we did trade sleeping bags. I had all my clothes on including rain suit, & took a P.M. blue sleeping pill so was comfortable. Found out that he had to take off some of his clothes as my sleeping bag was a bit warm with all clothes on. Hum, I wasn’t that warm, ha!

9-8 By 11a it was 68 degree’s, easy hiking all down hill on Rock Creek Trail, towards Vallecito Trail.  Vallecito Trail was also easy as it gradually went down in elevation, a few creek/downed tree crossing. Also grouse in the area & now starting to see hunters on horse back.  Camp was near Johnson Creek, plenty places to camp in area. Shortly after dinner & having time to play a game of cards it started to rain. Washed all clothes so put them in tent, wow big condensation now.

9-9      Major error, I washed all clothes except what I was sleeping in, No clothes dried through the night, plus a cold night woke up putting on baggies on wet socks, which worked out wonderful like normal. I put one set of clothes on top of backpack to dry out as I hiked which did not take long to dry. Was glad to have my ultra light Dri Duck rain suit with me, as it blocked the wind, kept me warm, & of course was super against the rain. Snow Cat from Denver that was doing the Colo Trail started 8-15-12 was lost & beside her self to say the least! No gps or map of this location, I gave her a big hug, Dwayne said some kind words, got a map to show her what happened. She was going to beat feet to Vallecito “Blue Spruce RV Park” to try to hitch a ride to Durango then bus to Silverton to get her supply box to finish the last part of her hike to Durango. Felt for her agony! Since we dropped a lot in elevation we now had to gain in elevation, ugg! We reached 11,600’ it made a doable day as we did not need to hurry since Marietta-my sister n law, nephew-Michael Freeman, his fiancé Jamie, & friend Erica would not be there till afternoon on 9-11. I tried for 3 hrs at 3 different locations to get SPOT to send out a OK but could not get it to go thru. This was a concern that Glenda our over seer on the SPOT would not take action. This was a deer paradise, many we saw thru the evening. One more game of cards, I won! I slept in Dwayne’s tent tonight, I made it in a Ray Jardine’s tarp with 18” around, I slept warm, but also had my Mt Hardware sleeping bag rated 15 degree’s. My traptent was still coolish for Dwayne, but with a summer sleeping bag what do you expect.

9-10  38 degrees got a high of 50’s, but perfect hiking weather. Heading towards ColumbinePass very steep, aspens starting to change, went by a few mines before making our turn to Hazel Lake. I didn’t expect this rough of a trail to this lake, we reached 12, 830 before heading down to lake, was glad when we arrived. No trees, or bushes, in a big bowel but a very pretty lake, in fact there was two. Power bait was the winner again. Dwayne got an 18” brown & a 17” native cutthroat we think, very salmon color meat. I got 3 smaller ones from the smaller lake. Fun day, I made up a couple of hot water bottles for our sleeping bags, how nice!

9-11  Beautiful a.m. out of the blue a rain storm rolled in so hunkered down till it past on. Then another hr to fine brothers glasses, oh yea around his neck, made up for me loosing my pant leg a couple days prior. We knew we had plenty of time as the other gang would be hiking in from the Durango train. The trail up the steep terrain was easier than going down, so once we got to ColumbinePass was breath taking. Had a nice break, pictures, snack, too beautiful to hurry the moment! We chatted with a solo hiker that had a tarp & a bivy sack to sleep in. Told us about other adventures he had taken with llamas. We reached ChicagoBasin about 1p.m. Marietta & Erica arrived around 2p & Michael & Jamie around 4p. Once we got our site picked out it started to rain around 4:30p. Michael & Jamie were not as lucky to get set up before they were soaking wet, come to find out they set up in a bog. I guess they were ok as we offered to help them to move to higher ground. We set up Dwayne’s tent into a canopy so we could cook & stay dry underneath it, worked out well. Good thinking Dwayne, he then got to cuddle with his wife!

9-12   Rain continued to make a miserable a.m. but 4 of us set out as soon as it slowed up to go for a day hike to Twin Lakes. We made it 1 3/4 miles before it started to rain, thunder, hail, sleet, once we made it back to camp we made a nice hot drink once we got back & played cards- Pitch in the tepee tent till supper. I don’t think Michael or Jamie ever left there tent, or got warm!

9-13  25 degrees, everything was iced over! My hiking partner Michael for the next two days (we were to go out over Columbine Pass to Vallecito trailhead to get to my jeep) decided he had enough, he & Jamie were leaving by train to Durango today to get a nice dry, warm motel room & scout out the area. He had a 50 degree bag, summer matt, & not the right type of clothes. My brother by this time, had both soles of his boots duc taped, twined up, & with all the rain the heels were falling off. What is a girl to do, ok go with the flow, tomorrow will head out with the other 3, go to Silverton by train, eat a good meal, have a Durango Wheat Brew & enjoy!

9-14  Beautiful day, day hiked towards ColumbinePass to check out the mines. Met Chris a REI personal from Colo Springs, Bob & Earl hiking the 14,000 3 peaks. Erika & I had a great time checking out the mine, but Dwayne & Marietta never showed, found out Marietta fell so was soaking her leg in the creek, all was well in the long run. In the mean time was able to take pictures of doe & her twins, Mt Goat & her baby. We decided to hike about 3 ½ miles down the trail to make it easy for the next day out to Silverton that would leave at 11:30a then next day on the train. So leaving a 4p.m. worked out well.

9-15  Another beautiful day, left camp around 9:30a plenty of time to meet the train. Had to get tickets at Silverton, everyone was very helpful as 2 of us did not have tickets. All went as planned, great meal, cold beer, shopping. Now off to pick up my jeep, & drive over to South Fork to meet up with my husband, cousin Curley (Michael Gray) for a 4 wheel drive trip.

It was wonderful to have my brother there with me to hike, chat, laugh and oh yea clean the fish, luv ya Bro!

Thanks to Glenda Cope for being responsible for us on the SPOT. Nancy Vail for giving us the SPOT to use & everyone else keeping us in your prayers.

Weminuche Wilderness, Chicago Basin, Colorado

Weminuche Wilderness, Chicago Basin, Colorado Colleen, Connie, Judy, June & Nancy Things to remember for next time:  There are no fires allowed in the Chicago Basin or surroundings.  We each carried a large can of propane and only had ½ can left when we came out.  Altitude and coolness makes a difference. 

9-11-2010:  It was an 8 hour drive (with gas stops) from Phoenix to Durango.  Wanted to stop at the 4 Corners but the Reservation was charging $3 per person to put your foot on it, we went on.  Colleen had made prior reservations in Durango at the Rio Grande Best Western.  It was a little pricey but well worth it and it wasn’t too bad with 5 sharing the cost. The location was 2 blocks from the train and downtown, free long-term parking, hot breakfast, and 2 cocktails in the evening, (highly recommend the margaritas). 9-12-2010:  This morning we started out with a nice breakfast and June decided that everyone in the café needed to know that it was Nancy’s birthday.  She stood up and announced, “Everyone, we have a birthday girl, Nancy, here with us today, will you all join us in singing, Happy Birthday!  Nancy was so embarrassed.  We each got a candle to blow out and indulged in eating all the cake.           Prior to leaving Phoenix we purchased our train tickets for $95.  We checked before boarding to see if we could catch the train when we were done hiking and go into Silverton and turn around and come back to Durango for the same price.  The clerk said we could.  Sounds more and more like an adventure!          At Needleton, (Needles Creek Trailhead) the train stopped to let us off where we retrieved our packs from the baggage car and prepared ourselves mentally for what laid ahead.  A young lady, Liz, asked us if we wanted to join her group for a prayer to get us started.  Everyone who got off the train joined us in a circle of prayer to keep us all safe. This was going to be a great hike!           From the start where we crossed the bridge I knew it was not going to be an ordinary backpacking trip.  The beauty was breathtaking but climbing steadily at this elevation was a test on our flat-lander lungs.  The narrow ledges were a bit frightful for Colleen.  She had fallen 3 years ago in Mexico and broke her back and ankle.  Just 9 months ago she had her ankle fused.  This was her first backpacking trip since the accident. She is such a trooper!           Several miles in we could hear someone whistling and yelling.  Nancy and June went back to see what was going on.  A guy named Mike, who was with Liz’s group had got separated and was a bit confused as to which way to go at a Y in the trail.  He was exhausted and suffering from planter-fascia, (start of a bone spur) in his heel.  They gave him some electrolytes and a little rest.  Come to find out, this was his first backpacking trip!  Soon, Tim, who was with his group, came back for him.  Tim helped him with his pack and they went on.            It was 4 p.m. and finding a nice campsite we stopped for the day.  It is such a delight to have water everywhere! 9-13-2010:  It was a beautiful morning and we got an early start as we continued to climb.  We found a wonderful campsite at 11,500’ elevation.  Our scenery was Columbine Pass and Sunlight Peak, one of the three 14er’s in the area.  Located in the Basin we were surrounded by massive granite mountains, much like Yosemite NP.  Our base camp was perfect.  Located 100’ away and above the trail in a cluster of pines which gave us privacy we could see hikers coming from a long distance.  Nancy didn’t know we were going to celebrate her birthday again when we sent her to get water.  We decorated camp with balloons, a huge chocolate Hershey bar, Cheetos, Almond Rocca, and Smore cookies.  (And we wonder why we can’t lose weight.)  You could see the balloons for a ½ mile!          We could see Mountain goats high in the mountains around us and wondered if they would come down so we could get great pictures like everyone else had showed us.  The instruction billboard at the beginning of the hike told us to pee on the rocks instead of the dirt to avoid the goats digging up the ground trying to get to the salts in our urine.  To pee on a rock may be ok for guys but it was a challenge for us girls.  Judy and Colleen had picked up a “green” bag at the trailhead that was supposed to be used for poo and pee.  This proved to be quite a challenge.  They later filled out a survey and told them what they thought about this process.          A beautiful deer walked through our camp shortly before bedtime.  What a treat! 9-14-2010:  Woke to a beautiful day again.  Having water so close to camp is such a treat for us desert rats.          We headed for Columbine Pass around 9:30.  Of course, all uphill to 12,800’.  Nice switchbacks most of the way and ½ way up we cleared the tree line.  We met a couple, June & ? from Chicago, Ill., celebrating their 12th wedding anniversary.  They were coming from the Vallentio trail.  We also met the “Backpacker’s Brotherhood” from a Bible Church in Austin, Texas.  We enjoyed conversation with them and took each other’s pictures and by the time we got to the top we had become friends and took a few group shots.  God’s artwork, at this altitude, is hard to put into words but knowing he put it there for us to enjoy is so overwhelming.  The “Brotherhood” boys were headed to Hazel Lake to fish and we heard later they were very successful and had fish for dinner.  On the way back to camp we saw a Mountain Goat and a mother Marmot with her 2 babies. 9-15-2010:  Awesome morning! 40° and beautiful.  Judy showed us how we could get Nut Cracker birds (also called Camp Thieves) to land on our hands as we fed them nuts.  Awesome!  Soon after playing with the Nut Crackers, 25-30 Mountain Goats came to visit our camp!  They were everywhere.  5 youngsters that sounded like a kitten were so cute to watch as they emulated their elders.  After an hour we couldn’t get them to leave camp so we hung everything up and prayed all would be ok when we returned from hiking Twin Lakes.            Hiking up Twin Lakes was steeper than Columbine Pass.  Lots of stairs that helped but they went on and on.  Reaching the lakes at 12,500 we took a breather, had a snack, took in the sights of distant waterfalls, admired the 14ers: Sunlight, Windom Peak and Mt. Eolus, and thanked the S.W. Conservationist for making a way for us to get to this beautiful location.  9-16-2010:  The little ground squirrels did it again.  They chewed through Judy’s food bag but only made a mess.  They also got into June’s bag where they really had a nice dinner.  These guys are really slick.  They even attacked our bags while we were sitting there!          Leaving Chicago Basin is heart breaking but we decided it would be to our advantage to hike about 4 miles, camp and then get up tomorrow and take our time to get to the train early enough to go into Silverton.  We camped by the bridge where the waterfall is.  There was suppose to be a mine but we couldn’t find it.  Lots of relics and an outhouse indicating it was there but no mine.  Shortly after making camp, Judy went down to the creek by the bridge to wash up when the S.W. Conservationist mule train team with their packs were coming out from Columbine Pass area.  As they were crossing the bridge one of the big packs that a mule was carrying got caught on a tree and pulled another mule down to the ground, breaking its reign.  All this happened on the bridge with Judy under it.  She took off running through the rose hips and thimble berries!  This is a perfect time of the year to come here.  Very few people camping, weather is perfect, and the leaves are starting to change color.  We were told in the summer that up to 6000 people camp here.          Some of the people we met:  Backpacker Brotherhood from Texas, Liz, Tim, Elyse & Mike from Redriver, N.M., Jarred & Derrick from Kansas City and New York, Jane & husband from Chicago, Ill. And Jack and friend.  It is so awesome to just talk to people without feeling like you are taking too much time out of their lives.  Everyone is so pleasant to visit with.  Several times we had hikers stop by our camp to visit. 9-17-2010:  Reality-bummer!  Back to civilization.  Met the train at 11:30a.m.  The body language you have to do to stop the train is quite a mystery.  Looks like a cross between the Charleston and the Chicken dance.  But nonetheless, we all did it with enthusiasm and laughter only to see that the first 2 trains went by without stopping but the 3rd one did.  We were heading into Silverton for a shopping spree and lunch but had a postcard view coming into town with all the leaves changing colors all over the surrounding mountains.  Only had 1½ hours but was still fun!  The ride back took 4 hours!  It should have only taken 3.  Next time take the bus back.          A Kodak moment was when Colleen took off running for the hotel to see if they would keep the lounge open for us so we could get our free Margaritas!  They were super accommodating and stayed open another ½ hour just for us.          Champaign and gifts still await the birthday girl (she didn’t know about it).  We celebrated all week for our friend, Nancy! 9-18-2010:  Spent the day shopping and eating our way through Durango.  We had a very tasty dinner at a really nice Italian place but can’t remember the name of it but it had 2 stories.  From there we spent the rest of the evening taking in the never ending night life.  Very interesting! 9-19-2010:  We spent today driving home, and stopped at Cameron Trading Post. This is a must if you have never been there. Fantastic backpacking trip!!!