May 23, 2010

San Juan Mountains of SW Colorado

From the Great Sand Dunes National Park, we headed west along the uppermost portions of the Rio Grande to the town of Durango. Durango is a great little city at the edge of the Colorado Plateau. It offers terrific access to high mountain peaks and is a very walkable city full of cafes, brewhouses, and shops.

From there, we headed north over the 10,900 foot Molas Pass on the way to the tiny town of Silverton and up to do a hike to a place called Ice Lake Basin. The trail started at about 8,000 feet, it was sunny, and we began the hike about 9am. We looped endlessly up switchbacks through the Engelmann Spruce forest until finally reaching the basin at around 10,500 feet at around noon.

View From the Ice Lake Basin Trail

Waterfall along the Ice Lake Basin Trail

Finally reaching treeline...Sweaty with humidity rising and dark clouds forming above.

The Ice Lake Basin

Our original goal was to reach to top of the ridge overlooking the basin and out across the entire San Juan Range about another 1,000 feet further up. But, the big thunderstorms began to roll in as they always seemed to do in the Rockies. So, after a quick peak at the basin, it was on the way back down. The thunder started shortly thereafter, making it a wise decision to head back, despite the disappointment of not making our goal.

Silverton Valley from Ice Lake Basin Trail on the Way Down with Thunderstorms Looming Above

The lesson we learned in that in the Rockies you need to start really early and be prepared to turn back anytime. Next we headed north past the trecherous Red Mountain Pass and the mining operation there at 11,000 feet toward Ouray and Grand Junction.

Red Mountain

We ended up near Grand Junction, CO where we stayed for several days.
That'll be the focus of the next two posts.

Red Mountain Mining Operation

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