On Tuesday, September 3, the six of us Tim (AR), Greg (KS), John (KS), Stu (NY), Bill (CO/KS) and Rockchalker (TX) converged in Durango for our annual Post Labor Day Week Fourteener trip. This year our destination was to Chicago Basin. For Greg, John and I it had been 25 years since we began these annual trips to the mountains, rarely ever missing a year. For this group, it was to be our 7th consecutive post Labor Day Fourteener adventure. The only downside was that Mike, a stalwart on past trips, was unable to go due to a severe elbow strained he suffered only days prior to the trip. Mike's steady influenced was much missed but we know he will be back next year, stronger than ever.
After arriving in Durango on Tuesday, we stayed that night at the Durango Lodge, nice place and only a block from the train Station. That night we ate at the Carver Brewing Co., which was OK but took forever to get our food and the food itself was very so-so. We left the next day on the 8:30 AM train, headed for our stop at Needleton. It was a beautiful day, temps in the 70's and bright sunshine.
There were the six of us plus only two other smaller groups that got off the train at the Needleton stop around 11:30 AM on still a beautiful cloudless day and made our way across the Animas River Bridge, headed for Chicago Basin. A few light showers along the way but otherwise a great trail and hike up into the basin where by around 4:00 PM we had picked and set up camp. There were many great spots and we took one of the first ones, slightly above treeline, just off the trail, with close access to Needle Creek for water.
We got up the next morning around 6:30 AM with Windom/Sunlight on the agenda and were immediately greeted by about 10 mountain goats in our camp site, very interested in any spot where there was "urine". We managed to avoid any direct confrontations and set off for the summits around 7:30 AM. Other than a bit of tricky "route finding" we made it up and back to camp by 3:30 PM. The next day it was Mt. Eolus for Greg, Stu, John and Bill while Tim and I opted for Columbine Pass, a beautiful hike. Since this was the week after Labor Day, we encountered only a few other hikers/climbers in addition to the Colorado Trail Initiative folks.
We broke camp on Saturday morning and headed back down to Needleton around 9:30 AM, taking our time to enjoy our last day in the San Juans. We arrived at Needleton around Noon, enjoyed a few Dale's Pale Ales while relaxing next to the Animas waiting on the 3:30 PM train. By the time we boarded, there were about 20 of us who had come down from the basin. We stayed again that night at the Durango Lodge, Mexican food at Gazpacho's, just around the corner from the Lodge - great food and service!
First night was at the Durango Lodge.
Train ride to Needleton.
Durango/Silverton Train - headed to Chicago Basin
On our way up to Chicago Basin - beautiful day!
Entering the Weminuche Wilderness.
We were all envious of Tim as he had summitted Mt. Ranier in May - huge accomplishment!
View of the trail from near our campground in Chicago Basin.
Looking towards the Needle Mountains
Trail headed up to Twin Lakes.
A very interested goat.
Just below the first of the two lakes.
First of Twin Lakes
Bill on the summit of Sunlight
Bill, Greg and John near the Windom summit.
John, eyes closed, relaxing on Windom.
Trail nearing Columbine Pass
Looking towards Eolus from Columbine Pass.
Tim on Columbine Pass
John on the Eolus Catwalk
Eolus Catwalk - Greg and Stu
Eolus Summit - Bill
Eolus Summit - Stu
Eolus Summit - Greg
Ready to depart Chicago Basin, headed back to Needleton.
After 4 days, the DPA was still where hidden!
Waiting on the train to go back to Durango.
Celebratory dinner at Gazpacho's in Durango.