The Weminuchi Wilderness – 2021
June 27, 2021 § Leave a comment
Before we even finished The Eagle Cap Wilderness, we had our next destination decided. It started with a discussion around one of our camp fires where Larry (and maybe Drew) brought up the subject of “Where next?” Now, they came prepared to propose the Weminuchi, but they pretended to let me think I was in control of future destinations. Like I am some kind of adventure tyrant who says “This is our plan, take it or leave it”. In fairness, that is how the 2012 Grand Canyon played out. I chose the route, the dates, and simply said “Be there or be square!”, and they all complied. On a return from Phoenix, my favorite brother-in-law, Walt, gave me a copy of Backpacker magazine which had a lengthy article on The Highline Trail that crossed the expanse of the High Uintas, and I was immediately taken with it, and that is where I picked, and that is where we went in 2014. Banff was next, as Mike B asked me if we could target that and bring him back to the mountains he visited many cycles of the sun earlier in his life. There might have been a woman involved, but I investigated, and picked a route, and that is what we did. Scott attended that trip which his partner home pregnant and a baby girl in their future, and while we were on that trip he mentioned the Wallowas, and the Eagle Cap Wilderness, and that is how 2018 came about. The idea of Oregon allowed our Oregonians (Scott, Mike S, and possibly Dan) to attend, however circumstances always get in the way, and Scott was unable to join us except on our last night in Oregon after the trip before we all flew out. Dan and Mike S camped with us before we went into the back country.
So here we are sitting around the fire and Larry and Drew present a proposal. I think it went something like this “Eric, listen up. There is a place in Colorado called The Weminuchi Wilderness where there is point where you are the furthest from any road anywhere in the continental United States”. That is how remote, remote can be. My curiosity was piqued, and we discussed plans to get me more information when our Eagle Cap trip was over. All I knew at that point in time was that Durango would be our staging location if we chose this.
And then it snowed. We got about 2-3″ of fresh snow, not unexpected in the mountains this time of year, that covered everything and changed the appearance of the entire landscape.
And we weren’t the only ones in this part of the park. There was a couple camped a little lower, who along with their dog and their coffee cups ascended to our area for a chat, and what do you think they had information on? That is right. The Weminuchi Wilderness! So, they proceeded to tell us what they knew, and I think an important point made was there is/was a part of the wilderness that you could access via a whistle stop train out of Durango. Well, that certainly caught my ear, and my imagination. It meant that we didn’t really need to stash a rental car with all our non-camping stuff. If we could arrange to store our non-camping stuff somewhere, then take the train to the trail, and another train back from the trail. All we had to do was get to the train, and flag it down. “Do they serve beer on this train?” to which the answer was a resounding “Of course!”. “This is America!”
I think the decision was cemented right there on the spot. “We’re In!” The day I got home from Oregon, I sat down and ordered the Trails Illustrated Map 140 from National Geographic to get my first look at the whole area. After that I went to the US Forestry Service to get all the topo maps for that area. Those download as geo pdf files which can then be imported into Avenza, an app for the iPhone or Android. Paper is nice, it gives you the big picture feel, however, if your phone has charge, then the gps on the phone is actually enough to navigate with, under the right circumstances. I have used it in the past with decent success, the only failure being when I relied on an Android device after 2 feet of snow fell, but that is another story. This might be the year I invest in a real GPS device with Iridium Reach technology. We aren’t getting any younger, and an emergency is an emergency. Anyway, back to the story. The research began, and when 2019 was closing out, I was beginning to really plan out our possibilities for September 2020.
Let’s add a little excitement. Susan and I downsized from our house, and I was now renting, and finally was free of the expenses of 29 Monroe Ave. in Little Silver, and so I thought I would have the funds to take in a different kind of adventure. A cycling adventure. There is a yearly event called Ride The Rockies organized by a community benefit arm of The Denver Post, and in 2020, Ride the Rockies was doing a loop out of … wait for it … Durango! Bingo! [The hammer hits the pad, the slider hits the bell].
So when the registration opened in January, I signed up.
And then something happened. The Covid 19 virus started making the news, and we had a president who was only concerned about his own appearance, and downplayed the risks to everyone, and the United States, fell to its knees gasping for breath in the wake of the worst possible response that our current president at the time (Not to be mentioned here, but we know who I am talking about), could muster, which was really to basically ignore it and hope it would go away, and downplay it even as a partisan battle. Well it changed the world, and to fast forward, we are now emerging from this under a new and much more competent (though the only time competent can be used for the previous gut is when you pre-pend “in” to it) president, and everything got pushed back 1 year. So Weminuchi is now 2021, the Ride The Rockies just took place, and I rode it, and I still have to write about it.
That brings us to today, or at the very least to the time of posting this write up. As of now, I have a reservation on the Durango-Silverton narrow gauge railway for up to 15 people. So far, as of this writing we have:
- Daughter #1
- Jim K
- Walt E
- Mike B
- Kevin H
- Drew B
- Dan G
- Prince Ali K
that are committed to going though not all of those just listed have actually made reservations yet. We have a few folks on the fence and those would be:
- Larry B
- Bruce C (???)
- Terry O (???)
- Tim M (???)
All they have to do is order up some plane tickets, call the Durango train, and get attached to my reservation and they are committed as well. This is a big undertaking. We will be spending a solid week above 10,000 feet of elevation. A group of older (mostly) mature individuals who live basically at sea level. It’s not lost on me that taking people into such remoteness has certain risks associated with it. Most of the people in both lists are pretty active individuals, so I feel that the risk is under control, however I did recently lose a racing friend this year who I thought, and everyone I know thought, was one of the fittest 55 YO on the planet. So, let’s be careful out there.
So, that is the plan. It’s coming together. The San Juans are beautiful, and we are going to have a great time. When it is all over I am sure there will be write-ups in this very blog to document the adventure. So, stay tuned …
FYI: The route as planned out can be viewed here.