I grew up backpacking in Colorado. If you pick the right spots there you can
go for days without seeing anyone else. Or you can choose some of
the more popular destinations. In August of 1997 I went back to visit
my folks, and my dad and I decided to visit the Weminuche Wilderness.
The Weminuche is a large wilderness area in southern Colorado that is
decidedly one of the more popular destinations due to its spectacular
We parked the car at Beartown just outside the wilderness area. The
folks at the Lost Trail Ranch would shuttle it back to their ranch
for us sometime during the week. Then we began the long hike up
Hunchback Pass. The mileage from our car to the top of the pass
was probably only 1.5 miles but we had an elevation gain of about
1000 feet. Then came the long decent to Rock Creek our destination
for the night.
Looking down onto Rock Lake
We descended Vallecito Creek. It was a series of beautiful waterfalls
and meadows of waist high wildflowers. At Nebo Creek we ate lunch
and the rain started. The summer of '97 in southern Colorado was
a wet one, which made the backpacking both better and worse. Worse
because we were constantly wet. My shoes were so soaked after the first
day I didn't even bother to try to keep them dry. At stream crossings
I just waded right in. The water also made the steep trails slick with
mud. But the rain also made it better. I've never seen the flowers so
tall or so dense. Vallecito Creek was the most spectacular of all,
wildflower meadows in full bloom, reds, yellows, and the beautiful
sky blue of my favorite flower the Colorado Columbine.
That night we cooked under our tarp in the rain about half-way up
Rock Creek. In the morning it was raining just as hard, so we were
slow getting out. Rock Creek brought out another advantage and
disadvantage of the rain. The rain created the most spectacular
waterfalls. They were everywhere coming off the high cliffs. I kept
stopping to admire them. The disadvantage was the swollen creeks.
Today we had several crossings. One crossing at Rock Creek we were
not willing to negotiate, so we had to go way around and bushwhack for
a while. Later that day after we had crossed the pass from
Rock Lake to Moon Lake, we had to cross Lake Creek. The creek had
turned into a small river. It was nerve racking, but there was no
We camped about half a mile from Emerald Lake. That night
getting dinner we were cold. We had been cold since the creek crossing
got us soaked, but the temperature also dropped that night. In
the morning our shoelaces were frozen solid and the ground was
frosted over. Luckily it was just a mild freeze and our water bottles
were still filled with water and not ice.
Coming down from Emerald Lake we crossed signs of a recent avalanche.
The trees all the way down the chute were flattened. The trail was also
covered with debris and the snow hadn't melted yet. Not far from there
Chay, my dad's dog, was pointing up the mountain. He had found a coyote.
Both he and the coyote were standing stock still waiting to see who
would move first. When the coyote saw us he took off.
Aspens along the Los Pinos river
We decided to camp near Flint Creek where it flows into the Los Pinos
River. As we set up camp we saw a prospector go by leading his mule.
This whole area in the San Juan Mountains is steeped in lore of
lost gold mines. There is one tale of a stash of gold hidden by
the miners as they left for the season, but all the miners were
killed by the Ute as they left. Reportedly this stash has been found
and lost more then once.
The end of our fourth day found us at Flint Lake. We decided to
take our fifth day off here and rest. During our first breakfast
there, it was dreary and raining, but then the sun broke through
and sunlight lit up the mountain in front of us. Then a double rainbow
come down. When it started fading my dad told me I should take a
photo. Unfortunately it took too long for me to get it and it had
Our last day we hiked out via Ute Creek. We had everything for
our last day, rain, hail and bright sun. We had intended to stay at
Black Lake and hike out the next day, but the flies and mosquitoes
at the lake were too annoying. So we decided to hike out and spend the night at
the inn at Pagosa Springs and soak our muscles in the hot springs,
a fitting ending to a great trip.
This web page (http://www.gouldhome.com/backpacking97.html) was last updated on December 30, 2001.
For any comments or suggestions about the site contact Daphne Gould.
Contents copyright © 1999-2003 by Joel and Daphne Gould.