Monday, August 20, 2012

The Windom Train Trek

Dad, Jordan, and I have been wanting to go to Chicago Basin to climb Windom peak for the past couple years. Finally, after Jordan's knee has fully healed, we were ready to tackle the remote peak. With Jordan's busy nursing schedule, there was only a small period of time when we could climb the peak. We scheduled our train tickets and hoped that the weather would be favorable. When the time came, we loaded up the car and drove to Durango. 

We arrived at the Double Tree in Durango at 12:30am. It was a long drive. We all stumbled inside and were informed that our room had been given away. "You're late." the guy at the front desk said. We were shocked that they would charge us for a room and then sell it to someone else. Dad handed him his Hilton Honors card, and the guy's countenance changed, all of a sudden he offered us a different room with a king bead instead of the two doubles we had reserved. He even offered to give us each our own room with a king bead! Looks like being an honors member has some perks.  We opted for just the one room and quickly went to bed. 

Fortunately, we didn't need to be at the train station in Silverton until 2 or so. This gave us plenty of time to sleep in, then enjoy a spectacular breakfast at Jean Pierres before making the scenic drive to Silverton. We stopped at Molas pass and ate lunch. 

We arrived at the train station right on schedule but were informed that they were experiencing some delays and that the train would be about 40 min late. We took this time to walk around Silverton a bit and prepare all our gear for the hike to Chicago Basin. 

Soon we found ourselves boarding the old, narrow gauge, steam powered train. "All aboard!" Jordan and I peered out the window trying to take in the narrow sights of the river and a few trees. We were ready to get going. The train deposited us at the Needleton stop and we were soon afoot. Knowing that we had a long way to go before nightfall, we tried our best to keep a brisk pace up the trail. We picked a few berries here and there. Before long a slight drizzle began cooling us off. This slight precipitation developed into a decent rain soaking our pants since we neglected to bring proper rain trousers. 

The rain must have hastened our pace, because well before dark we were in Chicago Basin at a perfect, secluded camp sight. We pitched the tent, ate dinner, then hung our bear bag off a cliff over the river. A bit tired from the long hike, we quickly were asleep. 

Our alarm sounded at 4:30 and in 20min we were hiking away from our tent. We made our way through the basin seeing clusters of headlamps all around. Though remote, Chicago Basin is certainly no stranger to the crowds that journey there. We located the trail split to the Twin Lakes and trudged up the steep switch backs no longer needing the illumination of our headlamps. Soon we reached the lakes and were greeted by the awe striking views of the craggy peaks towering above. This is likely one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. 

On a distant pass, I noticed a mountain goat beginning his descent down the steep gully. We watched as an entire heard skillfully came down from the high ridge.

 We continued up. With some route finding errors, we made it to the ridge below Windom peak. We then followed the broken cairns to the top. The last 100ft before the summit contained the most interesting pieces of the climb. Some short and exposed sections added to the appeal of the summit. We reached the top at about 9:40. The weather had not yet begun to build, so we took our time on the summit and ate a few refreshing bits of lunch.  

Eventually the clouds began to build and we began our descent. Though we stopped frequently to take pictures, we were soon standing on the shores of the Twin Lakes. We tried to access an island by hopping across rocks, but were unable to make it all the way. We took even more pictures, then descended back down to the tree line. 

Upon reaching the trees, we passed by some big horn sheep. Jordan tried to pet one, but it nearly ran him over. We made it back to our tent and took a short break. Without anything else to do, we decided that it would be a good idea to descend to the Needleton stop and camp by the train tracks. This would allow us the ability to sleep in in the morning--a luxury we all dearly enjoy. It was a great idea, but the hike down seemed to take FOREVER.

 The trail simply refused to end. We did make it there eventually and were welcomed by the idea of making a nice fire. We all scavenged for dry twigs and sticks. Soon we had a nice blaze going. I had forgotten how much more fun camping in the mountains is when you have a nice fire. It was wonderful. We drew water from the river and extinguished the remaining embers. I hung the bear bag off the bridge. Sleep came easily.

We awoke casually and enjoyed a nice oatmeal breakfast. While Jordan and Dad were content to simply soak their feet in the water, I decided to take a quick dip. The water was cold, really cold. Props to Bear Grills for making the coldness of the water seem less frigid. The sun was brilliant and I thawed until I was nearly crispy laying on the rocks. Eventually hikers began joining us at the stop and we figured it was time to prepare our things for the ride back to our vehicle. 

In the distance we heard the familiar sound of train coming. We loaded up our packs, jumped on board, and enjoyed the ride. Back in Silverton, we loaded our gear into the Jeep and began the long drive home after a wonderful trip in the beautiful San Juan mountains.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

About Me

My photo
I love life and aspire to be all I can be in everything that I do.