Monday, July 07, 2008

Backpacking Colorado: The Weminuche Wilderness

Near Eldorado Lake in the Weminuche Wilderness.
My second trip to southwest Colorado this summer brought me to the Weminuche Wilderness just southwest of the Uncompahgre Wilderness. I had an extended weekend which included the fourth of July (with that Friday off), this trip started Tuesday morning and ended Sunday evening, (well Monday morning as it were). Here is my report:
-Start (Tuesaday10am)- Commute from Golden, CO. to the Trailhead near Silverton, CO., was thankfully uneventful.
Noteworthy: Hancock discovered a pretty good home grown Jerky near Ouray, CO. called Ray’s Jerky. This is the best production jerky, I’ve had. I recommend the Jalapeno.
We had dinner at Romero’s in Silverton Tuesday evening (Our last Supper). This place had mixed reviews from the group. My chicken enchilada plate (#9) was decent, the food was hot and the vegetables were crispy (I was also hungry). The service here is fast and friendly. The few complaints were; the margaritas were a little weak, the salsa was a little weak, and the house special was essentially scrambled eggs (billed as grilled chili rellenos). Overall this was cautious Mexican food, as not to scare off the tourist. Hey, it’s Silverton population ~600.
Romero’s Mexican Restaurant
1151 Greene St
Silverton, CO 81433Get Directions(970) 387-5500
Wednesday morning we woke up early and dropped a vehicle at the Morlas Lake campgrounds. This would be are destination on foot five days from now. Our group of four and three dogs launched from the Highland Mary trailhead and headed to Eldorado lake for Day 1 trek. This walk climbed to elevation (above tree line) and the Colorado (divide) trail in no time. The scenery is amazing, with thunderstorms up close and personal. They chilled the afternoon and their rumbles hurried our pace to camp. Luckily we received no severe weather and made it to camp with the nasty stuff passing safely around us.

Dark thunderstorms passed around us the first day.

More crystal clear lakes above tree line.
We camped at Eldorado Lake after our first day of walking. The group was glad to see the lake and camp for the night. We water down and ate a hearty meal. One of my new recipes, specifically design for the backcountry.
Al’s Colorado Trail Quesadillas
Pack of corn tortillas
Small block of cheese (sharp cheddar...worth the weight!)
Dehydrated Vegetarian taco filling. (Substitute fresh trout for fish taco option)
Slightly dehydrated poblano pepper and red bell peppers.
Handful of fresh cilantro
Little can of picante sauce.
Squirt or two of vegetable oil.
Prepare Filling or steam trout. Then in a small oiled pan with low heat; toast two tortillas at a time, flipping occasionally to prevent burning. When they are hot add cheese, filling(or fish), and peppers in between the two tortillas. Cover let steam, flip, cover let steam. Server when the cheese in middle is melted, with a generous dollop of avocados and salsa. Garnish with a sprinkle of cilantro (very important).

Rock, snow, and high alpine flowers.
Although the group knew that day one would be the most elevation gain in a single day and probably the most physical part of the trip, we also knew that it concluded the maintained trail part of our walk until our walk out on the finial day. From here on, we would be using game and climber trails with our minds, maps and GPS.

Colorado Columbine.

Balsam Lake day 3.
Will's Trip Map and Track,

total 28.2 miles
gain: +10,253'
loss: -10,216

The trips four legged friends:

A heroic effort by Rasta Paco.
A Tough little guy!
Paco sliced his front right paw open pretty bad on day 2's walk. A noticeable trail of blood formed behind him. Luckily for Paco his Dad Chris is an EMT for Boulder county and fixed him right up. Paco wore a dressing on the paw from the group's first aid kit the rest of the walk. He handled it like a champion for the next four days in country.

Milo with his new pack on the Colorado trail.

Last but not lease is Layla at only 4 months of age. Her first backpacking trip.
She did awesome!!


  1. What?! Roswell doesn't get to attend these romps in the wild? So unfair.... Then again, I guess he can't carry his own gear, and riding along in yours would really add to your load. Love the doggie pics!

  2. Oh yeah. Rasta Paco appears to be the most put together dog for camping/hiking. Milo looks like he's afraid of heights and crawling his way across the Continental divide trail. Layla? She's adorable and has that typical worried puppy look that I love! Where's Pigman? He got the shaft! Or maybe he's still honeymooning with the honeymooners....

  3. you dont know me.. i was just thinking of balsam lake and google searched and saw your pic. ridiculous as it might sound i didnt have a camera when i went there. camped where you did from the looks of your map. very cool place. i bushwacked to the animas down to the railroad track...had to cross the animas and hiked back to the molas pass trail. balsam lake is one of the cooler places ive been. thanks for the reminder pic

  4. Was there a trail leading from Balsam lake up to the ridge next to Arrow and Vestal or did you bushwack it?

  5. Ben,
    Thanks for the diversion...this Friday work day is dragging!
    As I recall, it was a bushwack most of the time with the occasional climber trail appearing and disappearing along the way. We utilized the snow fields and game trails in the higher elevations for easy passage. This section was relatively straight forward to navigate; unlike the last days walk into Elk Park.

    Vestal Peak is off the chain!

    Avalanche debris (huge piles of trees) at the lower elevations was the main culprit when we would abandon the trail and bushwack. Day 4’s bushwhack was the most memorable. Man! thought we’d never reach Elk Park that day. On the final decent to the small lakes, the dogs were falling asleep standing up and rolling down the hill. At the final river crossing we had to carry the dogs as they were totally spent. We pitched camp that night and didn’t see the dogs till morning. Haa!

    Read more:

  6. Anonymous11:07 PM

    awesome trip, off the beaten path. Do you have any knowledge of the ascent up the drainage from southern eldorado lake off elk creek?

  7. Oh Man! Gold!
    You have to hit that drainage! ...and get back to me. We were drooling over that one and designated it to be "plan B" if we need to get down in a hurry on our walk to in.

    I have no route knowledge to pass along, but I specially remember(3 years later) how awesome that drainage is.