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PowderRiver - Colorado Trail Journal - 2010

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Powder River
City: Baltimore
State: MD
Country: USA
Begins: Aug 6, 2010
Direction: Westbound

Daily Summary
Date: Sat, Sep 4th, 2010
Entry Lat: 37.739482
Entry Lng: -107.69823

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 119
Journal Visits: 4,286
Guestbook Views: 103
Guestbook Entrys: 3

Colorado Trail Map


Day 30

Miles hiked today: 10.8
Miles from Denver: 411.5
Elevation: 10,889 ft
Segment 24
Landmarks: Weminuche Wilderness Area, Elk Creek, Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge RR, Animas River, Grenadier Range, Molas Lake, Molas Pass, Silverton

It was incredibly warm last night, in comparison to the last several nights. I think I chose my camp site very well. I was high enough up the river valley that I wasn't where the cold air settled at the bottom, and I was far enough away from the river itself that I didn't get any condensation. I had set an alarm to wake up early, and because it was so warm I had no trouble getting up and getting going.

I had nearly 11 miles to go, with the last 5 including a 2,000 foot climb. I figured the climb itself would take me a little while, and I wanted to get to Silverton before the post office closed. I didn't know their hours, but to be on the safe side I was assuming 11:30 am.

I was on trail by 6:30 am. The walk down Elk Creek was very pleasant, though a very old spruce forest with a rushing river alongside, all the time with towering rock mountains several thousand feet above. I can see why this are is so popular. The holiday weekend has brought out all the short trip hikers, rock climbers and families. There were definitely a lot of people here who probably aren't climbing all the way up to the Divide, and will be missing out.

The sun never hit the bottom of Elk Creek as long as I was following it, and as I descended the air got colder and colder. Even though the bottom of this river valley was my intended destination yesterday, I am very glad I stopped much higher. The sun started to hit the upper peaks, making for very beautiful views.

Elk Creek flows into the Animas River in a T shaped junction about 5 miles from Molas Pass, which also marks the crossing of the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. This train is a relic from the mining days of Colorado, running on rare narrow gauge track, and today a big hit with tourists who want to see the dramatic mountain passes in this classic train. Hikers on the CT can actually flag it down and hop onboard, although they still charge you for your ticket. I have to admit that as I photographed the tracks it would be a pretty scenic ride.

The Animus River also marks the end of my descent down, and the beginning of a 2,000 foot climb. I had budgeted some extra time for this, as climbs like this have really been kicking my butt. But what I didn't realize was that I am in much, much better shape than I was even two weeks ago in the Collegiate Range, struggling up Wesley and Harvard mountains. The other thing I didn't think about was that because I have been hiking for over a week above 11,000 feet, this climb, which starts at 9,000 feet would be no problem.

Indeed it wasn't. In fact, I don't normally say this about climbs, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I was able to fly up the mountainside without stopping but a few times, and I believe had I pushed I would have been able to do it without stopping for breath at all. It was a really spectacular feeling. I enjoyed it so much that I was sort of disappointed that it would be so short a day.

The trail comes tantalizingly close to Molas Lake Campground, where I knew there was a camp store and showers, but still a mile and a half from the road. My friends from way back at Buffalo Creek campground in Segment 4 that had fed me said they would be here this weekend, but unfortunately I only had a little bit of time before the post office closed. The interesting thing is that the trail, when within view of the highway, meanders back south, up some more elevation, and then switchbacks south again before finally connecting with the road.

It was a great feeling to step onto that pavement knowing everything that was behind me, and how relatively short the trail into Durango was ahead of me. I stuck my thumb out and almost immediately got picked up by a woman named Kelly, who is a hiker herself and was actually on her way to the trailhead to start a trip of her own. She has been hiking in the Weminuche Wilderness for 26 years, and says she takes at least one trip most years. She takes knows trails that aren't even on the maps, and knows the whole area very well. She went to extra lengths to drive around town until we found the post office before dropping me off. What a great hitch!

For all of the rushing I did, the post office wasn't even open yet, as their hours were 11 to 1. No matter. Silverton has an excellent hostel, where I was given my own room with a key, a towel and washcloth, and even a free load of laundry. The shower was very powerful and very hot, and very soon I was feeling very refreshed. I set about a series of errands, starting with food. I went to the Handlebar Saloon (the logo is of a handlebar mustache) on Kelly's recommendation as a hiker friendly place with good food, and sure enough the waiter knew me as a hiker as soon as he saw me. I ordered a pitcher of water, a beer, a coke, two entries and a bowl of peach cobbler. The waiter didn't think I could make it through both entries, but because they came about 5 minutes apart I was done with the first one before the second one even came. It was the peach cobbler that finally did me in, and I cried uncle with about 5 bites left. Ah the joys of a trail town!

Silverton is a pretty nice town, but it is a town hung up on exploiting its own wild west history. There is little else than restaraunts, ice cream shops and souvenir shops here, to maximize the tourist dollar. There is even one store called the Tourist Trap. There are plenty of great places however with lots of character. It feels a little more real and a little more down to earth than say, Breckenridge. You can almost feel the presence of the locals just around the corner from the tourist junk shop.

The hostel owner offered to drive me up to the trail tomorrow for 5 bucks, which is a pretty sweet deal. I'm looking forward to getting back on the trail.

Entry 29 of 33
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Colorado Trail 2010

The Colorado Trail is a 486-mile long-distance trail running from the mouth of Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver to Durango in Colorado, United States. Its highest point is 13,271-foot above sea level, and most of the trail is above 10,000-foot. Learn more:


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