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Begins: Aug 10, 2017
Date: Tue, Aug 8th, 2017
Entry Visits: 110
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Purgatory to Chicago Basin
28 miles, 3700ft
My wife dropped me off at 6am at the Purgatory Trailhead and picked me up at 6pm! It was a long day and very satisfying! I woke to a cloudy sky that didn't look promising, but I was going for it! I started down the Purgatory trail along Cascade Creek under a mostly overcast sky. In about 4 miles, I dropped down a series of switchbacks to the Animas River Junction where I had a snack at a picnic table that must have been brought in by the Durango to Silverton train. Picnic tables are a treat in the middle of the woods! We
I crossed the Animas on a suspension bridge and crossed the railroad tracks by a railroad bridge to start the 5.5 mile hike up the Animas River. The river was flowing strongly as it descends through the valley carving its way around rocks and islands. The hike along the river was mostly flat and smooth with a few rocky climbs. There were several awesome flat campsites along the river that I will remember for the future.
I arrived at the Needle Creek Junction in 3.5 hours, and I was feeling good even after a 9am rain. It was still overcast and I was beginning to lose hope for any good views at the Basin. I met several 14ner peak baggers coming down the trail. Most had climbed at least one of the four mountains from a base camp at the Chicago Basin. Most of the climbers said that yesterday's weather was the best which was contrary to the forecast. I'm beginning to realize that the weather forecasts don't mean much at elevation.
Further up Needle Creek trail, the sun started to appear and I felt extremely lucky. When I reached the first Basin at 10,700ft, the sun was perfectly illuminating the four peaks forming the basin complete with waterfalls and snow. I sat on a rock, ate a Snickers, and took it all in. It took six hours to reach, but was extremely worth it! As I sent a satellite message to my wife for pick up, I watched the clouds steal the sun as quickly as they released it. There were about six tents perched at the base of these mountains, probably mostly climbers. I watched as they turned their clothes on the sun lite rocks drying them from the prevalent rains.
I hated to leave such an inspiring place, but I had a long hike ahead and I would soon be running out of day. I passed some hikers as I descended who I passed on the way up. It wasn't long before the clouds released some rain and I performed the rain gear dance for the second time. I made good time going down Needle Creek and noticed some views that I missed as I huffed and puffed on the 2700ft climb up.
It felt great to return down the Animas. Initially the sun was back and I got some great river pictures that were hidden in the morning's grayness. The sun was temporary and thunder and lightning were soon overhead bringing my third rain.
When I finally reached the railroad and river crossing, the rain had stopped and I sent my wife another message adjusting my exit time (later not sooner!). I climbed the switchbacks out of the Animas valley when I heard the Durango to Silverton train whistle carrying tourists back to Durango. It was both a comforting and fitting sound as I was approaching the end of the hike.
As I dropped onto Purgatory Flats along the Cascade Creek, the wind kicked up and brought my fourth rain. Fortunately, the rain stopped prior to the final 600ft climb to the trailhead. Near the trailhead, Sharon was waiting for me with a comforting kiss, and a cold bottle of Gatorade! I'm grateful to have her!
Jim's Sobo CT Journey
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: www.coloradotrail.org
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