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Tag: san juan national forest

Grand Basin Traverse: The Basins of Mineral Creek

Black Bear Pass to Columbine Lake
Saturday, August 17, 2019

This weekend I decided to skip the peak bagging for a minute and just wanted to go on a nice hike in the high country through the upper basins of Mineral Creek near Silverton. I have wanted to hike to the turquoise blue waters of Columbine Lake for a long time but I didn’t really want to follow the steep trail that everyone else does, so I decided that I would drive up to Black Bear Pass and then hike over to the lake by passing through a couple different high alpine basins and maybe stop at a couple of passes along the way. Now after hiking this route I’ve got to say that it was pretty amazing! One of the nice things about this hike is that it was all above treeline and pretty much stayed between about 12,600 feet and 13,000 feet. There were a lot of ups and downs along the way, but it didn’t feel like I was climbing a steep mountain and the route offered spectacular views in all directions right from the beginning. This Grand Basin Traverse takes you through Mineral Basin, Porphyry Basin, Silver Cloud Basin and Mill Creek Basin on your way to Columbine Lake. Along the way you have the option of climbing up to two different passes for views into Mud Lake Basin and Bridal Veil Basin, plus you will also pass by Porphyry Lake, Bullion King Lake and a number of other small tarns along the way. This is definitely the way to hike to Columbine Lake!

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Jersey Jim Fire Lookout Tower

Overlooking the Four Corners | Sunday – Monday, July 21-22, 2019

After spending Saturday hiking to the summit of Centennial Peak and Sunday morning attempting to hike to the top of Hesperus Mountain it was time for me to head back into Mancos so I could pick up the keys to the Jersey Jim Fire Lookout Tower where I would be spending the night. I first laid eyes on the Jersey Jim back in 2010 when I was exploring a few roads near the La Plata Mountains on my way home from a week of adventure through the mountains of Colorado. At the time I knew it was available to rent for a night or two during the summer and I thought to myself that I should plan to do that sometime. It was almost nine years later and ‘sometime’ still had not come because I kept putting off making reservations for the tower each summer until it was too late. But since I have been trying to get to some places this year that I have been putting off for far too long, spending a night at the Jersey Jim was near the top of my list and I was thankfully able to secure a reservation earlier this year, even though it was a frustrating process on the phone filled with busy signals!

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La Plata Mountains: Centennial Peak

Plus A Failed Attempt at Hesperus Mountain
Friday – Sunday, July 19-21, 2019

I have been looking forward to this weekend since early March when I was able to secure an overnight reservation for the Jersey Jim Fire Lookout Tower on Sunday night, and since I was going to be in the area I decided to spend the weekend peak-bagging in the La Plata Mountains. As usual, I left right after work on Friday and headed south into the San Juan Mountains with a quick stop in Delta for dinner. I drove over Red Mountain Pass to Durango and then headed west to Mancos where I took the West Mancos Road into the San Juan National Forest and found a spot to spend the night in Spruce Mill Park just after dark. It had been a long day and I was planning to get an early start the next morning, so I went right to bed.

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West Needle Mountains: Crater Lake

Saturday & Sunday, July 13-14, 2019

This weekend I wanted to finally get out on our first backpacking trip into the mountains for the season. I was looking for an easier overnighter that wasn’t too far from home, preferably in the San Juan Mountains, and after looking at recent satellite images to see how much snow was left in the high country I decided that we would give Crater Lake in the West Needle Mountains a try. From the recent satellite images it looked like there might still be a little snow on the ground in the area, but nothing we shouldn’t be able to get through. All of the other options I was looking at still had considerable snow on the ground and would have to wait a while longer. This six mile trail starts out in the Andrews Lake Day Use Area located just to the southwest of Molas Pass and climbs up to Crater Lake, nestled on the north side of North Twilight Peak in the Weminuche Wilderness. Last year our first backpacking trip into the mountains was also in the Weminuche Wilderness, but thankfully this time we didn’t have to inhale smoke the entire time!

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Cinnamon Pass Peaks & Anvil Mountain

Friday – Sunday, September 7-9, 2018

After visiting the High Uintas Wilderness for the first time last weekend, I figured I’d stay a little closer to home this weekend to spend some quality time back in the San Juan Mountains. The summer season in the mountains is coming to an end soon and I’ll be heading off to explore the Colorado Plateau on my weekends in just a few short weeks. Midddle to late September is actually my favorite time to hike in the mountains since they are less crowded after Labor Day, the alpine tundra is already changing color, the aspen trees usually start to change color, and there are less worries about afternoon thunderstorms since the monsoon season is coming to an end. It’s a great time of the year to get in some peak bagging! Last September I headed up to Engineer Pass for a little hiking around this time of the year, so I thought I would return to the area and hit up Cinnamon Pass this time. Although I hiked to Cinnamon Mountain from the pass a few years ago, there were still a couple of peaks nearby that I hadn’t got to yet.

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