I'm sad to say that I have not gotten my usual dose of high-country backpacking in this year. August has flown by, and the short-lived window that is summer in the alpine will soon be closing. Of course, I have excuses for this lack of quality time spent in the high mountains; hiking with a heavy backpack requires patience for moving at a snail's pace, and the willingness to walk for the sake of walking. My core group of friends are hard workers, and take their fast-action, adrenaline sports very seriously when not on the job. It is increasingly difficult to get folks psyched up to do some some walking. I understand, the backpack is painful. But only at first, and once I find my rhythm on the trail, I'm reminded that miles of walking, all above treeline, is a special thing.
Living in Durango, I'm lucky enough to have 4,000+ square miles of motorless terrain, literally, in my back yard. The Weminuche Wilderness, as it's known, is the largest designated wilderness area in Colorado, containing some of the most beautiful and remote alpine terrain I've ever laid eyes on. To explore here, one must walk.
The Highland Mary Lakes Trail offers some great access to the Continental Divide area southeast of Silverton. It's a quick, relatively easy jaunt to get above treeline, making it one of my favorite spots for entering and exiting the Weminuche. From here, there are a number of high country routes that lead through a vast expanse of alpine tundra broken only by 13,000 foot peaks and deep valleys.
One of the great rewards after a day on the trail is the alpine bivy. Access to water, a magnificent lake, and viewing platforms are all important considerations to make when searching for the perfect camp. A carefully selected bivouac above 12,000ft. is one of my favorite things.
The weather-heavy, late-summer season hints at a productive winter, and if moisture continues into the fall, snow will be here before we know it... And hopefully there will be a few more mountain walks before then.