This page describes a trip I made in September of 2022. First, I backpacked to Chicago Basin in the Weminuche Wilderness in Southwestern Colorado and climbed Sunlight Peak. After backpacking, I went to Navajo Dam, New Mexico and fished the San Juan River. After fishing, we went to the 28th Annual Telluride Blues and Brews Festival. See some of my other trip reports here .
Backpacking and Climbing
- See the photo album from the backpacking and climbing portion of this trip.
- See the sidebar on this page for detailed trip planning information including maps, GPS info, guidebook excerpts, etc.
Chicago Basin is in the Weminuche Wilderness in Southwestern Colorado. It is one of the most beautiful places in the Southern Rocky Mountains. When I first visited it in 1971, it was seemingly remote, wild, and not visited by many people. Today, vast hordes of people visit Chicago basin seeking to climb the three, nearby, 14,000+ foot mountains: Sunlight Peak, Mount Eolus, and Windom Peak. Definitions of the list of 14ers vary. Some lists now include North Eolus, a sub-summit of Mount Eolus, as a separate 14er. Chicago Basin is particularly busy from Memorial Day to Labor Day, especially on weekends.
I started the trip by driving from Amarillo, Texas to Purgatory, Colorado. I spent two nights there at about 9,000 feet to begin acclimatizing to the elevation before sleeping at Chicago Basin at 11,200 feet. Next, I rode the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad from Durango, Colorado to Needleton, Colorado.
From Needleton, I walked the 6.72 miles (ascent/descent 3,074/-88 feet) to upper Chicago Basin and camped near the Twin Lakes Trailhead. The next day I rested and enjoyed the view.
The following day, I climbed Sunlight Peak, 14,059 feet. See the sidebar for detailed climbing route information. The climb was more difficult than I expected. The loose dirt in the "Red Couloir" made for a tricky ascent and an even trickier descent. The final ascent from the saddle between Sunlight and Sunlight Spire had several short pitches of near vertical class 3 rock climbing. I skipped the famous class 4 summit block. The view of the many rugged San Juan Mountains' Peaks from the summit was spectacular.
The next day I rested and read a lot. I had previously climbed the other two 14ers in the area: Mount Eolus and Windom Peak. I considered climbing Jupiter Mountain, a centennial 13er, on this trip, but I decided that was best left for a future trip.
The next day, I hiked down to Needleton and rode the train to Durango. On the way, I passed the beautiful falls on New York Creek near where a moose charged Connie and me on a prior trip.
A few years back, Connie and I were hiking down the Needle Creek Trail with two llamas. We had hiked into Chicago Basin over Columbine Pass. As we rounded a corner just above the New York Creek Bridge, we encountered a bull moose standing between the bridge and us, about fifty feet away. There was not much time to think. At that point, the trail traverses a steep slope, and we could not just walk off the trail with the llamas. I told Connie that we needed to side-step uphill off of the trail. As we began to move, the moose charged.
Fortunately, I think he was just trying to escape from a position where he felt trapped between the bridge and us and he was not trying to attack us. He ran by the llamas and us, tilting his antlers toward the llamas just barely brushing their sides. He kept running about fifty feet up the trail, paused briefly, and then disappeared up the trail. It happened so quickly there was not much time to be frightened. Afterward, we were a bit shaken. We realized how lucky we had been to escape a very dangerous situation unscathed.
When I reached Needleton on this current trip, I was surprised at the size of the crowd gathering at the train stop. The first time I rode the train from Needleton to Durango in 1971, our family was the only group that boarded the train. These days, hordes of people ride the train between Durango and Needleton, lured by the 14ers nearby Chicago Basin.
After the climbing trip, I spent a day in Durango. Next, I drove to Navajo Dam, New Mexico to fish the San Juan River with my friend Donna.
We spent two days fishing the tail-water below the Navajo Reservoir Dam. We floated with an excellent guide from Duranglers and landed over fifty fish. We both had fish hooked at the same time on three separate occasions. These were the most productive fishing days I have ever had at this location.
28th Annual Telluride Blues and Brews Festival
Next, we drove to Telluride and met Connie and more of our friends for the 2022 Telluride Blues and Brew Festival. I ran in the Telluride Blisters and Brews 5K and again won my division, male over sixty-five from Amarillo.
As usual for Blues and Brews, I discovered a band I really liked that I had never heard of before, Oh He Dead. It was pleasure to again see one of my favorites, Tab Benoit, master of the electric blues guitar.