Noname Basin, Needle Mountains

Weminuche, San Juan Mountains - Colorado

July 13 - 16, 2008

Dave and Jill Svilar, Ben and Shawna Mag22


Columbines and clear mornings - we must be in Colorado.  Monarch Peak absorbs the morning's first rays in the San Juan's Weminuche.


Ben and Shawna had made the mistake of an open ended invitation for Jill and I to stay in their new home in Paonia, CO - likely out of pity.  As close friends they were aware Jill had recently undergone a long and drastic surgery, while I, though perfectly healthy on the exterior, was suffering mountain withdrawals.  Their offer seemed legitimate, so we showed up in early July for two weeks of healing in our old home state.  For us it was a chance to act like married people again and served as a reminder that with time, things will return to "normal."

The largest planned activity in our two weeks of healing was a four day trip into the Weminuche - Colorado's deepest and most impressive mountains.  To access these chossy gems we rode the train two-thirds of the way from Durango to Silverton.  What would normally be seen as a cheesy tourist activity was now a legitimate means of transportation to our trailhead along the Animas River (no roads).  The historic steam train was a highlight of the trip.

After Ben and Jill performed first aid on my eye - extracting a tiny piece of coal - we set off from the Needleton trailhead.  Less than 100 yards from the tracks we made a decision to alter our planned journey that paid dividends for the next three days.  After watching no less than 30 backpackers stampede toward Chicago Basin we made the decision to try Noname Basin instead.  There was no maintained trail, but the hiker/climber path was in perfectly reasonable shape.  Several hours of hiking brought us to an old trapper's cabin and the first open views of the peaks at the head of the basin.  Our plan was to traverse into Chicago Basin, but evaluating our collective conditioning and pack size the meadows near the cabin became our home for the three nights of the trip.

We spent the next couple of days exploring the basin and returning to camp before the afternoon t-storms.  Mostly we were satisfied with the magnificent setting and complete lack of other hikers.  After the clouds cleared and the sun set we gathered around a fire at the trapper's cabin at camp in the meadow.

Luckily Colorado's misereable summer weather saved its best storm for our hike out.  By the time the train picked us up in Needleton we were thoroughly soaked and looking forward to a dry night in Paonia.  The trip will probably live as a highlight of our stay in Colorado.  While living in Fort Collins the Magtutus - Ben and Shawna - had become our first "couple friends."  It's unlikely that we'll ever live in the same vicinity again, but our time in Colorado showed that it's likely we'll always be very close friends.  For Jill and I, a few weeks of summer in Colorado proved that life will eventually progress beyond cancer and living with our parents.  Until then we'll enjoy the memories, and most importantly the prospect of future trips with Ben and Shawna.

The historic coal powered Durango - Silverton train and our means of transport to the trailhead.


Our train winds along the Animas River Gorge.


Our crew looking fresh after being dropped by the train.



Scenes from camp in the meadows.  Jill appears cheerful before indulging in the night's Mountain Outhouse.


Our evening ritual of sitting beside the fire drinking hot cocoa cocktails.  Trapper's cabin in the background.


Scenes from some of Colorado's most beautiful - and seldomly visited - lakes.


The ladies air their feet while Dave poses in a white head covering.


An attractive scene near camp looking up at Jagged Mt and Knife Point.
Back with the herds from Chicago Basin getting soaked and waiting for the train.

written August 2008

Take Me Home