When we went down to Durango two days ago I remembered something:
I said back in 2006 when I did Segment 28 of the Colorado Trail in the
southbound direction that Iíd like to do all or part of it again someday
because it was so rainy the day I did it (July
9) that I couldn't see much of the canyon, let alone any
distant views like the one described above.
Stylized map of the 486-mile Colorado Trail between Denver
the maps shown here are posted along the trail.
That got me thinking
doing the 19.1-mile section uphill while we're here this year.
It's more than a 4,700-foot elevation gain from Durango to FSR 171 N.
Doing it uphill would be easier on my knees than downhill like I ran it
five years ago.
74 miles of the CT from Molas Pass near Silverton
to Durango (Segments 25 to 28)
I had no clue what shape either the trail or the dirt road is in right
now, however, because there is still some snow at 9,000 feet in shady
areas. The northern trail head I would use near Kennebec Pass is at 10,360 feet, dropping
down to 6,995 feet in elevation at the southern terminus in Durango.
(The reason that doesn't add up to 4,700 feet is the 1,400 feet of
gain going southbound -- the trail goes up and down.)
A second problem is
a long, slow drive on dirt FSR 171 N. to reach the trailhead I'd use at
the north end and we no longer have 4WD. What if I
spent hours hiking from Durango to that trailhead and Jim couldn't drive in to retrieve me?
third consideration is how high Junction Creek is with all the snowmelt;
although there are some bridges closer to Durango, I had to ford
some streams farther north in 2006.
Zeroing in on Seg. 28 (orange dotted line); Durango
is in the lower right corner.
This sign ("You Are Here") was farther up the trail
than where I started in Durango.
I guess I'm a weenie. I decided we'd both
have a lot less stress if
I just hiked up a few miles from Durango, turned around, and went back down.
Since we had to
return to Durango today for Jim's MRI, I incorporated this hike into our
It was 39 F.
when we got up at 6:30 AM, with a high around 80 F. in Silverton.
Temperatures reached the low 90s in Durango, where we spent the
The San Juans were sunny and dry all
day, making for hot but beautiful hiking weather.
while I take a picture. Locals call the lower
part of CT Segment 28 "Junction Creek Trail."
After visiting some
more with our ham radio buddies, Roy and Laura, we
left the campground at 11:30 AM for Durango.
Jim dropped Cody and me off
at the CT trailhead on Junction Creek Road a little before 1 PM. We
would have gone earlier to avoid some of the heat but Jimís MRI
appointment wasnít scheduled until 2:30.
Leggy lupines blooming near the trailhead
While Cody and I
ate lunch and ran some errands before and after his MRI. We are very
pleased to have gotten this appointment in only two days; let's
hope that things will continue to be this efficient in a few years.
(Sometimes I just can't resist an editorial comment.) Jim arrived
early at the hospital complex for his scan and was done earlier than expected. He got a
disk with the pictures of his knee. We can look at them but we don't
know how to interpret them; we'll have to wait to find out
the good or bad news until Dr. Johnson calls us.
Jim got diesel for $3.84/gallon at the Durango Shamrock station. Prices
came down a a little bit the last two days.
ON THE TRAIL
Cody and I hiked from the southern terminus of the CT at the Junction
Creek trailhead approximately five miles up, past the intersection with
Hoffheins Connection Trail.
There werenít any steep grades, just a fairly gradual uphill
climb. My high point was a little over 8,000 feet for a total net gain
of 1,000+ feet.
It was nice to see the canyon and some distant views today, something I
missed five years ago when it was raining.
View south toward Durango from Gudy's Rest; note
the trail below, which I took to reach this overlook.
There arenít many views like the one above because this segment is
predominantly in the forest. Since I love the views above tree line,
this isn't one of my very favorite CT segments.
certainly pleasant to run, hike, or ride through the beautiful pine and
deciduous forest. The sun was high enough this afternoon that it was a
The trail is rocky and sandy at the start at just under 7,000 feet elevation
in Durango. It follows Junction Creek fairly closely for about half a
mile, then is several hundred feet above it for the next two miles.
After that the creek veers more to the east.
I loved this grouping of mini cairns up the trail a little ways:
There are many places like the ones below for folks to play in the creek
or just watch the clear water flowing over the rocks:
Pausing to watch the creek in places like that is very soothing.
The sound of the water is cooling on a hot day, too.
The creek was much lower today than I expected. I would guess that it is
higher, faster, and perhaps more muddy in the evenings and overnight
from daytime snowmelt at the higher elevations.
We crossed the creek on a wooden bridge about 2 Ĺ miles up and that was
the last chance Cody had to get in the water until we came back down.
View down to creek as we climbed higher up the
The trail surface became much harder with packed dirt after the first
half mile. Dr. Scott mentioned to us that the trails around Durango are
as hard as cement, and now I see what he means.
The trail is very narrow in some places, with steep drops if anyone slid
off. I cannot believe how many people bike this trail!
Some places on this trail appear dangerous to me on a bike, but then I'm
not a daredevil on wheels (only on foot!). It doesnít seem like it would be
all that enjoyable to cyclists because of all the hikers, runners, kids,
and dogs. Equestrians
use it, too.
I didn't see any
on the trail today. I encountered nine bikes coming down while I was
going up and four
more going up when I was coming down. That was good Ė I
could see all of them coming except around curves; none approached us from behind.
I counted four runners out and back while I was outbound, and several
more who were going out (mostly young women) as I neared the trailhead
at the end. I saw about six hikers, all but one within a mile of the
trailhead. There were also several moms with small children playing in
This is a busy trail after work and on weekends.
The only wildlife I saw besides birds was a deer about half a mile down
from Gudyís Rest. This overlook about four miles up the trail has a
wooden log and scenic views toward Durango. On the way back down Cody
and I stopped there for about ten minutes to eat, drink, and enjoy the
View toward Gudy's Rest from lower down on the
Log "bench" at Gudy's Rest; if you stay
there long enough
you can see runners, hikers,
cyclists, and equestrians coming and going on the
trail a few hundred feet below.
Cody and I are not heat-acclimated so we got very hot during this hike.
The first and last two miles through the canyon are mostly exposed to
the mid-day sun. Farther up there was more shade in the pines and
Sunny, dusty, colorful section near the trailhead
Climbing up out of the lower canyon
Shady respite in the forest farther up the trail
I let Cody in the water several times and gave him water from his pack
We also stopped periodically for a couple minutes at a time
in the shade so he could cool down:
In the places where the trail wasn't hard-pan it was very dusty. It was
mostly smooth with a few rocks here and there:
The flowers and foliage look pretty good, despite the drought
conditions. It was only 8% humidity tonight in Silverton and
probably about the same in Durango.
There was a nice variety of flowers in
bloom along the trail. My favorites were these iris about five miles up
I enjoyed all the interesting rock features along this segment. Here are
a couple more I haven't already shown you:
Iím glad I finally got to see this part of Seg 28 on a sunny day.
I ran/hiked all the CT segments in 2006 and 2007 I chose mostly-sunny days;
this was the only rainy one except for a couple afternoon
thunderstorms at high elevations. Back then I would have rated it
near the bottom on my list of favorite CT segments because there weren't
any views. Now
I have a better appreciation of this segment.
I got back to the trailhead about 4:45 PM and Jim was already there.
The scenery between Silverton and Durango is beautiful, especially with
the snow and waterfalls, so I didnít mind the hour-plus drive back home
going to get expensive and repetitious if we have to drive down to
When we got back to our campground in Silverton there were more RVs and
tents but not as many as I expected. We saw quite a few on US 550 going
in both directions today.
After supper Jim went to the A & B campground at the far end of town to do
two loads of laundry. Thatís the best place weíve found in Silverton. He
got more water at the visitor center and filled the tank when he got
back. We get water in our six-gallon containers almost daily.
I walked around the CG to see how high the creek is Ė muddy again
tonight, and the highest Iíve ever seen it. Every night this week it's
been a little higher when I've observed it. Itís almost up to the RVs
next to the creek! Iíd be worried about it every night if we were camped
Next entry: hanging out with the
Hardrock trail marking group
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil