Solo Adventures to Chicago Basin: Part 1

Part 1: The Buildup
by Erin Thompson, Denver Group Member

I left work on Tuesday the 12th and began my 6.5-hour drive down to Silverton. Most of the time was spent listening to “Denali Howl’s” by Andy Hall. It was a fantastic book, and kept me occupied for the entire drive!

When I got to the town of Montrose, I’d been in the car for around five hours, so it was time to take a quick break. I stopped at a small liquor store, and picked out my last beer before my trip: an interesting brew by Rogue made with Beard Yeast. Yes. Beard Yeast. Surprisingly good golden-ish ale — an interesting twang from the yeast.

I continued my drive towards the town of Ouray and got monstrously exhausted around Ridgway. I took a side road that said “National Forest Access” expecting a camp spot to be not too far; however, after about 45 minutes of driving I finally saw a pulloff. I had no idea where I was, but I had to sleep.

I climbed into the bed of my truck and hoped that one of the valley farmers would not be banging on my truck with a loaded shotgun, yelling to get off their property. Luckily that didn’t happen and I was able to wake up to a beautiful scene.

I climbed into the cab of the truck and took off down the country road, making my way up Red Mountain Pass. I’ve heard horror stories about this pass. There are no guard rails and long drops. It really wasn’t that bad, though I could see it being awful in winter.

I arrived in Silverton around 8:00AM, and immediately sought out coffee and breakfast. I didn’t have to catch the train until 2:30PM.

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Silverton, Colorado.

I spent the better part of my morning chatting with an interesting elderly local, and another transient traveler who was mountain biking the Colorado Trail.

The older guy that I met when I first arrived told me stories about when he used to drive for a rafting company in Utah (very Edward Abbey sort of stories), his stint as a trucker going over mountain passes, and tales from his teen drug-use years. He was truly a fascinating character. We were joined by another fellow — about 35 years old, from Grand Junction — who was telling us about mountain biking the Colorado Trail.

I ended up sitting with them until around noon, then went to my truck to organize the rest of my gear and charge my phone (which was used as a camera/alarm clock for most of the trip).

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Boarding the train in Silverton.

My goal was to compete this trip with a pack under 30 lbs, which I succeeded in doing 26.2 lbs. I got on the train at 2:30. It was a dreary afternoon, and by the time I had exited the train, it was pouring. The rain finally stopped around 6 or 7 PM.

I made it to treeline around 7 and began searching for a place to set camp. Half an hour later, I was setting up my tent and making dinner. I chose a location across the river that was quiet, sheltered, and secluded. I was looking for a quiet reflective trip. I needed time to think, put things back into perspective. It’s been a rough year, I had a lot to think about.

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Soggy approach hike.

It began to rain again, so I crawled into my tent, hoping it’d clear over night so I could climb the next day. It rained all night, and all the next morning. I spent that time holed up in my tent, reading Abbey’s “Desert Solitaire, and napping. I decided to take a walk up the trail some before dinner, and orient myself with the map. It was beautiful, I’m glad I left camp.

Not an exciting day, but what can you do? I made the best of it.

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The mountains to be climbed.

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