The whole family took a 5-day trip in the Wem. Wilderness in SW Colorado last week. This is the largest wilderness in the state, and the most spectacular, IMO. We set up a mini-car shuttle on the two sides of the Rio Grande Reservoir, to avoid 6 miles of unpleasant walking. It turned out to be a great trip with many highlights.
Our trip began with an easy crossing of the Rio Grande River, fairly wide but only knee deep. After a long approach up the Ute Creek valley, the trail entered a large clearing where three creeks merge into one. We hiked past the junction and camped near the middle creek. Not a particularly special site, but it put us in position to reach the continental divide by mid-day and we did have views of The Window and the Rio Grande Pyramid to the East.
In the morning, we continued up the valley, and after our first moose sighting (a female in the willows), we reached the CDT. Looking down from above Twin Lakes, we looked down the valley that we used to approach the divide.
Continuing over the ridge south of Twin Lakes, the spectacular views of the Rock Creek Valley opened up, with Rock Lake on a shelf across the valley. The flowers were still at peak in some places.
This part of the wilderness is known for brutal stands of willows. If you look closely, you can see my wife coming down the trail (yes, the trail) through some dense, tall willows.
Crossing the valley, we had views to the west of the Needles and Grenadiers, the home of the W High Route. We made camp at a nice deep pond above and west of Rock Lake.
In the morning, we were enjoying breakfast as the sun rose over nearby peaks, and a huge bull moose meandered into a pond just below us. We hoped he would move along after seeing us, but our presence didn’t appear to perturb him at all. A younger bull also came up to the pond, but decided to leave after seeing us and the other bull.
We spent the morning exploring a peak and group of lakes to the west. We climbed up to a saddle west of Rock Lake and explored the area between Peters Peak and Buffalo Peak. Neither was easily climbable with the dogs, but we got some great views. We descended to Betty Lake and enjoyed a break there. Upon returning to our campsite two hours later, the moose was still in the same pond. If you look closely, you can see him at right, and our tents to the left.
After packing up, we spent the afternoon making our way along the barely-there Flint Creek trail back to the CDT. Originally, we had planned to camp at Ute Lake, but a group was already there with livestock, so we backtracked to a lovely off-trail lake instead. We had a visit from a good sized bear in the morning, in my experience a very rare event when camping with dogs.
The next day, we continued east on the CDT, which climbed high above timberline. We got great views of Ute Lake and the Needle range to the west and continued around, eventually getting some views of The Window and the Rio Grande Pyramid to the east. Passing through a gap south of Window Peak, Max found a bit of snow to enjoy.
Continuing to The Window, we dropped our packs and slogged up the hill, surprising another moose in the willows. It’s more impressive than it looks when you experience it up close, and fun to stand in the gap and enjoy views in both directions.
Afterwards, we descended and camped in a peaceful meadow above the massive Weminuche Pass, and enjoyed the presence of yet another bull moose.
In the morning, the entire pass was full of smoke, totally changing the view and giving us some final excitement. Fortunately, it was from a fire to the south, and we headed north back to our vehicle. Overall, a really enjoyable trip.