Chicago Basin is an amazing place, made just a little bit more amazing by what a pain it is to get there.
Either you take the Durango-Silverton Train, hop off and then make a 6+ mile hike, or you take a super-long hike in from the Purgatory trailhead.
This inaccessibility doesn’t deter the hardcore outdoor group though, and you’d be hard-pressed to find any real seclusion in the basin.
We had read internet reports of a large group of Texans (ewwwww) hiking in from Purgatory, so we hustled up the Chicago Basin trail in the rain and found a good-enough spot in the center of the basin with some tree cover. Luckily, the rain only lasted another hour or so and then we ended up with gorgeous weather for the rest of the time.
Chicago Basin is the basecamp for the four 14ers Greg and I wanted to tackle during this trip – Sunlight Peak, Windom Peak, Mount Eolus and North Eolus. Let’s hike 6+ miles, then bang out 2 14ers each day for the next 2 days, then hike 6+ miles back out. Said no sane person ever.
Welcome to Weminuche
Chicago Basin Sunset
One of the big highlights (or nuisances to some) are the mountain goats that hang out in the campsites all day long. They sleep up in the craggy rocks where there are no predators, then come down in the early morning looking for ummmm pee. Yes, pee. They like the salt, so if they see you peeing they run over to lick it up. The Forest Service has even published guidance to pee on the rocks so the goats don’t tear up all the ground.
Cool to see, fun to photograph, and they weren’t a nuisance to us although if a kid goat got separated from the momma goat then they bleated like a stuck pig forever until they found mom.
We had also read reports of mosquitos and biting flies, but there didn’t seem to be that many and with a mosquito net we weren’t bothered by them at all.
The big nuisance – porcupines.
We were told to keep hiking poles secured as the marmots would chew them up for the sweat that soaks into the handles, but the marmots weren’t much of a problem.
The porcupines, on the other hand – are something else.
We all woke up at 2am the first night to hear Tom battling it out with a porcupine who decided to wander into camp and eat his hat. The porcupine wasn’t giving it up either, and a ferocious battle ensued with Tom narrowly emerging as the victor.
When Greg and I returned from Mount Eolus and North Eolus, Tom had built a brush wall around their tent which we quickly expanded to surround the entire campsite. He also created an ingenious slingshot but I apparently didn’t get a photo of it.
Problem solved? Nope. Porcupines climb trees, and apparently like to sleep in the trees directly above our campsite during the day and forage at night.
Next night – crunch crunch crunch. After several failed attempts, I finally clocked mister fatty porcupine right in the butt with a good sized rock and he fell off his branch and took off into the woods. No more epic all-night battles for our textiles!
Perimeter Security around our Chicago Basin campsite