Western Expeditions

By Anne Mead


To begin- I just have to admit that I am extremely jealous of this group! We heard from the leaders Sunday afternoon and got a full report of awesomeness.  When I got to the office this morning, I had  a letter with a camera card and this is what tipped me over the edge. Wow! This group is full of smiles and looks like they are having an amazing time! So, you might ask, what have they been up too? 

Well, the trip began in Northern New Mexico acclimatizing and touring the desert region of the Southwest. They visited Chaco Canyon, a place built in 950 AD and  had the largest buildings on the continent until the 19th century. One of their days was spent hiking a really cool crevasse among the ancient ruins. The group was there over the summer solstice and enjoyed a beautiful moon rise over the New Mexico mountains. IMG_0267IMG_0301

On Sunday June 23, the group headed to Silverton, Colorado, an old victorian mining town resting at 9,350’ in elevation. Along the way they grocery shopped and got any supplies still needed for their backpacking trip. Monday, June 24, Scott Fetch, a local county commissioner and geologist guided them to the Old 100 Boarding House. This place is incredible! Nestled on the ledge of the mountainside, above 12,000’, miners used to live here and work the mines in the town of Howardsville below. Imagine what life was like in January back in the 1940’s for these miners. Our expeditioners were wearing their winter hats in June! For more information about the Boarding House check out this site. IMG_0520IMG_0526

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The group left on Wednesday, June 26 for the backcountry. The route is taking them to Columbine Lake, up over Ophir pass, down towards Ophir, up towards Swamp Canyon to Ice Lakes and Mineral Lakes. Whew! Around Ophir pass they worked with a local non-profit, Mountain Studies Institute, doing some Fen restoration work. Everyone had a blast learning local ecological knowledge, speaking with experts about the area, and being able to participate in something that is meaningful and impactful for the region. The campsite chosen around Ophir was supposedly phenomenal! Huge mountain vistas, chilly crisp weather, and lots of amazing group time. The group was challenged getting up Swamp Canyon and the daunting clouds overhead made them retreat to tree line. Rather than chance the weather, they decided to camp near tree line on Saturday night. Although it did not storm and they concluded they would have been fine, their morning hike up to the ridge-line was incredible. Everyone felt like they were on top of the world. On Sunday, after hiking to Ice Lake Basin and to South Mineral Campground, the group hopped in a van- got a re-ration of food and bumped over to Molas Pass. They will now continue their loop to come around to the town Silverton through Cunningham Gulch. Today, they are heading up Elk Creek and plan tIMG_0327o meet Mountain Studies Institute at Eldorado Creek to do some high alpine lake water sampling. We should hear from the group on July 4th. Until then- happy camping!IMG_0412IMG_0513