This weekend we reluctantly packed up and said goodbye to one of our favorite boondocking spots. It’s always hard to leave when you find a place this wonderful- especially when it’s free- but our two weeks were up and our black tank nearly full, so down the road we went. We didn’t go far though. It was only a short 40 minute drive to the Westerly RV Park just north of Durango. The switch from boondocking in near seclusion, to an RV park with neighbors on either side is a bit of a shock, but we’re managing. Westerly is a small RV park across the street from the Trimble Hot Springs (we get a discount at the hot springs for staying at the park). The site size is fairly generous here, and we have a nice back-in spot with strips of grass on either side and some trees behind us. Not bad for an RV park.
It’s about 10 degrees hotter here than it was east of town. I guess that’s what happens when you lose nearly 1,000 feet in elevation. On Sunday temps were predicted to rise into the 90s, so we decided to head for higher ground in search of some cooler weather and mountain hiking. It doesn’t take long to gain altitude around here. We traveled north on 550 for only 20 miles before we reached Coal Bank Pass where the elevation is 10,640′. Needless to say, the temperature had dropped nearly 20 degrees. Perfect weather for some hiking in the high country.
Our hike for the day was the Pass Creek trail that climbs to the base of Engineer Mountain. Even though the entire hike is above 10,000 feet, the lack of seriously steep terrain makes it a moderately rated climb. We’ve been above 7,000 feet for the last month now, and are fully acclimated to the altitude, but there’s a big difference between 7,000 and 10,000 feet, which is why I expected some extra huffing and puffing on the trail. Well, as it turns out all the running we’ve been doing is paying off because we really didn’t struggle with the altitude at all. I guess our overall fitness level really has improved. Also, it can’t hurt that we just spent the past two weeks running the trails at our boondocking spot where the elevation was close to 8,000′. This bodes well for the rest of the summer where we plan to tackle more high elevation hikes. I still dislike running, but if it makes these hikes easier I guess I’ll keep it up :)
The trail had a bit of everything. Dense evergreen forests with patches of snow, large swaths of green meadow filled with early season wildflowers, and even a high alpine lake where we stopped for some lunch. After all that we emerged from the trees to find this view of Engineer Mountain.
Most people hike to the base of the mountain and turn around. Doing it this way the hike clocks in around five and half miles round trip, and brings you up to nearly 12,000′. More adventurous types go all the way to the top, scaling the steep and precarious rocky ledge to the summit. We were feeling good about our accomplishments at this point and decided we didn’t need to hike another .6 miles and nearly 1,000 feet of elevation (the summit of Engineer Mountain is 12,968′). Instead we hiked around the base taking in the views and relaxing in the grass.
This was the first high country hike that we tackled in Colorado this year, and it got us very excited for what’s to come. Watch out mountains we’re coming for you!!!