Friday, July 2 to Monday, July 4, 2011
Wanting to avoid the Independence Day crowds in metro Denver, my girlfriend and I headed to the San Juan Mountains to find some isolation. A coworker who is a Colorado native pointed us to Wheeler Geologic Area near the town of Creede.
Exposed volcanic rock at Wheeler is from La Garita Caldera, one of the largest eruptions ever on Earth, about 25 million years ago.
The United States just turned 235 years old. The territory that makes up Colorado has been called one of those states since 1876. I’m a Colorado transplant who has spent a couple of years enjoying this special place, but the rock I’m holding in this photo is a true native, created through a tumultuous birth an incomprehensibly long time ago. And it will still be here long after I’ve passed through.
Destination: Wheeler Geologic Area, San Juan Mountains, Colo.
Distance hiked: about 17 or 20 miles round-trip. On Saturday we hiked the 6.8 or 8.4 miles (depending which Forest Service sign or Web site you believe) from the trailhead to camp outside the fence marking the border of the geologic area. Sunday we hiked the approximately three-mile loop around the geologic area. Monday it was the 6.8-8.4 miles back out.
Elevation: Trail starts at about 10,700 feet and goes up to a high of about 11,800 feet on the loop trail. Camped at about 11,000 feet.
Temperatures: high 80s in the sun; mid-40s at night
Pack Weight: 25 pounds
Notes: Four-wheel-drive vehicles, including ATVs and motocross bikes, can easily access the part of the national forest that abuts the geologic area. Camping at the end of the 4×4 road could be noisy on some occasions, but we had a quiet weekend with only one other family camped in the area.