Trip Report: Rio Grande River Headwaters and San Juan Mountains

It's not secret that I love the San Juan mountains in southwest Colorado, it's the mountain range closest to where I grew up and I have been going to my family's cabin outside of Creede, CO for over 30 years. What amazes me about the area is that it's easy to find new angles, perspectives, and areas if you just go explore a little bit.

One of my frequent travel partners, Chase Shipley, came along as we continued our tradition of spending a long weekend at the cabin in July. We were coming over Slumgullion Pass and stopped at Windy Point, one of my favorite overlooks on the drive, and the rain created a beautiful curtain of texture while framing the distant Uncompahgre Peak.

 Uncompahgre Peak from Windy Point

Uncompahgre Peak from Windy Point

We spent a few days just enjoying the cabin, cooking good food, and playing Yahtzee. At the time, I was working in digital marketing and needed a break from the grind. The company that I worked for was going through a transition and I just wanted to get out and do some photography in my favorite mountains. We set out to shoot a sunset and found a composition I had never thought of before and it was the simplest thing, all we had to do was walk up a hill a little ways. We found this beautiful scene of the Rio Grande River making a 180 degree turn with a single tree and an expansive meadow. It didn't hurt that we had great light from the sunset illuminating the distant peaks.

 This was a really fun panorama to put together, one of my favorite photos of the summer.

This was a really fun panorama to put together, one of my favorite photos of the summer.

The next day was our big hiking day, we went into the Weminuche Wilderness Area that morning for a pretty easy 4 mile hike, then rested for a while before heading to American Basin outside of Lake City for sunset. Neither Chase nor I had been to American Basin before and we had heard reports that the wild flowers were epic that time of year, we sure weren't disappointed. The road getting up there is quite rough but manageable, we stopped at the stream crossing which was about as cold as moving water can be. American Basin on fire with color, both from the sunset and from the wildflowers; I think we were the only ones around that evening too!

 Click on the photo to purchase a print

Click on the photo to purchase a print

 Click on the photo to purchase a print

Click on the photo to purchase a print

american-basin-columbines-wildflowers.jpg

The avoid the "Sunday traffic" back to Denver, we delayed coming back by a day and it was worth it. The Colorado mountains are best enjoyed free from transplants clogging up the roads ;) I'll be coming back to the Upper Rio Grande Valley for, hopefully, many years to come and look forward to exploring new places. I'm planning a two-day camping trip near American Basin for this summer and I'd love to explore the Stony Pass area too.

creede-colorado-cabin.jpg