September 25-26, 2006
Days 4 and 5
Dunton, CO Elevation: 8700 ft.
The region surrounding Dunton constitutes one of the quietest, and most remote corners of the San Juans. Three peaks rise above 14 thousand feet to the north, while deep red rock canyons and ancient native ruins dot the lowlands to the south. The surrounding forests hide shimmering lakes, cascading waterfalls and flower-filled meadows, while the absence of crowds makes backcountry exploration an absolute delight. However, it takes a bit of work to get here and the last two days really tested the strength of our group.
From hot climbs to slippery descents and knee-deep snow to bear tracks in the mud, the previous days led me to wonder if the group would eventually mutiny and throw each other to the ursine spectators lurking quietly in the shadows. At one point, a black bear growled in the distance and number of us thought, “Oh God, this is the end. Get me off this death march.” OK, I’m exaggerating.
The truth is that we had to amend the original itinerary to compensate for above-average snowfall. The end result was two strenuous days spent climbing above tree line with snow past our knees only to wonder if we’d ever make it home before dinner. One of our guests in fact, decided that he loved the new itinerary so much that he’d rather lie down to sleep beneath the stars, then to continue another step toward civilization. “I want to be a mountaineer,” became our mantra, but in the end, we always made it to our fireside dinner and the pains of adversity quickly washed away with each splash of wine. I like to believe that our charming accommodations provided a welcome reward for a job well done. Last night, everybody enjoyed a European-style dinner provided by a chef who we believe, prepares the finest cuisine in the entire Four Corners region.
This evening, many of us soaked our trail-hardened bodies in the silky waters of Dunton’s hot spring pools. As we looked skyward with a warm mist rising above the quiet pond, myriad stars appeared like an enormous portrait. A shooting star attracted our attention as the Big Dipper spilled all the constellations of the Milky Way. Tomorrow we head to Telluride, the headquarters of Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures. See you on the trail!