The Sneffels Traverse – Day 4

Morning Coffee

Our fourth and final day on the Sneffels Traverse took us 8.1 miles from the Ridgway Hut to Ouray.  We skipped staying at Burn Hut for another night as it was only 4.1 miles away.  With the final hike being mostly downhill and not too long, we voted for a later start…8:30 am.

As usual, Tina was the first one up.  She turned on the propane and got the water boiling.  Normally, we would have left the propane on overnight, but there was a leak outside the cabin. Given a leak can cause an explosion and even emit carbon monoxide in certain instances, I, being the worry wart, turned it off.

Our group slowly rose at different times and relaxed outside in the morning sun.  About an hour before departure time Tina and I tended to the propane, dishes, dishwater and sweeping.  Then, along with Danelle and Diana, we cleared our gear out of the cabin.  With about 30 minutes left, the second group packed up their stuff, and Judy closed up the cabin and bathroom with the final sweep.

The Hike

We began the hike descending through the pine forest for 1.5 miles to Last Drink Draw that presented another unique creek crossing.  From here, we climbed a bit and then descended again through spectacular aspen groves.  Eventually, we reached Stoners Corner, where Tina was resting on a log.  I always found myself between her and the rest of the group.

The mushroom in this segment on the Sneffels Traverse were prolific. My knees didn’t really want to bend that much, but I knew I could count on Danelle. She crouches down for excellent perspectives of fungi, flowers and bugs. That’s what makes her such a good photographer.

Photo of Danelle by Alix

Photos by Danelle

We followed the road up to the left and then veered off the route onto the trail which paralleled the 4×4 track.  While normally I prefer the path, in this instance it might have been better to stay on the quiet road, as the directions had us rejoin it at mile 3.7, and the trail was an obstacle course of fallen trees and mud pits.  At the top of the hill, we continued into a meadow of wildflowers with views of distant peaks.

Soon we reached next intersection, we and followed the road to the left which led us across Whitehouse Creek.  At this point, Tina and I should have been looking for Burn Hut tucked in the aspens to the right, but we had hiked 4 miles so fast, I misjudged our potential arrival time.  It wasn’t until we reached the next junction with a Dallas Trail sign that I mentioned we should look for the hut to meet the girls for lunch.  Oops, we’d gone a ½ mile too far.

That added an extra mile to our plight plus a little wandering around where we were!  Anyway, we backtracked and found the hut about 20 minutes after we should have been there.  The girls had unlocked the cabin, retrieved the ground chairs, and made a nice circle under the aspens for lunch. 

Burn Hut

The Burn Hut was located in a picturesque setting.  It was a shame to skip!  It might have been our favorite of the bunch.  At least we got to enjoy it for a snack and a “proper” bathroom (better than the woods anyway).

After our lunch, we set out to complete the last 4.6 miles of our trek.  Aside from the initial ½ mile ascent, the remainder of the trail dropped steeply, approximately 3,000 feet in four miles.  We passed through more aspen groves and another meadow before eventually reaching another pine forest.

It felt like the temperature rose with every step down the mountainside as we entered a southwestern terrain featuring sandstone cliffs.  Though pretty, the last section seemed long, and when we reached a trail sign indicating an entire mile to go, it actually was deflating!!  We thought for sure the end of the trail was just around the corner.

The End

Ultimately, Tina and I finished the Dallas Trail shortly after 1pm.  Thirty minutes later, the rest of our troops wrapped up our epic hike which totaled 36 miles and change after adding in Blue Lakes, the water runs, and a few detours.

By the time we untied our trail shoes, donned our flips, and dropped off the keys to the cabins at the San Juan Hut System office in Ridgway, it was time to check into the Chipeta Solar Springs Resort for some pampering.

Chipeta Solar Springs Resort

The resort included a spa, a pool, hot tubs, all day tea and coffee with fruit and cookies, a nice restaurant with good happy hour prices, and a delightful buffet breakfast.  All of these amenities made up for the awkward rooms with little lighting, few electrical outlets, and only one beside table.  While we enjoyed ourselves for the night and the next morning by the pool, I’m not sure I’d make a return visit.

Overall, the Sneffels Traverse was a great experience.  For some, it was their first backpacking trip ever.  For others, including myself, it was their first hut to hut trip.  I’m grateful for the brave girls, many of whom were strangers, that joined the adventure.

We admired nature’s beauty while fighting through typical knee, foot and shoulder pain that comes with backpacking.  We laughed and learned as we found our way.  But most of all, we were bonded by an unforgettable experience in San Juans. ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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