Date hiked: 08/10/16
Lower Weehawken Trail to split: 3.2 mi; 1hr 15 min
Split to Alpine Mine Overlook: 2.7 mi; 1 hr 15 min
Split to Weehawkin Creek Overlook: 4.2 mi; 1 hr 45 min
Head Count (how many other hikers I saw): 0 groups.
Lower Weehawken Trail
Under the murky cover of a moonless night, a forest as familiar as my own home transforms, no longer the woods of a hiker’s haven, but the wild stomping grounds to the nocturnal. With one sense rendered useless, my others come alive. And in the calm solitude, the air is charged with the siren song of the crickets, and a distant warble of a lone owl hooting.
Tracing the first mile and a half with the beam of my flashlight, I put the worst behind me, gaining 1,200 feet up a broad mountainside stamped with long switchbacks. Cursing my choice of shorts over pants, the waterlogged flora at my ankles drenches the bare skin with frigid dew-soaked leaves.
The trail is an entirely different story in the daylight coming back home:
1.5 miles from the trailhead, a split offers you the hard choice between continuing onto the Weehawken Creek Overlook, or turning right for the Alpine Mine and overlook. Either way, the views are sure to gratify.
Alpine Mine and Overlook
Turning right, a cloudy sunrise unveils orange-tinted views of Yankee Boy Basin and the surrounding peaks. Barely six o’clock in the AM, the wind picks up as a bank of low-laying clouds rolls down the basin at an alarming speed, devouring the shadowed hillsides and leaving spitting rain in its wake.
A quick burst of steep switchbacks scales over 700 feet in under a mile before it levels out on a moderately exposed ledge near the mine, then gains the overlook’s ridge.
Standing at the overlook, Ouray and Yankee Boy Basin in the breaking stormclouds:
The best views come from the climbing to the top of this flat-topped ridge (centered in the picture):
Weehawken Creek Overlook
Back to the split and heading northwest this time, the trail follows a high contour above the Weehawken drainage into our first views of Mt. Ridgway and the craggy face of Potosi Peak’s northeastern flank.
About two miles in, a second fork navigates a steep side trip to the old Weehawken Mine that’ll tack on another quarter mile of hiking. Not much remains but a gnarled battleground of twisted and rusting metal.
Prisoned by the harsh summits of the basin’s northeastern wall, the remaining route on the main trail travels from one exposed washout to the next, losing all sense of direction, but finding cairns at each. The trail climbs to its highest elevation of about 10,500 feet before easing off in a gradual descent towards the creek, and a dead end at the overlook.
(From Ouray): At the first switchback south of Ouray, turn onto Camp Bird Road. The trailhead is on your right 2.6 miles up the road, across from the Thistledown Campground.
2.6 mi; 8 min