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Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Mission Improbable: What Happens When You Go For Broke...


A long time ago I found a most effective treatment for anxiety/depression, be it from stress, loss, a broken heart, negative thinking...whatever. And no, the most effective treatment is not a pill and doesn't come in a bottle. For me, and most likely you, the best treatment for sorrow, despair, and regret is to get outdoors and get moving. 

Thus, Bobbie and I returned to our beloved mountains with a vengeance, pushing harder, longer, and steeper, till we fell into bed exhausted to the point where sleep overwhelms worry. 

Over the past couple of years I've been in a quandary regarding whether or not this blog had run its course, and, like a suffering pet, maybe the time had come to put it out of its (my) misery. 

It's not like we're doing anything all that new, anymore. The initial wave of fulltime Rv wanderlust is a little like "puppy love," and, in most cases, it just doesn't last. 

After exploring coast to coast and border to border, we've settled (matured?) into a deep, but simpler three-state rut of Rv travel and outdoor recreation. It's a good rut, though, one we have come to love and still look forward to, something familiar and comfortable like that tattered old pair of jeans you always reach for next to a stack of brand new ones, or an old pair of boots that fit your feet like a glove such that you can't bear the thought of breaking in the new ones.   

The thing is we've pretty much seen, heard, done about everything that interests us. In doing that we discovered what it is that still drives us to get out of bed every morning, and where to best do it. The "what" is to get outdoors and get moving. The "where" is Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. This is not puppy love, it's a "marriage."  

Like that old tattered pair of jeans and/or worn out boots, our three-state forays to mountain and desert playgrounds are comfortable. That's not likely to change, either, because how does one improve on perfection? Why gamble on someplace new when everything you love in life is either sitting beside you or right out the front door?  

So where does that leave this stale old blog? Not sure, really, but it's highly probable that posts will be fewer and farther between. You've seen and heard this shit enough already. If something interesting and/or new comes along, I'll do my best to put up a post...like the one below, for example. 

But first, in order to set the "stage" for this post, you might need some background. Rather than do an entire post, this Facebook Link should catch you up and provide info as to the "where" and "why" we were trying to scout an old, seldom used backcountry pack trail.

As the Facebook post will show, we finally found the obscure pack trail (having failed a couple times 30 some years ago). Now all we need to do is "scout" it out enough to see if our "mission" is possible or impossible.


A warm sunny day found us sweating up Weehawken Trail's steep switchback grind. The grade finally eased up where it split off from the Alpine overlook trail...enough that my t-shirt went from dripping wet to comfortably damp. 

From there on (since it had been 30 years, more or less) Weehawken felt like "New Dots," and I was enthusiastic to be scouting out new territory for our Hiker Babe group.

A little over three miles "in-country," Bobbie found a small cairn where the pack trail continued on from the other side of Weehawken Creek. That trail dead-ended after a quarter mile, so we backtracked till we found a lesser trail that pointed us straight up a mountain. Ugh...probably just a game trail but you don't know if you don't try. Here we go again.

Near the mountain's base, our trail abruptly turned and, with lots of ups and downs, followed a contour line that increasingly gained altitude. The trail was faint and we kept losing it, but with determination and coarse corrections we pressed on, hoping to rise above an entrapment of thick, view obstructing timber. We needed to see something...a landmark, of sorts, like the massive, recognizable block-summit of Potosi Mountain. 

Unfortunately, the unsightly deadfall filled forest was unrelenting. Frustrated, I scrambled up a steep bouldered wash in an effort to gain a vantage point above the trees. The drainage led to the base of a collection of towering hoo doos. Cool. A Photo Op! 

Slipping and sliding, I finally made it above the forest enough see Potosi's grand basin. Clinging to an exposed root of a long-dead bristlecone, I studied the basin for a probable route around Potosi's south face. A slope of tundra/scree pointed to a saddle below the peak. According to a prior Google Earth research/flyover, this saddle should lead to the Bimetallist Mine Trail, which would land us down at a trailhead on Camp Bird Road. We could leave a vehicle there to get us back down to Weehawken's Trailhead. Perfect. The Hiker Babes are going to love this!

But, just to be sure, Bobbie and I thought a little more "do diligence" was in order for such a long backcountry hike that pushes 13,000 feet. We decided to hike top-down, take the pack trail from Bimetallist Mine to Potosi's basin...just to confirm my assumptions. 

The photos below are from that reconnaissance hike:  

To say the least, the beginning of Bimetallist Trail was like hiking through the aftermath of a 100 car derailed log train. In reality, it was avalanche spoils from a record snow winter a couple years back, one that decimated every tree in its path.  

The Avalanche path wiped out all but the smaller/limber aspen trees.

After considerable log-hopping, bush-whacking and blood letting, we re-found the trail to Bimetallist Mine and it was quite agreeable...till it disappeared.

Bimetallist Mine dormitory

The trail above and beyond the mine was notably less-traveled. It came and went as it pleased...like some spoiled child that pretends not to hear. But we persisted, trying to keep Potosi on our left side and the sun or our right, searching for the ridge line that would put us into the Weehawken Basin below Potosi. From there on, all should be familiar, right? 


View down the avalanche chute from Bimetallist Mine.

It's tough route finding when game trails crisscross your route. I kept an eye out for deadfall that had been section-cut from a would-be trail. Also, since this was a "pack trail," we disregarded anything that was to steep for a loaded down pack mule to negotiate. Still, as trees thinned near timberline, tundra had recovered enough to all but mask our recalcitrant trail.  

           Bobbie negotiates cross country hoping to cut the elusive trail. The Jeep road to Imogene Pass in background

As the "pack trail" continues to come and go we aimed for a ridge line that we hoped would reveal a view of a basin at the foot of Potosi. If so, we should be able to see the way down into the Weehawken drainage where we turned around a couple days ago. It should be obvious because that trail passed right below a series of remarkable monolithic hoo doos. 

I'm not stupid, I'm just misinformed.  Right...

Finally, we topped out on the ridge, an Oh My God moment!

This must be the Weehawken drainage cause there's Potosi...looming overhead. Ah, mission accomplished. Recon complete. Just need to head downhill toward those hoo doos below...

    Light and shadow danced and dazzled.

Mission complete, we head down secure in our knowledge of route and distance. Now to gather the Hiker Babes and take them on a one way adventure they'll never forget. This turns out to be a rather prophetic statement...

Stay tuned for Part II, as "Wrong Way Corrigan" misleads his group down the wrong drainage.

Peace out,

mark and bobbie :) 


  1. Not only would I miss your "rants" but, oh, the photos!!! This bunch had extra wow factor. Views and mining shacks I will never see but on your blog. Enjoy them. Thank you for them. Deb

    1. Totally agree Deb! those shots look like drone shots! plus a cliff hanger . . and the adventure continues . . . .

  2. No no no not ever! How will I get my adventure fix if there is no Box Canyon to read??!!! Not to even mention the photos! This story even included something I could relate to in the form of the road to Imogene Pass! I have driven a Jeep over that thing a few times!

  3. Crawling over horizontal trees can be frustrating but if it's only for an avalanche width with the end in sight, well - OK.

  4. What a magnificent reconnaisance hike!

    I'll be happy to read your posts whenever you feel like writing them! You tell a good story...

  5. Hello, You probably don’t know how many people enjoy reading your blog and appreciate your excellent photography. I am not sure how I found you, but there are no doubt others like me who do not comment and thank you for writing and posting your adventures like we should. I am not asking that you continue writing because you need to do what is best for you. I am retired and please know, when I read one of your blogs, it brightens my day. Thanks - and keep on exploring.

  6. Welcome Back! You were sorely missed. Rants! Marriage? Can’t wait for part II, III, IV,.....!

  7. The definition of hell or high water! Your use of metaphor is always spot on and bemusing. Great photos of the mountains and Bobbie. Inspiration is a fickle beast but if you post when you feel called, we will all be grateful. xo

  8. We don't know how you every find your way out of these new locations. We started up the Wee hawked trail 25 yrs ago and it was too dam steep then, plus we had the dog and were sure he would go over a cliff :(
    Hey we won't hold a gun to your head, this is your life and you will do what is best for the both of you and we all will go on with some great memories of two out of bounds Hikers who showed us those gorgeous San Juan Mountains :) T h a n k y o u & God Bless
    See Ya Real Soon
    From A World On Fire
    D & A

  9. Keep on going. I love your adventures and stories about them.

  10. Keep the pictures and stories coming, look forward to your daily blog.

  11. Mark, you are a great writer, adventurer and story teller; the blog most certainly makes an impact.
    Authenticity is a noble achievement.
    Thank you

  12. You should do whatever it is you want to do with your blog, but I believe we always have a story to tell. My blog may be practically as old as the Internet itself, but I tell myself that as soon as I lose interest in posting something on it, at least once in a while, that will be a signal that I should make some changes in my life. Now I'm heading over to your part two and looking forward to the tale I think you're going to tell. :)


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