Signs of a WV project, Weminuche 2012, photo by Eric Hill

This week’s project spotlight narrows in on a section of the Great Divide in the Weminuche Wilderness of Southwestern Colorado and the epic 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail that takes hikers from Mexico to Canada. Colorado is a state rich with wild lands and the Weminuche is the state’s largest with 488,340 acres of protected wilderness. Lying in both the San Juan and Rio Grande National Forests, the Weminuche is high country, averaging over 10,000′ in elevation, with several peaks topping 14,000′ and many more over 13,000′. The area has abundant wildlife and gorgeous alpine forests and meadows. The Weminuche is home to the headwaters of dozens of streams and rivers, including the critical Rio Grande and San Juan rivers.

Our project will focus on a section of the Continental Divide Trail north of Wolf Creek Pass in the San Juan Mountains. We will work to ensure the trail is passable with general trail maintenance and proper erosion controls. Our base camp will be at 11,400′ after a several mile backpack, affording a great launching point for the work as well as free time adventures.WV project leader Jeff Moorehead had the following to say about the project:

Talk about the Spur-Throated Grasshopper
with Jeff, photo by diverdewan15

Being born and raised in Durango, I initially cut my teeth backpacking in the rugged Weminuche. I first entered it at the age of 13 and I have returned many, many times on various backpacking ventures since. I have not lost my love for this area and as I grow older, it is more important than ever to get back at least once a year. In addition to the normal rationale one might have for being in a wilderness area, the notable feature of the Weminuche is its expansiveness. One truly feels embedded in the wilds of the Rockies while traveling through this region. You don’t have to use your imagination to believe you are really “away from it all”.

I love WV trips because everyone attending shares a love for wild places and hard work.  Hard work in a wild place brings out the best in a personality and so a WV trip can be a very human experience as well. I endeavor to keep everyone well-fed with good tasting dishes and that is one luxury afforded by the pack train support. Many of my dishes were trail tested on the Pacific Crest Trail which I hiked in 2006. After dinner, I like to discuss hot-bed environmental issues or anything really. In general, I love science discussions. I am an evolutionary biologist that especially loves the world of insects– specifically grasshoppers and other assorted acridids. People attending the Weminuche trip can expect to hear about the prolific endemic speciation of the alpine Melanoplinae grasshoppers. I’m not sure I buy the current explanation. If that doesn’t get people excited, I’ve been known to sneak up my Martin backpacking guitar and entertain them with songs that are usually set at much lower elevations.

WV participants take a break for a look around on a free day in the Weminuche Wilderness, WV 2012, photo by Eric Hill
North American Divides by pfly

There are many large hydrological divides in the world (the line that separates neighboring drainage basins). None, however, can match that grandeur and prominence of the Continental Divide of the Americas or simply the Great Divide. Determining whether water flows into the Atlantic of Pacific Ocean, the Great Divide stretches from northern Alaska down to southern Patagonia, mostly following the highest peaks of the impressive ranges of the Rockies and the Andes.
The scenic San Juan Mountains in the Weminuche Wilderness, WV 2012, photo by Eric Hill