Don’t you love when you ask a Telluride regular where they’ve hiked, and they respond, “Just a Weibe.” The response insinuates that the Weibe isn’t a “real” hike, just a quick loop to do when you don’t have time to really get out. FYI, a three-mile hike, with a 1,200 vertical feet gain that reaches 10,200 feet above sea level is, by most of the world’s standards, a “real” hike.
But this is Telluride. “Real” hikes take four to six hours, include elevation gains of 2,000 to 3,000 vertical feet and lead hikers to the top of high mountain peaks, over rocky saddles and through colorful basins. There is no better place to learn about the area’s endless hiking options and history than Susan Kees’ Telluride Hiking Guide.
Kees, who has lived at the top of Oak Street since the early ’70s, first published her hiking guide in 2000. Her second edition came out in 2002 and now in 2012 she has completed what she believes to be a greatly improved version that includes the various hiking routes overlaid on to USGS maps, GPS coordinates within the hiking descriptions and expanded hikes especially in and around The Wilson Range.
The Telluride Hiking Guide includes the routes up all of the popular Peaks and big loops –Ballard, Ajax, Sneffel’s Highline, The Wastach Trail – but where it excels is in guiding the experienced and adventurous hiker to the less obvious areas and in creating loops and connecting hikes that do not have well-defined trails — or any at all in some places.
For example, you’ve probably hiked Ajax. Why not traverse over to Telluride Peak? Or if you’ve done Sheridan Crosscut (and if you haven’t, you must) why not add Marshall Basin and loop into Liberty Bell Basin? Kees will tell you how.
Or, perhaps you’ve been up Bear Creek a hundred times. Have you ever crossed the River about two-thirds of the way up to find the La Junta Trail and hike up to the old Ballard Boarding House — or all the way to the saddle between La Junta and Bridal Veil Basins for a total elevation gain of 4,100 feet?
Kees shares the routes to all of these places and their rich history. For her, the two — hiking and history– just go together. In fact, it was her interest in the area’s mining history that inspired her to hike. In the ‘70’s she wrote biographies of the miners for the local paper, then, out of curiosity, began hiking to the various sites that they told her about.
In her hiking descriptions, she shares interesting tidbits such as The Ballard Boarding House was a great place to get a whiskey during Prohibition and there were alleged sightings of a female ghost at The Lewis Mine. She also tells of the people who lived in the various places and gives intricate details of daily life.
Of Sheridan Crosscut she writes, “The first building site at the mine was the old boardinghouse. My neighbor, Mrs. Clementi, worked as a cook’s helper and met her first husband at the Sheridan Crosscut. Her daughter, Marina,… remembered her mother riding a horse to Telluride and walking (in heels, not hiking shoes) into Liberty Bell Basin where she visited a friend.”
“My idea was to make a tribute –- to toast the miners who are the unsung heroes,” Kees said. “My sense is we wouldn’t be here if the miners hadn’t been here. They made the roads and the trails. They made this possible and nobody has really thanked them.”
Kees’ Telluride Hiking Guide is her “thank you”. And, she does them right. Her guide has plenty of hikes with a low risk of getting lost, but she also includes those that demand some focused route finding and will take you places where it will seem only those as hearty and tough as the miners have been. As you’re doing them, if you begin to get tired or discouraged, just think of Mrs. Clementi in her heels.
If you want to do more than “just” a Wiebe, pick up The Telluride Hiking Guide at Between the Covers in Telluride or online at telluridehikingguide.com. Also visit the website for current updates about the hikes and hiking conditions and to add your own comments and questions.
Summer Sunday is a weekly column by Jesse James McTigue and sponsored by Jagged Edge intended to deliver tips, news, musings and stories about the people, places, events and experiences that make the Telluride summer an epic adventure.