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Every year when planning our annual backpacking trips, the first and most obvious question is: “where should we go?” Should we go back to the Weminuche, specifically the central portion of the Weminuche Wilderness, that we’ve explored on multiple occasions?  Should we go somewhere new and different?  Which is a better option?  Every year, I’m torn.

Learning the ins and outs of one particular place can be liberating.  Suddenly, you aren’t as afraid of getting lost, because you know landmarks, trails, intersections, etc.  You know the best places to camp, which trails in the area are more crowded, and where the best views are.

Every year we say, “Oh, we could go back and do that one trip again…” because there were routes in the Weminuche that were just about as perfect as could be.  Those routes led to awesome trips. The campsites were lovely, the crowds were elsewhere, and water was plentiful.

When we’re in the Weminuche, we know where The Window and the Rio Grande Pyramid are in relation to where we are.  We know that the Weminuche Creek trail from Divide Lakes back to the Pine River trail isn’t the best one to follow, and we know which trails are more likely to produce wildlife sightings.

Stormy views of the familiar Window and Rio Grande Pyramid in the Weminuche Wilderness.

Because of all this, it seems that continuing to explore this one area makes sense.  We can make new trip routes by combining familiar trails with the few trails we haven’t taken yet.  We can finally hike all the way up to The Window and look over ridges in both directions to hikes we’ve done in the past.  We can feel at home in the wilderness.

But… if we go somewhere new, we might find something even better! We might find a wilderness area with great lake-side camping and awesome sunset views of jagged peaks.  We’ve tried other trails in other wilderness areas, and have had success some of the time.  Avalanche Lake was a spectacular reward for a grueling hike in the Maroon-Bells Wilderness.  Our campsite this past summer with unobstructed views of Uncompahgre Peak was pretty fabulous, too.

Successful exploration of the unknown in the Uncompahgre Wilderness

That sense of adventure is stronger, I think, when you’re in unknown territory.  You’re on the lookout for campsites, for waterfalls and other scenic spots.  With familiar wilderness areas, you focus on what’s changed, what’s new.  You can head back to the same campsite and think, “Yep, it’s as comfortable as last time.”

Then again, with new places come new questions and responsibilities.  There’s researching the trails and mapping out a suitable loop or out-and-back trip.  There’s always a question of whether you’ll have the trail to yourself or be surrounded by 100 other hikers.  If you stick to the same tried-and-true area, will you one day be disappointed?

Honestly, I want to find that out.  I want to go back next year, to the Weminuche.  I want to go repeat a 5 day/4 night trip from several years ago, and I want it to be as great as it was then.  Will I be disappointed if it’s not?  Sure.  I think the chances of that are slim, however.  By now the deadfall during the early part of the hike will have broken down.  The rogue chipmunk at our first campsite is probably long gone too.  Chances are that the random red balloon floating off the trail has deflated and disappeared into the brush.

The views will still be there.  Nebo Pass will still sit off in the distance, and the trail itself will probably still be mostly deserted.  Solitude will reign.  I think the guarantee of that solitude might win out over a new and different place with the chance of a crowd.

Your Turn: Do you prefer to explore one area in detail, or sample many different areas?

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# Comments

  • Jim Hodgson

    I say both. Every inch of local stuff, plus as much of the far flung stuff as you can lay eyes on.

  • mtbikerchick

    Oh if only there were time to do it all…

  • Greg Heil

    I’m with Jim: explore every inch of everything close to home, and sample a bit of everything in other places. And of course, if you can explore every inch of everything everywhere, that’s ideal 🙂

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