Blaine Basin trail is a beautiful, moderate 6.5 mile hike with 1,850’ elevation gain. The trail starts out through dense forest alongside a musical brook, crosses Wilson Creek three times, and ends up in a gorgeous wildflower-filled basin beneath the face of Mt. Sneffels. That’s about all I can tell you.
I wasn’t feeling it on this hike, and I am still not feeling it looking back. But that is certainly no reflection on the hike itself. It was beautiful, and of all the hikes we have done in Ouray, it had the least incline. But I struggled all the way there.
I blame part of it on just not being able to get back in the groove after two weeks away. I think I summited Red Mountain on sheer adrenaline and joy alone, just happy to be back, and getting to do a hike I was so bummed to have missed. So why was this one so hard?
I’d like to give one of those snooty answers like some of my beloved hiking companions, “I have been spoiled by the majestic vistas and views above tree line. Forests bore me.” But the fact is, I love a good forest hike. The aromatic Christmas tree smell that emanates from the spruce and fir. The birdsong lilting from the branches overhead. The soft bed of fir needles lining the path, muffling the sound of my footfall while my own breath echoes against the massive giants that line my path. I do my best thinking on a hike like this.
But not this day. First, it was humid. My body handles heat a lot better than humidity. I felt like I couldn’t drink enough lukewarm water for the input to be greater than the outflow of perspiration pouring from my head. And since this hike was of modest incline, my hiking companions seemed eager to sprint up at a pace I have not seen since I first began hiking with them last summer. My lungs and legs could not keep up with my desire, leaving me lacking stamina and lagging behind.
Still, the stream crossings were fun. And being “up close and personal” to Mt. Sneffels, Ouray County’s fourteener, was awe inspiring.
But what will leave a lasting impression is, with Chris’ help, I tapped into my inner mycophile. The San Juan National Forest is prolific with fungi and mushrooms, it would appear. Some edible, and even quite delectable! Funny how I never really noticed the vast variety, until Chris began to point them out. Once we started looking, we saw many varieties all along the path; fungi, puff balls, hawk’s wings, and plenty of false boletes.
I enjoyed learning how to recognize them, particularly the boletes, or porcinis, recognizable by their toasty browned top and pores underneath the cap rather than the usual gills. But Chris cautions there are “false boletes,” which are not toxic, but have been known to be quite disagreeable to some, and shows me how to tell the difference. Chris finds a couple of “keepers” on this hike. I had no idea mushroom hunting was so popular, but we meet “Bud” on the trail, hiking with his canvas shopping bag. It’s like an Easter egg hunt for grown-ups!
Further research reveals that Colorado has the second highest concentration of mushrooms in the USA, a close second to the Pacific Northwest, with over 2,000 varieties. Of those, only 50 to 100 are edible. So best do your hunting with a mycological enthusiast, otherwise you end up with a case of misery of a whole different sort.
“All mushrooms are edible, but some only once in a lifetime.”