Written by: Jonathan Hill
I am pretty sure that the urge to walk in water is in my blood. Growing up in the country of Western New York with a creek running through my backyard might also have had something to do with that. During the summer, we were always out in the woods and exploring the creek, with my mother making sure we were wearing our “creek shoes” so as to not ruin our newer shoes that were only for school. Some thirty years later, I’m still putting my creek shoes on and walking in the water. Only now I carry a stick with some line and a fly attached.
For this particular trip, my creek shoes were packed and headed with me to the South San Juan Wilderness in southwestern Colorado. The SSJ encompasses more than 150,000 acres with 180 miles of hiking trails. Not to mention the thirty-two lakes and the creeks and streams that come out of them and make their way through and down the multiple peaks and valleys. Deciding where to spend five days within the boundaries of the wilderness is a little challenging—your best bet might be to throw a dart at the map because no matter where you decide to explore, you are sure to be amazed.
On this particular trip I enlisted the help of my friend Shawn, and we decided to explore the South Fork of the Conejos. The plan was to hike up the valley while taking time out to explore the streams and the lakes in the area.
When all was said and done, we hiked over 40 miles and explored three different sections of the river, did some small creek fishing up the Cañon Rincon trail, and tried our best to catch cutthroat trout in four different high alpine lakes.
Unfortunately, the lake fishing was slightly harder than we are used to, but the stream fishing made up for it ten-fold! Wet-wading upstream through canyons and meadows and catching multiple types of trout at every stop made all the hiking and planning worth every step.
Jonathan Hill is a digital graphics manager who lives in Littleton,Colorado.