This was an adventure I was waiting for, for a couple of years. I found about it from a client and was obsessed with hitch-hiking on a train from Silverton to Needleton ever since. The signal was, on the east side of the tracks, you had to wave your hands near your knees. While this was one of the main reason I wanted to go, we actually were at the right stop, at the right time and didn’t need to flag the train down. They use that crazy signal because tons of hikers and visitors from SIlverton wave at the train, so they use the signal to decipher who they need to stop for.
We rode in a boxcar with no sides, they called it the Gondola car. It was about $70 per person and it was only an hour ride, but from the research I did, some of the most scenic of the 4 hour journey to Durango, SCORE! We left from Silverton because, 1. it was cheaper, we weren’t charged a “backpack” fee of $10/person and 2. well, there was actually only one reason, it was cheaper. We departed the train station at about 2:30pm and arrived promptly at Needleton around 3:30pm. Alex and I hit the trail pretty quick. Our packs were close to last going in, so they were first to come out! ** Pro Tip: Put your bags in right when the train is about to leave. They told us the group in the morning was about 75 people! Imagine, trying to beat 75 hikers to the best spot in the basin, fun right?! Oh yeah, and bold mountain goats staring and following you until you pee, so they can lick the salt from your urine…Good luck 😉
Now that we got our bags, we were off. I knew hiking with Alex was going to be quick, he ran cross country in school and has great stamina. Plus, he just got back from a super awesome, 3 month sabbatical from work. He went from Japan to New Zealand to Australia to Peru and so on, backpacking most of the way. He’s hiked epic trails from the “W” in Patagonia to The “Inca trail” to Machu Pichu to Napali Coast hike in Hawaii, this guy has his hiking legs! Everyone should hike their own speed, I think that’s very important not only for stamina but, you get to enjoy the nature around you at your own pace as well. We eventually got farther and farther apart as I had my monster, sturdy tripod in tow. Alex got passed by 0 people so that was awesome because no one was taking a spot that they would find first in the basin, but me, I let 2 people by because they were faster. I held them off for about 4.5 miles, but that last 1.5 mile uphill got me. We still made stellar time though! We ended up finding a super sweet spot in the basin and fended off a male mountain goat, drank some Chilean Red wine and passed out for the night.