Day 1 stats as listed on the hut-to-hut site:
18 miles, 3725′ ascent, 1310′ descent, max. elevation 11,420′
On July 9th, 2015, seven of us took off from Moab to Durango to begin a trip that would have us returning back to Moab via mountain bike 7 days later. We were a group of friends, all of us endurance athletes, that included 4 members of the same family – father, mother, daughter, son-in-law – a group of varying age, skill, experience, and physical preparedness.
We had a challenging but great (okay, mostly great) 7 days out there. Each person went through their own struggles from day to day, sometimes hour to hour. These are my photos and this is my view of our little journey.
The shuttle picked us up from our motel in Moab at 7 a.m. and dropped us off a couple of miles above the Durango Mountain Resort. Because he drove us up past the start a bit, we credit this awesome driver with saving us from getting caught in a deluge of rain. We officially started riding at 10:45 a.m. Our mileage for the day was probably somewhere between 15-16 miles.
We took a dirt road all the way, although there was an alternate route up high that offered some sweet singletrack. The highpoint on the singletrack section was 12,600′. Most of us were already concerned with the climb and elevation of the regular route so thoughts of singletrack, as sweet as it might be, were not entertained. It was a bit stormy as well and the singletrack ran up above the tree line. Not a good choice on a stormy afternoon.
Our feet got soaked from the many water crossings we encountered.
The uphill took a toll, as did the elevation. This led to less riding and some hike a bike.
We could hear the thunder growing louder and louder and thought for certain we’d get caught in the coming storm. The skies stayed quite threatening for a couple of hours.
Those in the front of our group spotted a bear as they turned off the main road to the hut but it ran off as soon as it heard someone call out, “BEAR!” We were all eager to view some wildlife, from a safe distance of course, but we didn’t get to see this bear again.
We arrived at the hut around 2:40 p.m. with merely 5 minutes to spare before the rain came. It started dumping and continued to pour for quite a while.
Eric got a fire going to warm us up and we had dinner followed by Cresen’s hot cocoa creation made from Nesquik and powdered milk.
Everyone took turns cooking, doing dishes, or cleaning up the huts before we left them.
Although we didn’t see another bear here, there were a few deer (not pictured) that came out to enjoy the waterlogged meadow in front of the hut.
I’m sure there are those of you not familiar with the hut-to-hut trips so let me fill you in a little. There are tons of huts scattered throughout the backcountry in Colorado, and in many other states as well. This particular trip we took was booked through San Juan Hut Systems. These huts have 8 bunks in each. We paid for all 8 but were not able to find an eighth rider for this trip. You can book a smaller group but you will end up sharing the hut with others. The huts have sleeping bags in them, you just bring a sleeping bag liner. The huts also have water jugs. You are asked not to waste water, no showering or excessive use, but you can use it to drink and rehydrate, clean your dishes, and fill up your water bladders and bottles for the next day’s ride.
You carry with you your clothing, toiletries, bike repair parts, water for the day, and anything else you may need (that you can comfortably carry). Backpacks and bikes can get loaded down with stuff very quickly as each little thing adds up the weight fast. I carried a backpack, and had 2 bags attached to my bike. One was a small handlebar bag, the other was larger and attached to the seat of my bike.
The huts come stocked with all sorts of canned and powdered goods. On a similar trip we did 3 years ago, we weren’t provided much of anything fresh. This time around the quality has substantially improved. There were a few fresh veggies, a bit of fresh fruit, and lots of eggs, cheese, bacon, and BEER! The canned goods, bread, and other non-refrigerated foods are stored in metal lockers to keep them free from mice, other rodents, and bugs. The fresh stuff is packed into coolers with ice packs.
Also, each hut has a compost toilet nearby. Before you leave the hut each morning, you are asked to clean up and lock up. This means wiping down counters, brushing off beds, sweeping up the floors, turning off the gas, etc.
The higher altitude huts have wood stoves as well, thankfully so!
Stay tuned for more photos and info about days 2-7!