adventure, bad weather, Buckeye Reservoir, Colorado, cool stuff, Geyser Pass, hail, hike-a-bike, Hut-to-Hut, lightning storm, mountain biking, mountains, mt biking, mud, nature, outdoors, Paradox Valley, photography, recreation, scenery, trails, wildlife
Day 6 stats as listed on the hut-to-hut site:
22.5 miles, 5370′ ascent, 1010′ descent, max. elevation 9750′
Good news, I found the photos off my phone I thought I’d lost. Here are a couple of photos from our wonderful evening at Paradise Produce with Greg and Marty.
Wow! What a crazy day. We all knew today would be the hardest day but we had no idea what bonus challenges were awaiting us. We were up at 5a with a plan to leave at 6a and an actual departure time of 6:30a. No hot breakfast on this day, we needed to beat the heat.
We had a crazy, approximately 6-mile climb out of Paradox Valley. We had to walk most of it, it was too step for us to ride and our legs were already tired. Luckily we had left early enough that we managed to get up most of the way before the sun found us.
We wound along with many ups and downs and across a beautiful plateau before dropping down to Buckeye Reservoir. Some water was filtered there and we stayed long enough to eat our lunch there at the group picnic area. Clouds were building over the mountains but we were hoping those storms would blow past.
With about 6-7 miles to go, the lightning got too close for comfort. We dropped our bikes on the side of the road, grabbed our rain jackets, and huddled under a big bush off the side of the road. There were trees on the nearby hillside and other higher points around us, so we felt like we’d made a pretty safe choice.
The rain came, lightning cracked (again and again and again). The thunder roared around us angrily. Then the hail came, and got bigger, and didn’t want to stop. The ground was covered. The road turned into a creek, a creek that decided to rage right through where our bikes were laying with saddlebags and helmets attached. The ground underneath our feet and our butts became puddle ridden and soggy. I sat on my backpack, which soon was sitting in water – very muddy water. My shoes were full of water. Bugs were crawling onto them to escape the deluge, and I let them for the most part. When I would try to brush them off, it would let in could air and water under the warmth of my jacket which was pulled tightly around my knees as I huddled to keep warm. I had my head tucked down and the warmth of my breath flowing inside my jacket helped keep me from getting totally frozen. The air turned icy cold, chilling us all to the bone. And the hail kept coming.
The lightning was intense. I mostly kept my head down, praying for the storm to end, praying for our safety. Even with my head down, I could see the lightning reflecting off the water that was all around us. On one occasion when I did raise my head to look around, a big, beautiful deer stepped out into the road just 100 feet or so from where we huddled. She stood there for a moment looking almost like she was posing for a wintery postcard scene through the thick white shroud of the hail storm. She noticed us immediately, looking and probably wondering what the heck we were all doing hiding under a bush, the same thing I think we were all wondering at that time. I felt much more at peace after seeing her, as if it was a sign of some sort. Such a peaceful vision.
The storm continued to rage around us. We huddled there for an hour and twenty minutes, the storm refusing to budge from overhead. It seemed like forever yet also not quite that long. We were all soaked and very cold and needed to get moving to avoid becoming hypothermic. The lightning slightly moved away although the thunder was still ridiculously loud and scary. We decided we needed to make a run for it so we grabbed our bikes and wet gear and headed up the road.
The road was muddy and still flowing with water, so we ran while pushing our bikes along. Here and there we were able to ride. Another storm came over and the lightning ensued as did the rain. It continued that way until we were about a mile or so from the hut.
The road we had to turn off on to get to the hut was a double track dirt road, raised in the center with deep tire ruts on each side. Water poured down each rut like two little streams.
It was mostly uphill and as we tried to push our bikes, mud clung to the tires making them impossible to push. In trying to push them, we slid all over the place with each step. We tried just pushing the bikes through the water as much as we could as it helped to get a little mud off the tires but it was too much work. Especially considering all the effort that already had gone into the climb today, the energy lost sitting in the cold rain and hail and being fearful of the storm. We decided to park our bikes in a stand of trees and come back for them later.
We thought it was only a mile from where we dropped the bikes to the hut but it was more like 2+ miles and the road to the hut was relentless. The rain continued as did the lightning.
We climbed and climbed carrying our backpacks and bike bags, sliding in the mud the whole way. Just as we made the last little climb to the hut the sun came out.
We were so happy to find a stove in this hut. Much of our clothing got wet. Glenn started a fire right away, we changed out of our wet clothes and cracked open the bottle of Fireball along with some cider and beer.
We had nachos with chili sauce then later on JoJo made grilled cheese sandwiches and Glenn made mac ‘n cheese with green chiles. Good stuff!
The hut was toasty hot and felt heavenly after our ordeal.
We wandered over to the clearing behind us where you could see the nearby mountains. This deer was in the clearing when we got there. After we sat there for a bit, she began to venture out farther into the clearing, nearer to us. She was big and healthy looking and so beautiful!
In the morning we will have to get up early to go back for our bikes. This will add an extra 4 miles or so and an extra 700 or so feet of climbing to our already long day. Hoping we don’t get any more rain.