riding durango to moab with san juan huts

Hut Trip Day 3: Black Mesa to Dry Creek

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” 
― Frank HerbertDune

It was hard to wake up this morning, but wake we must. The light of dawn was pale as I brewed the coffee, and we took our hot cups out to the view of the mountains where we stood, sat, and took pictures through the varied lights of sunrise.

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Dave C: an incredibly talented photographer.

We began our morning routine which included making breakfast, prepping bikes, cleaning the hut, and packing. I even threw in a little yoga.

The pack hurt to put on and the bike saddle hurt on the bum, but my body soon adapted. We had a short DH, followed by a long-ish climb. The climb was pretty fun for me because it wound around the foothills of Lone Cone. To the south we could see the La Plata mountains. As we turned SW we could see Sleeping Ute Mountain. We rode around and saw the Abajos. Fully oriented to our perspective, it made for a dramatic show when I said, “As we come around this bend we will have our first view of the La Sals.” And we did.

It was strange to see those mountains so far off on the horizon and think, that’s where we were headed. Our journey wasn’t done until we had covered all of the ground between here and there, ridden up and over, and down into Moab. It seemed a long, long ways to go. Daunting.

As we rode around Lone Cone we broke one of our own rules- Dennis and Jeff rode past an intersection. We thought it was okay because the road so clearly went to the left. It wasn’t until miles later when the sign said “Dead End” that we realized we were wrong. We looked at the map, consulted the compass, and determined we had ridden far off course. This was terrifying for me- feeling lost. What was worse was I didn’t know where we had gotten off. Second-guessing my own navigational skills was also making me very nervous.

But the others were cool and calm as always, and we reversed direction and rode back to where we had gotten off-course. We had ignored this intersection because the route to the right was a challenging and un-used jeep road. But that was the right route. We took it now, a steep and bumpy descent with water puddles that threatened. Lone Cone rose up on our left and the San Juans stretched out on our right. It was immensely beautiful.

IMG_9480 IMG_9482 IMG_9483 IMG_9484 IMG_9486 IMG_9488We connected to a well-graded dirt road and began a long-descent, with the ocassional up-hill. We rode fast, and I had to back off from the boys as gravel kept hitting my helmet. At one point a butterfly flew alongside me. We were immersed in aspens and I was joyful.

We pedaled on and on, relentless toward our lunch-break goal: Miramonte Reservoir. As we came within reach of the water, a dark thunderstorm was harassing us. We came into the campground and a very nice gentleman asked if we had enough water and everything. We did.

I was determined to go for a swim in the water, since I hadn’t had an immersive experience since Durango. But as I prepped for a dip, we watched a second thunderstorm chasing us from Lone Cone. Undeterred for the moment,  I went down to the water with Dennis. He jumped in immediately, I hesitated. Open water is not a comfortable situation for me. As I stood on the bank internally debating, the lightning flashed again and again. I determined my boldness was enough for this, and I dove in.

A few moments later the storm was almost upon us. Dennis said it was time to get out. So we scrambled to the shore and climbed up the bank to rejoin our crew. We changed and re-dawned our bike clothing, adding to it our rain shells.


Storm on our approach to Miramonte Reservoir
Storm on our approach to Miramonte Reservoir
The second storm approaching from Lone Cone (good thing we got down!)
The second storm approaching from Lone Cone (good thing we got down!)
Waiting on a break in the storms
Waiting on a break in the storms

IMG_9495This is when I pulled out my reserve can of Coke. We stood there watching what was now three storms surrounding us and we passed the can around. (I can’t help but smile about this as I write- happiness, pure and unadulterated in these moments.)

It was clear that no matter our direction, we would be riding in the rain. May as well hit it. So we did.

Our route continued along a well-graded dirt road, with a gentle and steady climb up to our final mountain pass of the day. Dennis and I rode together and talked- it was one of the few times the whole trip we were able to do so- until the thunder and lightning became too threatening. I told him that I didn’t want to be close enough that if we got hit by lightning we both died, leaving our children orphans. So he rode forward, and Dave C and I brought up the rear. He was very nervous- as were we all. We were climbing up to meet this storm.

Another moment of facing my fears.

At the pass Jeff was waiting for us, sheltered in the oak trees. Dennis rode up and pretty much said, “We need to get down from here. Fast.” I think that’s about the point where Dave C’s chain broke. Which was fortunate because most of the rest of the way was descent.

Oh yeah, a car stopped for us on the climb- and old lady rolled her window down and said, “Looks like y’all are getting wet!” How do you respond to that? “Yeah, no kidding!” She chuckled and drove on. Thanks, lady!

On the descent we were unsure where the hut would be found (remember, it’s always off the main road). A CPW ranger pulled up, and we decided to ask him directions. Of course, the first thing he said was, “What are you doing in Wyoming?” Ha ha ha. We’d found the land of smart-assess.

We did eventually find the turn to the hut. The rain had ceased for us as we rode out of the clouds on the saddle, but it started again as we came through the gate toward the hut; ironically the “Dry Mesa” hut. We pedaled hard to reach the hut, but didn’t make it before our bikes were thick with mud.

Leaving them in the rain, we scurried into the hut and began the recovery routine. Today we started with snacks and beer. There was no stove for a fire, so we just strung a line across the hut and hung up our wet things.

Before too long the rain stopped, and the westering sun provided us another romantic aspect view over layers of valleys and plateaus. Dinner was a chicken, black bean, and rice burrito- with enough extras we could all have one for lunch tomorrow. We ate them on the chairs out front of the hut overlooking the valley below us as the sun was setting.

And here’s one of the funny things about the trip- often we would gather and though all 5 of us were there, we kept feeling like someone was missing. Some #6 person. When Jeff set out the chairs at Dry Mesa hut, he set out 6. We laughed and decided we had another person with us. We gave him a name and persona, and brought him with us the rest of the trip. Phil McCrackin. He’s pretty saucy- riding a single speed. He has a foul mouth but an easy temperament.

We hiked a little ways out to a viewpoint and took some pictures. Well, Dave C took them, so they were really good. And we hit the sack early.

Picture dump:

Photo Jul 27, 6 25 23 Photo Jul 27, 10 36 20 Photo Jul 27, 13 55 36 Photo Jul 27, 14 45 06




Credits for this amazing shot of Lone Cone go to David Cox, http://www.mountainonline.com/