Rainy bikepacking trip - Durango to Moab with SJHS 
Wednesday, August 10, 2016, 08:39 PM - Trips
Posted by Administrator
It was a rainy week we chose to ride from Durango to Moab this summer. The 7 day, 6 night hut-to-hut trip was spectacular but packed with rain and mud. The ride is 215 miles of singletrack and dirt roads across the high alpine San Juan to desert slickrock and supposedly 25% tougher than the Telluride route that I (mostly) did last year.

Day 1 the crew left from DMR on a Monday for Bolam Pass Hut. It was a challenging 3600' of climbing up to 11,400' at Bolam Pass with tough grades, but we made the distance before the afternoon rains rolled in and got some nice photos from the top of the pass of Lizard Head. Then it was on to the relaxing hut life away from electronic distractions. Jason and Briana cooked up a great pineapple curry curry for dinner.




Day 2 we climbed 3400' to Black Mesa Hut. We elected to do the singletrack alternate in the morning, which was fun but challenging with all the river crossings. I gently crashed in one of the creeks when I caught a submerged rock I wasn't expecting. We ripped wonderful singletrack all morning and found some wild strawberries to go with lunch. The weather held out for a while, but one the final climb to the hut, the skies opened up. It was miles of cold, wet riding and I was exhausted. Unfortunately, I got out ahead of the group and was forced to do my own navigation, which took longer than it should have because I was only using a map and not the GPS. In the end, Mike, Kendrick, and Scott caught me on the final climb that seemed to take forever and we soggily rolled up to the hut completely wiped out. We opened up the hut, made mac'n'cheese, drank a Dale's and passed out in my sleeping bag for an afternoon nap. The rain later broke and gave us a great rainbow and sunset up on the hill overlooking the Wilson massif.







Day 3 was much easier to get to Dry Creek Basin. We cruised it in less than 4 hours, took a great swim break at Groundhog Reservoir, and dried out in the sun down in the desert. That evening, the monsoon began about 4pm. It rained hard and would not stop until about 12:30 that night. We watched as the dirt turned to mud. Things weren't going to be pretty in the morning. On the bright side, as we were pinned down for the evening we wrote a great story in the journal about the local yeti and declared it the "people's choice" winner for the log book.




Day 4 we could barely make it the 50 feet to our bikes without packing inches of mud on our shoes. We walked our bikes out to the road, but even pushing my bike the drivetrain filled with mud as the tires coated in adobe mud. After a non-thorough cleaning, we headed down the gravel road and luckily didn't collect mud. We took the "less mud route" and managed to not get too stuck on the mostly flat ride to Wedding Bell Hut. The final stretch was muddy but it had dried enough that we managed to get through to the spectacular Wedding Bell Hut overlooking the Dolores River and canyon. We picked out a great spot on the rim and eat quesadillas and drank beer, and life was good, for a little while....







Day 5 was a nightmare. We woke to heavy rain and watched as the road turned to puddles and then rivers. By the time we had breakfast, washed the dishes, packed, and cleaned the hut I new things were going to be interesting. At first we managed to ride, but the mud slowly packed up on all of our bikes and by 2.3 miles into the ride everyone had ground to a stop--drive trains, brakes, and stanchions were completely coated. After a long debate and a few spotty phone calls, Jason worked out a shuttle for the day from Greg (a Paradox Valley farmer who we had planned to dine with that evening). We threw our bikes on our backs and walked the 2.3 miles back to Wedding Bell Hut. It was hard. Spirits were low. Fortunately, a couple hours later Greg arrived, we loaded 8 bikes on his pickup roof, and piled into the back of the bed. He barely made it out and we fishtailed through the mud for 90 minutes to make it back to civilization. At Greg and Marty's, we cleaned up, washed the bikes, and were served a scrumptious dinner of egg salad, greens dish, burgers, and pineapple upside-down cake. Everyone cheered up and we were ready to knock out the morning's climb.








Day 6 is the toughest. It was 5300' of climbing up into the La Sals to Geyser Pass Hut. We were lucky the temperatures were moderate and we all made good time up the hill. We ate at Buckeye Reservoir, took a few photos at the CO-UT state line, and then finished the final, punchy, demoralizing climb to the hut. The weather was nice that evening, so we settled into the cow pasture and watched the mountains, clouds, and drinks disappear into the night.






Day 7 is the big reward for the trip: the whole enchilada down into Moab (7500' of descent!). I felt strong and toughed out the climb to Burro Pass in a single push. I chatted with the female MTB guides and some campers (with goat sherpas!) at the top. Then we worked our way down Kokopelli and Porcupine into the desert heat and Moab. We grabbed dinner and a drink at the Moab Brewery and drove all the way back to burque.





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