Wednesday, August 2, 2017

San Juan Huts Day 2: We like to keep our singletrack options open

This is the 3rd in a series of posts about 6 friends riding San Juan Huts Durango to Moab Hut to Hut Mountian Bike Adventure. The first post begins with this link,

Day 2 had options. Standard route on 100% Forest Service roads, 29 miles and 3722 feet ascending OR an alternate single track of 32 miles, an unknown amount of climbing, and with a description that read "This is a fun single track and well worth doing and is almost all downhill."  What do 6 physically exhausted but newly infatuated by San Juan mountains back-country scenery mountain bikers do? Why, chose the singletrack, of course.  After all, it was "almost all downhill".

The huts

One of the things I really appreciated about this hut system was the excellent variety of food stocks.  San Juan Huts restocks the food cabinet, the fresh food cooler, and the beer after every 14 riders.  The canned and dry goods was especially impressive. Really, any type of food you typically think of as camp food was there, plus a nice selection of lunch snacks, including dried mangoes, jerky, Lara bars, Kind bars, nuts, other dried fruits, peanut butter and almond butter with a couple of types of jelly, and lots of drink mixes.  I think Karl fried up some bacon this morning to take as his lunch. Good thing we didn't run into any bears on the trail.

photo by Heather

The big fresh food cooler had bacon, eggs, butter, and tortillas. The beer cooler had cans of local microbrews. The high elevation huts included wood stoves. The "kitchen" counter had a two burner propane stove, propane lanterns, and everything you need to cook and clean a proper camp meal.  Water was provided in 5-gallon jugs. We heated water to wash dishes in the plastic tubs.

Hut 1 all buttoned up upon leaving.

 Day 2 Riding

I was pretty excited about the "almost all downhill fun singletrack" and the prospect of more jaw-dropping scenery when we started the day.

 My enthusiasm waned when we I almost lost my camera on the rough doubletrack leading away from the hut (Yay for Drew for picking it up so I didn't have to ride way back up!) and also when we took a wrong turn in the first hour of riding. But once we got on the real singletrack, it was pretty fun. 

The numerous high creek crossings with unavoidable foot dunks were not my favorite, nor the numerous rocky technical trail sections that forced us to push bikes up muddy hills ("almost all downhill?"). And, to be honest, the scenery was not spell-binding, but there were some very pretty parts, the weather was holding, we were riding Colorado mountain singletrack with a group of fun friends, and we were making pretty good time. That was the first 10 miles or so. But, we had 22 to go and clouds were building.

So, none of us complained when we hit the paved state road and had to take it down canyon 3 miles to connect to the standard route. Smooth asphalt is my friend.

As we began to navigate the gravel and dirt Forest Service roads, the thunder that had been threatening made good on its rumbles and we rode through light rain for most of the rest of the day.  Light rain we can handle just fine when the alternative is monsoonal downpour.

The miles ticked off quickly, with steady climbs followed by glorious easy road descents.

At the bottom of the last big climb.

 We found the Black Mesa hut at about 6 pm. We had been in the saddle for 6 hours 20 minutes with 5 hours moving time, rode 34.8 miles, and climbed 3900 feet. That's a heck of a day 2 for riders already tired from day 1.

Here is Drew's Day 2 recap 3D motion graphic link

Our relatively early arrival at the hut allowed for Karl to create a super spicy curry stir fry and still leave time for the disaffected tender-mouths of the group to cook bland-enough mac n cheese. There was also time for other camp activities. 
Washer women attempt to clean some muddy, smelly ride clothes.

A lovely yoga patio and chillin' pad was just a short walk out of the forest near the hut.

A camper's clothes drying racks.

Back inside the hut, Kenny broke out his ukulele (yes he brought an actual full-sized ukulele and a song book to go with it!) and we had a game of charades where the most popular category was not Movies, or Songs, or TV shows, but Trail Names. It was actually much easier for our bike-tuned brains that way.

Lights out on our tired bodies by 9 pm. Day 2 was a perfect addition to our adventure. Day 3 promised to be easier.

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