Saturday, December 30, 2017

San Juan Huts day 5: a mountain biking paradox

This is the 6th post in a series about 3 couples riding the San Juan Huts' Durango to Moab Mountain Bike Hut to Hut. The first post starts here.

Day 5: July 26, 2017

In the groove

By Day 5, we had a morning routine: Coffee drinking, breakfast making, gear packing, bike ready-ing, hut cleaning, and finally group picture taking. 
Breakfast today was super yummy eggs and pancakes.

Hopefully a daily trip to the "reading room" fit into each morning sequence. This hut had a particularly nice view for the occupant.

Clear skies on the morning of Day 5 at Wedding Bell Hut
But sooner or later the real business of the day would begin. We got an earlier start than normal to try to beat the heat we knew we would find as we descended to Paradox Valley.   There were some rolling ups and downs as we passed a lot of mining ruins and made our way through the still-muddy double track. Mostly, we were glad for the rains of yesterday as they made sandy sections of the road pleasantly ridable. Eventually, we found our way to the top of Davis Mesa.
Leaving Wedding Bell hut (center of picture) and the Dolores River on a fine clear morning July 26, 2017.

On the edge of Davis Mesa looking down into long Paradox Valley

A 30 second geology lesson

Paradox Valley is so named because the Dolores River flows, paradoxically, perpendicular to the strike of the valley. It does so because the valley was not carved by the river. Instead, Paradox Valley, and several other large valleys in SW CO and SE UT are salt anticline collapse valleys. Unlike most sedimentary rocks, salt flows when compressed. The salt in the Paradox Formation squished up toward the surface after it was buried, groundwater dissolved the salt, and the overlying strata collapsed down into the space created by dissolution of the salt .All this took place after the Dolores River was flowing in approximately its present direction, so while the salt moved and the strata collapsed, the river was able to erode its existing course, which just happens to be perpendicular to the direction of the anticline.
Super generalized steps to creating a salt collapse valley

Looking into Paradox Valley. Still intact, once horizontal sedimentary rocks tilt up toward the center of the anticline (shown by the left-most yellow line), but sections of the strata are collapsed in toward the center of the valley (the other two lines). 

Back to the ride

For some reason, I had in my head that Day 5 would be somewhat easy, and I guess it was after yesterday's dangerous thunderstorm mud fest. However, the miles were respectable (32.3 miles) and the elevation gain (3100 ft of climbing) was "not nothing" after four big days on a bike. It took us 3 hours and 45 minutes moving time, which included about 45 minutes of hike-a-bike down the Catch 'em Up trail off of Davis Mesa to the town of Bedrock.

Kenny (circled) rode parts of Catch 'em Up trail. Crazy!

Heather took a much more sane approach to descending Catch 'em Up
After 5 long days in the saddle, we were eagerly approaching the Dolores River on the valley floor, where we had every intention of dunking ourselves and our bikes in the river. What we had not figured out was that the river would be as brown as chocolate milk from the sediment carried to it by the massive rains over the past week.  A bath would not have done us any good.

The sediment-laden Dolores River was not fit for bathing when we crossed it.

I wish I could live in a town called Bedrock.
But, in a fabulous stroke of good fortune, the Bedrock Store, so named because it is built directly on bedrock, had reopened after being closed for several years just this very week!

The store, which was featured in the movie Thelma and Louise, carried such wonderful treats as  ICED COFFEE DRINKS, ICE COLD BUBBLY SODAS, and a large selection of ICE CREAM BARS AND TREATS.  

The Bedrock Store - a true oasis of civilization after 5 days of hut living.
Probably more important, the store had an exterior garden hose. We paid the new owners some money to let us wash, and promptly took bike and people pseudo-baths along side the store.   Heather and Sally even washed their hair and Karl shaved.  This unexpected reprieve from dirt was a sign that trail karma was back on our side.

After another round of treats, we saddled up and pedaled another 10 easy flat miles to the lowest elevation and thus the warmest hut: Paradox Hut.

Paradox Hut was the most exposed and warmest hut.

An Unexpected Evening

It just so happened that Marty, co-proprietor of Paradox Produce Company, was stocking the hut with fresh vegetables.  She enticed us to come to the Paradox Store, just a short pick-up ride away, with hibiscus iced tea, shade, and a laundry and shower wash station.  It wasn't a hard sell.

The welcome sign was out at the Paradox Store

Washer ladies getting most of the stink and dirt out of our rancid bike clothes.

A good long rest and chat in the shade after our baths.

We enjoyed a thorough tour of the organic produce operation Marty and Greg have going in Paradox. They sell at local farmers markets and take produce to Moab.

After we were rested and refreshed, we were delivered back to the hut for some individual dinners. Marty had given Karl and me hamburger. After a week of mostly vegetarian food supplemented by canned salmon and chicken, the fresh hamburger tasted like something from a 5 star restaurant.

Some of us played horseshoes, others just enjoyed the warm evening. Sleeping in the hut was pretty hot at first, but the temperature eventually cooled off so we could all get some rest for what we expected would be the toughest day yet - the climb up to the La Sals.

All told, Day 5, with its two bonus jolts of commerce at the Bedrock Store and Paradox Produce Co., turned out to be the paradox of back-country hut-to-hut living, and actually, a pretty good day.

Here is Drew's motion graphic 3-D video of the day's ride.