Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The GWO Tour 2022 - San Juan Huts: Day 1 Eat. Sleep. Ride. Repeat.

The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom." - Theodore Roosevelt

For the past few months Ryan and I have been hooked on the series Alone, on the History Channel. And for me, I find it very intriguing how the people on the show adapt to their environment. Now I'm not comparing this bike packing adventure to the show b/c we don't have to kill our dinner and we have very good shelter. Oh and we're doing this for fun. Where the two are similar is how the wild wilderness will take us humans out of our normal routines and comfort, forcing adaption, simplicity and ultimately new routines. As well, both experiences create moments of pure freedom, where the only thing to do is to be. Be in the moment, thinking only of what needs to be done. Nothing more. To enjoy being out. Away. Quiet. Grateful for the opportunity to have our minds defragged and our eyes redirected away from screens to what we long for: Distance. Space. A panorama of sky, mountains and forests where the lonely freedom resides.

DAY 0 - Summit County to Moab
Our group consisted of Dillon, CO., locals: our friends Andy and Lauren, plus their two friends Sara and Brian. Andy owns The Cove Bike Shop in their neighborhood and his wife Lauren is a web designer and soon-to-be licensed dog trainer. Sara is a nurse and her husband Brian is a deputy chief fire-fighter. They are all seasoned riders and outdoors people. 

Since the trip was to end in Moab, we needed to somehow get to Telluride with all of our gear, so our group reserved a shuttle van from Moab to Telluride, leaving at the crack of dawn the next day. (SJH provides a list of many vendors for this). The four of them got a hotel room in Moab and we planned to sleep in the MTBCRIB. As we were getting ready for the trip, the conversation about car storage came up and because the others were staying at the same hotel at the start and at the end, they had made an agreement with the hotel to park in the lot. Well, that left us wondering where we were going to park a 16' van. I got on the Googles and there wasn't anything in Moab for that purpose and the SJH suggested asking the hotel where you'll be staying. Argh! What to do. So, I FB messaged the only person I knew in Moab. She had a glamping operation so I figured she'd either have space or know where there was some or somebody who had some. Turned out, she was bff's with the manager of Chili Pepper Bike Shop and she asked her on our behalf if we could park in the lot of their shop (the shop was closed for a seasonal break so there wasn't anyone to ask). Within a few minutes we were granted parking access! Whew! So, the next thing was getting a hotel. I found one a couple blocks from the shop and it was super cheap. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Let's say it was more like a mobile-home type building with laminate floors and in-window AC. But when we went into the building to access our room, what did we find but super old school photos of mountain bike racers and riders endoing on the famed red rocks of Moab. Yep, we were among our kind. The place was more like a workforce dorm, but it catered to us dirt heads just fine.

Motel Silver Sage "red carpet"

Top of the line!

That night, we went to dinner with Andy and Lauren. Earlier we learned that Sara was not in the best of health and needed to get a Covid test. At dinner, the update was she was negative and they were in route. We enjoyed our last good meal for the next week and went to bed with a buzz.

Day 1 - Moab to Telluride Shuttle: Telluride to Hut 1
Total Mileage:13.1 Starting Elevation: 8750' Ending Elevation: 10,980’

Sunday morning came super early. The shuttle was picking us all up at the other hotel, on the other end of town, by 6am. Our bikes were all ready and the only things we had to do were eat, coffee up, poop and get out the door. We managed to do it all by 5:30 am. As I was taking bags out to the van, a black cat was sitting in the lit parking lot. Shit. Ryan loaded his bike on the rack and I rode my bike to the bike shop where we parked the van for the week. We crossed our fingers that the communication as to why our van was parked there was being distributed to the right people. 

From the shop, we rode two miles north on Main St. using headlamps, as the sun had yet to rise. The sky was just starting to lighten and we could see the purple silhouettes of distant ridges and bluffs. There's very few places that are as spectacular as the desert this early in the morning.

When we arrived at their very swanky hotel, the shuttle van was there, and the driver was already loading up Andy and Lauren's bikes. We were asked to take off most of our bags before handing ours up to the shuttle driver, Eric, who was from all over but mainly Oregon. Once our bikes were loaded we waited for Sara and Brian. Minutes passed. Phone calls and texts were sent. While we waited, I went into the swanky hotel lobby to use the bathroom. I felt like a dirt bag walking across their shiny white floor in my bike shoes. But I'm sure they were used to the likes of us doing such a thing. Soon Sara and Brian appeared. They got their gear and bikes on board and we were off. It was a 4 hour drive through some of the most beautiful Great Wide Open landscapes!

We stopped half way, in a one horse town, to use the facilities and buy food for the rest of the drive. Once in Telluride, we were dropped off at a local park that had access to a bathroom and place for us to reload our bags on our bikes. Once we were all chamoi'd up and hatches battened down, the last thing we did was stop at a local bike shop to pick up our packet of info that had paper directions and key access. Even though a few of the group had all the gps coordinates on computers, paper doesn't have a battery life so it was good to have turn by turn just in case. A computer also can't tell you to look for the cairn by the big stump.

Reloading up the bikes in Telluride.

Finally pointed west!

Finally, we turned west and onto the local rec path that took us out and above the town of Telluride. This would be our shortest mileage day, but it would also be the day with the highest elevation gain. The trail dumped us onto a gravel road. We passed near the local private airport and through hillsides where some of one-percenters lived. I stopped at a construction sites to use the porto. Hopefully nobody was there. 

Ryan, Dirtgirl, Lauren, Andy, Brian & Sara

Getting the heck outta Dodge.

Group photo by Telluride Airport sign (since there wasn't one at town edge)

When the gravel ended, the service road began and we were politely reminded that we were about to head into the wilderness and to abide. 

A final warning.

The remaining time, about 1.5 hours, was a combination of hike a bike and riding, depending on the pitch. The final climb was all hike, past a dead end sign. Ryan did some recon to assure we were to go past the sign and he found the hut, which was up the steepest climb yet. But what we saw upon arrival was worth every pedal stroke, and every step. The view to the west was absolutely gorgeous and a picnic table was placed in the prime viewing spot. 

View from Hut 1 looking at Wilson Peak & the Lizard Head Wilderness

The road we traveled.

First things first, we opened the hut and surveyed our resources. That meant for me, finding the commode to get out of my diaper. It was a out of sight but using the well-traveled trail leading away from the hut would take me there, I found it pretty quick. Next, I put some of the camp soap we brought into a bin and filled it with water from one of the 5gallon jugs where I washed my chamois and socks and hung them on the close line. 

This tells the story pretty well.

Next, I found my bunk and put on my clean clothes and sandals. I found some snacks, Ryan made a pot of coffee (local stuff from Fruita) and then sat my ass down on that picnic table for most of the evening. 

Lauren and I admiring the view and Ryan's barista service.

And this was pretty much the new routine unless it was our turn to make dinner. Andy and Lauren took dibs on making dinner this night: a large pan of chicken enchiladas that we scooped up with a bag of tortilla chips. Who knew canned chicken could taste so good! All from the recipe book SJH provides along with everything to make such a feast. Post dinner, some people took naps, others fiddled with their bikes. I took a little wander and found a rock out-cropping to hike up to. There were no sounds except for the wind in the trees and the calls from the birds, well, until some campers down below started cranking Cold Play, ruining our little oasis. Eventually, Ryan yelled "PLAY RADIOHEAD" and their music got much, much quieter.

The first day, looking back, was the one of the best of the trip. It was a hard start for sure and a good kick in the pants for what was to come, but the views were just amazing. The sunset lasted for quite a long time and it was hard for Ryan and I to go inside. 

R&R chasing the sun. Photo Credit Lauren

My mountain man!

The sunset finale! 

Just before sunset, a ground squirrel perched himself on a small rock outcropping, and it sat there for a while, looking like it was admiring the view, like we were.

Needless to say, we all were a bit jealous of its lonely freedom.

A ground squirrel living his best life.

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