Thursday, September 29, 2022

GWO Tour: San Juan Huts Days 2-4: Goats & Gravel

The next three days were a blast. Each day was different, be it because of the trails, critters, or views--all the reasons we were out there!

Day 2 - Racing the Heat

The second day of the trip was a scorcher. There wasn't much in the way of views as we were just cruising through high desert ranch land so once clear of the others, we opted to just book it to the next hut. We stopped once to admire a small heard of sheep but that was about it. Three hours later we arrived at the hut, tucked nicely away in a grove of aspens, with the added bonus of a horse shoe pit. (I guess that's one form of entertainment that's theft-proof). The posse arrived a short time later.

After resting and eating, I was a bit fidgety. We had read there was a single track route near the hut and feeling like I had some more energy to burn, we kitted back up to take a look-see. We went back out on the road and then took a turn onto what looked like another dirt road. As we got closer to the trees, we could see a camper and a truck and I thought we were in a remote campsite. That was until we heard the savage barking of a dog. Thank the Lord it was chained up because it acted as if all it wanted in life was to chomp on my leg. I started to slow down but Ryan kept going. This is someone's property, I thought. Just then more dogs appeared, and lucky for us they were puppies and they just wanted to play. I kept looking around for a person, ready to ask for forgiveness for trespassing. I followed Ryan passed the truck along a footpath that paralleled a barbed wire fence. Soon it petered out and though Ryan protested that his GPS said we were on the trail, I knew we were not. I suggested getting back on the road we came in on, which meant bushwhacking through a field so we could recalibrate. I could tell Ryan didn't like the idea as much as the puppies, who were all following us, one behind the other, like we were their parents (sorry, no photos). When we got to the road, we put on the gas. The puppies chased for a while, their long ears flopping and tongues hanging out. Once we rode past the turn to their "home" they started to slow, but as soon as we turned at the next corner, they came running through the field. We sped up again and soon enough they quit the chase. We charged hard to get out of sight of them as well as the guard dog, who was again, announcing his intent.

The fourteen mile trail was multi-use, probably mostly by dirt bikes and ATVs. And though it was clear and maintained, it was pretty rough, with a lot of punchy, technical climbing--not something I wanted to be doing in the hottest part of the day, and especially not after already riding 30 miles that morning. It didn't take long for me to start feeling uncomfortable and cranky. Though we had a plan to ride to a look-out, I opted for the bail out at the half-way point. Out in the sun, the heat was worse but luckily most of it was downhill.

Back at the hut, we snacked on a charcuterie of cheese and butter crisp crackers. I think Sarah & Brian adopted one of the Thai recipes for dinner. As the sun started to fade, we walked out to the road to see if there were any sunset views. We turned west and walked a bit until the distinct sound of coyotes made us think otherwise. We returned to hut and drifted off to the best night sleep of the week!

Hard to see, but there's a flock of sheep out yonder.

The Whole Uncolada (we were in the Uncompahgre national forest)

DAY 3 - The Alt Route

Though the extra mileage the day before turned out to be a soul crusher, I was glad we did it. Day three had a single track option that wasn't going to add much to the overall mileage nor to the overall climbing. However, had we started in the spot where we rode the day before, it would have been a lot of work for not a lot of reward so we started out on gravel, taking advantage of the shade the hugged edge of the road.

Ryan and I eventually pulled ahead. We found the next segment of single track and left a marker for the group so they'd know which way we went. The track was rough with deep sand and loose rocks but eventually it became a pretty fun trail. Riding it was work, so we kept the power in check, or the heat of the day would remind us. We didn't stop too much, except at trail forks, so that I could leave a marker, "6F" and an arrow, for our friends (which they never saw b/c they didn't do all the single track). 

Late in the ride, the trail opened up to a treeless and wide double track. After leaving another directional marker, I took the trail to the main gravel road. I didn't see Ryan. Should I continue across or do I get on the gravel? Ryan always stops at intersections. I yelled for him. He was actually
 hiding from the sun in some tall scrub. He's like, "I'm right here". :)

We continued along the single track, as there wasn't much left. To our surprise after we rounded a corner we came upon the rest of our group! It was a fun reunion. So though they didn't see any of my markers, the time spent doing them made for perfect timing of meeting back up with them. 

We pushed on and again Ryan and I were on our own. We weren't sure how far back the others were so we hurried to open the hut and because I'd been thinking about a grilled cheese sandwich all day, I decided to make them for everyone. When I opened the cabinet, we found a bag of Fritos which gave Ryan the idea of doing hand ups for the rest of the crew. The window above the counter looked out onto the entrance to the hut area so at first sign of their arrival, Ryan rushed out the door with Fritos and beers in hand. I yelled out the window, "Grilled cheese sammies for everyone coming up!" I got a loud applause. Brian was stoked about the Fritos. All said and done it was a hard day, but for us, one of the most rewarding because we were able to ride rad new single track. 

The remainder of the afternoon was spent playing cards and a game called Pass the Pigs, outside on the picnic table. We took a walk in the evening and found some slick rock by way of suggestions from the hut manual that said to "find cool rocks take the trail to the right of the hut". So from that day on, if we saw similar slick rock along the way, we'd call out "Hey, cool rocks!" It was another great day of riding with friends, eating with friends and being away with friends. 

DAY 4 - Invasion of the Goats

That morning we were starting to feel it: the legs were stiffer, the butt more tender and the low back more cranky. Single track riding definitely incorporates more muscles and that morning, it was easy to know which ones. With the additional weight on our bikes, it's no wonder we were sore. There would be no single track option on this day, just miles and miles of rolling gravel, starting at just above 10K ending between 8K-9K. 


Riding the 402 so we had to stop for a photo.

Along the way we regrouped a few times. At one particular stop, we finally got a payoff with an awe inspiring view to the west, and our first look at the La Sal mountains, where we'd be in a couple days. 

From that spot we descended down a few hundred feet and the feeling was glorious. It was pretty amazing to be so far out and not see a human soul. There were plenty of free range cows along the way, as much of the area is a patchwork of arid ranch land. But it still was surprising to discover, after riding down a road marked "private", that our next hut was indeed on a private ranch. We had to go through a latched gate and close it behind us. The hut was situated up on a slight hill, as was the outhouse. The SJH manual informed us that there was going to be a shower here but it wasn't clear where it was located. We could see a house and a bunch of fence-lined pastures, another building of some sort and a small historic cabin opposite the hut. Ryan and I were not far ahead of the others, so we quickly parked our bikes and opened the hut to start lunch prep. Immediately I could smell urine and I feared something had gotten into the hut and made itself at home. I couldn't see anything to support my theory but it definitely reeked. I opened the windows in hopes to air it out. 

While making tuna sandwiches, I heard the others pulling up and not long after Ryan yelled at me to come out. GOATS! There were three goats, one white and two black. The white one seemed to be in charge. Everyone was petting them but not for long because quickly it was clear that all they cared about was eating not food, a.k.a our clothes, our bike bags or anything we set on the picnic table. And they wouldn't take no for an answer. They would not leave us be. Not for a minute. We had to park our bikes further away and then go inside the hut with our gear on. We couldn't even eat lunch outside as one had climbed up the steps to the door and was butting it with its head. Eventually they did get bored of us and wandered off to play with the other farm animals. Finally we could relax and hang out outside. 

I explored the historical cabin, which looked like it was still being used as such, as it had modern mattresses on the bunks and some pots and pans. I did also manage to locate the shower house, which was a cement block building with one side for the resident and the other for us dirt bags. It had a sink and a shower area with two heads, legit towels and soap. I immediately went back to the hut to grab a change of clothes so I could enjoy the lap of luxury. I had to hobble together some shampoo from a few half-opened bottles but I felt like a new person after that shower! 

Back at the hut, we sat around on camp chairs and eventually the goats returned. Brian, who's quite tall, managed to scare them by yelling and screaming like a wild man. When Ryan tried the same tactic, they just stood there looking at him like, "Yo, that was lame as shit" so Brian chased them again until they retreated under the hut. Aha, that's why the hut smelled like urine! It was sitting atop the area where they went not only to keep cool and sleep but to do their potty business. 

Lauren found a new friend.

Naughty goats!

After they came back out from hiding, attempting to munch on our stuff, somebody had the idea of putting their bikes on the deck-side of the hut. Once all the bikes were placed, I built a barrier around the perimeter with tree stumps that had been under the trailer in hopes it would deter the goats from jumping up there. 

Finally, after a long day on the bike and fending off goats, and after everyone was showered and fed, we turned in for the night. The next day's ride would either be the most fun or the most painful. Or both.

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