Thursday, June 30, 2016



Like many of my adventures, it started out in a casual conversation – “have you heard of this mountain bike trip from Telluride to Moab where you stay overnight in huts?” Of course that sounded interesting, so with a little help from Google, I was soon staring at all the details: 250 miles, 7 days/6 night, fully-stocked huts for parties up to 8 riders. Information in hand, I went on a “recruiting” effort, and within 3 days we were a group of four. “I’m in” was all I needed to hear, from Mark, Scott, and Lee. I do a few adventures with these guys, and I know them to be great partners. And reliability is an important characteristic for an adventure partner – these guys are the best.

And so it was planned. Not a lot of questions other than “when”. So we picked some dates around Mark’s planned trip to Colorado. We’d actually leave a week early, do a little climbing in Boulder, Colorado, and a little cycling and touring in Vail. I love a good road trip, and this one required that I bring gear for three different sports: Road biking, rock climbing, and mountain biking. Plus some nice clothes for dinners out with Lee’s lovely wife, Kathy.

Lee in the "backseat" of
Marks Sprinter
We load up Mark’s Sprinter (luxury van) for the cruise across Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. Our “hut to hut” is foremost on our mind, and we realize we don’t really know that much about what we’re getting into. We don’t care, however, because it’s ALL good, and we have a great group of guys. Mark is the best climbing partner one could ask for - several trips up El Cap, Half Dome, the Bugaboos, and all over the West. Scott is his nephew, who is a great friend and a Cat II bike racer (that’s fast). Lee and I went to high school together, I introduced him to his wife, and we’ve done some amazing road bike rides together in Colorado and the coast of California. Late in the game, Rick, a friend from grad school heard about the trip and immediately signed up.

After some climbing and riding in Denver, Mark, Lee and I head for Vail, and the “Go Pro Games" - slack-lining demos, kayak racing, and bike racing. And gear! We really like gear!

The next morning we’re off to Telluride, a beautiful ski resort in southwest Colorado. It sits in a most beautiful box canyon, surrounded by very dramatic high mountains. This is the most European-like landscape in all of the US. This is unique and invigorating, as are the adventurous souls who live there. And everyone seems to own a dog.

We have maps, our bikes, and some clothes. The huts have everything else – food, sleeping bags, and for an extra $48.50 each they put some beers and cans of wine in the huts for us. We roll out of Telluride, excited and full of anticipation, and search for the trail. We start at 9,000 feet and will climb to over 11,000 today, which is our short day at 18 miles. The views of the nearby San Juan Mountains are truly spectacular. The scene is the exact picture that appears on the Coors beer label. The hut is simple, with bunks for 8 people, with shelves stocked with all the goodies you might buy by the case at Costco – canned chicken, Top Ramen, and a huge bag of peanut M and M’s. The ice chest has eggs, bacon, and cheese. Did I mention Spam? At 11,000 feet after riding, Spam is versatile and quite tasty!

Day 6, crossing from Colorado into Utah. 
Each day was a full day of riding – some dirt roads, and hopefully a lot of single track. On day 3, in search of one of the cherished single track options, we headed downhill, then found our trail off to the right. There were a few cows, and the mess they left behind on the trail. Then a few more cattle. Then a herd. It was nuts – I’ve never seen so many cattle, especially up close and personal. As we walked along a disgustingly messy trail, they moved slowly out of the way, then filled in behind us. It was so completely ridiculous, being surrounded by 500 enraged cattle that I kind of enjoyed it (I’m a little twisted). Mark suggested we head back, which was a very practical (and smart) idea. I suggested we continue on our adventure, and soon regretted it when a huge bull came running down the trail toward us. Lee jumped into the creek bed first, then Scott next, and me on top. I imagined my funeral where they would say how brave I was to have protected my friends from the goring that resulted in my sacrifice. It’s a nice sentiment, but I was simply in the wrong place and jumped last. But what’s an adventure without a story, right?

There were a few more stories, which I won’t go into detail. But we enjoyed some incredible landscape as we saw the terrain change from the high altitude mountain forests near Telluride to the high-desert technical-mountain-biking red rock of Moab. We saw a remote resort for high paid CEO’s in the middle of nowhere, and the dope smoking (legal in Colorado) retired mountain guide who toured us around some place we didn’t even know was on the map. We all took some falls, and I’ll share mine because I think I won the “gold” in this contest: a simple but technical downhill on a side slope, and I got a little too far forward, went over the bars at a very slow speed, and landed/rolled into a small ditch. Mark rode right by me and did not see that I was under a lot of brush and my bike, but he heard me moan. I don’t moan easily. So he came to rescue me as I lay there checking my extremities, and hoping that at least I had my helmet camera on. Well, the limbs, torso and head were OK, but the camera was off, so you'll just have to believe me! 

More than ever, this trip was less about the riding and more about time with some guys I really enjoy and admire, and feel lucky to spend this time with. We’re not guys who make fun of each other, or call each other names, or joke about our wives. Rather, we spent a lot of time talking about how lucky we are – to have our good health, and active lifestyles with lots of interesting things to look forward to, and beautiful spouses that make our lives more enjoyable and rewarding. We talked about what we look forward to in the future, our next adventures, and how we plan to “ramp it up” during retirement. I learn a lot from these conversations, and mostly a sense of calm that I’ve always got these great people I can rely on , and share excellent adventures, and who always expect the best of me but are quick to forgive when I don’t give it. And if a bull came running after me, I know any of these guys would jump on top to save me. I think . . . .    

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