Recap: 3 tubes down, only 1 spare remaining (everyone else was riding 26-inch wheels). We’re 87 miles and 3 days into a roughly 220-mile hut-to-hut mountain bike trip from Durango to Moab. Hard rains overnight have left the ground around our hut sticking to everything (shoes, tires, bags, etc.).
Day 4: Dry Creek Basin to Wedding Bell Hut
Dry Creek basin was anything but dry when we awoke and based on the conditions we were seriously considering the alternate “muddy day” route. In fact, the route description said if things were super muddy our best bet would be to ride on the road to the town of Naturita, get a motel for the night, and skip the Wedding Bell hut completely. The route description also mentioned dust storms could be an issue along the way but we figured the previous night’s rain would at least keep that under control.
The plan was to head out on the overgrown and rutted doubletrack to see just how muddy things were. Fortunately conditions were decent with only the occasional mud bog along the way. After a few miles of sunflowers and fragrant sagebrush we spit out onto a wide gravel road and blasted down to the town of Basin, CO.
Hitching post outside the Basin store.
Basin really isn’t much of a town (there’s just one store as far as we could tell) but we were able to stock up on cold drinks, chips, and hand sanitizer before heading out. Matt even ordered a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich from the kitchen despite the fact that it was only 10:30am.
From Basin we took road U29, an unpaved farm road that seemed to stretch into infinity. There were several short steep climbs but mostly the road just seemed to go up. With the wind full in our faces and little change on the horizon it felt like we were riding stationary bikes for hours on end. This would be the first of two long valley slogs between mountain ranges, a boring but necessary part of our journey.
At around mile 30 we crested the final climb and were amazed to see that we had been climbing a ramp the entire time with canyons unfolding ahead and below. We began descending the rocky road which was a blast after all that flat climbing. We found the hut about a half mile away from the main dirt road with surprising and amazing views of the Delores River below.
After a dinner of boxed macaroni and cheese with spam (made from powdered milk and no butter) we explored the area around the hut. The landscape was pocked full of rusted cars, broken glass, and abandoned uranium mines but offered some of the best sunset views of the trip.
Day 5: Wedding Bell Hut to Paradox Valley
The next morning Jake mentioned his tires were low due to the change in altitude over the past few days (we were now somewhere around 6,500 feet) and suggested we all check our pressures. My front tire definitely felt like it could use some air so I added a few strokes, removed the pump, then stared in horror at my bent presta valve stem! I quickly attempted to screw it down but the air was rushing out. Matt was nearby and came over to assess the situation. With one quick motion he broke the bent stem off and the hissing stopped. Nate remarked that he had done the same thing once before but didn’t get more than a couple hours out of the tube before it went completely flat. Fortunately I was able to patch one of my pinched tubes the night before so I at least had two *potential* replacements.
Our route for the day started back on the often rocky BLM road we traveled the afternoon before and traced the edges of Bull Canyon for about 8 miles before beginning a sustained climb onto the mesa above. From the mesa we could see the “town” of Bedrock and the green Paradox valley below. Our path into the valley? The infamous Catch-em-Up trail.
See those 12,000 foot peaks on the left side of the photo? We would be climbing that on days 6 & 7.
Catch-em-Up started out as a shortcut trail used by cattle ranchers to move their herds out of the valley for summer grazing up on the mesa. Our route guide painted this as a “must ride” (though there was an easier alternate) and promised 1,100 feet of descending in just 1 mile. Matt lowered his seatpost and tucked in for the descent which went pretty well at first. Until, that is, the trail became completely ridiculous. Huge boulders, non-existent lines, sharp switchbacks, and steep angles made it impossible to ride more than a few feet at a time before dismounting. To his credit, Matt rode way more of Catch-em-Up than the rest of us, though I think he was a little disappointed with the condition of the trail.
At the bottom of Catch-em-Up we rode less than a mile to the Bedrock Store and scarfed down microwave Philly Cheese Steaks and Chimichangas. The rest of the ride featured flat roads across Paradox Valley with amazing views in every direction. The night’s hut was located near the Paradox Valley Bed & Breakfast where we scored hot lasagna, salad, garlic bread, and cinnamon rolls for just 10-bucks each! It was hot in the valley (we were now at 5,500 feet) but the quiet, farm vibe was relaxing ahead of our 5,300 foot climb on day 6.
Continue reading Part IV: Paradox Valley to Moab!