Endless adventure mountain biking from Telluride to Moab on multi-day hut trip | SummitDaily.com
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Endless adventure mountain biking from Telluride to Moab on multi-day hut trip

Shawna Henderson
Special to the Daily
Yves Piecoup (front) and Whit Whitacre descend the Upper Porcupine trail near Moab on the final day of a seven-day hut trip between Telluride and Moab.
Special to the Daily |

Do you ever think about that fine line between pleasure and pain?

Some people might argue that we want to avoid pain at all costs, but, in order grow and learn more about ourselves, we must feel the pain and let it work in our favor. When it comes to sports, good pain helps us become better athletes. The body needs to work through the pain in order to become stronger or else nothing changes, and you stay in the comfort zone.

As a former adventure racer, during a race, I would push my body to extreme levels, going nonstop for hours upon hours for multiple days without proper sleep or nutrition. You might ask, “Was that fun?” and I would reply, “Multiple challenges filled with uncomfortable situations, once overcome, turn into extreme pleasure.”

The experience trained my body and mind to realize that nothing is impossible — you just have to believe it is possible and keep going.

Back to the basics

Now, that brings me to my most recent adventure: A multi-day mountain bike trip that followed the San Juan hut-to-hut system from Telluride to Moab. Even though it was not nearly as intense as adventure racing, the body and mind had to overcome daily challenges and push through perceived “pain” in order to experience that “pleasure” high.

The extreme heat, the long uphill climbs, the leg fatigue, the chafing red bumps on my bum and the collection of cuts and bruises on my legs from our previous unmaintained, wild singletrack — all of it added to the “pain and pleasure” we found over the course of seven days, 250 miles and 26,000 vertical feet of climbing in our epic adventure.

As humans, we need challenge, and with that, comes pain and uncertainty in order to be truly happy. Taking the risk to push out of a well-defined comfort zone brings you to that peaceful state of mind. Why? Because it feels good: When you do something extraordinary and go beyond your believed ability, your body grows, and your mind now believes it is possible.

The San Juan hut system makes bike touring easier. It offers basic accommodations for eight people, filled with your selection of canned foods, dried fruits and nuts. They also supply the food, water, beer and sleeping bags, but you are responsible for bringing your own travel gear and clothes.

Packing light is the key, and most of our group kept the same clothes on for the entire seven days. The trip brought us back to the basics of what you really need on the trail — clothes on your back, food in your belly and a place to lay your head. Everything else is just added weight. Life should be that simple, and a seven-day bike trip helps you remember what is truly important.

Enter the San Juans

An average day would consist of biking 30-plus miles, with a mixture of wild singletrack and off-road routes.

A few moments jump out still, like the bear we saw running across a campground. There were spectacular views of the Sneffels Range, still covered in snow, and the high meadows of Hastings Mesa, awash with blankets of violet lupine and Columbine flowers. Then came the red-rock country of Castle Valley.

Imagine one 22-mile day, filled with 4,000 vertical feet of climbing in temperatures reaching 98 degrees. That is like climbing off-road to the top of Loveland Pass with a mountain bike loaded with extra weight.

The “spin to win” mantra — just keep your legs pedaling — allowed my mind to wander to more pleasurable moments, and, before I knew it, the top arrived. As my body worked, my mind was mystified by the incredible scenery. At times, I turned into an explorer, thinking I was one of the core pioneers at the advent of mountain biking. Other times, I tried my best not to laugh as my bike splattered through recent cow patties.

Refreshing dips at hidden lakes and a plunge into the Dolores River relieved the sweat and dirt from the day, and one hot shower halfway through the route felt like a dream come true.

Epic scenery, epic company

As the personal experiences are epic, the bonding you share with your companions is exceptional.

Friendly dice competitions pass the time at the huts, and conversations turn to the simple concerns: making sure your bowel movements are regular, finding what products work best to combat chafing, applauding our “gourmet” dinner cooked up with canned goods. Luckily, the huts have provided cookbooks, which helped make dinnertime decisions easier. Our group of strong riders fully embraced the situation with enthusiasm, giving us all the chance to know each other on another level.

Bike touring is not for everyone. As I mentioned, it is a healthy mix of pleasure and pain. But for those who like a challenge, who like going off the beaten track with over 115 miles of singletrack, then it’s time to cross that item off your bucket list.

I finished the seven days with a feeling of euphoria and self-respect, knowing that I am truly capable of doing what I set out to do, that I moved past self-imposed limitations and found meaning far greater than I could ever image.

Regrets come when you wonder, “What if?” yet don’t act. Don’t wonder — take the plunge, and challenge yourself. Bike touring gives you time to both think and not to think, time to be social and reserved, time to meditate, time to laugh and time to cry — and time to put more butt butter on your bum for the next ride.

Epic adventures are what many of us live for here in the Colorado mountains, and, if you are ready to get challenged, then now is time to find a new adventure that pushes your limits.


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