Day 6: Gateway Canyons resort to La Sal hut by Jeep Commander

Starting elevation 4,470′
Ending elevation 8,120′
Total ascent for the day 4,000′
Cumulative ascent 9,860′ (13,860′ including the jeep ride)
Total descent for the day 350′
Cumulative descent 14,140′ (14,490′ including the jeep ride)
Distance for the day 21.82 miles
Cumulative distance 144.50 miles (166.32 miles including the jeep ride)

Resorts are not usually my style, but starting the day with a hot shower and a pancake breakfast was a welcome change from no shower and the peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich that had become my morning ritual at the huts.

After breakfast, I stopped by the adventure-travel shop at the resort. I’d talked with Richard again the previous evening, and he felt uncomfortable poaching their business, so he asked that I check with them to see if they still gave rides into the mountains; if not, he’d still do it. The chap who ran the shop, who looked like he’d be more comfortable on a golf course than on any sort of adventure, said their insurance company wouldn’t allow them to provide rides any longer. I left a message for Richard and then went for a walk on the grounds of the resort.

Part of the grounds of the resort and one of the mesas surrounding Gateway.

In addition to the hotel, the resort had several clusters of conference buildings scattered across expansive grounds.

Mesa west of the resort.

The valley was nearly surrounded by mesas.

Tiny frog in a pond on the grounds of the resort.

One of the ponds on the grounds was populated with frogs small enough to perch on floating flora.

The Palisade, northeast of the resort.

The Palisade tops out at more than 1,500 feet above the valley.

Richard called back while I was repacking and came by for me at 11. I showed him the route to the La Sal hut on the SJHS map, then we loaded my bike and gear and headed for John Brown Canyon. As we plowed through deep gravel and swung around switchbacks, I repeatedly remarked that this was another place where I’d have walked were I on my bike.

Rock formation in John Brown Canyon, on the way to La Sal hut.

A rock formation in John Brown Canyon.

Closeup of the rock formation in the previous shot.

A closeup of the rock formation in the previous shot.

When I wasn’t enthusing about my good fortune, we talked about how Richard had come to work at a remote resort in western Colorado. For 10 years and more, he’d managed public swimming pools, but he’d developed a chlorine allergy that forced him to quit. A fresh degree in leisure services management had gotten him the job at Gateway Canyons, but business was slow, and he was on the brink of being laid off. He was hoping to return to his old career with a pool in Ouray that uses something other than chlorine to sanitize the water.

In just over an hour, we found the dirt trail up to the La Sal hut:

Richard Woodward and his Jeep.

We unloaded, I expressed my boundless gratitude and paid Richard for the ride, and he headed back to Gateway for his shift at the resort. It was just lunch time, so I had most of a day to kill. I hadn’t slept all that well the night before, so I napped, ate, and read throughout the afternoon. Part of my reading was the hut journal, in which riders left their thoughts about the ride. Two things stood out: almost everyone grumbled about the heat at the Gateway hut that I’d skipped (and several parties, unable to sleep, had left the hut for the resort in the middle of the night), and everyone who’d written had ridden from Gateway to the hut instead of getting a ride. One rider even said his group had arrived at the hut at noon, was fixing a quick lunch, and was planning to leave for Moab as soon as they finished.

Late in the day, I noticed that I had company:

Cows at the La Sal hut.

Hlawaty had said that the La Sal hut had once been a yurt, but a black bear had slashed it up, which had made me wonder about the large piles of dung in the yard. Now I had the explanation.

After dinner, I took the camera outside to see what sunset would bring. The colors never amounted to much, but the clouds were worth a few shots:

Clouds at the La Sal hut.

Clouds at the La Sal hut.

On to Day 7: La Sal hut to Moab

Back to Day 5: Graham Ranch hut to the Gateway Canyons resort

Back to Mountain biking (and walking) from Telluride to Moab