Riding from Durango to Moab on a mountain bike isn't easy: you cover around 215-miles, climbing 3,500 feet a day, some of it probably during a lightning storm or through thick mud, with temperatures ranging from forty to 115 degrees and plenty of route-finding involved. But, as I learned on a July trip with my girlfriend, it's also a lot of fun: you start in one of the best mountain towns in America (Steamworks Brewing Company and El Moro Tavern would stand out in much larger cities) and end up in a desert oasis (the burgers and milkshakes at Milt's Stop & Eat are worth the ride alone) after a world-class 7,500-foot descent on the Kokopelli and Porcupine Rim Trails. In seven days, you traverse alpine terrain, desert slickrock and canyon country, sleeping in simple but comfortable shelters with bunk beds, sleeping bags, beer and bacon supplied. (Bring your own cannabis from Durango.) This experience is what the San Juan Huts people have offered to a few hundred hardy riders each summer—around 350 this year—since 1988. All you need to carry between each hut is water (a lot of it), extra socks and a few tools. Oh, and chamois cream. Whatever else you do, we learned, don't skimp on that.
Photo: The best view on day one (pictured above) comes at the end, less than a mile from the hut, at Bolam Pass. The valley below is happily devoid of humanity. As with most of the rest of the trip, there's no cell service here. We just found a dog, a few guys on four-wheelers and a trio of thru-bikers talking shop.