So there I stood, next to my friends Jess’s van, backpack at my feet, bike leaned against a haphazard pile of wood, as I prepared to embark on a trip that 50% of the time I felt like I had no business being on. I was unprepared, under skilled, and generally not the level of athlete or even person that takes on challenges of this type. But I picked up my bag, cinched it around my chest and waist and hopped on my bike.
The first few miles were the most awkward I have ever experienced, the weight of he backpack made me feel too heavy and unwieldy; in my mind my moves to were akin to a water buffalo or perhaps an angry hippo…
My immediate shortness of breath was disturbing, I should have written it off to lack of sleep, nerves and just warming up. But of course my mind went to the worst, and I began to doubt my ability to make it across the flat Valley Floor tail, let alone an entire hut system.
Then somewhere along the Village Trail, and as I headed down Jurassic, I began to regain my comfort and adapt to the changed weight and center of gravity, and my heart raced with the excitement of the journey ahead.
We headed down the Galloping Goose trail and dropped into Ilium Valley, where we crossed the highway and started what would be a full afternoon of climbing, up Deep Creek to Last Dollar Pass, where our first night hut awaited us high above the valley overlooking several mountain ranges.
As we ascended Deep Creek, we hit some rain and the temps dropped, which actually made for a nice change as we continued to gain elevation. We took a lunch break along the road and watched the storm roll in behind us, and continued on out way attempting to beat the incoming clouds.
A week prior to my trip, I ran into Timmy Duggan and Ted King as they were finishing up with the same hut trip and had asked if they had any words of advice, and their feedback was simple: Don’t pack any food, keep your pack light, and Last Dollar Pass is STEEP…
Well, anytime a retired pro tells me something is steep, I take that to heart. And they were right. The rocky climb that leads up the pass was the steepest thing I have ever attempted. My friends’ bikes didn’t even have the gearing necessary to pedal up one segment. I got into my lowest grant gears and slowly but surely, lungs afire and legs taking, climbed to the the top, where we were rewarded with an even steeper hike-a-bike section to reach the actual hut.
The view from Last Dollar Hut is epic, and worth every bit of the brutal climb. We watched the sun cast shadows across the face of the mountains as it set, and marveled as the clouds moved in and settled so low that we could reach out and touch them as our little hut was engulfed.
We took a page from Ted and Timmy’s group, and warmed up with some grilled Spam and cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, and settled in for the night.
We awoke to a sunny but chilly morning, and made some breakfast burritos to fuel us for the day. Once the sun rose over the highest mountain and shed light onto our little piece of the world, we loaded up and began our descent to Dallas Divide.