Friday, July 5, 2013

Day 50 to 56, into Wild West Wyoming

Day 50 Walden, over state line to Rawlins
Early in the morning I went back to the Moose Creek cafe for oatmeal and scrambled eggs and headed the 28 miles to the state line. Huge expanse of open sage bush and little traffic on the roads. Quick picture taking at the sign after climbing a long hill to get there. Through to the little town of Riverside where I ate a massive burger for lunch before continuing to Saratoga where hunters come all year because the hot springs keep the river from freezing in the harsh winters. I picked up some grocers in the supermarket where there were lots of animal hides and mounted heads in every aisle. Very rugged landscape (and rugged headwind) for barren 20 mile stretch before getting onto the shoulder of the highway. Eventually checking into a motel at 8pm after 109 miles for the day. A good blast to Rawlins and interesting introduction to Wyoming.

Day 51 Rawlins to Jeffrey City
This morning was relaxed and included skyping with Sonia, taking a shower, watching TV and two trips to the breakfast area. I met Dave and Sam at 10 and we got on the road. I didn't get to see Rawlins but I talked to a number of guys who were refitting the local refinery (and thus push up the prices of the motels in town). We climbed out of town to cross the continental divide and then hit a section at least 10 miles long of roadworks with no shoulder. With July 4th traffic this was a nightmare. When we did get the shoulder back before Lamont, the surface was so bad that we had to bump along slowly. Added to this was a gusting headwind! It took almost 2 hours to cover 15 miles. Extremely frustrating but hot lunch and brownies at the cafe in Lamont brought me back from a total meltdown. Wind died down on the way to Muddy Gap but torrential downpour stopped us in our tracks - I had to get the tent fly sheet out for emergency cover from rain and hail. The mountain storm passed and we finished in Jeffrey City for dinner and I pitched the tent on the grass behind the bar.

Day 52 Jeffrey City to Lander for July 4th
We rode with Tom who had come off the Great Divide trail and wanted to get to Lander by early afternoon to enjoy the days festivities. Good conditions so we made great time. There was a long 5 mile decent (6% grade) that was glorious, passing red sandstone cliffs with the Rockies in the distance. A couple of sections of roadworks but barely any traffic. Today's riding was much easier than yesterday's. We got to the city park in time for their annual Buffalo BBQ where we ate a lot (they were giving extras away from 2pm) and then we pitched our tents next to other riders and locals who wanted to camp in the park for the day. I showered in the hotel room of a guy called Ben who was following the Pony Express route, and then got talking to some locals camping nearby. Los, Dino and Daryl were Arapaho and Shoshoni Indians who took us to see a small bull ride out of town, then back to the main rodeo and fireworks near the city park. Great people and it was interesting to learn about their history and culture. They explained some of the Indian dances that I saw and what the meanings were as well as an insight into their spirituality. Mixed with the wild western bull riding this was a unique 4th of July!

Day 53 Lander to Dubois
Slept really well (despite fireworks going off through the night) and went to the local coffee shop till midday. Lander if definitely a cool town with its own set of hipsters and out door types. Was great to relax in a good coffee shop with wifi. Had to get on the road though and pushed on through the Windy River Reservation stopping every so often for food and water. More sage bush scrub land but also some very cool mountain formations. A great and imposing Crowheart Butte mountain, 'Split mountain' and another red sandstone valley provided awesome scenery through the day. Unfortunately a strong headwind for a third of it made it also tiring and really long. At 8pm I pitched my tent against the walls of the Lutheran Church in Dubois. It was too late for me to explore the town although it looked to have some cool old style Wild West shop facades in the town centre.

Day 54 Dubois to Grand Teton National Park
Just where I camped there was a laundromat that also had showers (50cents a minute) so a group of us spent a couple of hours there before heading out to tackle Togwotee pass at 9658 feet. More headwind in windy Wyoming so this slowed me down. Then about three quarters of the way up another heavy mountain rain and hail storm hit. The terrain has changed from scrubland to pine forest so we took shelter waiting for the rain to ease off. When it did we summited and headed down the other side around 2pm. Long cold down hill in light rain and freezing wind. Good thing I had all my wet weather gear on. The others didn't and decided to stay in a lodge to warm up. I continued on my own and my gamble paid off, the rain stopped and two really cool things happened. First I saw three bears close to the road mating (or fighting) and second I got my first view of the Teton mountain range through the mists on the horizon. These are amazing mountains and as I got closer I kept could not stop taking pictures. I paid for a pitch at the Signal Mountain campsite on the edge of lake Jackson. It had views of the mountains as the sun went down. A quick swim in the lake and some time taking in the wonderful landscape before heading to bed. In bear country now so almost everything goes into the bear boxes!

Day 55 Teton Spur to Jackson and back to Coulter Bay
The Teton spur is roughly a 50 mile round trip off route to Jackson and back. I had seen the day before that my rear tyre looked worn out. Checking it today revealed that it had no tread in a number of places. I had to get replacements in Jackson. I wanted to do it anyway as the majority of the route takes you on a bike path close to the base of the mountains. This morning had a cloudless sky and no wind. An amazing two hours riding whilst gawping at the mountains above. The bike path winds around scenic Jenny Lake and then blasts to Jackson. A very cool town and got to Hobacks bike shop at 11. Brian and Jacques who worked at the shop and had completed the Trans am a couple of years ago provided company whilst I switched out my tires and cleaned the drive train outside the shop. Also thanks to Terry and his wife who offered brunch but I was knee deep in chain grease and WD40 at the time. I did end up going to a cool cafe (St Genevieve) for brunch and meeting back up with Norah and Georgian Dave. After relaxing in the city park we headed back to the route. We narrowly missed another mid afternoon rainstorm by going to the shops in Moose, then pushed onto Coulter Bay - another campsite on the lake. At dusk the mosquitoes were vicious so I hid in my tent as soon as it was set up.

Day 56 Coulter Bay, into Yellowstone Park, camping at Grant Village.
I felt relaxed this morning. I think it's because of how beautiful the environment is. I stayed in my sleeping bag till 7.30 and then took two hours to pack and get showered. The ride out of the Tetons was lined with more pine trees, with the lake on our left. Traffic was not too heavy but we were forced to get in the back of a rangers pick up truck to bypass a section of road works. I was getting excited to enter Yellowstone and as we rode through I stopped often to take pictures of the rivers, valleys and lakes. A lot of the road was uphill so some steady climbing to get a sweat up. I had heard that traffic is very bad and dangerous - today seemed no worse than that in Missouri. Hopefully it will remain light. Around 4pm I decided to stop in the Giants Village campsite where bikers can pitch for $6.80 a night. A short day of just under 40 miles. I don't want to rush through Yellowstone though! The afternoon was spent relaxing, quickly seeing high altitude Yellowstone lake (which looked way too cold to dip in) and writing this post.