Wednesday July 16, 2014
The sun wakes me early. The gurgle and tumble of the creek is a soothing white noise… that puts me straight back to sleep. I manage to sleep in until 9 am. A sign at the fee box says that there is a bear active in the campground, but no sniffing around the tent or animals tripping over guylines woke me through the night.
It’s a lazy morning. I read. I explore the creek with the guys. Around 11 am, I walk the 1/2 mile up to Elkhorn Hot Springs. The road into the resort passes rustic cabins set in a haphazard row. The buildings are set among sagebrush and long grasses – it must look much as it has always looked. The main building is surrounded by large trees and conveys an ambiance of old, funky but comfortable. It has a porch all along the front.
I step into the darkness. Off to the left is a worn bar with papers piled on the end. In front of me is a large stone fireplace with blackened stones that hold the history of many fires and all of the stories told in front of it. A saggy lounge and wooden table take up another corner. Dining tables are scattered about. A woman is running a vacuum over flat and worn carpet. She stops as I walk in and ask if they are serving meals. She says, yes, and seats me near the bar. There is no one else in there.
I’m starving and am hoping for a big meal. I underestimated how much food to bring along the scenic byway since I’ve stayed an extra day, so a big hit of calories would be appreciated.
I ask if I can get last night’s special, but the woman doesn’t think they have any left. I ask if I can order another dinner or I’m limited to sandwiches and salads. She goes back to ask the cook and returns with great news. The cook can do something similar to last night’s special. I thank her and tell her I’m cycle touring and can use all the calories I can stuff in.
The cook has heard this comment, though I don’t know this yet. While I wait on the food, I read a booklet about Bannack State Park that was in the pile of papers on the bar. Some minutes later, the garlic and butter smell from the kitchen is delightfully overwhelming.
The cook brings out my meal. It is a thick hamburger steak wrapped in bacon and covered with mushroom gravy. There is a huge pile of sauteed zucchini and summer squash covered in fresh garlic pieces. The mound of fries next to it would certainly kill a couch potato. It is soooo delicious – not just because I’m hungry.
The cook… really, I think we must call him a chef… sits down at the bar and starts talking to me. He wants to know where I’m touring and if I’m doing the Great Divide Route. He says they get lots of cyclists through, including the Dutch and Spanish guys I saw yesterday. So providing calorie-laden meals is nothing out of the ordinary for them. He tells me stories about the Great Divide racers that come through and their crazy food requests. One guy, who was in second place at the time, came in and asked for 8 eggs scrambled. While he was eating that, he asked the chef to make him up six butter and sugar sandwiches to take with him. I love that none of the crazy cyclists phase him, and that he just loves living up here and taking things as they come.
He isn’t able to convince me to go in the hot springs – I usually give them a miss because I never get my money’s worth. My asthma means I can only stay in a very short time before I’m just sitting there dangling in my calves only.
In the afternoon, I head down the other way from the campground to a trailhead. I hike out for about an hour, but the trail is somewhat eroded from horse usage and just travels through thick forest with few views. The wildfire smoke has rolled back in, too, so I decide an afternoon nap without exertion sounds like more fun than further hiking. I can’t believe how many hours of sleep I’ve engaged in over the past two days.
The campground fills up a bit more tonight, so it’s not quite as peaceful. The hilarious thing is watching all the people with big trailers head for the upper loop. It is not recommended for trailers/RVs over a certain length, so of course, that is where they all go.
I have not stopped taking my preventer inhaler, so hopefully the smoke won’t bother me too much. Sometimes it settles overnight and mornings can be tough. If any bears come through the campground tonight, I know they’ll stop by my tent. I’m sure I will be oozing garlic from my pores all night. I do believe that meal marinated me pretty well!