Snagging the primo campsite: Cheyenne to Curt Gowdy State Park
Monday July 15, 2013, 27 miles (44 km) – Total so far: 2,985 miles (4,805 km)
It’s tricky, and even requires the use of my feet to open doors, but I manage to get two bowls of runny oatmeal, two tubs of yogurt, an apple and a banana from the breakfast room on the first floor up to my hotel room on the second floor, all in one trip. Some of it goes in my panniers for later, some of it goes in my stomach right now.
It’s easy to find my way onto the Happy Jack Road from the hotel. There is smooth pavement and a nice wide shoulder, as we pass by buildings and side roads for the large air force base. This base looks after all of the active missile silos in eastern Wyoming and Colorado and western Nebraska. I don’t know what else it does, but there are helicopters flying low and doing some sort of training as I ride by.
Beyond the air force base lies a wind farm. It stays in view behind me for a long, long time. The clouds continue to lift, and eventually we leave behind the fairly flat and featureless landscape for the Laramie Range. We run into roadworks on the first steep hill, but the guy in a pick-up truck at the base just tells me to ride through and use whatever part of the road feels safe. Well… okay. There are traffic lights on each end to regulate the traffic. We don’t have any issues getting through, though the gravel trucks aren’t giving us any extra room.
The road construction continues all the way to the turn-off for the state park. To my dismay, there is a long and steep downhill to the lake and campground. We may have just lost all of the elevation we’d gained today. I do have a nice conversation with the gatehouse volunteers. They direct me to where there might be a shady campsite, but also warn me that there aren’t many sites with trees.
By some stroke of luck, I happen upon a huge campsite big enough for two RVs that has heaps of shade and a great view of the lake. I pull straight in and prop the bike against the picnic table. I go off to make sure there isn’t another smaller site with shade, but there isn’t, so I set up my little tent on the huge space. This causes much frustration, I’m sure, for all of the large RVs and other vehicles who nearly pull into the site later that evening in fond hopes of getting the great site, only to find it populated by a single person – on a bicycle, no less.
After getting the tent set up, Verne, Kermit and I head out on the trails. They have been developed for mountain biking but also permit hikers. There are 35 miles of trail to explore, ranging in difficulty from Beginner to Expert. I’m very, very impressed. A lot of work has gone into these trails. They are in excellent condition. There has been careful consideration given to how they traverse the landscape. It really is an amazing place.
I keep longing for my old BMX bike – how much fun it would be on these trails! Mountain bikes are great for ascending and for getting up speed on flat-ish sections, but the tight turning radius and lower centre of gravity on a BMX bike make carving through technical and downhill sections so much more fun than on a mountain bike. However, if I’d come across someone with a spare mountain bike in my time here, I would not have hesitated to give it a blast.
The guys and I get back to our campsite as the shadows grow long over the lake, turning it a dark blue. Birds settle down along the edges of the water and the sky goes pink. And at least 3 RVs down below me start up their engines or generators. Blecch! They totally ruin the peace of the place – but I just put on some music, pop in the ear buds and contemplate how lucky, lucky, lucky I am to be here in this place and to be out on this bike trip. Every day I think, “I am so happy to be alive. I am so happy to be doing this ride. I wish it would last forever.” Today was no exception.