Range Roaming – Wyoming 2013 – Day 54

Gobsmacked by beauty: Cody to Painter Outpost

Friday June 7, 2013, 58 miles (94 km) – Total so far: 1,952 miles (3,142 km)

The “Roadside Geology of Yellowstone Country” states:

“Wyoming 296 is called the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, and it is widely considered to pass through one of the most scenic areas in Wyoming…. The view from the top of Dead Indian Hill is widely considered by geoscientists to be one of the great geologic panaramas in the West. In the vernacular of ornithologists, the geology of the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway is an important entry into any geological ‘life list’.”

Upon reading that two years ago, my route into Yellowstone was confirmed. I absolutely had to ride this road. Who knew if I’d be physically capable of it – I had to do it. Of all the miles plotted on this tour, these 46 are the ones I’ve most anticipated for the past two years. I’ve spent many evenings envisioning the landscape, the climbs, the views, the geology and the cultural history. Read more

Range Roaming – Wyoming 2013 – Day 55

Just a bit more amazing beauty: Painter Outpost to Cooke City, MT

Saturday June 8, 2013, 20 miles (32 km) – Total so far: 1,972 miles (3,174 km)

The clouds that were around last night when I went to bed have shoved off. But the wind has not. My campsite along the Clarks Fork, with Heart Mountain Detachment blocks on full display across the valley, looks very inviting to me this morning. How lucky I am to be here! Read more

Range Roaming – Wyoming 2013 – Day 56

Where the people and the buffalo roam: Cooke City, MT to Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone NP

Sunday June 9, 2013, 52 miles (84 km) – Total so far: 2,024 miles (3,258 km)

There is more activity at 6am in Cooke City than you might expect. But, if I learn nothing else in Yellowstone, I learn that the wildlife watchers are keen and many of them are on the road before dawn each day. They are in such a hurry though that there is no line at the bakery. I get an egg and cheese croissant to go and a pecan sticky bun for later. Excellent food and excellent prices here! Read more

Range Roaming – Wyoming 2013 – Day 57

Slowin’ it down: Mammoth to Mammoth

Monday June 10, 2013

The sun is just peeking over the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff of Mt Everts, across the valley from the campground, as I climb out of the tent this morning. It is cool now but should make it into the middle to upper 80s today. Let’s go have a look at the hot springs before the hordes of tourists finish breakfast and get out on the road. Read more

Range Roaming – Wyoming 2013 – Day 58

Safety first: off the road by 10.30am: Mammoth to Madison Junction Campground

Tuesday June 11, 2013, 37 miles (59 km) – Total so far: 2,061 miles (3,317 km)

As I pack up the tent in the pre-dawn chill, I keep stealing glances up at the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff that tops Mt Everts, the flat-topped mountain across the valley from the campground. That same rock is also exposed about 5 miles away at a similar elevation. I keep looking up, thinking, I’ve got to go that high in five miles. Sheesh.

I’m not the only one moving at 4.45 am. Two cars creep through the campground, headlights illuminating the trees. I tell you, the wildlife watchers are keen. Read more

Range Roaming – Wyoming 2013 – Day 60

Going to see my Mom!!!: Madison Jct campground to Grant Village, Yellowstone

Thursday June 13, 2013, 37 miles (59 km) – Total so far: 2,098 miles (3,376 km)

So I’ve ridden more than 2100 miles, haven’t done laundry in 10 days, haven’t showered in 3 days, and just spent the morning sweating my way up 1500+ feet of climbing to the Continental Divide (twice) while riding through rain and thunderstorms….

But my mom shows up right at noon and still gives her stinky daughter a huge hug and lets me get in the car with all of my wet, smelly gear! What a mom! Read more

Range Roaming – Wyoming 2013 – Days 61-68

Holiday with Mom in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks: Off the bike June 14-21

Friday June 14, 2013

I travel with my Mom for a week – taking in Yellowstone and the Tetons with her by car, spending the nights in motels and cabins. We do a heap of hiking. I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like since I live overseas, so I highly value our time together. As my parents get older, I also really value our time out hiking, since I know our time together in the future won’t always be this active. Read more

Range Roaming – Wyoming 2013 – Day 69

Back on the bike: Jackson to Afton

Saturday June 22, 2013, 75 miles (120 km) – Total so far: 2,173 miles (3,496 km)

I call them ‘the standard six’. The same six questions you get asked over and over by each new person you meet. Some days you might answer these same six questions at least six times:

1) Where you from?
2) Where you going?
3) How far do you ride in a day?
4) Where do you sleep at night?
5) Are you travelling ALONE?
6) Aren’t you scared/are you carrying a gun/doesn’t your family worry?

So any day I do not have to answer any of those questions, not even once, is a good day. Today, the day also begins with 35 miles of downhill, so I call it an excellent day! Read more

Range Roaming – Wyoming 2013 – Day 70

Salt River Pass – the easy way: Afton to Cokeville

Sunday June 23, 2013, 53 miles (85 km) – Total so far: 2,225 miles (3,581 km)

I am on the road early enough to see the transition between dark and dawn today. Dark blues and purples rest above the ridge to the west, slowly growing lighter, purples going dark pink. The huge and bright Super moon is on its way to the horizon, slipping southwest as the sky continues to brighten. In the foreground, commercial-size irrigation sprinklers spritz and sputz their way back and forth over crops of lucerne.

I’ve often thought that the slow turn of night into day is like a change in pH. In my head, litmus paper subjected to the solution of atmosphere in the hours before dawn emerges as a base, reflecting the calm of those deep, dark, purple and blue skies. As darkness yields to dawn, the sky turns pink, then yellow, then bright and clear, reflecting an atmosphere that becomes more bubbly, more active and more acidic, as the humans awaken and begin their day.

Oh, humans, we are such a diurnal species, so dependent on light and sight. I enjoy these early mornings when it’s just me, the crew and the bike. I feel whole in the quiet. I feel alive in the chill of a day not yet warmed by the sun. This has been a good morning for it, too. I only see one car in the first hour I’m pedaling south.

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Heading out of Afton at first light means I get to see the Super Moon setting.
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My favourite time of day: 5.30-7.00am, when the wind and the world have not yet awoken, and it’s just me, my shadow and the sound of the tires on the road. It’s always tough to get out of bed at 4.45am (tent start) or 5.00am (motel start), but it is always worth it to enjoy the quiet of the road.

The light headwind that has been annoying me all the way down the valley disappears as I curve up into the hills of Salt River Pass. The cyclists yesterday assured me that the climb from this side is only about 3 miles long and only has two short sections of seven percent grade. The average grade for the whole distance is supposed to be about 5 percent.

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The northern approach to Salt River Pass is quite easy. It’s only 3 or so miles of climbing – a max grade of about 7 percent. There is a whole lot more climbing coming from the other direction.

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Without a full load on the bike, I feel rather zippy. Hehehe… well, I never feel fast, but this is zippy for me. Much of the initial climbing is through grassy, rounded hills, the pine trees relegated to gullies and and depressions on the gentle slopes. As we climb higher, the pine trees fill in, taking over whole slopes. The mountains here are mere hills, rounded and low, against a backdrop of taller mountains to the east.

At the top of the pass, I pause long enough for a picture and to put on my warmie jacket. There was frost on the ground when I left this morning, and it’s not warmed up much since.

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There is a better summit sign on the other side of the road. But there is a man sleeping in a car parked right in front. The hood/bonnet of his car would be great to set the camera on, but I don’t want to disturb him, so I shoot into the sun on this side of the road instead.

The downhill is long and fast for most of the way. I keep my speed above 30 mph for 2.5 miles without even pedaling. The downhill is also freezing cold. It’s cold enough it’s almost painful. My fingers don’t work much and the top of my head feels like it’s gone pointed, it is so cold. Brrrr…..

But it’s also incredibly fun, especially with just about zero traffic on the road. The road winds down through bright red outcrops of siltstones and shales. These were deposited during the Jurassic. In places, white dustings of salt intermingle in the reds. Yellow wildflowers dot the hills where grasses dominate. Pines and spruce run up drainages and spread across ridges in other places. Steep descent signs show up intermittently, just as a grade becomes shallower, ensuring us that the fun is not quite over.

By the time the road passes a campground and runs along a straight section south, paralleling a frost-bitten creek, I’m so cold I think my teeth are actually chattering. Most everything is definitely numb. I cannot feel my fingers or toes or thighs or… well, can I feel anything? Not much.

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I get more than 10 miles of downhill. It is heaps of fun, and there are only a very few cars on the road this morning.
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About here, the top of my head is so cold I think I’m going to have to stop and put a hat on. My fingers are so stiff and cold, even in gloves, that I can’t shift or brake much. Luckily, I didn’t need to do much of either. I am a frozen human popsicle by the time I get to the bottom.

The fun downhill lasts for more than 10 miles. At the bottom, I pass some buildings housing some sort of business, and then find myself at the Idaho sign. I stand here in the sun for about 10 minutes to warm up. Brrrr…..

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Yep, I have completed my first crossing of Wyoming. I ride in Idaho for about 3 miles before I ride right down the state line for a bit before joining Hwy 30 at Border Junction.

We ride in Idaho for three miles, before turning south again. The road actually follows the state border for a bit before heading back into Wyoming – just barely. This section of road parallels the east limb of the Sublette anticline. Limestones and sandstones up high on the hills have been eroded into interesting spires and other forms. To our west lies a wide valley of green irrigated grasses and olive-coloured sagebrush, backed by more low hills.

I call this section of road “Prairie dog alley”. I have never seen a series of prairie dog colonies stretch for this distance before. For nearly the entire 13 miles of this road, the little rodents are standing at alert on the side of the road. The rustling of grasses along the roadside as I ride by is nearly constant. I have never seen such a large concentration of these critters. It is a horizontal metropolis of prairie dogs.

The prairie dog population thins out at our junction with Hwy 30, but there are still quite a few scurrying across the road or peeking their heads up out of holes in the distance. The crew and I watch many near misses between car tires and prairie dog bodies, and see much evidence of those who haven’t made it. For about 5 miles, I keep saying things like, “Oh! Ah! Eeeeh!”, as I watch the little critters dashing between vehicles and across the road. The biggest trauma comes when I see one prairie dog perched on the edge of the pavement peering back at his companion who has not made it. It is a very fresh squishing, and the sad eyes on the surviving prairie dog’s face, as he looked back at the other one, makes me feel a bit devastated for the poor fellow. I say, “Go on, mate, it’s over. She’s gone.”

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Hwy 30 has new, smooth concrete from the Wyoming border to Cokeville. This section also has a billion prairie dogs; more than a few are squished on the road and we see several close calls.

My mom meets me in Cokeville, driving up just as I’m reading the interpretive sign north of town. We end up heading into Idaho to visit some Oregon Trail sites. I had been hoping to meet my friend Dan in Cokeville, but work and relationship issues have him totally tied up in Park City. What a shame – I haven’t seen him since 2000. We hung out and rode bikes together nightly back in college, but it’s just not to be this time. He says he’ll ring if he is going to be able to come. Sadly, the phone never rings and I find out later that he worked 12-14 hour days all weekend before flying up to Canada to see his girlfriend on the Monday. Out here on the road, all the chaos and responsibility of a ‘normal’ life are far, far away.