Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wyoming Days 13-14

Day 13 dawned clear and cold. It was the 27th of June but because we camped at around 8000ft there was a crust of frost on the inside and outside of our tent. Shivering in our lightweight clothes we quickly broke camp and stuffed what food we had into our mouths as we rode up the first climb of the day. We pedaled to 9200ft where we crossed the Continental Divide once again. We followed a rough jeep road for what seemed like forever. Even though we had climbed for miles the day before as well as that morning, we still didn’t head downhill. Instead we would hit a short downhill only to climb a short steep climb up to almost the same elevation as before. By this time we were feeling the effects of not getting enough food the day before and the meager breakfast we had had that morning.  I eventually admitted to Joseph that I didn’t feel good and was surprised to find that if anything he felt worse than me. With not much water left and only a few melted candy bars we pressed onward toward a café which would hopefully be a source of thousands of “unhealthy” calories. One thing we had learned by this point in our trip was that it seemed like the more “unhealthy” the food was, the more calories it had, and hence, the better it was suited for our needs. We turned south into a decent headwind as the grade flattened out and after crossing a small bridge we ran into a couple in an SUV. The man was taking pictures of the bridge (I think he was some sort of amateur artist) while the woman was in the vehicle. As the man packed up his paraphernalia we stopped and chatted for a while. It turns that they were ranchers. Joseph asked them how many acres they ran cattle on and they replied that their spread wasn’t that large. They owned 5,000 acres and rented BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land that amounted to 15,000 acres. Suitably impressed we bid our adieus and pedaled on. Luckily while we were talking to them they told us that the café we were counting on for sustenance just happened to be closed today. However there was another restaurant that was not shown on our maps or marked from the road that was just off our route.  Boy were we glad we had stopped to chat with random strangers!! We were able to find the alternate restaurant, got some much needed food, and then headed down the valley into air that was becoming increasingly opaque. As it turns out we were heading straight toward a two day old forest fire to the west of our destination, Pinedale. It started out as a slight haze but soon we could actually see clouds of smoke on the horizon. As we got closer the clouds towered higher and higher till you had to crane your neck almost straight up to see their tops. The sky continued to get darker and we started to pass vehicles covered in ash. I was really starting to be concerned that we would ride straight into the fire till our route luckily made a sharp left turn and took us away from the fire. We reached Pinedale, got some groceries to replenish our depleted energy stores, bought a motel room and then shortly after collapsed into our soft beds.

                The next morning we decided take advantage of being in a decent size town to get some stuff done. We needed to do some much-needed laundry, send some extra weight home, buy something to replace my clogged water filter, as well as get some haircuts. It felt weird not to be riding when the sun was 20 degrees above the horizon but it was nice to relax.  We spread our stuff out on the motel beds and soon decided that we were carrying too much gear. I sent home an extra tube, some warmer socks, a fleece beanie, waterproof shoe covers, tire sealant, my broken filter, as well as a long sleeve wool base layer. All told we sent home around ten pounds. By this time we both had one set of clothes for riding and one set for sleeping. We did laundry, got our hair trimmed, bought a water purifier, ate some Mexican food, then headed out of town around 1:00. After 25 miles of pavement that went by very quickly we hit gravel roads once again. We started climbing up into the Wyoming high desert. There weren’t any cactus or anything you normally associate with desert; just lots of sagebrush and distant pronghorn antelope. Even though the landscape was what most people would call desolate I was really blown away by the scenery. To the northeast the Wind River Range and the Bridger Wilderness regaled us with views of 10,000+ ft snow-capped peaks. Behind us the remnants of the smoke from the fire still made the horizon hazy but nothing could distract us from the sky above us. One thing that really stood out to me about Wyoming was the sky. Almost always a deep blue with the perfect ratio of fluffy clouds, every curve in the road, of which there were few, revealed yet another postcard quality landscape. Luckily by this time we were being helped along by a strong tailwind. Only about a mile from where we planned to camp for the night, Little Sandy Creek, we met a fellow bike tourist. He was from Holland and had started in New Mexico. On a trip like this were you could literally die if your equipment lets you down in the middle of nowhere, you soon are able to quickly analyze other cyclist's setups. He had a nice bike but I will have to say I was not envious of the amount he was carrying! We had done a lot of research before we left and it was starting to be apparent that it had paid off. He was carrying close to 60lbs of gear versus our 20-25lbs. Whereas we could cover 50 miles in an afternoon, that was about what he did on a good day; but I digress. We pulled into camp, cooked our dehydrated meal of beef stroganoff, and then topped it off with a generous helping of Cheetos. We erected our tent and were able to fall asleep to the sound of a burbling stream and the lowing of curious cattle that had wandered into camp. Little did  we know what the next day would hold for us.

Wyoming Skies

The stuff we sent home

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