13th of August till 19th of August
Leaving the caldera of Yellowstone through the South entrance will be a challenge as the shoulders of the road are not yet improved, or are actually non-existent so we will have to bike on the road Therefore leaving around 6:00 in the morning is the only solution to avoid most of the traffic.
Remarkable that car drivers will stop for wildlife but will shout at you that you need to get off the road, while there is no possibility to stop and let people pass. Even on a Sunday people are stressed and want to move fast. Luckily there were only a few that acted so strange. Most were patient when they could not pass at a blind curve. As we have not done this part by car already, we only stop at some highlights to admire waterfalls and canyons. After Yellowstone there are two routes to choose from, we decide to bike through Grand Teton National Park and continue to Jackson Hole, for Paul from UK Airforce sent us nice alternate route after Jackson Hole, which we will checkout.
What a treat and what a different landscape. After passing over the caldera you enter a new world. It is a day of extremes with bright sunshine and rain. Hills but never too steep.
Beautiful mountains reflect in vast lakes. Entering a “bear-jam” caused by a sleeping elk bull, rangers controlling the traffic, people getting out of their cars to spot something which is even difficult to see with a tele-lens.
At Signal Mountain Lodge everything is full, lodge and campground. Car and campers who are looking for a campsite are sent to the next possibility 60 miles away. I am getting nervous as we are not allowed to do wild camping in the park. But for bikers and hikers they still have some hidden spots where we can pitch our tent: next to the recycling container.
As the front of the tent sits on blacktop we need to find a solution for ankering the guidelines of the tent. We find a tree trunk which does the job. As weather is not predictable and the view is crapy we decide to have dinner at the lodge. Thunderstorms forces the terrace to be evacuated thus after quite some weeks we eat of inside. For the first time, after 3 months of 2/3 camping, we face almost a full night rain and it still rains when we are getting ready to go. Inner tent and stuff is dry but the tent is of course wet due to rain and condensation, straight a lot heavier (happy I am not carrying the tent!). This is not Franks favourite weather, cold when you get up, wet and rainy. I do admiring him for always getting up as first and cooking breakfast. This time we decide to pack everything (wet) and have a great breakfast at the lodge. So not too bad after all to start a day which will bring us with paved biking paths past Jenny lake and some other hidden gems. More tourists but great views and possibility to stop for a coffee!
During the whole trip we saw vans from Backroads on a regular base, organizing cycling trips, but never met any cyclist. Today we even bike part of the trip in the string of cyclist, great way of beating the headwind and when they stop for lunch they offer us fruit!
They are biking on asphalt and are seeing the highlights, boring parts are covered in the van, great way for them to discover areas of Wyoming on the bike . Arriving in Jackson Hole is entering a touristic madhouse, everything is oriented towards tourism and it is the crossroad for all traffic going north and south.
As we are both fed up with the rain and don’t want to set up the tent when there is a motel possibility we stay at a very basic motel (which is still not cheap). Great to be able to have a warm, long shower. What amazes me is with how little water you can survive and be clean but how quickly this is changing when the civilized possibilities are available. Jackson Hole is a small city with 10.000 people which is expecting 250.000 people for the eclipsein a few days, as here will be a 100% eclipse. Prices of hotel rooms are going up from $300 to $1.000 and even more. Private jet parking places are sold out, for 2 hours they pay 500$, people are flying in from New York to see the eclipse. Police has issued a warning not to wear your eclipse sunglasses while driving…dhu
As Frank has sent home the clippers, he is visiting a barbershop for the first time in ages and likes the treat. He even gets a big pumpkin cake as bikers need a lot of calories! Exiting Jackson Hole we still have the special biking path, with even more warnings than you would see in NL, 5% increase or decrease for only 100 meters, funny as the path stops after 2 miles.
The bike path stops and we enter the “Scenic Driveway” with a good shoulder, only need to watch out when crossing bridges.
Beautiful, very diverse ride with several camping sides next to the road. But we decide to push on as it is still early in the day.
Landscape is changing with very corner we take, entering a very dry area. When we try to find a tent site we only find it behind a gasoline station. The weirdest place we have stayed till now.
Frank is really awesome with getting up at 6:00, putting on his down jacket, needed as it is 1 below Celsius and there is ice on the tent.
I stay in the tent until the sun is up and it is a bit warmer. A very long bike ride following HWY 191 with a changing landscape but we notice we have left the Rocky Mountains behind us.
We meet Diana and “Huck Farley” with their fabulous Harley which did coast to coast in the past in 66 days.
We start to see more and more shy pronghorns, seems there are as many of these fast creatures in Wyoming as there are inhabitants. Between 400-500.000.
At some road construction a car passes us and the driver calls: “Frank pull over”. It is Marty who just returned from an 8 hour drive to bring Benoit back to the north, pick up his stuff and put him on a flight back to France. Benoit decided in Pinedale that he wanted to go back home earlier as he would not be able to make it the 100%. Marty was so kind to drive him back, as the eclipse is nearing there was no possibility have rent a one-way car and he needed to be back within 24 hours. He will crash in Pinedale and pick-up the trail tomorrow morning, maybe we will meet him in the evening.
In Pinedale we decide to camp on the municipal campground as we have had quite some motels the last days. We visit a saddle maker, but he is all focused on Western Riding. We stock-up for the next 4 days on the road as there will be no supplies from here till Rawlings, as we will be crossing the Great Basin. The Great Basin is an area where none of the water falling as rain to the ground drains into any ocean, directly or indirectly. It is therefore considered an endorheic basin, and it adjoins the Continental divide in southern Wyoming. There is very limited rainfall in the summer. You can imagine that water supply is spares, we will have to cover between 70-110 km per day to bike from one creek to the next.
Riding from Pinedale to Lander Creek gives even more open view and sagebrush. Knowing that you are biking the same roads as the settlers travelled end 1800 is an weird feeling. Nothing much has changed since then.
It becomes very dry and empty. As there are no trees the wind has free play. Until now almost always from the side or in our back, so no complaints. As we are travelling more south and the longest day has already passed a month ago we notice that it is already dark at 20:30.
When you do wild camping, the dark is really dark, think ahead where you put everything and where your headlights are as otherwise you are stuck. We do find a spot next to a creek between some bushes which are shielding us from a fierce wind.
We have seen 3 cars today and after we left Pinedale, no more houses. Next 3 days are long distances as we need to travel from water source to water source. We each carry 5 litre of water but that is just enough for a whole day (breakfast, drinking water and dinner). Being in the wide open with a clear sky at 2.400m gave us a very chilly night.
Again ice on the tent and the water in the bottles had ice in it. The area seems flat but it is a rollercoaster of up and down. Great flat gravel road with almost no gravel and wind in the back. What can we ask more, a great ride which creates a mind-blowing experience, I am biking a bit behind Frank so I don’t need to hear his squeaking bike. We hope this can be fixed soon.
South Pass City is converted to an open air museum dedicated to the gold rush. As we have seen a similar thing in Bannack we decide to only have a brief look and skip walking through the town, still some hills to climb. Next small town is Atlantic City.
Luckily we have our own supplies for the coming 4 days/3 nights as the Miners Delight Inn is for sale. The 300 m climb out of town is terrible but after a few miles we do find again a beautiful wild camp spot at the Sweetwater river.
Even if you bike with the two of you, you are doing it yourself. Even if you can help each other push the bike uphill or riding in front when there is a lot of wind, you still have your own battle. You need to take it day by day, hour by hour, hill by hill. Riding to A&M reservoir brings us through more sage field, still everyday is a bit different, we haven’t seen trees for 2 days now. Joseph stops (first car that day and it is 11:00), he offers us a cold coke and when I give him a hug and say I love him, he says he and his wife never say that but he is married for 45 years, have 9 kids and +30 grandchildren.
He works in Utah in a cement factory but during the summer he rents here a 50×50 miles area to herd 5000 sheep. After a long, long, long ride we suddenly see a hiker carrying nothing, in the middle of nowhere. Henry looks like + 70 and is hiking the great divide, his car is behind the next hill as he parks his car each time a bit further and walks back and forth. What an amazing achievement. At 2/3 of the distance we have to cover today (110km…) we are afraid we won’t make it before dark, but with pushing harder and more downhill we arrive at the A&W reservoir at 19:00 (left at 8:00).
On the way we saw a lot of wild horse signs, stallions will mark their territory with their excrement on one heap, where you need to watch out for as it can be very hard.
We meet Paul Moore who is also biking the GDMBR but for charity. We are happy that we have chosen for Rohloff hubs with internal gears, as he is the 3rd person who has had a broken derailler.
First time we have dinner when it is already dark. Supplies are starting to run short.
Looking at the stars we both think something is wrong with our eyes as it is misty between them when we realize we see for the first time in our life the Milky Way!
Will we get in time back to civilised world to stock up on our supplies?
Wild life spotting