Bike Tour 2012: The scenic route indeed
If you've never been to either Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Parks, you have to make it a priority. Our last five days have been full of mind-blowing beauty that has been both inspiring and exciting. While much of Wyoming is vast empty space, the northwest corner holds riches that range from explosive geysers to craggy mountain ranges, to red rock canyons and winding rivers. Along with all of nature's beauty came pouring rain, colder temps, and strong winds...but now that we're in Rawlins, it's easy to see how any hardship we faced was more than worth it.
We left West Yellowstone with rested bums and full bellies and enjoyed the mellow ride through the western edge of the park, stopping at some unbelievable geysers and geological hot spots along the way. We met a few other bikers and commiserated about the great appeal of the park, the inability to get very far before stopping to take pictures, and the pending rainstorm. We made it to Old Faithful by the afternoon after only logging about 30 miles. It was fun to see the famous geyser, but we both felt more impressed by some of the parks' other sights...perhaps our expectations were set a bit too high for the ole' geyser. The plan was to bike another 40 or so miles to get out of the park, but 10 miles later, while climbing up to the Continental Divide, we were caught in a very cold, very fierce rainstorm. Our only option was to stop in Grant Village, where unfortunately the campground was closed and the lodge was booked full. After warming our bodies in the visitor's center, we headed for the restaurant/bar to plan our next move. The rain hadn't let up at all and it was only getting colder outside. Fortunately a couple of wonderful ladies (themselves on a self-supported bike tour) recognized our plight and offered a generous solution. They had a room at the inn, and would have let us stay with them, but it turned out there was a "Guest Lounge" and the place was short-staffed so they snuck us in and assured us that they would say we were with them if we were questioned. Just one more example of how wonderful humans can be. It turned out to be the warm, dry, (and free!) night that we desperately needed.
The next morning we started biking by 7am to beat the rain and made it out of the park and into the Grand Teton National Park by 10am. As the clouds cleared, we experienced our first smokeless, blue-sky day since Oregon. Many of the leaves in the area have already changed color so we were greeted with lots of yellow mountainsides along with astonishing views of the Tetons, a mountain range which neither Don nor I had ever seen. We left the park within a couple hours, but even miles away we could turn around and see views of those epic mountains. We began our climb up Togwotee Mountain (pronounced TOE-guh-dee) with a plan to pitch a tent at some point along our climb. Just 10 miles from the summit we felt our first raindrops (the storm hadn't completely passed) and within the next mile, the rain worsened at the same time that we came upon the inviting Togwotee Mountain Lodge. We still planned on camping, but had decided to use their campground so we could stay warm in the lodge, when the manager offered us a deal on a room that we couldn't pass up. Apparently she was partial to bicyclists and didn't want us outside when they were calling for snow. (People have told us every night for almost a week that there would be snow...and we have yet to see a single flake. We're hoping that remains the story in Colorado.) Anyway, we stayed in the lodge, got to hang out in a hot tub, and reflected on our favorite day of the ride thus far.
Day 26 took us over Togwotee Mountain, along the scenic Wind River, and all the way to a rest area southeast of Dubois. We had to make up some mileage after two shorter days so on this day we biked 81 miles. Again, more fabulous views of craggy mountains, and then some surprising red rock walls that reminded us of the Grand Canyon. We were surprised that we hadn't heard about these sights before, and that there wasn't the flock of tourists that there was further northeast. For miles, every turn we took brought a more colorful landscape than before. It was a peaceful day and it ended with an ideal stealth camping spot hidden behind a well-kept Wyoming rest area. Yesterday, day 27, was only slightly less scenic as we entered the more open land of Wyoming. We biked 75 miles to another rest area, this time southeast of Lander, called Sweetwater Station. Each night we have enjoyed watching the sun set, but last night's sky was exceptional. We ate our Backpacker's Pantry dinner while watching the colorful display, and then sat near our hidden tent and watched shooting stars while drinking tea. We felt pretty darn spoiled.
Picturesque red rocks and our rest area dinner stop
This morning we made the decision to go for high mileage and make it into Rawlins so we could be back near civilization, and that much closer to our next rest day in Summit County, Colorado. It turned out to be a pretty rough 89 miler. The stretch between Lander and Rawlins is barren, extremely windy, and has terrible shoulders. There is beauty in the wide open space, but it is harder to appreciate when you're dropped into a granny gear on a downhill and still only going 8 mph. At about mile 70 we stopped for a quick attitude check (we were going to need to be positive if we were going to make it almost 20 more miles) and that's when we realized that we in fact had 3 long days left until our next rest day, not 2 short days as I had originally figured. So now we are at a nice little campground in town, eager to get a full night of rest before we head into Colorado and the daunting Rocky Mountains. Oh, did I mention that I just downed an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's Phish Food and Don had a couple beers and a 6 pack of donuts? Crossing items off the bucket list left and right! (P.S. We do NOT advise consuming thousands of empty calories UNLESS you are biking between 70 and 90 miles a day...then go for it!)
Speaking of food...here is a list of what we have with us at any given point!
Breakfast: Instant oatmeal packets, bagels, peanut butter, jelly, coffee, flavored creamer (for me!), bananas when we can
Lunch: Tortillas, summer sausage, cheese, spicy mustard, tuna packets, mayo sometimes (when we can sneak it from fast food restaurants)
Snacks: Carrots, raisins, trail mix/almonds/chex mix, nature valley bars, graham crackers, frosting, gatorade mix, the multiple protein bars/energy snacks that we brought with us (Clif, Luna, and Honey Stingers)
Dinner: Backpacker's Pantry dinners, tea, hot chocolate
Occasionally we buy more ingredients for something fancy, like sausage, potatoes, broccoli, etc...for that reason we are also carrying some vegetable oil for cooking