Day 22 (8/5): Henry’s Lake to Squirrel Creek Elk Ranch.
I made it out of Montana. Was pretty sure I was going to die there but now officially in Idaho.
Well turns out today was Sunday and all the breakfast places we had counted on were closed. Montana and their whole life work balance is really inconvenient. We get to a grocery store and load up on breakfast and get food for a few days. This crew I found myself with tends to buy the food to share family style. I am not used to that with touring so I am kinda shy about it but they keep forcing me to eat berries (jerks).
Today we will be going down a trail along the old Union Pacific rail line. It’s known for having incredibly soft volcanic soil. To prep ourselves we decide our team needs an official name. Ed (I think) comes up with Team Swimming in Mediocrity, TSM for short. GO TSM! I braced myself for having to push my bike 7 miles but other then losing control once it was totally rideable. The fact that you constantly had to pay attention to keep your bike along the center of the track and keep holding the steering straight was exhausting. Legs fine at the end, arms and brain tired. Oh also amusing is you could see a much better road probably 300 ft to the left going parallel but no we get sent down the hard one. Multiple times people stop and ask us where we are from. My line gets to be “I am the domestic of the group, the Miller Lite of the crew.”.
Once we get through the hard part it turns into a really pretty trail that by all the families whizzing by is used recreationally pretty heavily.
We get through that and end up going through a chunk of farmland. I find this part really boring as I have seen enough of that in my lifetime. We end up at Squirrel Creek Lodge where they have a camping section. An older Dutch couple doing the divide that was also at Lima was there too. This place ends up great as they have an open kitchen and a big firepit that we get to relax around.
Day 23 (8/6): Squirrel Creek Lodge to Colter Bay Village
I haven’t lost my glasses this whole trip so far. I don’t even know who I am anymore.
This day started out with one of the best breakfasts of the whole trip. Super down home eggs, hash browns, and pancakes. The hash browns were made from grated potatoes, not a bag of frozen hash browns grated sometime in the Bush administration. God they were good.
Yet again starting out the day with a big climb on a gravel road. Maybe I should have done the Trans America. We go along that and in my opinion it is not the most picturesque bit but once we get on the other side of it MAN did that day blow my breath away. We started going through an area that had really fun twists and turns that you could really build up speed on. Big green fields with mountains on the sides. After we got through that section we went through an area that had a big forest fire in the late 90s. Everything was black except really bright flowers on the ground.
We started to see signs saying stuff like Grand Teton National Park 30 miles away and every sign I would freak out a little in my head that we were so close and that we had gotten there from Canada BY BIKE!!!! Ok I wasn’t always able to keep the freak out in my head.
We stared to enter the park area and despite a bunch of cars and being on pavement it was a beautiful ride. View of a big lake with the Tetons on the other side. The only thing that was a bummer is we still didn’t get an honest view of the mountains. They were just silhouettes in the smoke.
We got to Colter Bay Village early enough to have a relaxing evening. It was Jeanne’s last evening before splitting for home so it was nice having time to just hang out around the lake and at camp. Oh and I paid $5 for a shower.
Day 24 (8/7): Colter Bay to Lava Mountain Lodge
Well this day everything went wrong. Ok maybe not everything but a lot. The saddest thing was in the morning. We went just a few miles then had to say goodbye to Jeanne. While the boys had ridden with her longer by quite a bit and her and David are long time friends I was still really thankful I got to ride with her for the short time I did. She had a great amusing dry wit and was really kind. It was also really nice to be in a group that was 50/50 men and women. As you might guess a lot of dudes out here. It started raining about 20 minutes after she left for the first time all trip. It seemed fitting.
David, Ed, and I stopped and got lunch at a lodge to get warm for a bit and hope the rain passed. It did not. David and I stalled and laughed at our obviousness but Ed was not having it. We started up the wet hill and Ed was right, once we got going it wasn’t too bad.
We got to a road the ACA map said “Impassable when wet”. David said something like “So this road will be interesting.” He was not wrong and neither was the ACA map. David was ahead as always then at one point Ed and I catch up to him and he is walking his bike back to us telling us not to go any farther. His wheels/gears/brakes/fenders/everything are completely locked up with this clay like mud. The road looked fine. David even specifically said it looks fine but it’s not. Ed and I decide that maybe with our bigger tires we can get through. Ed starts first. He makes it 50ft before his bike is also locked up by this clay/mud. Locked up so bad that both him and David have to carry his bike back. At this point I decide best not to try. I help scrap off mud off the bikes and get some off of mine but I had it the easiest by far. It took a long time to slop this stuff off all the while it is still raining.
We finally divert onto the highway and it stops raining and the sun actually comes out. We truck at a somewhat decent pace comparatively to the earlier day until David gets a flat. Of course a flat happens today. It was a pleasant place to get a flat through as we were in front of a lodge with wifi so I relaxed and ate ice cream. There was also a hose for them to spray down their bikes. I left mine as is for more ice cream eating time and too look more punk rock at the end.
We get back on the road and crossed another divide. We get off the pavement and start to go through a really pretty and fun section with a baby lake and rager of a decent. I can’t remember if it was a long mileage day or just felt long with all the things that went wrong but I was getting pretty tired and cold at the end. We get to the national forest campsite at Brooks Lake and there are signs ALL over saying no tents. We ask the camp hosts secretly hoping we might get a “oh you biked here with no where else to go? Ok you can be an exception”. Yeah that was not happening AT ALL. Turned out two years earlier someone had died there from a grizzly. Ok well yep, guess not staying there. We moved on as fast as possible as it was getting dark.
After another 10/15 miles or so we come across a big lodge. We walk in shivering. They had one “Grizzly Cabin” left, basic cabin with bunk beds AND a heater. Hell yeah we will take it. I stood in front of that heater for about 20 minutes shivering and swearing. We sit around the table in the cabin, have dinner and talk about how the cabin was such good ending to a day everything went wrong.
Day 25 (8/8): Lava Mountain Lodge to Pinedale
94 miles, two passes, and one giant thunderstorm.
After a comfy night at the cabin we started out in sunshine. Yay!!! We go up a hill that is nothing to sneeze at but not terrible. Super pretty and expansive. I do delay the group a big chunk of time by thinking they were going up the wrong way and waiting at the turn off till they realize they missed it, nope they were fine and I was wrong.
It’s starts to rain again. Crap. Ed has a crash but is luckily ok. We follow signs to a dinner to give ourselves a minute out of the rain and let some of the adrenaline leave Ed’s body. Well turns out the dinner is randomly closed on Wednesdays. Turns out not everything went wrong yesterday. Something’s were saved for today. We ate under the awning. The idea of pushing on to Polebridge to get a hotel was brought up, originally by David the day before and by me again now. Holy buckets I was all about that idea. “Guys! I can totally bang out the flats and the last 30 look to be flat!” The result of that conversation was pretty much well let’s see how we feel. It was a pretty section for sure but this rain was harder and colder then yesterday. The rain breaks a few times but it always comes back. We finally get to the campsite and it’s not raining but it will. Lightning and thunder is happening around us. We hold a vote on whether to roll on another 30 or so miles or set up camp. My legs were fried from two passes so my vote was to stay but I was out voted. Though it was for sure not against my will as camping in a thunderstorm would suck and I knew while I was fried I had it in me to make it. I put on pants, asked for a snickers, slammed that down, stated FIRST PLACE WE SEE with authority and the both agreed FIRST PLACE, and we rolled fast as possible.
10 or 15 minutes later the storm hit us. We were officially riding our bikes in an honest to goodness thunderstorm in the dark night. We all quickly got soaked. The winds were insane but luckily to our backs. Multiple times I felt the wind literally push me up the hill. My plan on drafting them HARD did not work at all. I was either hitting a hill or spinning out. Halfway through my hands were so cold I couldn’t feel my brake levers. It was pitch black, cars whizzing by us, rain coming down so hard you couldn’t see, and lightning around us. We turn onto the highway and with the wind hitting my side I had a really hard time staying on the road but at that point we are so close. I was scared to get to close to the guys because I couldn’t brake at all anymore. We made those 30 miles in two hours.
First hotel on our side of the highway we pull into. It was very fancy but if they said the price was your first born son or soul for eternity I think we all would have said “Deal! Here you go. Now can I have some of that hot water over there.”.
We were all shivering nonstop with our shoes making complete sloshing sounds. We looked pathetic walking down that hallway. We completely exploded all over that hotel room. I could not get my helmet off because my hand still couldn’t move enough to do the clasp. “Guys, someone! I can’t get my helmet off. No joke! Help.” We sat around eating our camp food in this fancy room talking about “remember when we thought yesterday was bad”. God it felt good to be warm. We may have been miserable for two hours but now so comfy.
Day 26 (8/9): Pinedale to Pinedale.
Started out with a giant hotel breakfast. Waffles, eggs, yogurt, pastries but the best thing about this breakfast was we ran into Bryce and Luke, dudes that I have been running into since Butte. We all caught up on our adventures the last few days.
When we got back to the room we gasped at the stench. Ed said some like “OMG we were living in that?”. We wrecked that hotel. We slowly got all packed up and did laundry. David had a plan to do a light day to the next campsite. I started really feeling like I needed a rest day. My whole plan for the Basin (famous for not having water) was “figure out how to get more water on my bike when I get to the town before”. It wasn’t a detailed plan but it’s what I had. This was that town. Plus my legs were tired and I wanted to take the time to call my mom. The decision gave me a sinking feeling. I told David first then told Ed later at the “bike shop”. Here is where I say a bunch of nice things about them….. and not just because they can see this. Ed was obnoxious (his words), funny, charming, warm, and welcoming. He treated everyone like a close friend including immediately giving you shit. David was more subtle but just as funny. Prone to silliness and VERY thoughtful to other people. He could zoom up a hill like nobodies businesses then when you caught up to him he didn’t even look like he broke a sweat, just casually eating a snickers. Oh and the best way to be an ultralight bikepacker is to buy food, threaten to throw it away then David will carry it.
So two rad dudes who were great travel buddies. It made it hard to say goodbye. When we parted they both gave the best hugs. Still not sure I made the best decision.
The rest of the day wasn’t as eventful. Moved to a cheaper hotel. Went to the outdoor store and figured out things to carry water, planned food for the next few days, called mom, and most importantly got Huckleberry ice cream. I wonder what will happen when I don’t have regular access to Huckleberry ice cream. Bracing for some heavy withdrawal.
Day 27 (8/10): Pinedale to Little Sandy Creek
Got up and started early! Ok fine, we all know that isn’t true. Started at about 10.
Pretty boring road at first. I needed a project. Decided I was going to sing along to Taylor Swift’s Shake it off until I get every lyric right. I mean maybe one of these small town bars has karaoke. Realized this is an impossible feat. Listened to it 11 times until I couldn’t take it anymore. That was most of my morning.
Then the ride got more interesting with sweeping views of lovely rolling hills. Out of nowhere a hoard of about 20 cyclists pass me by. Literally don’t acknowledge me at all. It’s such a contrast to what has been happening the rest of the month where we all talk to everyone. I camp along a very pleasant spring nestled among signs that say No Camping but it’s cool, my tent is green like the bushes. Totally stealth.
Oh also I lost my sugar snap peas off my bike. An hour later two Dividers (the only ones I will see all day) came up to me and said “Hi Cali! Did you loose your peas?” Apparently as single women on the Divide Cali and I are interchangeable. I was pretty excited to get my peas back, less excited to be called Cali.
Man this day was uneventful.
Day 28 (8/11): Little Sandy Creek to Atlantic City
My iPhone cable stops working. Everything eventually falls apart out here. I take zero pictures because I am saving power. The map says there is a convenience store in Atlantic City and will just buy one there. Once I get to Atlantic City (a very dead old mining town with one bar and one restaurant) I start looking for the store. Turns out the store is one shelf in the restaurant. EXPLETIVE!!!!!! This is the worst thing ever as I am about to start the Basin (137 miles of not much) and the idea of not having music/podcasts/audiobooks/anything through it makes my brain explode. Plus the only tuna packets they have are “Kids Bacon Flavored”. WTH?? Who invented that? So gross. I still buy it “just incase”. Ok lady at restaurant says I can borrow hers while I eat so I sit there for two hours until its all charged. Well crap, it’s now like 6 so I decide to stay at the one place with cyclist accommodations, Wild Bill’s Guns and Custom Knives. The outside of the shop looks as intimidating as the name sounds but turns out behind the store they have super cute cabins with flowers. They give me lemonade and homemade cookies as I sit on their porch.
All of this was just me procrastinating going into the Basin.