Week 7 brought us from Jackson, WY to Sweetwater River Campground, just south of Atlantic City, WY. We were fresh off of 5 consecutive rest days in Jackson/Grand Targhee Resort, catching up and hiking with friends and attending the wedding of our friends, Shannon and Pat. Afterwards, we planned to spend a few days relaxing at Rachel’s family’s cabin, west of Big Piney in the Wyoming Range. We realized it wouldn’t make sense to ride our bikes to the cabin with the limited amount of time we had before we needed to be in Rawlins to meet up with our friends, Andy and Silvia. Rachel’s Aunt Alli and Uncle Jim were very excited about us visiting the cabin (especially since I had never been), and they came up with the idea to get us a rental car. They graciously booked us one from Pinedale, WY for the 4th day after we left Jackson. Thank you SO much, Aunt Alli and Jim!
This meant we needed to hustle for the first three days of the week in order to relax for the following three before returning to the route. In Jackson, we sat at just under 1,500 total miles into the trip, so this week marked the beginning of the second half of our GDMBR journey!
It was sad saying goodbye to all of our friends, but we were excited to see more of Wyoming and to reach Rachel’s cabin for some true relaxation. The days off in Jackson and Grand Targhee were certainly enjoyable, but we exerted ourselves on day hikes and partied late into the night on a few occasions. Our friends Max and Liz gave us a ride back to Jackson, where we retrieved our bikes and began the slow process of re-packing them. While we were at the wedding, we left our bikes with the service department of Hoback Sports. We bought some parts from them, but also gifted them a 12-pack of Grand Teton Brewing Company beer as a “thank you” for keeping our bikes safe, which they very much appreciated. Before rolling out, we also swapped Rachel’s seat for the Brooks saddle she had ordered from Fitzgerald’s Bikes. This was a pricey upgrade, but if it makes Rachel more comfortable, then it is worth every penny. Most bike tourers would advise not to debut a leather saddle at the beginning of a tour (even worse in the middle when your bum is already sore) due to the lengthy break-in period; we’re optimistic that it will work out, though.
Two days after the Table Mountain hike, our calves were still very sore. Its funny how you can be in such excellent shape for one activity, then do another that seems no more difficult, and pay dearly. Regardless, it was a nice ride out of the park. We were delighted to see Robin and Jarrod in their rental car while we biked north on the bike path; they were finishing up one last lap of the park in search of wildlife before driving to Salt Lake City for their flight back to Boston (they were successful; they saw a bear!).
That evening, we reached a primitive campsite near Turpin Meadow in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. As we rolled up, we saw we would be sharing it with a young man who was driving a Subaru Outback; he was playing on a slackline he set up between two trees. We got to know Eric a bit that night. He had just graduated from the University of Maine in Orono and was slowly road tripping to Portland, OR before starting his career. He seemed very happy to have some company, and he kindly offered us turkey burgers and beers. He had already been all over the country hiking, climbing, surfing, etc.
We were very tired, so we retired to our tent while he built a fire and sat down to read. Thanks so much for dinner and drinks, Eric, and good luck with the new job! Let us know if you ever need a place to stay in Denver; this time we’ll bring the burgers and beers!
Midway up the climb to Togwotee Pass, we met another southbound cyclist, Stacy, at The Red Fox Saloon. She had been riding at a similar pace as a group of other cyclists, but got separated when she slowed down to ride with a friend from home for a week; she was hustling to try to catch up to the other group before crossing the Great Basin.
A highlight of our riding was the backside of Togwotee Pass. We had been notified that Forest Road 515 was closed due to slumping early in the season, but by the time we made it there, it had been fixed. This was fortunate, because we had a great time descending it, and it brought us to Brooks Lake, which was absolutely stunning. The downside of Togwotee Pass was the horseflies; there were lots of them, and they had no trouble keeping up with us on the climb.
The next morning, we met Stacy again. Coincidentally, she had camped less than a half mile down the road from where we called it a night. Our riding together was short-lived, though, because we detoured to Crooked Creek Guest Ranch to retrieve Grant’s credit card. He and Gillian had stopped there for lunch about a week prior, and they had accidentally left without it. Rachel went in first while I shed layers and grabbed water bottles to fill inside. By the time I made it inside, Rachel was already bellied up to the bar with an oatmeal stout in hand. I had been looking forward to a coffee, but I couldn’t let her drink alone.
After the 2 beers and a cinnamon roll each, we were ready to go. The bartender asked us if we wanted to play Shake-a-day, and Rachel won a 6-pack by rolling four-of-a-kind. These were the most bittersweet free beers ever, as The Crooked Creek Guest Ranch sits right at the base of Union Pass. On our way out of the lodge, we felt very heavy, and we were constantly reminded of that fact, because both sides of Union Pass were very rough. We carried those beers over Union Pass and for the rest of the 78 miles, all of the way to Pinedale. We had been planning to lighten our load by at least 2 beers atop the pass, but we had a little argument that killed the mood, so we decided to skip the celebration and save them for later.
We rejoiced for pavement at the bottom of Union Pass and cruised the last 25 miles into Pinedale with a great tailwind, then reconciled and splurged on a hotel room where we prepared for a few days off the grid at the Hogue cabin.
The highlights of our three days at the cabin were skinny dipping in the river, drinking coffee, wine and beer on the porch (not at same time; the beers were the 6 Rachel had won at the Crooked Creek Guest Ranch), eating tacos, tacos, and more tacos, watching storms, reading a lot (The Rosie Project was a very fun, easy read; I finished the whole book while at the cabin), hiking Mt. Darby, roasting s’mores over the campfire, and cleaning and tuning our bikes.
This was my first visit to the Hogue cabin, and it sounds like a visit wouldn’t be complete without hiking Mt. Darby. We planned to do so on our second day and saved our feet some miles by biking the first 2 miles of the trail. The riding was easy except for numerous downed trees and washed out sections of trail, both a result of a wildfire from a few years ago. We ended up bushwhacking to the ridge, because we thought we missed our turn. In hindsight, we learned that we had given up too soon. While bushwhacking, we saw a grizzly bear cub, but never saw momma bear. We never made it to the peak; instead, we settled for the ridge line because of a storm with very cold rain and hail. From the ridge line, we could see the proper trail down, but we decided to take a direct route down, through a creek – our feet were already wet, anyhow. Near the trailhead on our way out, Rachel slammed her foot on a log sticking out into the trail as she pedaled by. This produced tears and a few curse words, as she was very worried it was broken. Fortunately, it was just badly bruised.
After returning to the route, we repacked at the Pinedale airport where we had procured the rental car from, then hit the road. The wind was favorable and miles flew by, which was fortunate because we had another deadline to meet on this side of our cabin visit. Our friends, Andy and Silvia, would be meeting us in Rawlins, WY 4 days later. The high desert scenery was bleak, but fortunately the mild temperature and wind made for comfortable riding. While resting beside the road late in the day, Albert, a climber from Big Piney, WY stopped and donated 2 cold beers to our cause. We shared a very brief conversation, and then he was back on his way. We extended our break to drink 1 beer and saved the other for later.
We had been planning to close out our week in Atlantic City, where we would prepare for entering the Great Divide Basin the next morning. However, all of the accommodations were more expensive than we liked, so we refilled water and carried on in the fading daylight, with our sights set instead on Sweet Water River Campground. It was a tough climb out of town, but afterwards there was great scenery, wildlife (pronghorn), cool evening air, and great lighting. As we were enjoying the final miles of the day, I got a flat tire and botched the repair. Concurrently, we realized we had been carrying a wrong-size tube and our pump had been damaged by being exposed to so much dust and dirt.
After struggling in the dark, we finally got the tire fixed and carried on, but then we found out the GPS backlight no longer worked, and I inadvertently deleted the day’s ride so far (90+ miles!). I was really bummed, and my confidence was shaken due to the bad performance fixing my flat tire, which was troubling because we had heard Grant had lots of flats while passing through the Basin. I was so sour about all of these late-evening developments that by the time we arrived at the campsite, all I wanted to do was lie down and wake up to (hopefully) a better day tomorrow. Rachel encouraged me to at least eat, though, so we shared cold hot dogs and then called it a night. It felt strange to not hang our food for the first time, but there were literally no trees in sight.