July 29, 2006
I woke in my tent this morning at around 7 or 8. Looking up from my sleeping bag I could see that it was a cool, overcast morning. At this hour the sun would have otherwise been shining in my face.
Falls Campground below Togwotee Pass is a primitive, self-pay USFS site in Shoshone National Forest – no electricity, running water, showers – none of that stuff. Only a few spots were occupied, and none within view of ours. It provided for a great alpine wilderness setting. It was cold and quiet overnight, and the stars were bright as I went to sleep. I felt more like a backpacker again, rather than a bicycle tourist.
The first thing I did this morning was pack up, of course. It only took a few minutes, surprising myself at how I went about the morning chore with ease. At the beginning of any trip, despite my previous “on the road” experience, the packing/unpacking always requires a little conscious thought, like “First I’ll do this, then I’ll do that, etc.” That’s all gone now. The routine is automatic and hardwired, and I first noticed it today.
After packing up, I walked a quarter of a mile down a trail to check out the local waterfall, which was high and dramatic. Nobody else was around on this quiet Saturday morning.
When I returned to camp, Mala treated me to two left-over maple biscuits – apparently they’d been on a feeding frenzy for the last few days, and lost the hiker hunger. We sat around for a little while, comparing maps and gear and such, as folks like us will do.
Mala is all excited about going to this huge outdoor gear expo in Salt Lake City next week – the largest in the world – where thousands of vendors are literally giving stuff away. “I’m gonna leave there with a truckload full of stuff – cutting out the middle man!” he said.
Riding the seven miles to Togwotee Pass was relatively easy… with light traffic, a gradual incline, cool, shady weather, and lack of too many deer flies. I’d been warned by east-bounders about the horrible deer flies that hover over riders thick as a cloud, where you can literally look down and see their shadows flying around you. They’d only get me when I’d stop for pictures.
At the top I saw a sight for sore eyes – “Trucks use low gear, 6% grade, next seventeen miles.” Oh yeah baby.
Winding down the descent, I came to a gas station and lodge where I stopped for a proper breakfast – two half pound, ham & cheese Hot Pockets. Checking email at the pay phone with my handy Pocketmail device, I wasn’t surprised to receive a worried message from my mom – I knew I’d hear from her within 24 hours of posting about my dehydration crash the other day. Speaking of keeping in touch, I haven’t used my cell phone since Pueblo, Colorado. Wyoming apparently doesn’t exist on the Cingular pay-as-you-go US map.
After leaving the gas station, I saw the Grand Teton Range for the first time, off in the distance. The peaks were shrouded in clouds, but there could be no mistaking them after seeing so many pictures.
Near the bottom of the descent I met Mel and Marcie, who are riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. They may likely be the oldest people so far to be doing it, and I think you can find a link about them somewhere through adventurecycling.org. There was also a gas station at the bottom of the “hill” with internet access for three dollars, so I updated the journal. It’s nice when I can update frequently.
From there it was a flat, beautiful ride to Jackson. The road went right along The Tetons, up close and personal. Some highlights through this stretch included an eagle’s nest, a herd of buffalo, and some ranchers running about four dozen horses across the road, kicking up dust and everything like something out of a Budweiser commercial. “Yeah, we need to sell some beer… horses would be perfect for this commercial…”
Highlights on the radio were Gin Blossoms – Hey Jealousy, REM – Man on the Moon, Elton John – I’m Still Standing, Devo – You Spin Me Right ‘Round, U2 – Where the Streets Have No Name, and others I can’t remember.
The clouds over the mountains cleared up a little, making for fine riding through this valley called Jackson Hole. Geologically the mountains are still rising, and the valley is still sinking. Everybody here seems to be on vacation. When I rode into Jackson, the town was like a zoo. A little analogy for you – Jackson is to Yellowstone as Gatlinburg is to The Smokies – a tourist mecca. Every motel and campground in town was booked, and there were no less than ten motels in town.
So I was riding around looking for an out of the way place to hide out and camp where nobody would bother me, when this guy walked out toward me from a bar patio. Seeing all of my touring gear, he wanted to talk. He bought me a beer, and ended up offering to let me camp in his yard. I took him up on it.
Now you may be thinking, “What the heck is Jamie doing getting mixed up with a drunk stranger,” but look – I’m always cautious about this sort of thing and gradually feel out the situation, not getting to a point where I can’t bail out right away if I want/need to.
In this case I was even more comfortable with someone who’s a little tipsy, because they ramble on and on and tell you what’s on their mind before they’re sure of it themselves. Plus if somebody drunk was gonna mess with me, it’d be much easier to handle them than some cool, calculated nut job.
But obviously all that explanation was just for explanation’s sake, and Chris was nothing more than another genuinely kind, generous person. He uses his bike for transportation around town, pulling his dog everywhere on a trailer! I used his stove to cook some mac&cheese and canned Hormel ham, and he made himself a sandwich.
Soon he pulled out this textbook-type book all about the Old West, with cool black and white photos, and started going through his favorite parts of it… like the typical stagecoach supply list, including 150 pounds of sugar. Saturday Night Live played in the background. Life is good.