Wolverine Pass (Above Lima, Mn.) – Yellowstone National Park,Wy. ; 213km distance, 1,267m climbing, 11hrs 50mins moving time.
I wake. Shiver a bit. Then crawl out of my bivi pit amidst a flurry of ice crystals to the smell of sage. It’s cold. Real cold wind blowing across my nether regions as I claw my way into my shorts. Brisk some would say. At 2,500m elevation for the night, with a clear sky, and no wind – the view before I drifted off was amazing. Wall to wall stars and the Milky Way. This morning it’s still star like, but over the ground and all my gear. I pack up after a quick run around to warm up my frozen shoes. A quick handful of frozen peanuts and I roll down the road into the inversion below me. The sun crests the horizon and I stop and bask in it’s warmth. It’s still well below double digits but it feels like it’s in the 30s compared to how it had been. Glorious.
I know today is going to be a flatter day, one the the easier days that I’d eyed up as a recovery day. The goal is still the same – get out of Montana, get through Idaho, get into Colorado. This is not an option today. I’ve a somewhat easy ride to get to the first pass of the day, then a few logging roads after it. The temperature climbs steadily and the weather gods are good as the wind stays low. I’ve not a huge amount of water, but enough to get me to where I want to be I reckon. Unsurprisingly the town of Lakeview has nothing, so I trundle along enjoying the quiet early morning roads, free of traffic of any sorts. Red Rock Pass comes and goes with only a short hard section to its top. I stop and savour it. Bye bye Montana, you’ve been good to me, I’ll be back.
I roll downhill into Idaho with a smile on my face, another state down, four to go. Idaho presents its own issues in the form of logging and gas trucks . Hurtling along at high speed these guys don’t care about you, just get out of there way as they spew dust and rocks up and at you. It’s not worth it, they won’t slow down. The ride into the edge of West Yellowstone is stunning, much like Montana but with more development. I hit tarmac for a brief time before the climbing starts and I get back onto trail again. The temperature is starting to crush me though. It’s well into the 30s and I’m out of water. Looking at the maps I know I’m less than 10km from Macs truck stop. Just get it done. You can cool down later. I roll up to the truckstop and find myself in the worst example of Americana I’ve yet seen. 4×4’s hammer around with obese aboard families waving their gallon sized soda bottles like truncheons. I hate this place and I’ve only just arrived. Two Subs to go, far to much cola and ice, a long trip to the bathroom for a hobo shower and I’m out. I stroll out to find another bike. One I know, I’d expected this one to be ahead of me! It’s Bailey again.
We chat and try to figure out what went on? He’s sitting for food and I want to go to the store so we figure we will meet up somewhere on the next section, the infamous Rail Trail. 15miles of embedded railway sleepers covered in gravel at a 2% climbing gradient. What’s to like about it? Nothing. No shade, no wind, dicks on 4x4s and it sucks. My notes say suck it up, so I do, I just plough into it as fast and hard as I can for as long as I can. By the time it’s over I’m a mess, overheating and in dire need of a toilet and shade. The campsite at Warm River provides a seat, shade and supplies. I get in and out and back on the road – but now there is another set of tyre tracks ahead of me…. Bailey.
Tarmac again, I’ve no idea how far I am behind him, all I know is he is fast so I keep pushing along. It’s getting a bit cooler now and I fancy a drink and some food if I can get it. My maps say there is not much ahead, but I remember something from my notes and see Squirrel Ranch – what’s not to like with a name like that? My notes also say – mosquitoes, more mosquitoes, and even more mosquitoes. I’m wondering if this is such a good idea? Sure enough as I pull up Baileys bike is outside, I grab a Coke and order some chicken strips. We chat, and he heads off hoping to make Flagg Ranch tonight. I’ve a similar aim, but not planning on staying inside tonight, I figure I’ll be an hour or so behind him. I talk with the barman and the owner about all kinds of local crap. He wears a Nascar hat in a non ironic way and there is country music on the speakers. I want to stay and talk and drink crappy beer with these guys – but it’s a race, so I push on down the road.
The next climb is pure hell. Not for the gradient. Not for the surface. Not even for the weather. Mosquitoes – thousands of the fuckers. I end up riding in my waterproofs to keep them at bay – I avoid a minor panic attack and just about hold myself together long enough to grab a photo of the state line. Idaho – you were nice at first, but then you sucked. Wyoming, don’t be a dick like Idaho.
More mosquitoes. Fuck.
it goes on, and on, and on until I’ve climbed high enough and the temperature has dropped enough that they go to bed – or hell – where ever they come from. Entering West Yellowstone park by night I keep riding until I can’t focus any longer – I’m maybe 10km from Flagg Ranch and I’ve got a campsite with a bear box – I put my Subs in it and crawl into my bivi not really caring that I smell like a tasty meat burrito. Fuck em, if they eat me they’ll have digestion issues. I’m out cold in 5 minutes flat.