What a ride! into Teton National Park

Sunday July 12, 2009, 68 miles (109 km) – Total so far: 3,024 miles (4,867 km)

I’m getting older, and I felt it this morning.  OK, so we had to climb 2800 feet, but it was over 30 miles!  I felt tired and slow, and Virginia started slow and steady, and got stronger as the day wore on.  No towns, but plenty of mosquitoes.  Lots of irrigation outside Dubois.  Oh, there was one lodge/convenience store/diner with a sign I never expected to see.  On the same sign that announced ‘Bear Spray’ they also advertised ‘Internet.’

It got drier as we got higher, but the mosquitoes didn’t let up.  We finally got high enough that the Wind River got noticeably smaller.  It’s funny in a way; the more tributaries flow into this river, the more the irrigation systems take out, so the river looks about as big in Dubois as it did many miles downstream when we first came down to it.  The long climb had us watching Summit Mesa for miles.  Very neat up close, 11,500 feet at the peak, and then we went around it to make the pass at 9600 feet.

Summit Mesa up close

We finally made it up to Togwotee Pass.  That’s how you spell it, but no two people I’ve talked to can agree on how you say it.  No sign on top – we felt cheated!  Continental Divide crossing number 5, if I’ve counted right.  Just over the top the fauna changed fairly drastically.  There were a few alpine meadows on the east side, but on the west side, the whole thing looked like a huge golf course; green, open, with rolling hills.  No, Steve, that’s not a sand trap, that’s an unmelted spot of snow!

Park-like meadow on east side of Togwotee Pass

Just a bit down was road construction.  Or rather, road destruction, as they tore the whole thing up before rebuilding.  It was down to one muddy lane, and with no work crews on Sunday, so no pilot truck to give us a ride, we had to ride through that muck.  Still, it tickled my fancy that there was a red light in the middle of this beautiful mountain.  (And by the way, they turned the uphill traffic loose before we made it down again!)

Red light on mountain road

Just a bit lower and we saw our first sighting of the Tetons.  Man, what a range!

Tetons in sight!

This is surely either the, or at least one of the, most beautiful sights we’ve seen. The scale took my breath away; not just 7-8,000 feet of sheer, near-vertical rock; but probably 60 miles of it, south to north.

After a couple stunning views, it was time to get the benefit for the climbing of the last few days — 4,000 vertical feet of downhill over 20 miles or so. Whee! We kept coasting down until we hit where we’d planned to spend the night; a nice little hostel, with nice visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads.  $85 for a hostel room!? It was only 17 more miles into Teton National Park, and after we’d seen them (and had some lunch), we were ready for the challenge.  So we loaded up the bikes with more water, and kept rolling.

There was a bit of headwind that kicked up about this point, but we were still going downhill until we crossed the a river, so it didn’t bother us too much.  Past Moran Junction (I don’t know if there’s a town, as it’s inside the National Park), and we turned north and started climbing very gently.  There was a whole string of RVs, campers, etc. that were coming up from Jackson that came along.  Ugh.  Most were polite, and we had decent shoulders most of the way, so it wasn’t too bad.  Until.

It started raining.  Cold, hard rain.  Stow everything that can’t take water, and keep going.  Between the climbing and the cold rain, it just about balanced out.  Right before the rain stopped, though, I noticed my bike was bouncy.  That’s not good.  Turned out I had a slow leak, so I pumped it hard and rode fast.  Repeated once, and we made it to the campground at Colter Bay, where they have nice hiker/biker sites, unfortunately near the group sites.  One of them had some wild Indians who wanted to have a war party right after dark, but the adults got them under control.  The view across Jackson Lake was spectacular.  We ate at the restaurant where we could stare at the mountains, and I don’t know which was better, the food or the view.

Tetons across Jackson Lake

After supper, I fixed the flat with the assistance (huh?) of a swarm of mosquitoes.  For those of you who haven’t slept out in the woods with bison, elk, and grizzlies lately, let me remind you of the protocol.  You need to strike the mosquito with some force; if she hasn’t started biting yet, she’s quite mobile and can fly off if you make a desultory swing.  If she has, you’re going to smear your blood over everything, but she won’t bite anybody else.  However, if the mosquito lands on your nose, you need to strike quickly, to keep from getting bitten, but not too firmly.  You don’t need to ask how I know!

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