GDMBR: The Tetons to Colorado

Posted on: Thursday September 15, 2022 GDMBR, Bikepacking

We didn’t get to appreciate the mountains much last night. We were too caught up in town chores, like buying food and taking showers. So, we pack up our campsite and head down to the lake, where the Tetons dominate the skyline. We linger over coffee, watching fluffy clouds build on the peaks. Then we head out- back on the busy highway from yesterday to start, before turning onto quieter roads. I look over my shoulder at the mountains. I’m sad to leave them after so little time, but I’m also desperate to get away from the tourists. We stop by a lodge for overpriced coffee, then continue on a road that swaps back and forth between dirt and pavement. We meet a woman bikepacking with her two adult sons, and leapfrog back and forth as we climb up to a pass on a quiet paved road. We touch the CDT at the pass, then race down to eat dinner at another lodge.

We wake to a sky like a bruise. We’ve escaped the thunderstorms so common on the divide for the most part so far, but now our luck is running out. We climb all morning, up and up to Union Pass. The CDT goes through here too, but I have no memory of this section of trail. It’s one of the prettiest spots on the GDMBR, but completely unremarkable in comparison to the highlights from the CDT. Thunderstorms build all around us as we climb, grumbling on distant peaks and flashing lightning across the valleys. Somehow, we dodge them all, waiting a few times until they move off. We drop down to open plains, then zigzag across to a stand of trees on the edge of a river. We camp here, and another camper comes over to chat with us, bringing us yogurt and half a bottle of wine.

It’s an easy run to Pinedale in the morning, mostly on pavement. We get burgers, and Steve finds a new rear tyre. His old one goes flat every few days, and sealant leaks from the sidewall where it’s delaminating. Even with these chores, we get out of town quickly, racing a storm cell to the next town. We wait out the dark skies in a bar, then head towards South Pass City once we judge it’s safe. We camp in the sagebrush with storms all around us, dropping rain and flashing violence. We’ve run out of places to shelter.

Virga is one of my favorite words. It’s the long tendrils of rain that hang like smoke under clouds, normally in the desert. Sometimes the sun catches them and they shine like gold. This morning, virga snake down to frame the sunrise, remnants of last night’s storm. We race down the side of the Wind River Range, watching the sky. We ride into Atlantic City before the storm hits. The weather looks bad for tomorrow- all day thunderstorms and rain. Atlantic City is on the edge of the Great Basin, where there’s not a single tree for over a hundred miles. It seems stupid to head out somewhere so exposed. Instead, we rent an old miner’s cabin, beautifully cozy and old fashioned, for the next day. We zero, taking naps and going back and forth between the two restaurants in town.

We leave before the sun rises, determined to make miles while the weather holds. We head out into the long, rolling hills of the basin. Pronghorn antelope and wild horses watch us from across the sage brush. The pronghorn run when they see us, no matter how far off we are. The horses watch us pass, holding their ground and swishing their tails. As we cross the basin, the terrain flattens more and more, and we fly across it, making far better time than normal. We detour a little off trail to eat dinner at the reservoir, one of the few water sources out here. Then, a long downhill with the wind chasing us, pushing us across the plains. The road turns ninety degrees, turning our tailwind into a headwind, but we’re so close to a hundred miles that we push on, even though our speed is halved. Finally, Steve watches 99 miles turn into 100 on our GPS, and we pull off the road to sleep amongst the cows.

I’m bone tired in the morning, with that achy exhaustion that normally only comes at the end of a thru-hike. Steve rolls over and brews coffee without getting out of his sleeping bag- one of my favourite benefits of cowboy camping. Finally, we get up and follow a long uphill to Rawlings. We resupply, then stop at McDonalds. We eat an obscene amount of food- two big macs, twenty chicken nuggets, two cheeseburgers, two large fries and large sodas between us. I barely even feel full. Biker hunger is more intense than hiker hunger, and by this point, it is all consuming.

Once we’ve eaten, we head out of town. Our route is the Ley Maps alternate that I followed on the CDT five years ago. When I took it on my thru-hike it was a wild gravel road, full of rattlesnakes and undrinkable alkaline water sources. Now it’s paved, and some kind local runs a water cache. This means the route is far easier than I expected and we make good time. I’m a little sad though- the road has lost a lot of its wild charm. We cowboy camp again, just meters from the road.

We wake to wild horses nearby, watching us carefully. We climb up to the trees, leaving the wild basin behind. I’ll miss it- it’s hard to find the wilderness that I love so much on dirt roads, and the basin feels truly remote. I lose the peace I felt almost immediately. A red truck pulling a camper rounds a blind corner on the wrong side of the road, paying zero attention to where he’s going. There’s no way for me to get out of his way- to my right, the road ends in a steep cliff, strewn with rocks. I yell and wave my arms, and he swerves just in time. People always ask if we’re worried about bears or murderers on these trips. In reality, cars are by far the most dangerous part of adventures.

We climb up to the highway, where a long line of cars wait to pass construction. We join the queue, and pedal for a stressful two miles where cars whizz past us for too close for comfort. I’m so done with cars. We hit the Wyoming/Colorado border, and immediately turn onto a quiet dirt road. Finally. We climb up and up, to Brush Mountain Lodge, where we stop for a pizza and a chat with the super cool owner. She invites us to stay, but there’s miles to make, so we keep going. We pass by fields of cows, normally peaceful and docile. I get a little close to a calf that won’t move off of the road, and its mother charges me a little, until we yell at her to back off. We get away from the cows, and camp right before the beginning of a steep climb to a pass.

Blogs by Category

Eloise Robbins (Fun Size)

About the Author

Eloise Robbins (Fun Size) is a writer, triple crown thru hiker, and adventurer. She is a lover of the outdoors, hiking, canoeing, and most of all mountains.

Thank you for your comment! It has been received and should show up here once it's approved.


None yet

Copyright © 2016-2021 Eloise Robbins; All rights reserved