The day started out cold but with a beautiful sunrise over many flooded fields of flowers leaving Idaho as pictured above (39 degF and I had to hike/ride through that water in my sandals), traversed many flat miles of powerline ATV trails, merged with the Great Western Trail (rails-to-trail) for only a few miles, and then climbed into Wyoming via the not-well-known gravel/dirt back entrance to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. I didn’t have a clear idea of where this ride would end, but it ended up being Pinedale after a tortuous overnight ride at Togwotee Pass, meeting three awesome guys from New Zealand who taught me the word “falute” meaning “pointless” while sharing a long breakfast together at Lava Mountain Lodge, stunning views through the Tetons, and finally 22 bonus miles to/from Boulder (the next town after Pinedale) due to “no vacancy” at the only lodge in town.
On top of that, I was at 249 miles by the time I made it back to Pinedale, so I rode past the motel I was planning on staying at by half a mile to make sure that I would hit my Eddington 250 number for the ride (unexpectedly). In this stretch as it started to rain, I ran into Zoé Chauderlot again who was looking for a motel. She laughed as we ran into each other commenting that we must be the worst racers ever (her taking her time and leading the race and me coming back into the town from the wrong direction and then adding on miles to reach an Eddington number). It was indeed ridiculous, my most ridiculous Eddington 250 ever, until a week later when it would be surpassed by an overnight 120 mile traversal through the Gila National Forest in the rain.
The whole day … and night … and next day … was pretty much amazing. Yes, it was ridiculous. But it was also just amazing, too, with so much grandeur everywhere. Starting from the pic at the top of the post with incredible sunrise lighting and going all the way through the Grand Tetons and the full arch double rainbow to end the day.
After the Idaho flowers, I made it to the Idaho rails-to-trail, saw a beautiful fox before turning onto pavement to start making my way over into Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
I made it to the dirt road, riding right by the sign saying that Yellowstone National Park was closed to vehicular access for the season, which immediately made me wonder if more hike-a-bike through the snow was in my immediate future. I was enjoying the beauty, but I was also dealing with a saddle sore that I decided since there was absolutely no-one around at all I could just deal with right there on the dirt road. I also needed to put on some bug spray and suntan lotion and hadn’t seen any signs of anyone for a couple hours at this point. Well, wouldn’t you know that right as I started to take care of the hygiene issues, here comes two dirt bikers around the corner … female dirt bikers. We chatted for a minute and they offered me some food and water. I turned down the water because I was already carrying too much, but the Cliff bar was fantastic. They took off, and I finished taking care of my hygiene issues, and continued on my way climbing up the mountain.
I would see them again in an hour or so after they presumably made it all the way to the top and had to turn around at the gate there. When I finally made it to the top, I was relieved that there was only patches of snow off the main road, right next to a 16 foot tall snow gauge. Let me repeat that: 16 foot tall snow gauge. See pic below.
Once I made it around the gate, I began a long section of tree navigation. There had been a forest fire (presumably last year) that left a lot of dead trees. With all the wind that hits the area, a number of those trees had fallen since the last time anyone had gone through there and cleaned them out. See video below:
Shortly after this section, I turned onto the main paved road connecting Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Since I was already inside the parks, I didn’t have to pay an entrance fee, which I was concerned about having just sent a year long national park pass home with the family that we had just bought and they were not going to need. In any case, I caught up with a rider who was touring the route (not racing) and the two of us ended up at the Grand Teton gas station talking with a friend from Birmingham who had been vacationing from the area and driven over to see me come through.
The Tetons were off to my right behind a lake and they were awesome. Eventually, I left the Tetons and went off course to take a picture of a road safety sign I could see at the intersection that showed all the different kinds of animals that might be crossing the road. After that, I turned around, climbed a bit, and ended up on some chip seal that eventually turned to dirt on the long climb up Togwotee Pass. This was not long before sunset, and this is where things started to go downhill. I made it through all the ranches and the lodge at the bottom and was maybe halfway up the pass when it started to rain.
This started to turn the road into peanut butter mud. Thankfully, it was a fairly busy road and if you rode right in the tire tracks, you were OK (somehow). But as I got closer to the Togwotee lodge at the top, there weren’t any more tire tracks to ride in and the mud got thicker before thankfully turning into a more rocky base that didn’t have as much mud. I popped out at the Togwotee lodge right as the next storm was coming in … big thunderstorm with hail and lightning. I had already been planning and looking forward to nice sit-down meal at the restaurant and would figure out my next steps during dinner.
Craving something nutritious, I ordered a salad and some pizza. While I was waiting, I walked over to the front desk of the hotel and decided to get a room and do my laundry while I let the storm pass and everything dry out. So that’s what I did for the next few hours, slept for a couple, and was out the door by 1am.
The moon was out, and it had stopped raining as I climbed up the main US highway to make it to the top of the pass. I started down the descent on the other side before seeing the turn off the main highway onto a side road, which was covered in snow. It was somewhat rideable and was mixed with gravel sections clear from snow. But not too long into the route, I saw the twin matching sign up near the top of the pass to the one below about halfway down at another “ranch lodge”.
What happened in between? Well, lots of and lots of cold mud and snow. I tried to ride as much as I could because it was taking forever, but it still took forever and I hiked a bunch and stopped for one extended stop standing down in running water from snowmelt to get my bike in rideable condition again.
I was so cold by the time I made it all the way down to the bottom that I knew I could not go on past the Lava Mountain Lodge. They weren’t going to open for a couple more hours, but I changed out of my wet clothes into dry layers, got out my down blanket and napped on the front porch right next to the door that had their hours.
Fortunately, and possibly because they had guests at the lodge, three guys from New Zealand who were touring the route whom I met after being the owner came out with hot coffee (which was awesome) and gave me a stern talking to for camping on his front doorstep. Fair enough, it didn’t look great, but I was desperate, and I think he saw that which is why he brought me the coffee. I was standing up packing up my stuff and still planning to wait for the restaurant to open when the New Zealanders came out of their rooms because they were also wanting to have breakfast at the restaurant before setting out. I couldn’t believe it when they said they were from Queenstown, New Zealand where my wife and I had vacationed in 2018, flying directly into Queenstown! How funny that I would have ridden some of the same roads/trails that they have ridden and then to meet in person halfway around the world in quite rural Wyoming.
It was awesome to chat and swap stories about everything we had encountered so far, and that’s when they taught me the word “falute” and used it to describe the route I had just taken down the mountain. They came to that during the daytime, saw the snow, and decided it was “falute” and just dropped down the 10 mile descent on the paved US Highway instead barely making it to the lodge before that storm that stopped me at the lodge at the top of the mountain hit.
Refreshed, refueled, and most importantly reheated, we left the lodge. They pulled out ahead of me because I still had a few things I hadn’t packed yet. Also, I wanted to thank the owner again for the coffee from the morning and he related a story of being stuck so far from nowhere on his dirt bike and how desperate that was. I headed out again and caught up to the New Zealand group several miles into the climb not long before it got steep and quite muddy with patches of snow and then eventually one good solid snowfield before cresting out on one of the most oppressive plateaus of the race. A single photo doesn’t do it justice so see the video below:
I was passed by a couple ATVs that kicked up a lot of dust and I saw several more ATVs as I got farther down the mountain, including one that checked on me when they saw blood on my leg. I had just fallen onto a tree submerged in an ATV mud puddle, and one of the sharp sticks had managed to impale itself right into my shin. Other than cracked, bloody finger tips, that ended up being the only blood I saw the whole trip.
It was still a long ways down the mountain on a lot of ATV trails, but eventually I hit a dirt road and then even a bigger paved state road before turning onto one last dirt road to get over to Pinedale. This dirt road had an awesome tailwind, and I was just so happy to have made it back to civilization again. My plan was to ride all the way to Boulder and stay at the lodge, there. But I knew it was the only place there so I wanted to call and reserve a room, but we will get to that in the next section below.
Pinedale Resupply #1 and #2
Yes, I resupplied in Pinedale twice. The first time was my first time through the town and stores were still open. I had given away my heavy rain jacket so I needed to replace it. There was an outdoorsy store next to the already closed bike shop that sold high end clothing, hiking, and mountaineering equipment. They had a very nice Marmot rain jacket with lots of zippers to vent under the sleeves. This was perfect so I bought this and headed out and put it on as the first rain storm hit as I left town to bike 11 miles to the next town (Boulder). I had been calling and calling and calling the hotel there, but nobody was ever picking up. I also called the gas station and nobody picked up there. Other lodges I had called also frequently didn’t answer their phone, but they would be there when you got there. I don’t know if it was just bad luck or if that is common. But because of this, I pressed on anyway figuring something was wrong with the phone or they were too busy to answer. I should have known that it was too risky, but I was feeling great and didn’t want to stop riding early yet again.
So as I headed out of town, the rain stopped and a beautiful double full arch rainbow appeared in the sky for many miles. I got more and more worried that the hotel was going to be closed or just gone completely. Instead, I arrived at the gas station attached to the hotel to find it and the neighboring restaurant jam packed with people. I asked about a room and the gas station worker said that they were booked solid with no rooms left. I begged asking if there was anywhere, a closet, a basement, an outdoor patio I could sleep, but he wasn’t having it. My only option was to ride the 11 miles back to Pinedale where there were many motels.
11 miles later it started to rain again as I passed the Jackalope Motel, which looked awesome (and was in fact awesome). I had passed it because I needed to resupply at the gas station and I simply refused to buy anything from the Boulder gas station since they hadn’t answered their phone all the times I called both numbers. Also, I was at 249 miles so I needed to ride half a mile farther past the gas station, turn around, and resupply at the gas station before staying at the amazing Jackalope hotel. I ran into Zoé through here, resupplied at the gas station, and then headed back to the Jackalope. It was awesome, and the owner was there and was in the process of renovating some of the rooms to function more like a hostel for CDT hikers and TD bikers. The room I stayed in was a regular room, and it had been updated with hardwood floors, an amazing shower, bathroom, and bed. It was easily the best value place to stay (other than Snow Valley Lodge in Fernie, Canada) of my entire 4,077 mile trip. The room was so much better than the one I had just spent nearly 3x as much on from the previous night in Idaho Park. Also, it’s the last hotel in town, so if you are racing this on the TD southbound, you should skip all the other places and stay at this one after you have resupplied at the gas station.
It all worked out for the best, though, otherwise I might have been tackling the Great Divide and dealing with all kinds of issues either in the middle of the night or on my own. Plus, I got a chance to meet Steve Large and ride a bit with him and Zoé and share a crazy thunderstorm escape experience in a massive oil shed we found in the Great Basin where there normally isn’t supposed to be anything! But more on that tomorrow…
Maps and data
Pickuta photo album
See even more pics from the entire race along with the exact time/location where each was taken on the tracking website I created called pickuta.com. If you are on a phone or small screen web browser, click the “hamburger” triple bar icon in the upper left to slide out the photos and turn on/off the tracking markers: https://pickuta.com/album/258