Day 68 – A choice of nonexistent trails

We didn’t end up taking the Wyoming Range route. Instead we are going to brave the yellowstone crowds and ride through the park. Turns out Eszter has never been, so why not? She rightly pointed out that the Wyoming Range trail sounds like something I should enlist Lee Blackwell on, for a different trip. Multiple people have tried and failed to ride it. It barely exists. Plus the guy at the outdoor shop in Pinedale did his the best to scare us about no trail, bears and steep terrain. That’s when Eszter came up with the idea of riding the park, being a tourist and connecting nicely with the cdt where it exits the park.

I was game. This trip already has the high adventure meter pegged, so there is no need to take the most adventurous option every single time.

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View from camp meadow

So instead, we find ourselves camped in a meadow above Leeds creek, and there is no trail. It looks like we’ll be following game trails or no trail for some time tomorrow.

So much for taking the less adventurous route!  The CDT has plenty of adventure…. big surprise!

I didn’t study this section of the trail since it wasn’t ‘in play’ until yesterday afternoon.  Had I studied it I would  have learned that there are several options hikers take from Union Pass to Brooks Lake, and none of them are that existent, or that great.

But here we are!

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Ice cream and working next to Pine Creek

The morning was spent slowly packing up, taking care of last minute town chores, and eating another big breakfast courtesy of Emi, the owner of the Rivera Lodge in Pinedale.  It was a lovely zero day, and one with a nice plot twist of switching our route by hundreds of miles.

We left late, sometime after 10am, pedaling pavement and dirt rural roads out of town.  60 or so miles of the divide route would take us back to the CDT.

We enjoyed a tail breeze, cool temps, and seeing other divide riders heading south.  “Ah, riding singletrack, no wonder you have those bikes and so little luggage!”

We took a small detour to investigate Kendall Warm Springs.  It was a neat and beautiful spot, but it was only 85* and soaking is not allowed due to a very unique fish that lives only in that small piece of stream — nowhere else in the world.  We also rolled by Stinky Springs, aptly named!

Some rain showers got us.  I never pulled my rain jacket on — it was refeshing after a warm climb to 9000′. But I was glad it didn’t shower any longer.

It was a relief to turn towards the CDT and get on a smaller road, and one not covered in gravel.  Right at the trail we ran into two thru hikers!  Southern and Notsobad weren’t too clued into all the route choices ahead, and they didn’t seem to be in a hurry to go explore it.

We rolled on, taking Ley’s recommendation, which gifted us 360 degrees of mind blowing views.  The Tetons to the west, Winds behind us, Brooks to the north and other craggy looking stuff above Dubois to the east.  In the evening light it was nothing short of spectacular.  We wanted to linger, wanted to camp, but were running out of water.

So we rolled on to where we found a spring flowing out of the mountain.  We figured it was a good opportunity to cook dinner, then we could roll on a little further and avoid the cook/camp distance recommended in bear country.  We sure haven’t seen any sign of them, other than actual forest service signs telling people they are in bear country.  We picked up pepper spray and put our food and bikes elsewhere.

I think it’ll be a good, if cold night.  Then on with the adventure and vague trails we thought we were skipping tomorrow!

Day 66 – ice cream and tasty singletrack

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I feel like we just did a nice evening mountain bike ride. We did, of course. But this felt like a ride you’d do from home, or that you would do while visiting a Colorado mountain town. You know, regular old mountain biking — not backcountry CDT style riding.

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What a surprise to find that the trail on the south end of the Wind River mountains is such a fantastic ride. It’s wooded, replete with streams and greenery. Just exactly what two bikepackers that just crossed the great basin are in need of! We both started the climb into the wind rivers barely awake and lacking energy. The basin and following roads had sucked some life out of us. But the trail was too good to stop, too good to not devote all sorts of energy to. Climbs yielded more flowing downhill, energy put to good use. It was as though a mountain biker had built the trail. Or had at least rerouted it to a more sustainable (and fun) level.

I didn’t want it to end.  I was bummed that our Wilderness detour was coming up.  That’s a cool feeling on the CDT, as often it is somewhat of a relief to get onto the roads and the smoother/easier surfaces they usually provide.

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We woke up from our high mesa in the Basin and took in a world of a sunrise.  We could see so far.  Spin and see it all. How could the world be this big, and this empty?

We could see our evening’s singletrack, waaaaay off in the distance, seemingly too far to cover in one day.

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But the 2-tracks were good.  The surfaces relatively firm.  We rolled along and marveled at the place we were in.

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As the day heated up we merged onto the GDMBR, following it for a few miles before continuing on CDT above the Sweetwater River.  After the river’s bridge we followed more CDT on a 2-track that had no footprints on it — not even old ones.  Yet another piece of official CDT that no one uses.

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It was a pleasant diversion from the divide’s big road, but after a few miles the signs pointed off into the desert with no trail, so we hopped back over to the big road.

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In Atlantic City we finally caught Mr. Sunset!  He was more like 2.5 days ahead of Chimp’s crew, not the 1 day we had been told.  Sunset is the kind of guy you have to meet to understand.  Full of southern charm and just has a way about him. 

“It’s about time you guys got here!” was the first thing he said to us.

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Atlantic was totally shut up — neither restaurant or store was open.  We were there on the one day of the week when it’s all closed.  Bummer.  A burger would have gone a long way.  Instead we followed Sunset (and Atlas) over towards South Pass City where the gift shop sold pure salvation for Basin crossers — ICE CREAM!

And root beers.  Whew.

We chatted away a hot afternoon’s hour with some GDMBR riders, the hikers and other folks.  The sun was killing us, but we delayed with some bike work and other chores just long enough for the clouds to roll in.

Ahh, relief.  A short section of no trail led us above the town and to some 2-tracks that began our ascent into the Wind Rivers.  The clouds were an absolute blessing, and as we transitioned into the trees and dark forest, it almost seemed unreal.

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How did we get to this place when all we had known for the past 2 days was the wide open and direct sun of the Basin?  And then the trail was almost too good to be true.  Wow.

We’re camped right at our Wilderness detour, some 60 miles out of Pinedale.  We anticipate a rainy afternoon, so we’ll be racing the weather into town.  Maybe we’ll win?

Day 67 – drizzles into Pinedale.

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We awoke to sprinkles on the tarp, but the refreshment of deep sleep. The sun was just starting to steal away the night. We got moving quickly in hopes of beating the storm. The storm that was already here.

Rocking and rolling through meadows and 2-tracks, through terrain eerily reminiscent of Buena Vista, Colorado.

A surprise campground at the Sweetwater Bridge. Stinger climbs out of the Wind Rivers.

Road surfaces hardened by light drizzles. Antelope strafing the landscape in all directions.

Drizzles came and went, miles flew by. We chatted about all sorts of things, listened to tunes in our earbuds. Eszter told me funny stories from racing Tour Divide.

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Before midday, we were already in Boulder, hoping to blaze the last 12 miles to Pinedale before the rain gained any more momentum. 65 miles by midday? We must be back on the divide route…

There is much rain in the forecast. There is much fatigue in our legs. There is fog in our heads from nights of light sleep.

And so we will rest a day, and steel ourselves for the next challenge, the Wyoming Range Trail.

Day 65 – Magic in the Basin

There’s hike-a-bike in the Basin. Who knew?

There’s also good water.  And trees. And rocks. Mountain biking!

The CDT has its own route through the Great Basin, since walking the big wide roads of the GDMBR would be sub-fun. We were excited to see what it would bring us.

It’s called the great basin because the divide itself splits, leaving a desolate bowl where water neither makes it to the Atlantic or the Pacific. Water doesn’t make it much of anywhere.

We started on the divide route ‘ s pavement. No reason to fiddle around in the sand or with no trail when there’s a good paved road paralleling it. I think nearly all the hikers end up taking the pavement, too.

We soon turned off Mineral X road and onto a nice, primitive 2 track.  We would be on 2 tracks for the rest of the day!

I had the idea to carry a watermelon down the trail to pull out when we saw the fellowship, or maybe chimp and crew–whoever we saw first. All I had to do was suggest it and Eszter got excited and implemented it.

It was the fellowship that we first caught. Ez performed some first rate trail magic, busting it out and watching their mouths drop.  Pretty cool.

Soon after we left the Fellowship, we ran into another crew of 3 leaving a spring.  Then not a couple miles later, it was Chimp and Kipper, getting right well distracted by finding and carrying petrified rocks.  Spork and Tootise were up ahead waiting for them to stop rock collecting and start hiking.  It was pretty funny.  And it was so cool to see them — we met all 4 of them in Pie Town and hung out for a couple days there.  It’s cool to run into them 2 months later, to see them still looking good and hiking strong, together.  The living breathing community that emerges on this trail is something special.

The next couple dozen miles went quickly.  Riding a bike out here is a very good idea.  There’s nothing I can really write to describe how wide open it is.  How quiet it is.  How beautiful it is.

It’s very cool to see a new perspective on the Basin.  This route does have some challenges.  We ended up walking our bikes through some extended deep sand.  Eventually I noticed that the hikers have made a rough singletrack next to the deeply sandy sections.  You have to dodge all sorts of sage, but the ground is firm and the going much easier than walking a bike in deep sand!

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As we began climbing into the Crooks range, the terrain became very un-Basin like.  Mountains!  Trees!  Gurgling springs!  And steep climbs.  We really weren’t expecting to push our bikes up steep hills out here!  It is the CDT, after all….

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Otherwise it was a big day of staring at huge views, watching the antelope run like crazy, and the wild horses roaming across the desert.  We kinda skipped lunch and ended up bonking, as we were trying to chase the hiker Sunset down.  He must be smashing it.  Prints are getting fresh, but no sign.

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We’re coming for you tomorrow Sunset!  And there’s a beautiful one out tonight.

Days 62 and 63 – The Battle of Battle Pass

Well, we finally got a touch of bad luck. It really has been incredible how well things have gone, and for so long. To think that we are over 60 days riding (plus 2 weeks off in Durango) and thus far it has been such smooth sailing. Great weather, pretty favorable winds, excellent mechanical luck, and happy/healthy bodies.

The magnitude of this trip is beginning to really hit me. It’s so much longer and so much bigger than anything either of us has done before. So much more unknown. Trails like the AZT or CT are incredibly, terribly short compared to the CDT. The Divide (GDMBR) is very short and so straightforward compared to this.

Eventually a few things were bound to not go ideally for us.

We set up camp on the shoulder of the Sierra Madre Mountains, just off the divide, and asked each other, ‘should we set up the tarp?’ It looked pretty clear. Some big clouds were far in the distance, but we thought the chance of anything moving in to be minimal.

I got a nudge a little after dozing off. ‘It’s starting to rain, we need to set up the tarp.’

I suppose it would have been nice to have a tent this night. Out of the bugs and already protected from the rain. It was a pain to get up, reorganize and tie the tarp to trees. Luckily we had ample time between light sprinkles that woke Eszter up, and actual rain. It came down pretty good for a few minutes, but mostly we just hear thumbles and rumbles.

It wasn’t a great night of sleep, and neither was the previous night, which started very late after the late night hot springs soak. So when we were up and moving, the fog was thick. Thick mental fog and thick physical fog. The first few miles of graded road were slow. My immediate reaction was, “I really don’t feel like pedaling a bike today.”

A couple of miles into the day, my GPS continued to refuse to boot up. Uh oh. I knew that I’ve been asking a lot of it, with a myriad of track options, waypoints, custom POI CDT points, basemaps and collecting a detailed track. I’ve had it refused to boot up a couple times, but restarting always solved it. This time, no dice.

I finally stopped and asked Eszter for her GPS — our backup that she has been carrying the whole time, but that we haven’t yet needed. She booted it up but noticed that the map screen was blank. Uh oh.

Double GPS failure? Really? How could that be?

Well, it was. We still had my phone as a last ditch backup, complete with maps and (luckily) GPX tracks that I had emailed myself and loaded into the Gaia app. Two problems: 1) it has limited battery life and we have no way to recharge it. 2) you have to stop, pull out the phone, take off a glove, hit the PIN unlock and then squint to see it in the sun.

It was going to make the day challenging to navigate. I’m so spoiled by having a GPS with tracks and basemaps on the handlebars, where quick glancing yields confirmation and an understanding of the terrain or the turns ahead.

It was like flying blind. More like thru-hiking. Oh well. I got frustrated with it for a while, and it definitely affected my mood. I’m responsible for navigation, after all.

It wasn’t too hard to follow the forest roads and highway to Battle Pass. It still made me nervous, though.

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Climbing Battle Pass to rejoin the CDT the wind kicked up to gale force levels. At the pass it was hard to walk around, talk to each other, or do anything, really. We hit in the wind shade of the outhouse, where I tried to revive our GPS units. My phone told me how to do a master reset of the eTrex line. Resetting Eszter’s did not solve the problem — same blank map but otherwise functional unit. OK, well maybe resetting mine will get it going.

It did. I went to the map screen and …. WHAT?! Same exact issue as Eszter’s — blank map screen but otherwise functional. I was about ready to chuck one of them off the divide — Atlantic or Pacific, I didn’t care where the remnants would eventually end up!

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We’d wasted enough time on the GPS units, it was time to accept it and continue on the trail with the tools we had. The following miles of CDT were almost always right on the divide, a mix of singletrack, ATV trail and old roads. First we climbed to 11,000′ Bridger Peak — named for Jim Bridger who had searched these mountains for beavers. Beaver pelts were all the rage in the fashion world in the 1840′s, so there was much money to be made if you could hunt them.

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The peak isn’t the only thing named after him in this area, and it wasn’t our only big climb to a peak along the divide. At some point I got tired of the mental fog from lack of sleep and the GPS frustration. I took half a caffeine pill and it immediately cleared the fog. Never had such a small amount of caffeine make so much of a difference. I was back to loving climbing steeply, and just so mentally happy with person, place and time.

Somewhere at the top we saw what we think is a badger with a striped face and marmot looking body. It was so terribly slow and uncoordinated running away from us. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one before.

We carefully made our way along the divide, stopping often to check the phone. This section is very poorly marked. One key turn from road to singletrack would be very easy to miss if you weren’t paying attention. Luckily Ley’s made mentions that you should look for it heading northbound, so we did.

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That turn brought us onto yet another hidden gem of the CDT — the Jack Creek trail. It totally surprised us, giving us over 1000 feet of descending on well contoured, beautifully forested trail. Wow. Just wow. It also had a couple creeks to fill up at — those are becoming increasingly rare.

What a treat. It’s surrounded on both sides by tough adventure riding, but when you’re in it, it’s as good as singletrack gets on a bike.

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After the bliss, the trail continues as non-existent in the meadows and good trail that is fairly well covered with deadfall in the trees. Really, really cool riding, but very slow going. I enjoyed it on so many levels, but as with many sections on this trail, near the end you are ready for it to end.

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We were ready to drop off and head into the desert. Time for some roads and faster miles! We dropped onto the divide route, a huge dirt behemoth of a road that is under construction for many miles. A wind farm is going in out there, so the road is being massively improved.

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Well, the road crews chose a bad place to make a few piles of dirt. They completely obscure both the CDT carsonite and the faint 2 track that the trail follows. We missed it. My over a mile. Worst missed turn yet of the trip. That’s a pretty good track record, I would say, considering some of the stories we have heard from hikers.

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So we pushed backwards into the wind and back on the CDT. It was a welcome change — a tiny and sandy 2-track heading out into the heart of the desert. Yes. This is what we came for.

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A few bends and hills brought us to a fence-line with a trail of sorts along it, down to the North Fork of Savery Creek. The creek bed was an oasis. Beautiful running clear water, out here? We sat in the green grass, drank up and made dinner. The only issue was that we discovered the burrito we had been carrying had molded. Gah! Food stores were already low and we had many miles to go. It was very tempting to give in and camp right there, but we wanted to get going early in the morning and new it would be cold/wet down in the deep canyon.

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So we emerged from the oasis as the sky lit afire to the west, climbing the canyon rim. A suitably flat spot was found. We were grateful that the wind had subsided somewhat, giving us the chance at a good night’s sleep. We needed it.

What a beautiful night. To the south we could see distant lightning. Light clouds floated over us, obscuring the stars at times. A nearly new moon was never seen. We both were awake early with grumbling stomachs. The race for Rawlins was on.

It’s funny how our perceptions of mileage on this trip have changed. We were only ~50 miles out of Rawlins, but on the CDT that could mean two days riding. We have learned not to take things for granted.

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The morning started slowly on beautiful 2-tracks. The sun flirted with morning clouds. The antelope bounded. The deer pranced and jumped fences. The phone came out many times, trying to decipher unmarked turns and ranch gates we didn’t know if we should go through or not.

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We were averaging just over 5 mph for the first hour or two. It was going to be a long day and a late push into Rawlins at this pace and with stops. We held out some hope of better road surfaces, but as yet they had not materialized.

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As the morning went on the wind picked up. Bless-the-skies it was favorable! Out of the west and south. We got our westward travel done early, before it got too strong.

Eventually we found ourselves paralleling Muddy Creek and going over Bridger Pass on very hardpack and very remote roads. We didn’t see anyone out there — just cows, antelope, deer and a couple snakes! A moto and a couple trucks came by only as we got close to 71.

The wind was at our backs nearly the entire time, blasting us into Rawlins. Average speed picked up to 8, 9 and 10 mph. Yeehaw. Riding open roads with a ripping tail wind is a pure pleasure like no other.

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It was a lovely route. Definitely longer than going straight up 71, but we avoided all of the construction and saw no traffic. We also saw no foot prints. It seems like many of the hikers just walk the main road (divide route) to save miles. Can’t blame them since it’s a long roadwalk.

In fact, as soon as we turned onto 71, we saw three hikers we hadn’t met before. The ‘fellowship’ of Gar, Christian and … the other guy’s trail name escapes me. They were looking pretty beat down, and racing to town to catch the 3pm closing of the all-you-can-eat Thai buffet.

Ooh, that mention motivated us. We had planned to take the dirt parallel to 71 that is the CDT, but our first opportunity to cut back over to it was signed private. The next backtracked too much with the wind as it was, we could see a hike-bike over the ridge over to Coal Creek. With the wind at our backs, limited food in our packs and a nearly dead phone to navigate by, it was an easy choice. Into town!

The Thai food was absolutely divide. We destroyed a few plates, eating until we couldn’t breathe. Who knew there was good food in Rawlins? We found ourselves a cheap room with an owner than knew about the race and instantly gave us a little discount.

Forecast was for west winds on Saturday, so it was a no brainer to take a zero day. The deep desert of the Great Basin is next and the route goes mostly west from here. Sunday is calling for a reversal and east winds. That’s an opportunity we can’t pass up on, and though we aren’t counting on it, there is hope for a favorable crossing. I can’t wait to get out there. It’s such a beautiful and desolate stretch, and the CDT looks to route us on much smaller and primitive roads — with more water too.

Days 60 and 61 – Springs of Steamboat and finishing Colorado

It’s hard to break the town vortex while on the CDT. Even harder when you have good friends, and it’s 90 degrees out.

By the time we left ‘the boat’, we knew it was going to be dark at Strawberry Hot Springs. Not the ideal situation, having never been there before. The road was much steeper than anticipated, and we just made it through the entrace before they stop letting people in at 9:30pm.

We felt our way down to the pools and tried to figure out how best to get in.  We ended up in the coolest pool first, then made our way up from there.

It was just the ticket to complete a day of relaxation in Steamboat.  Just what tired bodies needed.

The twilight seemed to last forever.  The starry night was big and deep.  We didn’t want to get out.

The place was booked except for one campsite that was $55, so we grabbed some water and coasted out the backside of the resort, looking for a singletrack.

It started out with a chunky descent.  Oh boy… what have we gotten ourselves into?  An all night downhill hike through chunder, trying to find a place to camp?





I could barely ride, being nearly 11pm and thoroughly blissed and zonked out by soaking in the springs.  Dizzy.

The trail turned smooth and contour, giving us a mile or so of nice riding until it opened up enough that two people could crash out for the night.

The night was warm, no mosquitoes.

In the morning, the day’s riding started as they all should — with primo dowhill singletrack.  Ah.  Trails that actual normal people ride.  We’ve missed those.

The hot springs trail dropped us to highway 129, continuing our Wilderness detour which happily included the hot springs, on route.


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A simple and cool morning’s ride took us to the Clark Store.  Along with Bode’s in Abiquiu, Clark’s is the best restock resupply on the GDMBR.  Luckily they are both on the CDTbike route.

We ate a delicious breakfast, checked in on the WiFi and loaded up with 3 days of provisions for the stretch ahead.

Seedhouse road took us back to the CDT, of course with a tailwind and a hot morning sun.  The tailwind was welcome until it pitched up, then it was cooking us.

Coolness was found at the campground water pump (Seedhouse CG).  The CDT went up from there.

Dan and Becky had set us up with low expectations for this stretch.  Turns out the first miles are trail that normal people ride.  We even saw such a mild mannered mountain biker out enjoying a pleasant spin.





So were we.  Ah, bikes.  Such a wonderful way to travel.





In Diamond Park the trail went from singletrack to ATV trail and the pattern from there on out was classic CDT style — ride the divide and tag every high point.

We both quite enjoyed it, until the last mile or two.  It’s Sargents Mesa style of riding, but with one tenth the rubble.  Half the climbs are rideable, the descents are fun and the flats are bliss.  Yay for bikes again.





We got cooked when the sun was out, and were comfortable when it hid behind the clouds.  The sun was so instense even at 9500′.





At a nondescript saddle my GPS indicated that it was time to leave the CDT and follow…. a closed road.  Let the adventure begin!

At this point I’m not sure which is more adventurous — following the CDT and riding pieces no one has, or turning off it and exploring new Wilderness detours.

This closed road turned into a win.  It was smooth and only closed to motorized traffic.  Perfect CDTbike route.


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It dropped us off the divide, where the trail continues with PUDs (pointless up and downs), into Hog Park.  A graded road awaited us there, which we pedaled into the evening hours, finally stopping at a quiet car camping spot off the road.

We’re feeling it, though today did go easier/smoother than expected.  Tomorrow we continue the detour to Battle Pass, and then explore the CDT all the way to Rawlins.





Oh yeah, I forgot that we crossed into Wyoming this evening!  The border was not marked, only an open gate and fence signified it.  We high fived and took a cheesy selfie.  Bye bye Colorado — thanks for all the incredible riding!