Sunday, August 18, 2013

Week Nine

Wyoming...A short week @ days

428 miles..18,694 feet climb
3912 miles total...147,630 feet climb total

Crossing the western state boundaries has more significance now. They are signs of the distance accumulated behind me and of the large state before me. I could cross three states in a week in the east, but it now takes more than a week to traverse one.

Welcome to the West
This has been a week to gain comfort with broad, open spaces. Since the Sandhills of Nebraska it seems every day presents a more vast landscape. First the towns became more remote; then even the way stations spread out farther; to 30, 40, and 50 miles separate. I stopped at The Spotted Horse Bar in the middle of nowhere, and Aladdin Store. These from outward appearance run down places are the local community center, cafe, bar, soda fountain, pit stop, watering hole. The bicyclist must stop to restore water and body.

For my cemetery seeking Jenny
Aladdin Store
Climbing Bighorn

All this open land gives much time for contemplation. Even though I can at times make good speed, the distances are so great that it feels as if I am moving at half the speed. The distant hills never seem to get closer. I can look seemingly forever in many directions. I am totally alone. Only the wind keeps me company. Yet there is life everywhere...plants, birds, mice, wild horses that I can not see. Wilderness, plains, and mountains instill a reverence and humility in me. The wind and the silence when there is no wind evoke that still, small voice heard by Elijah. It is indeed humbling and exhilarating.

There are many sites worth a visit...

Vore Buffalo Jump...a sink hole used by natives over a 10,000 year period to stage a coordinated stampede over the steep walls to pile up dead animals for winter rations. This wasn't discovered until construction of Interstate 90.

Archeology dig

Devils Tower...more appropriately named "Bear Lodge" by most native traditions. It only took some US army officer to alter centuries of native myths by succumbing to his more ominous nature and labeling it such on his map. The campground where we stayed showed the film "Close Encounters" in the appropriate location to see the film. Look for the climbers in one of the photos below to give some scale to this wonder. will need to zoom in on the center of the picture and focus on the top of a leaning column.

Bear Lodge
Find the climbers
Blackie wasn't taking any chances after viewing the film
Prairie Dogs abound here also

Bighorn Mountains...the western slopes are large canyons with massive exposed sheer rock cliffs. This is the highest I have ever ridden a bike at 9,666 feet elevation. The climb is severe from either side. I camped at an altitude of 8300 feet by a clear mountain stream. Woke up to 48 degrees. Within three hours I was riding in high desert plains where the shade temperature was 97 degrees and 118 degrees on the road. There are many forest fires ablaze in the western states creating a haze over the mountains. Yesterday morning leaving Greybull I felt a slightly warmer breeze and distinctly smelled smoke for the first time. I'm told it will be thick in Yellowstone. Where usually one can see the mountains from a great distance away, I must be relatively close to make out their details. The white patches on Bighorn are glaciers above 12,000 feet.

Bighorn Mountains
Time for a breather...Blackie is hanging out too
Much cooler location at 8300'
Western canyon
20 mile descent
A sense of the loneliness...and that people still find a way to live here.

...anyone out there?
Red house in red hills
Alfalfa has strong aromatic presence
Variations in subtitle shades
Ranch sign
Ranches have a regional theme of using cut out steel plate for signs and to indicate what their ranch had to offer. There is a medieval tradition of doing something similar in France where a signpost on the edge of town would use icons or tokens to represent the services available in the village. By chance I stopped at this particular ranch before I noticed its name. Brewster is a family connection to me. See an earlier post...The Jumpoff.

For the bike traveler...

  • Spearfish, Old US 15 that parallels I-90, Wyoming border, Vore Buffalo Jump historic site (sinkhole where Indians trapped buffalo), Road 111, Highway 24 (right turn 1/4 mile to visit Aladdin store), Hulett, Devils Tower (native name is "Bear Lodge"), KOA camp @ $30 but there is a NP camp inside park
  • Devils Tower, Highway 24, Highway 14, Moorcroft, Highway W 14/16, Road WY 51 that parallels I-90, Gillette, commercial camp
  • Gillette, Highway 14/16, Spotted Horse Bar, Clearmont, Buffalo, commercial camp
  • Buffalo, Highway 16, Bighorn NF, Lakeview NF camp @ 8300 feet elevation
  • Bighorn NF, Ten Sleep, Lower Norwood Road, Highway 31, Manderson, Highway 16/20, Basin, Greybull, commercial camp
  • Greybull, Highway 14/16/20 (the longest yet between services @ 50 miles), Cody, Buffalo Bill Cody Center of the West, commercial camp

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