Saturday, September 26, 2009

Day Two Hundred-four, 090920 - Ten Sleep, WY

Day Two Hundred-four, Date Sunday, September 20, 2009
Time in Saddle: 6:49
Distance for the Day: 59.60 miles From Big Horn Nat’l Forest To Ten Sleep, WY
Accumulated Trip Distance: 10,261 miles
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 6917’/4605’, Highest: 9666’ Accumulated: 4652’
Speeds: Avg: 8.7 mph, Max: 41.6 mph
Weather: 52° mostly cloudy, rain, then clearing and cool by evening
Expenditures: $33

I woke up several times throughout the night, hearing, or *thought* I was hearing, more rustlings. I really woke up at about 5:30am, but dozed until 6:20am, when I got up and secured my gear. I had a bit of breakfast at 6:40am of two bananas, some of that “tainted” trailmix (fingers crossed), and a Spicy Hot V8 to wash it all down. Gone was the clear skies of last night; now there were clouds all over the place, some rather ominous, with a few blue patches showing – about what I expected. During the night, I got real thirsty after eating a bag of salty ChexMix, which was a mistake. I was already a bit low on drinkables, and during the night, I had to drink almost a quart of Gatorade to slake my thirst, so I was now even lower on drinkables (not including the water). But, when it’s cold and wet or moist, I don’t need nearly as much to re-hydrate, so I wasn’t too worried. It was a gorgeous sunrise, so I took some pictures of that. The temperature dropped enough to need the rain gear to help keep me warm. At 7:10am I was ready to continue my ascent over the Big Horn Nat’l Forest mountain range, about a good 50 miles and 2700’ altitude gain from where I was to the town on the other side (Ten Sleep), come what may (weather-wise). It was, of course, tough, with several 7% grades, making me go to my lowest gear. I would go for as long as I could “comfortably” (hyperventilating with heart rates as high as 150 BPM), and then stop to rest, just to long enough to get back to normal breathing. I’d then continue on, until I needed to rest, again. I kept this up all the way to the summit, though the higher I got, the less I needed to do it, because the grades became progressively easier.

Before the first rain hit, I found a very nice restaurant called the South Fork at about 8am, where I had pancakes, eggs, hot cocoa, and picked up a couple of sodas for the road ($16 including the late tip). I talked with several of the people there, including the chef, the waitress, and some of the other customers, about my trip. It rained a bit while I was eating, but it let up again after 20 minutes, or so. Meanwhile, a pickup truck pulled in, and there was a big, dead moose in the back. It was bow hunting season, and this fellow really lucked-out. Not only did he manage to get one of the few permits available to hunt moose (I think it was something like 80 available to the thousands of applications), he got a big one; kind of like hitting the ‘hunters’ lottery.’ Everyone was jazzed about it – even the waitress, who had herself killed a moose once with bow and arrow. It didn’t do much for me, but I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area. I paid up and left at 9:40am, started chugging my way up the mountain again, and after a few hundred yards, I went “doh!” turned around, and went back to give the waitress her tip, which I’d forgotten.

Getting back on the road once again, I did get drizzled and rained on a few times – no downpours, but a few good, steady rain periods. On the long haul up, I fell into a kind of semi-conscious, half-lidded stupor to sort of ‘forget’ about the discomfort of the situation, which included cold, numb fingers and toes. I was conscious enough to stay on a straight course along the shoulder, but that was about it. I was only vaguely aware of the scenery or even the traffic, and I could rouse myself out of it any time I felt I needed to, but for fairly long periods 10, 20, 30 minutes at a time I was not all there – an interesting survival mechanism. The rain was light enough that I managed to keep somewhat non-drenched. I saw a small group of deer grazing by the roadside. (Have I mentioned this before?) They didn’t seem to take notice of passing vehicles, but when they saw me, they got very concerned, and went bounding away with their peculiar little hops. After I passed by them a few hundred yards, I looked back, and some of them were crossing the road in front of oncoming traffic. The cars had to slow down to avoid hitting them. I’ve seen plenty of deer carcasses on the road, and could see why.

I made the Powder River Pass summit, elevation 9,666’ ASL, at 2pm. The weather, here, was dry though still overcast and very cold. Back from where I came, it was still black and stormy-looking, and to the north and west, where I was headed, I could see patches of blue. Thankfully, it would be mostly downhill, now, but ‘wow’ – I sure wasn’t expecting such a scenic ride down. The weather on this side of the range cleared completely, with plenty of warm sunshine and dry air. During the fast, steep descents, I took helmet cam video, and stopped now and then to take pictures, too. It was so amazing – reminiscent of the Grand Canyon, though not quite as big. Also amazingly, by the time I got down to the bottom, I and all my gear was completely dry, again, and the weather was now quite temperate – bonus! Unfortunately, a very temporary bonus, by the time I made it to the bottom, the sky had begun to cloud up, again.

From 4:45pm to 5pm, I visited the Ten Sleep Fish Hatchery – I’ve always wanted to visit one of these facilities, and finally did – it was very cool. This particular one cultivates and stocks Yellowstone with cutthroat trout, among several other species. They even had a 25-cent candy dispenser thing for a handful of fish food pellets, which I got, and threw into the pond with big fish in it. Looked kind of like piranha in action! I stopped in the small town of Ten Sleep at about 5:30pm, and got drinks and food items ($7) and also stopped in the local café to get a burger and salad ($10), and to charge up my notebook and camera batteries. Unfortunately, my camera battery is starting to fade (won’t hold a charge for long), which means I’ll either have to buy a replacement camera or, if I can find one, the proprietary battery. I’ll check online first chance I get.
By the time I left the café at 7:30pm, the sun had already set, and it was getting downright dark out. I wasn’t seeing any good possible sites near town, so I kept moving along my chosen route, which turned north. I kept going, and going, and not seeing any good possibilities. At one point, I noticed the shapes of four animals of unknown type, running along and keeping pace with me. I couldn’t quite tell if they were horses, or dogs, or what, it was that dark, but they must have gotten stopped by a fence at the end of the field they were in – that was a little weird. It got to very dark, mostly because of all the cloud cover – otherwise, there would have still been *some* light in the evening sky. I was still not finding anything good looking, and then I began to see a few lightning flashes in front of me, and to the rear, too (no, or very-delayed thunder). This put an extra sense of urgency to the matter, for me, as I really did not want to have to set up camp in some muddy dirt field in the rain. So, I found a dry dirt field right next to the road (N44 3.758’ W107 29.394’) that had a short, steep gravel and dirt drive down to it. I walked down to scope it out a bit, and thought, ‘good enough.’ I brought my trike down, set up my tent, cloaked my trike, and hopped in by 8:30pm. No rain, yet, and very occasional car headlights or lightning flashes, still without thunder, lit up my tent. Sure hope it don’t rain, because if it does, I’m going to have some muddy gear to pack away, and may even have trouble getting my trike back up to the road – ugh! At about 9:30pm, the wind picked up, strong. It would cause my tent to warp and sway, and it’s such a narrow tent, it would nudge me, making sleep kind of difficult. I hoped it would die down, but it didn’t – it kept up, and kept waking me up, the whole night.

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