Today we unfortunately had to leave Steamboat Springs. We would have liked to stay longer, but we have other places and people to see before heading home. The route we had planned was a spectacular one – west to Dinosaur National Monument for the first night, then up into Wyoming along the west side of the Wind River range, stopping in Pinedale and camping up above at the foot of the mountains, just to have a taste of the area. I’ve been wanting to hike the Wind Rivers many years, ever since I drove by the sheer granite of their eastern escarpment on the way up to Montana for a conference, but they are so remote that I’ve never been able to put it together. And this time we won’t manage it either, because it’ll be too cold at the 10K-ish altitudes that much of the camping is done at for our compact summer sleeping bags.
After the Wind Rivers we’ll head up into Yellowstone and see some geyers, then continue north into part of the the Absaroka range. Finally we’ll hang a left at this point and head northeast-ish through the very north tip of Idaho (avoiding the fires hopefully) to Spokane, where a mutual friend of P and I’s from our Saudi time lives.
All of this sounds great on paper, but this morning we had an appointment to get our bikes’ oil changed, which was a good thing but led to us starting out close to 11. The heat had already had some chance to build, and it built even further as we crossed dry rolling plains west of Steamboat. Clouds kept looming in the west, but the sun was more in the east and overhead, so it kept beating down unobstructed and seemed like it would continue to do so until drops of rain literally started falling on our heads. By the time we got to the Utah entrance to Dinosaur we were both in stupors from the heat, and things were getting oppressive. Even the roads were starting to melt in places.
We went in to the visitors center and took the shuttle up to see the (thankfully indoor) wall of bones, but even after this was over near 4 the sun was still high in the sky and promised to beat down for more hours still. The campground we had been planning to stay at in Dinosaur reportedly had very little shade, and we decided to abandon the camping idea altogether. (If there were any restaurants, bars, or coffee shops around we could have chilled in onne of those for a few hours, but there weren’t.) So we motored a bit further into Vernal, Utah, which was a positively depressing place but was able to offer a decent selection of air-conditioned motels. This was sad, because one thing we’ve learned is that motels are just about the same everywhere, whereas every halfway-decent campground is positively steeped in the natural character of its area. But I don’t think we were physically up for being in that sun for much longer.
Tomorrow, however, we’ll be back at altitude as well as a couple of hundred miles further north. Things should be looking up.