Up to the Wind Rivers

After the heat of yesterday we were determined to get an early start, and we managed to get on the road by 7. We had over a hundred miles by the time we’d started the day before, but we perhaps didn’t need it. We climbed up to well above 8,000 feet through the Uintas in northeastern Utah, and barely descended going into Wyoming. This is some of the most spectacular riding or driving to be found in the lower 48. Signs along the road tell you the geological layers you are at now, and the sorts of fossilized creatures have been found here. Things like “Oldrivian Layer, Small Squidlike Creatures”, or “Cambrian Layer, Bizarre Sharks and Flowering Sea Plants”. Obviously all kinds of things can be and probably were found in each layer in question, but picking one somehow brings a dramatic aspect home as you pass through.

After descending a bit from the Uintas, we headed straight into Flaming Gorge, a great Lake Powell-like reservoir created by a dam which we ended up riding over. Then it was on into a sweeping land of broad hills covered with scrub. The road wound through it in long arcs, and there was virtually no traffic. It was now starting to warm up just a little – the ride so far had been rather refreshingly in the 60′s – and we stopped to pull off a layer of clothing.

For the next couple of hours we rode through this land, gradually descending into a flatter area, until we began to see the dark, hazy shapes of mountains on the eastern horizon: the Wind Rivers. These mountains are the highest section of the U.S. Rockies outside of Colorado, with several peaks just under 14,000 feet. Furthermore they are fashioned of white granite, like the Sierras of California. But they’re out in the western part of Wyoming, hundreds of miles from anywhere. On the east side is the Wind River Indian reservation, a place with very few roads. On the west side U.S. highway 191 heads up from northern Utah, eventually hitting Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. I’m not sure how people really get here. The rich fly in to Jackson Hole, but everytime I’ve checked out flights there I’ve ended up looking for other options.

At any rate, we got a little closer to the mountains, then arrived in the town of Pinedale. This was a reasonably nice town, in terms of having traded some of its rough rancher / miner town character for a more outdoor recreationally oriented one. There were outfitter stores, a couple of coffee shops, and even a brewpub. I suppose many purists would complain this is mere tourism spoilage, and yearn for the good ol’ days when the only businesses in town were a general store and a farm supply, and the local watering hole was a broken-down shack with Miller Lite neon signs in its window. I happen to know a few places those folks could head, while we were happy to take Pinedale as it is now.

We made it in a little after 1, had lunch at the brewpub, took a short walk around, then headed up the road east out of town towards Fremont Lake. And here was the end of smooth sailing for the day. There was a big road construction operation going on within a short distance of the main road. It was hard to find out how long it continued, and since Päivi’s bike was not the best outfitted for gravel road riding, we ended up bailing on our planned campsite up by the lake, and taking one down in town. Then in the late afternoon we rode together on the Versys up to see what we’d missed. It turned out our planned campground was closed (also for construction), and it took us nearly an hour to make the 16 miles up a narrow, winding – but paved – road up to trail’s end at 9400 feet. By the time we got there clouds were threatening from all directions – afternoon in the mountains in certain seasons is always a chancy affair – and it was getting late, so we snapped a few pictures and headed back down. Another round at the brewpub finished off the evening.






244 miles.

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