6 – 18 July 2013
When I entered Grand Teton NP the long downhill through the forest continued all the way to big Lake Jackson where I got the first views of the magnificent mountain range. The road took me 40k (25 miles) along the eastern shore of the lake – sometimes a bit away from the lake but most of the time I could see the gorgeous mountains. As I came south more and more clouds appeared over the mountains and when I got very close it was so dark that I expected to bike into a another thunderstorm – I had of course hoped for better weather but this was a great experience because it created a more dramatic atmosphere. The storm never came but it did rain - despite that I decided to take a small detour along Jenny Lake Scenic Road down to the campground in Jenny Lake. This is the most popular place in the park so the campground was long full – however, only two people where at the dedicated spot for hikers/bikers – Jasper and Tangui from Chicago; later Carl from Wales hiked in over the mountains. It was an overcast afternoon with lots of showers so exploring the area seemed less interesting. Instead I stayed at the campground talking to the others – good company and friendly guys.
Everybody had told me to spend some extra time at Jenny Lake but when it was overcast the next morning I had my doubts. However, the clouds disappered as quickly as they had appeared and I decided to stay another day. After breakfast I bicycled 16k (10 miles) back along the main road a re-did the Jenny Lake Scenic Road once more now in great weather – and I got some beautiful views of the mountains. After returning to the campground, Carl and I decided to do an 8k (5 miles) hike to a small waterfall on the other side og the lake. It was a nice walk through the forest and eventually we got some fine views of the lake. The trail was a bit busy but not as bad as I had feared as most tourists take a boat across the lake and do the short walk up to the fall. However, when we got to the fall and Inspiration Point (viewpoint) it was very crowded. Instead of backtracking we decided to continue walking around the lake and when we got to northern end we decided to prolong the hike with another couple of lakes - it was a nice hike walking through a very diverse landscape. We met fairly few people on these trails – at least until we reached an overcrowded stretch along the shore close to a parking lot; it was Sunday and it seemed like the whole neighbourhood was at the lake (the closest they come to a beach). Around noon clouds startet gathering over the mountains and I expected a repetition of yeasterday's afternoon rain, but we were lucky that it didn't rain until we got back to the campground – and even then not very much. The short hike ended up being 30k (18 miles), so we were a bit tired when we finally reached the campground around 16.00.
The next morning I rode south towards Jackson – first along the highway along the mountain range and later on Moose Wilson Road were people had told me I could see moose. Besides being a 15k (9 miles) detour, it was a cosy, small, hilly and winding road with beautiful views of the mountains but no moose to see despite going very slowly and scouting right and left. In Jackson I stocked up and continued south on highway 89 most of the time along Snake River. It was primarily downhill and still I couldn't get the bike rolling very fast – there was a headwind but it didn't seem to be the only reason. Many times I checked the bike to see if something was “touching” but I couldn't find anything. Just after Alpine I camped at a small camp spot locals use (and had recommended) but this Monday evening I was the only one there. When taking the bags of the bike I noticed that one of the straps on my “sausage-back” was broken – not a catastrophy in itself but if the other one breaks I can't use it as it'll no longer be water proof.
I continued south through the beautiful valley where grass was the crop based on irrigation from the river. I had noticed my crank/bottombracket was lose so when I found a bicycle shop in Thayne (surprisingly with it's location in the middle of nowhere and population of only 346), I hoped they could tighten it. Unfortunately both bearings were worn down and he didn't have new ones – instead he greased the old ones promising me I would be able to feel an improvement. For a couple of hours it felt better but after that I wasn't so sure.... After a short (and hilly) ride through beautiful Bridger-Teton NP I crossed into Idaho towards Bear Lake that many had recommended. Another 8k (5 miles) climb over a mountain range and then a long downhill into the valley and Montpellier. I had intended to reach the lake late afternoon/early evening (to have the sun in the back), but I had already driven 144k (90 miles), so it seemed unlikely as there was still a way to go. In Paris I stopped for camping recommendation at a small store and the clerk called her brother in St Charles to ask if I could pitch the tent on his property. “No problem” so I rode another 16k (10 miles) down the road and stayed overnight with Randall and his family – very friendly people.
As I continued south along the western shore, I experienced what I had tried to avoid the day before: the sun was in my face/behind the lake preventing good views. The Idaho side of the lake is mostly farmland, but when I crossed into Utah everything was more busy and developed. The lake is famous for its blue water which I got to see at a marina where I could get the sun in the back and later when the road took a turn at the southern end. From here it was another 8k (5miles) climb over the mountains and then a long ride downhill into the next valley. It was another hot day in the high 30'ies (high 90'ies) and once again through dry, open praerie – only occationally I passed by grass fields where irrigation from the river was possible. Besides the headwind, highway 16 didn't help my progress - 50k (30 miles) on a road with poor asphalt and countless cracks, it was a close competitor for worst highway after South Dakota's highway 30. I reached Evanston late afternoon and when trying to ask a driver for directions he did a less nice finger gesture – a first time experience; what I had done to deserve that I don't know, but the poor soul must be stuck in a miserable life to react like that. After visiting the library and stocking up I headed south out of town on highway 150. Nobody in town could advice a place to camp and when saying I would find a helpful person on my way out of town, people were sceptical. Nevertheless Justin - the first guy I met - was kind to let me pitch the tent in his backyard; he also let me shower and offered me dinner and beers. I settled for the latter and enjoyed our long conversation on many different topics. Later I briefly got to meet part of his nice family.
Highway 150 through Wasatch national forest and over the Uinta Mountains is the highest road in Utah peaking at 3.280m (10.759 feet) – the higest I've ever bicycled. Consequently, I was a bit concerned there would be steep passages that might be difficult to climb with my heavy bike and broken bearings – as it turned out, it was one of the easiest mountains I had yet penetrated with a 40k (25 miles) long gradual incline. And the steep passages were never longer than 8k (5 miles) before they leveled out.... I was helped by the overcast weather lowering the temperature, but unfortunately also preventing good views as I approached the top. I stopped for lunch at Mirror Lake where the sun shortly peeped through the clouds. The busy campground and USD 16 for a spot convinced to push on. A few kilometres later I reached the top considering whether to ride down in the overcast weather or stay for the night hoping for improvement the next morning. As different people told me it would be better in the morning I decided to stay even though it was only late afternoon. After a long day of climbing it was nice to have some extra time for relaxing...
In the morning I discovered one of my tent poles were broken and also the weather wasn't as forecast. After a calm night it startet raining early morning and it continued until 10.30am with only minimal breaks. Before I finished breakfast and packing it was 11.45 but still no rain so I took the chance and headed out. 5 minutes later I hit heavy rain and wind which was made much worse by my downhill speed. The clouds hang low and there was little point in stopping for sightseeing (exept for a cute little waterfall). Not that stopping would have been easy - my breaks were worn down and needed to be tightened so even though I used both breaks it took about 50 metres (167 feet) to stop...not very safe but fortunately nothing happened. As I came down the mountain the weather slowly startet to improve and when I got to Kamas in the valley the sun was out. A pity as it could have been a nice ride down, but it was not to be. From Kamas I had 22 k (14 miles) with a couple of long steep hills to Park City (who hosted a lot of the activities in the 2002 Winter Olympics) where I arrived mid afternoon. I was to stay with Camilla that I met at a Yellowstone campground. As she was working until late afternoon, I checked out a couple of bicycle shops and dried my wet gear outside the public library until Camilla came by at 17.45. We went directly to a fundraiser at the recycle station – I looked and smelled terrible after 10 days on the road, but nobody seemed to mind. Besides Camilla I talked a lot with Romilos who was Greek but had lived many years in the US and was currently visiting his son in Park City.
Saturday morning Camilla took me sightseeing in the surrounding mountains – we had planned a hike but it looked like thunder and rain so we skipped it. Camilla had to go to Salt Lake City to buy a new computer, and while we where there - after visiting numerous shops – we finally found a new tire and bottombracket set for me. We also made a short visit to Temple Square where the central Mormon church and headquarters are. Sunday we spent the morning talking and while Camilla went to a town fair I fixed my bike (besides the new bottombracket and bearings, I zip-tied my lock to the frame after a screw had been shaken loose on the many poor roads) and worked on my homepage. A really pleasant stay with many interesting conversations.
After saying goodbye to Camilla I spent the next day in nearby Heber City library working on my homepage. Well, not the whole day as Rich found my life change and trip so interesting that he invited me out for lunch to learn more - and he also kind to invite me to stay with his family for the night. It was right on the way to Saratoga Springs where I would visit Reno and Tris that I met in Yellowstone so it couldn't be better. After a long day I left the library at 19.30 and drove the 22k (14 miles) to their place in canyon meadows – unfortunately, a little too late to get the beautiful views of Mt Timpanogos and the lakes as the sun was disappearing behind the mountains. A great pleasure - one the most helpful and generous families I have stayed with and nice to learn more about the mormon faith being in Utah....
After a hearty breakfast and more interesting conversation, Rich met me 10k (6 miles) down the road at Vivian Park by a small waterfall and a fish pond (yet again a lot of people came over to ask about my trip). From there it was only a 30 kilometres (18 miles) ride (on busy roads with a lot of construction) to the valley and Lehi where I spent the rest of the afternoon in the library.... It was clouded all the way but while sitting in the library it was nice weather. At 18.15 I left the library to go to Reno and Tris' place in Saratoga Spring (I met them at the same campground in Yellowstone where I met camilla). I took a little longer to get there than expected as I took a wrong turn out of town and ran right into a small thunderstorm (~ a thundergale?). They had part of the family over for a BBQ, so I was treated with a big dinner.... Reno had just been through a back surgery so he was home all day. We talked a lot and went down to a community hot spring and while he was resting I finished updating my homepage. Another amazing stay with kind, helpful and generous people....
Adding 1,100k (700 miles) to the previous distance my total is now up to 9,000k (5,600 miles).