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GDMBR Chapter 10

Atlantic City, WY, to Colter Bay, WY


Waiting out the storm

From Atlantic City I shuttled to Dubois and checked into the Black Bear Inn.


It's a kitschy, highly themed 1950s downtown motel right on the Wind River and the sign outside advertised s'mores every night.


I planned on staying two nights to wait out a freakish early summer winter storm that brought high winds, sub-freezing temperatures, rain, hail and snow for several days.


Rest and refuel

Besides going out for breakfast at the Cowboy Cafe, getting groceries and doing laundry, I spent most of the day catching up on processing real life and updating the blog.


The TV in the room didn't get any channels but was equipped with a VHS and DVD player that could play any of the hundreds of movies available in the front lobby.


I checked out 13 going on 30, Zoolander, PS I Love You and a couple others. It was such a fun change of pace!


Wayward travelers

The next morning the weather was still grim, hovering around freezing with dark skies, off-and-on precipitation and wind.


From Dubois I had a climb over Togwotee Pass and then a nice descent into Colter Bay. The pass was above 9,000 ft and a quick glance in that direction revealed heavy snowfall occurring.


I milked every second until the 10:30a checkout time, hoping that the weather would miraculously clear up.


At 10:29a I opened the door and stuck my arm out to test the air.


That's when I saw a guy with a backpack who was similarly slowly vacating the room right next to mine.


We traded the same look and started talking. He was a CDT hiker named Andrew and was similarly waiting out the storm.


We decided to get breakfast together in hopes the weather improved within the next hour.


Unprecedented flooding closes Yellowstone

While at breakfast, the owner of the Inn, Liz, called to inform us Yellowstone had sustained severe damage from flash flooding. As of that morning all five entries were closed and everyone inside the park was being evacuated.


She was also getting reports that there was at least a foot of fresh snow on the pass.


She knew we were headed to the greater Yellowstone area and said she just couldn't let us leave. Instead, Liz offered us a room to stay in for free if we helped her get it ready for the summer season.


We said yes!


Serendipity

Upon leaving the cafe, Andrew ran across the street in search of new hiking shoes.


That's when a man walked out of the cafe and asked if I was thru hiking. I explained that I was thru biking, but that Andrew was thru hiking.


He said he and his wife recognized Andrew and were pretty sure they saw him and gave him half a PBJ at the top of Union Pass several days before.


When Andrew returned, sure enough they were right!


After catching up and before heading back to the Inn, a guy sitting near us reached out and explained that he was traveling the country in his Jeep. His name was David.


And just like that, we were three.


Getting the job done

Liz extended her offer to David, so the three of us went back to the Inn and got to work assembling beds, wiping down all surfaces and baseboards, vacuuming, mopping and arranging the feng shui.



We were such a raggedy bunch and had so much fun working together and laughing while listening to music.


A couple hours later, the man from the cafe messaged Andrew and invited us all to dinner.


Again, we said yes!



We sat for hours talking over pizza; our conversation at times evoking tears and at others boisterous laughter. Card and Joanie were such kind, interesting and incredibly generous people. True trail angels.


That night with full bellies and even more full hearts, the three of us went to bed early.


Hard to say goodbye

After spending three nights at the Inn, I got to know Liz, Andrew and David really well.


Andrew caught a ride with another guest who was headed to Idaho and I caught a ride with David, who was headed toward Yellowstone.


Because the park was still closed—indefinitely—I offered that David camp with me at Jenny Lake campground in Grand Teton National Park, where I had magically scored reservations a couple days earlier.


Sun, at last

There, we awoke to a beautiful bluebird morning and decided to hike to Delta Lake, just below Grand Teton.



Early on the trail we saw a woman clapping her hands and shouting, "Hey bear!" Her name was Sarah; she just finished her doctorate in physical therapy and was also traveling alone.




The three of us formed a pod and we hiked all day together. We saw many animals, including my first bear of the trip!



Camp

With Yellowstone's total closure, thousands of people were forced into the surrounding areas in search of accommodation. I was so lucky to snag the campsite at Jenny Lake when I did.



Jenny Lake is a small tent-only campground right on the lake and is coveted by those looking to stay in the park but away from the hum of RV generators.



There was a fox and a momma and baby moose that hung out near our campsite the entire time.


Paying it forward

That afternoon I walked over to the showers to check them out for the future (having showered just a couple days earlier I was still considered fresh...).


There was a machine that took cash in exchange for tokens. Each token was $5 and got you five minutes of hot water.


A man was looking at the machine with a $20 bill in his hand.


He lamented only needing one token, but that the machine didn't provide change for large bills.


I told him to hang tight. I ran back to camp and grabbed a $5 bill for him.


We talked for a bit and he explained that he was on a ten-day solo trip of a lifetime. His wife had gifted him this time away from the kids so he could explore, relax and read on his own.


Yellowstone was his main destination and he was incredibly sad at the thought of missing out on it.


He was what was quickly coined a, "Yellowstone refugee."


We swapped stories and I shared some gems of national forests nearby in Idaho and Montana and suggested some other activities in lieu of Yellowstone.


By the end his mood shifted, he let out a big smile, thanked me for the $5 bill and said, "This is just the kind of pick-me-up I needed!"


Kayaking

On Thursday morning I rode ten miles north to Signal Mountain marina, where they rent kayaks on the southeastern side of Jackson Lake.



I packed water, snacks, my watercolors and bluetooth speakers and was all but giddy when I pushed away from shore.


I paddled and floated out there for nearly three hours. It was glorious. My arms thanked me for the exercise. My legs thanked me for the rest.



To Jackson!

My friend and neighbor, Curt, was kind enough to hook me up with his buddy, Travis, who lives in Jackson. So after kayaking, I rode 35 miles back south to Travis' place.



It felt like being welcomed home—he was such a wonderful host! He spoiled me with delicious meals, I did laundry, showered and went through the resupply box I had mailed to him a few weeks earlier.


One more note on chamois cream

Additionally, Curt mailed a box with a new Rapha bib (so far, their XXS Core bib is the only one that fits me well) and some fancy Swiss chamois cream.


Okay, I know I keep talking about chamois and chamois cream, but it really is a critical piece of this adventure. Curt let me know I've been doing chamois cream all wrong... and ever since using the fancy European cream—correctly (that is to say, generously)—I have experienced zero problems. Thank you, Curt!


Cranking away

To top it off, Travis has a bike stand and all the tools. Nolie got a bubble bath, clean chain and cassette and a rear hub reset.


I also adjusted my seat height a tad higher to hopefully reduce some knee pain I've been experienced while clipping in with my cleats, checked all the bolts, pumped the tires up and together gave Nolie a thorough checkup.


The weight of it all

Saturday morning before departing, we did something I've never done before; weigh Nolie fully loaded with all the gear!



Travis tried to use his proper Park Tools bike scale, but quickly surpassed its max of 56 lbs. Then he grabbed his bathroom scale, which did the trick.


After subtracting my own weight, we learned my bike weighs a whopping 78 lbs! That's heavy! Granted it weighs this much fully loaded after a hefty resupply with several days-worth of food... but still. No wonder I've been huffing and puffing up those mountains.



Back on the road

After the official weigh in, I rode a short way north, about 35 miles to take advantage of the hiker/biker site at Jenny Lake.


There, I met another cyclist, Jens, who is on sabbatical from his job in Germany. Jens began his journey in Tucson, where he rode north on the Western Wildlands route to the Grand Canyon, before taking a connector trail over to the Great Divide Mountain Biking Route.


We ate dinner and breakfast together and waited out some thunderstorms before taking advantage of a break in the rain on Sunday to ride a short 25 miles north to Colter Bay, where we've officially rejoined the route.


From here, we go north!



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