Days 19-22: Trail Angels
When my brother, Trent, hiked the Appalachian Trail, he often spoke of “Trail Angels” who helped him along his journey.
If you’re not sure what I’m talking about (which seems to be a running theme for this blog) trail angels are generous human beings who go out of their way to help weary travelers like myself. They don’t ask for anything in return, rather they know the obstacles I’m facing because they’ve been there before. And, they know firsthand that a small act of kindness can make a huge impact on someone’s journey — especially when you feed them.
So, other than day 19 (feel free to skip ahead, unless you like cows), this post is a thank you note for the trail angels who helped me out tremendously over the past few days.
Day 19 - What’s 70 more miles?
Now, I know what you’re thinking — “Clint you just complained three days ago about how you hurt your knee pedaling too much in one day.”
I swear I have a good excuse, though (said every person in the wrong ever).
While the book laid out a challenging, 46-mile climb to a campsite located about 8000 ft high and near a lake, I quickly learned that once you get above 7000 ft, absolutely nothing grows besides small shrubs and bushes. So, you feel all 90 degrees of the sun beating down on you constantly.
Between the risk of bad weather, the lack of shade, and noticing that every creek bed was dried up, I didn’t want to take the risk of camping at that elevation. However, the only other option was to push on to the next campsite about 20 miles down the mountain, but it was located next to a river that I could follow the entire way down.
Dreaming of jumping in ice cold water, I took the gamble and headed for the next camp. Fortunately, there was a good omen ahead as a group of cows greeted me just before my descent.
The ride was mostly downhill but it still felt like a long time before I saw my depressing campsite — sorry I don’t mean to be negative but there is literally no other way to describe this one. While the river did run by, there was still zero shade and cowpies were littered throughout the campsite.
Normally I would say, “what’s 8 more miles to Lima?” (The next “major” town”) But this time, I will cut my losses, lick my wounds, and live to fight another day. And, I didn’t walk away empty handed. I got this cool pic of a crescent moon hanging out between two mountains.
Day 20 - Lima Beans
I woke up at 3am to what I thought was a cow brushing up against my tent. Then another grazed against me in the other direction.
I quickly realized this wasn’t an animal. This was a violent windstorm and I was in the spot you always want to be in the middle of any storm — an open field.
Spinning this to my advantage, I decided to go for a sunrise bike ride. I only had a few short miles to Lima and even would make a pit stop in the town of Dell (population: 21 and strong) to eat at the Old Schoolhouse Calf-A — which was an early 1900s schoolhouse turned breakfast spot. Everything was homemade and I was too focused on my incredibly tasty food to take a picture of the restaurant #sorrynotsorry
Lima was a full-service town. There was a gas station, motel/restaurant, and a bar that was closed because the owners had just gotten married — congrats! There were also 8 Tesla chargers in the parking lot of the cafe that I am still scratching my head at.
Lima was an important stop. Not because of the abundance of amenities the town had to offer, but it was also the point where my brother, Trent, and his fiancé, Meghan, were going to meet up with me. (The whole family is shocked she said yes, but that’s a different story)
Just seeing these two lifted my spirits a ton, but they also didn’t come empty handed. Trent brought up some camp meals, a winter hat, and a small plastic flask of Pendleton whiskey (for emergencies only, of course). Meghan arrived with homemade power bars, a Dairy Queen blizzard, and a Big Mac — sorry Trent, Meghan won this round.
We shipped on up to the town of Dillon, had an incredible steak dinner, and paid for our meals via a group effort on the video poker machine.
Lima was the rest day I really needed and the support I received from Trent and Meghan really reassured my plans to continue forward toward Antelope Wells. I was sad to say good bye but was rejuvenated by the reunion.
Day 21 - An “Emergency”
I will admit, it was tough to get back into the swing off things after a day of rest. Especially since today’s ride gave me a lovely view of, well, nothing. Just endless plains of shrubs and grasses that went on for miles.
Fast forward 67 miles, and we arrived at Red Rocks Wildlife Refuge. Here I immediately met Bruce, the most approachable Great Divider I’ve ever met. I kid you not, Bruce struck up a conversation with every camper at the site, including Hailey and Tim who invited Bruce and I (well mostly Bruce — I crashed the party) to hang out at their campsite.
Hailey and Tim were some of the most welcoming folks that I’ve met on the trail thus far — and I’m not just saying that because they fed me. They also had a pair of dogs: Nora, the dog sitting photogenically below, and Hank, the dog that just couldn’t find his “good side” for this photo.
Needless to say, coming empty-handed to a barbecue felt like a type of “emergency.” So, that night, we cracked open the Pendleton whiskey, shared stories from our adventures, and ate popcorn cooked straight off the grill.
Bruce and I aren’t the first bikers that Tim and Hailey have hosted. These two have a track record of taking care of Great Dividers and I consider myself very fortunate to have crossed paths with them on my trip. Thanks again for your generosity.
Day 22- Goodbye Montana
When I checked the map this morning, I realized that I had overlooked one important detail. In 15 short miles, I would be crossing the state border into the potato-fueled land of Idaho. To my surprise, they even greeted me with this sign.
On my way into town, I saw my first wildfire on Sawtelle Mountain. Massive planes flew overhead dumping water on the flames, then circled back to the nearby lake to resupply. Although this is an established, anti-wildfire (and anti-ecoterrorism) website, it was impressive to see these massive planes sink so low to the water then ascend right before they hit land.
Saving us all some details from a relatively uneventful ride after that, I’ll skip ahead to camp that night which was right off the Warm River — apparently a popular vacation spot and also not a very warm river. As I searched for an open campground — and slowly losing hope that I would find one — I was taken in by a nice trio of kayakers who drove up from Utah.
Chad and his two nephews were more generous that I could have ever expected. Even though I inadvertently tried to steal their reserved spot, (whoops) Chad allowed me to pitch my tent on his site for free and even entertained my rudimentary questions about white-water kayaking.
Tomorrow, I’ll head to Colter Bay Village, officially entering Wyoming. That leaves us with just 3 more states to conquer before Apollo and I cross the finish line. In the words of the immortal Bart Scott, “can’t wait.”