Day 4 – The morning arrived under partly cloudy skies after an intense thunderstorm over night. A large thunderstorm had made its way north through the Grand Teton valley and up into Yellowstone. We were awakened around 3:00 a.m. by the loudest thunder claps I think I’ve ever heard. The Teton Range and Lake Jackson focused the intense sound directly into our campsite. Quite the symphony and worth being woken up for. Today we are riding from Moran Junction east to Dubois, Wyoming over the Continental Divide at Togwotee Pass.
We started this morning’s ride a couple of miles east of Moran Junction. The turnout where we parked provided a nice staging area to unload my truck and prep for our ride. With the Grand Teton Park sign overseeing the start of our ride we had to take the traditional travel photo like so many others.
With the Tetons as a spectacular backdrop, it was pretty cool to watch Keith ride towards me. There aren’t many places where you can see mountains rise skyward so dramatically. Seven thousand feet upward right in your face.
We had noticed earlier in our trip that the leaves had started changing color. As the days and nights started getting cooler more trees were changing. A few miles from the park sign, we encounter our first hill and start climbing towards Togwotee Pass.
We began to watch the weather a bit closer. Just a short while ago it was fairly clear. Now we noticed the clouds building up around us. Ahead of us to the east was an active thunderstorm. Even though we were riding towards the storm, we were riding slow enough to stay behind its rain and lightning. However, we noticed that other storms were forming southwest of us. Off to the west the Tetons were shrouded in clouds and rain. It appeared we would be able to avoid any rain since we were sandwiched between storms. And it looked like they were starting to fade. Unexpectedly, Norma pulled up next to us. She anticipated that we might encounter some bad weather. We sent her on ahead and continued our ride hoping to avoid the storms.
Within a couple of miles after Norma left us we topped out into an open valley that clearly showed us what was up ahead. It looked pretty nasty. Lots or rain and lightning. We were only 15 miles into our 55 mile ride but we decided it was best to call it a day. As we loaded our bikes into my truck it started raining. At the pass there were a couple inches of hail on the pavement and it began to rain hard. It continued to rain most of the way down into Dubois. We had made the right decision. Keith pointed out a couple of times in the truck we only had a couple of miles to the pass when Norma picked us up. And that we missed the 30-mile downhill ride into Dubois. Needless to say we were both pissed to miss the best part of the ride.
We pass the North Breccia Cliffs, an impressive wall of hardened volcanic ash and rocks. Finally the rain stopped a few miles west of Dubois. It was hard to believe the desert-like environment after having just been in the lush Wind River Range.
Since we ended our ride a couple of hours early we had plenty of time to make it to our next destination. We stopped in Dubois to have lunch and to enjoy the afternoon now that it was warmer and dry. There are a number of cafes and restaurants in Dubois. The Cowboy Cafe was packed with the lunch crowd. When on the Open Road always eat at a place that is crowded. A sure sign the food is good. We sat next to three bow hunters from Lander who assured us the food was good. A friendly group to talk with. Half the fun being on the Open Road is meeting new people and sharing travel stories.
From Lander, we have a long drive to the start of our ride tomorrow south of Rock Springs, Wyoming. We were going to camp at Sinks Canyon State Park, southwest of Lander, but we decided to drive a bit further and camp on the edge of the Shoshone National Forest near South Pass. South Pass is the lowest point on the Continental Divide between the Central Rocky Mountains and the Southern Rocky Mountains. The historic pass became the route for emigrants on the Oregon, California and Mormon trails to the West during the 19th century. The Pony Express also traveled through the pass during its one year of operation. We found a really nice campsite. No one around and quiet. Keith built our first campfire of the trip. It was nice sitting around the fire enjoying a Red Lodge Ale and the lightning show off to the west.
Stay tuned. The next segment of our trip takes us from Rock Springs, Wyoming to the Flaming Gorge Dam in Utah.