Grand Teton NP to Pinedale, WY on the Great Divide!

After the mama grizzly bear and her two cubs ran off I continued my ride towards Brooks Lake Lodge where my day would end at the campground there. The weather was perfect that day, I felt strong and happy. The climbs were moderate that day and the final climb of the day lead me to the top of Togwotee Pass 9,658 feet. My gps started acting strange at the summit and my paper maps, guidebook and gps were not matching up. I followed my gps and it took me on an extremely long and fun downhill on the Trans America Bicycle Trail/ US Highway 26. About 7 miles down the highway I saw a sign for Brooks Lake Lodge and realized that my gps was wrong and I had missed a turn back on top of the summit. I then rode/walked my bike uphill on FR 515 towards Brooks Lake Lodge and the campground where the Denver boys and I had agreed to meet for the night. I was backtracking now and exhausted and knew that in the morning I would have to get back to the top of the pass and redo the correct route down to Brooks Lake Lodge. Ugh!! That night was one of the funniest evenings with the boys. I noticed that Brad had been carrying a sponge in his cooking set and for some reason it made me laugh so hard. Zach then began giving the sponge a voice and personality of its own, which made me laugh even more. I guess you had to be there to understand the silliness of the situation.

The next day, I left super early because I had to make up the section I had missed the day before, plus ride another 50 or so miles. I rode back down FR 515 to US highway 26, stuck my thumb out and in a few minutes was inside a warm F150 truck headed to the top of Togwotee Pass. I was dropped off at the summit and continued towards the turn I had missed the day before. It was around 7:15-7:30 am when I turned at Wind River Picnic area off of US highway 26 and onto FR 515, I came around a corner and there about 12 feet from me and my bike was a giant grizzly bear. I had surprised him and instantly I could hear my fathers voice in my head saying, get off your bike now and stand still. I got off my bike, I stood as still as possible, the grizzly then stood up tall on his two feet, he was over 8 feet and growling and hissing at me. He was pissed. I was terrified. There I was trapped with this grizzly and my bike. I couldn’t drop my bike and run, I couldn’t ride past him. I was face to face with this grizzly and scared to death. I thought for sure I was going to be attacked and thought that if he charged me I would drop to the ground and try to throw my bike on top of my body because its steel and might mitigate blood loss. I was frozen in fear. He was so close to me, he was mad, huge and making very intimidating sounds at me. At one point I thought about reaching for my phone to take a picture of this amazing crazy moment, but, I was frozen and kept telling myself not to move at all. After about two minutes, he got down on all four feet and started coming closer to me still hissing and growling and then he ran off. I ran back towards the picnic area and called my dad crying. I was totally freaked out and did not realize until later that day what an adrealine rush that experience had been. The rest of the day I was a little whacked out. I rode FR 515 back down to the campground and completed the section I had missed. I came up with a song about grizzlies and was singing it on the top of my lungs the whole ride down to the campground. The boys were still at camp and I was a mess when I got back there. I was really shaken up and really scared. Oh man I was scared and on edge for the rest of the day. The climbing was pretty rough up Sheridan Creek and Union Pass. I was wiped from my adventure with the grizzly and the miles seemed to not stop that day. Around noon this truck stopped in the middle of the road and this guy who reminded me of my Grandfather got out and he asked me, “what the hell are you doing out here alone.” He then proceeded to tell me that my map was wrong and the upcoming turn did not exist. This worried me a bit, but, I assured him my map was indeed correct and I was okay out there alone. We talked for awhile and he gave me his contact info because he wanted updates on my progress and safety. His name as he claims, was, Canadian Bob. He told me he would drive ahead to check out whether my map was right 🙂

I continued to push my bike up and then in about another hour these two guys on an ATV stopped and gave me some water. I told them I was having a rough day and what I was doing out there, they looked at me as though I was nuts. They couldn’t understand why I would be out there alone riding from Canada to Mexico and I was too tired to really get into why I was out there and at that moment I too agreed with them that what I was doing was nuts. Two hours later as I approached the turn for the final climb of the day I again ran into Canadian Bob and those two guys, they expressed their concern on how many more miles I had left to ride for the day. The two guys asked me what I would like to eat and offered to make me sandwhiches at their cabin down the road and then drive their ATV up towards the pass and meet me. I began the final climb up towards Union Pass and a little while later, there they came on their ATV. They had two ham sandwhiches, chocolate donuts, cookies and cold water for me. They could tell I was exhausted, they actually grabbed my bike from me and insisted that I sit down off my bike and eat. It was incredibly kind of them and I needed that break off my bike and the fuel from good solid food. I can’t explain what their kindness meant to me. After I finished eating we said goodbye and I continued up the pass, the day was ending, but, I knew it was all downhill once I got to the top and figured I could get to camp right as it got dark. As I got to the top of Union Pass there those guys were again, they said they just wanted to check on me and make sure I got to the top safely. They again filled my bottles with water and I assured them I would make camp before it got dark. At the top it was finally time to ride down and get to the Lake of the Woods to meet the boys to camp. I got there literally a few minutes before night fell. I was completely wiped.

Not many people know that I suffer from Crohns Disease, Pernicious Anemia, Interstitial Cystitis, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, extreme anxiety and depression. All of those conditions tire me out faster than normal and especially during big adventures, my body gets wiped way quicker. It takes me longer to recover. I have to take more breaks, drink more water, eat more, and things take me longer than they take others. I usually spent 8-12 hours a day on my bike, some days less, but, usually my days were longer than other riders days might be. I know myself, I have learned to manage my flare ups, understand my triggers and listen to my body. It is a daily battle, something I rarely talk about. I promised myself that I would live my life with all of these conditions and never let them define who I was. Never use them as an excuse for why I couldn’t do something. I will never win a race, but, I have amazing mental and physical endurance that I have developed through learning about myself and what it takes for me to complete big adventures. I get wiped and my being wiped is very intense. I felt wiped every single day, but, that day, with all that had happened, I was beyond wiped and sore. My body was wearing out and it did not help that I could not sleep that night. I also have always struggled with sleep issues, even when I am beyond exhausted some nights I just don’t sleep, it is like torture. But, I have learned to manage that too and to deal with days of sleep deprivation. That damn grizzly encounter really whacked me out more than I knew.

In the morning, I left headed for Whiskey Grove Campground. The riding was alright, lots of ups and downs and the temperature was warming up. In fact, it was pretty darn hot. Riding down towards the Green River was fun, but, so bumpy, lots of rocks and after awhile it became annoying and not so much fun. I arrived at Whiskey Grove late afternoon and found the boys who were playing in the River. Our campsite was hot and not really a good site for pitching tents but it was the only site left and we had to make do. The cold water of the Green River was a welcoming break from the heat and a nice foot soak. At some point all three of us laid in the rocks at our site and shared food fantasies with one another. We each described a food that sounded good to us, it was ridiculous. We knew that the next day we could eat whatever we wanted because we would be in Pinedale. We set up all three tents in the rocks where you would park a car, it looked upsurd, but, there was no other flat place to setup tents. It was a good day!

I rode into Pinedale the next afternoon and went to the bike shop to get a few things looked at, about an hour or so later the boys arrived into town and we met up and ate burgers at the Brewery. The boys were heading home there and had their car waiting for them in Pinedale. I was bummed they were leaving, but, I did not want to let them know that I was bummed. I was kinda happy when they decided to stay the night. Okay, I was stoked they were staying one more night! We got a hotel room to share and as bikepackers do, we ate more food. Early the next morning it was time for the boys to leave. I knew I was going to have to hunker down there for a few days because a crazy snowstorm was on its way. The weather was shifting and the snow was coming. And now, I was alone again. The fun was about to end, at least I thought so.

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