Today, I went climbing, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve felt as though I can even put my harness on. For the past few years, climbing has been attached to so many negative emotions for me that even when I tried, it was as though my body didn’t understand how to move on the rock. Mostly, it was that my anxiety was out of control and my confidence had been beaten down. I have many memories from the past of being on rock- just me- my body- the air- the sky- and the rock I was attached to. In those perfect moments I felt free, alive, grounded and a deep feeling of bliss. The movement of ones body on rock is like a dance- a puzzle- a wonderful platform for challenge and growth. I have missed that feeling. I have allowed my anxiety and depression to stifle the very things I’ve needed to stay healthy and grounded- it’s a daily battle and struggle of an internal mess you know will always be there. No matter what. For me, anxiety and depression have created a barrier between me and the world and most importantly the very things I need. Being anxious all the time feels terrible and it’s exhausting, because your body and mind aren’t working together, they are fighting. Depression for me is like being locked in a dark closet alone and you can hear the happy world going on right outside the door, but, no matter how hard you try, it seems as though you just can’t open that door and walk out. You feel trapped, anxious, alone, like no one understands and even if they could, you couldn’t explain it. It’s extremely isolating and it tears all the good parts of you, it decreases your self esteem and thus, keeping you even more alone and isolated. I don’t usually talk much about these struggles or the struggles with my medical conditions because I don’t want to bring people down or whine or seem weak. But, I think we need to talk about these kind of things because otherwise they become too daunting and overwhelming, and they slowly destroy you. I have days when I’m not too depressed or anxious, but, those kind of days are very rare. The norm for me is to be anxious and depressed. Being on rock today, something clicked inside of me. I totally sucked today. I was scared to be so high up, I felt anxious, I felt like an idiot because I was in such poor climbing shape, but, I also felt happy and excited for more days on rock, more days of learning to control my anxiety so that I can build back what I miss about climbing. So that I can get back to the zen part of climbing and embrace the challenge and grounding impact is has on me. I will always struggle with many things, but, I am going to make a better effort to stop ignoring and keeping myself from the things I need. Hopefully, I can continue to remember who I am and what I need and what I love. I hope everyone is able to do that for themselves, because we all need to.
After a much needed day off in Lima (I called it Lima Bean) I headed out for a 57 mile day which would end with meeting the Denver boys at Upper Lake Campground in the Red Rocks National Wildlife Refuge. It was pretty easy riding that day, however, my body was still wiped from the 81 mile day into Lima. I arrived late afternoon and the boys were already there, sitting in the shade at a picnic table. I remember eating a ton of food, talking about food we wished we had and enjoying the cold water from the piped spring at the campground.
Leaving Upper Lake Campground, I left before the boys and headed for the Idaho border. I was ready to be out of Montana and into a new state. Afterall, Montana was over 700 miles and it seemed at times as though I was never leaving that state. So I was really looking forward to riding into Idaho and feeling like I was making progress. At about 12.8 miles from camp after summiting Red Rocks Pass I entered into Idaho and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Yay!!! Idaho!! I rode for another 18 or so miles and stopped at highway 20. A few miles before stopping at the highway the route took me through an amazing section of trail winding aspens and flowers, it was absolutely beautiful and peaceful and oh the smells, the smells of the forest. The smells are so good for my soul. At the highway, the boys caught up to me and we all rode down the highway into Mack’s Inn and went straight for the Mexican restaurant. We ate a lot. Then we decided to go live it up at the Marriott for the night and watch scary movies and of course, eat more. There we were dirtbag filthy bikers in the fancy clean Marriott lobby, it was a hilarious site to see. We enjoyed our evening there and in the morning against our best judgment and the advice of my mother to stay another night, we headed out in the sub 40 degree pouring rain 🌧 the route followed an old rail way and it was, well, it was not fun. The bumps, the rain, the cold, the washboards, holy moly!!!!! My fingers burned all day from being so cold and I was soaked. When I arrived at Warm River-it’s not warm :)- the boys had taken over the group campsite and awning picnic area and looked just as defeated and cold as I was. We unpacked everything and laid it out on the covered picnic tables to dry. It was so cold!!!! We decided to get wood from the camp host to build a fire, which is something that is rare, but on that night, we needed a fire to warm up and lift our spirits. On the way to the camp hosts site we were offered chocolate cake from a couple I had met right before I got to the campground. Chocolate cake!!!! We happily took the cake and began chatting with them. I noticed the women’s bike and I fell in love with it. That’s where my bike addiction will start, that exact moment of thinking and planning on having more than one bike. Not good. Ugh! After chatting with the couple and exchanging stories and such we made it to the camp hosts site and bought a bundle of wood. We returned to camp, cooked dinner, built a fire and boiled water to put in our water bottles inside our sleeping bags to keep us warm. It was a cold cold 🥶 night at Warm River! But as always camped with the Denver boys made the sucky times a little easier and better.
In the morning, I left and headed towards Flagg Ranch about 47 miles, the air was freezing in the first hours of the day, but the scenery was beautiful. Riding Ashton Flagg Ranch Road was awesome. So pretty! Grassy Lakes reservoir was crystal clear and the colors throughout the day were brilliant. I arrived at Flagg Ranch in the afternoon and planned on camping there until I found out how ridiculously expensive it was to stay there. I waited for the boys to get there and we ordered food, bought snacks and decided to ride another mile to different campground down the road that wasn’t going to charge us $82 to pitch three tents. When we got to the campsite this guy and his son welcomed us into their campsite and we setup there. As if that wasn’t kind enough of him, he offered to take us into Yellowstone to see Old Faithful. We took him up on his offer and went along for a night I’ll never forget. We saw old faithful, Grand and a few other geysers erupt under the stars. Pretty rad! It was a late night, but, so worth it. The kindness from strangers is just so amazing and it’s what makes this journey what it is. That night I started having bad pain in my legs, achy, painful, annoying sensations that made it hard for me to sleep.
The next day, I left early as always. I knew I only had 16 miles into Colter Bay, WY, but the pain in my legs became worse and I couldn’t even pedal, it was so bad. I didn’t know what to do. I hadn’t experienced that sort of constant pain in my legs before. Those 16 miles into Colter Bay seemed to never end. At that point on the route, those were some of the hardest miles for me due to the pain. I walked a lot of it. The redeeming part of that section was finally getting to see the Tetons. When I arrived at Colter Bay the boys had already secured a cabin. I told the boys about my leg pain and Zach suggested maybe I was low in salt, he gave me a salt pill and we took the rest of the day off. The salt pill did in fact help with the leg pain and I realized I was going to have to pay closer attention to my electrolyte intake so this pain wouldn’t become an issue again. The amount of tourists was a tad too much for me, but I needed the rest, I needed to do laundry and resupply so it was what it was.
The following morning, I left Colter Bay and headed into Grand Teton National Park. A few miles before the park, I met this photographer and we talked for awhile. He gave me water and a Coke and snapped a few pictures of me- it’s hard to get pictures of yourself when traveling alone, so I’m always happy when I have someone willing to take a few pictures of me. Proof I’m actually doing what I say I am 🙂 after riding into the national park I saw signs stating there were grizzlies in the area and to stay in your car. A few minutes later I saw a group of people on the side of the road, I then looked to my left and saw two grizzly cubs playing in the trees. I got off my bike and moved further off the road. Then, there the two cubs came, out of the trees onto the road and then came mama grizzly. All three crossing the road right in front of my bike. They were so beautiful 😍 what a special experience that was. I could watch them for hours but wanted to be respectful and let them be and continued on with my day. To be continued…..
Tonight, 10/23/20 I am staying at the Hacita Bike Ranch, owned by Jeffrey Sharp. It’s 11 pm and I cannot sleep. I rode 80 miles today from Silver City and I should be exhausted and dead asleep by now. However, I just can’t sleep. My mind is all over the place. Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll arrive at Antelope Wells/ Mexican border and my time on the Great Divide will end. A few days ago while riding into Silver City I was overwhelmed with memories of my journey out here playing in my mind like an adventure movie. Scene by scene. And, tonight it is even more overwhelming for me, this journey has been difficult to say the least. I am no stranger to great adventures, to long adventures; I’ve thru hiked and traveled 1000s of miles on my own two feet. I have thru hiked Mexico to Canada and I know all too well the emotions that accompany the completion of these kind of adventures. But this accomplishment is more emotional than any of my past ones.
I set out from Canada on my bike, having not ridden a bike in 15 years, I knew nothing about bikes or specs, or maintenance. Hell, I couldn’t even pedal up a 200 foot hill 🙂 seriously!! I was a rookie in every way in regards to biking. I set out to heal, to reflect and process the loss of my sister and come to terms with the horrible man I married, the destruction he caused and my choice to divorce him. I set out to find the person I was and had lost through years of his abuse. He robbed me of time, of myself and of all my goodness and happiness. I thought that riding from Canada to Mexico would be just what I needed to heal. Tonight, as I lay awake unable to sleep due to the anticipation of finishing tomorrow I realize that my expectations of this journey didn’t come to life. I haven’t healed. I haven’t processed anything. I have had many many moments of tears, of wondering why Martha is gone and thinking about how I miss her so very much. How she was always my greatest cheerleader and she wasn’t here for this journey. I have struggled internally everyday to keep riding, to not give up, no matter how hard it got. I have met fantastic people from all walks of life, I have shared conversations, laughs, tears and food with so many amazing people. I have felt alone. I have felt lost. I have felt scared, happy, hopeful, sad, defeated- I have felt at one time or another out here every possible emotion. Yet, I haven’t healed and I fear that returning home tomorrow will bring everything back, everything I wanted to escape from. I worry that maybe nothing will help me heal.
Everyone carries their own definition of adventure- to some it’s having a baby, buying a house, moving to a new place, walking across or biking across the country, climbing Everest, etc. For me, adventure means mental and physical challenge and being outside among the wild for extended periods of time. I have always used my adventures in the past to help me heal and this time it just didn’t work. I hope in the coming days after I complete this journey there will be some kind of realization inside of me, some sort of healing. And, if not, I guess I’ll just have to keep adventuring until my heart is whole again.
My cousin, Mark drove me back to Butte after my stay in Bozeman. It was nice to be able to get to know him more, talk and spend some time together. We stopped at Dairy Queen before he dropped me off. We said our goodbyes and I spent the rest of the night preparing for the next day. I woke up early and grabbed some breakfast. I rode about 36 miles the next day, which landed me at Beaver Dam Campground- the haze from the fires continued to block any and all views. I set up camp and during that time a creepy guy drove up to my campsite, got out of his truck and walked over and sat on my picnic table. He let his dogs out of his truck, they were sprayed painted neon orange. When I questioned him about why his dogs were spray painted, he responded by saying, “there’s a lot of weirdos out there.” Oh my goodness 🙂 He then proceeded to tell me he had a cabin a few miles back and told me I should come stay there. He was way too interested in my route and itinerary and he began to really freak me out, he didn’t take any social cues I gave to leave and acknowledge that I was super uncomfortable. A few minutes later this red van pulled up to the site across from mine and I walked over to talk to them. The guy left and I was happy to be near others for the evening.
In the morning, I filled up on water and left camp. Today, I was to climb up and descend the famous Fleecer Ridge, which is an extremely steep unridable rocky section. Many great divide riders opt to avoid this section and take an alternate to save themselves the headache of navigating this section. The climb was moderate, the cows were so incredibly vocal during my ascent. Once I reached the top the clouds started to darken, it started to drizzle, but the views were incredible. I could see for miles and it was so peaceful up there. I walked my bike to the edge and began the descent. No way on earth could I imagine myself or anyone riding down that. I squeezed my brakes, braced myself and carefully walked/slid down the worst of it. My bike slid all over, it was very difficult to maintain footing and keep my bike from falling down. Once I got to the bottom the rest of the ride into Wise River was fairy easy.
Wise River was a nice little stop for pizza and charging up my phone. After lunch, I turned on to the Pioneer Mountain Scenic By-Way, which climbed for miles and miles but it was an easy grade climb, with fabulous views, running water, rainbows, trees and plenty of nice campsites along the way. I camped about 13 miles after Wise River. It continued to rain heavily all night and it was freezing cold the next morning while I packed up, but it didn’t stop me from heading out. The remainder of the climb from camp on the By-Way was a bit steeper and I walked my bike the final 5 miles or so. I was rewarded with a super fun downhill from the top and then an easy and very enjoyable rest of the day into Bannack State Park. A few miles from Bannack I was stopped by two guys in a car who offered me a coke and water. They pulled over and we began talking. The older guy told me about his adventure of riding his tandem bike across the country with his wife in 1989, we shared stories, laughs and then went our separate ways. I remember feeling so good this day, feeling like today was perfect. Then, right before Bannack I met the Denver boys. I kinda invited myself to camp with them that evening and I would end up tagging along with them for the coming two weeks. We all set up camp, then decided to go explore the old ghost town of Bannack. We visited each building, creating our own stories about what the history was in each of them. It couldn’t have been a better day.
The next day, I packed up early and left. The boys were still sleeping. My bike was soaked and so was my tent. I hate packing up wet gear 😦 My plan for the day was to ride 38 or so miles and camp after the big climb up to the medicine lodge/ big sheep creek Divide. Around noon after about 31 miles the boys caught me while I was eating lunch and Zach made a comment about riding another 51 miles into Lima. I laughed and told them I was camping at a lake off route and that there was no way I could ride another 51 miles. They took off and finished my lunch and dried out my tent fly. The climb sucked. I rode down the other side of the climb expecting to see the boys camped, I didn’t see them anywhere. I assumed they actually did ride another 51 miles into Lima and from somewhere I decided to ride into Lima to meet up with the boys. The rain started up again, it rained hard, it was freezing. I kept feeding myself donuts and riding, luckily it was easy riding. The route took me through this beautiful canyon area, it was even more beautiful in the rain. Miles and miles kept going by and I kept telling myself, “Elizabeth, just get into Lima”. It was mentally difficult to keep riding and I was more than exhausted. Just before dark I arrived in Lima, 81 miles from camp. I went to Jans to eat, there was no sign of the boys 🙂 I spent the night in Lima and the next day the boys rode into town around 1 pm. They thought it was hilarious that I had actually ridden 81 miles the day before and they told me that they had camped at the off route lake I told them I was planning on staying at. The rest of the day was lazy and all I did was laundry and eat a lot of food. My body was way more exhausted than I thought. I decided that day that there would be no more 81 mile days! However, I was very proud of myself for accomplishing that, but, knew it wasn’t something I could sustain. The day ended with a yummy dinner at the steak house in town.