The Tetons

18/05/2010

Another early start and another cold morning saw me pushing upwards towards the top of Togwotee pass. The climb was tough, and a headwind didn’t help matters, but at least the effort kept me warm! I am definately in bear country now – throught the day I lost count of the number of signs encouraging me to ‘be bear aware’.

As I climbed higher I left the arid, red rocks behind and plunged into dense forests still thick with snow and ice. I reached Togwotee pass (the second highest point on the trail at 9,658ft) around 09.30, and was glad to see a sign advertising that the next 17 miles would be steeply downhill. I has been expecting good views at the top, but was disappointed – all I could see were snow drifts and pine trees. I didn’t have to wait long though, as I decended the trees thinned and the Tetons lay before me in all their glory. They are truly impressive mountains – without preamble they rise sharply out of the valley floor, and the panoramic view of them from across the gap was superb. I spent the remainder of the day in their shadow, and loved every minute of it – Teton national park is without a doubt one of the most spectacular places in the world. When I entered the park, I asked two wardens about where to stay – they looked at me as if I was a bit odd, and then one said ‘your very early’ to which the other added ‘yes, very early’. This was neither helpful nor encouraging, so I showed them my map which appeared to show lots of places to stay. One of them compared my map to a list, turned back to me and happily told that they were all closed until June. This didn’t help either, so I changed tack and asked if they new of anywhere that was open – he blinked, and turned back to his list. After serious consideration of his list he told me that Flagg Ranch had opened yesterday, having finally managed to extract some useful information I asked him if he could phone them and make sure that they were indeed open. He looked to the other warden as if asking for permition – ‘oh all right then’ she said with an air of exasperation ‘but don’t make a reservation’. Several minutes later I peddled off, with an impression that rangers are quite peculiar, but nevertheless secure in the knowledge that there was somewhere to stay.

I cycled along the shore of Jackson Lake, which is still completely frozen over, providing a fantasic foreground to the Tetons, towering snowy and enternal behind it. I had one last challenge before I finished for the day – a climb ‘Steamboat Mountain’. I reached the top after several miles of climbing to find a que of cars. I peddled to the front, and saw roadworks ahead – the attendant directed me to wait, and informed me that I would have to be taken through in a truck. Four miles later and I had been driven to the bottom, of course the roadworks would have to be on a downhill section, rather than the climb up! As I rolled up to Flagg Ranch it started to rain pretty heavily – I was lucky to have had a clear view of the Tetons this morning, unspoiled by rain and low cloud. However my releif at having missed the rain didn’t last long – Flagg Ranch is without a doubt the worst place I’ve had the displeasure of staying in this trip. It’s overpriced, offers absolute zero value for money, and worst of all doesn’t have a proper heater – the shack in Guffey was warmer.

Since I left Dubois this morning I haven’t passed a single settlement, and won’t until I reach West Yellowstone at the end of tomorrows ride – 160 miles from Dubois. It’s increadable the amount of space in Wyoming, it’s about the size of England and Wales and has about half a million citizens – around 5 people per square mile, by contrast the UK has 637 people per square mile! I’ve got Yellowstone National Park to look forward to tomorrow, and I can put this place behind me.

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