Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Rain, Hail and Hospitality

Location: Smoot, WY, USA
We headed out from the stay in the motel via a couple of shops to buy bear spray.  I wasn't overly convinced we would need it this far south but after talking to a couple of people who all said that we were now in bear country and that they were out and awake we decided it would be for the best.  We left later from Evanston than we would have liked and headed pretty much directly north, bouncing our way along the Wyoming, Utah and Idaho borders.  The riding was fairly easy along the valley floor and we made good progress.  We found a small road that ran pretty much parallel with highway 89 so we took a punt and followed it to see if it was good.  It was a brilliant decision because the road was fully tarmacked and over the number of hours on it we were passed by only a handful of cars.  We enjoyed riding side-by-side talking about future plans and wondering about the cycling in Canada.  The weather didn't play nice and we got rained on a couple of times and during a dry spell there was a puncture where we rushed to change the inner tube as thunder claps rang out around us and we watched the rain follow highway 89 along the base of the hills.

The thick, heavy rain clouds meant that it was getting darker earlier than usual, this was only the third day we've had rain in the entire trip, so we stopped by the side of the road for a snack and tried to figured out where to set up camp.  We were, however, interrupted by a dog.  We had noticed it earlier as we rode past a ranch but didn't pay much attention since it was behind a fence and not barking but now it was whimpering and whining next to use as we ate.  We started to cycle away but it followed us, so we headed back to the ranch.  As we walked up the drive the dog ran off into the field with the horses so we headed back on our way.  After a couple of minutes we noticed the dog running alongside us.  We carried on and after quite a few miles it's attention was drawn towards a second barking dog and we were able to continue without our canine entourage.  We turned into the farming settlement that is Raymond and asked a lady about camping options and she let us pitch up on her land.  We only just managed to set up the tent before the heaven's opened and it started to pour.

A wet and windy night turned into a cold, damp morning as we headed off towards the Star Valley.  We started our climb over Salt River Pass but before long the rain and then hail began to fall. We had learnt some lessons from Boulder Mountain and were slightly better prepared but it still wasn't very fun riding.  Winding our way up, a car stopped in front of us.  Karen introduced herself and asked where we were heading.  Since we weren't really sure apart from "north" towards Yellowstone National Park, she offered us to stay with her and her husband Rich on their ranch in Smoot.  We exchanged numbers and got the directions and headed on up the pass with renewed vigour after our meeting and managed to feel more positive and enjoy the gorgeous Bridger National Forest around us.

At the summit we were stopped again by some women in their car.  They were avid cyclists and proceeded to question us about our route and why we thought it was a good idea to cycle through Wyoming in April.  They informed us this road was normally surrounded by 4 feet of snow on both sides and that the warm, dry weather in April was not normal.  Before they left they informed us that there was a breaking of the ground ceremony for a Mormon temple in Afton on the Saturday and they were expecting 4000 visitors and that on Sunday a snow storm was expected.  As they left another car pulled into the turnout coming towards us so we braced to talk to more strangers.  As the driver got out the car and moved towards us he asked "Tom? Sophie?"  This took me completely by surprise and wondered if we were some how minor celebrities in the area, but Rich explained that he was Karen's husband and after she got home he wanted to check to see if we were okay and offered us a lift to the house.  The weather had cleared a little and we wanted the reward of the downhill so we declined and Rich confirmed the directions, that it was all down hill and that he had the fire on at the ranch.

We arrived with Rich after a brilliant downhill and warmed up our cold hands but felt lucky to bump into such wonderful people.  Their ranch was a beautiful log house with 80 acres of land with cabins in the woods and even a saloon.  Sophie and I would love to have land one day and we both looked around and were inspired by so much.  I really would like an old western style saloon in my woods one day.  While with Rich and Karen we double checked the weather and a storm was forecast on the Sunday.  They kindly offered us a lift up to Jackson (some 80 miles away!) on the Sunday but we were struggling to find a Warm Showers host so they starting asking folks that they knew (like so many Americans, Rich's and Karen's kindness seemed to be without boundary).  A friend was able to put us up in a canvas walled tent for the night in Wilson, just outside of Jackson.  That sounded great to us so we accepted the offer.  On the Sunday we awoke to white trees, fields and mountains.  The snow continued until about 12, then it seemed to just disappear as quickly as it arrived.  After giving us a fleece jacket each Rich drove us up to Wilson to meet Dave; they described him as a Duck Dynasty type hunter, mountain man that is a really nice guy but don't talk about politics or we might lose our place to stay.  This, to Sophie, is a red rag to a bull.


  1. Another great chapter in the story of everyday biking folk! Mr P

  2. We loved hosting you both. We look forward to following you. P.S. I don't remember giving Sophie a red rag to wave in front of a bull (ha, ha) :) Karen