Great Continental Divide Adventure Ride

Day 9 - Pinedale, Wyoming to Island Park, Idaho

CDR day 9 mapThe ride today at 241 miles was one of the most diverse of the journey, while also throwing a few more curveballs.  Leaving Pinedale, and climbing higher into the mountains of the Shoshone National Forest, the landscape becomes quite scenic.  We got lucky with the timing of the wildflowers that seem to be at their peak bloom (after a good rain year), comparable to some of the best locations I have been to across the west.  Compositions with some of the mountains made for some excellent photograph opportunities.

Eventually the ride drops down into the Grand Tetons National Park from the east.  At this point we encountered the typical hordes of tourists and the traffic that comes with it.  After grabbing a lunch-to-go from the Colter Bay visitor center store, we headed out via the backroads from the park toward the west, finding a picnic table off the dirt road Ashton Flagg Ranch further on our planned route.  From there the road becomes quite dusty for about 35 miles all the way into Idaho.  Occasionally one would have to pass a truck, which could become quite a hazard at times, given the limited visibility from the dust and number of blind corners.

Surviving the long road of dust out of the Tetons to the west, the route then takes on a different nature as you get closer to Ashton.  It passes through rolling green agriculture fields reminiscent of the Palouse region of eastern Washington.  This is followed by another surprise when the route drops down a short and steep path through a culvert and on to an old railroad grade, sharing a path with the Yellowstone Trail that other hikers also use.  Initially the path opens up, following the ledge of a steep cliff along the scenic Warm River.  At first this ride is very nice and relatively easy.  But with time the path narrows to a double track with fairly loose dirt in each relatively deep track.  This route has the additional hazards of pine tree branches that overlap the path, isolated fence posts just off to the sides, washboard, and looser sand in some deeper ruts, and more challenging cattle guards in the shape of steep 1 foot tall metal grilles in the shape of an arch.  It felt like on some type of new type of adventure bike challenge course.  One of these cattle guards ends up being the undoing for one of the riders (Jake) immediately behind me that apparently hit it too fast, throwing his 650 GS into the air, landing back on the guard at the mid-section, and ripping the kickstand springs off the bike. 

After we recovered the springs and zip-tied Jake's kickstand to the bike’s frame for an emergency repair, I started trying to settle in on the best tactic for covering what turned out to be another 20 miles of this.  What ended up working best for my bike’s suspension was to increase my speed in order to stay above the washboard.  Initially this worked okay with the exception of an occasional tree branch that I would have less response time to dodge, getting wacked in the shoulder or helmet at 40 mph.  Bill on an Africa Twin had been playing with some of his suspension adjustments earlier, but was now not getting a satisfactory feel in this stuff, decided to slow his pace a bit.  Meanwhile I kept the speed up while trying to keep up with Rich, a more skillfull rider on a KTM 990 who was ahead of all of us. 

The right side of this track seemed to work better, as there would be an occasional fence post dangerously close to the track on the left side.  Given the narrow path and deep ruts, there is limited maneuvering room. By now I am starting to wonder when is this thing going to end.  As the path progressed I was starting to feel more like a boiled frog, with the track getting even sandier with a looser volcanic ash, and the whoops started to increase in size from the side due to some ATV cross-traffic that cut across this path on a more frequent basis.  About only ¼ mile from the end, I ended up taking a hard low side fall when being thrown too far sideways by one of these berms.  Bill and a couple of ATV’ers came to my rescue to help lift the bike up, while I was writhing in pain from my now injured right ankle that took the brunt of my 530 pound bike’s fall.

Unbeknownst to me, most of the other riders of the overall group had previously bailed before reaching this portion of the route (cutting over to the highway for the rest of the way into Island Park), with the exception for myself and two others from our immediate team: Rich and Bill.  In hindsight that probably was the right move, as it is easy to imagine there might have been even more casualties through this increasingly tricky path.  My other mistake was not to slow down in the end to be more careful to pick my way through, as I was becoming increasingly impatient to just get it done as rain from a thunderstorm began to worsen.

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