I woke at dawn to a surprisingly chilly morning. Unzipping the sleeping bag briefly revealed that it was far too cold yet to attempt putting on pants. Lola (curled up into a tight little ball) opened up one eye briefly to see if I’d get up. I elected to sleep a little longer, and hope the sun breaking over Walton Peak would warm things up.
But, it didn’t. Admitting defeat, I quickly put on pants, my jacket liner and packed up camp thinking that by moving really fast, I would warm up quicker. I could see my breath as I was priming the engine with the kick-starter, and made a personal note to pay more attention to the altimeter on my GPS. 9600 feet is bound to be a bit chilly in the mornings. What was I thinking climbing into the sleeping bag in my skivvies?
Down the other side of Muddy Pass into Steamboat, I was greeted with a few low-flying hot air balloons drifting lazily in the morning air. I attempted to find a nice coffee shop with some outdoor seating, but didn't find anything that wasn't jam-packed with people. Nothing a little more right hand twisting couldn't solve.
An hour down the road, I came across the Wild Goose Coffee
(at the granary) in Hayden, CO. Situated inside a 1917 granary, it had a cool “industrial” feel of days gone by. Like someone had put a coffee shop inside a garage, or the old Villers-Norton factory. Outdoor seating and some funky metal art sealed the deal for me.
Just a cafe-au-lait and a muffin is all I’d need to keep going through the afternoon. Lola got some water from the owners and a biscuit for not pooping on their patio.
Some cool uses of old railroad spikes and rusting old wheels. Patriotic too. Go America.
As I was preparing to leave, a number of local folks came over to ask about my trip, Lola and the Ural. When the local constabulary stopped by for some coffee and words, it seemed like half of the town was outside the coffee shop chatting each other up. I must have handed out 4 Ural brochures in this one town. Real friendly, unassuming place. Before I left, I circled the town on my map as a possible retirement location.
Back on US-40, it was more open flat country on straight roads. I gassed up in Craig, CO and filled my spare jerry cans for the first time on the trip. No gas or services for 130+ miles until Rock Springs, Wyoming.
At some point after we turned onto 318, Lola decided she’d seen enough of northwestern CO, and took a nap. Whenever I’d downshift or slow down to a certain speed, she’d pop right up again, trying to figure out what was going on.
“Do I get to poop here too? Shucks. Just another stop sign.”
One such stop was when we turned off for the dirt road to Irish Canyon. While it would only be a short 50-60 mile stretch of well maintained dirt road, it did feel good to eat the first dirt of the trip.
Irish Canyon is one of my favorite little places along the way into Wyoming from Colorado. Its off the beaten path, and is rarely visited by many tourists and “party” campers. The layers of sedimentary rock, interspersed with brush do give it a clear reminder of its namesake that photos do not do justice.
They also have some nice shaded picnic/camp areas, which we decided to take a quick water break at.
With the sun directly overhead the temperature was rising steadily into an uncomfortable slow roast. I kept wetting Lola’s bandana down with water when we'd stop, which seemed to keep her pretty cool during the hot open stretches of road.
Once I crossed into Wyoming, the scenery changed completely. Grassy-green meadows replaced with grey water-starved scrub brush, and occasional flashes of light green grass in drainages. No cows or ranchers wandering this land today. Only jacked-up overladen 4WD company work trucks, checking on gas mines and pumping stations throughout the land.
A hot, dry and dusty slog into Rock Springs, WY. With temperatures around 95 degrees, and no shade anywhere to be found, we ended up holing up in a small (2 foot) sliver of shade behind a gas station.
Straight. Flat. Hot. No Shade. On the plus side, there wasn't any traffic or people out here. I could pull over on the side, and pee wherever I want, without worrying about traumatizing some family on vacation. Now THAT is freedom. Don’t be mad ladies. If you could pee like us dudes, you'd totally want to pee wherever you want too. Ladies definitely got the biological short-straw in the urine dispensing functions.
Jacket and scarf set to "vent"
The further north we got into Wyoming, the barren basin started to slowly rise up into rolling hills with a little more vegetation and signs of human life. Didn't do anything for the temperature though, which still hovered in the mid-90′s, even later in the day.
Lola isn’t a water dog. She hates getting her paws wet so much, that she’ll often run up and down the bank of a small creek to find the most effective way across without actually getting in. When she wandered into this stream on her own accord, I knew she must have been pretty hot.
Outside Jackson, WY
As we neared Jackson, WY and started winding through the Bridger National forest, the scenery seemed to jump out of the horizon. Compared to the seemingly inhospitable heat of the Basin we experienced, it seemed like another country. Being late in the day, I pulled out my sometimes smart-phone and tried to find a campground. While waiting for pages to load, I looked across the street. “National Forest Access”
. Well… hey now.
Camping on cowpies...
Just a little two-track into the National Forest (which was clearly a free-range lease area for ranchers). I motored up to a little flat area (with an amazing view) and decided that some dispersed dry camping would be best for the night. Lola chased off all the cattle that came by to check us out while I set up camp.
This night however, I kept my pants on when I got into the sleeping bag.
Total mileage: 383 miles.