As we keep telling people, six months is not nearly long enough to experience the entirety of the United States, but it is a very long time to be on the road. This has become increasingly evident in recent weeks, and we’ve both begun to feel a deep and lasting exhaustion. This combined with our longing for home has pushed us to move through several areas with greater haste than we’d intended. For a time this went unchecked, but now that we have discussed and acknowledged it, we have been able to make a conscious effort to take our time, to get after it, to rest as needed, and to make it home with no regrets of mismanaged time.
In the spirit of experiencing South Dakota we got out for an epic ride in the Black Hills; full of jumps, loose corners, rocks, and a good deal of pain. After riding we returned to camp where we met our Westy-dwelling neighbors, who happened to have gone to school in Ashland years ago. They gave us some great beta for Conn’s Diagonal, an interesting trad route that we checked out the next morning before heading to Ten Sleep Canyon. On our way through Wyoming, we happened upon what can only be described as a godsend – a free, public swimming pool with showers and all. Naturally, we took full advantage of this wonderful public service.
Ten Sleep is visually stunning, with miles of limestone cliffs forming the walls of a deep, textured canyon amidst an otherwise flat and barren landscape. We were excited to climb at this reputable sport destination, so we were quite put out when we arrived at camp, opened the truck doors, and were instantly targeted by an astounding number of mosquitoes. The next morning, we made our way down into town to try and find out more about this surprising mosquito infestation and form a game plan for the coming week or so. Word on the street was that this is an unusually buggy year, and that climbing is better reserved for the afternoon, when the popular crags are in the shade. So after making some arrangements for our next stops, we drove back up the canyon and got on a handful of Ten Sleep’s sharp, pocketed faces. Whether it was actually the routes, or just our low energy and the incessant attacks by our blood-sucking friends, the climbing at Ten Sleep did not prove to be our favorite.
The next morning, we packed up and headed West to Lander, to try our luck on the rock out there. We got up one easy route before the combination of high sun exposure and our aforementioned lethargy sent us to camp early. We kitted up in the morning and started the day’s pedal with several miles of switch-backed road climbing up the side of the canyon we’d camped in. When we finally reached the top, we took off up a poorly built, steep, and overgrown trail. We had our doubts that this was the correct trail, but didn’t see any other options, so we carried on. After a long, frustrating climb that involved more hiking than riding we finally reached the end of the trail, which happened to be a climbing crag. We had definitely taken the wrong trail, so we headed back down, and eventually found the correct one a little ways down an adjacent fire road. We were rewarded with a fast, pedaly section of rocky trail on top of the plateau followed by a steep, loose descent. This ended our stay in Lander and we made for Jackson Hole.
After months on the road away from our friends and families, seeing familiar faces has become a rare and welcomed treat. We were stoked to get out with our old friend Taylor and our new friend Eric for a day of sport climbing near Jackson. This popular, touristy mountain town in the shadow of the Grand Tetons is where we started to find our rhythm once more. After a solid morning of climbing, we got out on a nice long pedal through scorched forests and fields of wildflowers, with a killer decent and a dip in the icy creek to wrap it up.
The next day, we pulled the boats off the truck for the first time in two months to paddle a moderate section of the Snake, and the day after that we drove up to Yellowstone and spent the day checking out the awesome geysers that the park is known for. We’ve found that National Parks always bring up some challenging questions about the accessibility and preservation of natural areas, but we were happy to have braved the crowds and witnessed this impressive geothermal display.
Having camped directly across from the Tetons for days, we thought it time to finally get in and check them out. Over the course of seven miles of bushwhacking and scrambling we ascended over 4,000 vertical feet, to reach an unnamed peak with incredible views of the valley and the surrounding Tetons. The hike down was just as arduous as the climb up, and the combination left us tired and sore the next morning.
Having explored the Jackson area to our satisfaction, we made our way towards Sun Valley, Idaho. After a series of minor frustrations, we finally set out to ride the next morning, only to find ourselves 20 miles from the truck and with very little food and water left. We had missed a turn and would have had to pedal all the way back to the truck on the bike path and fire-roads if not for a gracious rescue from our friend Taylor who was in town for a few days. This ride left us weary and even more frustrated, so the next day, which happened to be Bennett’s 21st birthday, we opted to pay to ride the lifts at Bald Mountain as something of a treat and a quasi rest day. After what turned out to be another long day of riding, we grabbed a burger and a beer and called it a night. We left Sun Valley earlier than we’d planned, and after a much needed soak in a hot spring, made it to Boise Idaho, where we’ve been staying the last few days with our good friend Tyler from SOU. Our first morning here we got out on a great ride with Dax and Dylan, who both have strong ties to NICA and are highly involved in the Idaho cycling community. Dax and the guys at Idaho Mountain Touring helped us get our bikes the TLC they deserve by opening their shop to us and sharing some of their wisdom. We also got out for a little bouldering session with Brad and T Mac and checked out the Eagle Sports Complex, a rad bike park in the Boise area. We’re looking forward to a couple more good rides in Idaho before making it up to Missoula and Glacier in Montana!