Sunday, July 2, 2023

Wyoming, South Dakota, and Colorado on the Road Trip

My next destination on the road trip was Sundance, Wyoming. It’s a small town in the western side of the Black Hills, only a few miles from the South Dakota border. My drive there took me through South Dakota (my first time ever in SD!) and Montana before making my way into Wyoming. The drive was actually interesting, and it included around 30 miles of driving on a gravel road in Montana. I even stopped at Devil's Tower in Wyoming to do a little hike and check out the unique rock formation.

Devil's Tower

Once I got to Sundance, I grabbed some ice from a gas station for my cooler, and made my way to a national forest campground. I got set up, and then went out for a little ride. I was extremely, let me emphasize, extremely, tired from my rides in North Dakota.

The ride was nice despite my tiredness, and I even did a little exploring when the one trail I was supposed to ride didn’t exist. After the ride, I cooked up some dinner (freeze dried chicken alfredo) and then played some guitar. The sky threatened to rain, and it did mist a couple times, but never enough to scare me into my tent.

Wyoming stuff (the canyon hike a bike on the right)

The next day, I had a three hour ride planned from the campsite. It turned out to be a lot harder than I expected, but it was worth it. I had to do a big hike-a-bike up through a canyon that was incredibly scenic, and the downhills put a huge smile on my face. After the ride, I got approached by a couple of friendly people in white dress shirts at the trailhead. Turns out they were Mormon missionaries, and they gave me a business card with a link to some podcasts about Creationism on it, for the drive ahead. They were very friendly, and they both had done some mountain biking, but I'll be honest, I didn't listen to any podcast about Creationism on my drive.

I decided to get a hotel for the night, my first of the trip, so I could do some laundry and take a shower. Sturgis was a surprisingly nice town, and the people seemed friendly. Even though it was over a month away from the motorcycle rally, there were still plenty of motorcycles around the town. There was even a road called “Harley Davidson Avenue”, or something like that.

The next morning, after a regenerative sleep in a hotel bed, I drove to a trailhead just out of town to do my ride. I planned a solid four hour route, and it turned out to be even better than I expected. The trails were fantastically maintained, and constant switchbacks meant that the climbs weren’t as brutal as they could’ve been. The views were also very nice and far exceeded my expectations. This was my first time riding in South Dakota, and even though I’d heard it was scenic, I didn’t imagine it would be this cool.

South Dakota views

After the ride, I decided to just camp at the trailhead campsite, alongside a big gravel parking lot. It was a popular campsite among semi-homeless (well, maybe just plain homeless) people, so I had lots of company.

I had a few interesting experiences at that campsite. When I first pulled in and before I knew for sure if it was a campground, I tried asking a woman there if it was a campground. Trust me, it didn't look like a campsite, more like a parking lot. She wasn't friendly, and just said "ask the camp host, not me", in a very unfriendly manner. Alright then.

I eventually found the camp host and got myself set up at a spot next to the parking lot. Like I said, it didn't really look like a campsite, but for $6 a night with a picnic bench and a bathroom, it would do.

I then started talking to an older woman who pulled up in an almost-equally old mini-van. She ranted briefly about politics (it's South Dakota, you could imagine where she fell on the political spectrum) and told me how she built an illegal A-frame cabin in a national forest in Oregon. Supposedly she built the cabin all by herself, and she was kicked out by a forest ranger when a wildfire started spreading in the area. I dunno, it was weird.

My campsite with the weird happenings near Sturgis

Later that evening, the unfriendly woman from earlier walked past my campsite and apologized about being rude earlier. That was unexpected, and we even talked for a few minutes about random things. She and her two kids used to live in a camper, but they have recently moved full-time into a tent. The kids were probably eight or nine years old, and I felt pretty bad for them. I don't ever want this blog to get too much into social issues, but it does make me sad when I see young kids disadvantaged through no fault of their own. I guess that is the human condition.

Anyways, I had one final interesting chat at the campsite with a through-hiker who was doing the Centennial Trail. She and I talked for a while about through-hiking, the mindset of doing those kind of things, and some stories from our previous trips.

If you're sensing a pattern of me having lots of conversations with strangers, I'd say you're onto something. I'm a pretty talkative person, and as my friend Rob put it, I must seem very approachable. I really enjoy talking to people, especially people in new and different places, so I love all these little chats I have.

Alas, the next morning, I started driving toward Mount Rushmore and found a trail system to ride on the way. The trails were rocky, just the way I like them, and it made for a great hour loop.

Trails near Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills

After the ride, I got to Mount Rushmore and went to do a rare-for-me touristy thing. I took some pictures of the faces and sat for a little bit in the light mist to take in the scenery. The Black Hills are a very unique area, and they have way more exposed rock than most places I've been to. In some ways, it reminds me of the Sierra Nevadas with the large slabs of rock. I'd imagine it would be good for rock climbing, if you're into that kind of thing.

Mount Rushmore

After Mount Rushmore, I worked my way south toward Wyoming and Colorado. After getting some food in Cheyenne at the I-25 and I-80 junction, I continued on south toward Denver. I was planning to stay at a campground, but it was full, so I instead pulled into a hospital parking lot and slept there in my car. It was also a heavy thunderstorm in Denver that evening, so I got treated to a light show in my car while I was trying to sleep.

The following morning, I did a short ride on Dakota Ridge near Golden, based on a suggestion from my friend Scott. The Denver area had got a lot of rain recently, but Dakota Ridge, as Scott told me it would be, was in great condition. The views from the ridge were fantastic, and the trail itself was quite technical, not unlike Moab in places. I even got a phone call from Will while I was riding, and seeing as the views were amazing and I was in no hurry, we chatted for a while.

Dakota Ridge

The rest of the day, I did some sightseeing around Denver and then met up with a family friend that evening, who offered me a place to stay for the night. It was sweet to have an actual bed to sleep in, and going out to a brewery with a friend in Denver was a nice change of pace compared to sleeping in my tent or my car and living as a dirtbag.

The next morning, I met up with a friend and fellow 2023 Breck Epic singlespeed competitor Justin to do a ride as part of his Dawn to Dusk shuttle service. Don't worry, by shuttle, I only mean driving a group of us to the trail, not a point-to-point shuttle. Singlespeed isn't that ded, yet. 

Justin's shuttle van; riding with Justin on the Colorado Trail

We did a 40 mile ride on the Colorado Trail just west of Waterton Canyon, and man, it was epic. That trail is just so fantastic, and the ground held up amazingly well to the recent rain. The Colorado Trail sections are certainly hard, even more so on singlespeed, but it's worth it. Justin and I got some ripping descents in, and I suffered quite a bit on the steep climbs. Justin is a really good dude, and I'm super glad I met up with him to ride.

After finishing up the ride and getting back to Denver, I headed west on I-70 on my way to Park City. I took I-70 to Silverthorne and drove on a bit of the Great Divide route (the way my GPS took me) as I continued north to Route 40 before making my way west toward Steamboat Springs. I found a pretty awesome place to camp near Rabbit Ears Pass on Route 40, and enjoyed a night of instant mashed potatoes, playing my guitar, and meandering around snow drifts as the sun went down. Driving up to the camp area (it was just a random forest service road) consisted of some snow patches, big mud puddles, and more. Trust me, though, it was no match for the Subaru.

So much snow near Rabbit Ears Pass by Steamboat Springs

The next morning, I drove down into Steamboat Springs and did an easy hour ride out of town on some singletrack. I've been saying it a lot recently, but once again, the ride was fantastic. I guess I'm running out of adjectives, but the Steamboat trails I rode were perfectly maintained, not too steep (good for recovery, haha), and scenic. As a side note, Lael Wilcox on the Tour Divide just rode through Steamboat the night before I got there.

Steamboat Springs views

After Steamboat, it was time for the last leg of driving to Park City. It was now Sunday, and although I was planning to get to Park City on Monday, Dahn said I should come a day early and save money on a hotel, so I drove straight to Park City. There was desert (lots of desert), more desert, and then some alpine terrain as I got toward Park City. It's pretty crazy how much the landscape can change in a matter of miles.

Alright, that's enough for this one. Next up is the Park City post, so stay tuned for that one. Or don't. Most people don't.

A pass southeast of Park City

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