Leaving the Winds and the woods behind and riding on with a conglomerate ball of day-old donuts from the Pinedale supermarket, I shoot for the Great Divide Basin. I’m to be in Denver in just over ten days and I’ve found a peaceful groove of riding and resting and reading and eating and riding; the pace is not challenging and the rhythm is intoxicating. I’d rather put time in the saddle now and relax upon reaching my target, and the mountains of Colorado are a better place to spend some lazy days with ready access to shade and water. The Great Basin is topographic and hydrologic fantasy where water neither drains to the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans, instead contained by an enclosed basin. In this dry climate at 7000 ft, most of what what falls from the sky eventually evaporates. It’s fantastically beautiful, but it’s not really a place to hang out, especially by oneself.
Spending a restless night in a teepee in Atlantic CIty, WY, I depart in the cool morning and shoot for the Sweetwater River– this will be my last swim for a while. Ten miles further is Diagnus Well, a constantly gurgling pipe designed to create a wetland in the desert to sustain livestock. It smells a pungent saline swamp, and two lambs are tied to sagebrush, bleating for reprieve from heat and hunger. An empty, but lived-in trailer stands nearby. I give the lambs some water. While cooking grains in the shade of a fencepost, a vaquero arrives on horseback with a white dog with a prominent ribcage. He comes close, and licks the remaining grains and salt from my pot without asking, kicking sand. “Go away”, I demand half-heartedly. He’s hungry, and I’m tired from the heat. For a moment, I’m taken back to Mexico and the emaciated cattle of Baja. Ranching in the sage desert at 7,000 ft isn’t easy.
I briefly debated with a man in Atlantic City who complained about ” the people from south of the border” that were ruining the economy of his home state of Colorado. In the desert, a lone vaquero starves with his dog and two lambs. Is this what he refers to, or is the the hardworking men and women doing the other jobs we’re too disgusted and too lazy to do? This same discrimination has plagued this country for centuries, and has no doubt affected your family. Willfull outsourcing of labor and consumers unwilling to buy local goods are more at fault than hardworking Mexicans, regarding the current state of things. We raised our voices talking about wild horses and wolves, but discrimination disguised as patriotism is most enraging to me. This is pretty typical Wyoming politics as I understand. I find it powerful to retort, “where did your family come from?”.
WIth just under three liters of water, I ride onward from the gurgling pipe in the desert. For a time, I am enchanted with the vast moonscape of the Basin, but soon enough I am thinking about water and shade, with no relief save for a snow fence and my warm bottles of water I drape my groundcloth over the fence slats, providing shade, but it also blocks the cooling west wind. I savor warm salty sips until within ten miles of the A&M Reservoir, then I open my throat and empty the end of the bottle, throttling onward. I’m not dying of thirst, but I imagine bringing my lips to damp sand in the desert in search of relief, or as Ed Abbey suggests, biting on a small pebble to instigate salivation and to relieve thirst. Luckily, my map shows a state managed reservoir which provides cool, clean water and a place to calm my sunburnt skin. Only 55 miles, that was a long time without a swim.
Cooled and cleansed and full of water I make quick friends with CDT hikers, and then make a break for it. Racing downhill away from lightning bolts, I relieve pressure from my tires to smooth the terrain at 24 miles an hour, and lean into a sidewind– like a sail, the framebag sends me sliding into the thick thundercloud air. This is the first thunderstorm of the entire trip and I reach Lamont quickly, taking refuge in the Annalope Cafe. That night, I sleep in another teepee, this time provided by a woman I would never meet– a devout Christian– who has helped passing cyclists for years. The Divide Route passes within a few miles of Lamont and the popular Trans-Am bicycle route. Wells in the desert and relief from rainclouds– Wyoming provides.
Awake to clearing skies, I stop into the Annalope Cafe for some fuel for the ride to Rawlins. Indeed, the desert is constantly changing, but what’s for dessert?
A great thanks to “LB”, who I never did meet. The teepee was much appreciated as my tent is currently in partial disrepair. It will be back in full service after a visit to the red house on Oak Street, Big Agnes headquarters and repair shop in Steamboat Springs, CO.