Tour Divide '19: Day 16 - Wamsutter to Brush Mountain Lodge

First light was breaking over our camp and it unveiled another dose of barren landscape. For some reason in my ignorance I thought the Great Basin ended at the I-80 crossing. Not so. We still had plenty of miles of oil fields to pedal through. Hal had stealthy gotten up and packed, he was about ready to roll out at his normal 5:30a while I was just poking my head out of my sleeping bag. It had been a clear night and I took advantage of another night of cowboy camping.
Dawn breaks on Day 16 south of Wamsutter.

The simple life.
Today was a big day, one I had been looking forward to, well...since the start. Today I would reach the Brush Mountain Lodge, BML. Every ride report, I mean every single one, mentions how fantastic this place is. The owner, Kirsten, caters to riders every need. It's been heralded as the best stop on the route and warnings come as well: It's hard to leave!! I hadn't necessarily planned to spend the night there, but if it worked out that way then I would. The day would dictate my plans.

Hal headed out after another rider had gone past. I was finally ready to go about 30 minutes later. The gravel road was straight as an arrow, relatively flat, had that crappy large gravel chunk and oil field workers speeding up & down the road every few minutes. No close calls or anything, just dust shrouds.
The Great Basin continues. Quick, snap the picture before the oncoming truck fills the sky with dust.

Another antelope sighting.

There's hope on the horizon...the mountains of Colorado!!

Justin and Jason caught me while I stopped for breakfast.

It's amazing how much of a difference a little bit of gravel chunk makes on the ride experience.

I was beginning to feel this way about Wyoming: rundown.

The road finally curved and the landscape began morphing into something a bit more exciting.

Almost 30 miles south of Wamsutter.
The gravel had finally relented and turned to packed dirt. I rounded a corner and could see a rider up ahead at the rte789 crossing at the extinct town site of Dad, WY. A car had pulled over and I figured it was Hal and some Trackleaders dot watcher who had come to greet him. Despite what Hal says, he's a Tour Divide Legend!! As I got closer I saw he was getting his picture taken...holy cow, it's Josh Kato!! Josh was one of the four riders who managed to get over the Watershed Divide during the snow storm a few days earlier. He had either been in the lead or second for most of the ride, but had some health concerns near Del Norte, CO forcing him to scratch. His brother was driving him home after a stop at the Brush Mountain Lodge. They just happened to be crossing the route when Hal appeared, then myself. How lucky was I?

Hal, Josh & me. Josh sporting the now infamous officially non-official 2019 Tour Divide tee.
What were the odds? Both Josh & Sofiane needed clean clothes, both were in different towns. Both happened to grab the same shirt at a local Walmart unbeknownst to each other until they met up at the Brush Mountain Lodge. The rest is history... Josh & Sofiane setting a new Tour Divide fashion trend. Photo by Josh.

The route then began a series of long undulating climbs into the wind. Would this wind ever cease?? I was having my doubts.

This section really wore on me. The combination of headwind and decreasing saddle comfort was sapping all my energy.

At least the views were opening up the higher I went.

The Colorado border still seemed so far away at my snail's pace.

Brown's Hill vista.

I must've miscalculated my mileage until the downhill, I was expecting it here, but my elevation profile told a different story. Still 2 miles to go and more climbing ensued, including plenty of walking.
I was really looking forward to grabbing an ice cream of some sort in Savery, WY at the museum. They have limited hours and food options, but I was arriving at the perfect time. I thought it would be an easy coast into town once I reached the end of the plateau. The Divide gives no free passes.

The start of a brake burning descent.

This appears to be the section of potential death mud leading into Savery. Glad I missed it!!

The oil rigs had died down significantly, this was one of the last I saw.

The hill didn't look too bad from this vantage point.

It was much worse up close. I walked most of it. Here, near the top looking back down. Where's my ice cream?!?

Lush green valley along Savery Creek.

Finally!! The downhill into town.

A high desert oasis: Little Snake River Museum.

I met up with Justin as he was headed out.
Inside the door was a top loading freezer: Ice Cream sandwiches!! I grabbed a root beer and headed down to the lower level.
Not a bad spread. Simply write down what you took on the notepad and put cash in the jar.
There was a kitchen as well, I topped off water & electronics while I ate a light lunch.

Some of the structures on site.

For a tiny outpost of a town, the museum was really cool. Lots of regional history inside and out.

I told you it was a tiny town.

'Downtown' Savery.

Little Snake River.

Leaving Savery on rte70. It was about 4 miles to the Colorado line.

How appropriate. The best sign in Wyoming. There wasn't even a 'Welcome to Colorado' sign, they must've known you'd be more thrilled to exit that state.

As if on cue, the roads were more smooth and the surroundings more green.

Slater Creek carving through the canyon.
The Brush Mountain Lodge lies about 1/3 the way up the Watershed Divide climb. I was curious to see how friendly the climbing grade was.

The first few miles followed Slater Creek.

I was enjoying the mountain views, but most importantly: No wind!!!

Another cool isolated cabin.

Launch ramp? I had to dodge one of the massive sprinklers as it swept over the side of the road.

There were a few stout pitches on the climb giving me pause about the gentler grade claims.

I knew from past photos that there was a short downhill into the BML. I was on high alert. I had a feeling I was close, picking up speed I rounded a bend and there it was. Bikepacker heaven.

My legs were so tired that when I dismounted I caught my shorts on the saddle nose and ripped the crotch to shreds. Gah!!
I was greeted by cheers from fellow riders, it was quite the gathering. Kirsten came out and told me our friend, Chris, better known as 'Dirty', had instructed her to give me an awkwardly long hug. Fine by me as it was like meeting an old friend after years apart. Riders were offered beer only after drinking a couple glasses of water. This would be a good time to hand over your Tour Divide punch card and let Kirsten do the honors of punching #14 for the Brush Mountain Lodge.

I was getting settled and pulled up Trackleaders to see how Chris was doing at the front, holy cow, he was minutes from finishing & winning the whole damn thing!! Man, I can't imagine what he was feeling as he cruised into the border. Congratulations, Chris. You put in a ton of work and it paid dividends. Can't wait to hit the local trails with you back in AZ and hear all about it.

A few minutes later Hal arrived to more cheering. He was determined to refuel and keep going. The rest of us didn't know how he could not get sucked into the BML gravitational pull of awesomeness. Not far behind were Mikki, Larry & Becky.

I think Hal is blushing.

The gang's all here!! R-L: Larry, Kirsten, Mikki, Eric, Austin, Justin & Becky.
Kirsten kept the pizza & beer flowing. We all staked our claims on rooms, I'd be sharing a cabin with Larry & Mikki. Plenty of room for everyone. Soon after dark Bonnie arrived!!

There goes Hal, steadfast in his determination. Little did I know it was the last time I'd see him on route.
Grace Ragland was also at the lodge lending a hand to Kirsten. She offered to wash my dirty clothes while I found a Nirvana knock-off tee, Purrvana, and pajama bottoms to lounge around in. She also recently published a book about her Divide experience, it's titled Divide By One, check it out. Sofiane was also still hanging out. It was interesting to hear his account firsthand of that unnerving night caught in the blizzard.

We were settling in for the night and I was first up for the shower. Day 16 and shower number 2. I got everything ready, water spraying while I waited for it to warm up. And waited...waited...still ice cold. Hmmm. Perhaps the water heater couldn't handle the load? Too many hot showers in a short time? I reluctantly accepted the fact that it was going to be a cold shower. On the count of three...one...two...THREE!!! HOLY SH*T that's effin' cooold! The speed wash commenced & completed in record time. I'm not a cold shower guy, but afterwards it did feel good.

A few minutes later I broke the news to Larry & Mikki. The look on Larry's face was pure dejection. He really wasn't looking forward to it and went to see if Kirsten knew about it. When he came back, he said Kirsten apologizes, but the breaker had tripped. Should be good now!! Seriously?!? I took an ice shower for no reason?? Haha, jokes on me. Sure enough, Larry was treated to a hot shower.

After all the evening's excitement at the lodge it was time for some much needed shuteye.

Stats: 74.96 miles & 4,011' gained.

Full photo album for Day 16.


Tour Divide '19: Day 15 - Atlantic City to Wamsutter

The sound of crunching gravel under mountain bike tires was my alarm clock in the pre-dawn light as another rider pedaled by my exclusive camp site. I may have dozed off for a bit afterwards as it was much lighter the next time I opened my eyes!!
This spot turned out much nicer than I hoped. *If you look closely, follow the dirt road to the slight dip, there's another 2-track that crosses there. That's the Oregon Trail wagon route. I was unaware until this write-up!!
I began packing up hoping to crank out as many miles as possible before the wind's fury kicked in. A couple more riders approached, it was Justin and an ITT'er, Ralph, I think. Justin and I chatted for a couple of minutes about the preceding day. He arrived into Atlantic City a bit after the mercantile had closed, but was able to score a sandwich!! He camped in town and was probably asleep when I rolled through. He got going and I followed suit about 15 minutes later.

I was a beautiful morning, light winds, mostly clear skies and comfortable temps. My morning goal was to find Diagnus Well, the only reliable water source on route between Atlantic City and Wamsutter some 96 miles apart. It was about 16 miles or so from my camp and all I knew was to look for a 'trail' on the right and it would be located behind a fence. I had asked Hal about the well a few days ago and he said in his five rides, he never found it. I felt up to the challenge.
Sweetwater River. This wasn't on my cues and the route crossed it.

Post marking the Seminoe Cutoff of the California Trail. So much history from the pioneer days through here, fascinating.

Too bad this post was deteriorating, the California Trail marker is crumbling away.
The vastness of the Great Basin can not be overstated enough.

The Antelope Hills provide little in topographic relief.

Looking back to see the fading Wind River Range.
I was nearing the 16 mile mark on the day and began scanning the right side of the road intently. Nothing, nothing but sage and miles. My trip odometer ticked to 17, did I somehow miss it?
Then I came to this 2-track & noticed a few tire tracks peeling off to the right. A large branch had been dragged out to the road as well to grab your attention. On the top right of the horizon, you can make out a wetland of sorts.

As soon as I turned onto the 2-track I could see this sign ahead. I had found the well.

Fresh clear gurgling water poured from the pipe.
I filled my filter and chugged away. Tasted fine. I loaded up my frame bag bladder since my spare Camelbak bladder was virtually useless. It was not only amazing to find this oasis in the Basin, but when you stop and think about who discovered it for the first time, it's mind boggling. Talk about out in the middle of nowhere. This was it.

This is for all my Arizona Trail friends. Now, THAT'S a hitching lever!!

A band of wild horses. How cool is that?

Standing watch.

I was really enjoying the solitude of the Basin.

As it neared 10a, the winds were definitely on the rise, but mostly a crosswind from the southwest.

Wind & sun, better layer up the sunscreen!!
Later that day, I saw this screenshot that Scott Morris posted on my timeline. That about sums it up.
For the most part, my backside had been cooperating. It was also easy enough to stand, pedal and coast for bits at a time.

Entering the oil fields.

The route would travel around this operation and climb the hill on the far right. You can see the road cut.

For some reason I find these iron horses mesmerizing. I was actually looking forward to riding through an endless sea of them. Unfortunately, for me, these would be the only ones I'd see as new technology has since replaced them.

Gaining ground and getting a sense of how far I've come since Atlantic City.

This hill proved too steep for my legs, hike-a-bike!!

At the top of the hill the route deposits you into a higher plain of sage.

The road surface was more rocky as well, not good for the butt.

I was right about at the route halfway point, but wanted a post to prop the bike against.
Believe it or not, I missed the next turn in the route because it left this 2-track for a more vague 2-track!! I had to check & double check the GPS & phone to be sure.
Lo & behold, I found a post near the halfway point!! This would be a fine time to punch #13, the Great Basin, on the Tour Divide punch card.

What is this? Another rider!! It was Jason Barrett from London. I watched as he too missed the turn!! Last time I saw him Justin & I were having a roadside beer at the Warm River CG in Idaho.

I love this shot. Jason bombing down remote 2-track with the peaks of the Wind River Range barely visible.

Yeah, this is the route. Follow the GPS pink line. I've seen this shot from many ride reports and wondered how long this section was. Not long at all, it really wasn't difficult to navigate. Nighttime may be a bit of a challenge.

Well defined route here!!

The terrain began to reveal some personality here as we climbed the edge of a mesa.

Up on the mesa the winds were now in full force blowing right to left easily at 30+ mph.

Jason is but a speck on the rolling 2-track.

I couldn't get over the rainbow'd geology. Such a beautiful section.

I pushed up a short steep section and found this, a Chevrolet hood. I'd love to know the story behind this.

A slice of the Painted Desert.

I was taking a snack break while Jason caught up. Topping out after a steep rocky push.

There he goes...

No shade, no hiding from the wind out here.

While the wind was gusting to 40 mph, the route gently trended downhill and the riding wasn't bad at all.

It was a bit of a challenge to keep the tires in the track, I had to lean to the right to keep the bike upright.
There was a final downhill which led out to Bison Basin Rd. it was well graded. Jason was there and we both were glad to be off the ridge. The route then turn 90ยบ to the right, directly into the wind. Ugh. Here we go. Jason peeled off ahead of me and we settled into a groove of sorts. This went on for miles, grinding into the wind, it was relentless. I tried to not pay much attention to the GPS, but I couldn't help noticing that I was barely keeping a 5.5 mph average.

I then saw a second rider up ahead as Jason caught up to them. For the next few miles we all kept the same gap, no one gaining, no one taking off. It was a struggle to stay in a positive frame of mind. I've ridden in a fair share of wind, but nothing as daunting as this. Knowing it wasn't going to end anytime soon and absolutely nowhere to hide. It was now getting warm as it was near 1p.

I had to stop a couple of times just for a break. I think it was my way of hiding from the wind for a moment. As long as I wasn't pedaling, it felt like a reprieve. I could tell the rider in front of me was doing the same thing. Jason seemed to carry on and eventually I lost sight of him.

The route passed by Hadsell Cabin at Lost Creek, there wasn't much, if any, water in the creek. I had all but caught up to the rider in front of me, but couldn't tell who it was.
Hadsell Cabin,
There was a short rise coming out of Lost Creek and I finally caught up to the other rider. Holy cow, it's Hal!! We both looked at each other and shook our heads at the wind. Hal asked if I saw his campsite the night before at the real estate sign. I did!! It must've been his crunching tires in the wee hours of the morning that I heard. I hadn't seen Hal since the Montana High Country Lodge some six days earlier. That's one really cool aspect of these big events, you may not see someone for days, then all of a sudden there they are and it's like a reunion of a long lost friend.

Hal Russell doing his thing.
 We caught up on our rides and shared stories from the past few days. Hal told tales of crossing the Basin in stormy conditions, cold weather and the like. I was beginning to feel fortunate we were only dealing with wind!! He mentioned that he thought the route turned east for a bit just ahead, I sure hoped he was right.
A swath of red dirt splits the sage.

Yes!! The route turned east and a massive tailwind thrust my bike down the road. I was flyin'.

One of a few antelope sightings along the way.
I knew this good fortune would be short lived, but secretly held out hope it would continue for a few miles. It lasted about five and I was thankful for it. I was 5 miles closer to Wamsutter. Up ahead I could see a small tower and as I got closer, noticed there was a rider there. It was Justin. We made the turn onto the Wamsutter Crooks Gap Rd. and resumed our whipping by the strong crosswinds.

We were now entering a widespread oil field and the gravel road was not conducive to comfortable riding. It was large gravel chunks over chip seal. Oil truck traffic increased, but nothing terrible. It was the constant rollers in the road that were almost my undoing. The very first one we came to I was off and walking, Justin was way up ahead and I figured I'd just catch up in Wamsutter. It was now mid-afternoon and in the low 80's. I still had water, but it was mostly warm.

I kept waiting for a bit of a downhill after a climb, but was continually denied. More walking ensued and the misery meter was spiking. This section reminded me of driving along I-10w through West Texas.
Even the hike-a-bike was draining through here.
At one point I was slowly pushing up a hill when a caravan for a wide load came up from behind. The lady in the pilot vehicle lowered her window and asked if I was ok. I don't recall what I told her, but said I just needed to knock out 18 more miles to Wamsutter. She said the last vehicle in the parade had a couple bottles of water they'd give me. Fantastic!! The wide load crept by and the final truck drove up next to me. The window rolled down and the driver handed me two bottles of not warm water. She asked if I wanted a ride into Wamsutter, but of course I declined the offer. I chugged one bottle and dumped the other in my Camelbak. Things were looking up. I was beginning to have visions of the Love's Truck Stop in Wamsutter. It's really an interstate community for the oil workers, not much there, but I couldn't wait to arrive.

One of the better stretches of road.

Another antelope galloping through the sage, but take note of the gravel road surface. Crap.

Not even the undulating iron horses to look at, only tanks. Bleh.

This was the scene for much of 40 miles.
 As I grew closer to Wamsutter I kept scanning the horizon for any hint of the Love's Truck Stop. At one point I could see semi's rolling in the distance, that must be I-80, but it still seemed so far away and my cues were telling me only 2 miles to go!! But where is this darn place??
I saw this tower from a long way out, this must be Wamsutter...not yet.

OMFG!! The happiest I've ever been to see a Love's.
I went in to the Subway to find Justin and Jason already devouring their food. Half of the Subway was covered in plastic for construction, so I had to go back outside to get to the main store. First order of business: a large chocolate milk. I downed the entire thing before my footlong tuna and 3 piece chicken finger meal arrived. (There was a chicken place next to Subway).  The ice dispenser wasn't working so you had to ask the cashier for ice. It wasn't the smoothest operation, but man, did it hit the spot.

While I was eating a British tourer, Becky, came in. Soon after, Hal. We all looked like we had been through the wringer, that glazed look of 'what the hell just happened?' I had posted the Love's picture above to social media and a bunch of the responses indicated that Colorado would be much better, more forgiving terrain. I had hope once again for huge days.

I did my typical resupply, dropping almost $50 at a convenience store. Justin, Hal and I were discussing how far we wanted to ride that night. We all wanted to get away from the interstate at the very least. Justin took off and said he'd leave his red blinky out if I wanted to join.

Hal & I hit the road a bit later and found Justin's tent only a couple miles down the road. I wanted to get a bit farther away as did Hal. 'Too many hooligans in town', he said!! Haha. We rolled on and found an open area about 8 miles south of town. This will do.

Stats: 97.19 miles & 2,709' gained.