June 25, 2019

Tour Divide '19: Day 12 - Warm River CG - Togwotee Pass

Once again I was reminded I forgot to bring oatmeal as Justin dug into his. My Poptarts, muffin & chilled coffee would have to do. Our next resupply was almost 50 miles away at Flagg Ranch, WY. It was cool to think we'd be entering another state so quickly. Makes you feel like you're really getting somewhere.

My gear was soaked with dew being in the river valley, it'll have to dry out some other time. It seemed each morning now was taking longer and longer to get moving. The big days back-to-back were starting to take a toll as I knew they would. Regardless, I had a good nights rest and we broke camp sometime after 6:30a.

It was a chlly, damp morning with threatening skies all around. We were trying to guess if we'd be riding directly into any one of the surrounding storms. So far, so good.
Early morning glow over the Tetons.

This was not looking favorable.

Farmland hero dirt.

Our luck eventually ran out, we donned our rain gear & motored on.

It didn't take long for the rain to pass over and the sun came out. This was almost what I pictured Justin's training rides to look like in Iowa, he was flyin'.

These hills reminded us of the classic Microsoft wallpaper scene.

The Teton range coming into focus.
Justin was a bit ahead of me on a long rolling stretch of pavement. I couldn't match his tempo and when I watched him blow by a turn all I could do was try and yell to grab his attention. There was no way I was going to catch him. I waited until he was up & over the next rise, then continued on. I knew he'd figure it out, but how far off route would he go? It all depends on how zoned out he was. By now I was ready for a mid-morning snack and found a nice view of the Tetons while I stuffed my gut. How soon would Justin arrive?

Snack time with a view.
I was on my second bar when Justin rolled up and I asked him how the scenic route was. He said he rode a full mile down the road before realizing the missed turn! At least it wasn't down the backside of a huge mountain pass.
In hindsight, this place should've been our goal the day before. At the very least we should've stopped for breakfast, but we didn't know much about the place and skipped it.
We continued zigzagging through the rolling hills past ranch after ranch property. At one point we were dropping down to Falls River when Justin spotted a moose off the road. By the time I looked, it was gone into the thick vegetation. Bummer. I've only seen moose on two other instances in my lifetime.

After crossing the river, the route began a steady dose of climbing.
Must be getting close to the Wyoming line!!
The chip seal ended just beyond the sign above and the gravel began. Oh boy, the Wyoming gravel. It really shouldn't have been a big deal, but it had lots of large half dollar sized rocks mixed in. This did not sit well with my backside, pun intended. It turned out to be the beginning of a very difficult stretch of miles for me.

Check another state off the list!!

Indian Lake choked with lily pads.
As we rode along we noticed a bunch a fresh hoof prints in the road, then as we rounded a bend in the road we came across a procession of covered wagons!! What the...

I bet the caravans on the Oregon Trail wished they had those tires!!

This sign amused me way more than it should have.

Incredible display of wildflowers.

You know a place gets a ton of snow when the measuring pole is 16 feet tall!!

Justin had now pulled ahead, I was in full on bonk mode and fidgety on the saddle. It wasn't a good mix. I was reduced to walking every incline while be swarmed by mosquitoes. I broke out my bug netting for my face, slathered some insect repellent on my exposed skin then battled the remaining ones as they tried to attack me through my sun sleeves, jersey, gloves, socks....you get the idea. I can't sugar coat it, I was miserable. I stopped for a snack knowing I'd be enveloped in flying insects, but at some point you just have to eat. This was one of those moments when I let my mind drift off to that lonely desert road leading to Antelope Wells. I pictured myself cruising down the hot tarmac to the finish and couldn't wait to be there. If I could've transported ahead in time and had the memories of the ride I probably would've done it.

I kept reminding myself that the down times would end and to keep moving forward, no matter the pace. I walked a bit more, then the grade relented a bit and I could ride!! The bonk feeling subsided and the road leveled out, why there were even some downhills!!
Crossing the dam at Grassy Lake Reservoir.

The Ashton-Flagg Ranch Rd. becomes the Grassy Lake Rd. as it nears Flagg Ranch.
The Ashton-Flagg Ranch Rd. splits two Wilderness areas: Winegar Hole Wilderness Area to the north & Jedediah Smith Wilderness Area to the south. Otherwise, bikes wouldn't be allowed.

The rough gravel gave way to a nice bit of riding through a thick forest.
I was riding along Glade Creek and a SUV approached with California plates. It stopped a few hundred yards ahead of me in the middle of the road, so much so, I had to slow way down to squeeze by. Meanwhile, the occupants, kids of all ages and mom hopped out and a couple of the kids ran into the forest. As I passed by, I heard the mom mention that there was a bear nearby and they of course wanted a picture!! Um, yeah. While it would've been cool to see a bear at a safe distance while riding, you can bet I wasn't going to go chasing one down for a picture!! Sheesh. Someone's got to live up to the tourist stereotype.
Stark burn area near Flagg Ranch.

The Lauf fork ate this washboard up.

I was constantly scanning any rivers, Snake River here, for bears. I thought I might catch one taking a dip.

With all that brown corduroy, I'd thought I was at a 70's disco party!! Instead, first tracks on the brown pow.
I arrived a bit shattered to the Headwaters Lodge at Flagg Ranch to find Justin's bike parked outside. I was a bit surprised that he was still there since I was moving at a snail's pace the past couple of hours. He was wandering around the small store deciding what to stock up on. We chatted for a bit and both decided to grab a meal at the bar and opted to resupply farther down the route at Colter Bay.

Flagg Ranch isn't much else other than the lodge, but that's all we needed.
The bartender informed us about the upcoming road climb leading south from the lodge. It was barely a blip on the elevation profile so I wasn't too concerned about it.

Crossing the Snake River.
Justin pulled away from me on the climb. I was slogging along in low gear trying to settle in to the rest of the day. In spite of the traffic along this tourist laden stretch of tarmac, there was a nice wide shoulder. I never felt like I was getting run off the road.

Very cool to be riding this ultra scenic road.
I was approaching a roadside pullout and a lady began yelling and waving in my direction. She was holding a camera in one hand and frantically waving her other arm. She seemed overly excited to see me and then she called me by name. At first I thought she was a random blue dot stalker (That sounds like a bad thing, but really it's a compliment!!), then I recognized her from the Montana High Country Lodge!! She was shuttling her husband along the Divide route so he could ride the best sections. He was farther down the parking lot and was equally excited to see me. I stopped and chatted with them for a few minutes. They said they recognized my AES jersey!! Come to find out he was riding the Bannack Bench Rd. south of the High Country Lodge a few days earlier and a dog ran out from a ranch straight into his bike!! He went down hard and tweaked his wheel enough that he couldn't ride. So they drove down to Idaho Falls, got it fixed and were headed back north when we crossed paths. Small world. We wished each other the best and he snapped a shot of me riding through the treacherous, not really, parking lot.

By now, I figured Justin was long gone and I probably wouldn't see him for a while or at all.

This overlook begins the visual onslaught of Grand Tetons pics.

Jackson Lake. Always stunning.

I had only been here once before, a massive 2-week roadtrip, and it was such a treat to arrive this time via bike. I was a bit in disbelief as this was the first time on the Divide where I recognized anything. The enormity of the ride began to sink in for the first time since leaving Banff.

I should've used the PeakFinder app more. At least I remembered here!!
I came to the Leek Marina turnoff and began heading down. I rode about a 1/4 mile and decided I didn't want to ride a 1/2 mile or more back uphill to the route, so I aborted and turned around.

Instead, I resupplied here, on route. Fully stocked convenience store.
Soon after I arrived Justin rolled up. He had gone down to the Marina and said it was ok. I was glad I opted to come here. We began talking about how far we hoped to get that night and we both were aiming for Togwotee Pass & beyond. He rode off while I finished packing up.

I had received a text from K a couple of days earlier about our eldest cat, Thebes. He was 18 years old and had been on the decline recently. She thought his time was very near and when I checked my phone at Colter Bay I saw that she had to put him down that morning. I felt terrible for not being there and gave her a call. It's never easy losing a long time family pet and the separation sure didn't help matters. RIP Thebes.

Pilgrim Creek. I was certain I'd see bear activity here, nothing.

Yet another scenic overlook, too good to simply ride by.

Oxbow Bend on the Snake River.
By now the route began curving away from the Tetons and towards Togwotee Pass. The miles were still paved and were going by swiftly.

The route turned left towards Dubois and for the most part, left the tourist traffic behind.

Lush valley frames Mount Leidy.

The route meandered alongside Buffalo Fork for a few miles.

I had debated with myself about stopping here for dinner, but when I arrived, I wasn't hungry. Onward!!

And just like that the Tetons are fading from view.

A couple of foals being shown the way.

Golden hour settles in. Most of my pics were taken while riding as the shadow reveals.

Crossing Buffalo Fork at Turpin Meadows.
There's a lodge at Turpin Meadows but it didn't seem welcoming without reservations. The route returned to dirt here and instantly kicked up in difficulty. I rode the first few turns, but my legs had enough. Back to hiking mode.

Looks like a good place to jam the tunes.

Unsafe for who??
I came to the Road Closed sign and did a double take on my GPS. Both units had me veering off the main dirt road onto this 2-track. The phone apps confirmed this, so around the gate I went. At first I couldn't see any other tire tracks, but they soon appeared.

I was beginning to get tired and still had a couple miles before reaching the Togwotee Lodge. I had first thought I may get a room there or at least camp out nearby. I checked my phone for a signal and I actually had 4G reception. I called the lodge, but it was well after regular business hours and it seemed highly unlikely I'd get a room. I kept pushing until the road leveled out enough for me to ride.

It was nearing 10:30p and I was beat. As I rounded a turn I spotted a tent up ahead and Justin popped his head out!! I said it looked like a fine place to camp and he was happy to have the company in the thick of Grizzly territory. We both slept with our bear spray that night!!

I was taking note of the back-to-back sub-100 mile days, but my body was telling me that was plenty. The long days were beginning to take a toll.

Stats: 92.11 miles & 5,563' gained.

Here is a full Tour Divide Index from each day on the route.


  1. From Flagg Range to Togwotee certainly are a highlight of the ride! I remember riding that section, where you camped, during the day and I was walking the climbs, holding my breath, waiting for a bear to pounce on me at any moment. It felt sooo remote.
    Great write up John. I am really enjoying it. ;)

    1. I'm really glad I rode by Jackson Lake in daylight, I was really looking forward to that section. Togwotee definitely had a Grizzly feel to it, great place to camp!! Haha.

  2. John, I really like the recap you are giving us as well as the pictures. I always enjoy your ride recaps in Arizona also. Hope to ride some of the AZ rides. Was there any unsafe area on the road that was closed?

    1. No, that road was fine. I think it was either to keep out motorized traffic or the snow was too high until recently & the signs hadn't been removed.