I rolled into Pinedale, Wyoming, at about 11 p.m. Monday night after a ride that was, like most days on the Tour Divide, sometimes hellish, usually beautiful, and always intriguing. In the past two days, I crossed the borders of both Idaho and Wyoming with little fanfare, but the real sense of accomplishment has come in how much the landscape has been changing. From aspen groves to high alpine drainages to rolling sage valleys, the land is my gauge of progress. Like everyone else in this year's race, I've been caught in a fair amount of weather, but I've been lucky enough to miss most of the rain on trails where dryness is crucial. I did a long push yesterday around the Brooks Lake loop. It took me nearly three hours to go three miles. The snow pushing was fine - I'm used to it, really - but the muddy areas where the snow had melted had become that wheel-sucking, wet cement mud that freezes up my wheels within seconds. By the time I realized it, it was too late. I had to carry my mud-caked bike about a half mile along the rocky sideslope because my feet were sticking to the trail. Of course, I was cursing my 29-inch wheels and the nonexistent clearance they have on my small frame and the whole Adventure Cycling route that makes us go around Brooks Lake when it's so easy to bypass it. :-)
I really enjoyed the climb up Union Pass. Just took it super slow and enjoyed the views. I was slammed by hard winds at the pass. The south wind was mostly in my face, and when it wasn't, random 50 mph gusts were nearly strong enough to knock me off my bike. I just plowed into it, only slightly annoyed because the high alpine landscape was so beautiful, and I knew I was so far out there, and getting farther away. That's one thing about the Great Divide route that I really enjoy - it really puts you out in places that are far away from anywhere you might normally visit. Forty, fifty, sixty miles of nothing but dirt track and landscape that's changed little in hundreds of years. When I reach the Great Divide Basin, hopefully by Wednesday or possibly even tonight, that's going to be much farther from anything. I like that. Lots of space to think.
I'm not sure about the mileage I've covered so far in my 10 days on the route - more than 1,000. Hard miles. Amazing miles. I honestly didn't believe I'd make it this far, but each new day makes me excited to make it farther.