Wyoming, generally no less elevated than 4,000 ft above sea level (the lowest spot is 3,100 ft at Belle Forche River), is geologically astounding. Places with names like “Fossil Butte” are everywhere, and digging for fossil remnants in ancient ocean beds is a family activity. Kids can keep whatever they find unless they find something extremely rare. Not like the kid would know it’s really rare, but I’m sure if little Bobby showed up with an example of Amiiformes Ammiidae, the guides would totally freak out and probably get promoted or something.
In the morning when we woke up next to the Creek that runs through Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, I commented to Andy that next time I do this, I want to have a geologist with me, so they can explain to me why the earth is the way it is everywhere that we go.
Mountain ranges, once buried beneath collossal glaciers which have receded only because of harmful industrial pollutants over the past 10,000 years, now peek above masses of rollign land, scoured and sculpted by the movement of the prehistoric ice. As it moved north, it took earth with it, and dumped it between the rock it couldn’t take along the way. We rode along this level part, and up and over the remaining mountains. From those peaks, spectacular ranges and intense color changes surrounded us. Native Americans have lived here since the ice began to move north.
We passed the Continental Divide through the Wind River Mountains. Misleading maps led me to declare “nothing but downhills” for the rest of the way to Lander. I’d like to describe the reality of the next 30 miles, but I think Quinn has already done it in a comment in a previous post: “oh my god. so far from all downhill. it was a lot of uphill with 30 mile winds at our side, pushing us off the road. THEN it was GIANT up and down hills, not enough speed gained going down to get half way up without a lot of work. and with the crazy winds coming from various directions, i didnt feel comfortable coasting 40mph down hill. and then it was pedaling HARD downhill to go 15mph with headwinds pushing me backwards. all downhill is quite a myth as far as i can tell. but it was pretty and we made it eventually.”
It was indeed pretty. All the suffering of an hours long climb is wiped away when you see something like this.
The Red Canyon
In Lander, we found the geologist who could tell us everything we wanted to know about the earth. Juan, who regularly hosts people from warmshowers.com and couchsurfing.com, put us up in a friend’s house because his was too cluttered. Actually, cluttered doesn’t begin to describe it. Juan’s a fine arts photographer. Or, at least that’s part of what he does. He’s a self-admitted pack-rat, and each time he would try to explain why he has a dozen empty tin olive oil cans, he’d come up with a new profession. “Oh, of course I have 600 feet of copper tubing. I’m a plumber.” “I’m a spelunker, so I keep all of my caving equipment in one of my 11 Volvos”. Juan, you should be proud to be the first person to have a post on twoarmparty classified under “crazy people”. Here are a few other things Juan had at least 10 of:
Disney Princess “make your own outfit” refrigerator magnets
Stainless steel thermoses
License plates for EACH STATE
Toasters (didn’t see ‘em, but I bet he does)
Anyway, there’s a lot more. Everyone in town seemed to know him. And at dinner at the Gannet Grill (Gannett Mountain is the highest peak in the state. The bike shop is also named after it), he explained a lot of geologic things I didn’t understand. Since beginning to ride, a lot of people out here have seemed to know a lot about what glaciers have done to their land. I didn’t even know what a glacier was, technically. Juan helped me out with that (it’s snow that’s at least 150 feet deep. The ice, under so much pressure, changes consistency at the bottom, becoming almost plastic-like. That’s the short, dumbed-down version.) He also explained how weather systems from the west crash into the mountain peaks, cool down quickly, dump horrible weather all over the place, then warm up slower on the other side & whip up serious warm “Chinook” winds (or “Snow Eater). I probably got that part wrong too…but I’ll look it up later.
Since Juan’s place was filled up with everything, he put us up at a friend’s place, who was more than willing to accomodate us. Actually, he wasn’t even around…but later on, he said it was totally cool. Then Quinn fell ill and we stayed at the Holiday Lodge where she could rest rest rest and get all high on Codiene. The Holiday Lodge had an awesome neon sign and a hot-tub, which I lounged in while doing laundry.
I'm serious, why didn't I start taking photos of motels sooner?!
While in Lander, I wandered through the park & ran into a pretty girl on a bike who invited me to the Catholic Girl’s College for dinner. Was it a terrible mistake and a tremendously missed opportunity for Andy & me to decline this offer? Keep in mind that at one point she did mention that “she fell in love with God again.”
We are now in the town of Jeffery City (pop 30-40), where we seem to be missing the inimitable “Byron Seeley”. Everyone in Lander not only knew Juan, but also knew Byron. Even the Catholic College girl. Byron’s pottery (monkingbirdpottery.com) was all over the Folklore coffeeshop (where Andy & I spent most of our time). Shane told us “this might sound weird, but there’s nothing to be creeped out about by Byron. He’s a really sweet guy. Really.” We were really looking forward to meeting him, but it seems like we might be out of luck. Jeffery City is definitely a ghost town, and we’ll show some photos eventually. It’s not nearly as much of a ghost town as Strevell, Idaho (there IS wifi here), but since the Uranium mining trade dried up (apparently), everyone has moved away.