Approaching Grand Teton National Park, we scratched our heads at the sign demanding a fee of $12 per bicycle, when a big RV full of people and lots of bikes on the back could get in for $25. Following a frustrating encounter with a mean-spirited park ranger in the tollbooth, and being riddled with mosquito bites that swelled up into dime-sized scratching posts, we made it as far as Jackson Lake as the sunlight ran out. The tree-filled, dusty campground alongside the lake was quite long and full of truck-towed campers, RV’s, SUVs with huge tents and hammocks and grills, in every numbered driveway stalls. It was as if all of suburbia had packed up and unloaded itself in arboreal cubicles for the weekend.
There was only one unclaimed site left, and because it had an electrical outlet on a post, this tiny National Forest campsite was $45 dollars for two bicycles and a small tent for one night. We’ve been told that most parks hold a few economically priced sites specifically for “hiker/bikers,” as these sites don’t accept reservations and we often don’t get to our destination until late in the evening, and don’t use many resources. However, that wasn’t the case at this site, so we wearily accepted. We had entered the deeply forested area of Grizzly Territory, we were just happy to have large metal bear boxes on the site to store our food and toiletries without having to hang them in a bear bag from any of those slender pines.
The following morning, we took the Teton Spur loop just to enjoy the dedicated bike path that allows riders to get amazing views of the mountains and ride into Jackson Hole, the famous skiing and resort city. On our way, we met Ken & Ann, a very sweet couple who took some really nice photos of us near the Tetons that really showed the scale of these epic mountains, and they emailed them to us! Bicycle travel affords us the unique opportunity to connect with others who we might not have met at all if we’d been in our cars, isolated, insulated, and independent. We’re so lucky we’ve been given this time to share our experience with others. Cheers to Ken and Ann for the pictures.
We encountered another grouchy park ranger, who stopped us on the path to inform us that dogs were not allowed on the bike lane. We pointed out that Petunia was in her carrier and not setting foot (setting paws?) on the ground, but he pushed back, citing a “study that was done that concluded dogs on the bike path caused an environmental impact,” and that we would have to ride on the narrow shoulder of the main road, just 15 feet away from the bike path. Baffled, we suggested we’d cover her up with her rainfly to prevent her from being seen by any wildlife, but that wasn’t good enough for this cranky man, who insisted again that we ride on the busy road full of tourists in rented RV’s who were staring at the scenery and possibly jeopardizing our safety. When we pointed out that the bike path was in fact dedicated to a 13 year old girl who was struck and killed by a car while riding her bike on this main road, he was unmoved Finally, after more discussion, he let us go on with a warning that another ranger may stop us farther on… which didn’t happen. As we safely continued on our journey, we got silly dscussing all of the local environmental impacts more pressing than my tiny, quiet dog, securely stashed in her carrier…. the huge planes landing in the field nearby, or the tons of cars and RVs blowing by all day, and… wait a minute, isn’t Wyoming the home state of Dick Cheney, and Haliburton has a huge facility there? But I digress.
We found ourselves in a bit of a housing/camping bind in Jackson, and even though we contacted them late in the day, WarmShowers hosts Chuck and Karen graciously let us camp on their lawn and get cleaned up. They were so sweet, smart and funny, and luckily for us, they were hosting two other cyclists that night. Career bicycle tourists Aitor and Evelin have been touring the globe for six and four years, respectively. What wonderful stories and joyful people! It was so special to share time and space with such interesting, loving, enthusiastic individuals. Aitor and Evelin’s powerful mantra is on their Cyclotherapy blog:
Es imposible… dijo el orgullo
Es arriesgado… dijo la experiencia
No tiene sentido… dijo la razón
Inténtalo!… susurró el corazón
It is impossible… said the pride
It is risky… said the experience
It doesn´t make any sense… said the reason
Give it a try! … whispered the heart
Leaving Jackson Hole, we donned our rain gear and Petunia poked her head out of her rainpod to observe the clouds forming a dense white blanket over the mountain peaks. The weather gradually improved in the afternoon as we headed back past picturesque Jenny Lake to Jackson Lake.
We were silly and singing loudly as it got darker to avoid startling any potential roadside bears. Once again, the campsite was full by the time we arrived. As we rode through, uncertain of our next move, we happened upon a group of three young men who told us we could crash at their camp spot. The trio of friends were on a road trip before returning to college and dubbed their journey The Nomad Tour, complete with a homemade flag hung with pride near their hammock and tents. One was on his way to a skateboard competition, and we talked around the campfire and I shared some toasted tortillas with peanut butter and cherry jam. It was an incredibly clear night, and the five us us walked through the woods to the lake, where we reclined on the rocky beach and gazed upward into space. The silence of our awe was punctuated by collective gasps whenever an especially bright shooting star was sighted, or to point out satellites and ponder celestial matters. It was such a gift to have the time to meditate on the wonder of being alive and anything at all, and to share that moment with others.
We slept soundly, had breakfast with the boys and they were off to their next destination, and so were we– onward to Yellowstone National Park!