Bikepacking Peace on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail
Following the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail
In the middle of the pandemic, I found a rhythm to the summer. Following the phases of the moon my partner, Studd Pyles, and I filled our weekends with beauty, peace and adventure.
Without any forethought, our getaways coincided with the new moon and the full moon. Our latest bikepacking trip took us on the cusp of a full moon to the Colorado/Wyoming border.
My grandpa was a Colorado farmer but he had a love affair with Wyoming. He spent many weekends escaping the ‘crowds’ of Colorado (this is 40 years ago mind you!) to go fishing in Wyoming. He always said that “Wyoming is what Colorado used to be.”
As a thirty-year resident, I’m partial to Wyoming as well. Our population stands at less than half a million people and half of the land is public. This bodes well for a nature lover like me who likes to be ‘away from it all’. It’s not often that I choose to leave the state to recreate.
But there’s this beautiful country road that starts at the Wyoming border and heads south into Colorado through a pretty river valley. It’s always called to me but I’ve never had time to explore it.
The plan was this. My partner would ride from Atlantic City in the Wind River Mountains to Battle Pass in the Sierra Madres. I would meet him there at our friends’ cabin.
Together we’d ride from Slater, Colorado south to Slater Park then over Meaden Pass to Steamboat Lake and back north to Slater via Columbine, Colorado. We’d be on the Great Divide Mountain Bike route for part of our journey.
Who knew that there are still pockets of Colorado with more sheep than humans and that the only camps are those of the sheepherders? The above picture is a typical sheep wagon seen across Wyoming and northern Colorado. It’s said that the first one was built in Rawlins, Wyoming in 1884.
I’ve always been intrigued by sheep wagons and was lucky enough to buy one a few years ago (see mysheepwagon.com). Wyoming Tales and Trails has great historic photographs and a brief history of the sheep wagon.
I love that these are still in use today and haven’t changed much except for they are on rubber tires now – not wooden wheels!
I’ve been lucky to see a lot of amazing things in my life and this was one of them. We came across fields of balsam root shining gold under a full moon with the sun deepening behind the hills to the west. It reminded me of the end of Voyage of the Dawn Treader in the Chronicles of Narnia. Near the end of the world, there’s a point where the Dawn Treader sails into a sea of lilies. The flowers stretch out around the ship in every direction except behind them, where the ship’s passage leaves a strip of glassy clear water. It was magical like that.
Art work on an aspen left by the many sheepherders in the area with a very good rendition of Nipple Peak. Most of the art work isn’t appropriate for an all-ages audience but it provides historical record of the many sheepherders that tended sheep here for a hundred years.
Almost home…Squaw Mountain has always been an endearing landmark to me. I worked on the Medicine Bow/Routt National Forest as a firefighter nearly 30 years ago!