Fat-Bikepacking on the Outlaw Trail, Wyoming
My favorite book as a kid was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. To this day I wish I had a wardrobe that led to a magical, far-off land full of wonder and beauty.
To step through a doorway into a different realm and leave your old world behind, even for just a little while….
I have been lucky enough to visit many far-off and beautiful places, from Zanzibar to the Greek Islands. But my Narnia is not in any of those places.
As it happens, my Narnia is in Wyoming, both the deep-winter version and the trickling-meltwater spring one. To get there is not through an enchanted wardrobe but on our trusty steeds that are our fat bikes.
My partner and I fell in love with bikepacking a few years ago. Since we have adult responsibilities, our trips have been over long weekends and close to home. But staying close to home has opened our eyes even more to the wonders around us. And this spring was one of my favorite trips yet, which is saying a lot.
Our plan was to explore the Hole in the Wall area in the Bighorn Mountains over a four day weekend. I created a map that would hopscotch across public lands taking us from the plains to the mountains. Starting in the late afternoon, we had a peaceful sunset ride to where we made our first camp. Perched on a rocky outcropping, we woke up to a fine view of the high plains with herds of antelope and cattle in the distance. I should have brought my harmonica.
We pedaled through the second day and with each hill and bend in the dirt road we fell deeper into the landscape and further away from any sign of humans. We discovered fantastical rock outcroppings, hidden green meadows, clear running streams, desert wildflowers and vistas that took our breath away.
All this. It felt like ours alone. Were we the last people on earth?
We followed tracks to see where they would lead with a general trending from the high desert to the mountains. Following in the hoof prints of the infamous “Outlaw Gang”, sometimes we were only on game trails that faded into tall grass.
We took a side-trip to find the historic Hole in the Wall hideout that harbored Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch Gang, among others. All of these cattle rustlers and bank robbers were collectively known as the “Outlaw Gang.”.
And hideout it was! Even with a marked trail we lost our way and turned around when it was clear we wouldn’t get there with our bikes. We’ll be back!
Near the small trail to the “Hole in the Wall” was a cool, shady place where cattle rustlers were sure to water their livestock and take a break from the heat. I could picture the outlaws riding by and tipping their hats our way.
The days end in glory here. The sun floats lower and the colors become more golden, more surreal, until the beauty is almost too much and then at the moment when your mind can’t fathom anything more beautiful and grand, God throws her light switch and gracefully dims the sky and lights the first star. Star light star bright.
The grass here is the greenest in a world of green against vermillion cliffs, lit by the grace of sunlight, the hills peeling away towards the mountains, layer upon layer. Those cliffs on my right, those cliffs! My face into the warm sun, the green green grass and red red dirt under my tires and my partner in front of me and beside me. Oh my soul, over the next hill a valley so magical, so rare, so peaceful and perfect and unmarred that it may only exist in my dreams. But here it is, in this. This very moment. If I didn’t have a witness I would have thought it a dream.
Riding into the setting sun I willed this moment to become part of me, to capture it in my very soul.
At the end of the day we spilled out of the dreamscape of no man’s land onto a county road (eek-civilization!) and climbed up and up…and up… to a bench where we camped under the stars for the night. Camp 2 had a view up a dramatic limestone canyon with the Middle Fork of the Powder River far below.
After leaving our camp the next morning we found water just past a ranch and filled our water bottles from a clear cold stream.