The Yin & Yang of Mountain Biking
The Continental Divide
I thought I knew where I wanted to be but I ended up where I was supposed to be.
Because I went this way instead of that I saw a deer playing on a snowfield at sunset and a coyote pass through a herd of pronghorn antelope in the early morning.
Multiple timelines, endless permutations, parallel universes. It’s all good.
Last weekend I was drawn, yet again, to the wide open spaces of the Northern Red Desert. I tried to find the pinnacles area but I wasn’t sure how to get there. They are not exactly on a map.
You see, the beauty of this area is that there are very few roads, no fences, and no human disturbance. In fact, it is the largest fenceless area in the contiguous U. S. of A.
My progress was slow. I ambled a lot. I looked at rocks. I braked for wildflowers. And bees.
I gave up hopes of getting to where I wanted to be before dark and high tailed it back to my camper. I decided not to camp out overnight with my bike. My stomach was revolting from something I ate so it was a good call.
I still had some daylight so I drove around a bit looking for the perfect campsite. In the end I camped at the Oregon Buttes, which feels like home and it was indeed the perfect campsite.
When I got to my campsite I noticed a young mule deer at the edge of a snowdrift. It looked like the young buck was there to eat snow. But when he walked onto the drift he started playing. He was all alone and he danced in circles, kicked his rear legs up, and rolled in the snow (just like my dog).
In all my years of working in the field as a wildlife biologist I’ve never seen an animal act with such pure joy!
It was a divine evening. I read a book for awhile and slept great.
The next morning I made coffee and welcomed the day. There was a herd of antelope not far from my camper and I watched them watching a coyote trot through their herd. I tried to identify some songbirds and a northern harrier kept passing my camp as he hunted the hillside.
After a lazy and blissful morning I finally climbed in the saddle. My goal was to ride up to Continental Peak and then hike to the top. No map needed because you can see Continental Peak from Oregon Buttes.
I love the ride from Oregon Buttes towards Continental Peak because you are smack dab on the Continental Divide. On your left you have an unobstructed view of the Wind River Mountains and on your right stretches the Great Divide Basin and Honeycomb Buttes.
I climbed to the top of the Oregon Buttes earlier this season. It’s flat on top, just like it appears from a distance, but there are pockets of limber pine and enchanting outcroppings of rimrock. There is a lot to explore and it’s full of wildlife – elk, deer and pronghorn. It has a dark and mysterious energy.
Opposite the Oregon Buttes is Continental Peak which, at first glance, is devoid of anything green and topped with rocky pinnacles. It is treeless and windswept. I always wondered what it looked like on top.
I think of the two landmarks as the yin and yang of the Northern Red Desert.
I rode my way around the peak looking for a trail to the top. I didn’t see a trail so I ditched my bike and hiked cross country to the lower peak and along the saddle. Once at the lower peak I could see the very steep trail to the top proper.
Since my flats were nearly bald and my ankle and foot were still healing I decided not to hike to the top. This time anyway. My consolation prize was a beer and chocolate while I watched cloud shadows scuttle across the desert floor below.