Will be opened up again
Back In The High Life Again, Steve Winwood & Will Jennings (1986)
Before indulging in the high life of the city, however, we enjoy the life of climbing high above treeline to almost 9,000 feet. Starting from the Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site, we casually cruise into Hyattville, turn south for a mile or so and take the less traveled fork onto Hyattville Road (BLM 1117). Like every day so far, the morning awakens with few clouds, little wind, and cool temperatures. The clouds and wind stay away all day. And, as the sun rises, the cool temperatures soon go away, too.
This 11 mile climb is relentless, with multiple soft, steep pitches that drop us into our lowest gears and even off the bike. We grind and push up, up, up, while the temperature goes up, up, up. At the end of a particularly steep section, I stop for a break and take in the expanding view of the valley below. I'm astonished to spot in the distance the short descent into the valley miles away. I snap a picture, thinking that may be the last time I can see that road across that expanse.
Wrong. On five separate occasions, over the next several miles, I stop at the top of a steep pitch or switchback, look back to see that descent and take a picture, thinking that would be the last. But the relentless climb maintains that sight line to the west, unobstructed by ridge lines or such niceties as trees. Near the top of the climb to 8,500 feet, we finally find some trees and a short decline that blocks sight of that valley. Good. Time for a new view. Time to look forward.
Even though the road is still soft and now considerably rockier, it is so nice to be riding through a forest at 8,500+ foot elevation. It's still an uphill haul, but we have sporadic shade and gentler temperatures than that furnace below. Just a few miles more.
We spin by a couple of big trucks hauling some equipment back to a construction site that looks to be the makings of a cabin. Focused on their task at hand, the men barely notice us passing by on loaded bicycles. We climb on without seeing any sign of another building for miles and miles. If you're looking to move off the grid, this certainly would be a place to go.
Oh, baby. We're moving now. The 20 mile descent starts fast on good gravel, transitions to even faster pavement for a few miles, and then back to gravel on "Old Highway 16" down Ten Sleep Canyon. It's tempting to let loose on this quick descent, but there's actually gravel on Old 16, along with washboards, loose stuff around corners, and the most traffic we've seen since Day 1. As we plummet down the canyon, the temperature shoots up while the number and size of trees shrink. Soon we'll be down to dry prairie again.
This twisty gravel road through Ten Sleep Canyon also attracts a different breed of outdoor enthusiasts - rock climbers. I check speeds regularly to scan the rock for climbers high on the canyon walls. They're up there, alright. I capture a few images, but the climbers are so small relative to the big walls that they're difficult to spot.
We roll into the village of Ten Sleep in the heat of the day. And it is hot. On the recommendation of Rowan Mitchell, our intrepid traveler we met yesterday at the Archaeological Site, we stay at the Ten Sleep RV Park on the east end of town. This nice little spot features RV sites, tent sites and cabins, all with access to showers, laundry and general store.
After dropping back down to the hot, dry prairie and after five days without a shower, we opt for a cabin, which is basically two bunk beds, a door, a window, a desk, and, most importantly, an air conditioner. We gleefully shower, attend to bikes, wash every stitch of clothing not being worn at the moment, and walk downtown for a prepared meal. Living large.
We relish another full day of riding on the Cloud Peak 500, with big climbs and a long descent ending with all the relevant amenities of civilization.
Back in the high life again.