Story and Photos by Christopher Bangs
I applied for the AAC Live Your Dream Grant to go on a human-powered expedition from Bozeman, Montana to the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming. My wife Justene Sweet and I would be riding our bicycles roughly 380 miles from our home in Montana to go rock climbing in the infamous Cirque Of The Towers.
We’d camp at random campsites along the way, stash our bikes in the forest at the trailhead and go rock climbing for a couple weeks. Sounded perfect. What could possibly go wrong? Let’s just say it was comical… and touching, heartfelt, painful, scary, exhausting, rewarding….
Part 1: “The Bike Ride”
Aug. 5, Day 1. Mile 0
My legs felt like jello as I helplessly watched Justene cruise up the first hills with ease. “What the heck did I pack on this trip?” I think to myself as I looked back at my bike trailer with disgust. Justene goes on ahead and coasts down to the Madison River. Tired and sweating, inching along like caterpillars on hot asphalt, we peddle through golden hills and zig-zag through Bear Trap Canyon to Norris Hot Springs.
In no time we’re soaking in hot water, and talking about food. But then again,we’re always talking about food. Holly, the owner of the hot springs invited us to tour through her garden and pick veggies for our first meal of the trip.
We busted out a few beets, carrots, and onions, then nabbed some basil and peas to make a soup. We added sprouted quinoa and sprouted lentils, both instant whole foods great for backpacking! Then we added dried veggies and spices from our community garden, some vegetable bullion, a few secrets from the spice bag… and boom! Instant hot lunch. Delicious and nutritious. And easy too.
Much later, darkness found us on the highway still riding. How much farther? Where are we? Ennis? What’s in Ennis? We don’t know. Neither of us have a map or a cell phone.
Aug. 6, Day 2. Mile 56
What a night! Is that the Madison River? Hot temps again. To hot to ride during parts of the day. We spent hours wading in the water and soaking our t-shirts, and then putting them back on.
Great day. Cranked out another 50 miles, and rode well into the night, again. At least we woke up on the right side of the no trespassing sign. Love it when that happens.
Aug. 7-8, Days 3-4, Mile 106
Experienced some tough riding and some bike trouble on day 4. My old chain rings just couldn’t handle the heavy load of the trailer, causing the chain to skip off on the steeper hills. Cursing and grumpy, we limped my bike into the town of Driggs, ID under heavy skies.
Then my new best friend Troy, at Habitat ski and bike shop, fixed my bike right at 5pm and had us on our way in twenty minutes. Awesome! It was like having more money in the bank. But I was still grumpy, and the skies were still grey, and day 4 still kicked my ass.
Aug. 9, Day 5, Mile 196
Planned rest day in Driggs at the Farmer’s Market. Great place to talk about food. We turned on the cameras and got friendly with the local farmers.
Before you know it we’re camped for the night at Higher Elevation Permaculture Education Center. Cooking dinner under a pink Idaho sunset in an outdoor kitchen with the tables and chairs set in proper style, right next to the pigs and chickens.
Whiskey? There’s whiskey? And skinny dipping in the creek? You’ve got to be kidding…! Day 5, you rock!
Aug. 10, Day 6, Mile 201
Teton Pass with bike trailers bigger than Smart cars. Um, no thanks.
Our new friend Horizon joined us for the ride up to the top of Teton Pass. Near the top things got really competitive. Horizon gets out in front, I’m hanging in second, and Justene is right on my tail. Yeehaw, Wyoming! Here we come!
Damn hard. Crushing it never felt so right. Top of Teton Pass was a huge accomplishment. But I was lying about the competitive part.
Aug. 11-14, Days 7-10, Mile 234
Going south; Jackson Hole, Bondurant, Pinedale, Boulder, and finally the dirt road. The hardest part of the ride was coming. Twenty two miles of dirt, sand, washboards, switch-backs, and deep ruts. (oh-yeah!)
Why are we doing this? Was this fun? No, this was tears, a little anger, some perseverance, and lots of dust in the face! But we love dust in the face. Right?
Stay tuned for Part 2: “CLIMBING IN THE CIRQUE!”
Look for us at humanpoweredmountaineers.blogspot.com.