2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 3: Red Lodge to Cooke City via BEARTOOTH HIGHWAY

I need to work on my camp sleeping skills. I did not sleep at all the night of day 2.

It was a combination of factors: clammy nylon sleeping bag, too-flat inflatable pillow, fussy sleep mask and earplugs, crackly air mattress that I just couldn’t get comfortable on. Oh, yeah – and then there was the fact that we were facing a total climb on day 3 of over 8,000 feet, up and over Beartooth Pass at 10,000-plus feet.

The prospect of the climb was definitely making me nervous. We had never ridden anything like that before. And then the added time pressure, to try to beat the forecasted storm. Egad!

I shut off my alarm before it sounded at 4:15 a.m., poked Bugman to wake him up, and started getting dressed. With the super-early start time, I developed a camp technique that I would use for the rest of the trip: pack the next day’s clothes into my pillowcase. That way, there was no frantic searching around in the dark, and also, my clothes were pre-warmed when I put them on.

We took off at 6:04 a.m. with our bike lights a-flashing.

The first picture of the day, a half-hour in. Mountains calling! And a clear sky! (For now.)

The first picture of the day, a half-hour in. Mountains calling! And what a lovely clear sky!

The route was pretty much all-climbing-all-the-time from this point, so we were getting passed a lot. The thick cover of young trees along the side of the road here made me wonder what kind of critters might be hiding in there, watching me go by.

The route was pretty much all-climbing-all-the-time from this point, so we were getting passed a lot. The thick cover of young trees along the side of the road here made me wonder what kind of critters might be hiding in there, watching me go by.

There was some of our emergency support crew up ahead, keeping watch on us riders. 7 a.m. now - a few clouds developing.

There was some of our emergency support crew up ahead, keeping watch on us riders. 7 a.m. now – a few clouds developing.

Entering Custer National Forest. The morning started out pretty chilly - in the 40s, I believe. It seemed to be getting colder.

Entering Custer National Forest. The morning started out pretty chilly – in the 40s, I believe. It seemed to be getting colder.

At the first rest stop at mile 11, I really appreciated the soothing sound of Rock Creek. I could have stayed there longer to rest, but I started getting cold just standing there.

At the first rest stop at mile 11, I really appreciated the soothing sound of Rock Creek. I could have stayed there longer to rest, but I started getting cold just standing there.

Nice scenery for a rest stop, eh? Bugman was getting cold, too. He already had his hand warmers in his flip-mitt long-fingered cycling gloves, but picked up an extra pair of warmers at this rest stop to tuck into his shoe covers. We brought pretty much all our cycling outerwear along on this ride, smushed into the bike trunk. We'd had another option. The ride organizers on this day had a reverse gear drop. Instead of picking up discarded clothing as they day warmed, the crew would haul a bag of warm clothes to the lunch stop at the top of the pass, for riders to wear on the descent. I'm glad we had all our stuff with us. We'd wind up needing it.

7:45 a.m. in this picture at the Rock Creek rest stop, and the sky was clouded over. Bugman was getting cold. He already had his hand warmers in his flip-mitt long-fingered cycling gloves, but picked up an extra pair of warmers at this rest stop to tuck into his shoe covers. We brought pretty much all our cycling outerwear along on this ride, smushed into the bike trunk. We’d had another option. The ride organizers on this day had a reverse gear drop. Instead of picking up discarded clothing as they day warmed, the crew would haul a bag of warm clothes to the lunch stop at the top of the pass, for riders to wear on the descent. I’m glad we had all our stuff with us. We’d wind up needing it.

8:45 a.m. - climbing, climbing - oh, the relentless climbing! Never too steep, but never ending!

8:45 a.m. – climbing, climbing – oh, the relentless climbing! Never too steep, but never ending!

About 15 minutes later, we saw the sign van pulled to the side of the road up ahead. Bugman and I checked in with each other: should we sag to the next rest stop? Our energy was flagging, and we still had a long way to go. Perhaps we’d not been eating enough. We always seem to need to re-learn that lesson. Also, I knew we were towards the back of the pack – maybe we would get hopscotched ahead soon anyway? And we couldn’t use a regular sag van – we’d have to take the sign van opportunity while we had it. We called it. After 15.5 miles and three hours of climbing, we were going to sag a bit and bypass the switchbacks.

We weren’t the only ones sagging there. Another couple on a tandem – a red Burley – loaded their bike into the sign van, too. Not sure where the two of them went, but Bugman and I rode inside the sign van, keeping a hold on the two tandems.

Sag van ride #2

Sag #1 of the day

The view from the sign van window, looking down, down, down at the switchbacks we were bypassing.

The view from the sign van window, looking down, down, down at the switchbacks we were bypassing.

The refuel stop at mile 21, at Rock Creek Vista, at which lived some of the most corpulent chipmunks I have ever seen. I was pretty hungry and wolfed down two packages of peanut M&Ms. I know we are not supposed to take multiple items, so as to leave enough for the rest of the folks, but I was needing energy, and the candy was the only thing that sounded good.

9:30 a.m. – the refuel stop at mile 21, at Rock Creek Vista, at which lived some of the most corpulent chipmunks I have ever seen. I was pretty hungry and wolfed down two packages of peanut M&Ms. I know we were not supposed to take more than one, so as to leave enough for the rest of the folks, but I was four hours past breakfast, and I was needing some serious energy, and the candy was the only thing that sounded good to me at that moment.

It was starting to drizzle, so Bugman put his full rain gear on.

It was starting to drizzle, so Bugman put his full rain gear on and we headed out to tackle the “hill” again.

10 a.m.: we've climbed up far enough to look down on the rest stop. The drizzle is changing to snow.

10 a.m.: we’d climbed up far enough to look down on the rest stop. The drizzle was changing to snow.

The snow got heavier.

The snow got heavier.

10:15 a.m. - we had to stop to remove layers. We were working so hard on that climb above the treeline, above 9,000 feet, that we were sweating. Bugman took off the rain pants. I took off my rain jacket and relied on my long-sleeved fleece. It was a difficult dance to thermoregulate on that climb. As soon as we'd stop for a breather, we'd start to get uncomfortably cold within 30-60 seconds. But if we put on more gear, we'd overheat when we got moving again.

10:15 a.m. – we had to stop to remove layers. We were working so hard on that climb above the treeline, above 9,000 feet, that we were sweating. Bugman took off the rain pants. I took off my rain jacket and relied on my long-sleeved fleece, constantly zipping and unzipping it. It was a difficult dance to thermoregulate on that climb. As soon as we’d stop for a breather, we’d start to get uncomfortably cold within 30-60 seconds. But if we put on more gear, we’d overheat when we got moving again.

Still snowing . . .

Still snowing . . .

10:45 a.m. - a moment of sun! It felt so much warmer! Oh, we could keep going if it would just stay like this!

10:45 a.m. – a moment of filtered sunlight! It felt so much warmer! Oh, we could keep going if it would just stay like this!

About ten minutes later, we crossed into Wyoming. The sun was coming and going in patches, but the wind was picking up. Bugman's responses to "how're you doing?" were becoming more noncommittal. His hands were getting really cold.

About ten minutes later, we crossed into Wyoming. The sun was coming and going in patches, but the wind was picking up. Earlier, my hands had gotten too hot inside my mittens with the handwarmers in them, but I had to put them back on at this point. Bugman’s responses to “how’re you doing?” were becoming more gloomy. His hands were getting really cold.

We were over 10,000 feet now. The clouds were broken up a bit, but it felt bitterly cold with the wind. Bugman's hands wouldn't work properly anymore. We had to stop. But if we stopped, we froze. I handed Bugman my rain jacket, and he wrapped his hands in it. I took the bike, and together we trudged upward on foot, awaiting an opportunity to sag. A sag van came along, but there was no space along the narrow two-lane road for a rescue, so the van continued a few hundred feet to a pullout above Twin Lakes, and we walked the bike alongside the road to meet them.

We were over 10,000 feet now. The clouds were broken up a bit, but it felt bitterly cold with the wind. Bugman’s hands wouldn’t work properly anymore. We had to stop. But if we stopped, we’d just get colder. I handed Bugman my rain jacket, and he wrapped his hands in it. Thick ski mitts were the only thing that would have kept him going, I think. I took the bike, and together we trudged upward on foot, awaiting an opportunity to sag. A sag van came along, but there was no space along the narrow two-lane road for a rescue, so the van continued a few hundred feet to a pullout above Twin Lakes, and we walked the bike alongside the road to meet them.

Twin Lakes, where we officially sagged off the course for good that day, at 11 a.m., after making it another 5 1/2 miles up the pass, but 6 miles short of the summit.

Twin Lakes, where we officially sagged off the course for good that day, at 11:20 a.m., after making it another 5.5 miles up the pass, but 6 miles short of the summit.

The sag crew didn't think they could get the tandem on the roof of the vehicle, so they radioed to request the sign van. Meanwhile, we joined the other cyclists inside the sag van to warm up. Several more people coming up the hill behind us decided to sag, too, including another couple on a tandem. There was no more room in the van. Bugman and I got out of the van and put on all our rain gear, to make room inside for others who were worse off. The sign van arrived, and we loaded up the two tandems and headed off for the lunch stop at the summit.

The sag crew didn’t think they could get the tandem on the roof of the vehicle, so they radioed to request the sign van. Meanwhile, we joined the other cyclists inside the sag van to warm up. Several more people coming up the hill behind us decided to sag, too, including another couple on a tandem. There was no more room in the van. Bugman and I got out of the van and put on all our rain gear, to make room inside for others who were worse off. The sign van arrived, and we loaded up the two tandems and headed off for the lunch stop at the summit.

Our speed profile that day. It's pretty obvious when we were sagging. The first part of the day, we were moving at 5-12 MPH. After the rest stop we sagged to, we were only managing 2-7 MPH.

Our speed profile that day. It’s pretty obvious when we were sagging. The first part of the day, we were moving at 5-12 MPH. After the rest stop we sagged to, we were only managing 2-7 MPH.

snow lunch tent wind

It was so good to eat food!!! Especially the soup!! I was also very thankful for the windblock around the food tent, and for the volunteers braving the cold to help us out, way up there at Top of the World. The snow was starting to accumulate, and gusts of wind would send clumps of snow sheeting off the top of the tent. Nobody was biking down now. One cyclist had tried, but he turned around because the visibility was so poor. We just hung around, waiting for a sag ride down to camp at Cooke City.

Überbrew has a good picture on their Facebook page of what the summit looked like when we left – a pile of bikes covered under a thin blanket of snow. I’ll share it here if they give me permission. One of the bikes was an orange tandem belonging to a couple from Iowa. They summited! Well done, Brian and Andrea!!

This is our decidedly non-triumphant Beartooth summit picture, from the inside of a pickup truck belonging to one of the radio volunteers. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. I'd probably consider this one a win, though. We didn't get hypothermic. As we passed dozens of cyclists still out there pedaling away, braving the rain at the lower elevation, gutting up that final, awful climb into camp, I was in awe. There were a lot of tough people out there!

This is our decidedly non-triumphant Beartooth summit picture, from the inside of a pickup truck belonging to one of the radio volunteers. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. I’d probably consider this one a win, though. We didn’t get hypothermia or frostbite. As we passed dozens of cyclists still out there pedaling away, braving the rain at the lower elevation, gutting up that final, awful climb into camp, I was in awe. There were a lot of tough people out there!

When we got to camp, it was definitely warmer than up top. It had started to rain, but the precipitation didn’t last long. The sun came out and was oh so welcome!

Our grasshopper-bedecked sherpa tent at our campsite in Cooke City. The site was a former ball field surrounded by a fence. Because of bear activity in the area, our camping permit required that we store all food and scented toiletries in a truck overnight, to avoid attracting bears into the campsite. I noticed all the garbage cans were packed away, too. We were also required to have a sentry up all night with a flashlight and bear spray, just in case. There were no bears that I know of, but I had the best sleep of the whole ride that night.

Our grasshopper-bedecked sherpa tent at our campsite in Cooke City. The site was a former ball field surrounded by a fence. Because of bear activity in the area, our camping permit required that we store all food and scented toiletries in a truck overnight, to avoid attracting bears into the campsite. I noticed all the garbage cans were packed away, too. We were also required to have a sentry up all night with a flashlight and bear spray, just in case. There were no bears that I know of, but I had the best sleep of the whole ride that night.

I’m glad I finally slept well. There would be another mountain pass to climb on day 4!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

Snow makes for an unpleasant yet fun ride

Since today is Monday of National Bike to Work Week, and also because I’m participating in the National Bike Challenge, I decided it would be a good idea to ride my bike instead of driving to Scotts Bluff National Monument for my regular hike up the bluff.

Yeah, we’d gotten somewhere around 7-10 inches of heavy, wet snow over the weekend. So what? It was already melting, and the roads were clear.

The bike paths and sidewalks, it turned out – not so much.

There were the dreaded “plow mountains” blocking access between sidewalk and crosswalk.

This particular specimen, at the northwest corner of Beltline and Broadway, was difficult enough to walk over, let alone try to try with a bike.

This particular specimen, at the northwest corner of Beltline and Broadway, was difficult enough to walk over, let alone try to traverse with a bike.

Sidewalks weren’t really an option for riding in many places.

The Broadway / 10th Street bridge was the worst - slushy and chunky and icy. I was a little afraid even walking over it. NOTE: this is a big problem for non-motorized transport in the area, as there are only two in-town river crossings, and the Broadway / 10th Street bridge is the only one with a sidewalk.

The Broadway / 10th Street bridge was the worst – slushy and chunky and icy. I was a little afraid even walking over it. NOTE: this is a big problem for non-motorized transport in the area, as there are only two in-town river crossings, and the Broadway / 10th Street bridge is the only one with a sidewalk. Both sides of the street were nasty. I checked.

I dismounted to walk across the bridge.

I had to dismount again when I hit a stretch of snow-covered pathway in Terrytown behind the Carpenter Center.

I really have never ridden in snow before, so I was not prepared for the way my bike bogged down as I hit a long patch of thicker thaw-freeze snow. I didn't have my bike in a low enough gear and I slowed too much and lost balance.

I really have never ridden in snow before, so I was not prepared for the way my bike bogged down as I hit a long patch of thicker thaw-freeze snow. I didn’t have my bike in a low enough gear and I slowed too much and lost balance.

The bike path west on Country Club Road was, unsurprisingly, blocked by snow. Some plows had worked the street, but the snow was not pushed off the road – it was pushed onto the bike path. (Nothing new there – I’ve had this same problem in past years.) West of Five Rocks Road on Country Club there is very little traffic, so riding out in the road was not a problem. However, I will point out that 50 percent of the (two) cars that passed me failed to give the minimum 3-foot passing distance. *facepalm*

So, that was all the unpleasant stuff.

Now we get to the fun part:  the snow-covered north-south leg of the Monument Valley Pathway adjacent to SBNM property.

I downshifted and tackled the snow-encrusted pathway head-on. Trouble is, the wind rushing around the contours of the land and the boundary fenceposts had sculpted the snow into irregular drifts.

When I hit a drift that was deep enough for my pedals to scuff its surface as I passed, my forward progress ceased.

Nice place to get stranded, eh?

Nice place to get stranded, eh?

I was starting to have fun learning to buck the drifts, so, rather than turning around, I walked the bike until there was a shallow enough patch of snow that I could get some traction and get going again.

I slid and skidded, delighting in the sound of the snow crushing under my tires.

It was a good thing I was going slow enough that I wouldn’t need to brake to stop: my brakes packed with snow and ceased to function.

snowy wheels

A rare dry point on the pathway.

I learned that by jerking up on my handlebars just as I encountered a deep section of snow, I could improve my chances of being able to ford the drift by staying more on top of the snow instead of plowing straight into it.

It was a real workout getting through that snow, and a challenge to stay on the wide path as I wobbled between drifts. I decided that if the narrow, winding, hilly path across SBNM property to the Visitors Center was not plowed, I would turn around and go home. I’d already worked up a sweat, and I didn’t want to go careering off the path and land on a yucca or prickly pear hidden under a snowbank.

Rats. Time to turn around.

Rats. Time to turn around.

I thought that on the way back, with the day warming and the snow starting to melt, I would have an easier time getting through the drifts. That turned out not to be the case.

With a little bit of thawed snow under my tires, more often than not, my wheels dug down and spun, causing me to tip off the bike. (I was really starting to get a hankering for a fat bike.)

I was glad when I could finally get back out into dry pavement again. I bounced the bike a couple of times to knock off the snow and cleaned out and tested my brakes before I headed downhill on Country Club Road.

One more picture from today’s ride, taken slightly out of focus with my cell phone camera just before the phone crashed:

Baby Canada geese in spring snow next to Terry's Lake.

Baby Canada geese and their parents in spring snow next to Terry’s Lake.

Here’s hoping the snow melts fast!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

2014 Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 7 Dubois to Moran Junction and the day after

I do not have a whole lot of pictures from the last day of the ride, as my camera was mostly wrapped in plastic, safely stowed away. It was another rainy ride, and with an ascent over a mountain pass, a darned cold one, too. I really regretted not having my rain pants.

It was hard to leave the nice, warm building in Dubois. As tempting as it was to linger over breakfast, we were under deadline pressure. We were scheduled to meet a bus at Moran Junction that would take us back to our Day 0 camp in Teton Village.

It was hard to leave the nice, warm building in Dubois. As tempting as it was to linger over breakfast, we had a deadline to meet. We were scheduled to meet a bus at Moran Junction that would take us back to our Day 0 camp in Teton Village. We got the bike out of the tennis court corral and hit the road, our bike shoes still damp from the day before and overnight rain.

We got the bike out of the tennis court corral and hit the road, our bike shoes still damp from the day before and overnight rain. Bugman had a thick windblocker cycling jacket on over his short-sleeved jersey in addition to his regular shell. I wore a cozy long-sleeved jersey under my shell, on top of a short-sleeved jersey. We both had fingerless cycling gloves topped with fleece mittens. Our bike trunk was stuffed with our rain jackets and long pants.

Good morning, horses.

Good morning, horses.

Only 53 miles to our destination.

Only 53 miles to our destination, and lunch.

The mountain peaks were shrouded in cloud, still half-asleep. That's kind of how I felt that morning.

The mountain peaks were shrouded in cloud, still half-asleep. That’s kind of how I felt that morning.

We dodged a couple of rain showers early, but our luck didn’t last. With the wind chill, dampness, and thin bike socks, Bugman’s feet started to ache from the cold.

About 10 miles in, at the top of a small hill, we pulled over so Bugman could try to get some circulation back in his feet. Nearby, a course volunteer was sitting in his pickup truck, keeping watch on the cyclists.

I trotted over to ask about the possibility of purchasing a dry pair of socks from the CGY store and having them sent ahead to the next rest stop. Instead, the volunteer dug around in his gear and found a pair of thick wool hiking socks. He had Bugman get into his truck and turned the heat up full blast. Bugman changed out of his wet socks and held his feet under the heat register for a few minutes before putting on the dry woolies.

“Ahhh! Much better!” Bugman said. He later commented that, if it were not for that volunteer and his wool socks, he probably would not have been able to finish the ride that day.

I was glad when the rain let up, not just because the misery abated, but because we could see the fantastic scenery.

I was glad when the rain let up, not just because the misery abated, but because we could see the fantastic scenery. Bugman wound up peeling off the detachable sleeves from his thick windbreaker jacket. The exertion of the climb generated some heat.

Clouds were starting to roll in again across the tops of the mountain peaks. It was getting colder.

Clouds were starting to roll in again across the tops of the mountain peaks. It was getting colder the higher we rode.

Early Christmas?

Early Christmas? It just about felt cold enough.

At a rest stop around mile 25, we noshed some snacks. I remember there were volunteers cheering for us at that stop – including a boy hollering “wakka wakka!” Fozzie Bear fan, perhaps?

Bugman was getting chilled again, so he pulled on a pair of thick fleece pants over his bike shorts.

Near noon, and we were nearing the top of the pass. On and off drizzle kept things chilled and damp.

High noon, and we were nearing the top of the pass. On and off drizzle kept things chilled and damp.

Yay! We made it to the top of the pass!

Yay! We made it to the top of the pass!

Oops! We blocked the sign with our hoisted bike. Togwotee Pass, elevation 9,584 feet. Oh, and that's pronounced "TOE-guh-tee."

Oops! We blocked the sign with our hoisted bike. Togwotee Pass, elevation 9,584 feet. Oh, and that’s pronounced “TOE-guh-tee.”

At this stop, Bugman put the sleeves back on his windblocker, in anticipation of the windchill on our way down the mountain.

A lot of fellow cyclists stopped to celebrate at the apex of this mountain pass. It had been a hard climb. But we had miles to go before lunch and the end of the ride.

A lot of fellow cyclists stopped to celebrate at the apex of this mountain pass. It had been a hard climb. But we had miles to go before lunch and the end of the ride. And the rain wasn’t done with us yet.

Crossed the continental divide again. Now for 17 miles of 6% grade downhill. If it had been a warm, dry day, the descent would have been exhilarating. In the rain, possibly in the sleet, with it cold enough to see your breath, it was not so fun.

Crossed the continental divide again. Now for 17 miles of 6% grade downhill. If it had been a warm, dry day, the descent would have been exhilarating. In the rain, with it cold enough to see your breath, it was not so fun.

Our descent of Togwotee Pass was pretty miserable, but we kept at it because we knew there was an end in sight. Every sag wagon that went by was packed full. We were determined not to add to the passenger load. A couple of times, we passed cyclists changing flat tires in the rain. I felt bad for them!

The rest stop at mile 39 was a godsend. They had coffee! Hot coffee! I threw back a couple of cups along with some trail mix and felt a lot better. I also finally broke down and pulled on my running capris, which I had been using as pajamas and had packed in the bike trunk that morning, just in case.

I encountered a girl in the line for the porta potty who was having a complete meltdown. She was upset because she had been picked up with a flat tire by the sag wagon and then was asked to exit the vehicle at the rest area. She was apparently thinking she was going to be abandoned on the mountain there, and was trying in vain to get cell signal to call her father to come pick her up. She did ultimately get back onto another sag wagon to get the rest of the way down the mountain. I suspect the volunteer crew was rounding up people off the cold, wet mountain and gathering them at the rest stop, where at least there was some help. I wonder if there weren’t some people suffering from hypothermia up there. I was uncomfortably cold, but not life-threateningly so. But I had on several layers of clothing. I could definitely see how someone who was less prepared might be having serious trouble.

ggg

The ride organizers had made much ado about the views we were supposed to have of the Tetons as we descended the pass, but the rain scuppered the vista. We weren’t able to see the mountains ahead until we descended out of the clouds and were on the flat again.

It continued to drizzle pretty much the entire last portion of the ride. You couldn’t get too close to another cyclist, or you risked spraying them or getting sprayed by the water coming up from the tires off the wet road. I could feel my feet squelching in my shoes.

The end of the ride was pretty anticlimactic. We showed up at Moran Junction, lay down our bike to be packed onto a truck, scarfed lunch, and then stood soggily in line, waiting for the buses that would take us back to Teton Village. A volunteer offered a blanket, in case someone was desperately cold.

As the course closed down, the sag wagons were pressed into service as cyclist transport back to Teton Village, and it was on one of these that we found our way back. There was a pleasant camaraderie among the cyclists, particularly as we had another mini-adventure when our driver chose to take Moose-Wilson road from the north instead of taking the south route via highways 26 and 22 through Jackson. There were portions of that road that were unpaved and mighty bumpy! Too bad we didn’t see a moose or bear spring from between the trees. That would have made a good story.

At Teton Village, we walked through the mud in our bike shoes to get to the campsite where we could pick up our luggage from the tent Sherpa guys. As soon as we had our bags, I immediately put on dry socks and shoes. So much better!

Since our bike was not back in camp yet, we climbed wearily into our car for the 20-minute drive to our B&B in Jackson – the Alpine House.

The car-window view of the mist-shrouded Tetons was breathtaking.

The car-window view of the mist-shrouded Tetons on the drive to Jackson was breathtaking.

Warm showers, dry clothes, chocolate chip cookies from the B&B, and we were feeling much better. Bugman washed his borrowed wool socks, and we drove back to Teton Village with them draped over the air registers in the car to dry. We packed our bike on top of the car, returned the borrowed socks, and headed over to find the after-ride party in the Commons Area.

When we finally found someone who could tell us where the Commons was, we were disappointed. The Commons was an outdoor area, and the party had been cancelled due to the chilly weather. Oh well. We didn’t enjoy the afterparty last year all that much anyway – the music was too loud.

We headed back to Jackson, ate an intemperate amount of pizza, and crashed into bed.

The next day on the drive home, we retraced our mountain pass route and found . . . snow!

Bugman scrapes some snow off the continental divide sign to throw the first snowball of the season. I am so bummed I did not think to make and photograph a miniature snowman. That would have been my earliest-ever snowman, on August 24!

Bugman scraped some snow off the continental divide sign to throw the first snowball of the season. I am so bummed I did not think to make and photograph a miniature snowman. That would have been my earliest-ever snowman, on August 24!

The final image of Cycle Greater Yellowstone 2014: our bike atop the car, on frosty Togwotee Pass. Next year, I will for sure bring my rain pants!

The final image of Cycle Greater Yellowstone 2014: our bike atop the car, on frosty Togwotee Pass. Next year, I will for sure bring my rain pants!

Ride summary

Distance and elevation gain (per the official route stats) were 55 miles, 2,610 feet

Min temp: 42, Max temp: 55, Winds 10-25, gusting to 30 mph, Precipitation: “none”?? Well, maybe it was dry at the airport . . .  [data from Dubois]

Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw

Transition to winter running

My transition to winter running occurred at approximately 6:53 p.m. on Wednesday evening.

The National Weather Service in Cheyenne was predicting an Arctic cold front. When I got home from work around 6 p.m., the evening was mild and still, the stars twinkling above me. I decided to head out for a run, even though I really didn’t want to. I talked myself into going out by promising myself I would only have to run 3 miles.

It was 44 degrees when I left the house.

Two blocks away from home, the weather abruptly changed.

A sudden chill gust form the north whipped dust and leaves up off the ground and clattered the bare tree branches above me. The rush of air grew in intensity, hitting 40-50 miles per hour, nearly bringing me to a standstill at times. My uncovered ears and fingers got increasingly uncomfortably cold.

I almost turned around, but I was already out there, and I was facing he worst – uphill against the wind. The route home would be much easier.

By the time I got home, the temperature was 27 degrees.

I got those three chill miles done, but I skipped my run the following morning.

I was supposed to meet a friend at 6 a.m. After running out in that wind and hearing predictions of snow overnight, my friend and I decided we needed sleep more than we needed to be out running in a possible blizzard with subzero windchill.

In the morning, I felt like a wuss. Yes, the temperature was about 6 degrees, and there was snow on the ground, but there was no wind! I could have handled that! Maybe . . .

Friday morning, the landscape was breathtaking. Hoarfrost coating everything. Steam rising from the river. I wanted to stop and take a picture as I crossed the river bridge on my way to a meeting, but with the ice on the road, I really could not do so safely.

Saturday was a lovely winter day – bright and warm enough to start melting the snow. Bugman and I were supposed to go for a run in the early afternoon. However, he lay down on the couch, was sat upon by a purring cat, and promptly fell asleep. We did not wind up leaving the house for our 8-mile run until 3 p.m., when the sun and the temperature were dropping.

We have forgotten over the summer how to dress comfortably for winter runs in the just-below-freezing range.

I should have worn a thicker shirt with longer sleeves that I could pull down over my hands. My arms and hands got cold.

Bugman had it worse. Ever since that cold post-Thanksgiving turkey trot some years ago when he nearly froze his hands, the blood vessels in his forearms seem to contract in cold weather, turning his hands to blocks of ice. It doesn’t help that he sweats like mad when he runs.

On the run yesterday, he wore two running shirts and a jacket and running gloves with a wind-blocking mitten shell. He sweated through both shirt layers and took his jacket off, then put the jacket back on when the breeze picked up. In the last two miles, he had to stop several times to try to warm up his painfully cold hands. I grabbed his wrist, and it was all cold and wet. When we got home, his warming hands burned with pain. I felt bad for him. I really don’t know what he needs to do – work his layers better?

Ah, well. Time for a few pictures.

First snow run of the season.

First snow run of the season.

It's wonderful to have the Monument Valley Pathway along the North Platte River as a running option. (The snow was well cleared from the path.) The setting sun made rainbows in the high ice clouds to the north and south. The open water of the flowing river attracted dozens of Canada geese and mallard ducks.

It’s wonderful to have the Monument Valley Pathway along the North Platte River as a running option. (The snow was well cleared from the path.) The setting sun made subtle rainbows in the high ice clouds to the north and south. The open water of the flowing river attracted dozens of Canada geese and mallard ducks.

 

As the temperature dropped, meltwater puddles began to freeze into fascinating starburst forms.

As the temperature dropped, meltwater puddles began to freeze into fascinating starburst forms.

At these temps, the open water on the pond near the zoo won't be open water much longer.

At these temps, the open water on the pond near the zoo won’t be open water much longer.

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw