Dubois, WY. to Coulter Bay, Grand Teton National Park via. dirt and paved country roads.
July 12, 2012
Sometimes you set standards for yourself for practical reasons. Sometimes they only make sense to you and maybe a few others. We had heard from several eastbound cyclists that there was road construction on north side of Togwotee Pass and that they were forcing cyclists to put their bikes in a pickup and ride through it. I just didn’t feel like complying. When we reach Jasper, Alberta Canada I want to be able to say we pedaled there from home. Every mile of the way.
As we rode toward Togwotee Pass I began asking folks I met if they knew of any alternate roads we could take. Several locals suggested there might be a dirt road that would take us down the pass and around the construction. Nobody could tell me where to look and if we could get on it before getting into the construction. After talking to a handful of people I finally got a few leads on where the construction began and where I might find the dirt road, although nobody they knew had ever been on it.
The locals called it Turpin Road although no roads by that name appeared on my maps. A quick look at my ACA Great Divide mountain bike maps showed a series of dirt and country paved roads that could be connected to make up the route the locals were talking about. Their names were 30010, 30040, and 30050 and the route appeared to begin behind the Togwotee Mountain Lodge.
Mary and I made the 8 mile climb up Togwotee Pass and rolled into the Togwotee Mountain Lodge. We walked up to the desk and asked the clerk if she knew anything about the road we were looking for.
“Turpin Road? It’s closed! They’re trapping grizzlies! You don’t want to go down that road!” When I told the clerk I’d rather deal with grizzlies than the construction she looked at me like I was insane. She asked if we had bear spray and when I said yes she calmed down a little and pointed in the direction of where the road was behind the lodge.
I’ve learned when bike touring it’s best not to make any major decisions on an empty stomach. Since we had a major decision to make and since our stomachs had been growling for the last hour I suggested we eat some lunch and discuss our next move.
As Mary followed me to the grill she said “Did I just hear the lady say the road was closed due to trapping?…. And what were they trapping?” I quickly replied “chipmunks honey, they’re trapping chipmunks” I turned to see a rather concerned look on her face as she said “No, I heard the lady say grizzlies”.
We went next door to the grill and ordered a pizza. Luckily they had a WiFi signal and I was able to do a quick Google search using they key words “Togwotee Pass, Turpin Road, and grizzly trapping”. The very first hit was a blog post from a guy racing the Tour Divide race. It was from only 4 days before. He stated that when he reached the dirt road there were yellow signs posted stating “Road Closed Due to Grizzly Trapping”. He even posted a photo of the sign. He went on to say that one of his fellow racers had camped in the nearby campground. He’d seen the signs too so he slept in the restroom with his bike. He said he was awaken in the middle of the night by a bear scratching on the door trying to get in. http://triduffer.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/tour-divide-2012-part-4-wyoming/
When I read the news to Mary she asked why they would be trapping grizzlies. I explained that they usually do that when they’ve become a nuisance or pose a threat to people. She had a somewhat concerned look on her face so I told her. “We’ll be OK as long as we stay out of the bear traps”. Somehow I don’t think it gave her much reassurance.
I reasoned that if the people racing the Tour Divide had ridden the road then we should be able to also. As we left the restaurant a guy stopped us and asked us about our ride. After the usual explanation Mary blurted out that we were about to ride down a road where they were trapping grizzlies and then said “If you read about us in the news just remember you were the last person to talk to us before we were eaten by grizzlies.”
We found the unmarked road behind the lodge. There was only a sign stating we were entering grizzly country. The road was pretty rough with loose rocks and areas of deep sand but it was mostly downhill. Almost immediatly we were rewarded with spectacular views of the Grand Tetons. This was another motive we had for taking an alternate route down the mountain.
We passed Aspen, and pine trees, meadows, streams, and wildflowers as we decended. Nearly every round of a corner brought us new and pretty scenery. We stayed alert for bear and made sure we made noise when we went around blind corners but we never saw any evidence of them. Not a single bear track or bear poo. I really didn’t know whether I was glad or disappointed.
In places the road was nothing but a big sand pit with a few basketball sized rocks thrown in. Our legs burned as we mashed our way through the deep sand. I knew Mary hated sand more than any other off road challenge but she was a real trooper and kept pedaling. Maybe her determination to get through the sand had something to do with her aversion of grizzly bears
When we reached pavement the road turned toward the familier peaks of the Tetons. We passed ranch after ranch and we were treated to views of the river with the Tetons in the distance. At one point we saw three Trumpeter Swans on a small lake. I told Mary what a rare treat it is to see them in the wild.
It didn’t seem like it took us much longer to reach Coulter Bay in Grand Teton National Park. We got a hiker/biker discount in the campground, had a mediocre overpriced meal in the lodge restaurant, and then settled in to a good nights rest in our tent.
Sometimes riding the road less traveled isn’t the easiest. Sometimes it’s isn’t even the safest and some would argue not even the smartest. Today the reward was certainly worth the effort though.