Day 8: Granite Pass, Big Horn National Forest

3rd climb in 3 days, pretty tired. Also, mosquito bites.. a lot of mosquito bites. Wyoming mosquitos are hungry hungry hungry. I stopped counting after 30 red bite marks, I am not looking forward to the next few days of itching.

Granite Pass is the other side of Hwy 14A, creatively named Hwy 14, it is not particularly steep, but makes up for it in scenery.

I got out around 5ish, motorcycled 15 miles to the tiny town of Shell, I decided to park “in town” in a pitiful attempt to avoid the voracious roadside mosquitos I encountered on the other side of the park, but it meant an extra 10 miles of valley road.

Nearing the end of the valley drag

Once you make the turn into the canyon, the views get very impressive. Definitely the highlight of the trip so far, scenery-wise.

Lots of interesting rock formations
Looking down on one of the switchbacks
Looking back the way I came up

The canyon section is all 5-8% grades, nothing too crazy but reasonably challenging with my tired legs.

The next phase of the climb takes you up through the woods, along Shell creek.

Unfortunately, after this it is another 8 miles of 3-4% grade, that goes on forever. With the added bonus that the wind died, which meant, more mosquitos.

This.. forever.

After grinding away and being gnawed on for another 45 minutes, you reach the summit after another annoying false flat.

Just a lonely sign post
This is looking down the other side.. which looks exactly like this side

Because of the gradual grades, the descent takes a long, long time.  Probably over 45 minutes. The plateau section was so boring I felt myself zoning out, which is never a good idea when traveling a 35 mph in spandex.

The way up had very little traffic, but the way down started getting a few tourists and tour buses, so I pulled over a few times to get a gap – riding your brakes down a steep mountain is a good way to not have brakes.

A sign said this granite was 2.5 million years old
Final bends before exiting the canyon

I reached the valley floor, and it was already 90 degrees at 10:30 AM. This weather is ridiculous. Quickly loaded up and headed back to the hotel.

Tomorrow is a long motorcycle leg – nearly 500 miles to Estes Park Colorado, where the weather is calling for measurable rain and thunderstorms pretty much every day except Tuesday.  So I may be tackling Trail Ridge sooner than I planned, hopefully my legs recover enough to tackle its 12,000 foot summit.

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