Northeast Utah/Southwest Wyoming Bike Tour: Part 2

Thunderstorm blowing in at the Junction of Highway 191 and the Red Cloud Loop

Day 3: Steinaker Reservoir to Flaming Gorge

This was a tough day for me. We left our camp at Steinaker Reservoir at about 8:30 am and began the ride up toward Flaming Gorge. There was some gentle climbing, then a nice descent before the real climbing began. A sign at the base of the climb says:

Actually this was the sign at the top of the climb. The one at the bottom says the same thing, except instead of 9 miles, it says 4 miles. Not a very funny joke. The climbing was steady and it was not 4 miles; it was at least 9 miles. When we got to the top of the switchbacks, it began to rain. Beautiful dark clouds were forming in the West and headed our way. Fortunately, there was a parking area with bathrooms, and some covered interpretive signs there, so we took cover and waited about 45 minutes for the storm to pass. It was quite nice actually as it really cooled things off.

Waiting out the storm

We had a nice descent then some rolling up and down for several miles. The roads were slick but not that steep so we were still able to take advantage of the downhill sections. We finally topped out at 8428′. We took another short break at some pretty meadows a short distance before our turn off.

Meadows

We shortly arrived at the turn off for Manila, Highway 44. Highway 191 continued to the town of Dutch John and Flaming Gorge Dam. I was feeling okay up to this point, though my quads were pretty sore from all the climbing. We had ridden about 25 miles so far and had about 25 to go to get to our campground. I mistakenly thought we were pretty much through climbing for the day. Wrong. We were also getting very low on water, so we planned to refill at a campground along the way.

The road continued to climb, long, slow climbs, then short descents, then another long, slow climb. After a few miles we turned off the road and rode about 1 mile to a campground where we refilled out bottles. We then rode back up to the highway and continued riding West. It went on and on, up and down. Then the wind picked up. Of course it was a headwind and was the strongest on one of the steepest climbs, probably around 8%. I was feeling really thrashed, worn out. My quads felt shredded. Finn was way up ahead. I knew we were getting pretty close to the actual Flaming Gorge Reservoir, when finally I came upon this very lovely sign.

These are the kind of signs you love to see, provided you are heading in the right direction—downhill.

This was a welcome sight. The descent was steep and very curvy, but I was so glad to be able to coast for awhile. I even passed a pick up truck at one point. The wind gusts were really strong so I had to really keep a firm grip on my handlebars. Around one corner and we were greeted with this refreshing view.

Flaming Gorge

At the bottom of the descent the road then flattened out then rolled gently for 5 more miles to our campsite.

Our campground was at the base of the rocky cliffs on the right

We camped at Carmel Campground right on Sheep Creek. We had camped there a couple years earlier on a kayak trip. The campground has bathrooms (vault toilets) but no water. We just filtered water from the creek. I was totally spent by the time we got to our campground. I was muttering things like “this was a stupid idea,” “I don’t ever want to get on that bike again.” My son was pretty amused and was cracking up at me.

After we got camp set up we headed for the creek, found a thigh deep section and laid down in the very cold water to cool off and wash up a bit. It was very refreshing and I was already feeling a lot better.

Sheep Creek on the right
Our camp at Flaming Gorge (Carmel Campground)

We had a relaxing evening, but were so tired, we went to bed just as it was getting dark, a little after 9:00 pm.

Day 3 totals: 57.5 miles; saddle time: 6:26 (5:29 for Finn)

Day 4: Flaming Gorge to Mountain View, Wyoming

We got an early start the next morning. In fact it was pretty cool so we pulled on our arm warmers (then peeled them off a half hour later as we began the first climb of the day). Just as we were approaching the highway from our campground road we saw two large bighorn sheep cross the road about 100 yards ahead of us.

Bighorn Sheep

The first climb was quite pretty through a narrow canyon.

Climbing up toward the town of Manila

It was a short climb, then several ups and downs to the small town of Manila. We skipped breakfast because we planned on eating breakfast at a cafe in town. It was a delicious breakfast, but turned out to be far more than we could eat. The pancakes were enormous.

Power breakfast

After a nice relaxing breakfast we rode over to the small grocery store and bought some snacks for the day, then headed out of town. The road immediately begins to climb, though gently.

Looking back at Manila with Flaming Gorge in the far background

About 2 or 3 miles from town a truck pulling a flat bed trailer pulled up and asked if we wanted a ride up the hill. We thanked them and kept riding. Finn left me here and I would not see him again for 50 miles. The climb was gradual but lasted about 9 miles. It then leveled off and the road rolled up and down as we entered Wyoming. We rode through the small towns of McKinnon, Burntfork, and Lonetree, all small ranching communities with no services. Foolishly I had only filled two water bottles. Wyoming consisted of lots of sage brush interspersed with ranches and cattle. Occasionally there were these wasteland-like hills.

Wyoming badlands

The riding was not that hard, but I was getting really thirsty. About 10 miles from Mountain View, I ran out of water. By the time I cruised into town I was really in need of a drink. Finn was waiting beside the road under a shady tree, but by now I was a little bit mad at him for ditching me. He usually will wait up for me every 10 or 15 miles. And I was so thirsty that I just rode right past him and headed for a large grocery store. We bought Gatorade and chocolate soy milk and sat at the little in-store cafe and drank.

Our plan was to take Highway 410 south out of Mountain View, through the towns of Robertson and Piedmont to Highway 150, the Mirror Lake Highway. We then planned to camp along the highway somewhere as it followed a creek. When I asked some locals what the road was like, we were informed that after Robertson it turned into a dirt road, then a very rough four wheel drive road. Not good news. Another local told us we could ride Interstate 80 the 37 miles to Evanston. This section of I-80 is notoriously windy, as you can tell by all the windmills. I was not enthusiastic at all to ride on I-80, nor did I think I had the energy to ride another 37 miles in the wind after already riding 56 miles. We were a bit stumped about what to do. Another woman suggested we could ride north to Kemmerer, but that was about 45 miles. We decided to stay the night in Mountain View.

The only accommodations were some cabins we had passed down the road. There were no campground, nor other motels. The cabins, though kind of expensive were very nice with kitchenettes, satellite TV and two nice queen beds.

The cushy cabin in Mountain View, Wyoming

We went to Pizza Hut for dinner, then watched episodes of Top Gear on TV. When we were at the grocery store talking to some locals about possible alternate routes, a nice lady gave us a Wyoming tourist map. After studying the map that night we decided to head to Ogden, UT and finish our tour there. I have a niece who lives there and my wife could drive up and pick us up. We were pretty confident we could make it there in the next two days. Even if we did ride I-80 to Evanston then head south on the Mirror Lake Highway, I didn’t think we had the time. We had to be home Saturday afternoon. But really I couldn’t stand the thought of riding on the Interstate. When I plan these trips I try to pick small, little traveled roads.

Day 4 totals: 56.5 miles; saddle time: 5:19 (4:46 for Finn)

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