Northeast Utah/Southeast Wyoming Bike Tour: Part 3

The road to Kemmerer, Wyoming

We had decided to end our tour in Ogden, but the problem we now faced was that I had little idea what the roads were like. I had done no research in this area and we only had a crummy tourist map. We hoped to get to at least Randolph or Woodruff, UT and find a campground, motel, or at least somewhere to stealth camp.

We knew it would be a long day with big mileage so we left Mountain View at 7:30 am. Highway 189 north was similar to the highway from Manila to Mountain View—mostly flat with occasional gradual climbs and descents. There was lots of sage brush and only occasional cars or trucks would pass. It was a pretty lonely stretch of road.

A few miles into our ride we came to the mostly ghost town of Carter. We saw only two houses that looked occupied. Everything else was abandoned and boarded up.

Carter, Wyoming

Train tracks went right through the town and stretched off into the distance. It looked like there was some kind of a station or depot there at one time.

Carter train station

The riding was fairly pleasant and it was not too hot. At one point it started raining and we pulled on our rain coats, but we took them off a few miles later. The threatening storm produced beautiful cloud formations.

Wyoming clouds

We made pretty good time and arrived in Diamondville, just outside Kemmerer, before lunch. We had ridden 45 miles so far. Just as we arrived in Diamondville it started raining again. We found a park with a covered pavilion right on the main road so we took cover there. We ate some snacks and drank water. Finn was tired for some reason so he laid down on the picnic bench and took a nap. Actually we both slept for about 35 minutes. When we woke it was sunny and warmer. We rode into Kemmerer, found a Maverick station and bought more snacks and Gatorade. We also each filled our two bike bottles, one liter Platypus bottles, and bought 24 oz. Gatorade bottles. We were not sure when we would be able to fill up again. I didn’t even know if Randolph or Woodruff had any stores or other services. I was probably also overcompensating from my lack of fluids the day before.

Our next stretch of road was Highway 30 which headed straight west to the Utah border. This stretch can be very windy, though it is relatively flat with no major climbs. My son Finn hates flat roads; he loves the mountains and loves to climb. Flat roads are okay for me as long as they are not too long. I led out on this stretch of road and was feeling quite good. In fact I stayed way ahead of Finn the whole 28 miles to Sage Creek and the Utah border and we made very good time. I was feeling strong and confident. Luckily the winds were not bad at all.

Back into Utah

The long straight road in the photo above led into a nice green valley full of cattle and ranches. It was pastoral and pleasant riding. Far in the distance we could see the junction and our turn off to the South. We took a break along this straight stretch of road.

Lots of ranches in this valley
About 75 miles into our day

At Sage Creek Junction we turned south to the small ranching town of Randolph. We found a gas station/convenience store and resupplied with water, drinks, and snacks. We were at mile 84, the longest we had ever rode in a single day. An old leather-faced rancher approached us and asked where we were coming from and where we were headed. I told him we were headed up Highway 39, Monte Cristo Canyon. I asked him about motels or camping possibilities in the area. He grew up on a ranch up that canyon and knew the area well. He had lived his whole life in this valley. We had a nice chat with him. He was semi-retired and had turned the ranch over to two of his sons. He said he just “keeps the water running.” They had 800 head of cattle on their ranch.

He told me there were no motels in Randolph or Woodruff. But he said there was a nice campground about 15 miles up Monte Cristo Canyon. He said there was some steep climbing up that canyon. He told us there was a nice creek that ran down the canyon and that we could probably find a decent place to camp there.

Finn and I discussed our possibilities and it seemed we really only had one choice, and that was to try to get far enough up the canyon where we were past the ranches and find a place to camp. We now recognized that this would be a Century day. Neither of us had ever ridden a Century (100 miles) before so we were a bit excited at the thought.

We refilled all our bottle and bought more Gatorade. I knew there was a possibility of a dry camp that night and I wanted to be prepared. After resting up a bit, we took off for the 10 mile ride to Woodruff. We found the only store/gas station in town but it was closed. We took another short break then started heading up the canyon. We had ridden 94 miles. The road wound up another broad valley dotted with ranches and farm houses. It was quite pretty. It was about 6:00 pm, the shadows were lengthening, and it was cooling off nicely. At the 100 mile mark we high-fived and kept riding. I told Finn not to ditch me, that I really needed him to stay with me and guide me up the road. The valley narrowed into a canyon and the road steepened. After a couple more miles we came to a sign saying there was a reservoir and campground a mile up this dirt road. After a short deliberation we decided to continue on up the canyon. There were fences on both sides of the highway with private property, no trespassing signs.

Around mile 104 or 105.

We found a good steady pace, 8 miles per hour. I stuck right on the back of Finn’s back tire and pedaled with my head down. The road got steeper and steeper as the sun set. 104 miles, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109 miles. If Monte Cristo Campground was 15 miles up the canyon from Woodruff as the rancher had told us we should have been there by now, but there was not sign of it. The highway just kept climbing as far as we could see. We finally got past the private property signs. I was really feeling it now. My quads were nearly shot and we were both feeling really tired. I flagged down a passing car and asked the driver if he had passed the campground. He said it was still 5-7 miles up the canyon. It was now 9:00 pm and nearly dark. It was not safe to be on the road. We continued on realizing that we were not going to make it to the campground. At mile 111.5 we pulled off the highway into an aspen forest and set up the tent. We were pretty exhausted and I was happy to be stopping for the night.

An epic day, 111.5 miles with loaded bikes

It was not an ideal campsite. The ground was pretty lumpy and uneven but we were too tired to care too much. I was too tired to fire up the stove, nor did I want to in this heavily wooded area, so we each had a few ginger snap cookies, a handful of nuts, and some pretzels, then crashed.

Our impromptu camp in the aspen
End of a long dayEnd of an epic day

I checked out our route on Mapmyride, and learned that we had climbed 1200′ up this canyon, and this was the last 16 miles miles of a 111.5 mile day. We felt pretty good about that. We were amazed at how our legs held out. Of course, we were highly motivated. We were also surprised that we were not that saddle sore either. I guess the previous four days of riding had toughened us up.

Day 4 totals: 111.5 miles; saddle time: 12:36 (with all our breaks, a nap, etc. we were on the road from 7:30 am to 9:30 pm.

Last morning of our tour, at our aspen camp

Day 5: Camp in Monte Cristo Canyon to Ogden, UT

Finn slept like a baby and hardly stirred all night. My side of the tent was really lumpy and I tossed and turned, but also slept pretty well because I was so tired. We ate some granola bars for breakfast, then began our ascent of this canyon. After about 5 miles we arrived at Monte Cristo Campground. It was a large, nice campground. We stopped to use the bathroom.

Monte Cristo Campground

We still had to climb another 5 or 6 miles before we finally topped out at 8900′. Going down the other side was really nice. We went 21 miles without having to touch our pedals or brakes. It felt really good to have the cool morning air in our faces and to be able to just sit and enjoy the scenery which consisted of aspen and conifer forests and nice vistas.

Once the fast descent was over we had mostly level riding into Huntsville. We passed numerous cyclists riding up this Monte Cristo Highway. We talked to a couple and they said it was a very popular climb. We stopped at a gas station and bought some food and rested for awhile. We were really hungry. We had not had a regular meal the previous day, just snacks, Clif bars, nuts, dried fruit, sports drinks, and so on.

We then rode the last few miles down Ogden Canyon to my nieces house and the end of our tour.

Day 6 totals: 42.5 miles. saddle time: 3:06

Finn insisted on wearing his Chacos the entire time. In fact, he didn’t even bring any other shoes. After the first day, I wore my Tevas for the rest of the trip. It was pretty hot and it felt good to wear sandals.

Finn’s tan lines
My tan lines

It felt really good to be done riding, after six days on the road. At the same time we both felt a bit melancholy as well. It was really nice to have so much one-on-one time with my son. We had a really good time, even though the trip was much harder than I anticipated. We had three major climbs—on day one we climbed 3000+’ in about 19 miles; on day three we climbed about 2500′ in about 15 miles; and on day five we climbed about 1200′ in 16 miles. Good thing they were evenly spaced. Once again I was really impressed with Finn. He’s an animal on a bike, especially for a 15 year old. He never seems to tire much. We are already planning our tour for next year.

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