This was our 8th consecutive summer bike tour, and this year four of my five kids came along, as well as a family friend. In the past, the most kids I’ve had along was three. For various reasons, this was the third different route I had planned for this year, all in different states.
On a Sunday afternoon we drove the six hours to Laramie, Wyoming and dropped our bikes off at my niece’s house, then headed to a cheap, crummy motel for the night. The next morning, we packed up the bikes and left our cars with my niece. With six people riding we had to drive two cars to get us all there.
In not too many miles we were on the outskirts of Laramie and into open prairie on Highway 130, Snowy Mountain Rd. We were headed to the picturesque Snowy Mountain range. While planning this trip I had talked to a cyclist in Fort Collins who highly recommended the Snowy Range. I planned a short day for our first day out, so as not to overdue it. Last year we rode nearly 60 miles with 4500′ of climbing on our first day, which was a bit much. The day was cool, breezy, and pleasant with rolling hills and ranches.
After about 30 miles we rolled into the tiny town of Centennial, which is right at the base of the Snowy Range.We stopped for a break, rested, bought snacks at a small store, and relaxed a bit. We were riding at a pretty leisurely pace.
Our plan was to stay at a campground not too far into the mountains. Right out of Centennial we began climbing. We stopped at a visitors center a few miles up the road, then turned off the highway to Libby Creek Willow Campground. We found a really nice spot at the end of the campground road along a pretty creek. The water pump at the site was not functional so we had to filter water from the creek, which was no big deal.
We set up camp, then proceeded to relax. Connor went off fishing, Lars set up his hammock, Natalie iced her legs in the very cold creek, Finn wrote in his journal, Niels pestered Lars until he got a turn in the hammock, and I lounged around, read a little. We had a really nice relaxing evening. The weather was cool, unlike the heat we have been dealing with in Utah.
Day one totals: 35.7 miles, 1942′ elevation gain
The next morning we headed out around 8:30 am. We weren’t quite into the routine of setting up and breaking down camp, so it took a bit longer. The smoother routine would come in a couple more days. Instead of heading back to the highway, we continued up the narrow road that would meet up with the highway in a few miles. The climbing was steady, but the scenery made up for the effort. After about 5 miles and 1200′ of climbing we arrived back at the highway. We took a break to wait for everyone to regroup. There was a nice creek there at the junction so we all soaked our bandannas in the icy water, and wrapped them around our necks, to cool off as the day was warming up. After a short break we continued the climb toward the Snowy Range pass.
Six more miles and 1200′ more of climbing brought us to the pass at 10,847′. We took a nice break up top and took in the views. It was breezy and a bit chilly, and knowing that we would be descending for awhile, we put on windshirts or vests and arm warmers.
The descent was nice and fast. Within a mile or two we passed beautiful alpine lakes and had to stop to take it all in. It was really beautiful and I was wishing we had not stopped at the top for so long and had spent our time at Mirror Lake. After twelve miles of descending we stopped at Ryan Park Campground to refill out bottles. Though the downhill was nice, we fought a still headwind all the way down. After Ryan Park things flattened out a bit as we descended into a broad valley dotted with cattle and ranches. We rolled up and down for a few miles before crossing the North Platte River and arriving at Highway 230. We turned south and had ten miles of not very pleasant rolling hills in the hot afternoon sun. This was a rough stretch for Natalie as she found herself alone in the back. It can be challenging planning these rides when you have people with varying skills.
We finally arrived at the small town of Riverside. I did not know it at the time, but this is a crossroads for the Continental Divide Trail, the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, and was also popular with other touring cyclists. We stayed at the one option in town, The Lazy Acres RV Park and Campground. They were used to having hikers and cyclists stay there and there was a nice cafe right across the street. It was a bonus that they also had showers at the campground. We decided to eat an early dinner before cleaning up as the restaurant closed early. We had a nice dinner with very generous portions. I could only eat about half of my huge plate of pasta. After dinner we showered and relaxed around camp. There was jockeying for the hammock and several of us decided we needed to bring our own hammocks next time. When we are on trips like this, we typically go to bed around 10 pm after the sun has set. We’re usually pretty tired and ready for bed by then. For this year I brought both of my pyramid tents. Natalie, Niels, Lars, and Connor slept in the four man Oware pyramid, and Finn and I slept in the two man Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid. I love these tents for their simplicity and light weight, both weighing less than five pounds combined and packing down very small.
Day 2 totals: 49.7 miles, 3120′ of elevation gain.