Claire Porter
Great Divide
South Pass City, WY Leaving the Grand Tetons, I was immediately faced with a climb up Togowtee Pass that I had been dreading ever since I realized it was part of the Great Divide route. Last year, when I rode cross country by myself from California to Maine, I crossed over Togowtee Pass and let's just say it was the most "memorable" pass from my trip of over 4,000 miles. I remember struggling up the pass for hours, and thinking I had reached the summit when I saw the sign for the "Togowtee Mountain Lodge", when in fact I still had 9 more miles to the top. When I finally crested the pass, the sun had set and I was so exhausted I was nearly in tears. So when I looked at the map for the Great Divide and saw that unforgettable name, I shuddered. This time around, at least I knew what I was in for. And as it turned out, I was in for a pleasant surprise.

The night before climbing Togowtee, I camped in the Tetons with friends from high school who were biking cross country and our paths intersected in the Tetons. We stayed up late singing to ukulele and mandolin music and I felt warmed not only from the campfire, but from the presence of friends and hearing their stories from the road. They had come over Togowtee the day before, and assured me that I would be fine. I knew from my own experience that it was a tough pass, and felt nervous despite their encouragement.

The next morning, I hit the pass. This time around, the first half of the climbing was on dirt. The road was steep, but the absence of cars and RVs zooming past and several beaver sightings made the climb much more enjoyable. I couldn't believe it when I arrived at the Lodge- I had 9 miles to go and felt great. I bought a juice and a beer, one for immediate consumption and one as a celebratory beverage to be popped open at the top. About an hour later, I snapped a picture in front of the sign declaring, "CONTINENTAL DIVIDE, ELV 9,568", and I didn't bother to stop the tear that rolled down my cheek. I don't know if the dirt climb was easier than the paved climb, I was in better shape this year than last year, or I simply psyched myself out over the climb, but this time around, Togowtee felt more like a friend than an enemy.

After Togowtee came Union Pass, which was a whole different can of worms. Union Pass was brutal- or I should specify, the long steep hills that climbed to the sky, only to send me straight down to a creek bed, only to climb up again, to be sent down again, were relentless and exhausting. When I finally began the climb that was the actual pass, I was weary and hardly amused when I came across a herd of cows that were being shepherded up the hill by a group of wranglers. As I passed the cows, I consoled myself that at least I was going faster than something. The descent was windy and not very steep, and I hid from the rain in my tent that evening.

Riding on from Passtopia (Togowtee and Union Pass back-to-back), I faced a new challenge: headwinds. I quickly discovered that I prefer climbing to headwinds, as the ride into Pinedale felt like I was battling a faceless opponent that I couldn't see the end of, and offered no descent. When I reached Pinedale, I stumbled into the public library to use a computer and the restroom, and was surprised by my own reflection. Dust caked my eyebrows, and I had a decent sunglasses tanline. I washed my face, changed out of bike shorts, and enjoyed using a computer in what may be the finest public library I have ever stepped inside of- gorgeous pine rafters, no time limit on the computers, and fast internet. I spent time in the library charging my devices, as my solar panel was not as trusty as my sturdy Blackburn bags and I now relied on outlets for power after the solar panel decided to cease functioning. I ate dinner at the Rock Rabbit, lured in by the hippie signage out front. It ended up not being a very hippie esta
blishment, but the waitress informed me that the campground in town was closed and suggested I camp up the road at the rodeo ground. I did just that, and as I lay in my sleeping bag, my thoughts drifted to the upcoming Great Divide Basin. I instinctively reached for a drink of water, thinking of the upcoming waterless miles. I fell asleep, and pedaled south the next morning, my next destination: the Great Divide Basin.

- IMAGES OF THE ROAD -

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Claire Porter

Gear List

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- MY BIKE SPECS -

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Claire Porter

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