Rod McLaughlin

The Flaming Gorge (04 may 12)

Me in the KOA campground, Manila

I first heard about this area on the SW Wyoming/Utah border when I read a book by Edward Abbey. He worked in the national park in the 1960s and saw the water rising behind the new dam, destroying millions of years of evolution. It was all due to a guy called Powell who originally explored the Flaming Gorge area on the Green River. It's called the Flaming Gorge because the cliffs are orange in the sunshine. 

Anyway, Edward Abbey inspired people to try to do something about the destruction of the environment. Some of them got caught, and though none of them committed violent crimes, they got long prison sentences. I also read a book called 'Dam Nation' (gedditt??!?) about how the development of the nation west of the Rockies depends on damming the huge rivers and piping the water to communities in what would otherwise be deserts. But I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for these dams. 

The ride from Mountain View WY to Manila UT was the customary battle with the winds, but sometimes I had a long downhill with the wind behind me and could reach about 50 mph. There were huge thunderstorms, but they stayed high up, above the snow-topped mesas. A community called Lone Tree which is full of trees, rivers and birds, and one old dog which loped over and licked my hand.

Then the surprise at the road turning sharp right and going uphill against the wind, when you expected it to keep going down that endless valley. Then the sign 'Welcome to Utah'. On the map, my destination, Manila, is just over the border, but on a bike, it's still a bit of a haul. Had to stop several times on the last uphill, but then, a left turn, and a rapid descent to 6300 ft. 

KOA campgrounds are a franchise and therefore unpredictable. Ones I've investigated before were ridiculously expensive, but this one was only $17 with a tent because its early season. The only problem was the noisy neighbors. Sort of Manchester City with a boat.

After five days non-stop across the windy state, I had to take a day off. This is a good place to do it. Next is a steep climb out of the gorge. 

400 miles to go. I fly from Denver on May 19. Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo. I should be in Denver on the evening of May 17. That means 13 days to do 400 miles. Just over 30 miles per day average.


Correction: Above, I said a guy called Powell 'originally explored the area'. I've realized how insensitive that is - of course, the first people in the area were Native Americans, waving tomahawks, and running round their wigwams going 'woo woo woo!'.


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