In Vernal the day dawned bright and clear, but pretty cold, only 4C, it having been below zero overnight. The forecasts for the towns on the way to Montana were showing no precipitation although some wind was expected. Bear Tooth Highway was still showing on the highway information site as closed but I reckon it will reopen by Monday. Putting my faith in the forecasts and my assessment of what will happen, I decided I would proceed north. I would like to mention once more the really good experience I had at the Weston Plaza Hotel. It is family owned and run and it is clear that they care and take pride in their offering.
As I rode out of Vernal, I was very happy to see the sky over the mountains was clear, compared to the lowering clouds that had been present the day before. Soon the road started rising and the temperature started dropping. As it hit 2C the display started flashing, warning of the potential for ice on the road. I slowed down and took it easier on the bends, and slowed again when it dropped further to freezing point. Urrrr.... A bit dicey, but also I was getting seriously cold.
However, the road then descended to the Flaming Gorge Dam, which is a National Recreation Area. Hydro electricity is also generated. I had heard while in Vernal that the Sheep Creek Geological Loop offered great scenery and would be very quiet. Both these statements proved correct. With much snow at the higher altitudes and being much warmer lower down, the contrast in vegetation was remarkable .The loop is situated in the Uinta Range, the only range in the USA who h runs east-west, and where one can see evidence of the Uinta fault. There are also several different types of rock which must be of interest to some people. Leaving the Loop and Flaming Gorge, I had to go some miles out of my way. That took me through miles of rock formations, each of which had fossils of varying types. Again, of interest to others.
A quick Mexican lunch in Rock Springs helped me warm up a bit after which is was again going North. The wind was blowing strongly and was annoying, not just because it affected the handling of the bike, but because it was cold! At Farson the road branched off to Lander, but there was a diner/shop right there so I stopped for coffee and also put on a long sleeve merino u cef layer and the neck warmer that Liz insisted on leaving with me. Was I grateful??
When getting g ready to leave, a few folk emerged from the diner and proceeded to tell me it was 32F on South Pass with snow blowing across the road. Now a little anxious, I proceeded up towards the pass with caution. Well, either they lied, or things had drastically improved. apart from the stiff cross-wind, there was nothing to worry about.
On today's ride I was continually entranced and impressed by the scenery. The rock formations both as to color and complexity were one thing, but the presence of the snow added a different dimension of beauty. Northern Utah and southern Wyoming are desert, receiving less than eleven inches of moisture per annum, so much of it is treeless, it where there were trees, eg near the Flaming Gorge, it was a spectacle to ride along and see the snow falling from the branches.
Having made reasonable time despite the number of stops, I Rea he'd Lander at about 4pm and so decided to push on to Riverton. In the morning I will once again review the status of Bear Tooth Highway but will regardless continue north it needs to be open by Tuesday.