Choosing to believe the app’s information, I opted to not pack anything with me in the name of saving time. I will pay for this decision later. Out of the parking area we climbed a service road and admired the beauty around us. It only took about 15 minutes to realize I was already dehydrated, but it was too late to turn back now. “You’ll survive,” I told myself, “we’ve already climbed a good amount so there shouldn’t be too much left.”
Well, I was right, there wasn’t too much climbing left. On the way to the descent that is… We didn’t know that Lithium was about to drop us nearly 3,000 vertical feet from the top of the Teton Pass. Far away from our motorcycles and my DrinkTank full of water. Before the misery commenced however, the three of us were treated to utter ecstasy. Lithium packed everything you could want from a trail in one long punch. It goes from high speed alpine fields full of blooming flowers, to steep and insanely fun rock gardens, to bike parky berms and jumps to root-littered loam pockets. The good times easily bumped this trail onto our top 10 list of all time.
Even with the uncontrollable smiles and hooting, I couldn’t help but notice the highway, my reference point back to the motos, was getting farther and farther away as we sped towards the town of Jackson below. As we pedaled out from the bottom of the trail, we entered a paved parking lot. The road into the lot pointed downhill and a bike path pointed up. U-Turn was convinced that we would be able to intersect the road quickly by going up the path as his Trail Forks map made it, “Look like they’re right next to each other.” What we soon learned was that they did run parallel, but there was about 800 vertical feet of difference in elevation. Since we didn’t want to drop down the road and lose more elevation, we decided to pedal up the Old Road back to the top of Teton Pass. I still didn’t have any water, and the little bit Sammy and Nic brought was long gone. What came next was sheer hell and one of the roughest ride/hikes ever. On a normal day, this wouldn’t have been a terrible climb, but in our current state it soon became every man for himself.
We took turns carrying Sammy’s heavy camera bag and made several stops at spring crossings to dip our heads in the cool water. The temptation to drink the flowing water was almost too great to ignore, but the inner debate of 45 more minutes without water versus days of diarrhea while riding a motorcycle kept us parched. Since U-Turn was in the best shape and had the most snacks and water for the ride, he volunteered to go ahead and get the jet-boil hot to prepare a Good To-Go meal packet. I pulled up just a few minutes later and collapsed by my motorcycle. Just then my phone rang with Sammy on the other end, “Dude, I died. Come get my body,” he said. Luckily the bike path had an opening wide enough to fit a motorcycle and U-Turn rode down the hill to tow Sammy back while I shoveled protein powder into my mouth and swished it around with water from my bottle.
Just as Sammy and U-Turn pulled up, a kettle corn truck came sputtering around the corner and pulled into our turn out. With cramping legs and a mouthful of peanut butter protein powder, I fast-walked over to the truck. As he sweat over the engine I asked if he had any popcorn we could buy. I think he saw the look on our faces and replied, “Yeah I’ve got two leftover bags up here. You want sweet and salty?” Before he could finish I just said yes and handed him a $20. “How about some Cokes?” he asked. “Yes!” I replied, “I’ll take three.” Needless to say it was the best tasting popcorn and coke we’d ever had. We went from being zombies to being super amped on our epic adventure. As we packed our bikes, we shared the smoked three-bean chili meal that had been boiling and relived the glorious descent. It would definitely be enough to get us down the hill and into town for a burrito.
What was supposed to be a short 6-mile ride turned into a 6-hour mission and once again pushed back our intended camping spot for the third night in a row. As we sat in a sophisticated burrito shop, surrounded by Patagonia clad yuppies, we realized that we may be in a bigger world of hurt than our recent climb back up the pass. The local Motel 6 was charging $275 a night and everything else was approaching the $400 mark, and booked! Apparently dirt bags aren’t welcome either as there weren’t any places to camp in the billionaire’s playground. Just as we started to get stressed about our lack of options, a tattoo wearing, long-haired guy with a Jackson Hole Bike Park shirt walked up to our table and asked if we had the bikes outside. “Yeah man, that’s us,” we replied. We introduced ourselves and asked if he had a recommendation on a good place to pitch a tent for the night. Our new friend Rico replied, “Nah man, there’s not really a lot, I mean there’s a place outside of town but it’s down a long dirt road that’s pretty beat up and it may be full. You guys can just crash at my house if you want.” Just like that.
Mountain biker’s hospitality never fails to amaze me. After Rico and his daughter finished their burritos they led us to the local grocery store and then to his house. He made room for us on his floor and we swapped stories and watched bike videos until we passed out. The next morning we awoke to the smell of a delicious breakfast being cooked by Rico. Much better than the granola bars and bananas we were planning on eating. We packed up our bags, thanked Rico for his hospitality and swore that we’d be back to ride the Jackson Hole Bike Park, where he worked as a trail builder. After some goodbyes and a group photo we set off to try and beat the crowds through Grand Teton National Park.