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As I continue to sift through the memories of our ride, I realize that some memorable events never made it into print. Among those events:

Showdown at Little Sandy Crossing. Coming out of Pinedale, Wyoming we were more or less traveling with the Maiwalds again. After pausing for a day in Helena, we caught up to them in Pinedale. We rarely actually rode as a foursome but Mary and I usually met up with them several times during the day and we all camped together in the evenings. Their pace was a little faster than ours whereas we usually got an earlier start than they did.

The day’s ride had been less than remarkable. We had paused to read a roadside placard describing John C. Fremont’s expedition through the area for the U.S. Army during the 1840s and another detailing the Lander Cutoff to the emigrant trails that saved sixty miles – nearly a week’s progress in an oxen-drawn covered wagon. We couldn’t help but notice that this route to the southwest of the Wind River Range had only marginally improved since 1840. The 21st-century version of the Fremont’s trail is just a dirt road that winds its way among boulder-strewn hills.

Our guide book indicated that there would be an undeveloped campground at the bridge crossing the Little Sandy Creek, which, at approximately fifty miles from Pinedale, we deemed to be a respectable day’s ride. Mary and I were in the lead that afternoon so we arrived at the crossing ahead of the Maiwalds.

Little Sandy Creek is well named. At less than a foot deep and leap-able from one sandy bank to the other in a single bound, it was, nonetheless, a welcome sight on that arid plain. The next water source was a full thirty miles down the road. Upstream in the shade of some cottonwood trees a grouping of weathered travel trailers next to a corral monopolized the left bank. Downstream on the near side of the creek, several vehicles, a trailer or two, and an assortment of poorly constructed teepees claimed the flat ground. This left a small grove on the far side of the creek as the only unclaimed land and although we had to scramble down a rather steep bank to get there, we presumed it to be the undeveloped campground on our map and the one referred to in our guidebook.

We pitched our tent among the trees and I attached the pennant from the B.O.B to the bridge railing as a marker for the Maiwalds so that they’d know where to find us. Our campsite in the grove was a rather cozy little affair that provided much appreciated shelter from the ever-present prairie wind. Shortly after we pitched our tent, the Maiwalds rode up and joined us.

Despite the evidence of habitation at the crossing, up to that point we had seen no other people there. Margo and I were crossing the bridge, on our way to scout out our surroundings, when we noticed a line of perhaps ten horseback riders coming down a trail from the east. Leading the group was a man decked out in full western regalia, including a holstered six shooter. As the rest of his party headed for the nearby corral, he dismounted and led his horse over to us.

After a short exchange of greetings in which he learned that we were riding the Great Divide and we learned that he operated some sort of horse riding operation for city slickers, he proceeded to inform us that we were camping on state of Wyoming land and that he had permission to camp there and we did not. His tone was not belligerent but it left no doubt that he considered himself to be speaking with a certain authority and that he expected us to leave.

Margo and I protested that our maps and book, publications of the respectable Adventure Cycling Association, clearly indicated that Little Sandy Crossing is a designated campsite. We further added that being the only water source and campsite within thirty miles, breaking camp would be no little inconvenience. Our protestations elicited no sympathy from the man.

We returned to camp to discuss this development with Michiel and Mary. Margo seemed unsettled by the man’s eviction notice and was seriously considering moving on. Mary, uncharacteristically, was defiant. I made the point that

“What’s he going to do – call the police? We’re far from any town. Even if he’s correct about us needing permission to camp, I can’t believe the authorities are going to drive out here and throw us off the land.”

Of course, there was the matter of the six shooter on his hip. He could be some kind of kook who would shoot us over this disagreement but that seemed rather far-fetched even for a worrywart like Mary so we quickly agreed that we would simply ignore his warning. After all, from his camp he couldn’t see ours without walking over the bridge and it wasn’t like we were bothering his privacy either.

And, in fact, that was the end of our confrontation. We slept soundly through the night and hit the road early the next morning without ever seeing the man again.

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