Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Yellowstone


I couldn't bring myself to trade the warmth of my tent for the cold, damp air outside yesterday morning. I finally emerged at 8:30 am. I was staying in a section of the campground reserved for hikers and bikers. As I was packing up, I talked briefly with a motorcyclist from Illinois who was camping a few sites over. After telling him about my cross-country ride, he told me about a friend who bought a bike in Anchorage, threw away the seat and then road all the way to the Midwest standing up. When he got home he joined the Navy Seals and I imagine he's now busy crushing insurgents with his thighs. It seems everyone has a story about someone who has taken on a challenge that can honestly be described as crazy.

I entered Yellowstone park yesterday. Though my ride was short, the climbs, including another pass over the Continental Divide, tired me. The damage from the '88 fire still scars the landscape when riding in from the south entrance. Charred, lifeless trees remain with new growth rising around their trunks.


The roads are narrow and not in the best condition, evidence of inadequate funding the parks have received over the years. As I climbed toward the Continental Divide, a gorge opened up to my right providing gorgeous views and a few minutes of harrowing riding. I stopped to view the falls and lakes along the roadside.


Last night I had another campsite in a hiker/biker ghetto, this time at Grant Village. Since hikers and bikers only pay a fraction of the price, Xanterra, the contractor that runs the campgrounds and lodges, puts multiple hikers and bikers at group sites. I was sharing a site with a guy named Jeff, who was spending his summer vacation hitchhiking from Seattle to New Jersey. In the site across from me was a group on a week-long, supported bike tour led by Cycle America. And a few sites down were Ross and Justin, who were riding cross-country east to west on their own route. At breakfast this morning I met yet another rider, Allan, who is biking a modified Transam. He was a fountain of helpful information about my final states.

Today I continued my ride through Yellowstone. My route took me through the park's geyser basins, and past one of its star attractions, Old Faithful. I arrived about 45 minute before the next scheduled eruption, so I waited on a bench with throngs of others. A few restless tourists tried unsuccessfully to start the wave. After a few false starts, the geyser exploded.


I took a quick tour of the impressive timber lobby at Old Faithful Inn and then continued on, stopping at some of the mineral basins and hot pools found throughout the area.


Although the section of park that I traveled does not provide prime wildlife-watching, I did see bison, elk, and a nesting bald eagle.


I read an article last week about a teen who was tossed in the air by an aggravated bison. His family was warned several times that they should stand further back when taking the bison's picture, but they didn't listen. Eventually the bison decided the photo op was over. I thought of this article as I watched a couple of tourists step within a few feet a bison so that they could get nice and close for a picture. I lingered to see if it was the same testy bison.


I'm glad I had the opportunity to bike through a portion of Yellowstone, but I'm not itching to do it again soon. It was exhausting dealing with the constant flow of traffic on the narrow roads. But it was nice to meet so many people interested in the trip and quick with an encouraging word.

I ended the day in a new state: Montana. I'm spending the night in a rustic but historic log hotel in West Yellowstone, MT. While Jackson was touristy and ritzy, West Yellowstone is touristy and kitschy. The adventure cycling group, whom I last saw in Illinois, is here. Before dinner, I ran into Caitlyn, their leader, and caught up on their trip.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brian,
Love the pictures and descriptive narrative. Keep up the good work.

Jeff

Greg said...

B-Dizzle,

When you get to Ennis, MT- look up Ralph Hernandez and his wife, whose name I can't remember at the moment. They are the nicest people and related to a Mets great. I stayed in Ennis for a month in 1999 at a colleague of my dad's house- he may be in town as well Prof. Finch. They can give you great advice.

G

grace said...

Glad to see you're back on the road!

Anonymous said...

Brian,

Your pictures are absolutely breathtaking! As I said before you should be a writer, because your descriptions are wonderful!
Be safe...have fun!

Love, Aunt Maureen

Marc said...

Hi Brian,
Glad you're back on the road and enjoying Yellowstone. Dennis and I split in Missoula, MT. He's well on his way to Seattle now. I have not heard from Menno, Wayne, or Dianne but assume they are 1-2 days behind.

I just got to Oregon. Yippee! You're in for some fantastic scenery. I'll keep checking your journal when wifi is available.

All the best!

Marc DeLuca
www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/ibikefar

Kevin said...

Hey Cuz, Keep it up. Thanks again for putting your trip on hold for a few days. It was great having you down in PR for the big day. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

Kevin and Marita