Wyoming

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7/22/2007  Welcome to Wyoming        

We packed up and rode out of the campsite at about 8:00am – a good start for us.  Within a few miles, a small deer ran from the left side of the road toward Darren’s bike in front of me.  The deer barely missed the rear tire of his bike.  The deer’s hind legs buckled, as he appeared to run as quickly as they could carry him - as if he knew he was in trouble.  Luckily both the deer and Darren made it out of the situation safely.  We passed through the small town of Evanston and took Hwy 189 north. 

We began to notice these strange fences built along the road.  They were made of wood, sometimes built at a slight angle and very high with a support beam - but they did not enclose anything - they were always just a long stretch of high, sturdy wooden fence.  It took us nearly all day to realize that these were for catching snowdrifts and preventing them from covering up the roadway.  It is amazing how something so simple can be such a mystery to people who come from a different climate, like us! 

We seemed to ride along in a huge valley, with views of huge rolling hills upon which not a single tree grew - desolate land for miles on both sides.   It was easy to see how drifting snow could be easily blown across those hills.  Snow-covered mountains could be seen in the farther distance on either side of us.  It would be easy to say that it was a boring ride and I think Darren found it that way, but I found it interesting simply because it was not a landscape that I was accustom to seeing.  It also helped that I knew that by the end of the day we would be entering another national park, which promised an even more interesting landscape.  Knowing from the map that we were not going to be passing through any national forests along the way to Grand Teton, I pushed for us to make miles for the first time on the trip. 

The town of Jackson is at the south entrance to Grand Teton.  We reached it in the early evening – about 6pm.  It was a horrendously touristy town with people everywhere – walking, driving, cycling.  We headed for the tourist information office, which was closed, and spoke to a few other tourists that recommended we check out a campground within the national park.  We followed the tourists directions toward the Gros Ventre Campground, which was located outside the South entrance to the park.  On the way, we had to negotiate around many stopped tourist vehicles as a herd of bison was working its way across the road.  Although it was interesting, we were eager to claim a camping spot and did not stop for photos.  We found a spot and I set up camp while Darren rode back to town to pick up groceries.  We were both quite tired after dinner and although we were surprised and happy to be allowed to build a fire, neither of us had the energy to stay up late and watch it burn. 

7/23/2007  Grand Teton National Park

We rode through the south entrance of Grand Teton National Park.  We decided to follow Teton Park Road north.  Not far from the entrance, a traffic jam of vehicles was stopped on the side of the road with cameras pointed out their windows.  It was a black bear – the first wild one I have ever seen.  It had a dark brown head and a cinnamon-colored body and it wore a collar, so some authority, probably for some kind of research, was tracking it.  It had a young cub with it – an adorable little black bear that very much resembled a stuffed toy I once had…

We continued ahead and got some impressive photos of the mountains that are the park’s namesake.  One of the things that make the Tetons unique is that there are no foothills that obstruct the view of these massive jagged peaks because they were created by earthquake activity and glacial erosion.  We stopped at Jenny Lake where we had lunch and stretched our legs. Then we headed to Jackson Lake Lodge, a tourism lodge built in the 1950’s.  I wasn’t terribly impressed with the outside appearance of the lodge, but it really was nice inside.  The huge wall of windows that faced Jackson Lake and the Tetons gave the enormous lobby the feeling of being outdoors while enjoying all the luxuries of a grand hotel.  We decided to have a drink in the bar and use the Internet for a little while and I did a little shopping…unfortunately for us it began to rain just as we felt we were ready to leave.  After waiting a short while for the heavier rain to pass, we decided to ride anyway.  The rain didn’t last long and we had a nice ride back.  On the way we stopped to photograph a herd of elk bathing in a small lake. 

Back at camp, a fellow riding a FJR1300 Yamaha approached us.  He was from Virginia and had rented the bike in Denver for a ride around the area and was traveling alone.  Unfortunately our conversation was interrupted as our dinner was ready and he must have wither gone to bed or found other company.  After dinner, late in the evening, another motorcyclist arrived and set up camp beside up.  We invited him to our fire and enjoyed an evening of motorcycle chat.  He was a German that had been living in the U.S. (Chicago) for some time and he was also traveling by himself to San Francisco to meet up with wife.

7/24/2007  Yellowstone National Park

We felt that we had seen all we needed of Grand Teton and rode up highway 191 toward Yellowstone.  It was early afternoon when we entered Yellowstone’s South Entrance.  Darren was only a few hundred yards away from the entrance gate before a large marmot ran out onto the road.  The creature stopped near the front tire, froze for a split second and looked up with a stunned expression before dashing back the way it had come.  I think we were all relieved. 

The information center reported that camping in the park would be difficult to find this late in the afternoon, as most of the camping is first-come, first-serve.  We knew we needed to choose a campsite as soon as possible, so we set off.  On the way to each campground, I was amazed at the beauty of the landscape we were passing.  I was also surprised at the number of other vehicles on the road.  In a park this popular, I expected it to be very busy with tourists, but the immense size of the park and the fact that it was Tuesday seemed to work in our favor.  We were also riding avoiding the most popular attraction in the park, Old Faithful. 

We visited 3 full campsites before we found a spot in Indian Creek Campground on the west side of the upper loop of the park.  I was surprised at the affordability of the site – only $12 per night.  We setup camp and set off to get a much-needed shower and laundry, which were located at Canyon Village about 30 miles away.  On the way we stopped at one of the many thermal areas of the park to marvel at the boiling sulfuric water boiling up from the earth – a scary reminder that we are only successful on this planet for as long as the earth continues to provide us with livable conditions.  We stopped again when we approached a large traffic jam of vehicles stopped on the road.  We were left in awe as we dismounted the motorcycles to view a large grizzly bear foraging near the road.  I just could not get over the massive size of the animal and its disregard for the crowd of tourists.  We spent quite some time watching through binoculars as it gently pawed the ground in search of food, making wide circles, but not coming much closer to the road.  There was a storm cloud brewing and we weren’t sure how late the facilities would be open in Canyon Village, so we reluctantly moved on.

When we arrived at the laundry/shower building (conveniently housed together), it had begun to rain and the attendant informed us that the building had lost power and they weren’t sure when it would resume.  We rode across the street to the expensive grocery store and picked up supplies for dinner and the attendant there told us they had just regained power.  We returned to the shower/laundry and were able to take care of these essentials.  By the time we had finished, it was almost dark and we carefully rode back to camp.

7/25/2007   Old Faithful

We headed south to take in the most touristy portions of the park – the geothermal pools and geysers.  On the way, we stopped to photograph a gorgeous bull elk by the roadside.  It seems you can’t get anywhere in the park without stopping to see impressive wildlife! 

I had never truly appreciated this geologic wonder through television shows, but realizing firsthand the uniqueness of this place on earth has changed my views.  Yellowstone has over 10,000 geothermal features, with over 200 active geysers – more than all other geothermal areas on the planet combined!  Researchers still speculate and theorize about the role of these hotspots in mountain building, the theory of plate tectonics and the extinction of the dinosaur.  It reminds us that as resourceful as humans may be, we are still reliant of the earth to provide our habitat and this is a small glimpse at how uninhabitable the earth could be…

We stopped and photographed tons of features - some pools of crystal-clear boiling water, some bubbling white clay pots and some strikingly colorful bowls of water releasing plumes of steam into the air.  It would be impossible for me to describe every one of them, but I will post the photos.  We finally made it to Old Faithful in the afternoon.  There was about a 45-minute wait before the next explosion.  As we ate a late lunch, it began to rain.  It continued to rain as we joined hoards of other tourists standing along the viewing platform.  We stood in the rain with our tiny travel umbrella for at least 15 minutes waiting for the eruption, took a handful of photos and headed quickly back into the lodge for shelter.  The raindrops thickened and continued to pour.  My stomach was upset from something I had eaten and I was not feeling well.  With a break in the weather we headed back north, stopping to photograph a striking bull elk crossing a river.  

The weather lightened as we pulled into the grocery store in Gardiner, Montana just outside the north entrance to Yellowstone.  We picked up some hot dogs, beans and chips for dinner.  With frustration, my bike had to be push-started again to leave and the rain came down again as the sun went down and the evening grew darker. 

When we arrived back at the camp, the tarp we had set up had collapsed and everything was soaked with the pouring rain – including the chairs.  We fixed the tarps and used the panniers with towels as seats.  We realized that we had not filled the fuel bottles for the stove with gasoline, so Darren had to siphon fuel from the motorcycle tank.  The pump was not working for him, so he used his mouth and splashed gasoline on his face.  After flushing water over his face and rinsing his mouth, he was fine.  To make things easier, the hotdogs became beanie-weenies as we greedily ate our meal.  The rain subsided and we were both glad to crawl into bed. 

7/26/2007  Just another day in Yellowstone…

I was still not feeling so well in the morning and decided to spend a day relaxing around the campsite, trying to dry everything out and catching up on sleep.  Darren rode to the small town of Gardiner to use the Internet at a café.  He returned in the afternoon and convinced me to join him in a ride around the north loop.  Unfortunately my bike experienced a weak battery again and we spent some time trying to push-start it out of the campground. 

The road north begins to cut through rocky mountainsides with a deep river gorge to the right.  The water below ran very quickly with multiple waterfalls and great views.  On the east side of the loop we stopped to see what a ranger and some tourist were viewing.  It was another grizzly with two cubs.  They were too far away to photograph or even see properly with the naked eye, but our binoculars and the even clearer telescopes of the ranger and other tourists made watching the creatures a real treat.  We watched as the cubs frolicked along, climbing up on a log and play-fighting with swinging paws and nips at one another.  It was a privilege to have the opportunity to watch these creatures in their own habitat. 

The weather began to turn again and we knew we had a long ride back to the camp, so we began riding back.  The sun went down and the sky became dark and stormy with heavy rain.  When we returned to camp, we were glad to find that our tarp stayed up and we had dry seats.  The weather cleared and Darren was able to start a fire from wood he had collected earlier in the day and stashed under the tarp. 

7/27/2007  Roosevelt beans and bear scares

It was Friday and more tourists were arriving and filling roads of Yellowstone.  We took a ride around the north loop again, stopping for lunch at Tower/Roosevelt Junction.  There were affordable cabins there and a horse ranch offering guided rides.  If this were not a budget trip, I can imagine easily spending a full two-week holiday in this place staying in a cabin, hiking, horseback riding and rafting.  Darren and I shared a burger with a side of Roosevelt beans and a bowl of chili.  It was really, really good and reasonably priced!

We headed back over to the area where we had viewed the grizzly with her cubs yesterday to see if she was still active in the area. There was a grizzly sighting there, but no cubs and at the time that we stopped, it had gone into a valley and was unable to be seen.  After a few minutes we decided to move on.  Later in the afternoon we saw a mother moose with her offspring taking a dip in a small pond.  Next to mountain lions, a male moose are the rarest animal to view in the park.  A female moose is more common, but still a treat. 

Within about 10 miles of our campsite, there were a few cars stopped with their cameras out the window.  We stopped to check it out and were blown away to see a black bear foraging very close to the road.  We stopped the bikes and Darren pulled out the camera.  As he was photographing, it started moving directly towards him!  Having no place to go to protect himself, he asked a couple in a minivan if he could get into their vehicle and they told him to get on the back and crawl on top of it.  As I walked up, it was an amusing site to see Darren hanging on the back of this minivan taking photos.  The bear was foraging right in front of his bike and finally crossed over the roadway.  As the bear moved further down the road, more and more tourists were trailing behind and beside it with their cameras.  We decided to get away from the frenzy and head back to camp.


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