Finally ready to get into Yellowstone Park!! I have been anxiously anticipating riding thru the park! We have been here before, but there is something in the thrill of riding thru a national park on a bicycle, getting a closer look from the seat of a bicycle with nothing preventing your view of the wildlife and the fragrance of the forest!
We had heard the stories of the traffic, so thought we would get an early start and perhaps beat some of it! Ha, like we are the only 2 people who thought of an early start! The line of cars was already waiting at the gate when we got there! Now that I think about it they are probably the rv's and campers that have to get to a campsite to claim it for the night, because the campgrounds are registering full for that day by 7:30am! And they are walk in only so I should have thought of that! And the wildlife, I guess there is more chance of seeing wildlife at its best first thing in the morning! The sun was already pretty high in the sky by 7:30 perhaps I need to reset my parameters when we talk about getting an early start!
It was pretty chilly but comfortable. The park roads had a fairly safe shoulder for us and cars were being very considerate! So it was all good! We were ready for the full day's ride, we stopped at Subway on the way out and had an enormous wrap made for us making it easier to stop for lunch when we felt like it! The guy in the shop was so cute, when he heard we were riding thru the park on bicycles he said "watch out for the bears!" To which I replied, that is what these sandwiches are for so we can throw them at the bears and make our getaway!!"
Everyone has been talking about the abundant wildlife they have been fortunate enough to experience here! A little leary of getting too close but also excited to see some we set off. From the West Entrance we started out in forest and soon it opened up to open marshes with thick healthy grasses that certainly herds of anything would be feasting on! Nope, not yet! We then followed the Madison River as it gently flowed thru the park tempting many fishermen as they tried their luck fly fishing! It offered the most peaceful scene watching them as we pedaled past. Quite early on I did spy 2 lounging Bison back in a meadow. We were going a little too fast for me to slam on my brakes, Mike was too close and really there was just no place to get off! Besides, they were so far back it would not have made a good photo, so you will have to trust me that I did I spot 2 Bison! Feeling quite confident we would see more, we pedaled on! We took a quick break when we got to the Madison Campground and rest area, if you know the park, this was the first rest stop inside the park about 14 miles. There we chatted with a couple and she advised up ahead the herd was on the road!! And yesterday they took a guided hike and were chased by 3 bull Bison! She said they gave the herd a wide berth but the males came after them despite it! Even the guide was concerned because it was not normal behavior and they all had to run for it!!! Yikes! Also bicycle friends ahead of us told us when they came thru the park there were so many Bison on the road, they asked the cars to slow down and drive along side them staying in between the Bison and them! Apparently there are 5,000 Bison in the park, I was hopeful! But so far the closest we have come to them is their obvious well used path along the roadside, hoof prints and Bison chips!!
The ride thru the park was a little more tense and unenjoyable than I had anticipated. The crowds of people and lines of cars everywhere just meant that you had to be on your toes and be aware! With so much to look at, drivers were not necessarily looking for bicycles, especially when they were on the hunt for a parking spot at some of the attractions! We pretty much just pushed on! Tried to stop at The Fountaiin Paint Pot, Mike would wait patiently for me while I tried to get a photo but honestly, just throngs of people walking in both directions on the boardwalk, I just turned around and walked back! We had already been harassed by our old friend the headwind, it was pretty tough going especially as you came out of the trees or hills and into these open marshy areas! Knowing I had already had my photos opportunities at another time, we just kept up a steady pace and enjoyed what we could!
Old Faithful made the perfect lunch stop! We had our humongous Subway wraps,found a nice bench out of the wind and enjoyed the break! And it was time for Old Faithful to do its thing! What a stroke of luck! We didn't bother to fight the crowds, we just sat back and watched, (been there done that!). Interestingly enough I was on the phone (the only place to get even the weakest signal) when Old Faithful started its show! Can you believe it? We were trying to secure something for tomorrow night because rain is forecast (we will be in the Tetons and its the weekend so trying to plan ahead!)
The person on the other end was trying to be so helpful, but it wasn't working very well and I was on hold a lot so I had to say to her, Just a minute I need to take a photo!! It was a short show this time, I have a fantastic display of Old Faithful on video from our first visit! Once the show was over the thousands of people waiting for the spectacle all turned around on cue and headed our way in mob style, I think it started to sprinkle! They did not even wait for the finall sputter! They all headed to their cars and onto the next steaming spot!
We had 19 more miles to go and two crossings of the Continental Divide to get to our campground for the evening. Not one but 2 8,000 ft plus passes, back to back! It was easier than anticipated, the first one was! We were just taking it slow and steady knowing the Grant Village Campground ahead always had a place for a hiker/biker and their tent!
Had to stop for the photo shot at the top!! Why is that so exciting? I don't ever get tired of it! Sorry if you do, the photos all look alike but it is the thrill of the accomplishment for me knowing we pedaled up it! Then down a few hundred feet and back up! The second one just seemed to go on forever! In fact we thought we were at the top, but took a tiny dip down and then up again! But we did it! Now all we had to do was the remaining 10 miles to camp!
The traffic seemed to lighten up once we passed the turn for the cars to carry on around the Grand Loop Road. Only those leaving the park were on the same road as us, it was a lot better. Arrived in camp in warm sunshine and happily found the spot waiting for us! A small fee for limitless hot water showers!! Not only are we in a campground but it is one of the larger populated areas with conveniences like a lodge, restaurant on Lewis Lake, general store and everything you need really! But we set up camp, had a beautiful hot shower and cooked our freeze dried meal at camp! Everything has to be in a bear box tonight! Makes me a little nervous, but after a day riding thru the park and seeing NOTHING wild, only rivers full of fly fishermen! If we saw or encountered a bear tonight that would be just really bad luck! But everything went into the bear box, just in case! Toiletries, water bottles, food of course and to me, anything that smelled good-or bad! I was even afraid to use my coconut oil on my dry skin like i do everyday after being in the sun! I thought I might smell too inviting and worst of all TASTY!!
We had finished our delicious meal (if you are into freeze-dried lasagna!), were all cleaned up, had gathered a bunch of firewood and Mike lit a fire to keep the mosquitoes at bay! Two more bikers joined us! They were actually part of the race but confessed after the first day, they knew there was no way they would keep the pace they planned on! So they have slowed down and are enjoying it more! Michael and Kristoff were from Brooklyn now, and originally Poland! Such nice guys! We had a fun conversation with them! They were travelling pretty light like most of the racers sleeping wherever they could find a space big enough to lie down in and out of the elements! Tonight they tried the lodge and because of the crazy price, went to the general store and bought a Coleman tent, just for the night! Their intent was to use it and leave it behind! Cheaper than the lodge they said! We all enjoyed the smokey but warm and mosquito free evening chatting around the campfire and then everyone turned in!
I love camping!! Crawling into your bag with the outdoorsy smell of smoke everywhere! I hope it signals the bears to stay away!!!!!