July 27


Day 15


Sunny 'til 1pm; t-storms and eventually rain(at the continental divide) for a few hours; damp and cool thereafter


Colter Bay -> Grant Village, Yellowstone Park


Grant Village hiker/biker site



Elevation Gain


I was awakened early by the raucous call of the camp raven. The morning sun poured a horizontal layer of gold across the tips of the lodgepole pines like a dripping paint can. A vertical rainbow shaft defined the far south end of Teton range, while over the mountains blue sky was layered with gold-toned clouds. Our route north into Yellowstone looked clear.

I was doing my Nervous Nellie routine. As an early out-of-camp type, I wanted to get on the road earlier than our usual 9:15 start. The Adventure Cycling profile map showed considerable climbing (as it turned out, it was unrelenting long hills for nearly the whole day) and the weather often fell apart in the afternoon in Yellowstone (mountainous country, and I had had much experience with Yellowstone weather).

We slogged up Huckleberry Ridge between Colter Bay and Flagg Ranch. The effects of the 1988 Huck fire were overwhelming. Burned forest beyond view. But new growth was evident. Two-foot-tall yellow flowered shrubs were interspersed with blue daisy things, blue Harebells flourished amidst a blanket of pink and white clover, all in an aspen forest.

From Flagg it was a near constant climb for the 25 miles to Grant Village in Yellowstone.

We stopped to view another burn area near Lewis Lake. The hills were a gray moonscape. Land contours only imagined ten years ago when it was forested were now visible.

A thunderstorm erupted in front of us over the other ridge. Before the rain began, but after we had been hearing The Thunderstorm Symphony with close claps of thunder accompanied by an impressive light show, we four joined up for lunch. With these hills, we didn't ride together - we each had to set our own pace - but weren't more than 5-10 minutes, first to last.

No sooner at the Continental Divide (elev. 7988') than it stormed again. I was sure I should hire out - for according to a ranger it was the first rain in the area in a month.

After pitching my tent in the rain I headed directly to shower to warm up. My hands were numb! This time for my $3, I took the longest hottest shower I had had since the California drought of the mid-80's. It was luxurious. I didn't mind the pruney fingers and toes in the least.

Grant Village - ugh! The ultimate urban camping experience in a national park. The difference between Grant Village and Loon Lake was night and day. Our biker/hiker sites were intertwined with the group camping sites. Not a good mix of cultures! The difference between the moan of a loon and the squall of a toddler.

I decided that it was unlikely that I would ever return to Yellowstone during tourist season. Nothing but RVs and minivans! Although the traffic on the road was busy, I didn't feel that my life was at stake. But, I did take my chunk of the road so that I was "passed," not "squeezed by."

(As I write, at 9:28pm, someone to my right is strumming a guitar; the site across the road is featuring screaming little children (six of seven of them); behind me to the left is a gathering of 20-40 barely pubescent teens - the giggling and running around girls and coolly disinterested boys. Spare me from Grant Village. )



July 28




Cloudy am. Mostly clearing until 1pm Raging t-storm until 3pm Slowly clearing until bedtime


Grant Village -> Madison Junction


Madison Junction campground



Elevation Gain


Outback Oven


We tried something new - up at 6am to be out of camp by 8am to see wildlife. Our best laid plans weren't too bad - we were out of camp by 8:15, but by the time we were actually on the road after seeing the visitor center, it was closer to 9am. We missed the early wildlife.

More hill climbing. My legs were mush. The day was only 1,600' of climbing, in two segments to get over the Continental Divide twice. Up to 8,400' once, down a lot, and then regain the altitude to 8,200'. My lungs were more adapted to 6,500' than 8,300'.

Isa Lake (pond) - one of my favorite little places straddled the Continental Divide. The east end of the lake drained into the Pacific watershed and the west into the Atlantic. (Yes, east went west.)

Downhill to Old Faithful. The usual hoards(!) of tourists.

Minutes before the Old Faithful eruption a thunderstorm stalled overhead. Pouring!! Having worked for three college summers in The Park (Yellowstone), I came to appreciate the incredible stupidity of the average tourist. I was tempted to lapse into "old Yellowstone employee" mode and tell the tourists that "This storm runoff is how they refill Old Faithful." Anyone who has ever worked in a national park KNOWS that more than a few people would believe this! One ranger described how he was asked "When in the winter do the elk change into moose? And when do they change back again?"

(As I write, I'm sipping a hot latte and listening to the pounding storm as I sit with Ann in the second floor lounge of the historic Old Faithful Inn. Old Faithful is "due" again in a few minutes. Life is good until one considers the 20 miles of road to ride to camp. Downhill, mostly. )

Vinyl ponchos flew out the Inn gift shop. $5.25 each. The price could have been doubled (perhaps it was already) and they would have been snapped up just as quickly.

Out on the boardwalks (they were "plasticwalks," an experiment sponsored by one of the US plastics companies), a rainbow of ponchos spotted around the geyser basin: orange, yellow, blue, bright green, dark green...each encasing a small human; like wildflowers on a hillside.

For a while we were worried that Al was lost. Never fear - he was hanging out during the deluge at the Old Faithful cafeteria. He learned that when Old Faithful was "scheduled" to erupt, tourists moved toward it like lemmings and the stores, restaurants and visitor center were peaceful, pleasant and accessible.

It was always easy to see where animals were - just watch for the traffic jams. And that was our clue enroute to the Madison Junction campground. Cars were parked along the road, binoculars pointed into the meadow. Yes. A coyote hunted his late afternoon meal.

Into camp at 7pm Love those hiker/biker places! People lined up were being told "no room."

(As I write at 9:30pm, a light rain has begun with a breeze. The campground at Madison is small and friendly. The hiker/biker site is a large site with many picnic tables and bear boxes. A couple from Holland is here on their year-long world cycling adventure, and becoming more and more disillusioned each day with the U.S. A man from Oregon is over by himself along the edge of the site. He's been out as a solo cyclist for three months.)



July 29




Partly sunny 'til 1:30pm; deluge (again) t-storm until 3pm. Partly sunny thereafter. 62F in the tent at sunrise.


Madison Junction -> Canyon Village


Canyon Village campground hiker/biker area



Elevation Gain


Awake at sunrise, it was so warm that I decided to hike along the Madison River. Only saw a gaggle of (Canada) geese forming up their "v" as they flapped off the river, and a great blue heron.

The hiker/biker sites were a Godsend for us. A woman, nearly in tears, was told to leave the campground - she had expended her seven day limit. There existed no other camping options in the park. Everything was full by 8am! She was distraught. In year's past, you were not able to reserve sites, but that policy has been changed.

A leisurely packing up to see if things could dry in the bit of morning sun. Out of camp to Norris Geyser Basin. Shortly down the road, we saw "George" - the bison which roamed the Madison campground all year 'round. Scruffy looking with matted hair on his forequarters and clumps of fur missing from his neck, he was disinterested in the traffic tie-up (buffalo jam) that he caused.

Two miles into the Norris road, the devastation from the fire was still incredible. New trees were now, ten years later, two feet tall so you could see what would be meadow and what would develop into the new forest. I thought the hills/burned trees looked like the sparse coarse hairs of a pot-bellied pig.

At Norris Geyser Basin, the sunny day added ominous clouds. With the first distant clap of thunder, I jogged the half-mile trail through the geysers, back to my bike to retrieve rain gear and cover my saddle and Rufus. Just in time. But the tourists! Ah, the tourists. About 99% were caught by the cold storm rampaging overhead. I guessed most didn't understand mountain weather as they traipsed the trails in their cotton t-shirts and sandals without jackets of any kind, shivering and complaining.

By 4pm it was time to head to Canyon Village - 12 miles away. "Easy," I thought. "Be there by 5:30pm latest, even with some sightseeing."

I stopped to look at the 1984 blow-down - acres of wind-downed trees which then burned in the fire of 1988. Ten years later the area still smelled of charcoal.

Coming in on a long fast downhill into Canyon Village (CV), where on my right an ethereal rainbow hung from of the sky like a vertical curtain of color, with cumulous clouds behind it, rain clouds adjacent to it, and an expansive green meadow beneath it. A spectacular end to a very tough riding day, considering the 8,000' altitude and rolling hills.

At dinner, I came within seconds of fainting as my world turned gray and my body got feverish. Didn't know what was wrong. Maybe not enough food? That didn't seem reasonable. That final uphill and the altitude? Who knows? Al and Paul decided that I didn't eat enough instant oatmeal for breakfast...and stipulated two packets, always. Yuck.

Bears had been seen around CV during the evening, both grizzly and black. We took full bear precautions with our food and all toiletries - everything, even water bottles and Camelbaks went into the campsite bear boxes.



July 30




Misty 'til 8am; sunny/partly cloudy 'til noon; t-storm (hail) and again at 4pm; sunny evening. 47F at 6:30am (much cooler)


Canyon Village - Rest Day


Canyon Village hiker/biker site



Elevation Gain:


The probable reason for my fainting problems yesterday...I was quite dehydrated. Didn't even go through my c'bak once. Quite unusual.

"Sleeping in," which we agreed to do, meant not getting up 'til near 7am. Famished, I headed out with the announcement, "No! No way! I'm not eating oatmeal in camp this morning when I can have biscuits and gravy and scrambled eggs. I'll see you after breakfast." By the time breakfast was over, I had company. All four of us had convened in the cafeteria.

In our sight-seeing along the canyon rim and trail to the top of Lower Falls, thunder from the south got my attention. I contemplated, briefly, the tumbling water, the misty rainbow hanging over the crest of the falls, musing on the Zen of where all that water must come from. Then quickly, as fast as my noodly (definitely well past al dente) legs could move, back up the hill I hurried, to get my rain gear and cover my (leather) saddle...something I had neglected to do when I "semi-prepped" my bike for possible rain, even though it was sunny and pleasant when I locked up.

Rain moved in swiftly and I knew it would be a close race. Drops hit as I reached my bike. Al was headed DOWN the hill without rain protection - I wasn't envying him. Ann and Paul were close behind me. Just as the three of us were snuggled in our Ultrex/Gortex finery, the hailstorm hit. Taking refuge under pine trees at the top of the trail, and as the pelting hail turned to rain, we ate lunch. We were a sight, but a far sight drier than the tourists coming up the trail, looking like losers in a wet t-shirt contest.

We cycled over to the south rim to hike the South Rim Trail, hiked past Artist's Point and then away from the canyon to Lily Pad Lake and Clear Lake. At the trail juncture of canyon rim and forest, we had yet another hailstorm. Caught without my rainhat, Paul lent me his (saddle cover) shower cap to add to my anti-rain fashion statement of purple visor, yellow rain jacket and sunglasses. My companions laughed and said I looked ridiculous.

During our hike, I spied an osprey (fish hawk) nest atop a pinnacle across the canyon. We all hunkered down with our binocs to watch the action, as we had seen an osprey soaring and diving for fish in the rushing Yellowstone River (the canyon carver). For a long time it was non-action on the nest. Then what we thought was a fledgling flapped off and landed on a rock a few hundred lateral feet from the nest. There was much chirping by the bird, and return calls from elsewhere in the canyon. Finally, our bird carefully turned itself around on the rock, stretched its wings uncertainly a few times and took off toward the nest. It made quite an impressive landing. Once our bird was settled again, two small chicks poked their heads up. Our bird wasn't a large fledgling after all!

Our hiking trail past Lily Pad Lake (aptly if not creatively named) led us to mud pots not mentioned on the map. Exploring as we followed on to Clear Lake (clear green) and through a massive wildflowered meadow, a meadow perfect for a buffalo sighting, but we only saw patties and long scratch marks on the trees indicating their presence.

(As I write, at 7pm, sitting in the laundry/shower facility at CV, dryers tumble and washers spin and shimmy. It's sunny outside with a large gray chunk of sky moving our direction. A Greek salad and bowl of chili is on my dinner menu at the cafeteria.)



July 31st




Sunny 'til 5pm Rain at West Thumb for a short bit. We were outrunning the rain most of the day.


Canyon Village -> Lake Hotel -> Grant Village (site C-91)


Grant Village campground



Elevation Gain


Early in the morning. It was cold enough to see my breath, and with long puffy exhales facing into the low sun, each vapor droplet was backlighted. It was instructive to actually see how much water vapor was lost with every breath. Keep drinking!

It was time to gather up the disorganization in my tent and move on. For breakfast, I was forced by my companions to choke down two! packets of instant oatmeal. Nearly impossible to do, and not at all helped by Al/Paul playing "airplane into the hanger" with the spoon (full of oatmeal) into my mouth. We were laughing too hard for me to eat! "No bonking!" they admonished. (The route was too flat to even have a second thought about bonking, however.) Oatmeal was good cycling fuel. But the texture of instant oatmeal was worse than poi. I would have preferred steel cut Irish oatmeal. And after oatmeal, an espresso.

Riding out the one-way road we took yesterday during our explorations, we had the chance to see a plethora of birds in the canyon AND see our osprey nest/chicks.

Nature notes:

Pedaling through Hayden Valley following the Yellowstone River (catch and release), it had become a blue sky day. We had a bit of a headwind, 70F.

Bison herds lived in the Hayden Valley, and each time I had been there, I had been delayed by them meandering across the road. There, one herd was on the left side of the road hundreds of yards away, and a smaller herd grazed on the right side of the road, no danger to traffic or us.

And then, milling across the road, was The Herd. At least 100 bison, most of them impressively large. An old red minivan ran interference for me as I went through with him, riding close to the rear fender, one side or the other, depending on what protection I needed. Then, less than three feet from the last of the road warriors - a scruffy big horned male - my protective van sped away leaving me to fend for myself. Too busy pedaling to consider my possible predicament, I watched the very large rheumy left brown eye track my departure. Adrenaline was much better for furious pedaling than was oatmeal.

Further down the road, buffalo staked out the boardwalk at Mud Volcano. Tourists walked within two feet of them for photos. They wonder why people get gored?

Al had a black bearing sighting on the road north of West Thumb. Ann badly wanted to "bag a bear."



August 1




Generally cloudy/partly cloudy. Spits of rain during riding. Occasional rain showers in late afternoon/evening.


Grant Village -> Colter Bay


Colter Bay hiker/biker site



Elevation Gain


Outback Oven

Coffee cake

Back over the Divide, going south. A travel day towards Jackson.

The fireweed in GTNP was about 3/4 bloomed out. I wondered if what was true in Alaska was also true in Wyoming - that by the time the fireweed was bloomed out, snow was two weeks away.

The route seemed generally flat. A 200' climb to get over the Divide, then downhill to Lewis Lake, and an even better downhill run to Flagg Ranch.

The hateful Huckleberry Ridge climb of last week was a piece of cake. The reasons could be many:

No sinking hamburger/fries lunch prior to the hill climb
We'd been biking for 5 days at 8,000' and this was closer to 6,000'.

Just past the turn for Leeks Marina, I was the third vehicle to come up on a "bear jam." The sub-adult bear of Colter Bay was ambling. Ann, who was only minutes behind me, finally got her bear sighting.

Again all the comforts of home: shower, big chicken dinner, ice cream; after which we listened to the evening ranger talk on bald eagles, at which I learned much.

The trip was ending. I was having trouble writing. Thoughts and talk of work began creeping into our conversations. I had started the psychological transition from biking vacation to home - always a difficult one for me.



August 2




Colter Bay -> Jackson, WY


The scenic route along Jenny Lake


Wagon Wheel Motel



Elevation Gain


Rain pounded the tent during the night - it was pleasant for snozing. I didn't know how long it lasted, but it was good. We'd been lucky, for although we had rain, we had no serious riding in it. A little here and there, but no long distances.

Mid-morning and not a mountain in sight at Jackson Lake Lodge. One would have to believe on faith alone that a range of imposing peaks were in front of us. Paul claimed that the Tetons flattened nightly and the day's poofing hadn't yet occurred.

While we looked at the invisible Teton range, the meadow in front of us was active: a pair of Sandhill cranes squawked and flew by, a pair of elk browsed the meadow, and we could hear the distant call of the osprey.

Our last day. Seemed so long ago that we were in Dillon and Butte - and even Jackson, which was only the previous week.

Our first stop in Jackson was the National Museum of Wildlife Art, an impressive modern sandstone and glass building perched on a hillside overlooking the elk refuge acreage below. Works by Russell, Remington, JJ Audubon, JW Audubon, and Bierstadt were featured..

The annual migration of Harley Davidson motorcycle owners to Sturgis, SD, was in progress and Jackson's Million Dollar Cowboy Bar was a "Sturgis Pit Stop." Bikes galore were parked outside. We cruised through the bar, sightseeing the Harley leathermen and the Biker Babes, some with leather chaps to mid-thigh and short shorts far above them. An odd combination. Ann and I clearly were the wrong kind of biker babes, and our dirt-encrusted bikes ("steeds") lined up outside compared most unfavorably with the spit-polished chrome and leather appointed bikes (motorcycles).

We wandered town - doing last minute shopping and giving the bikes to Hobach Sports for packing and shipping. As the evening progressed, we had dinner followed by a drink at the Silver Dollar Bar of the famous Wort Hotel, built in 1941 with 2032 silver dollars embedded in the bar. Then the trip ended as it had begun - with ice cream.

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Last Updated: February 15, 1999

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