I used to be hoity-toity about National Parks. That’s where the crowds go. I like to do things more off the beaten path. 70 miles of pavement that we have to share with RVs? No thanks.
But here’s the thing, National Parks are National Parks for a reason – there’s generally something pretty spectacular about them, and if you’re willing to overlook the hoards of people (because there really is no avoiding them), you can see some really, really cool stuff.
Yellowstone was no exception.
Our alarm went off at 5:30 and we scarfed down two cinnamon rolls for breakfast #1, figuring that we had 22 flat miles to get to Grants Village where a) the shoulder would improve for riding and b) they’d have breakfast. We wanted to get the first 22, mostly shoulder-less miles done before the majority of park visitors woke up. So at first-ish light, we set off.
And the road went up. And up. And up. What is this? I thought the park was supposed to be flat? Nope. Sucka!
We climbed into a deep fog that reduced visibility to 50 feet and soaking us from head to toe. Water dripping from our helmets, glasses removed due to being too wet, tootsies cold, we finally emerged from the mist, many miles later. Sunshine!
We crossed our first Continental Divide of the trip. Maybe it’ll be downhill to Grants from here? After all, our easy 22 mile pedal was starting to take far longer than anticipated. Lucky for us, it was all downhill. And lucky for us, we made it before they stopped serving breakfast.
With beautiful seats overlooking Yellowstone Lake, we indulged in an all-you-can-eat breakfast. Now this is living.
We doodled around, asking a ranger about things that were must-see’s in the park before starting off on 19 miles of not-so-great riding. While there was a shoulder, and cars were, for the most part, respectful, we still spent the next two hours hugging the edge of the road as closely as we could.
Two Divide crossing later, we dropped into the Upper Geyser Basin. Old Faithful! The crowds were amazing, and by the size waiting in front of Old Faithful, we knew we’d hit the timing right. Sure enough, not five minutes later, it erupted in all its glory.
It was way cool!
We then went down to see Grand Geyser erupt, lucky timing as it only goes off every 13 hours. We wrote postcards while we waited for it. I *think* it’s the highest predictable geyser in the world. Uber-impressive.
To celebrate our successful geyser watching, we went back to the lodge, the oldest National Park lodge if I remember correctly, and ate ice cream for lunch. When on tour…ice cream is a perfectly acceptable lunch option.
Back on the bike/walking path, we saw another impressive eruption from the Riverside geyser completely unexpectedly before heading down a lovely little dirt trail that would take us off the highway for several miles and to the Biscuit Basin where we oohed and ahhed the multicolored pools.
A short stretch of highway took us to another dirt path open to bikes, a heaven send as it was now mid-day and everyone was awake and out to see the sights. We climbed a small hill to get a view of the Prismatic pool, commonly photographed and seen in Nation Geographic. The biggest of its kind!
A meandering ride took us back to the highway and a fast-ish descent got us to the Firehole River Road, a one-way road that we rode backwards on to get to the well-known swimming hole.
We indulged in a glorious dip in the lukewarm water, watchinthe cliff jumpers, jumping from eddy to eddy up the river and then floating back down, and watching dozens of cute kids with their parents playing in the water.
It’s sort of cool, the last two National Parks I’ve visiting, Death Valley and Grand Canyon, people seem far more into taking pictures with their expensive cameras than really experiencing the place. Here, people are walking around with their families, waiting for geysers, swimming in swimming holes, and very few had big cameras. It feels like a lot more of an interactive park experience, which is neat.
We dried off in the sun, climbed back up to the bikes, and coasted down to the Madison Junction campground where they have hiker/biker sites for $7, and they can’t turn you down because they’re full. And, get this, they serve the bikers coffee in the morning. How cool is that?!
Also here, there’s a father/son pair riding recumbents on a modified Trans Am, a mother/daughter pair doing TransAm and taking a six week break in Kalispell for a class, a Icelander doing a modified GDMBR, and a non-English speaker who’s also doing a GDMBR + Yellowstone. What a cool little bike touristing community. Mountain bikes. Road bikes. Recumbents. Bikes!
It was way fun being a tourist in addition to being a bike tourist for a day. Yellowstone really was wild beyond all belief. Embrace being a tourist and whole worlds of amazing can open up.
Tomorrow, an easy (hopefully) 14 miles to West Yellowstone to pick up our bounce box, take a day off and figure out where we go from here.