2 – 6 July 2013

After a great week of relaxing in Cody I headed out towards Yellowstone at 11am after slow morning with a huge breakfast. Instead of the (popular) direct route west 14/20 I took Chief Joseph highway (292) northwest – allegedly prettier but much longer and more hilly. After a week long break it was a hard start as the first climb began before I got out of town – 16 long kilometres (10 miles) uphill later I realised it was going to be a tough ride; the bike was incredibly heavy as I made the mistake of stocking up way too much in Cody (about 10 kilos ~22 lbd) and on top of that came the 6-7 kilos (15 lbd) I gained eating like a pig. And even worse the effort was completely wasted as the climb was followed by a 16 kilometres (10 miles) steep downhill ride increasing the climb up to Dead Indian Pass at 8,000 feet (2.67k) – 23k (15 miles) up the countless switchbacks and no flat stretches but most challenging was the 36C (97F) and only an occational breeze (it was so hot that the tar used to repair the cracks in the road stuck to my tires making small stones stick too). And then all the flies biting me because I had difficulty defending myself being occupied with climbing only 5-6 k/h (3.5 mph)... the “normal” flies didn't bother me but the horseflies were vicious, biting me and just shaking their heads when I hit them (while I got bruised)....

Late afternon I finally got up to the pass - beautiful view of the valley but unfortunately so late that the sun was in my face preventing decent pictures.... 13k (8 miles) steep down the valley and then up again – first gradual and soon after the steepest climb that day (double digit percentage) limiting my speed to all time low 4 k/h (2.5 mph).... I had hoped to ride longer but after a day of mostly climbing a guy adviced a campground in the forest after around 100k (65 miles)... Just before the the campground I had dinner (lunch leftovers) and while eating my kickstand broke – yes, the bike was loaded but not that much...(!!) It was an official (free) camp spot but nobody was there – only an abandoned RV (a common thing that people come back and use their camper in the weekends). It was an okay spot had it not been for the ridiculous number of mosquitos which made me seek refuge in the tent even though it was still early...

The next morning I continued through a beautiful gorge next to Clark River. Chief Joseph highway had been a fairly good road but when I entered Beartooth highway (212) the quality dropped dramatically; an old road but the stones had never been properly driven down in the asphalt and not surprisingly back to headwind.... And then the many cattle grids - no warnings so somewhat dangerous when I approach them riding downhill at 50-65 k/h (30-40 mph). The temperature was still high 33C (92F) so it was a looong hot ride up to 9,000 feet and then slightly down to Cooke City in Montana.... one of many small towns just outside the park benefiting from tourists buying at monopoly prices e.g. ½ liter coke at USD 2. I only rode 12k (7 miles) in Montana but from the beautiful mountain range I saw I know it's a place I need to visit again on another trip.... A few kilometres down to Yellowstone and then 55k (35 miles) mostly flat or downhill to Tower Junction campground (it's not allowed to wildcamp in Yellowstone). Through forest and open landscape but even though I scouted in all directions I only saw numerous bisons and some birds..... The campground was already full but a friendly couple Stephen and Kelly offered I could pitch the tent at their spot since they were sleeping in their van... it turned into an interesting evening with pleasant conversation and company...

My initial plan had been to ride west to Mammoth to see the hot spring terraces, but going to the campground I had already bicycled south 4 miles towards The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone which many people told me was prettier and a must-do so next morning I continued that way... Another long ride over Dunraven Pass at 3,000m (9,000 feet) providing beautiful views of the valleys below. The ride up was in sunshine but at the top clouds appeared bringing down the temperature but also making me wait to take pictures. A long downhill ride to the Canyon where speed reached 70-80 k/h (45-50 mph) so I used the whole road preventing people from overtaking. Many people are still considerate going around me but more people speed close by.... weird as they are on holiday and especially because the chance of spotting wildlife is reverse proportional with speed – still the buses/RV's tend to come closest most likely because the drivers are too old or in-experienced driving these huge vehicles.... The canyon was okay without being spectacular (partly because of the many clouds) and then a race west to Norris to see the geyser basin before the sun disappeared behind the the now dark clouds. I got there in time take one picture in sunlight but 15 minutes more would have made the difference – the colours are just not as spectacular without light. I had little hope of change but still waited 45 minutes in hope of improved weather - it never came, so I rode the last 20k (12 miles) to the campground in Madison in fierce headwind arriving just as it started to rain and thunder. Yellowstones' campgrounds fill up up quickly but there's always room for hiker/bikers; this was the first time I paid for accommodation since I left my friends in Florida mid March (!). At the campground I met French cyclist Patrick (60) who has biked all over the world and this time he was on a 3 months trip in North America – a friendly guy so time passed quickly before I got to cooking dinner. And thankfully so, because the people in Madison celebrating 4 July at the campground fisnished eating and asked if we wanted the leftovers..... of course (!!); I got 4 big pieces of barbequed chicken, loads of pasta salad, fruit and a couple of beers – once again amazing generousity and a great finish on a day with a somewhat disappointing afternoon....

After a night and morning of rain I slept in and didn't leave until 10.30am. There was a lot of volcanic activity on the route but since it was still overcast I decided to be very selective of what to see. First stop was at Midway Geyser Basin which comprises Grand Prismatic Spring - the largest hot spring in the park with a 370 feet diameter. However, the boardwalk was too close and low to get a decent perspective so I rode some kilometres down the road, down Fairy trail and then walked up a hill – meantime the sun had disappeared so I had to wait 45 minutes to get a decent view.... On the way south to the famous geyser Old Faithful, I saw a grizzly with 2 cubs – very happy to see them but a pity only to have my spare camera... I pushed hard towards Old Faithful thinking I would had done my best should I be slightly late for the eruption (approx. every 90 minutes) – a good decision as I got there 2 minutes before it erupted. Low and brief I was happy not to have waited as long as the thousands of people there – allegedly the geyser is neither high nor faithful after an earthquake some years ago. It was mid afternoon when I headed east – a long climb through the forest over the continental devide, steep downhill and then another climb to get over the devide the second time... From there it was a long ride down to Grant Village along the way providing some beautiful views of Yellowstone Lake. I was a bit tired and the headwind strong but as the weather was nice nice I decided to push for Lewis Lake campground another 20k (13 miles) south. At the entrance I had an interesting conversation with Swedish Camilla and she offered I could pitch the tent at her spot as she would sleep in her car. Unfortunetely, I couldn't get the pegs in the ground, so I ended up camping at Phyllis' spot together with motorbike couple Reno and Trish - all very cosy and helpful people and all offering me to stay should I come by.

The forecast predicted nightly thunderstorms and 2 inch hails but fortunately it only rained. It was a fine morning and I intended to leave early to have the sun in the side/back when I reached Grand Teton – however, as always I got to talk to many people so it was 10am before I finally left. A beautiful and fairly easy (mostly downhill and flat) 16k (10 miles) ride along Lewis River to the south entrance...  

All in all Yellowstone was a bit disappointing: overcast weather most of the time, few animals and not as spectacular nature as I expected. To get a better experience it's necessary to do some long hikes and do backcountry camping - hopefully another time....    

Cody to Yellowstone, WY
Bisons were abundant i...
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The last pictures take...
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Despite being much lon...
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After another long cli...
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Lots of bisons - far a...
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Soft shoulder - hmmm.....
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I saw single pronghorn...
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My initial plan had be...
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Still a bit of snow le...
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Speeding down on the o...
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The dark clouds looked...
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I considered a couple ...
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...and here the Grand ...
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Beautiful colours but ...
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I had hoped to reach t...
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I hadn't seen much wil...
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Old faithful erupts ap...
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From Old Faithful I he...
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After a 5k steep downh...
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Coming downhill I got ...
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At West Thumb I headed...
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At the campground I fi...
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After a rainy night it...
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It was a long downhill...
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