I talked to the waiter last night at supper, and he told me that it was due to snow ovenight. I was releived to find that the prediction was wrong – the landscape was icy, but snow-free and that meant that I could get going. I made another early start this morning, and was off before 06.00. I quickly reached Yellowstone, and was greated by a steep climb – as I moved upwards I entered some low hanging cloud and as the moisture condensed on my clothes, it froze leaving tiny icicles.
In the first 35 miles today I crossed the continental divide three times, and gained several thousand feet. This made for slow going, and the situation wasn’t helped by low visibility – all I could see was swirling mist, and the skeletons of trees burnt in the 1988 fires. A lot of early climbing meant that the rest of the day was predominanty downhill – I dropped out of the cloud, and the park opened up before me. While it’s not as grand and spectacular as Teton, it’s full of interesting features and wildlife. I spent a lot of the day passing through several of the parks basins, all filled with geothermic features. The Yellowstone Caldera is the largest volcanic system in North America, and has been termed an active supervolcano and contains half of the worlds geothermic features, fueled by ongoing volcanism. The parks basins are spectacular, and, despite the cold, it was awesome cycling through them – they are filled with bison and other wildlife with the vapour from the geysers creating an eery, yet magic atmousphere.
I took several detours to get a closer look at some of the hot springs – the colours are amazing: algae in the pool change colour relevant to the temperature, creating vibrant oranges and blues. I continued to follow the Madison River down through the park, and saw several herds of bison, complete with calves. It was awesome to see them up close (within several feet at one point) – it’s easy to imagine them as the lifeblood of the American Indian culture, and it’s sad to think that the herds are now restricted to reserves such as Yellowstone. I also managed to glimpse some elk near the exit to the park, again they are so comforatable with a human presence that they freely wander onto the road – making for some great viewing. Although I didn’t see any moose or bears I did see a bald eagle near it’s nest close the road, whih was fantastic. I think I’ve seen the park at a fairly unique time – I arrived 4 days after the parks roads opened, and much of it is still in the grip of winter. This meant that I largely had the roads to myself, and so could take my time admiring the parks features, as well as it’s awesome landscape. I read about the first people to ride bikes through Yellowstone today – in 1883 members of the Laramie bicycle club road Penny-farthings with one gear through the park, their account tells of several adventures including a charge on a band of unsuspecting Indians! That must have been tough going – I found some of the climbs tough on my bike.
As I left the park I entered Montana, and the town of ‘West Yellowstone’. I quickly checked into a motel, had a shower, and then went out to find a bike shop. I had given my bike a bit of a service last night, cleaning and re-oiling the chain, and greasing the cables. While I was doing this I noticed the rear wheel was out of true – I managed to true it slightly myself, but I thought it was a good idea to get it done properly. The only thing the town had to offer in this department was a ski/bike/coffee shop which did little to inspire confidence – I had expected something bigger seeing as it was the first shop in about 500 miles! I left my bike with them, and went in search of something to eat – I was starving having had only one meal yesterday, and a packet of Oreos for breakfast. Having had a lot to eat, and a relaxing afternoon, I went back to pick up my bike. They had managed to solve the problem, and talked me through the repairs, they also talked to me about the trip, and were impressed with the progress I’ve made so far. They also gave me some advice about the route ahead – they get a lot of transam riders in, and told me about an alternate route that a lot of guys take due to poor road surface on the official route (apparently there’s a 20 mile strech of gravel road that doesn’t do your bike any good). I’ve had a look at the map and am going to follow their advice, it’s more direct, and is the route the author of my guidebook took – so it comes with a strong recomendation.
I’ve got quite an easy day tomorrow, although the wind can be bad, so I’m going to try and beat it by getting another early start.