Friday, 30 July 2010

Day 72 Madison to Macks Inn

Friday 30th July
Daily mileage 36miles Average Speed 12.6mph Ride Time 2hr51min
Total Mileage 2842

We had a bit of a lay in and got on the road by 9.30am. We rode the 14 easy miles out of the park stopping briefly to see the female elk sunning themselves on the river edge. We stopped for a supermarket sweep in West Yellowstone where we overheard somebody talking about the grizzly attacks two days ago in the NE area of the park which was very shocking and we thanked our lucky stars we were not in that campground.

We left Wyoming and entered Montana very briefly and as we climbed over the continental divide at 7072ft we entered Idaho our 10th USA state. The road headed south and the wind was in our face, it was hot and we were tired. I think Yellowstone’s adventures has taken its toll on us. We stopped for lunch in the hungry bear gas station and decided at the next campsite we would call it a day despite being only really half a day. A mile up the road we stopped at Macks Inn campground at approx 2.30pm.

We had a shower that was long overdue and did a laundry of everything. We sat inside the reception on a sofa charging all the electrics and updating the internet etc. It was nice to relax and recuperate and plan our route for the next week and do some calculations as to how many miles left and how many days left and we think we are about on track, fingers crossed!

Day 71 Madison to Old Faithful and back again - Yellowstone National Park

Thursday 29th July
Daily mileage 38miles Average Speed 12.5mph Ride Time 3hrs
Total Mileage 2806

Julie and Mick made us oatmeal for breakfast at 7am and we grabbed free coffee from the campsite reception which woke us up and took the chill off our bones as it was extremely fresh this morning. We decided it was time to take a second backup of all our photos as the camera is getting very full, this was very stressful as the laptop and memory stick are also very full and at one point we thought we had lost the lot but its ok we got them back!

We set of about 9am in the end and climbed out of Madison up another hill but as we are camping here again tonight we left all our luggage behind and we flew up the hill it made such a difference! After about 6 miles we came across a huge traffic jam which meant it was either road works again or wildlife and we were so chuffed to find out that it was a grizzly bear! It was just over the other side of the river which was the perfect distance from us and for photos.

A bit further up the road we stopped for a half mile walk round the fountain paint pots then continued on to midway geyser basin where we took another half mile walk to grand prismatic spring which was awesome and our new favourite part of Yellowstone! The colours ranged from green, blue, white, yellow, orange and brown and they were all so vivid, wow. This is Yellowstone’s largest and most colourful hot spring and is a brilliant blue medallion more than 300 ft in diameter. It was a magical experience.
At Old Faithful we watched the geyser erupt spot on its predicted time living up to its name. The water shot up to 120ft and lasted a good few minutes and there were approx 2000 people poised with cameras to catch the event. We then had a buffet lunch in the Old Faithful Inn which was a lovely old wooden building that when you entered you felt like it should be snowing outside and a roaring fire burning inside. We ate too much then sat in the lodge with the internet for the first time all week and relaxed for a good few hours.

As time ticked on we made our way back to the campsite and as we were following the river all the way so the road was gently downhill and we were back in a jiffy! The only stop we had was to take more snaps of the same cheeky grizzly bear that was wandering aimlessly along the river edge at the same point. At the camp we headed straight to the creek for another wash, this time we went to the section where 3 rivers meet to get the warmth from the fire hole river as this river is sourced by the numerous thermal springs. The current was quite strong and you could easily float along, and of course Kris was off half way down the river and cut his knee trying to escape the current! I wish I could wash my hair, once in 7 days is not quite enough, a laundry would not go a miss either as clean underwear is running out.
We enjoyed a camp fire and some iced drinks with a breakfast bagel and pop tart for dinner. Loving life on the road. Our first views of the park was that it was over rated but as the week has gone on the highlights have come to light and we are leaving in the morning having felt like we have done a marathon every day but it was well worth the effort. I had considered seeing the park by tour bus but Kris won me over and now I am glad we have taken our time to cycle to every corner as we have absorbed the park inch by inch and seen so much more than could be squeezed into a hop on hop off day.

Day 70 Mammoth Hot Springs to Madison - Yellowstone National Park

Wednesday 28th July
Daily mileage 37miles Average Speed 10.4mph Ride Time 3hr34min
Total Mileage 2768
We packed up and climbed a good mile or so up a steep hill to a hotel where the female elk were grazing on the front lawn and we had an all you can eat breakfast with Chris. Sufficiently full and with a pocket of pastries we hiked for a couple of hours around the lower and upper terraces which were awesome and probably my new favourite site in the park. The colours in the rocks and calcium pools were so vibrant and with boiling water trickling over them and steam rising we could of taken millions of photos and we may have actually done just that!
We continued climbing the hill in order to get out of Mammoth and just near the top we spotted some big horn sheep just on the road side looking down on us and luckily they liked posing for photos! Carrying on up we hit some road works and as there was a long queue of cars we whizzed straight past them all to the front of the line to speak with the worker. Finally we were allowed to go so we climbed on along with all the cars and as we came to the top of the hill the road works ended and we came across Swan Plateau where a park ranger was sat waving us over. We pulled in to speak with him and he told us that we are effectively a car and were being illegal by jumping the queue, and that he was not going to do anything about it on this occasion but we should be warned.

Barely biting our tongue we smiled and said thank you and continued on our way bubbling up inside. We discussed many a thing we would have liked to say to the ranger in hindsight and about 10miles on we came across him again parked on the road side so we could not help ourselves. We got everything off our chest in a very diplomatic manner of course and went on our way now being able to forget the event.

We saw Obsidian Cliff where the Indians used the rocks to create their arrow heads and stopped at Roaring Mountain that was barely humming let alone roaring and ate our pastries. We actually had one banana lurking at the bottom of our empty food bag which I took a nibble of which is my first taste of a banana since I was about 8 yrs old, it was very exciting. We finally reached Norris where we thought we would grab lunch and fill up with water but there were no groceries here or drinking water. We chatted to a lovely guy who gave us lots of bottled water thank you! I also stood in a queue for a soda machine and the guy in front of me pressed for one drink and two came out so he gave the extra to me and while I was standing in the queue I found $10 on the floor, nice!

Still hungry we walked around Norris Geyser Basin that was vast and is one of the hottest hot spots on earth and certainly one o f the most geologically active and as we followed the platform around the geothermal area we photographed many amazing colourful holes with bubbling water spurting from them. We came across the Steamboat Geyser that is meant to be 3 or 4 times as big as Old Faithful the famous geyser here, but it only erupts once every 4 days to 50 years so we would have been extremely fortunate to see that!

Back on the bikes we cycled 14 miles mainly downhill to Madison and on the way there was a 30 min delay for more road works and again the queue was huge and again we queue jumped to the start! Luckily no rangers about. At the start of the line we met Julie and Mick who were also cycling across USA on a 6month ride. We chatted until it was our turn to go where we were told to let all the cars go through first then we could follow so by the time we got through the 3 miles all the cars were long gone and you can imagine the faces of the people waiting the other side to come through when they learned we were what was holding them up! Stupid system.

In Madison we set up tent with Julie and Mick as our neighbours and they kindly gave us a cuppa tea and some raisin bread, it tasted so good! We all headed over to the river where it did not take us long to jump in for a float/shower and we laid in the sun to dry off with an offspray over head. Earlier when I had asked at reception if there was any food here she said no but come and see me in a bit. So back at the tent I went to find Sandi who gave us 2 frozen burgers, 2 buns, mayo, cheese, a tomato and a tube of Pringles! Thanks! Kris set straight to work building a fire and sawing a log with the 3 inch saw on his pen knife! The burgers finally thawed and the fire was flame on and they tasted delicious, never have we had to work so hard for our dinner! We even found 4 marshmallows in the bear box but we don’t know how long they have been there so gave them a miss. Julia and Mick joined us for more tea and raisin bread round the camp fire then we all hit the sack at 7.30pm, exhausted! It was meant to be thunderstorms today and we have had nothing but sun and blue skies.

Day 69 Canyon Village to Mammoth Hot Springs - Yellowstone National Park

Tuesday 27th July
Daily mileage 43miles Average Speed 10.6mph Ride Time 4hr05min
Total Mileage 2731

Today was a marathon of a day. We packed up and made it to the cafeteria for a buffet breakfast and of course we stuffed our pockets for lunch. On the road at 7.30am we started climbing almost immediately from Canyon Village up the Dunraven Pass. We had left early so there was less traffic and more chance of spotting wildlife. I have realised its amazing how quickly I can cycle when need be, such as the thought of grizzlies in the bush or a thunderstorm on the horizon!
We made it to the top of the pass at 8,859 ft without too much stress when Kris convinced me to hike the trail of Mt Washburn standing at a mere 10,243 ft. We set off along the gradual path up and up and up stopping for many photos of the wild flowers that were very colourful and spread right across each of the meadows. We were hoping to spot some goats but unfortunately they must not have liked Kris’s singing either as there were none to be seen.

However, we did see chipmunks, marmots and a vole but the most exciting was right at the summit where a coyote walked right past us with some kill in its mouth not at all bothered by us. The views from the summit where incredible, you could see for miles all around and it felt as though we were right in the clouds. We descended slowly with aching legs back to the bikes after 2 hours hiking and set off to Tower Falls which was 15 miles of downhill where I hit my fastest speed on the bike of 33mph which meant I was technically speeding as the limit was 25mph! It was actually quite tiring going down as you had to concentrate on not going too fast, avoiding pot holes and loose gravel on the road while looking out for traffic and wildlife. Good job we can multitask as the road was narrow and there was a sheer drop from the edge of the road that messed with your head each time you looked down.

Half way down there were lots of cars stopped and people staring out over the valley with binoculars. We stopped and asked what they were all looking at and were pleasantly surprised to find out it was a herd of elk and three grizzlies, a mum with two cubs! They were right on the other side of the valley, you could see them with the naked eye but they resembled ants, but through a guys telescope they were amazing! The safest way to see them I feel! At tower falls we had some lunch and debated whether to set up tent here or continue to Mammoth Hot Springs. This would be a mammoth effort but would save a day and it was only noon which was a bit too early to crash, so we carried on.

The first 10 miles out of tower falls were uphill and we only really stopped at the petrified tree turn off where the wood has turned to stone but it may as well of been a lump of rock and did not deserve a photo let alone the diversion we had to do to see it. We came across blacktail deer plateau where we stopped for an energy boost then did the last 10miles down into Mammoth Hot Springs.

We found the campground and took one of the three hiker/biker spots and we could have kissed the lady when she told us there was a spot available. We set up tent in record time and jumped back on the bikes and headed off down a steep hill for two miles then hiked a mile up a trail to a funky place where the boiling river meets the freezing Gardner River. It was the most brilliant experience ever to be sat in a river in the valley with a boiling river being fed into it and where the two meet is where you sit. Its like sitting in a bath with the hot and cold taps running and every so often you get a freezing bit of water then a boiling bit. It was so awesome and the scenery complimented the experience.

We had to climb the 2 mile hill back up the side of the valley in soaking wet clothes to the tent and ate a pop tart for dinner. We chatted with Chris who is from Denmark and is hitch hiking across USA then went to bed at 7.30pm, absolutely shattered.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Day 68 Bridge Bay to Canyon Village - Yellowstone National Park

Monday 26th July
Daily mileage 20miles Average Speed 11.5mph Ride Time 1hr42min
Total Mileage 2688

We set the alarm for 6am but it was 0.5 degrees centigrade and so we decided to snooze the alarm and finally got up at 8.30am! We packed up and went to the marina for wake up coffee and read the weather report which is rather dreary for the next few days. As we left the campground a deer was grazing with the biggest antlers we have seen so far and it posed nicely for a photo.

We headed back up the road to Fishing Bridge then carried on North where we got held up in road works. As we were waiting to follow the pilot car another couple of cycle tourists caught up with us and we rode together to the Mud Volcano and Sulphur Caldron. On the way we cycled past a solo bison (buffalo) on the rode side, I was slightly concerned as there were no cars to hide behind but the lady we were riding with went straight past texting at the same time so I figure I have been worrying too much!

We took the 2/3 mile walk around the mud volcanoes and watched the steam rising and the mud bubbling. The whole area was very geothermal and stank of rotten eggs! We continued on our own through Hayden Valley where we came across a whole heard of bison but not much else. We followed a river for a while and saw a pelican and a beaver but were not quick enough on the camera unfortunately. We went straight to the campground at Canyon Village and set up tent. We had lunch and offloaded our bags then feeling light on the bikes we went sight seeing for another 10miles not included in the 20 miles recording A to B.

We went to the upper falls loop to see the upper water falls of Yellowstone River and then took the loop road to the lower falls and artists point which has to be my favourite part of Yellowstone so far. The colours in the rocks were awesome and the canyon was immense, we could have stared into it all day. We took uncle tom’s hike down into the canyon to see the lower falls close up and climbed the 328 steps back up. With legs like jelly we took the north rim drive back to the campground stopping at inspiration point which was quite inspirational! We enjoyed dinner and ice cream at the village but best of all we got to charge all our electrics and have a shower that was 3 days over due! As we had to pay $3.25 for it we stayed in there so long we got prune fingers and Kris said that every minute meant the shower got cheaper!

Day 67 Newton Creek to Bridge Bay - Yellowstone National Park

Sunday 25th July
Daily mileage 44miles Average Speed 10.2mph Ride Time 4hr20min
Total Mileage 2668

With only 6 hours sleep we dragged ourselves out of the tent after a surprisingly great nights sleep. As we packed up ready to leave, Chad came over and offered us morning coffee which went down a treat as the temperature was very fresh at only 11 degrees centigrade! On the road at 7am we had a brief stop for another coffee at Pahaska Tepee then carried on to the East Gate having clocked up 15 miles.

As we entered the park we were told there would be a very steep climb all the way to the top of the pass but we where pleasantly surprised to see that although there was a climb it was nowhere near as steep as we were expecting. We climbed and climbed gradually and with only one quick photo stop we had made it to the top of the Sylvan Pass at 8563ft! Unfortunately there was no sign to say so but it was at avalanche peak and we assume that the sign was buried under all the lose rocks.

After the pass it was pretty much downhill to the Yellowstone Lake but it was very sad to see that all the pine trees were dead either from forest fires or the dreaded pine beetle. It was very eerie and was a shame as the scenery was a bit of anti climax as we were expecting lush green vegetation and all we got were twigs.

We followed the edge of the lake dinging my bell all the way sporadically to warn off any bears, we arrived at Fishing Bridge where we hit a traffic jam. Everybody had stopped as there were 4 huge buffalo walking up the middle of the road on the narrow bridge. We hid behind a pick up for them to wander off but they had decided to wander towards us! So we asked the family in the pick up to pick us up and drive us over the bridge. With us and bikes sitting in the back of the open truck we came nose to nose as we crept past them.

We thanked them for the short lift and then stopped for a quick drink at the lodge. We carried on into Bridge Bay carrying on around the lake and came across a few more buffalo on the side of the road but were able to cycle past these ones safe enough. We arrived at the campground and pitched our tent next to Chris’s and slept under a tree for an hour or so.

With a bit more energy we went over to the lake to cool off then I rested at the marina while Kris went for a ride back to Fishing Bridge and the Lake Village for a nose. Back at the tent we chatted with Chris who is from Transylvania in Romania and we planned our ride for tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing some highlights of the park.

Day 66 Cody to Newton Creek

Saturday 24th July
Daily mileage 38miles Average Speed 12.6mph Ride Time 3hr03min
Total Mileage 2624

We had another leisurely morning and enjoyed a lovely cooked breakfast with our hosts. They drove us back into town where our bikes had been kept at the tourist information centre. Kathy kindly printed off some business cards for us with the details of our blog and that we are raising money for cancer research so that we can hand them out to all the people we chat to as so far we have had to scribble it down on any scrap of paper we can find. As we left we had our picture taken with the boss of the centre and Kathy will be writing a piece to be published in their next newsletter.

It would have not been possible to make it all the way to the first campground inside the park in one day so we had to split it up into two days. We wanted to get as far as the East Gate to the park but the campground 3 miles from the entrance has banned tents due to grizzly bear activity. So we had to stay at Newton Creek which is slightly lower in elevation and so the grizzlies don’t seem to venture this far down the mountain at this time of year due to the heat.

We left Cody and were thrilled to experience an Easterly wind so with the wind to our back we were flying along! We had to pass through 3 tunnels that were lit but one in particular was long and had no hard shoulder so be bombed it through which was a bit hair raising! On the other side we were greeted by the reservoir that supplies Cody with water and it was huge and bright blue. We were busy absorbing all the scenery when Kathy turned up with her friend and they offered to drive up to the campground and reserve it for us on our behalf as there is always a problem with sites being full before noon. They kindly did so and it was a good job as there were only a handful of sites left! Thanks, and you chose a great spot near the creek and the loo!

As we continued the road was really quite flat with only a few climbs and the river ran right along side us all the way to the campground. As we approached the campground the wind actually turned and was in our face so we were pleased to be stopping where we did. As we rolled up Dave came over to chat to us to say we were welcome to join his friends and family at their site for BBQ dinner and beers! We headed straight for the creek and Kris jumped off the rocks while it took me a good hour to wade right in as it was freezing but so beautiful!

We also met Chris who has motorcycled from Toronto and after a short chat we learned that he is camping at Bridge Bay tomorrow which was our intention so he said we could share his site that he has already reserved, thanks! We joined Dave for several beers and the most delicious dinner cooked at a campfire ever! We had pork and beef, beans, salad, cheesy bread, green beans and of course toasted marshmallows for desert! We had a lovely evening and stayed up until midnight round the fire in picturesque surroundings, perfect.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Day 65 Cody

Friday 23rd July

We had a well deserved lie in and it was lovely! Kathy and Howard both went off to work and we had the run of their whole house. We had such a great day being extremely busy doing nothing really! We caught up on emails, the blog, phone calls, laundry, battery charging and research of Yellowstone. All the above were long overdue as we have been starved of civilisation for sometime or at least it feels that way. It has been so nice to be in a home and a town. Its funny the little things you miss such as a carpet and a sofa! Kathy and Howard came home for lunch and were home again after work in the evening. We enjoyed cheese and crackers out in the garden while we chatted and watched the deer hiding in the grasses. They then cooked us a delicious steak meal with the tastiest mushrooms ever, this is the nicest restaurant in Cody!

We sipped wine and beer outside over a roaring fire until late with a full moon and stars overhead it was a great evening and a thoroughly relaxing day. We want to thank you both so much for allowing us to stay in your wonderful home and making us feel so welcome. We are happy to have been your ‘kids’ for a few days and wish we could have stayed longer! We are proud to have circled our home towns in your atlas and we hope we can return the favour one day.

We are heading up into the park tomorrow and may be there for approx 7 days without internet connection so don’t be thinking we have been eaten by a bear, we will be in touch soon!