West Yellowstone, MT to Rawlins,
Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
Sunday night, July 25th, in a cheap motel in West Yellowstone,
Montana. I left the window open that night,
trying to ease the stuffiness of the room. In the middle of
the night, I was awakened by the sound of the parking lot trash
can being upset, and the rattle of empty cans and bottles on
the pavement. I looked out my window, and saw a large shaggy
dog trotting away from the scene of the crime.
I left the motel for Yellowstone Park the next morning, I had
a nice chat with the motel owner's husband. He had cleaned up
the trash can mess first thing in the morning, and found large
teeth marks in some of the trash. I told him about the dog I
was no dog", he said. "The
Yellowstone wolves are getting pretty bold."
hoped to see more wildlife in the park, in a more natural
breakfast in town, I did some grocery shopping, then spent some
time on the phone with Tom (Amanda's dad) and the attorney who
was setting up Amanda's Miracle Helpers. We've hit a major
roadblock in going for non-profit status. To make the story
short, a non-profit organization cannot be created with a single
beneficiary, like Amanda. After
almost an hour on the phone with the attorney, she convinced me
that non-profit status would prevent Amanda from benefiting from
our fundraising efforts to a great extent. (She had already
convinced the Hoelands, but I am stubborn.) She recommended
we skip non-profit status, and focus on raising money for Amanda.
our hearts were (and are) in the right place. Our cause hasn't
changed. If we can better help Amanda without non-profit
status, we will. The
Hoelands and I will still pursue the creation of Amanda's Miracle
Helpers. It will take some time, and a lot of effort. But
Amanda and other children like her have so much to gain from any
help we can provide.
are off to a great fundraising start, and those efforts will continue. If
you have already made a donation to Amanda, rest assured that 100% of the
funds will go directly towards care and equipment for her. Absolutely
no donated funds will cover any expenses of my journey, or any administrative
or fundraising expenses. If you haven't yet made a donation, you may
send one directly to Amanda using the information here. This
site will provide regular updates about any care and equipment purchased
for Amanda with your donations.
return you to our regularly scheduled dispatch.
the world's first national park, begins right at the edge of
the town of West Yellowstone. I showed my Golden
Eagle Passport at the gate, listened to the ranger's spiel about
how crazy I was to ride a bicycle through the park (which west-bound
bikers had told me to expect), and headed towards the Grand
Canyon of the Yellowstone River.
Canyon area is not on the TransAm route, but I was told it
was a "must see!" So
I planned to ride about 50 extra miles to see it.
from the bustle of West Yellowstone to the park was dramatic. Once
the entrance gate was out of sight behind me, the only evidence of human
contact with the land was the road on which I pedaled. Traffic was
light, and most of it was heading in the other direction- out of the park. The
road was fine, with enough shoulder to keep me to the right of the fog line,
and what little traffic was going my way was courteous.
was abundant evidence of the massive fires that swept the park
in 1988, but also signs of re-growth and recovery.
a few miles after entering the park, I crossed the state line
into Wyoming. A few miles after that, at Madison Junction,
the TransAmerica trail went to the right towards Old Faithful, and I went
left towards the Canyon.
I rode along the Gibbons
River past Gibbons Falls. In this area, the road was in
poor condition. But it was to be one of the few places
in the park where that was the case. Traffic was light,
and I didn't have any problems here.
The land began
to show evidence of the underground violence that has occurred
here for millennia. Abrupt changes in terrain resulted in
waterfalls and cliffs. A strong smell of sulphur
was quickly followed by the sighting of a steam vent, hot spring,
traffic, both auto and foot, was light, and thinned out even
more as the day wore on. I had several viewing platforms
to myself for periods of time.
road sometimes rolled, sometimes climbed and dropped steeply. My
riding strength surprised me here. Even with my touring
load I was able to maintain momentum through the rolls, and
I felt good climbing the steeper hills. Maybe I'm finally
getting into shape!
Paint Pots", highly recommended by my Dad and Rebecca,
my step mom, were incredible! Mineral pools dotted an
area of about a half mile square on several levels going up
on the minerals in the water, or sometimes even in the mud,
the pools displayed different colors- mostly a rich variety
of earth tones, but also some vivid blues and whites. The
colors may have been muted because of an overcast sky, and
they were still amazing!
the Paint Pots, the road climbed steeply uphill- 8% for three
miles, according to a sign. I pushed hard up the climb,
alternating sitting and spinning at a fairly high pedal cadence
with standing and pushing a bigger gear. Several of the
few cars left on the road cheered me on as they passed. (It
helped to have an audience.)
late in the evening and starting to sprinkle when I pulled
into Canyon Village. I
pulled my bike under the overhang of the huge lodge there, and went inside
to find dinner. The cafeteria special was trout almondine, and,
along with a chef's salad, several sides of vegetables, a large dinner
roll, soup, and a generous slice of apple pie, it hit the spot!
When I finally checked
in to the Canyon campground, the rain had stopped, but it was getting dark. A
sign at the entrance said that the campground was full, but I had been told
by bikers to ignore that. There are always "hiker/biker" spaces
The ranger at the
check-in window gave me the bear spiel. (I had been warned to expect
that, too.) In a nutshell: "This is bear country. Bears
who find an easy meal of human food can become aggressive, and then usually
must be destroyed. Don't cook, eat, or store food in your tent. All
food, beverages, toiletries, and cooking gear must be stored in a vehicle
when not in immediate use. Don't be responsible for the death of a
hikers and bikers don't have a vehicle in which to store
food, the hiker/biker areas provide "bear boxes"-
heavy cast iron food storage boxes that secure with chains.
hiker/biker area was in a woods of tall trees, off by itself,
but an easy walk to the showers and laundry facilities. There
were pads for about ten tents. I was the only one there. The
nearest campers were several hundred yards away.
being my first experience in bear country, I was kind of freaked
out. I set up my tent in the dark. By now, I had set it
up enough times in daylight, but it still surprised me that it
went up so easily.
all of my stuff into the bear box, and headed to the showers. On
the way back, I briefly considered setting up my sleeping bag in
one of the other bear boxes, but my claustrophobia won out
over my fear of bears. And wolves. Barely.
pee in the woods in the pitch black was a traumatic experience,
to say the least, not to mention cold.
I woke in the morning, the temperature was in the mid-thirties. (Most of Yellowstone is above 8,000 ft.!) I put on
just about every piece of clothing I had, and went back to the
lodge for breakfast, then explored the shops there. I
bought a few gifts for my nieces, and mailed them from the post
office next to the lodge. Then, I packed
up and took off to explore the canyon.
It didn't take more
than one look to see why I was told the canyon was a "must see." One
picture should do it for you. Pick any one of these.
I explored the area
by road and on foot. The viewpoints were pretty crowded. In
many areas, I was competing for a viewing spot with a busload of
But if I took a few
steps off the road and onto the trails, the crowds were manageable.
job was finding parking for my bike. There were no bike
racks anywhere. Several
times, I thought I found a good spot, only to have the German
tour bus pull up with the bus door right at my bike. So,
I moved on until I found a better place.
The canyon walls were
loaded with active geothermic vents. The activity covered
the walls with a rainbow of colors, like the Artist Paint Pots
on grand scale.
around the area described the changing landscape. One observation platform
crumbled during an earthquake in 1975. The sign in that
area read, "Before the earthquake... this observation platform
extended 100 ft. further into the canyon. The earthquake
shattered a portion of this cliff, tumbling it into the gorge."
"Up and down the canyon
you can see evidence of other rockfalls. This section of
the Yellowstone River overlies a major fracture zone, and the
park records thousands of minor tremors annually. Do not
assume the scenery will be the same when you return."
Whether by earthquake
or fire, I hoped the scenery, and I, would survive a few more
days, at least until I left the park.
pictures don't do the rock spires and formations, or anything
else in the canyon justice. This place should
be on everyone's "must see" list.
If I had to pick one
area of Yellowstone to visit, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
River would be it.
upstream from the canyon, the peacefulness of the Yellowstone
River belied what was just around the bend.
If I wanted to reach
the campground at Grant Village, almost 40 miles south of the
canyon area, before nightfall, I needed to get moving. And
the road on the way was under construction, so I could expect
have spent a week at the canyon, hiking the trails down into
I have promises to keep.
south of the canyon area, on the way to Grant Village, is the
Hayden Valley, the home of most of the park's bison. This
was another reason for my detour from the TransAm route, as the
route doesn't go through here.
As soon as I
entered the valley, a big old buffalo bull decided he wanted
to get to the other side of the road. It must be neat
to be that close to a bison if you in the safety of a steel cocoon
(a car), but I wasn't. The
cars were playing chicken with the big guy, so I just got out
of the way.
(Check out the Golden
Retriever in the car. He couldn't decide which was more
buffalo, or the nutcase on the bike!)
made it safely across the road, and the traffic, including me,
The valley was incredibly
gorgeous. Traffic moved slowly, and I was able to take a
few pictures as I rode along. There were herds of bison scattered
around the valley. Some small groups were close to the road. Further
away were hundreds of the beasts.
I reached the area of road construction, and traffic came to
a standstill. I
kept my place in line, but when the road dropped to a single
lane and the traffic picked up speed, it was difficult to keep
up on the old surface.
of the road was brand spanking new. I mean seconds to minutes
old! But they weren't letting the cars on it yet. As
I rode past a steamroller putting finishing touches on the new
half of the road, its driver called out to me, "Ride on
the new stuff!"
didn't need to ask twice. I hopped onto the new side, and had
the brand new lane all to myself. My friend Joe (Admiral
Parts) Barolin calls new road "happy top." And
happy I was! It started to rain, and I stopped briefly
to pull on my jacket. But the rain didn't bother me a bit.
the single lane of traffic to my left got ahead of me,
and I was all by myself, riding in the rain on "happy top",
and loving life!
bison were everywhere. I watched a
bull following a cow along a hillside. She was probably
in heat. Every few seconds he would bellow as he walked
The cow hesitated
for a moment, and peed a bit. The bull let out a huge low bellow
that sounded like the loudest belch I ever heard! Then,
he took a giant piss right on top of where the cow peed, and
dropped down and rolled around in it for a few seconds, rolling
completely over twice. Then
he got up and began following her again, belching as he went. (Are
you paying attention to this, kids? It's educational.)
I wish I could have
taken a video of the scene, but it all happened too quickly,
and all I got was one photo.
next geologic feature I came to was the "Mud Volcano". This was really cool! A
big mud puddle that kept bubbling and leaping up, spouting steam
the whole time.
Nearby was the "Dragon's
Mouth", the mouth of a cave that spouts boiling water and hydrogen
sulfide gas. (Video coming soon.)
along the road, I came across a small herd of bison, just next
to the road. One fairly large bull was
within two feet of the shoulder were I was going to ride. I
crossed the street, instead. (I do it walking in Philadelphia
all the time, so it made me feel right at home!)
The cars were pulling
right up to him to take pictures. I was happy with one
from the other side of the street.
It was already evening
when I came to Yellowstone Lake, and I still had 20 miles to
go to Grant Village campground. So I stopped at the Lake
Lodge for a quick dinner.
I asked the two young
women working behind the fountain counter if the road to Grant
Village was hilly. (One was from Romania, the other from
Russia. They were both gorgeous.) The first woman
said, "No, it's not hilly at all."
Then the second one
chimed in. "Are you nuts?! It's very hilly!" Thanks
for the help, ladies. I ate my soup and sandwich quickly,
and moved on.
got to the Grant Village campground near dark, my rear
tire going flat in the last mile. I checked-in, listened
to the bear spiel again, and raced to set up my tent before
the showers closed.
I just made it to
the showers in time, it being about a half-mile walk from my campsite. I
emerged from the shower building in the middle of a thunderstorm,
so I waited it out there, and walked back to my tent in a light drizzle.
My tent kept me warm
and dry through some showers that night, and the plastic tarp over
my bike did the same for it. I left the flat tire to fix
in the morning.
I planned to stay
at Grant Village two nights, even though the campground there
was nowhere near as nice as the one at Canyon. The hiker/biker
sites are mixed in with all the others, and then there's the
half-mile walk to the showers and laundry facilities. But
the logistics make sense. A two-night stay here allowed
me too make a day trip to catch Old Faithful, heading out of
the park the following day.
fixed the flat first the next morning, ate some breakfast
(peanut butter, banana slices, and craisins on a couple
of bagels), left my bags in my tent, and headed off on the
20-mile ride up to Old Faithful. This
was a hilly trip, crossing the Continental Divide twice in each
was glad to be running light.
I had my handlebar
bag with my wallet (really just a plastic bag) and camera,
and my rack pack with my rain gear and a few snacks. I
figured I was running about 40 pounds lighter than usual. My
Bike Friday felt like it was flying!
At the first Divide
crossing, I took a self-portrait while pouring water from my
bottle onto the divide. Theoretically, half will end up
in the Atlantic, and half in the Pacific. (In practice,
I'm sure it all just evaporated.) A silly, but fun gesture!
I took a rest stop
near the next Divide crossing, and while I was there, a tandem
couple pulled up from the other direction. Barb and Randall
Angell sold their house in Michigan, quit their jobs, and are
riding their tandem from the Arctic Circle, 200 miles north of
Fairbanks, Alaska, to Key West, Florida! They
are pulling a BOB trailer, and are also maintaining a web site. Check
it out at www.teamangell.com
are an amazing team. They were so nonchalant about their
journey. I spent about 20 minutes with them (wishing I could
spend more), then they took off towards the Tetons, and I went
off in the other direction towards Old Faithful. Just after
we parted, I realized, too late, that I hadn't taken a picture
everyone I spoke with about Old Faithful broke down the hype,
I wasn't expecting much. But I was pleasantly surprised. It
was worth seeing, if only to watch the spectacle of the gathering
crowd as the predicted time approached.
Faithful went off about two minutes after the prediction, close
enough for me. And
the two-minute spout was actually pretty impressive. Watch
part of it here (coming soon.)
the eruption, I headed back towards my campsite. On the
way out of Old Faithful Village, a lone bull bison was grazing
near the parking lot. A
bunch of people had gotten out of their cars, and were standing
fairly close to him, taking pictures.
I guess the warning
signs posted all over the park didn't mean much to them.
left Yellowstone the next morning, Thursday, July 29th, headed
for Grand Teton National Park. There was road
construction in part of the the seven mile stretch between the
parks, and bicycles had to ride in the back of the pilot car
(actually a pick-up) for four miles over that portion of the
My plan was to ride
every mile of this trip, but after a look at the road, I didn't
"don't miss" spot, according to west-bound bikers, is Jenny
Lake in the Tetons, an extra 16-mile long ride in each direction.
the park, and was a little disappointed to see that the Tetons
were somewhat obscured by smoke in the air, from forest fires
in eastern Washington, according to a ranger. But the
mountains were impressive, still.
at Colter Bay Village in the park (named after John Colter,
a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition who returned to
the west and became one of America's first "mountain men."
outside of the store, I met Zeke, a chef at the nearby restaurant,
who was riding a tricked out GT road bike. He was a blast
to talk to, and recommended his beef stew in a bread bowl at the
cafe just down the parking lot. I tried it, and it hit the
continued towards Jenny Lake, stopping to take some pictures
of a young black bear out for his afternoon exercise. He
took a brief swim, then got out of the water and jogged along the
beach into the woods. It was my first bear sighting.
mountains got closer as the day wore on, and I neared Jenny
Lake after 60 miles or so. I got to the store near the
Jenny Lake campground just before it closed, and bought a few
cans of franks and beans for dinner- almost as tasty as Dinty
hiker/biker section of the campground was perfect, with a view
of Grand Teton just across the lake. There was only one
other person in the section, a hiker, and I went over to talk
to him after dinner. He
was a Brit, who had spent the last two days in the back country
up in the mountains.
we spoke, Big Ears the mule deer came out of the woods and
taunted me, knowing that it was near dark, and my camera was
back at my tent, anyway. Se
walked within 20 feet of us!
were no showers at the campground, so I walked down to the
lake and took a brief dip- chilly in the evening air,
up early the next morning, and there in the campground was
Big Ears, with her sister, daughter, and niece. She didn't get too close,
but I finally got a picture of her! The kids were a hoot
to watch. They bounded like kangaroos, landing and taking
off on all four hooves at once. But they never got close
enough for me to get a decent picture of them.
took an early boat ride across the lake, a short-cut to a hike
up into the mountains. The
scenery in every direction was breathtaking. The captain
of the boat gave me the bear spiel. This one was particularly
was Grizzly country, and you don't mess around with Grizzlies. The captain warned
me to make noise while I hiked, so I didn't surprise a Grizzly
mom with her cub, as that would almost surely be fatal. Many
hikers wore little bells, he said, but he suggested singing. Carrying
pepper spray as a defense against Grizzlies was a good idea also,
he told me, but I didn't have any.
I should be especially alert for fresh Grizzly signs, like
scat. (Scat is the scientific
term for poop.) "How will I recognize Grizzly scat", I asked.
little bells in it, and smells like pepper."
hike was great. I
went by Hidden Falls, which I couldn't see, and up to Inspiration
Point, where I was inspired.
plenty of scat, but I think it was horse scat. No bells,
just hay and oats.
The trails were very
quiet, other than my singing, which didn't embarrass me since
the only ones who heard it were me and the Grizzlies.
spent a few hours on the trails, then took the boat back to
my campsite. I
put on my swimsuit, and took a walk around the lake, far enough
away from the marina area that I was in splendid isolation.
a wonderful swim. The bottom was rocky, and my flip-flops kept falling
off, but they floated, and I always recovered them. I had
thought about bringing a pair of Teva type sandals for such occasions,
thinking I might hike in them, too. But they wouldn't have
been worth their weight for the once or twice I would use them
on the trip, so I didn't think about them anymore.
water temperature was a perfect match for the warm Noontime air. I
didn't want to leave.
move on, I must. I
got a great view of the Teton group on my way out of the park.
miles outside the park, after 45 miles on the road, I stopped
in Hatchett at the small resort there. I
inquired about a room, and was quoted the "special discount"
rate of $99 for a night. A nice little US Forest Service
campground was right next store for $8, so I passed on the room. I
did pay them $7.50 for a shower though, and it was worth every
enjoyed dinner in their restaurant before moving to the campground
next door and setting up my tent. The only other camper
there was a Dutch cyclist going the other way, and we spoke
briefly before I dove into my tent to escape the skeeters.
awakened after dark by the sounds of several auto-campers pulling
in and setting up, and not very quietly, either. When
I woke up, the little campground was almost full!
left Hatchett reasonably early Saturday morning, July 31st,
after a breakfast of peanut butter bagels and oatmeal. (It
was cold!) The day's route was a climb to Togwotee Pass
(TOE gwet tee), at 9,658 feet, the second highest summit on my
a rest stop at a University of Wyoming "Forest Management Demonstration
of the signs here described some of the "benefits" of clear cutting. "Carefully
designed clear cuts can provide scenic vistas along highways
such as this."
Isn't that wonderful! I wonder which department of the University
of Wyoming was responsible for this "Demonstration Area",
the business school, or the Young Republicans?
up the hill, I passed the remains of a smashed iPod on the
was having some computer problems at the time, and I understood
the sentiment, exactly.
pretty much breezed up the pass. Just past
the top, there was a cute little fishing lake, with mountains
towering above it.
scenery in the Wyoming Basin on the other side of Togwotee
Pass was different than anything I had yet seen. It reminded
me a little of Picture Gorge in Oregon, with painted hills
on both sides of the road.
trip down to the town of Dubois was a blast. The downhill
was a little disappointing- not nearly as steep as the climb
on the other side. But
a rare stiff tailwind made up for it, and I finished the last
25 miles into town in exactly an hour.
(accent on the first syllable, pronounce the "s") is like many
western towns I've been through. The
largest, most prosperous shop always seems to be the taxidermist,
and parts of dead animals hang in every available space in
hit the spot most popular with the locals, you may even pick
up a small taste of western small-town xenophobia- the signs on the cafe
walls (hung between dead animal parts) with messages like, "Kill
a wolf, save 10,000 elk"; or "Shoot a tree hugger, save 100
if you open the door to conversation, the people are almost
always pleasant and friendly- sometimes so friendly that
you'll get tied up in conversation for the better part of an
hour when you're ready to leave!
is home to the National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center (which
was closed while I was in town). More
of these animals live in the hills south of town than anywhere
else in the world.
I checked into the Super
8 Motel in town, hoping to get an early start the next morning,
and also hoping the wind would stay out of the west.
didn't. On Sunday, August 1st, I started out with a tailwind. I
covered the first 20 miles in an hour. Then,
the wind flipped around out of the east. I rode the
last 60 miles upwind to Lander, most of it through the spectacular
scenery of the Wind River Indian Reservation.
I took my last break
in the town of Fort Washakie, stopping at a convenience store
for some snacks, and talking to some native kids about my ride,
and about life in general.
I showered in a motel (a bargain at $5!), had dinner at the
Cowfish Brew pub (maybe the best meal of my trip, so far!),
and camped in the large city park. There
were 15-20 camping tents there, but I was the only bicyclist. There
was a motorcycling couple near me, but they were in the tent
when I set up camp, and still in the tent when I left the next
Lander, I rode 60 miles to Jeffrey City, through desolate but
beautiful country known locally as the Badlands. The
day featured a difficult 30-mile climb (headwind included at
no extra charge) to the top of Beaver Rim.
City (population 106) looked all but abandoned. There
was one cafe, and a motel that looked deserted but was actually
clean and comfortable.
was on the road by 7:00 Tuesday morning for the 80-mile ride
to Rawlins. The
area around Jeffrey City was supposedly loaded with Pronghorn
(kind of like antelope), but, though I kept
a watch for them, I didn't see any. I did see Big Ears
the mule deer though, whom I have seen almost every day of my trip.
20 miles out of Jeffrey
City, I came to Split Rock, which was a landmark
for the three historical routes that passed this way- the Pony
Express, the Oregon Trail, and the Overland Stage.
Pony Express may have been the most romanticized of the three,
but it was the shortest lived, ending in bankruptcy after only
into Rawlins late Tuesday evening, August 3rd, checked into
the Best Western Motel (which offered free high-speed internet),
grabbed dinner in the motel restaurant, and went to bed.
night, I dreamt I was riding along and Big Ears came bounding
out of the woods and knocked me over, then stood on my chest
as I lay on the ground. She stared at me angrily. I looked
up, and noticed a piece of note paper in her mouth. I
reached up and grabbed the note.
It said, "MY
NAME IS TAYLOR!!"