Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 4 bus tour of Yellowstone National Park

Day 3

The tour organizers planned in a rest day. As long as we were resting, we might as well be sightseeing!

Everyone on the tour had to choose one of three routes through the park (short, medium, or long) and a departure time. Bugman and I chose the 6:30 am “grand tour” departure.

All of the tours were in school buses (there were not enough charter buses in the area to accommodate our entire group), so I was glad there were plentiful restrooms in Yellowstone.

I’ve decided the best way to see Yellowstone is early in the morning. The light does amazing things to the scenery, and you avoid a lot of the crowds. Pictures ensue:

Sunrise at Mammoth Hot Springs. Aw. There’s a heart in the steam. That’s for you, dear Bugman.

Mammoth Hot Springs is such a bizarre place. Much of Yellowstone is bizarre, actually. I can see how the first reports of the place were disbelieved and compared to Xanadu in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan poem.

The travertine limestone accretions, tinted by various colonies of microorganisms, are fascinating. I could have studied them for hours.

Closeup of “live” hot springs travertine limestone.

Next stop: Porcelain Basin. I included the boardwalk with people on it in this photo for scale. This is an intensely weird place. Everywhere you could hear the hiss and bubble of fumaroles.

The Norris Geyser Basin is another good place to be early in the morning.

Finally! The “bison on road” signs are justified!

At the Old Faithful visitor center was a map I had searched for in vain some years ago for a blog post pointing out that Nebraska is doomed if the Yellowstone caldera blows again.

Waiting for Old Faithful. (Gee, we look tired.) Rather than deal with the crowds down below, we decided to view the phenomenon from the overlook trail. (Saw a marmot beside the trail on the way up.)

Thar she blows!

And a thousand camera shutters clicked . . .

The spectacle of all those humans gathered to witness this famous geological phenomenon was interesting to me, as was the fact that the crowd applauded after the eruption. When we heard the applause, Bugman and I began to run. We had about 15 minutes to cover the 1.5 miles or so back to the bus.

Next stop: Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Hot tip: walk a few dozen meters off the paved trail into the “backcountry” and you’ll get great views without the crowds.

North American safari: OMG!! There’s some big critter to the side of the road! We must stop, clog traffic, and take pictures! (T’was a bull elk in this instance.)

Outside some visitors center whose name I cannot recall, information about area wildfires was posted. The postings also mentioned that Beartooth Pass was closed due to a fire . . . we were supposed to ride Beartooth in three days . . .

A final image of bison from the park tour, taken just before torrential rain and small hail. (Helped the fires, right?) It began to rain in our camp on Forest Service land several miles east of Cooke City just as we arrived. (Hooray for the tent sherpas! Our tent was already set up, our bags dry inside.)

When we got back to camp, we wandered in the rain to consult with tour officials, bike mechanics, and shipping truck staff to figure out how we were going to get ourselves and our bike to Cody the next day, since we would not be riding. A volunteer from Bozeman had room in her car and offered to give us a ride. (Thanks, Shannon!) The jovial-yet-no-nonsense guy from High Country Shipping gladly offered to hang our bike from the rafters of the baggage truck right then so it would arrive in Cody the next morning. All we’d have to do the next day would be to pick up our rim and get our bike repaired.

Announcements were interesting that night, as we were told that the wildland firefighters had co-opted our campsite in Red Lodge and that we would not be riding Beartooth Pass on Saturday.

A clip on the subject from the August 22, 2013, Carbon County News:

The All American Beartooth HIghway 212 that goes through Beartooth Pass is closed south of Red Lodge as the Rock Creek Fire grows to 700 acres. The Board of the Red Lodge Area Chamber invited speakers and the Carbon County Commissioners to discuss the event at their meeting at The Pollard on Wednesday, Aug. 21.

“Can the pass open for the bicyclers on Saturday?” asked Angela Beaumont, board member referring to the upcoming Cycle Greater Yellowstone event.

“Not happening,” said USFS Fire Information Office Jeff Gildehaus. “If there is fire near the road or firefighters working on the road – it’s not safe.” He said he had just spoken with Montana DNRC Director Matt Wolcott and they felt 700 cyclers in the pass was an unacceptable risk.

Sherri Moore, CGY Coordinator agreed. “It will have to be rerouted.”

The ride planners were working all day to coordinate information under changing conditions and with no cell phone signal – relying instead on radio relay. I don’t remember what was said that night – perhaps that we could still stay at the rodeo grounds in Red Lodge Friday night – but ultimately we learned that we would be staying in Cody two nights and riding and out-and-back route from Cody on Day 6 instead of riding to Red Lodge, and that we would ride to Red Lodge on Saturday instead of biking the Beartooth Pass. The cyclists were disappointed, but probably not as disappointed as the officials in Red Lodge, who had been working so long and so closely with the Cycle Greater Yellowstone staff to bring the event to their community. (Don’t worry, Red Lodge – Bugman and I will be coming back! We’ve got to have a go at the Beartooth!)

Since we knew we would not be riding the next day, and because of the disappointing news, we decided to take the signs to heart. We “hydrated and imbibed” under Pilot Peak.

Since we hadn’t ridden that day and wouldn’t be riding the next day, and because that night’s entertainment – Gary Small and the Coyote Bros (think blues/60s-70s rock/reggae/world beat) – was awesome, we stomped the ground there in the woods. Danced our hearts out, and probably scared away the bears, too. (We had to put all of our foodstuffs and scented toiletries in the gear truck that night as a precaution against bears raiding our camp.)

Day 5

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw


3 thoughts on “Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 4 bus tour of Yellowstone National Park

  1. Pingback: Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 5 hitching to Cody | Wyobraska Tandem

  2. Pingback: Cycle Greater Yellowstone | Wyobraska Tandem

  3. Pingback: Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 3 ride to Gardiner | Wyobraska Tandem

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