2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 3: Bozeman to Whitehall

As we headed north out of Bozeman on Day 3 of Cycle Greater Yellowstone, I couldn’t help but notice the multiple new housing developments and lot-for-sale signs. I wondered how all this out-of-town development was affecting things like traffic, water quality, existing agricultural practices, and wildlife migration.

1 housing development

Speaking of migration, we heard a number of sandhill crane serenades as we pedaled along fields adjacent to the East Gallatin River and its tributaries. (Those dark specks in the field in the photo below are cranes.)

2 cranes

Oh, look – a ranch! The sign on the barn says so! House-moving operation, too. I wonder if the house was coming or going.

3 ranch

This was a speedy morning for Wyobraska Tandem, as the route was primarily downhill for the first 35 miles or so. We made good time to the water stop at the Dry Creek Church. I coughed a bit on the ride – wildfire smoke in the air. Luckily, we soon moved out of the smoky area.

4 dry creek church stop

Just past the water stop, we spotted two does and two fawns out standing in a field.

5 deer

A quick spin through Manhattan, population ~1,568 – home of the seed potato.

6 manhattan

Next rest stop: Sacajawea Hotel in Three Forks.

7 sacajawea hotel

The bison sculpture on the lawn was a popular photo backdrop and bike stand.

8 bison sculpture

We’d been by the Sacajawea Hotel in 2013, but I hadn’t taken the time to peek inside. This time, I did, being careful to take off my cycling shoes so as not to scratch the lovely wooden floor. What a gorgeous ceiling!!

9 interior of hotel

I’d had a pretty relaxing morning thus far, aside from a honker on a residential street in Manhattan. But the 7 miles on Highway 287? Not my favorite.

10 ride single file

Maybe I’ve become a wimp by choosing to avoid traffic-y routes on my training rides back home, but on that section of 287 after the gravelley shoulder disappeared, my spirit animal could’ve been a fanned-out porcupine, I felt so prickly. There was a lot of traffic passing us, heavy on the trucks, mostly at a high rate of speed, sometimes on blind hills and curves, sometimes way too close. I found myself muttering prayers of protection for us and for other cyclists.

Double-trailer, flammable material, coming through! (This was one of the more comfortable passes, as the driver had slowed down – THANK YOU, DRIVER!! – and I was actually able to take a picture instead of bracing for airwash.)

14 truck pass

When we found ourselves being trailed by an RV, we opted to pull out at a viewpoint for a pleasingly decrepit log house, to let built-up traffic pass.

13 pull off with old cabin

I looked back and saw a string of cyclists laboring among a train of semi trucks. Yikes! When the lead trucker in this photo went by, I waved and smiled as a thank-you for being courteous around the cyclists, but I got a frown and a shake of the head in response.

12 intimidating traffic

I was soooo glad to turn off Highway 287 onto Highway 2 towards Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park! My nerves were about shot.

16 turnoff to cavern

Also, it was getting pretty hot out. Cattle sought shade next to and inside of an old cabin.

15 cattle in shade of cabin

Rats! Uphill climb. We couldn’t manage more than 9 miles an hour, even with the temptation to mash the pedals to get a higher reading on the radar sign.

17 speed radar

On Highway 2, we passed a vast, dusty parking area that looked like it was meant for a crowd of thousands. Thousands of potentially unruly people, apparently. The signs plastered at every entrance read “NO PETS NO WEAPONS NO VIOLENCE.” There was a prominent, random “bridge over nothing.” I later learned this remote location is the site of a huge music festival: Rockin’ The Rivers. SO glad we didn’t intersect that event. I’m sure the traffic would’ve been a nightmare. (As it was, there was a pickup that unwisely passed us when there was a motorcycle oncoming. The motorcycle driver made a rude hand gesture.)

18 bridge near three forks

My favorite part of the day was the ice cream at lunch. YAY, ICE CREAM!!! Bugman was posing for a cheesy photo with the ice cream when Roger from Missouri jumped into the action, too.

19 ice cream

On the way out of our lunch stops, signs for the ride sponsors were scattered about. I thought I’d post a picture here and give them a shout out. Thanks, sponsors, for helping to make this First Best Ride in the Last Great Place happen!

20 sponsors

Before departing lunch, we slathered on more sunscreen and wetted down our arm coolers. Aaaaah! So refreshing!

The next couple of miles between the Caverns and LaHood were one of my favorite segments of the whole trip, I think: scenic, fairly flat, relaxed traffic, coolness emanating from the rock on the shaded side of the canyon.

21 jefferson river ride

22 jefferson river ride

My view from the back of the tandem. Not bad!

23 my view

At LaHood there was a historic point that actually had some shade, so Bugman and I stopped to drink and rest along with several other cyclists.

24 shade stop

As we rode along an I-90 frontage road, the driver of a passing semi on the interstate waved exuberantly at us. Wow. That was one friendly truck driver! (I later learned that some of Jennifer Drinkwalter’s family is in the trucking industry, and that the driver may have known exactly where all the cyclists came from that day.)

A funny sign from a gas station next to the interstate: “TOMORROW WE WILL EAT KALE BUT TODAY IS FOR ICE CREAM.” Yes!!!!

25 fun sign

More cattle taking shelter in whatever shade they could find. Hard to see them in this photo, as their dark color blends them into the shadow pretty effectively. It was uncomfortably hot out in the sun.

26 cattle in shade

H’lo, mules.

27 mules

As we approached Whitehall, we could see some colorful streaks on one mountain peak, with a barren slope below.

28 mining

I later learned it was the Golden Sunlight gold mine. Here’s a Google maps view, with the yellowish scar of the bared rock of the open-pit mine clearly visible to the northeast of Whitehall.

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 9.48.07 AM

I’ll admit to a bit of a BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) reaction to the mine’s alteration of the landscape. But I felt like a hypocrite. I have a gold wedding band on my finger. My bike is made of metal. My car is made of metal. My cellphone and computer have bits made of rare mined elements. And mining provides critical livelihood and tax revenue for many people and communities (though it’s a tenuous source of income, given market fluctuations).

But open-pit gold mines are not benign. I had a recent conversation with a materials engineer who was overseeing part of the American Solar Challenge, and he noted that when you are mining for a particular element, lots of other potentially toxic stuff comes up with the desired material. People who live near mines or farm or ranch near mines or work in tourism businesses near mines would be wise to keep an eye on those mines. According to an abstract in the PubMed database from the journal Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, there can be serious impacts to water supplies from open pit gold mining:

To prevent flooding in mine open pits, and to enable earth moving on a large scale, it is often necessary to withdraw groundwater and use it for irrigation, discharge it to rapid infiltration basins, or, in some cases, discharge it to surface waters. Surface waters are diverted around surface mining operations. Adverse effects of groundwater drawdown include formation of sinkholes within 5 km of groundwater drawdown; reduced stream flows with reduced quantities of wate available for irrigation, stock watering, and domestic, mining and milling, and municipal uses; reduction or loss of vegetation cover for wildlife, with reduced carrying capacity for terrestrial wildlife; loss of aquatic habitat for native fishes and their prey; and disruption of Native American cultural traditions. Surface discharge of excess mine dewatering water and other waters to main waterways may contain excess quantities of arsenic, total dissolved solids, boron, copper, fluoride, and zinc. When mining operations cease, and the water pumps are dismantled, these large open pits may slowly fill with water, forming lakes. The water quality of pit lakes may present a variety of pressing environmental problems.

The mining industry is aware of these problems and is working on solutions. For further reading, see Mission 2016 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

But this brings me to a point the Greater Yellowstone Coalition staff made during presentations and side conversations on the group’s ride: while larger mining companies are working on solutions and taking care to select only the best sites, and there is an acknowledged need for metal mining IN THE RIGHT PLACES, some smaller companies with fewer resources appear to be going after some tenuous opportunities. Case in point, a proposal to explore a gold mine bordering Yellowstone National Park, on a site that looms over the Yellowstone River. Here’s a photo from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition‘s website:

static1.squarespace.com

This just seems the epitome of stupidity to me, since gold mining damage cannot be undone, and especially because the Yellowstone River, which supports a huge chunk of the Montana economy through tourism-related businesses, is already stressed by climate change and other human impacts. (ICYMI: 183 miles of the Yellowstone River, plus tributaries, was closed to all recreations activities on August 19 to try to prevent the spread of a deadly fish parasite outbreak thought to be enabled by warm water temperatures and low water flows.) There needs to be a place for mining – our modern world depends on it at the moment. But there are some places mines just should not go, and it seems to me the upstream borderland of Yellowstone National Park is one such place.

Back to the bike ride!

I was so glad when a course volunteer told me we only had a few more miles to go, that I could use a blue water tower on the horizon as a landmark for the finish line. I was hot, and I was tired.

Not so tired not to be delighted by the Pac Man fire hydrant I saw at the roadside in town, though. I wish I’d had the energy to get a photo of it and to go seeking more decorative fire hydrants. A community volunteer told me there’d been a contest, and I’m sure I could’ve created a fun photo compilation of them.

The Whitehall residents I spoke with were lovely, welcoming people. I got the sense not everyone was thrilled we were there, though. A pickup truck coal rolled the finish line just after I arrived. Not nice.

Shade was at a premium at our Whitehall High School campsite on this hot, dry day. A couple of cyclists took advantage of the shady area under the school’s renewable energy station. Solar panels: good for producing energy, and shade!

30 high school energy

The CGY organizers were cognizant of the need for shade as well and purchased a number of tarps to rig up into an impromptu sun shelter along the tennis court fence.

31 improvised shade

Many cyclists headed next door to cool off in the community pool.

I slept quite well in Whitehall. The well-watered grass was nice and cushy under the tents, and the sound of vehicle tires thrumming on I-90 about 1,000 feet away drowned out other sounds and soothed me to sleep. 😀

Day 3 stats
76.5 miles
1,466 feet of climb
14.2 mph avg speed
low temp 43
hi temp 88
precip 0
wind 5-17 g 20 E

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

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2014 Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 5 Lander rest day

Day 5 of Cycle Greater Yellowstone offered an optional 33-mile out-and-back ride (with 3,297 feet of elevation gain) up Sinks Canyon. The “never quit” side of my personality urged an attempt at the canyon ride, but my butt (and my riding partner) said “no way!”

It was probably good we didn’t ride, as the wind picked up a bit, and I heard the switchbacks at the top of the canyon were a bit unpleasant with the headwind/tailwind flips.

It was a real relief to have a day off the bike. We didn’t exactly rest, though. Thanks to some Chamber of Commerce volunteers, we were able to hitch a ride up to a trailhead in Sinks Canyon and go for a 3-plus-mile hike.

Off the bike for the first time in 5 days, and grinning. #popoagieselfie

Off the bike for the first time in 5 days, and grinning. #popoagieselfie

We made way for a couple of equine hikers on the trail.

We made way for a couple of equine hikers on the trail.

Of course, Bugman had to stop to turn over rocks in a search for aquatic insects. We are not fast hikers. We are stop-and-lookers.

Of course, Bugman had to stop to turn over rocks to search for aquatic insects. We are not fast hikers. We are stop-and-lookers.

Quite beautiful in the canyon. A couple of times, we came upon our CGY colleagues sitting solo on a rock rim above the rushing water. It is a lovely, meditative place.

Quite beautiful in the canyon. A couple of times, we came upon our CGY colleagues sitting solo on a rock rim above the rushing water. It is a lovely, meditative place.

There were still flowers blooming in abundance in late August, on the cusp of autumn in the high country.

There were still flowers blooming in abundance in late August, on the cusp of autumn in the high country.

flowers

But many of the flowers had turned to fruit. I began to get that deep-seated urge to gather and store. We were warned by the gent who dropped us off at the trailhead that the grizzly bears in the area were feeling the same. I can identify the wild currant and rose hips for certain, probably chokecherry, and possibly serviceberry / huckleberry, too. The white berries are known to some as corpse berries are are not edible by humans.

But many of the flowers had turned to fruit already. I began to get that deep-seated urge to gather and store. We were warned by the gent who dropped us off at the trailhead that the grizzly bears in the area were feeling the same. I can identify the wild currant and rose hips for certain, probably chokecherry, and possibly serviceberry and huckleberry, too. The white berries are known to some as corpse berries and are not edible by humans.

Yet again, the mountainous West had something to teach me about pronunciation. Last year, it was Absaroka (pronounced ab-SOR-ka). The river we were hiking along on this day was the Popo Agie. Would you believe me if I told you that name rhymes with "ambrosia"?

Yet again, the mountainous West had something to teach me about pronunciation. Last year, it was Absaroka (pronounced ab-SOR-ka). The river we were hiking along on this day was the Popo Agie. Would you believe me if I told you that name rhymes with “ambrosia”?

A rabbit bush we passed was full of life, with buzzing pollinating insects endangered by the healthy population of cryptically-colored crab spiders.

A rabbit bush we passed was full of life, with buzzing pollinating insects endangered by the healthy population of cryptically-colored crab spiders.

Another cryptically-colored little dude. This little brown snake happened to cross our path, and we herded him into camera range.

Another cryptically-colored little dude. This little brown snake happened to cross our path, and we herded him into camera range inside a low-growing shrub.

At our turnaround point at Popo Agie Falls.

At our turnaround point at Popo Agie Falls.

As the day warmed, insects became more numerous. An aged fritillary, its wings tattered from a hard-knock life, supped on late-blooming flowers.

As the day warmed, insects became more numerous. An aged fritillary, its wings a bit tattered from a hard-knock life, supped on late-blooming flowers.

Bugman attempted to catch a  couple of grasshoppers that seemed to be harassing us on the trail, repeatedly flying around our heads with a loud clacking sound.

Bugman attempted to catch a couple of grasshoppers that seemed to be harassing us on the trail, repeatedly flying around our heads with a loud clacking sound.

This bright-red ladybeetle really contrasted with its perch in the foliage.

This bright-red ladybeetle really contrasted with its silvery perch in the foliage.

It was nearly noon, and we were hungry, so Bugman and I hitched a ride back to camp with another Lander Chamber of Commerce volunteer, skipping The Sinks and The Rise – a curious geological phenomenon in which the Popo Agie River disappears into an underground cavern with a roar and meekly burbles to the surface in a pool a quarter-mile downstream. We’ll go back someday to see it.

Next up – downtown Lander, and ice cream!

We stopped in at Ken & Betty's, an ice cream shop run as an add-on to a screen printing business. The ice cream was good, and the interior decor was cool, but don't expect the cute little old couple on the business sign to be behind the counter. The place was named after the owner's parents, and the scooper might just be an ennui-inflicted young man. There's another ice cream place down the street - the Scream Shack - but it appeared to be closed when we were there.

We stopped in at Ken & Betty’s, an ice cream shop run as an add-on to a screen printing business. The ice cream was good, and the interior decor was neat, but don’t expect the cute little old couple on the business sign to be behind the counter. The place was named after the owner’s parents, and the scooper might just be an ennui-affected young man. There’s another ice cream place down the street – the Scream Shack – but it appeared to be closed when we were there.

Lovely mural on a concrete block wall abutting a parking lot. Reminds me of a cattle drive mural in my town of Scottsbluff.

Lovely mural on a concrete block wall abutting a parking lot.

Continuing on the bison art theme - a heavy metal bison.

Heavy metal bison!

We didn't eat here because we had already spent plenty of money downtown and there was a fajita meal awaiting us back in camp, but I liked the logo enough to buy a hat for my sister. I want one for myself, too.

We didn’t eat here because we had already spent plenty of money downtown (we cycling shoppers were a boon for downtown business) and there was a fajita meal awaiting us back in camp, but I liked the logo enough to buy a hat for my sister. I want one for myself, too.

We added a piece of art to our collection at Global Arts - a painting of aspen trees on corrugated metal by Cristin Zimmer. Loved her work! Loved the inappropriately named Global Arts shop, too (they sell local art, not imported stuff).

Our shopping spree included a new piece of art for our collection – a painting of aspen trees on corrugated metal by Cristin Zimmer. Loved her work! Loved the inappropriately named Global Arts shop, too (they have a nice selection of local art, not imported stuff).

 

When we rode into town the day before, I did not notice the bike perched high atop the former-feed-mill-turned-bike-shop. It took a photo on a greeting card to bring it to my attention.

When we rode into town the day before, I did not notice the bike perched high atop the former-feed-mill-turned-bike-shop. It took a photo on a greeting card to bring it to my attention.

Back in camp, a quick pic of the bike corral on the tennis court. I heard more than one person comment on the total value of all of those bikes.

Back in camp, a quick pic of the bike corral on the tennis court. I heard more than one person comment on the total value of all of those bikes. Here’s another photo of the bike corral.

The Lander police had appropriate rides for patrolling our camp. Check out the fat tires!

The Lander police had appropriate rides for patrolling our camp. Check out the fat tires!

I took advantage of the downtime to write some letters. I LOVED these notecards I bought at Fitzgerald's Cycles in Victor, ID.

I took advantage of the downtime to write some letters. I LOVED these Mimi Matsuda notecards I bought at Fitzgerald’s Cycles in Victor, ID.

Had a little local beer and pizza, too. A pre-dinner snack.

Had a little local beer and pizza, too. A pre-dinner snack.

I can't say enough about our lovely campsite in Lander City Park.

I can’t say enough about our lovely campsite in Lander City Park. I slept really well there.

Our evening entertainment was a local reggae band. They were pretty good, but by the time 9 p.m. rolled around, I was ready to take a hatchet to the speaker cords. There's only so much reggae I can take at full volume when I am unable to escape, and when I am trying to get to sleep before another big day of riding.

Our evening entertainment was a local reggae band. They were pretty good, but by the time 9 p.m. rolled around, I was ready to take a hatchet to the speaker cords. There’s only so much amplified reggae I can take when I am trying to get to sleep before another big day of riding.

Ride summary

Distance and elevation gain N/A

Min temp: 54, Max temp: 79, Winds 8-25, gusting to 32 mph, Precipitation: 0.02 inches  [data from Lander]

Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw

Rainy Sunday ride

With our weeklong August bike ride approaching ever-nearer, Bugman and I need to get some time in the saddle.

So, last Sunday, we decided to head out on the road, despite the fact that it was drizzling. (And despite the fact that I was developing a cold. Interestingly, my running-faucet nose completely shut off when we were out on the road. I never needed the hankie I stuffed in Bugman’s back pocket. Was it the fresh air??)

As we walked the bike into the street in front of the house, a man driving the opposite direction (I think he said he was from Melbeta? Or was it Minatare??) stopped his car next to us to chat about the bike.

“What’s it made out of?”

“Uh ….”

I guess when you have a geeky-cool bike, it’s expected that you are a bike geek and know all the specs. (For the record, it is “Reynolds 631 air-hardened steel zonally-butted tubing.”)

“How far are you guys going?”

“Oh, maybe 50 miles.”

“Fifty? Five-O?”

He looked a bit dubious.

After the driver pulled away, we were passed by a cyclist in a tie and purple shirt.

“Heading out?” he called.

“Yep.”

I wonder if he was dubious, too.

I had looked up the radar before suggesting our route that morning. Based on the way the clouds were developing, I figured we might get a little wet on occasion but could probably avoid the worst of the weather by heading west. I figured if we went west on Highway 92 and north at Lyman to Henry, we could take Highway 26 back and go through more towns on the way home, where there would be shelter if we needed it.

We headed out and got a few blocks away before I realized I forgot my cycling gloves. After nearly forgetting my helmet. *sigh*

Just as we pulled into the driveway again, there was a crack of thunder.

Crap.

Do we really want to go out?

But I got all my bike stuff on, and I really want to ride!

I looked at the radar again. It looked like it would be OK if we headed west.

So we did.

And we got wet.

It was pretty miserable for a few westbound miles there. My shell jacket was nearly soaked through, and it was darned windy (~30mph). I didn’t mind it so much, but Bugman seems to have a lower tolerance for recreational discomfort than I do, and I felt guilty for dragging him out into the elements. (C’mon, hon – we are HARDCORE!)

A look back at the dark clouds above Scotts Bluff.

A look back at the dark clouds above Scotts Bluff.

Before we hit the hill up to the Mitchell turnoff, I was reconsidering.

We paused to consume some sport beans and consult the maps and radar again.

“What if we cut it short and turn north to Morrill?” I suggested.

Bugman was game for my crazy scheme. (That’s what I love about him – he usually is.)

We continued on through wind and occasional rain. It was lovely to see the countryside so green, with hints of blue flax along the road. We were serenaded by meadowlark after meadowlark.

We were also spotted by several friends along our route – got a few honks and hollers and a Facebook comment: “Just passed you and Jeff on that tandem for the second time today! Saw you on 92 at about 10 am too! In the rain!”

And now, for the photo ‘splanation:

Green! With horses.

Green! With horses.

Yay! After 15 miles, the turnoff to Morrill and a chance to have the wind whip as us from our left instead of our right.

Yay! After 15 miles, the turnoff to Morrill and a chance to have the wind whip at us from our left instead of our right.

We were chirped at along what seemed to be a miles-long prairie dog town. Those little critters sure do make a mess of a nice, green pasture.

We were chirped at along what seemed to be a miles-long prairie dog town. Those little critters sure do make a lumpy mess of a nice, green pasture.

Joseph and the amazing technicolor ... roof? I am noting this place because from underneath a trailer closer to the road, two dogs ran out into the road after us. Next time we ride this way, I'll know to be prepared.

Joseph and the amazing technicolor … roof? I am noting this place because from underneath a trailer closer to the road, two dogs ran out into the road after us. Next time we ride this way, I’ll know to be prepared.

Had a lovely surprise, forgetting about the Kiowa Wildlife Management Area. Since it wasn't raining, we decided to pull off for a peanut butter sandwich picnic.

At mile 19, had a lovely surprise, forgetting that the Kiowa Wildlife Management Area was on our route. Since it wasn’t raining, we decided to pull off for a peanut butter sandwich picnic.

The Ostenberg Overlook is a lovely spot.

The Ostenberg Overlook is a lovely spot.

Alas, some doofuses had left their shotgun shell litter behind. We cleaned up this, plus a whole other sandwich bag full of litter, and packed it out.

Alas, some doofuses had left their shotgun shell litter behind. We packed out a whole sandwich bag full.

Ready to head back out!

Ready to head back out!

As we slow down with a coal train ahead, I warily eye the thin band of mammatus clouds above us.

As we slow down with a coal train ahead, I warily eye the thin band of mammatus clouds above us.

The park in Morrill where I had planned to stop for lunch if it was raining. It seems so inviting with the "visitors welcome" sign.

The park in Morrill where I had planned to stop for lunch if it was raining. It seems so inviting with the picnic shelter and the “visitors welcome” sign. This is also where we turned east and got the wind to our backs!

In Mitchell. "Ice cream? We have six dollars in quarters." "OK."

In Mitchell. “Ice cream? We have six dollars in quarters.” “OK.”

It was a good ride. 38.64 miles, no sore bum. (Thank you, new cycle shorts, talc, and lots of standing.)

PS – the shoulder on Highway 26 eastbound out of Mitchell stinks. BBBBUUUUMMMMPPPYYYYY!

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw