Location: Yellowstone (Madison Campground)
I woke this morning at a time that I thought to be early, but it stays darker in the valley longer in the mornings. In the shadows of the mountains, I thought it was six in the morning, but it turned out to be more like eight when I finally checked the time.
Brian and I pedaled quickly in the cold morning to get to the restaurant. I donned clothes I seldom wear, layering three jackets thick. Neither of us had any food to eat for breakfast, so we decided to treat ourselves to a hot breakfast at the Madison River Café, a small diner on the river at a lodge and RV park. I ate French toast, eggs, and bacon, a meal I’d been salivating over for some time. Brian had biscuits smothered in gravy, which turned my stomach. The meal was overpriced, but it was hot and satisfyingly filling.
We left for West Yellowstone around nine thirty. The air was still crisp and cold, and the sun still worked to get above the mountain peaks. I could see the light on the other side of the valley, and it crept down towards the shallow river at the base of the mountain. I started biking in several layers of clothes, but I soon shed them. I was sweating too much, making me colder with the clothes than without them. Soon I was in only my jersey and shorts. The temperatures swing wildly here, even without a change in elevation.
The twenty five miles to West Yellowstone, Montana were a breeze. It was slightly rolling, and the ride around Hebgen Lake was scenic and splendid. There was heavy traffic, but we were separated from it by a line of rumble strips that protected us on the shoulder. It’s great to be removed from traffic by rumble strips. They provide a bit of security for me.
We reached West Yellowstone around noon and immediately found the internet café there. The library was closed today, so we felt fortunate to have had the opportunity to update the website and submit our weekly travel log to the Topsail Voice. The internet café, which was also a pizza parlor, coffee shop, and hub for a transportation service, charged twenty cents a minute, so an hour was twelve dollars. I thought the price to be a little high, but we were able to accomplish what we needed without the hassles of waiting in line, time limits, or chewed up bandwidth from kids on games and YouTube.
After a visit to the supermarket and a leisurely lunch at a picnic table in the park, we decided to move into Yellowstone. The fee to enter was twelve dollars per bicycle. The entrance of the park looked more like a line of toll booths on the highway. There were five stalls in all, four allowing traffic in and one letting cars out. The cars coming out were jammed up, probably because it’s Sunday. Perhaps, we will get to ride through the park on two slow weekdays, but there are still plenty of cars and RVs on the road.
After only fourteen miles riding in the park, we have already seen a lot of wildlife. We’ve seen moose, elk, and a buffalo. When we saw the moose and the elk, cars had come to a stop on the road. Many had pulled onto the shoulder. The sound of camera shutters flapping was the dominant noise I heard. We took a few pictures of the elk, but we had seen moose in Montana and captured some great shots of them in the wild.
The buffalo, though, is a different story. As we rode down the road along the river, we saw a buffalo walking along the riverbank. He walked towards us, slow and heavy. His black fur was shaggy and he looked like he had sideburns and a beard. Small pale horns protruded the fur on his head, and the beast looked quite intimidating. Brian, ahead, said that we shouldn’t stop since it was so close. I snapped a picture as I coasted by the animal, getting a lasting image of my first buffalo. We rode on for the campsite, just a couple miles south. We paid another fee to stay in the hiker/biker site. The campground here is massive, with several hundred campsites for tents and big-rig RVs. It’s fortunate that the park offers discounted rates to cyclists and backpackers on foot.
Our camp is just behind the welcome center at the campground. It’s dirty and hard, but it’s all we need. I’ve decided not to set up my tent, choosing instead to sleep in the open. I did it on the AT every night, but I haven’t yet on this trip. I’m nervous about it, but that’s just paranoia.
At nine o’clock, Brian and I are going to the amphitheatre to listen to a presentation on grizzly bears. That talk may make me put up my tent. I’d hate to be woken in the night by the cold, wet nose of a grizzly.