Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 6: Three Forks to Yellowstone

Day 6: Three Forks, MT to Yellowstone.

June 14th. It was a short ride today to Yellowstone from Three Forks. As I predicted we got a fairly late start – but all our clothes were clean!

As an aside, I like small towns. We showed up at the Laundromat and were greeted by the sign “Laundry closed – water main leak.” When we talked to the owner of the laundry, she asked us how much we had to do, called the town water service and asked for Steve. Steve agreed to wait for half an hour until we were done before he started the repair. Not something that would happen in DC.

While I was doing laundry, Sean was attempting to find a set of Metric allen wrenches to adjust the chain on the Triumph. Unfortunately, the only wrenches the auto parts store had were SAE. However, they did have a grinder in the back and a set of calipers. So Sean made his own set of allen wrenches - he was smiling all morning. And he got to do his fix the motorcycle thing, in all the years I’ve known Sean, he is never happier than when he is fixing something.

Once we go on the road it was a 143 mile trip down route 287 following the Madison River valley and through mountain passes to West Yellowstone and the entrance to the Park. As a note, most folks in Montana consider the 70mph speed limit to be a polite suggestion rather than any kind of hard limit.

We’re on bikes that really like to go fast (note the title of the blog), and we were getting blown past by grandma pulling the trailer. We stopped at Raynold’s pass to snap a picture before heading into West Yellowstone.

Sean: I had the opportunity to challenge my intuition as I thought about stopping for gas at the one station we passed as we climbed out of Reynolds’ pass, I found that the bike started to sputter shortly after the reserve light came on at 143 miles and I switched to reserve, by mile 164 I was getting concerned and glad that we had the siphon with us. Luck held out and we pulled into West Yellowstone a mile later and I since then if my gut says we need fuel, we stop for fuel.

Liz again: West Yellowstone is at around 7000 feet and the combination of a long run from Three Forks and the Triumph running just a bit rich due to the altitude led Sean into basically coasting the last few miles into town. We needed a little excitement.

Fortunately he was able to make it and we got to the park right after lunch. We stopped to eat and walk around a little bit. I tried to talk Sean into buying a Buffalo hide for his wife, but he wasn’t convinced it was something we could carry on the bike. I do have the card of the guy from the shop though, in case he ever changes his mind.

We wanted to get into the park early, since we were actually going to camp out and figured we needed the time to set up.

Entering Yellowstone was interesting from the first. We needed to get to Canyon campground, 26 miles inside the park. That’s right 26 miles into the park. The scale of Yellowstone is amazing.

As we entered the park, a bunch of people were taking photos of the bald eagles nesting. We were more interested in the bison that were everywhere. They’re big. Really big.

As we drove toward Canyon we passed lots of road construction (Yellowstone is really high and major road repairs happen all the time). As we turned a corner into some traffic I saw lots of steam on the side of the road which I assumed was from a construction vehicle, until I realized it was a thermal spring. Oh yeah, it’s a caldera, a really big one...duh. Lots of beautiful mountain meadows, streams, and wildlife. One female elk was five feet from the side of the road, just hanging out and paying no attention to anyone.

The campground was really nice and we got the tent set up and fire going quickly(we were in E-loop). It was late and the temperature was dropping pretty fast.

Ultimately it got down to 35 degrees that night, but we were pretty warm between the fire and good gear. It was very dark and the stars late were clearer and brighter than any you see nearer to “civilization.” As you can see in the picture of the campground map there was nothing resembling civilization east of our campsite for at least 50 miles. It was comforting to have the bear patrol come through shortly after nightfall (most likely just to make you feel secure…).

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