Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 7: Yellowstone to Grand Teton to Caspar, WY

June 15th.

We survived the night and got the fire re-started early the next morning. Made coffee using the stove, Sean gathered kindling from the nearby woods and after “checking” the depth of the gas in the tank of the Triumph with a clean stick combined with a lighter we soon had a fast burning fire to warm up in front of. Yellowstone park has the campground shower setup done in true high volume fashion – $4.75 gets you entry to the showers and a clean towel and facecloth to boot;you get as much hot water as you can use and lots of room to complete the task. The shower completed and feeling significantly more human we got ready to move on through Yellowstone south to Grand Teton park and through Wyoming.

I noted before that Yellowstone is huge. It’s got a different feel than Glacier, it’s drier and the areas we saw were more open. The landscape includes not only the classic high mountain meadows/forest/lakes but all the hot springs and geysers. It’s also got a lot of wildlife and the wildlife is not shy.

Fortunately for most people, if the wildlife gets a little too close they can roll up the windows in the car. At least for the ones on the road – backcountry hikers I hope you have the bear spray handy. Anyway, we spent the morning taking pictures of the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone” then took the park road (all 40 miles of it) to the south entrance that leads to Grand Teton National Park and ultimately for us the rest of Wyoming.

As we started toward the South entrance we passed a number of signs saying “Do Not Approach Bison! Bison have gored visitors to Death! “ This is a good, though I think somewhat obvious warning. It became a more interesting warning as we came up to a narrowing of the road with the lake on one side and a cliff face on the other - maybe 10 feet of room to either side of the road, and 2 bison just walking down the road next to each other in the right hand lane. Lots of cars were passing them, and as we came up directly behind them it was obvious just how big a fully grown bison is. And we weren’t in a car. And I don’t know how a motorcycle looks to a bison. And are they going to let us go by without swinging that head at us? It was a little scary, and kudo’s to Sean who kept taking pictures through the whole encounter, at what we hoped was a relatively safe distance.

We ran into a coyote a little later, she was obviously bored by all the tourists. As she trotted

by Sean she looked over with what could best be described as disdain on her face.

We stopped at the West Geyser Basin at the west side of Yellowstone lake. It was cool and as you walked around the air was at least 15 degrees warmer thanks to the multiple hot springs and steam.

The road out of Yellowstone from the South Entrance leads directly to Grand Teton National park. We got stuck in a traffic jam as we entered Grand Teton, but made friends with a Budweiser truck driver and UPS driver while we waited. Unfortunately we couldn’t talk the Budweiser driver into breaking out any of his wares.

We started climbing up through 9500 feet as we came over Huckleberry Mountain and ran into some rain. It got really cold, really fast over the pass as we went through the rain. Coming down the mountains around Jackson Lake gave us some great views of the Tetons. They are probably the most foreboding of all the mountain ranges we've seen so far. All sharp edges and unforgiving angles (with snow!).

Sean: I had stuffed the camera into the front of my jacket in the shot above - so I am not, in fact, quite so round.

The rain cleared up as we headed over Tagwater pass at almost 9700 feet. The Triumph was not happy, running really rich, at this altitude though it did keep running. When we passed through the snowfields over the pass the temperature was down to 43 degrees.

We headed East toward Riverton, WY and ultimately to Caspar, WY (where we spent the night) coming out of Riverton the road turned straight. Like a ruler straight. Through miles and miles of nothing but sagebrush and antelope. Lots of little towns "Welcome to Hiland! Population 10. Altitude 5400 feet." There was a stretch of road about 40 miles before Casper that is as forlorn a place as one can imagine. No tree dots the landscape, no reference point is visible sans the road. If a layer of snow coated the area and you had no compass you would be impossibly lost. The sight of Casper's airport in the distance was a welcome return to civilization. It got pretty late coming into Caspar and we had done almost 350 miles when we stopped for the night. Long day. Tomorrow we should get to Nebraska.

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