Days 61 – 63 The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park

Driggs, ID – Grand Teton, WY – Yellowstone National Park

235 miles

I left Driggs this morning with a definite spring in my step. I knew I would be entering Yellowstone National Park today, one of the few major goals I had set for my big trip. I had always seen epic depictions of Yellowstone in magazines and TV shows. It seemed there was always something so primal and wild about it, as evidenced by the numerous bear attacks that have occurred this season.

20111005-122009.jpg

The road out of Driggs was long wind up one of the outer Teton Mountains. The road switched back and forth, and signs continuously warned trucks and heavy haulers of the steep grade and emergency run-offs. I crossed the Wyoming border just as I crested over the summit pass, giving me an unparalleled view into the Jackson Hole Valley. Wow. This is why people love Wyoming.

I entered Grand Teton National Park from the south and rode the entire length of the park to enter Yellowstone from the south. What makes the Grand Tetons so spectacular is their abrupt explosion from the floor of the golden valley to tower unadorned over the landscape.

20111005-122040.jpg

Their steepness allows the road to run intimately close to the base of the mountain range. This makes these majestic peaks appear to be merely a short walk away. You can see the peaks. You can see the trails. You can see the glaciers contained within the upper bowls of the mountains. You can’t help but feel connected and dwarfed by them. I’ve really never seen anything like it.

20111005-122028.jpg

And here’s the best part: This weekend was free admission to all National Parks!

That being said, I was a bit worried trying to find a campground in Yellowstone on a weekend, especially a free weekend. I decided to make camp a bit on the early side around 4:15pm at Lewis Lake, one of the first campgrounds on the South Drive, thus assuring me a spot.

20111005-122122.jpg

By setting up early, I had enough time to run up to Grant Village about 15 miles north and purchase some firewood for my campsite to enjoy with a little bit of scotch and Davidoff cigars that I’ve been saving.

20111005-122056.jpg

Next morning, I received the pleasant surprise of finding my motorcycle covered in frost and snow. It had dropped below 30 degrees over the course of the night as was evidenced by the soreness in all my joints.

20111005-122244.jpg

Getting moving is always tough when it’s that cold out, but I managed to be on the road by 8:30am ready to explore Yellowstone.

20111005-122105.jpg

20111005-122114.jpg

20111005-122505.jpg

I started out riding clockwise on the Grand Loop and made my first stop at Old Faithful. I must admit to feeling like a lemming along with the hundreds of other tourists that had gathered around to watch the geyser blow. After she blew, I continued on my journey stopping at the various hot springs and dodging the occasional bison in the road (it happened, but I couldn’t get my camera out in time!). But as the miles wore on, I was a little surprised to find that topography within Yellowstone was not as exciting as the Grand Tetons.

20111005-122308.jpg

Yellowstone is all about the geology and the animals. The landscape, while scenic, doesn’t hold a candle to the grandeur of the Grand Tetons.  The thermal activity and animals are the stars of the show here.

20111005-122427.jpg

20111005-122434.jpg

Now in fairness, I only stayed on the roads. I brought no hiking gear, and I’m told the real Yellowstone is all about backcountry camping.

I settled on camping at the Tower Falls site in the Northeast corner of Yellowstone. When I stopped at the Mammoth convenience store in the park, the owner explained that the store near Tower Falls was closed and this would be my last chance to purchase firewood for the evening. The problem is that I had no room on my bike to strap firewood, at least not until after I camped and unloaded.

Or did I? I’m so glad I followed my own advice and purchased some extra straps in case one broke. After 20 minutes of digging, I found the aforementioned straps and proceeded to load down my bike like a Vietnamese fruit vendor.

20111005-122445.jpg

But despite my questionable strapping skills, both I and the firewood safely made it our campsite and enjoyed our last night in Yellowstone together.

It may seem like I’m making too big a deal about this firewood. But after being informed that it might be dropping into the teens tonight, you might understand my earnestness.

20111005-122455.jpg

Tomorrow, I’m going to try to make it all the way to Sturgis, SD and not get beat up.

WHAT I LEARNED / DISCOVERED TODAY:

Our National Parks are such a treasure. The more time I spend in them, the more I want to contribute to their longevity. They each exist for a specific reason because someone long ago saw something unbelievably special within them and wanted to share that wonder with generations to come. If you get a chance, you really should check one out, even if it’s just a drive through. Also, when you’re at REI and the salesperson tells you that your sleeping bag is rated to 32 degrees, that’s not good enough. It gets colder than that. Really.

20111005-122414.jpg

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: