Saturday, July 30, 2016

Riding the Tetons-Yellowstone Route: A Photo Journal

As mentioned in my previous post, Getting to the Start of the Reconnaissance Ride, I did a solo, self-contained "reconnaissance ride" around the Tetons-Yellowstone loop. Immediately following my Reconnaissance Ride, I co-lead two separate week-long tours around the same route for Adventure Cycling. All in all, the trip included about 800 miles of pedaling. This is a photo journal of my trips.

I picked up Adventure Cycling's Tetons-Yellowstone loop in the town of West Yellowstone, at the far north end of the route. A few miles outside of West Yellowstone, I crossed the Continental Divide and entered Idaho.

As I enjoyed the descent down from the divide, I noticed a roadkill on the side of the road. If you've read a few of my touring posts, you'll know that I'm obsessed with roadkill. This was the first time I had ever spotted a dead fox on the side of the road.

I stayed with a Warm Showers host in Idaho. Although the host wasn't available to meet me in person, he generously let me stay at his "Man Cave." Honestly, I was a little apprehensive about staying alone at a stranger's self-proclaimed Man Cave. But my gut told me everything would be just fine. It turns out the Man Cave was a truly interesting Warm Showers experience. The Man Cave was decked out with everything a man could ever desire -- Skidoos, fishing equipment, tools, and even dead animal trophies!

In the back right corner of the Man Cave was a cozy living room. This is where I slept.

In the back left corner was a kitchen, stocked surprisingly well. Obviously, the owner of the Man Cave knew his way around a kitchen.

The Man Cave included a washing machine, which I did not use. But I couldn't resist drying my towel with this ingenious dryer -- a fan mounted atop a hole-ridden structure of PVC pipes.

The next day, the route turned onto Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, a gorgeous, nearly traffic-free side road. Along the byway, I stopped at the Upper Mesa Falls. Located on Henry's Fork, the waterfall is a massive 114 feet tall and 200 feet wide.

I stopped for awhile to watch the birds along the Warm River...

...and to watch the fly-fishing people, too. The rivers along the route offer some of the best fly-fishing in the country.

Shortly before reaching Ashton, the forested byway gave way to endless fields of treeless green.

I met "Fatbike Rider Josh" in Ashton. Josh was riding his Fat Bike south along The Great Divide. We laughed about how our bicycles were the yin and the yang -- my dainty folding bike and his beefy fat bike. We took a photo for prosperity's sake.

This old Pillsbury Mill stands proudly along a road passing through the Potato Seed Capitol of the World.

What's that? Say it ain't so! On the road between Driggs and Victor is a good ole' drive-in movie theatre. Seeing this brought back fond memories of watching "E.T" and "Back to the Future" at a drive-in theatre when I was a kid.

In Victor, I met up with Phyllis and Terry, who happened to be in the area on their summer vacation. Phyllis and Terry are El Mecanico's parents. This was a first for me -- meeting a significant other's parents for the first time in the absence of the significant other. Alas, we had a great time talking over a long dinner.

The next morning I crossed into Wyoming. You may recognize my friend, Flat Stanley. He's the star of a children's book series. Flat is traveling with me this summer on behalf of my six year-old nephew, Jackson, who lives in Virginia.

Here's Flat Stanley again, posing at the top of Teton Pass (8,431 feet). Jackson Hole is off in the distance. Though I'm generally a strong hill climber, this climb was a challenge. Having only six gears, Bromleigh (my folding Brompton bike) was not designed to be a climbing machine, particularly while carrying a load. Nonetheless, she proved to be a workhorse; she managed to get me and Flat Stanley to the top of the pass, even though the final 2.7 miles were a whooping 10% grade!

Here's Flat Stanley, once again, standing in front of the famous anteler arch in Jackson's Town Square.

Posted on a trail sign in Jackson was this ad for Pet Sitting. I'll have to keep this competition in mind when I housesit, as these are competitive rates!

Flat Stanley poses in front of his namesake creek. (Have you had enough of Flat Stanley yet? This is the final photo -- I promise.)

Leading from Jackson to Grand Teton National Park is a 20-mile long paved pedestrian path. Riding along the path was pure heaven.

As I passed by the Grand Tetons in the early hours of the morning, I was fortunate to see colorful hot air balloons hovering above the peaks.

Though Jenny Lake attracts all the attention at the Grand Teton National Park, I believe that String Lake, just to the north, is even more magnificent. I spent quite a while enjoying the quiet serenity of String Lake.

Just a few more miles of pedaling found me at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park...

...where I crossed the Continental Divide once again. The Adventure Cycling tour shuttles participants along this 20-mile stretch of shoulder-less road. I rode the stretch early enough in the morning that traffic wasn't a concern.

I saw my first geysers at West Thumb Basin. Seeing the contrast of the geysers in the foreground and Yellowstone Lake in the background was beautiful.

Here's another gorgeous view of Yellowstone Lake, looking off in one direction... a storm approaches in another direction.

I anticipated having to maneuver my bike through herds of smoke-breathing buffalo as I traveled through Yellowstone. Though that didn't happen, I did get a few spectacular up-close views of bison. Here is a big ole' buffalo resting just a few feet away from a volcano mud pot.

Silly me -- I thought Yellowstone was full of just geysers and bison. I had no idea there was a Natural Bridge at Yellowstone!

And I had no idea that Yellowstone had it's own Grand Canyon!

Viewing the canyon from Artist's Point was simply grand. Here is the view of the canyon in the opposite direction of the waterfall. My, oh my -- this place is BEAUTIFUL!

At the Canyon Village Campground, I was mesmerized by this puddle of water in the middle of the road. As the wind blew, the shapes in the puddle changed. Watching the shapes in the puddle was like watching shapes in the clouds. What shapes do you see?

I got to Norris Basin, just west of Canyon VIllage, very early the morning. So early, in fact, that I nearly had the place to myself for the two hours that I roamed the boardwalks and the 1.6 mile-long hike along Back Basin. I loved learning about all of the geysers -- the one that was plugged-up by visitors in the park's early days, the one that threw rocks at nearby visitors on my little brother's tenth birthday, and the geyser whose very sporadic spray is more massive than Old Faithful's.

The crispness of the morning air added to the mystique of the geysers and fumaroles at Norris Basin.

The smoke rising from the geysers looked as though there were a ton of tiny fires that were burning amongst the trees.

Here's my shadow, captured in a patch of grass that was unusually tucked in-between two geysers.

Here's me at another impressive waterfall along the route.

And then there was Old Faithful, who faithfully erupts every 90 minutes or so. I think it's funny that the park advertises the geyser's eruption times (+/- 10 minutes). It's not a whole lot different than a TV Guide advertising the day's television shows.

Having seen a whole bunch of geysers by this time, seeing Old Faithful was ho-humph. What was more interesting was watching the crowds of people gathered around to watch Old Faithful blow. As hundreds of bucket lists were satisfisfied with her short blow, I wondered how many of these folks bothered to walk more than a 100 feet away from the parking lots to see the park's other equally impressive geysers.

As I pedaled further along the route, I was un-climactically welcomed back into Montana.

As I exited Yellowstone National Park, I reentered the town of West Yellowstone. I returned to the same campground I stayed at the week before. Just moments after setting up my tent, the skies dumped buckets of pea-sized hail onto the campers below. This was a most magical ending to my Reconnaissance Ride.

Though my Reconnaissance Ride ended in West Yellowstone, I still needed to bike back to Bozeman. I decided to return to Bozeman via a different route -- a longer one to the west. Little did I know that the route would take me past Earthquake Lake Visitor Center. For me, this Visitor's Center brought life to geology. I have little appreciation for geological events that happened thousands or millions of years ago; this timeframe is difficult for me to comprehend. But in 1959, practically in my lifetime, an earthquake caused a humungous landslide that plugged a river, in turn creating Earthquake Lake. This awesome VIsitors Centers paid homage to the geological reshaping and to those who died.

Back in Bozeman, I had a chance to explore the Bozeman Public Library. Call me a "Library Snob," but I judge the quality of towns by their libraries. The town of Bozeman is top-rate... is the town of Jackson, based on its awesome library.

Having returned to Bozeman, I was now ready to co-lead two separate tours along the Tetons-Yellowstone route. From Bozeman, I boarded a bus to Missoula. In Missoula, I picked up a van and trailer at Adventure Cycling's headquarters. I then drove the van and trailer back to Jackson so that we could use the vehicles for the two van-supported trips.

Here are the folks from my first tour (from left to right): Steve, Patti, Thomas, Ellie, Emilia (my awesome co-lead), me, David, John, Russ, Bill, Phil, Rebecca, and Rich. Despite two days of freezing rain (and even snow!), the folks on this trip were troopers.

And here are the folks from my second tour (from left to right): [1st row] Jack, Stacy, [2nd row] Heather, Emilia, Bob, [3rd row] Stefan D., Lori, Katherine, Susan, Leslie, [4th row] me, Ron, Stefan F., Amy. Luckily, these folks had perfect weather on their trip.
I've now traveled Adventure Cycling's Tetons-Yellowstone route three times. I feel like I know Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks like the back of my hand. It's time for the next adventure!


  1. Just wow..... I have not been to Yellowstone since junior high.... I need to get there, to ride, to see everything. What and amazing adventure....

    Ps. Flat Stanley rocks! We need to see more of him!

    1. I'm venturing to bet that the park hasn't changed that much since you've been there. As for your memories of the park, well, I can't vouch for those. ;)

    2. Two memories. Snow above the car, and bubbling mud pots! My family back then was one of the ones who didn't walk that far from the car.

    3. I saw the bubbling mud pots and the families tied to their cars. Alas, there was no snow above the cars. 😉


I would love to hear your comments on this post!