Geysers, volcanos and Yogi Bear are the ingredients for Yellowstone. With this in mind 12 of us headed for Jackson Hole Wyoming during September 2013.
Starting from Jackson the cloud was low, hiding the distant Tetons, so we were quite leisurely in munching breakfast and spent more time having our picture taken under the antler arches in the main square. Heading north we tasted the new cycleway which ran alongside the busy road north what a joy this would be; smooth Tarmac and expansive views of the Tetons to our left. We stopped at the National Wildlife Gallery. Featuring sculptures and artwork from around the world, most agreed that the Bison painting was the show stopper. Weather clearing the Tetons loomed large now as we headed on, with jagged teeth like sharks the view across Jenny's Lake was glorious. We'd dawdled along and the sun was starting to get low as we arrived at the cabins at Colter Bay. Centre Parks sprang to mind as we tucked ourselves into rooms built for Goldilocks and drew the curtains in case Mr Griz came calling.
Into Yellowstone Park, a long climb and a deep canyon RHS. To me the regrowth of trees after the 1988 fire was remarkable when many thought the park was finished. Descending to Grant Village, we snacked at the store. It was quite late now, but West Thumb Geyser Basin beckoned. Bright blue pools next to Yellowstone Lake, glorious. The final part was up and over the Continental Divide, not once but twice and then a fast descent to Old Faithful where the Inn and Geyser awaited. As the oldest building in the park, the Yellowstone Inn is a destination in itself and the twisted wood and huge old clock are as popular as ever.
Only 43 miles, but where to start as so much to see. Starting with the Old Faithful basin there are a variety of Geysers that include Castle Geyser that goes twice a day. Onto Middle Geyser Basin and other basins, loads of pools and the ever hopeful feeling that maybe you’ll time the visit just right to see another geyser blow. The road from Madison to Norris follows the Gibbon River; lots of people fly fishing followed by Gibbon falls and a visit to Norris Geyser Basin with its porcelain springs. Finishing at Canyon we settled into cabins for the night with an Elk spotting within the grounds.
The rest day was spent in low cloud admiring the Canyon of the Yellowstone. Waterfalls and ranger talks entertained us
Off to Shoshone and out of the east entrance, but before that loads of wildlife. Initially passing through the Haydon Valley, home of the Bison herd and there they were, swimming the river and crossing the road. Onto the hot springs, fairly mundane as we walked the top. ‘Bear’ cried Valerie, would my 270 day famine through prime bear country be banished? Sure enough ambling to the forest was a little Black Bear. Bear stories swapped at Fishing Bridge and onwards round the Lake to the temporary traffic lights. Coming to stop, I glanced left; no….it can’t be….. A Grizzly Bear? I looked at him, he looked at us, I reached for the camera, the Grizzly stared back…..Bang went the ranger’s blank gun and Mr Griz scuttled up the bank and away. Ranger Smith was quite apologetic, by heh my bear drought well and truly gone. Over the Sylvan Pass that tops at 8530 feet. and a very fast descent with expansive views. Through the eastern entrance, to arrive at Shoshone Lodge.
Shoshone was a lovely stop and the next day, we headed down a wide river valley with fabulous rock formations all around. some of these are almost having on top of the mountains. At the Buffalo Bill nature reserve the reservoir visitor centre provided a respite from the rain before the final ride to Buffalo Bills hotel named after his daughter Irma.
The second rest day was spent at the Buffalo Bill Centre. A beautifully presented history of the showman with other galleries concentrating on wildlife, Indians and guns.
Up and over the Chief Joseph Pass as the plan. First there was a 10 mile climb and descent out of Cody in the early light, lovely views. The climb over the Chief Joseph is fairly relentless, but the views are great. Red Sandstone, switchbacks and views across to the Beartooth Mountain range. At the top were 3 interpretative signs about the Nez Pearce with far reaching views northwards. Descending 7 miles of switchbacks reaches the river and the start of a climb that will eventually be almost as high as Chief Joseph itself. Crandall provides a snack before the last 20 miles highlighted by a terrific view of Beartooth Mountain. The fast descent into Cooke City in the half light was memorable for the adult bison ambling up the road towards us.
Leaving Cooke City we descended to a lovely breakfast at Silvergate and shortly afterwards the park entrance. The road descends through trees for about 10 miles before opening out to meadowland and wider views with Bison grazing, to follows the river. Carrying on and a car ‘animal jam’ highlighted Pronghorn and an osprey in a tree. Onto Mammoth Hot Springs which was seen in the drizzle before a 5 mile descent to Gardiner.
Downhill most of the day to Livingston, as we went along route 540 via Chico Hot Springs. A squall brought a surprise, snow on the mountain tops, very pretty. The motel was fabulous, big beds and an obsession with bears on postcards.
The window cleaner at Livingston entertained at breakfast and we headed out to the east along the picturesque Yellowstone River. North parallel to a disused railway to Clyde Park and a café serving milkshakes. The route to Bozeman meant a compacted dirt road heading along Brackett Creek. Small homesteads and occasional farms under the mountains. I smiled at the library in a box by the road, when I found a copy of Cabin Fever. Tarmac back again and a descent to Bozeman where we stayed at the Lehrkind Mansion for 2 days.
Ennis beckoned and one of our favourite spot during a world tour in 1996. Through Middle Creek and the road climbs and then descends with extensive views. Along the Madison River which is very pretty with its fisherman in boats along much of its length. Descending to Norris, we stopped at the hot springs and a bite to eat. The final push over Bozeman Hill took us to Ennis.
We left early to avoid the headwinds along the wide valley with mountains either side and a good thing too as bang on 1000 up they came, making the final 10 miles due south quite hard work. After the turn to Idaho, the road heads for Quake Lake the road climbs quite steeply for a few miles and then Quake Lake appears with several interpretation boards explaining the disaster in 1959, where over 50 people died in a huge earth slip that created the lake. Today all is quite except the eerie site of dead trees in the lake. Past the enormous Hebdon lake. With a finish at West Yellowstone.
We re-entered the park from West Yellowstone. The ride into the park along the Madison River is delightful, especially in the early morning sun. At Madison we redid the ride alongside the Gibbon River, followed by another chance to visit Norris Geyser Basin, Canyon and the Haydon Valley Finishing at Lake we stayed in the cabins.
Leaving Lake, a lady with a dog casually remained there was a grizzly jam, with legs faster than Chris Froome, there I was and for an hour watched him/her dig, scratch and mooch about. Back along the shore of Yellowstone Lake past West Thumb and over the Continental Divide. Dr Doolittle struck again as a Moose appeared to rapidly disappear as an RV tried to muscle in on the viewing opportunity. A long fast downhill with views of the Tetons ahead (did we really climb up that?) and into another Moose jam with 2 hiding in the bushes. More great views and a night at Signal Mountain
Last day and a downhill in the rain to Jackson and home. No matter as everyone had had a great time and is this the best tour I’ve done quite a few thought so.