American Skid Marks
Setting out on a great American motorcycle roadtrip.

North Yellowstone … Time to Suck It Up

I should not have complained so much about my ride past Glacier NP. Fate has a fondness for smiting pussies who whine too much. Apparently I should have kept my mouth shut and accepted the cold pass in Glacier as part of the ride, because today I realized that Glacier was just a warm up; kids stuff that was preparing me for Yellowstone.

My first stop today was The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone or just “The Canyon” as folks here call it. Steep jagged cliffs dive down to meet the Yellowstone River which flows over a pair of grand beautiful waterfalls. The weather was perfect; partly cloudy but warm. The temperature rose with the sun and peaked out in the low 60s.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Grand Canyon of The Yellowstone

Waterfall

Upper Falls

Lower Falls

Lower Falls

Northward I crossed Dunraven Pass from wich you can see almost the entire caldera.

View From Dunraven Pass

View From Dunraven Pass

The canyon continues in the north, smaller and less dramatic, but still a great sight. There were roadside basalt formations that looked like they would tumble down upon the road at any moment.

Canyon Further North

Canyon Further North

Roadside Basalt Formations

Roadside Basalt Formations

The snow has largely melted in Northern Yellowstone making the valleys there prime wildlife viewing territory. In the Lamar Valley, I saw huge herds of bison. Among the bison there were several deer, mostly does but a young male was lounging as well. In the hills I saw what I believe was a Bighorn sheep, but he was far and my sight is not good enough to be sure.

Bison with Young

Bison with Young

Past the valley the mountains rise up on all sides; Baronette Peak’s craggy face is covered in dozens of waterfalls.

Road Past The Thuderer

Road Past The Thuderer

Baronette Peak

Baronette Peak

On the way back west I had my own private little bear encounter. Just off the side of the road (and I mean just off the side of the road) I spotted a young grizzly bear.  We made eye contact and I came within 20 feet of the beast before he turned and scampered into the woods as I rode past. I dug my helmet cam out of my pack, strapped it on and rode back to try to snag a video, but too late. He was gone. A quarter mile down the road, I came upon a traffic jam of spectators. Dozens of us were on the side of the road trying to photograph or shoot video of a Grizzly bathing in a small lake off the road.

Grizzly bathing video.

The rain began to fall. Heavier and colder by the minute. I wish now that I had not made such a big deal out of my travails crossing highway 2 past Glacier; the road over Blacktail Deer Plateau and between Mammoth Hot Springs and my campsite near the Norris Geyser Basin was miserably cold and wet. The rain fell hard, harder than any rain I’ve ridden in, and the temperature hovered around freezing. Over the higher points the rain turned to sleet and close to my destination it began to fall as snow. I was drenched completely through and my fingers were frozen into a handlebar grip shape. Once again my boots were puddles. I was miserable but got to see one of the most magical sights I’ve ever witnessed. As I neared my campsite, grumbling, frustrated and angry, I came upon a traffic jam. Cars were all over the side of the road and folks were running through the streets with cameras. I turned to see what they were so excited about and at first saw a black bear in the middle of a meadow. As I looked closer I made out two smaller black shapes flanking her. She was with her two cubs. Sadly, I was just too cold to stop and take a photo or video. I got back to camp, stripped off my frozen riding gear and curled up in my sleeping bag. Tomorrow calls for snow all day long. I have no idea what I’m going to do.

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