55 miles (89 km) – Total so far: 2,952 miles (4,751 km)
It was the best of parks, it was the worst of parks, it was the park of joy, it was the park of despondency, it was the land of clement weather, it was the land of torrential downpour, it was expanse of solitude, it was the expanse of congestion, it was the countryside of joy, it was the hovel of despair, we had every moose before us, we had no moose before us, we were all ascending into the firmament, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the countryside was so far like our home, that some of its nosiest proponents insisted on being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.*
Everything in Yellowstone up to and including Old Faithful was wet, congested, cold, monoculture and underwhelming. Compared to the grand beauty and variety of the Tetons, the first half of the park was extremely disappointing. To be fair, much of this can be blamed on the cold and interminable downpour we cycled through. There were some bright spots: we met a wonderful couple on the way up to our 7th crossing of the continental divide. We then met yet another couple, these two touring on our 8th crossing of the divide at Craig Pass.
Immediately North of Old Faithful, Yellowstone took on the epic qualities for which it is known. The Fumaroles happily guttered, gushed and gassed sending steaming water down the sides of prismatic rock and sediment layed down over the course of centuries.
All of these little hot springs fed into the Madison river, which quickly grew to a happy bubbling river dotted with cataracts. We wound our way down towards the entrance of the park along the river. Just next to the Firehole Cascades we took a two mile wrong way detour down a car tour of the waterfalls. The rushing river has carved out a steep and stunning canyon.
Exiting the park, I spotted a woodchuck capering about on a sunny rock. Getting into “stalking the wildlife” mode, as I described in a previous post, I slowly crept along the rocks until I could snap a closeup. The woodchuck was not amused.
In my final mile for the day I crossed into Montana, my ninth state of the trip. My wonderful wife had reserved myself and the Brits a hotel to get us out of the rain from the last few days. Refreshed and settled in, we headed out for the Slippery Otter, the local watering hole. Much to our surprise, we met David, who had done the TransAmerica trail in its inaugural year, 1976. Three hours later, full of good food, good beer, and good stories, we headed back to the hotel to hit the hay.
*Credit to Chuck Dickens’ book A Tale of Two Cities for inspiring this first paragraph.