Yellowstone and Grand Teton Cycle Tour, September 2014. Day 16
Sunday 21 September –Ennis to West Yellowstone – 72.3 miles
Thinking, with good cause, that today would be tough – the second toughest of the Tour – we rose at 5.30 and left the motel in total darkness with lights on, heading for the nearby Ennis Cafe. This time I went for the waffles with strawberries and shaving foam. At 6.55 I set off, just as it was coming light, and it was COLD! Soon my fingers were in pain (I get Raynaud’s, which leaves my digits looking like they belong in a morgue) but the dawn was pretty spectacular and there were plenty of Mule Deer and Hawks around. Unfortunately the range of hills to the east prevented the sun from breaking through the skyline, so the cold continued for longer than I would have liked – it was after 8.00 before I got any direct sunlight.
Dawn outside Ennis
Early morning is always good for wildlife, which today included Meadowlarks, Pronghorn and a Golden Eagle which flew across the road between me and Helen, who was only 50 yards in front! One or two pickups gave us a blast on the horn which didn’t sound all that friendly, and later we found that Richard had a contretemps with one, the driver thinking that the roads should be reserved exclusively for motor vehicles.
Pronghorn Antelope in the early morning
In places the road was straight for mile after mile (the longest straight was 12 miles!), rising at a steady 1% gradient, and with a moderate headwind too there was no let up from pedalling at all. After 25 miles we were back with the Madison River. We were tempted by a junction on the right which led shortly to Idaho, but as we weren’t ‘bagging states’ we carried on towards Earthquake Lake and Wyoming.
The long and not-at-all winding road
How to disguise a telephone mast
The road began to climb more steeply and the river became a fast running series of rapids. At one point there was a massive tree trunk sticking up out of the river bed and I couldn’t imagine how it could have grown there. Presumably the river must have changed course. Sadly, the Earthquake Lake Visitor Centre was closed – the building’s design looked interesting from outside.
^ Earthquake Lake Visitor Centre >
Earthquake Lake was formed when the biggest earthquake in the Rocky Mountains in recorded history – 7.5 on the Richter Scale – hit this area in 1959. A huge landslide dammed the Madison River a few miles from where it left Hebgen Lake, and formed ‘Quake Lake. As you cycle alongside the ‘new’ lake there are still hundreds of dead trees to be seen, which now date back over 55 years. I couldn’t work out why the tops had been cut off so many.
I dropped behind the few riders who were in front, who then turned off for a small cafe/restaurant, leaving me as an unwitting Billy-no-mates for most of the rest of the day. I contented myself with the odd bite out of yesterday’s turkey sandwich, and also had a look at some more evidence of the 1959 earthquake at Cabin Creek Scarp, though it wasn’t too impressive.
The bike having a rest at Hebgen Lake
The sun was strong now but there was still no let-up from pedalling as I carried on alongside Hebgen Lake, but the headwind had subsided and the road was pretty level, so progress was quite good up to the last junction where I turned right for West Yellowstone. I dropped behind the few riders who were in front, who then turned off for a small cafe/restaurant, leaving me as an unwitting Billy-no-mates for most of the rest of the day. I contented myself with the odd bite out of yesterday’s turkey sandwich, and also had a look at some more evidence of the 1959 earthquake at Cabin Creek Scarp, though it wasn’t too impressive.
The sun was strong now but there was still no let-up from pedalling as I carried on alongside Hebgen Lakel the headwind had subsided and the road was pretty level, so progress was quite good up to the last junction where I turned right for West Yellowstone. This was a much busier road: at least it was only five or six miles before West Yellowstone was reached, with its friendly One-Horse Motel. For once I was the first there, but everyone else arrived fairly quickly after me.
Grandpa's transport of the future, West Yellowstone
Tomorrow's route will be West Yellowstone to Lake Village, covering some ground we've been on before but with some exciting wildlife.
Total mileage 606.5