Yellowstone and Grand Teton Cycle Tour, September 2014. Day 18
Tuesday 23 September – Lake Village to Signal Mountain Lodge – 71.8 miles
After last night’s self-service dinner came this morning’s self-service breakfast – not that bad actually, with French Toast (available in every American restaurant for breakfast, apparently) but perhaps not always accompanied by strawberry sauce (I thought I’d try it - it was pretty good!) and oatmeal (aka porridge) with banana.
As we left, Tony, Deborah, Shirley and Joy were lucky enough to spot a lone wolf, between our cabins and the lake. We saw them just afterwards and kept close to the shore, hoping to catch another glimpse, without success of course, although we did have a close encounter with a couple of bison. Further along the road another bison held up the traffic as it slowly ambled along, seemingly oblivious to the outside world. Not for the first time, my technique was to place another vehicle between me and the bison for safety: drivers seemed to quickly understand what I was doing, and cooperate.
Yellowstone Lake near Gull Point
Joy and I then took the loop road to Gull Point, a worthwhile detour with beautiful early morning views across the lake, where there were Canada Geese, Goldeneye and American Coots. I looked towards the sound of some splashing near the shore and saw that an unfortunate Lark Sparrow (I think) had somehow fallen in the water and was struggling to get out. With every splash it got nearer to the shore and was eventually able to haul itself out.
A lucky Lark Sparrow - it shouldn't be in there!
A quick-ish run along the side of Lake Yellowstone took us to the West Thumb Geyser Basin – after just missing a fine bull elk (again! people were getting back into their cars as we got there). I caught Jeff and we to the next turn into Grant Village, hoping to find someone for an early brew stop. Much of the place was now shut down – things happen quickly at the end of the season, and like the General Stores at Lake Village, places that were open two weeks ago were now closed. But we did eventually track down Helen and Joy at the store by the service station: they were sharing a massive cinnamon pastry, and I took the chance to buy some more provisions for lunch.
Thanks to Andy for this photo of the elk I just missed
Soon after setting off, we spotted a squirrel right by the side of the road and stopped to take a few photos. Passing motorists also stopped, each time asking “What are you looking at?” – no doubt hoping to see a bear or elk. When we replied “A squirrel” they were definitely underwhelmed!
A very cute squirrel
The next section was hard work – a climb to the Continental Divide, then undulating roads past Lewis Lake and Lewis Falls, after which I stopped to eat my Grant Village sandwich. After what seemed like too many flat miles, I could finally enjoy the long descent to the South Entrance gate, where I met up with Andy and Jeff again.
Ravine on the Snake River near Moose Falls
Goodbye to Yellowstone - the South Entrance (exit!)
Passing Flagg Ranch, Joy was just coming back out on to the road and told me that a few others were still there, but I decided to carry on, to be faced with another long steady climb. The skies had now cleared so finally I could get rid of a few layers of clothing and my full finger gloves. Two cyclists, a few miles apart, passed in the opposite direction, fully loaded with panniers and apparently on a trans-continental odyssey. The road entered the Grand Teton National Park at the top of the climb, and I put a jacket back on for the next long descent.
At the bottom, Jackson Lake appeared: I stopped to take a photo of the lovely fall colours and as I set off a Downy Woodpecker flew on to a tree just to my right. Soon afterwards, looking down to the right I was amazed to see a massive bull moose wading knee high. As I watched him, he waded out into deeper water and then began to swim, parallel to the shore. I continued to watch him, as various cars stopped to watch too, until he re-emerged on to the shore and walked off, dripping, into the woods. Amazing! Lucky timing is everything, I thought, pleased with myself for not stopping earlier at Flagg Ranch!
Series of photos - moose gives a swimming lesson
Feeling strong now, I pressed on past Colter Village, looking all the time for bears, elk, anything, without success. Just before the Jackson Dam I caught Andy, who was taking a photo of some pony trekkers, then stopped at the dam to watch a pair of Horned (Slavonian) Grebes. After over 70 miles I arrived at Signal Mountain Lodge at around 4.00 pm. A lovely place to stay, on the shore of Jackson Lake with wonderful rustic cabins. There were signs warning us NOT to leave out any food in case it attracted bears, but I was thinking “Well, we haven’t seen any bears yet” and was tempted to disobey, but thought better of it.
^ Beautiful Fall colours - what a difference a fortnight makes! >
^ Looking over Jackson Lake to the Teton Mountains >
^ Sunset from Signal Mountain Lodge >
The best beer on offer that evening was the wonderfully-named Dirty Blonde. And now we only had one short day left before we returned to Jackson.
Total Mileage 737.5