We had over 300 miles to ride to get to Yellowstone National Park, our target for the day, so once again we had an early start. Our first visit was to the Timpanogos Cave in Utah but we decided against taking the tour as it’s a strenuous walk before you even reach the cave and that wasn’t going to be fun in bike gear. The area was lovely though and we enjoyed the ride through the canyon.
As usual in these parts, the scenery was stunning. We travelled through the last bit of Utah and up into Wyoming which was one of our favourite states to date so we were pleased to be there again.
Our next planned stop was the Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming, an area where many fossils had been discovered ranging from plants, to fish, to mammals. The high mountains that are visible now used to be a sub-tropical landscape and at some point in the past the climate changed leaving many creatures stranded.
A glance at the speedometer showed me Kevin was really enjoying the juxtaposition of good music in our ears and the long flowing bends of US89 south of Smoot.
Later, as we passed through Afton, we spotted this intriguing arch over the road. It is billed as the world’s largest arch made of elk antlers. Spanning 75 feet (23 m) across the four lanes of US Highway 89, the arch consists of 3,011 elk antlers and weighs 15 tons. I commented to Kevin that it is probably the only arch made of elk antlers.
The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks meld into one another, with the Tetons forming a majestic and very impressive entrance guiding us towards the park. We rode alongside the mountains for miles.
My only real knowledge of Yellowstone park was that it has geysers. Having experienced the traffic in some of the other popular parks on a weekend we decided we’d ride through it and enjoy the scenery without making the side tour to the famous geysers such as Old Faithful. We’d already seen the original Geyser in Iceland so were not desperate enough to fight our way through the inevitable crowds. As it turned out the traffic throughout the park was busy anyway. Every time someone thought they saw a twitch of a tail or the toss of an antler (even if it was just a ray of sunshine on a leaf) a traffic jam ensued as people just stopped their cars to get out for their own personal Kodachrome moment.
I have to admit to ‘probably’ seeing a bear in the woods (I don’t think he was although he was sitting). Someone in front of us ran out of his car looking very excited with his camera at the ready but to be honest I can’t swear it was a bear, it might have been an oddly shaped lump of wood.
We managed to get caught in a traffic jam when people stopped to gawp at a mountain goat. That allowed us to get ahead of the traffic for a while and I said to Kevin I didn’t want to stop for anything less than a Bison or a Bear. The scenery, when we got it to ourselves, was stunning.
It was clear this area is still very geologically active. There was also the biggest concentration of dead trees we had seen over the last week or so.
Here it was, the moment I’d been waiting for. A Park Ranger driving along in front of us swerved across the road to block the bison who were happily meandering across the road in front of a small queue of cars in the opposite cariageway.
It was quite late when we came out of the park and we decided it was time to find somewhere to stay for the night. We wandered up the short street that is Cooke City and everywhere was full apart from one motel displaying a Vacancy sign. Luckily for us the empty room was a double and was still free. Just as I was making the arrangements another couple came in asking about the vacancy as there was nothing else left in the town. They’d actually been at the front door of the office when I’d gone to the back door. It was my good luck the back door is the official entrance for the Motel so was answered first. Kevin later told me that he’d seen them hurrying to the back door as he was parking the bike and he thinks they were trying to beat him to it!
We were very relieved to be able to stay there as the next town with vacant rooms was 60 odd miles away along the Beartooth Highway. So for us, that pleasure was to come the following day.