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The Yellowstone Trip is History

August 2, 2014

About three weeks ago I wrote that I had a trip to Yellowstone National Park planned – in the can, if you will.  The trip was intended to be a vacation for my wife and me.  No kids, no chores, no hard schedules, just out and about and having fun.  Mission accomplished…

As motorcycle trips go, this wasn’t a long one for me.  Several times I have ridden more miles in 24 hours than we covered on this trip.  For my wife, however, the 900 and change miles we traveled were by far the most she has attempted in one trip.  Granted, the miles were spread out over four days, but that’s still a long time to spend looking at the back of my helmet.

The trip, as originally planned, was to ride up to Jackson, Wyoming and spend the night in that area, spend two days wandering around the park, and then head home on the fourth day.  The trip, as actually experienced, went off almost exactly as planned.  Obviously I missed something…

Day One

Teton Rain Storm Grayscale

Rain storm coming off the Tetons

The Goldwing was all loaded up with four days worth of stuff.  I have to say that even as tightly packed as our stuff was, four days worth of stuff is just about the limit of what will fit in the luggage compartments of that bike.  We left for Jackson Lake Lodge, our first night’s stop, in time to make the 7:00 pm dinner reservations.  There isn’t much to see along most of the road from our house to the Jackson area, and we have driven/ridden that route several times, so we weren’t really tempted to dilly-dally.  We found some rain and even a bit of hail north of Jackson, but we were prepared for rain and it didn’t slow us down any.

Jackson Lake Lodge is incredible.  We opted for one of the cabins for the night instead of a “suite” in the main lodge.  Our dinner reservations were for the Mural Room in the main lodge.  The meals, as expensive as they were, were well worth the money both in flavor and ambiance.  The view through the large plate glass windows of the restaurant allow for an incredible view of Mount Moran and the Tetons.

View of the Tetons from Jackson Lake Lodge

View of the Tetons from Jackson Lake Lodge

After dinner we enjoyed a nice stroll around the lodge and then headed back to our cabin.  Thanks to a big dinner, some good wine, and some killer cross-winds during the early part of the day we had no problems falling asleep.

 Day Two

This was the start of the really fun part of the trip.  On the way in to the lodge the night before I saw a spot by a lake that I had to get a picture from, preferably in the morning when the mountains would be fully lit up and the lake, I hoped, would be mirror smooth.  I woke up early specifically to go get that picture.  The morning started out very foggy, but eventually the fog burned off and I was left with this view…

 

Mount Moran Morning Fog Reflection 2

Mount Moran wishing me a good morning.

Yep, it was going to be a good day.  I finished taking pictures and headed back to the lodge so we could get the bike loaded up, grab some breakfast, and continue on our trip.

The plan for the day was to go up into Yellowstone National Park, play around the southern half of the park, and then end up in West Yellowstone, Montana for the night.  We managed to leave the lodge early enough that we had plenty of time to play in the park.

Although I have been to Yellowstone several times I have never been to Fishing Bridge.  I was somewhat amazed when I saw that the Fishing Bridge was actually closed to fishing.

Fishing Bridge Closed

Fishing Bridge is closed to fishing.

We weren’t really sure what to make of that…  After recovering from the revelation at the bridge we turned around and headed west towards Old Faithful, and ultimately our hotel for the night in West Yellowstone, MT.  Old Faithful was, I guess, what is has always been.  We showed up, took our seats, heard what we thought were valves being opened and tanks being filled, and then the geyser did its thing.  OK, there weren’t really any valves and tanks…  Once the show started the wind shifted a bit and we ended up sitting in the spray area.  The day was quite warm and the spray was cool enough to be very refreshing, if not pleasant smelling.

After the show we headed off to our hotel.  We checked in and strolled off into the metropolis that is West Yellowstone, MT.  My overall impression of the town is that it relies on adventure tourism, huckleberry enthusiasts, and cheesy T-shirt lovers for its continued existence.  We ate a decent dinner and went back to the hotel.  The room was comfortable and sleep came easy.

Day Three

I did not wake up early to take pictures.  We did not wake up early at all.  We were on vacation…  Eventually we did get up, get ready, and check out.  Before we left we had to get a picture of us, the bike, and a carved wooden bear.

Goldwing Tina Me Wooden Bear

Three days in and she is still smiling! As you can see by our hair, this picture was taken before our helmets went on.

This was a long day.  We rode around the northern loop of the main park road and went through the West Entrance, the North Entrance, and the East Entrance of the park.  We went in and out of the North Entrance when we went up to Gardiner, MT for a late lunch/early dinner.  We stopped to eat at a place called the Iron Horse Bar and Grill.  The steak I ate was one of the best I have ever had.  If you get the chance to eat there, I highly recommend the place.  They also had a beer on tap there that I had never tried, never even seen before, actually.  The beer was Cold Smoke Scotch Ale, and it was truly delicious.  I don’t remember what my wife had to eat, maybe the Salmon, but I do remember that she really enjoyed it, too.

UPDATE: She informed me that she also had a steak, that it was possibly the best she has ever had, and that I should pay more attention to what she does…

One of the two elk we saw at Mammoth Hot Springs

One of the two elk we saw at Mammoth Hot Springs

After we ate we went back into the park on our way to Cody, WY for the night.  Shortly after reentering the park we, my wife actually, noticed that we rode right past a large cow elk as we passed through Mammoth Hot Springs.   The elk was between some parked cars near the north end of the complex.  I completely missed it.  We went around the block so we could get a better look and saw that there were two of them.

Throughout the trip we saw many of the critters that the Yellowstone area is known for.  We saw a bear, several elk, a moose, some deer, a bighorn sheep, a marmot, and lots of bison, including a very close pass to one of the bison  In case you are curious, those things have very large heads.  If we had a Yellowstone Critter Bingo Card, I think we could have gone away with some money…

We ended up at our hotel in Cody late that evening.  I am sure that the final pass we went through would have been neat to look at, but it was dark by that time.  Once again we had no problems falling asleep.  Long days and fresh air seem to make for good sleep.

Day Four

Yet another we’ll-get-up-when-we-damn-well-feel-like-it morning.  Although this would be the longest day of the trip mileage wise, there just isn’t a whole lot to see between Cody and home.  We did get the chance to ride through the Wind River Canyon and over South Pass, neither of which I have ever done on a bike.  We also passed many bikes heading the other way, up to Red Lodge, MT for the Beartooth Rally.

The final interesting event of the last day was seeing a guy place a wiener dog on the back side of a guard rail at a rest area as we passed by.  Being the pet-loving people that we are, we both wondered if:

1) The guy was going to just leave the poor pooch behind the guard rail and drive off.

2) If my wife was going to have to spend the remainder of the trip holding onto a wiener dog.

and

3) How difficult it would be to control a wiener dog on the back of a motorcycle.

We turned around (there was a lot of that on this trip) to check on the pooch.  It turns out that the guy was letting the dog play in the grass instead of on the pavement.  He was still walking the dog as we went by again.  Good for him.

As far as I can tell my wife enjoyed the ride, though there are a couple of changes she would like to see me make on the bike.  If I have to spend money to buy things for one of my bikes in order to ensure her future participation in my hobby, I guess I can handle that…

A quick note about the pictures in this post.  These shots are pretty much evenly split between pictures I took and pictures that my wife took.  My shots were taken from solid ground with a digital SLR camera.  My wife’s pictures were taken both from solid ground and from the back of a moving motorcycle using a pocket digital camera.  I need to say that given the tools she had to work with she took some great shots!

Until our next trip, thanks for reading…

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