Weather Forecast: LOL

After a seventy mile descent of 4000 feet today, we are finally out of the rapidly changing weather of Yellowstone National Park. Three days ago, we left Cody, Wyoming to climb into Yellowstone, which was unexpectedly quite possibly a tougher climb than the Big Horn Mountains. It was pretty much uphill for most of the eighty miles and because Yellowstone didn’t seem to like us, it blew a headwind at us for most of the way while we were riding uphill.

It was hard to see how beautiful the scenery was while we were grinding our way through the wind and uphills. I’m pretty sure the cars zooming by us only see about a third of what we see on bikes, and they can’t get the photos that we’re able to take. The entire road going through Yellowstone doesn’t have a shoulder, so cars can’t just pull over, whereas a cyclist can stop anywhere.

We were hit by a slight shortage of oxygen once again, as we reached around 8000 feet and the slightest hills made your legs burn endlessly. Since the climb was so slow going, the sun started to go down and the cold started to creep in. We even rode by parts where snow hadn’t melted yet. By the time we reached our campsite, it was around 40 degrees and we could see our breaths. Soon after dinner, it began to rain and sleeping in a cold, damp tent made it the most miserable night of the ride so far. Yellowstone seemed to be punishing us for no good reason.

The next day, we were treated with incredible weather, which was perfect for our rest day. The sky was completely clear and the sun shone bright and warm enough to remind us that it was still summer. There is so much to do and see in Yellowstone, that I wish we were driving through it by car. I didn’t regret it too much, though, because we were in biking distance of one of the main attractions; the 300 foot waterfall. Since it was twenty milles away, most people were too tired and burnt out to get back on their bikes for it and chose to hike the trails around our campsite. Only three of us were willing to get back on our saddles and go for a 40 mile ride on our rest day.

Clinton, Dave, and I left for the falls soon after breakfast, when it started to warm up. Our efforts were definitely rewarded; there was so much to see on the way to the waterfalls, that the hills we climbed didn’t bother me a bit. There were a lot of bison grazing around the park, and at one point, we stopped by one that must have been less than five feet from where we were standing. Some tourists didn’t appreciate that we were in the way of their pictures. I think driving around in an RV messes with your mind.

On the way to the waterfalls, we passed by some river rapids and there were a bunch of cutthroat trout attempting to swim upstream. Apparently, they jump several feet out of the water to get over ledges, but we never got to see that. They were all hiding behind rocks, taking their time. Dave had his camera at the ready to get a shot of a trout jumping out of the water for at least half an hour, and when he finally turned away for a second, one of the trouts finally made the leap. None of us got to see it, but the other tourists there were all cheering. Disappointing.

We saw a bunch of smelly sulfur pits on the way, too, which looked as disgusting as they smelled. With a pH of 2, I’m pretty sure my bike would disappear forever if I dropped it in one of the pools. Past the pits was an incredible view I’ve never seen before: it led into a giant, open valley between tall mountains and there was a pack of bison grazing in the middle of the valley. A river wound through it and you could see snow peaks on the taller mountains farther away.

When we finally reached the waterfalls, we were blown away by the view. I didn’t really have any expectations – in fact, I thought they would be pretty boring because most of the pictures of waterfalls I’ve seen have been pretty boring looking. Fortunately, I was very wrong; the 300 foot falls fell into a giant canyon that had walls stained with a red to yellow gradient. Coming off the falls was a very clear double rainbow. We spent several hours hiking around it and even got up right next to the brink of the falls. It’s kind of unsettling being right by where the water falls, because you can see how fast the water is actually flowing. We met a man there named Tom Blue who gave us a very generous donation.

Riding out of Yellowstone was the coldest it has ever been. Climbing out of my tent and changing my clothes in 38 degree weather was an experience I don’t want to have to repeat again any time soon. Our route leaving the park went by Old Faithful and we hiked around the place for over two hours. Geysers are pretty interesting and I have no idea why they shoot hot water out once in a while. They remind me of bad acne. There were a bunch of pools of really clear looking water which looked really tempting to hop into, but unfortunately they’re all around 200 degrees hot.

We passed the Continental Divide several times while leaving the park and attempted to take a picture at one of the signs. We were eaten alive by a swarm of mosquitos and even after taking about ten different pictures, at least one person is seen trying to swat a mosquito away. It was both hilarious and painful.

I learned that the Wyoming/Montana border is less than a mile away from the exit from Yellowstone. On the way out, we passed some hitchhikers – unfortunately, our bikes only seat one.

Today, most of us finally hit 3000 miles. It’s hard to believe the trip is almost over, yet the beginning of the trip seems like it was forever ago; I barely remember it. We were finally relieved from endless hills to climb with almost seventy miles of continuous downhill. For once, we could finally enjoy the view without being exhausted and completely out of breath. There was a bald eagle sitting on a power line post and I got to see firsthand how big those birds really are.

We’ve passed a lot of touring cyclists going the opposite direction so far. They are far more hardcore than we are; they have all of their gear hanging off their bikes so they don’t need a support vehicle. We were also made to feel inadequate once again when we arrived at our stayover. There was a magazine lying around and on the front cover, it showed a triple amputee who is biking across America. He uses one arm to pedal his bike. I cannot even imagine how he climbs the hills.

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