Day 3: To Canyon Village - Yellowstone and Grand Tetons 2004 - CycleBlaze

August 30, 2004

Day 3: To Canyon Village

The temperature was 33F at sunrise - slightly cooler than last night because of the higher elevation. I got on the road shortly after 9 AM when the temperature was 48F and sunny.

Reflections on Lewis Lake.
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First was an easy 10 miles across the Continental Divide to Grant Village. Probably less than 500 feet of climbing to cross the divide. After passing Lewis Lake I had up-close views of the destruction and regeneration that resulted from the 1988 fires that burned most of Yellowstone National Park.

New growth is getting established in many areas.
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I stopped at Grant Village to eat a second breakfast at the cafe. While there I had a chat with a solo touring cyclist from the Netherlands who was near the end of a 6-week tour that started in Vancouver. I wrote postcards, called my wife, and departed Grant Village at 11:30AM. From there the route took me north 2 miles to the West Thumb highway junction and the West Thumb Geyser Basin. I didn't go into the main part of the geyser basin but I did stop to look at a small geyser area alongside the main road. This was the first geyser I had ever seen.

Yellowstone lake and a portion of the West Thumb geyser basin.
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The road takes me clockwise around the north shore of Yellowstone Lake. The riding was quite easy, with a brisk tailwind and relatively flat terrain. The lake was almost always visible on my right and very scenic despite having to look south into the sun. On the east side of the lake the Absaroka mountains provide a scenic backdrop to the blue water of the lake. Traffic was somewhat heavy but tolerable because the road has a 4-foot paved shoulder. I took several short stops to admire the lake and take pictures.

Yellowstone Lake.
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Along the way I turned onto the Gull Point Scenic drive. The second half of the loop hugs the shoreline and is very scenic. It was nice to spend some time on a quiet road with very little traffic. When the scenic drive ended I crossed the road onto a 1-mile bike trail that dead ends at the "Natural Bridge". It was worth the short detour.

Natural bridge at the end of a 1-mile bike trail.
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I passed Bridge Bay a mile after the Gull Point Scenic Drive returns to the highway. I got this picture of a Park Service boat heading under the bridge towards the marina. The scene reminds me of last year's Nova Scotia bike tour.

Park Service boat at Bridge Bay, Yellowstone lake.
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Shortly after Bridge Bay I reached Lake Junction and turned north towards Canyon Village. The road is roughly parallel to the Yellowstone River but there are some big hills as I approach Canyon Village. Occasionally I had expansive views of the Yellowstone River which in this area is a slow moving river in a broad valley. The road also passes by a couple of thermal areas. One area had a large pool of boiling mud that produces an immense cloud of steam.

Fishing on the Yellowstone river.
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The Yellowstone river flows slowly in a wide valley upstream from the Grand Canyon.
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On the road to Canyon Village I also saw bison for the first time. Fortunately they weren't crossing the road and obstructing traffic.

Bison in the Yellowstone valley.
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Most of the distance from Bridge Bay to Canyon Village was a construction zone but the construction was almost completed. Paving was completed on the main road and turnout areas were now being paved. The road was open to 2-way traffic and I was able to bike through with no hassles. That cheered me up.

I arrived at the Canyon Village grocery store at 5:20 PM and then at the campground (elevation 7900 feet) at 5:30. The traffic decreased significantly between about 4 and 5 PM. Evidently most motorists get to their destination before I do! I was assigned a spot in the large hiker/biker section. The hiker biker area is isolated from the drive-up campsites but very close to the store and shower facilities. I like that! It cost $3 to use the fancy shower facility but at least I was able to hand wash all my dirty clothes at a sink. I didn't get around to making dinner until almost sunset. I was the only camper in the hiker/biker section. The ranger told me that touring cyclists rarely camp here. That surprised me because the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is one of the biggest attractions at Yellowstone.

I covered a longer distance than yesterday but it seemed easier because the route had less climbing and because I had a strong tailwind when going east. Average speed would have been higher if I didn't walk the bike so much when stopping to take pictures. The weather was mostly sunny with a high temperature of 70F (21C) which is normal for this time of year. It was a great day. I felt good and the weather and scenery were wonderful.

Distance: 55.3 miles (88.5 km)

Total climbing: 1440 feet (435m)

Average speed: 10.8 mph (17.3 km/h)

Maximum speed: 37.4 mph (59.8 km/h)

Hiking: none

Today's ride: 55 miles (89 km)
Total: 121 miles (195 km)

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