Day 4: Touring the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone - Yellowstone and Grand Tetons 2004 - CycleBlaze

August 31, 2004

Day 4: Touring the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Once again the temperature was 33F (0.5C) at sunrise. But this time my feet got cold overnight. I don't know why. Today is my day to be a tourist at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. I got up and immediately got on the unloaded bike in the morning chill at 7:10 AM and pedaled the loop road on the north side of the canyon to Inspiration Point, Grandview Point, and Lookout Point. Inspiration Point is at the end of a 1-mile dead end road. The main view is downstream to the west. Not much to see when looking into the rising sun. Grandview Point and Lookout Point had good views looking upstream with the sun behind me, but the shadows were very harsh in the narrow canyon. At Lookout Point I hiked 1/2 mile down to the Red Rock overlook to see Lower Yellowstone Falls from a vantage point halfway down the canyon. I could see steam rising from a thermal area near the top of the canyon to the right of the falls. Mineral laden water from the thermal area produced some interesting colors on the canyon wall.

Lower Yellowstone Falls from Red Rock Point.
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Then I pedaled back to the Canyon Village cafeteria for a big expensive breakfast. I didn't stop at the "Brink of the Upper Falls" trail because it was closed for repairs. Sometime during this ride I broke a spoke on the rear wheel. It was really strange that a spoke broke while I was riding unloaded and wasn't climbing a steep hill. The last time I broke a spoke was 15 years ago!

After breakfast I went back to the campsite and washed a bit more laundry, put my water sack in the sun, and goofed off. At noon I hit the road again and visited the north side overlooks again, then continued around to the south side of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. I went directly to Artist Point where the road ends. It has the most spectacular view of the canyon and Lower Yellowstone Falls. I'm glad I didn't get there any later because then the sun angle would have been worse.

The famous view of Lower Yellowstone Falls from Artist Point.
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After that I went to the Upper Yellowstone falls overlook. The 109 foot (33m) upper falls isn't nearly as impressive as the 308 foot (93m) lower falls. The lower falls is also in a more spectacular setting where the canyon is deeper.

Looking into the sun at Upper Yellowstone falls.
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Then I hiked along the South Rim Trail to Uncle Tom's Trail which is the most famous and popular trail in the area. The trail drops 500 feet (150m) into the canyon, about 3/4 of the way to the bottom. Half of that drop is on a metal staircase that goes down the steep wall of the canyon. Near the top of the trail is a short spur to an overlook with a fantastic view looking downstream, away from the falls.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, view from Uncle Tom's trail.
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At the bottom of the trail I was treated to an up-close view of Lower Yellowstone falls. Very impressive. I would have been in the mist cloud if the wind was blowing towards me. I could see a rainbow in the mist cloud.

Lower Yellowstone Falls from the end of Uncle Tom's trail.
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Rainbow in the mist cloud at Lower Yellowstone Falls.
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Then back up the stairs to the bike. Climbing the stairs seemed to be a major effort for most of the people, but it's short and easy compared to pedaling a loaded touring bike up the mountains.

A portion of the stairs on Uncle Tom's trail.
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After hiking back up to my bike I pedaled to the cafeteria again to have a very good but expensive lunch of Trout Amandine at 2:30 PM. Then back to the campsite to goof off a bit more. Late in the afternoon I visited the north side overlooks one more time to see them in the afternoon sun. Finally I had great views looking downstream from Inspiration Point and Grandview Point.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from Inspiration Point.
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Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from Grandview Point.
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Crop of the previous picture. Mostly bare rock down there.
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This tree is still alive despite erosion around the roots.
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Back at the campsite in the warm evening sun I had a shower using my water sack, rather than pay $3 to use the nearby shower facility. Then I cooked dinner, organized my stuff, and replaced the broken spoke with a Fiberfix spoke.

Today's weather was once again mostly sunny with a high temperature of 75F (24C). Perfect for being a tourist at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It was a fun day-I definitely feel like I'm on vacation. I enjoyed having time to relax at the campsite and having two meals at the cafeteria (I get tired of my own cooking). I also charged my camera batteries at an AC outlet in the campground's bathroom. I saw a few people who I had seen earlier at Grand Tetons National Park. All of us tourists are going to the same places, whether traveling by bike, car, or motor home. Today could be considered a rest day but I got more exercise than most people who visit the canyon. I wore street clothes since I only biked short distances at a time. That makes it easier to blend in when off the bike.

Distance: 19.5 miles (31.2 km) all unloaded

Climbing: 1170 feet (355m)

Average speed: 9.6 mph (15.4 km/h)

Maximum speed: 36.4 mph (58.2 km/h)

Hiking: 4 miles (6.4 km)

Today's ride: 20 miles (32 km)
Total: 141 miles (227 km)

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