Sunday, August 25, 2013

Week Ten

Cody, WY to Yellowstone to Emigrant, MT...5 days

235 miles..9595 feet climb
4147 miles total...157,224 feet climb total

East Entrance

I have taken up smoking.

There are forest fires all around me in the western states. New ones have emerged in Yellowstone as I approach. The air is thick and heavy with smoke. Distant views are more like a heavy, humid day in the Smokies than the quintessential western photo. Yet to be seen how this may effect my passage.

Shoshone can barely see distant mountains
Where'd this guy come from?
I leave Cody late morning since I have scheduled a short day of 35 miles to place me closer to Yellowstone. When I planned my route on MapMyRide the eastern approach to Yellowstone indicated two severe accents at over 20%. I camp in the Shoshone National Forest so not to have to ride and climb 95 miles in a single day. An easy short day dissolves in the strong 20-30 mph head winds encountered soon after noon. It's discouraging to peddle so slow on gentle hills...even more so on nearly level pavement.

I arrive at a campground where it is only me and the camp host. The host is in a hard-sided RV. I'm in a soft, thin, easily torn tent. Though I am camping below the area of more intense grizzly bear activity where the forest service says tents are okay, I look at the sturdy steel bear boxes and read the warnings about how to play dead when a grizzly chases you (yeah...right!!) and have to find my peaceful self to begin and see the beauty once again in this serene place. In the early evening I feel the coolness of a breeze that is probably typical. Then suddenly a blast of warm air displaces the coolness as if I was standing in front of a fire and the smell of wood smoke intensifies. Just before dusk the wind dies down and ash settles on me, the table, the tent. I'm told this smoke is not from Yellowstone but from Oregon and Idaho.

Fortunately MapMyRide is incorrect. The accent into Yellowstone is not overly difficult at 6-9% much of the way to Sylvan Pass at 8350'. I was watching my altitude read out which is not entirely accurate. Thinking I still had 500 feet of climb and perhaps up to two miles remaining, I was pleasantly surprised to arrive at the pass unexpectedly.

Sylvan Pass behind me
Most of the eastern park is still scarred from past forest fires. The scenes of blackened skeletons paint a vision of the forest fires underway.

2002 fire remnant
Yellowstone fire smoke at sunset
There are lots of events that happen in Yellowstone that are wonderful. I may add them at a later date. For the time being, since I am having such a grand time on the journey and meeting and sharing stories with so many other travelers...biking, hiking, RV, camping...I will only share a couple of stories.

Hot spring colors
Blackie waits for the geyser
Lone Star Geyser...40' high stream
Elk cow
The air did clear some
I rode into Madison Campground on the western, central section of Yellowstone late in the evening. An afternoon thunderstorm was building. National Parks have camper/biker campsites set aside for that use. You do not reserve these. All you do is show up and you get some pretty wonderful campsites. At Madison, along with two college guys Matt and Mateo, I set up my tent under a rain tarp provided by the camp managers just behind the registration building. Picnic tables were also covered. The managers use abandoned tarps left by camp guests that may be flying in and out to Yellowstone and have no space to take these home. Same with camp chairs that are then provided fo the hiker/ biker use. I completed the pitching of my tent just as the storm broke. Early the next morning the camp managers had hot coffee for us. Madison truly treated their hiker/biker guests exceptionally well. The fee for these hiker/biker sites runs from $5 to $8 per night.


Another instance that I really enjoyed makes for a good story. I think I will use this to show how I as a Christian Scientist think...

My last night of camping in Yellowstone was at Indian Creek Campground, situated about 25 miles from Mammooth Hot Springs and the north entrance to the park. Yellowstone did a great job of indoctrinating me about the grizzly bears and that I would die if I ventured alone on a trail without bear pepper spray, which I had not yet acquired. But I would venture off on short trails and talk loudly to myself to make any potential bear on the trail believe there was a troop of 30 headed its way, encouraging it to leave the trail. When I saw others walking on a trail I would fall in behind and shadow them for a ways. On the evening in Indian Creek I followed and then lost my target but the trail headed to the camp approach road by the river I recognized. There preparing for an evening of fishing was Bob (wearing his bear spray). Bob is a professional outdoors guide between gigs. During the course of our pleasant discourse he tells me about a good bakery in the town of Emigrant 40 miles north of Yellowstone. Someone else has mentioned that I could camp at fishing access areas of the Yellowstone River outside the park. I hoped to make it to Emigrant for an evening bakery goody and then camp at the Emigrant fish access.

Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth cascade
Mammoth Hot Springs
But first on the morning of my departure from Yellowstone I visited the Mammoth Hot Springs. Water flow drastically change many years ago and most of the formations are beginning to deteriorate from weathering. At one overlook, a Chicago family with Brooklyn Jewish mother, East Indian father, and Russian daughter talk to me about the bike trip. They had noticed me on the road descending into Mammoth and had talked about what I might be doing. They were eager to hear more about my journey. After pictures they suggested we might see each other again at the Mammoth grill cafe. I spent many more minutes visiting and walking amoung the hot springs and assumed they would be gone before my arrival at the cafe, but they waved me over as I entered the door. We joined in late breakfast and coffee with more travel stories and political discussions. We enjoyed each other. Before leaving I mentioned to them the Emigrant bakery that they may soon be passing.

Boys will travel
Before leaving the cafe I noticed two other bike tourers at table that arrived during my visit with the Chicago family. We introduced ourselves and enjoyed each other's stories and discoveries including the secondary East River Road paralleling the high speed newer road, which I later take. It is indeed a little-trafficked back road past lovely ranches and scenery. A nearby man overheard our talk and came over to quietly say he had a secret to share with me. (The two college guys had already been given the secret by a host they stayed with a few nights before...and had partaken of the secret just the night before and that morning as they discreetly camped in the bush by the Gardner River.) This non-promoted, non-publicized secrete was the location of a 125 degree hot spring that flows into the edge of the cold Garner River. This point is known as Boiling River and is accessed at the Wyoming/Montana border on the 45th parallel that is halfway between the North Pole and the equator...which alone is pretty cool. The Boiling River is a wonderful place to soak in a natural hot spring setting out in the wildness of Yellowstone. It's not entirely a secrete, but is not overly crowded and everyone has a great time lying in hot, warm, or cold water. The Livingston, MT couple I shared my hole with had no qualms about going from hot to cold...I could do so only with lots of whoops!, cries!, and yelps!

Boiling River
Blackie at the spa
The day was moving on, I still had hope of making the bakery, but ice cream caught my eye in Gariner just as I left the park. There was still forty miles to go and it was past one o'clock as I departed. A wonderful tail wind cropped up and for many miles I was flying at a sustained 20 mph. Rounding a bend in the road the wind shifted and suddenly I am confronted with a 15 mph head wind for the rest of the day that slows me down to 8 mph. I will not make the bakery.

However, as I continue on my day's ride at this slower pace I have time to contemplate my many experiences just past. There is a common thread. I ponder the nature of creation and of man. Harmony and order are Inate to our existence. Harmony is a true state of our is the reality of our being. Even if there appear to be periods of disruption, our true state is unaffected. Harmony is a constant, underlying presence in my, in our being. When the needle skips when playing a record, the original composition is unaffected. (I know, this is probably a rather dated analogy.) If I attempt to perform a piano piece by Beethoven I can assure you it will not come close to his original. But with training and an understanding of his composition I might someday perform with perfection.

The bakery in Emigrant is closed. I'm ready for dinner. Emigrant is a very small town, but there is a saloon. Most western saloons will serve simple meals. I walk into a 115 year old bar and order a very good hamburger and fries. Others come in and we talk of the forest fires and such. Later I ask the bartender, James who until last year was a middle school math teacher, if it is okay to camp at the Emigrant fish access. "Nope, that site is not approved for that. You will need to ride another 10 miles down river." Robbie doesn't want to do this...he's tired already from battling the strong head winds. "Oh, why not. Just put up your tent in the grass yard next to the saloon. No one will care if you do." They even have a picnic table. This becomes my lodging and I even have music until midnight.

Emigrant...a night's accommodation
Early the next morning, during dreams of some sinister Islamic taking over the phones and television channels with repetitious refrains of Arabic chanting, I am awakened by the rhythmic, unbalanced vibrations of the saloon's exhaust hood fan. It's quite loud. I even resort to the earplugs I have brought but to no avail. I cannot get back to sleep. Then I remember the contemplation on harmony I had earlier that day. I reinvigorate that principle once again in my thoughts. Immediately the racket of the fan subsides. It begins a normal oscillation and becomes only background sound. I return to my slumber and wonderfully ovesleep.

Waking, I see customers entering into the saloon for Saturday breakfast, and a few glancing in my direction wondering when the campground was developed. I discreetly pack. Rounding the corner of the adjacent street I meet a baker exiting the bakery and am informed that they will be serving sourdough pancakes and eggs soon when they open, along with some really good baked goods as well. I spend the next few minutes meeting local artists, ranchers, professional photographers coming for breakfast.

While paying for my order one of the bakery staff comes up and excitedly asks "Are you the biker that meet the Chicago family?" " They left money in the till for your coffee." I had not told them I would come to the bakery, but they had made a gracious offering in the event I did. As I ate my breakfast, who should enter but Bob the fisherman met three days before. We continued our life, family, journey, life-style, political discussions from the time before. He offers to perhaps be able to host me on the Pacific coast at my journey's end.

The gest of this story...the underlying the realization of the constant play of harmony in our lives. We can certainly, and very frequently do, allow the clamor of mortal existence to overshadow the reality of the harmony that is our true being. It takes patience, practice, and the silencing of outside influences to see through that replace the phonograph needle to better hear the composition more accuratly. This is what I feel was occurring and when in a place of acknowledgement, the outside noise that was attempting to disrupt my peace, my harmony, was immediately transformed to a different state.

There is no coincidence...

...and traveling is a great way to experience these lessons.


For the bike traveler...

  • Cody, Highway 14/16/20 to Shoshone NF Elk Fork campground (very scenic approach to Yellowstone), camp $5
  • Shoshone NF to east entrance of Yellowstone NP, Highway 14/16/20 to Sylvan Pass at 8541' (quiet steep for several miles before pass; scene changes immediately upon entering Yellowstone), shower at Lake Village camp, Bridge Bay hiker/biker camp $6.50
  • Yellowstone Bridge Bay, Grant Village, Craig Pass at 8262', Lower geyser basin, Madison hiker/biker camp $6.50
  • Yellowstone Madison, Norris geyser basin, Indian Creek hiker/biker camp $5 (best hiker/biker camp with rain tarps, covered tables, morning coffee)
  • Yellowstone Indian Creek, Mammoth Hot Springs, Boiling River hot spring soak at river's edge (trail begins at Montana state line, 45th parallel...half way between North Pole and Equator), Highway 89, Gardiner, Corwan Spring, Miner, turn off to East River Road #540 (great local road with little traffic), Emigrant, free camp at side yard of Saloon, lovely bakery at back road from road crossing of Hwy 89


  1. On "taking up smoking" and applying Christian Science, I was reminded of this hymn: "In atmosphere of Love divine, I live and move and breathe..." Great stuff, Robbie!

  2. Robbie turns philosophical. Sounds like the bike trip is finding its deeper flow. Thanks for sharing!


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