Monday July 13, 2009, 39 miles (63 km) – Total so far: 3,063 miles (4,929 km)
There was a thunderstorm last night that disturbed some people. I heard it but didn’t open my eyes, and went back to sleep shortly. I did get up to shoot some more pictures of the Tetons in the dawn light, though.
Virginia slept late, so we started late, after 10:00. It looked like open park for a while.
One last look at the Tetons, and we were headed for Yellowstone. There was road construction on the way; we got shuttled a mile or so, then rode through some more muddy muck, crossed a bridge with a light for one lane, and enjoyed a good ride up to the next construction site. There, they didn’t put us on a truck, but told us to ride hard, and after we passed the paving crew, stay on the left side. I don’t quite understand why they couldn’t roll that pavement, but we did as we were instructed. The positive side is that after the construction, for the next 20 miles, we had 20-30 minutes of no traffic behind us, then another slug would come through. No shoulders, but some real gems in those rented RVs, a few of them needing some polishing. Oh, and it started to rain, with a few bits of small hail. Not bad enough to stop and put on rain jackets, just an annoyance at this point.
We started climbing, and wondered why, until we looked over to the right and it was a very long way down to Lewis Creek in the canyon.
You’ll notice the downed trees in the second shot. These are the lodgepole pines that were burned in the 1988 fires (if you’re old enough to remember them!). The younger trees show 20 years’ growth in this environment. Really striking, especially in comparison to the forests in Teton. Finally the river caught up to us, and went up a falls. We went around the hill to Lewis Lake.
Lewis Lake is a deep, clear blue, and mosquitoes love it even in some pretty stiff winds. We had planned to stop for a snack, but the bugs kept us moving. Without much more fanfare, we crossed the Continental Divide again (#6, if you’re keeping track). Just a little hill, nothing much to see.
We’re into the Yellowstone Caldera, and the Yellowstone Lake drains into the Missouri, if I remember correctly. From there it was an easy two miles down to Grant Village, with a good view of the lake. 25 mph winds in the afternoon, so not much boat traffic out there!
Though we’ve only been in Yellowstone for 25 miles or so, I’m a bit disappointed. The scenery, with the exception of the Lewis River canyon, is sort of limited. I guess some of it is the result of the fire; I’m surprised, though, that nothing more has grown back in the 21 years since then. I suppose this is an object lesson in how vulnerable, and slow to recover, these alpine conditions are.
I had to laugh at the visitor center, though, as they’re spinning it as a return to some sort of normal. In the midst of that spin, they threw in a bit about mountain pine beetles are good because they keep the lodge pines from forming an over-mature climax forest. I have a feeling the people down in Park County, Colorado, wouldn’t agree with that — they’re staring out their windows at too many dead, brown pine trees.