Friday, May 7, 2010

What I Did Last Summer - Part Two (Grand Teton and Yellowstone)

The Tetons are one of my favorite places on the planet. Teton Trip 2009 included a ride in eastern Idaho, west of both parks, which was until then unknown to me. The Teton Scenic Byway is shockingly beautiful, and has the added bonus of the Seed Potato Capitol of the World, Ashton, ID. Probably every french fry you've ever eaten began its life in this part of the world. This ride was unspeakably beautiful, and I sorely regret not having even one photo. The wind was so fierce that day that I was in danger of toppling over any time I stopped. So fumbling around in my tank bag whilst balancing on tippy toe was just not an option. I'm hoping for another go at it this summer, to include Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, which was under construction at the time. It's supposed to feature "two of the last undisturbed waterfalls of consequence in the US." Whatever that means. All I know is that I want to ride it.

Loaded up at the Tetons!

2009 was the summer of the Buffalo. 2008 it was Moose. What will 2010 bring?

Sunrise at the Jackson Lake Lodge

Peaceful little scenes like this can be overlooked when there are such majestic mountains all around.

I have a love-hate relationship with Yellowstone National Park. Construction delays are inevitable and interminable, crowds can be worse than the mall the Saturday before Christmas, and trying to escape the parking area of "Old Faithful" leaves me kicking myself for entering the park at all. But after one up close and personal big game sighting, or one peek at a steaming, vividly colored, prehistoric hot pool and all is forgiven. At the end of the day, I find myself regretfully passing through the park exit with a lump in my throat.

On this particular trip, I was reminded of both these extremes. I'm willing to bet that, if one is fit enough, an ideal way to see the park would be on bicycle. The stopping and starting to view the attractions (as fascinating as they are) can leave me glazed over in a car, and a bit frustrated on moto (gearing up and gearing "down" are time consuming and tedious). But these stops would be welcome respite over the course of, say, a 40 mile bicycle ride. Perhaps I'll put that on my "bucket list." One week of bicycling through Yellowstone. Until then I'll happily make do with my moto! A few pictures, admittedly from an earlier trip:

Lily pads on the Continental Divide! Who knew? Isa Lake at Craig's Pass.

Canary Springs at Mammoth Hot Springs.

Sapphire Pool at Biscuit Basin

I got to meet my greatest fear on my way home. US 89 was being chip sealed, and was, at the moment I was riding back to UT, a nice bed of deep, loose, and terrifying gravel. I'm downright phobic about setting foot (or tire, I should say) on anything other than terra firma asphalt. Fly along at double the speed limit and I'm hardly breaking a sweat. Set me in front of 20 yards of unpaved road and my heart pounds in terror. If I had to choose between riding a motorcycle across a few yards of gravel road, and jumping out of an airplane using a parachute packed by a three year old, I really would have a tough time picking the lesser evil. Even though riding "off-road" can be tricky, and deep gravel is one of the most difficult surfaces to deal with, the stakes are not very high. Dropping one's bike in such a situation has all the drama of a toddler tipping over a tricycle from a dead stop. Pretty benign and hardly exciting. The only difference is that every inch of the motorcyclist (me) is covered in safety gear designed, tested and certified to high standards to protect the rider in the event of a serious crash. Fear is not always rational, I guess. I'm happy to report I successfully navigated many miles of my personal nemesis, although I think I was emotionally scarred by it.

I was rewarded for my trials by having Logan Canyon completely to myself on the final part of my journey. Forty miles of thrilling sporty goodness! Just as I rounded the corner towards my apartment complex, what did I find? A torn up street covered in gravel! This time I was able to go around most of it. Hah!

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