Epic Road Trip 2017 (Day 6)

Published on August 18, 2017

Another early morning and I fended off the cold mountain air by keeping moving. I packed up the camp, but was a little too zealous and packed the food I would have had for breakfast. I had planned to pack up and then sit still and eat when it was a bit warmer.

That plan now changed and I hit the road with the plan to get fuel and breakfast somewhere up ahead. I ended up stopping at the Jackson Lake Lodge about 20 miles north where I got a breakfast buffet in their bistro. It was worth the extra expense and now I had a full belly to get me to Yellowstone.

I wound up the highway toward Yellowstone Lake and entered the park quite a bit sooner than I expected to. I hadn’t realized the two parks were so close together. Once inside, I navigated past the West Thumb of the lake and the steaming geysers along its shores. Once past Lake Village, the road turned north and ascended from the lake’s basin. At the top, the scenery changed from evergreen forests along the Yellowstone River to expansive sagebrush plains.

After just a few minutes, I took note of the first bison lying in the dirt some 150 feet from the road. I pulled over and took a couple quick photos. This was just one lone male and I wanted to see a bigger herd. And that is exactly what happened. About 10 minutes after getting back on the road, I hit a line of cars moving at a snail’s pace. At this point, I got really good at using a partially-engaged clutch to keep moving without using any throttle. Eventually, I made it to a turnout, but it was in the middle of a herd of some 40-50 of the beasts. They were relatively calm, but were quick to sprint in front of cars.

I was lucky and avoided having any suddenly run in front of me and none of them decided I was a threat to be mowed down. The park rangers, however, were less than happy when I chose to get some photos of the bison (from a safe distance) with my kickstand down. Still, I wonder what they thought being back on my motorcycle would better protect me if one charged. I took a few photos from next to my bike and then hopped back on and rejoined the line of cars. A short while later, I was able to pull over beyond the boundaries of the herd and get some additional photos.

Wow! Two damn awesome experiences in two days. Much of the remainder of the ride was quiet and I took only a few photos, preferring to instead just enjoy the road and the quiet. Once I arrived in Mammoth Hot Springs, I went straight to the campground. There, I found they have sites reserved for motorcyclists only and I had neighbors. These became the first people I had spoken to that weren’t employees at the places I was staying or camping since I left the Kaibab Plateau on day two. They were traveling from Alaska (the man worked on the Coast Guard base around Kodiak Island) to Sturgis in South Dakota.

From them I learned that bison range as far north as Alaska (I had thought they were primarily a northern plains animal and didn’t realize they were found that far north) and that Going to the Sun Road needed to be done early in the morning or it would be stop-and-go traffic the entire time. We also talked about some great motorcycle roads, which included Highway 93 from Darby, Montana, to Carmen, Idaho. I guess I have something to look forward to for another trip.

I spent the remainder of my afternoon exploring the hot springs and picking up some supplies before returning to camp to chat and then enjoy a quiet evening staring at the view of the valley I would be trekking across the next morning.

Bison herd
Yellowstone National Park
Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs
Road and bridge in Yellowstone