Just like that, it was back to the desert heat of the Valley of the Sun. I spent the ride, which was anything but technical, pondering the trip and what I’d seen. There were so many great experiences this trip that it was hard to pinpoint a favorite. The bear on Day 5 and the bison on Day 6, as well as the entire trip through Glacier National Park are certainly top of the list. I'm already considering a return to some of these parks to spend more time soaking up the amazing scenery.
Checking the weather, it looked like I might get hit with some more rain today, but it looks like most of the ride along the Million Dollar Highway from Grand Junction to Durango will be clear. Score!
In Rock Springs, I had planned to stay in a hotel and, given the weather of the previous day, I was glad I did. After meeting some other fellow bikers, I decided to stop a little early today in Grand Junction. The days started out with another section of Highway 191 known as the Flaming Gorge Scenic Byway.
After waking up to the sound of the river and preparing a quick breakfast and some tea, I broke camp and continued down Highway 93 and out of the Salmon River Valley. It breaks into a wide valley after the town of Challis, which was my first fuel stop for the day. Here, I began riding the section of Highway 93 dubbed the Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway and the very broad valley heads toward Craters of the Moon National Monument.
Today, I depart Columbia Falls and start my journey back to the desert. My wife’s flight back to the Valley of the Sun wasn’t until afternoon, so I rode with her driving in tow as far as Missoula.
Today was my full day in Glacier National Park and, with my wife who flew in for the weekend with me, we drove the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Yes, drove, since my wife had joined me and we took the car rather than the bike. For the day, at least, I was a fellow explorer. We met a number of bikers along the way that were enjoying spectacular views of broad, U-shaped glacial valleys.
I set out from Choteau, but misinterpreted some detour instructions I had received around the construction on Highway 89. I didn’t want to ride for miles on loose gravel and dirt, so I stuck to the paved sections of highway. This mistake educated me on just how sparsely populated the state of Montana really is.
Leaving Yellowstone and the state of Wyoming behind (the state line was just a couple miles north of my campground), I dropped quickly from the 6,000 foot elevation to the valley I overlooked the previous evening into Gardiner.
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.
Today started early, so I could walk down to the lake and catch the sunrise. It turns out, first light, and sunrise aren’t nearly so close together in the Tetons. I forgot how long the sun can be blocked from shining on a mountain valley in the Rockies. Nevertheless, I sat on the shore of Jackson Lake basking in the colossal shadow of the Tetons. When the light finally crested the mountains on the eastern side of the valley, all the cracks and crevices really started to show.
Today, I made it to the first of two places that were a big reason behind this trip. I hadn't been to the Grand Teton National Park in years and I've been looking forward to spending a couple nights here so I could enjoy a full day of hiking. Who knew I'd actually need to have my bear spray in hand at one point.
I took a quick hike before hitting the All American Road and heading for Salt Lake City. Highway 12 is one of my favorite stretches of payment ever and if you ever get a chance to ride it, you need to take it!
After an unexpected delay, I spent the second day traveling from the North Rim to Bryce Canyon National Park. It's a short drive (slightly over 100 miles), which gave me time to hike among the hoodoos.
Well, I survived the first three days of Epic Road Trip 2017. My phone, however, did not. More on that later. So far, I’ve visited the North Rim and Bryce Canyon National Park for the first time and enjoyed an awesome stretch of highway called the “All-American Road” - that’s Highway 12 in Utah that winds through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (another first).