What’s 22 days and 1300 miles long, encompasses three states, involves a few bears, and is sometimes wet, soggy, or frozen? Give up? A bike trip through Montana!!
Heh. I know, you all knew the punchline already since I’ve been posting random snippets of it for the last few weeks. But now, for realz: the large-scale overview breakdown. A trip from the Amtrak station in Whitefish, Montana, down to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and back to the Amtrak station in Whitefish, and it looked something like this:
(I’m not sure how that elevation chart manages to have me going down one more foot than I went up. Seems like that should even out if you start and end in the same spot…)
If you want the more detailed version of this trip, consider scoping the cheesy picture-travelogue over on my flickr page. It’s a lot of pictures though, so if you don’t want to flip through that all, here are a few highlights.
1. Animals! Aside from the bears (which you may have already read about here:), I saw deer, elk, so many antelope, so many buffalo, moose — and that’s just the large ungulates. There were enough birds of enough kinds to keep the biggest of bird nerds excited, and fish, and crazy insects, more skunks than I knew existed in the world, squirrels that look different from their Oregon cousins. There was so much life all around, perhaps because there’s actually non-developed space out there, enough to support migrations and different seasonal habitats. I could imagine myself really getting into that, if I could stand to live in a much more conservative part of the country.
(buffalo and aspen, just a normal part of the Yellowstone landscape:)
2. Yellowstone! Yellowstone was amazing. It’s famous for its geothermal areas and geysers and wild west-y herds of bison, but what I didn’t know was that practically everywhere I went there would also be crazy gorgeous rivers and waterfalls. Yellowstone was definitely a wonder, and I spent several more days there than I’d imagined simply because there was so much to see and learn and explore.
(Gibbon Falls, just one of many spectacular waterfalls to be seen)
(the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, as seen from the top of Lower Yellowstone Falls)
3. Hiker/biker infrastructure! Anywhere with hiker/biker sites always reminds me how much nicer it is to be traveling by bicycle. People driving through Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons had to contend with super overcrowded campgrounds that often filled before 9am. I, on the other hand, could roll into a dedicated hiker/biker site well into the evening and still have somewhere to stay — for only $5. That is a definite perk of human-powered transportation. (Though it doesn’t work everywhere. Utah, for example, one of my previous trips, had no hiker/biker sites so good luck, cycling suckers! Just kidding. Stealth camping is the Utah way.)
(lovely spots for human-powered travelers at Grand Teton’s Jenny Lake campground)
4. The Grand Tetons! I almost missed the Grand Tetons, the second place I really wanted to explore, because the weather sucked, but finally — finally!! — it stopped raining and the clouds cleared and I got to witness the mountains in all their glory. It was totally worth the wait and all the shit-weather biking and camping.
(and check out that bike path!! You can stay off the road all the way from Jackson, Wyoming to Jenny Lake in the Grand Tetons!)
5. Relatively few bike issues! The biggest mishap was that I started with a tire that was already not in great shape. (Bad idea, I know.) Which meant that after about a week, several unpaved excursions, and 550ish miles, it was basically ready to explode. Though I wrapped it up in duct tape and prayed that it would hold, I was definitely excited when I was able to replace it in Jackson, Wyoming before anything truly bad happened.
(duct tape only lasts so long…)
Other than that, all I had to fix was two flat tires. Good luck!
6. Other fun facts! Craziest campsite of the trip? Probably the night I set up my tent near the track at Sugar-Salem High School, heard sprinklers and motors all night, and dreamed that a lawnmower was continually running into my feet (I have no idea what was actually going on, but I feel like something really was bumping my feet. Perhaps a dog? Who knows.)
Also fun were the most randomly-placed of mailboxes…
(special delivery to the middle of nowhere!)
as well as the most considered of them…
(someone spent a LOT of time on that one:)
…the most sparse of landscapes…
(the Sacajawea Scenic Byway in Idaho. It actually is fairly lovely and had lots of antelope, for those of you rolling your eyes at the “scenery”;)
…and the most intricate
(Surprise Lake as seen from Amphitheater Lake in the snowy, still-green, near-10,000-foot alpine territory of the Tetons)
As always, I ran into so many wonderful people — people who stopped to give me food, ask me about my travels, offer me rides, buy me snacks, fill my waterbottles, and invite me to hang out on their porches. I’m humbled, constantly, by the amazing goodwill in the world. And I’m also wholly overwhelmed by how crazy amazing gorgeous the world is, how big, how full. I’m such a lucky lady to get to see all this.
So yeah. Montana travels in a nutshell. If you have time and curiosity, I have bunches more pictures ready for perusal (not to mention super cheesy captions and descriptions!) — but really, the best thing is to go see it for yourself;) Get after it!
Such beautiful photos, really; my compliments on letting us experience this a little with you. The distances are so vast, didn’t that sometimes overwhelm you? I think I would feel untethered. I noticed one photo of your tent alongside a roadway, yes? I have told my students about you, and they are all impressed; their eyes grow wide in disbelief! This countryside reminds me a little of places I’ve been in Alberta, beautiful and endless.
Aw, thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it:)
I’m not sure which picture you’re talking about with my tent — I do try to get off the roads because I don’t like traffic noise (and also don’t like feeling super exposed), but sometimes I just have to tuck myself away as best I can.
As far as the distances, I actually love them. There’s something really meditative about digging into an all-day ride, over and over — plus, I’m always interested in the landscape around me, and the changes. I guess I’d say if I feel untethered, it’s generally in the best of ways, dissolved into the immensity of what’s around me:)
Maybe I should go to Alberta!
I think you would love it, and I could put you in touch with my family in Edson, a small town out in the bush along the Yellowhead Highway east of Jasper. They have places to climb, and bears, too! I also have a cousin in Red Deer, and she often drives out to Edson where her mother and brothers live; she knows every road and byway. The frost does come early, though; snow in October!
I look forward to your next post!
Wow! Amazing pics! Was in Montana this Summer vistiing friends and your pics brought back great memories. Cheers!
Aw, thanks! :) I bet you have some pretty spectacular pictures too if you took any — hard to go wrong with Montana landscape:)
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