Yellowstone National Park (Canyon), WY

Day 2

When I rode my bike from Chicago to Portland, Oregon in 2007, I passed through Yellowstone, spending one night at Canyon campground, one at Norris, and then I was out of the park. I felt then that I had actually spent a bit of “extra” time at Yellowstone compared to many bike tourers, since I took the Loop road up north through Mammoth and then back south to Norris, rather than just connecting the shortest distance between two lines. But to our current bike-touring sensibilities, even that “longer” stay seems impossibly brief and stupid (much like how Dennis did a stretch through Glacier in one day that we we did in three). So I had gone over Dunraven Pass then like we did yesterday, but the idea of stopping and hiking to the top didn’t even cross my mind, because I had 55 more miles to ride that day! (compared to the 19 total miles of riding we did yesterday.) I had made time for a short walk to a viewpoint into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, but now I would be able to really see it, especially since it was one of my favorite (brief) sights 16 years ago.

So, with two more nights booked at Canyon campground (making our stay at this one campground longer than my entire stay at Yellowstone last time!), we were able to wake to our first non-alarm morning in a while. We had some catching up to do on sleep following yesterday’s 3am wakeup after all! Breakfast was almost extravagantly dinner-like in its preparation, dicing actual potatoes (because the extensive camp store had them, and they were much cheaper than the frozen ones) to cook up with onion, and then topped with egg, sausage, bacon, and cheese. The weather has been perfect for outdoor living, so that 4 day delay in Red Lodge before heading up here was definitely the right call, and again we’re so grateful to have the temporal flexibility to make our lives more enjoyable.

We essentially wanted today to be an “off” day, but with the campground right near the north rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, a little walk there would have a high payoff-to-effort ratio. On the way we passed through the parking lots of a set of huge new lodges constructed in the last few years. They say it’s the highest density of accommodations in the park, but to it’s guests credit, the parking lots were nearly empty by the time we walked through. To their un-credit, we realized that the sign for a shuttle bus that we had seen last night by the restaurant (“huh? I didn’t think Yellowstone has a shuttle like Glacier or Zion”) was likely just to transport people the short distance between their lodge and the restaurant.

In the middle of our walk we ran into Rey heading the same way, so it was fun to do the first part of the hike with him until he had to run ahead to heed nature’s call. Walking through the flat forest trail, there is zero indication that you’re about to come upon a 1000-foot-deep gorge, with giant waterfalls inside, and I wonder if bison and other animals are just as flabbergasted as humans must have been the first time they came up this remarkable canyon. In some ways I think that the “real” Grand Canyon should be renamed “The Grand Canyon of the Colorado” and this one should get the Cher/Madonna/Prince mononym.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Red is the standout color in the canyon, but the whites and yellows are pretty otherworldly too, especially because they seem like they’re bleached with caustic volcanic chemicals.
The Yellowstone bending around rock towers it hasn’t quite yet cut through.
Lower Falls of the Yellowstone.
Rett at the Lower Falls.
We took a down-and-back-up offshoot to get closer to the Lower Falls level, but looking back up was just as impressive (with a higher viewpoint visible at the top).
To the left, the brink of the Upper Falls, and to the right, the blasting outfall of the Upper Falls.
A closeup of the blasting outflow of the Lower Falls, whose source is still hidden around the corner.
Rett with a frightening vantage point of the tremendous power of the Upper Falls. Just before the falls, the river pinches down to a narrow chute, which forces the already-swift-flowing water to accelerate, and that means it’s not the gentle tug of gravity pulling the water like a normal waterfall, it’s more like 10,000 high-pressure firehoses blasting straight down into the river below.
The roaring Upper Falls of the Yellowstone.
Water rebounds nearly as high as the falls themselves.

By the time we made it back to our campsite, Rett’s watch had recorded six miles worth of hiking. On what was supposed to be a “rest day”. Whoops! Well, six miles of flat walking is sort of like a rest day for us…? Oh, except we did a pretty good up-and-down inside the canyon too.

A hiker has showed up at the hiker/biker site, and we’d helped talk Rey into staying a second night, but plenty of space remained. In Montana we had heard laments of the terrible mosquitos in Wyoming, but after some mid-level annoyance on our first day’s hike, we’ve had no problem, not even at dusk in our wooded campsite, so hopefully we can attribute that to our impeccable timing and will be able to count mosquito season over (and barely even felt this summer)!

(A small portion of) the hiker/biker site at Canyon Campground, Yellowstone



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