Yellowstone National Park
June 3, `72
When it came time to leave the campground for Yellowstone, my bike
developed derailleur problems. After more than an hour of working on
it, I got the gears shifting again. They still were not right, but
I called Carol Sue and the chances of meeting up with Mike and Denny
were nil. They were somewhere in South Dakota, caught in the flood
that ripped through the town of Keystone and knocked out phone lines.
I had to get use to the idea that I’d probably be traveling alone for
the rest of the summer. In front of me was an 8,500-foot mountain pass
that was the East Entrance to Yellowstone.
Henry was very sympathetic to my plight. He was willing to postpone
his own departure in order to carry my bicycle and me up the mountain.
There wasn’t enough room in his car to pack everything, so, after he
dropped me off, he would have to come back and repack his car. I
wasn’t comfortable with that idea. The two of us put our heads
together and came up with a plan. Henry tied a long rope to the back
of his car, and, on the other end, he tied a stick. The idea was to
have the car pull me up the mountain as if I was water skiing. The
idea was a good one, at least in the beginning. Under the strain of
the steep grade (not to mention the danger built into one hand on the
bicycle, one hand holding a stick, on a curvy, winding, mountain
road), I was barely able to hold on.
After I got a free three-mile ride up the mountain, and when I could
no longer see over the snow banks on the slick highway, I decided to
part company with Henry. He was okay with that. When I finally did
reach the top of Sylvan Pass, the snow measured eight feet. The sun
was shinning, but the cold was so uninviting that I began my downhill
ride without hesitation. Coasting down to Yellowstone Lake was great:
another fantastic ride (but this time just a ride). Open water was
visible on the ice-covered lake. The whole scene was a very beautiful
sight. It was pretty easy to see why this area –Yellowstone Lake, the
thick pine forest, and gorgeous mountains — was all declared our
first National Park (by Teddy Roosevelt, I think).
Most of the facilities had not yet opened. I bought a couple treats at
a camp store that was open, and then hit the road for the west side of
the park and Old Faithful. In the afternoon it rained: not an unusual
event. Yesterday it rained also. This time it only rained for three or
four hours, but that was still enough to cut my riding time in half.
During the worst of it, I managed to wheel my bike back into a pine
forest where I set up my lean-two. Under my 5 by 7-foot space blanket
(engineered by the Nasa space program for water-proof durability and
light weight), I waited out the rain. Huddled under a blanket so small
that you had to be on alert or face getting wet from the water
streaming off the roof was not much fun. With a puddle of water to my
left, and a snow bank to my right, I had nothing to do but enjoy the
scenery. It would have been a good time to read a book, if I only had
one. At least I was tucked inside my warm sleeping bag.
The next morning, after an invigorating hike through the pristine
pine forest, and, after a breakfast of pea soup (made from packaged
peas), six Bisquick biscuits, a cup of coffee, and a cigarette, I was
ready to hit the highway for Old Faithful. I was not trying to break
any speed records. Late in the morning, the sun burned off the gray
mist that greeted me after a relatively good night’s sleep. I really
enjoyed my camp; I was far enough off the road so as not to be
bothered by automobiles. I wasn’t sure if it really mattered. There
weren’t enough cars to worry about, especially in the evening.