While it was the Virginia Boy Scout troop that kept us awake with their wolf howl imitations, it was the Minnesota troop that woke us up with excited conversation about their upcoming rafting trip. Justin had tipped us off that many of these lodges have all you can eat breakfast buffets. Medical students love food, so medical students who are constantly biking have ridiculous appetites. Sure enough this lodge had a buffet, and we sure got ours money worth of food. By the time we finished, our table had 4 full size plates and 2 smaller plates that had been eaten clean.
Back at our site, we packed up and planned to head a few miles to West Thumb in order to hitch rides out to Old Faithful. Believing our park map that there'd be a visitor center at West Thumb, we were disappointed to only find a gift shop. The man at the gift shop and a Ranger both told us there were no official rides out to Old Faithful. Mulling over our options we walked the trail loops along the geysers basins at West Thumb. These basins were quite interesting, some with bright colors and others with incredible depths. A few were even located directly in Lake Yellowstone and previously were used to roast caught trout while they were still on the fishing pole.
Four more times for good measure: with no buses/vans to shuttle us out to Old Faithful, and not keen on hitchhiking, the chances of seeing the famous geyser were diminishing. The man working at the gift shop was sympathetic to our cause and let us store our gear in the shop's storeroom. Unburdened by our gear we set off towards Old Faithful. Jonathan's knees started acting up and it became clear that seeing the geyser could seriously jeopardize his ability to continue our trip eastward. He decided to head on to our campsite at Bridge Bay while I continued to Old Faithful. This meant a 35 mile round-trip for me, and four more crossings of the Continental Divide. With no gear I made good time but still managed to pick up a shard of glass in my rear tire, just 1 mile from the geyser. Scattered thunderstorms had been threatening all afternoon, and finally as I waited for Old Faithful to erupt, it began pouring with many lighting strikes. Finally the rain let up, just in time to flock to the geyser boardwalk and wait the final 10 minutes until the predicted eruption. Right on cue, the geyser's gurgling switched to a growing spout that lasted over a minute. Following the eruption I raced back to West Thumb (needing to get back before 5pm when the gift shop would close). I took in Kepler Cascades and discovered Isa Lake. At the top of one of the Divide closest to Old Faithful, sits Isa Lake. From one end drains a creek into the Snake River and to the Pacific. From the other end drains a creek into the Missouri River and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico.
Back to West Thumb, I grabbed my gear and followed the 18 miles along Yellowstone Lake that Jonathan had already covered. The lake was beautiful with mountains surrounding its shores. Jonathan once again won the wildlife lottery. As he rode, an elk walked up to inspect him, before calmly eating some grass only a dozen feet away from him.
Quite the photographic opportunity. The route along the lake was mainly flat with only some occasional manageable hills. Rendezvousing at the campground we met Daniel. He is riding from Seattle to Boston and is the first rider we've met who is transversing the country like we are.
We headed to a nearby lodge for dinner (our first meal since our massive breakfasts). Finishing up, we saw our first bison walk right across the driveway and front lawn of the lodge. Excited that we had finally seen the iconic Yellowstone animal, we grabbed our bikes to head back to the campsite. Walking along the sidewalk, we had to quickly reverse our direction as another bison was headed directly at us.
Back at camp we made plans for Daniel to ride to Cody with us tomorrow morning. We also met a couple with a young girl who were riding from New York to Portland. We went from zero bison and zero trans-America riders in the morning to having seen/met two groups of each by the time we went to bed.
Photos by Jonathan Kobles