TL;DR: Up a hill and into showers.
(TL;DR = "too long; didn't read" = a brief summary)
We woke up early, ready to climb to our highest elevation of our trip: Sylvan Pass (8530ft or 99ft above the top of Teton Pass). With our newly acquired riding partner, Daniel, we headed off to the lodge cafeteria from the night before. Knowing that we would have few food options for the rest of the day, we made sure to make breakfast count. Three pieces of French toast and a half plateful of "eggs du jour" (eggs with cheese, peppers, potatoes and sausage). My server told me I had created "a breakfast for champions". Realistically this was probably a 1200+ calorie breakfast; I should probably start getting more exercise. Anyone have any good aerobic suggestions?
Once again the lodge delivered bison sightings. This time two bison were headed from the lake towards the lodge (maybe the same too we saw the night before headed the opposite direction?) We headed east along Yellowstone Lake, once again meeting up with these same bison that had managed to take a shortcut through a wooded area. Photographing them for a final time we headed out. Beautiful views of the Lake and it's surrounding mountains were unending. Our final bison sighting was a bit more precarious. Heading directly towards us in the other lane of traffic was a large bison. We came to a stop and waved down a passing SUV and enlisted them to drive slowly between the bison and ourselves, acting as a moving shield. Avoiding a bison goring, we reached Mary Bay. This section of the lake has the largest amount of geothermal energy in the park. Along with geyser basins this area brought us our first cellular service in days.
Leaving Mary Bay, we had one more Bay before we began the climb up to Lake Butte. This was the beginning of our climb to Sylvan Pass. The three of us climbed for about 2.5 miles before reaching what we hoped to be a summit. While we were wrong about being done climbing, we were afforded beautiful views of the lake and mountains below. Then it was back to climbing. These climbs were not as bad as Teton Pass and before long we were passing Sylvan and Eleanor Lakes before we reached our highest summit of the trip.
Since Teton Pass, I had been remarking how the snow on some mountains was only about a couple hundred feet above our elevation. Finally, we were above it. A hundred feet past the sign for the pass was a patch of snow I could climb down to. Daniel and I made snowballs and posed for photographer. I gave Jonathan a snowball to bring back to Connecticut, but instead he dropped it on the road.
Now it was time for the fun part: 5 miles of 7% grade descent. (I know I am always using the term "grade". For those who do not know, the grade is the number of vertical feet one gains or loses over the course of 100 horizontal feet traveled. So for ever 100 horizontal feet we traveled down this mountain, we would lose 7 feet of elevation). Cruising down the mountain with gorgeous views surrounding us, we soon were racing out the East Entrance of Yellowstone and into Shoshone National Forest.
Despite our quick descent, the rest of the day would prove to have around 2000ft more of descent over the next 50+ miles into Cody. Hunting lodges and campsites lined this stretch of the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway. Each campsite reminding campers that tents and pop-ups were forbidden due to being in the heart of grizzly country. (Not to worry, my bear spray has been within an arms length away from me ever since leaving Jackson). The forest soon transitioned into a beautiful canyon as we followed the North Fork of the Shoshone River.
Unfortunately as often happens with canyons, we faced a strong headwind that brought our downhill progress to a crawl. Having a third rider to share the burden of breaking through the wind was a very welcome addition. The miles crawled by as the wind raged on. Stormy clouds threatened us for much of the afternoon without delivering any precipitation. The canyon's shape was awesome to take in, especially realizing that had been formed entirely by water. The river provided a few groups of vacationers the chance to go white water rafting.
Within 20 miles of Cody we reached Buffalo Bill State Park, and with it, Buffalo Bill Reservoir. This body of water was beautiful and surrounded by buttes and mountains. The wind had lessened slightly now that we were out of the canyon, but still blew in our faces. Approaching the Buffalo Bill Dam, it became suddenly apparent that we were going to enter a long series of three tunnels with barely existent shoulders. Luckily, car actually obeyed the "Share the Road" bike signs and followed us at a safe distance.
After reading about the history and utility of the dam and its power plants and irrigation conduits, we reached Cody city limits. We're staying at Ponderosa Campgrounds. They were kind enough to give a discount when they realized the 3 of us had ridden our bikes in. We were given the chance to sleep in a teepee next to a river. Unfortunately the teepee looked a bit too warm and the river was in a canyon. The walk down into and up out of the canyon was probably the most tiring climb of the day. The grade made Teton Pass look flat. Needless to say, we chose Ponderosa's other tent field next to the showers, bathrooms, and road. Taking our first showers since Jackson after four riding days felt amazing.