Day 2, Monday, July 20th, 2009

We woke up to a misty morning, 12 miles (and a 1,000 foot climb) behind our schedule, due to yesterday's storms. But where the first three days weren't planned to be all that challenging, I was fairly sure we could make it up.

Morning mists shroud our wet camp at Norris Campground

Catching up would not be all that easy, since the Norris-to-Canyon road has one of the steepest grades in the park.

On the plus side, from this point on, we had wide road shoulders, as opposed to the non-existent shoulders on the park roads up to now.

Since there are no stores in the area, we ate breakfast in the form of a can each of chunky soup – some varieties of which are better tasting cold than others. We then broke camp, and were on our way.

The way started out flat enough, but once we got to the Virginia Cascades road, there were grades too steep to cycle. This scenic drive did, however, avoid a few hundred feet of extra climb done be the main road.

The Virginia Cascades of the Gibbon River

Just beyond there, we traveled through the Virginia Meadows, which is a favorite fishing spot of mine in Yellowstone. There was no fishing on this trip though. And once we rejoined the Canyon road, we soon encountered the steepest grade in Yellowstone, which was a long walk-up hill, at least a mile long, and probably longer.

Near the top of a long walk-up hill heading toward Canyon Junction

It got gradually less steep, and finally we could cycle again. As you see in the following profile, it was less steep, but a longer downhill on the other side. It looks like the walk-up hill was about 1 ½ miles long.

I remember in this walk-up section, seeing a butterfly sitting on the road shoulder, stunned from having been hit by a car. As I walked toward it, a big ant hurried over and grabbed it, and it struggled to escape. The ant apparently bit the butterfly, and it stopped struggling. It was one of those little life and death struggles you can witness on a bicycle, but not in a car.

So after a long glide downhill (and hungry), we pulled into Canyon village for lunch.

Meal stop at Canyon Village

Just after lunch, cycling north toward Yellowstone Lake, we quickly ran into a traffic jam where people were stopped to look at (and photograph) a bison. Malcolm (who was ahead), observed the bison suddenly turn and charge two children who had gotten too close. The kids ran for their lives, ducking between the parked cars. Malcolm thought the bison would come on through between the cars, and hit him as well, so he hit the brakes. He saw that the horns of the bison were about 8 inches from the backs of the teenagers as they ran between the cars.

But the bison stopped short of the cars, and the kids were spared a gory death. The mother was yelling at them, concerned that the kids' action would cause them to be fined by the ranger. Malcolm not so gently reminded her about how it would have felt to drive home from vacation without two of her kids.

Close-call avoided, we cycled on. I remembered this section as very pleasant and beautiful. The pictures don't do it justice. I tried to take at least one picture representative of each area, but cycling it, it was constantly beautiful, every direction we looked. There were tall, stately pines, giving shade even in the afternoon.

Along the Yellowstone River, north of Canyon

Eventually, the landscape opened up to the rolling hills and open meadows of Hayden Valley.

Entering Hayden Valley

A meandering stream in Hayden Valley

Cycling here was easy, where the occasional climbs were not all that long, and not too steep. At last, we re-entered the forested area, and soon passed Sulfur Cauldron and Mud Volcano. Again there were shady groves, and beautiful views of the Yellowstone river.

The road shoulders from Canyon to Yellowstone Lake were not as wide as from Norris to Canyon, but they were adequate, and certainly better than the section from the north entrance to Norris.

Along the Yellowstone River north of Hayden Valley

I remember a number of times along this section, remarking to Malcolm that this was a really pleasant ride. Eventually, we made it to Fishing Bridge, and finally to Lake Village. Being hungry, we cycled to the store, where I enjoyed a caramel malt in addition to my meal.

Yellowstone Lake, as seen from the porch of the store at Lake Village

This was a 'grand old place', with photos on the wall showing a rich history.

Soon we were on our way again, cycling the last 3 miles or so to Bridge Bay campground.

Yellowstone Lake, just before reaching Bridge Bay

When I made the original camping reservation, I was told that I only needed the one car-camping reservation, since once we were traveling by bicycle, Xanterra guaranteed the availability of a hiker-biker campsite at any Xanterra-run campground.

This proved to indeed be the case at Bridge Bay, though we had to work for it in that it was way up the road past the other camping areas, and up at least one walk-up hill. Nevertheless, we made it, and set up camp. I thought these campsites were prettier than the general camping areas, but there were hordes of mosquitoes.

We hadn't counted on that, since last time we cycled Yellowstone (in June) mosquitoes were no problem. I put on my (long sleeve) jacket, which solved part of the problem, and discovered why humans evolved long head-hear. The mosquitoes home-in on your breath, and want to land on your face to feed. By by laying a thin layer of strands of my hair over my face, it formed a barrier the mosquitoes would run up against, trying to fly through, but couldn't. The thin layer of hair was easy to see through, however. It was kind of like an impromptu bee-keeper's mask.

We vowed next year to include the mosquito-net that hangs down from the central guy-rope.

Our mosquito-infested camp at Bridge Bay

Inside the shelter – note the pannier (with all our stuff) in easy reach, and water to drink.

We use a piece of plastic sheeting such as that used in construction, as it is tough enough to withstand a whole season of storm force winds, if tied at the corners with 'sheet-bend' knots. This will keep out rain with the best of tents, and do not hold in perspiration moisture. You are drier, than in a tent, and your bicycles are kept dry too. I like that you can lay down, and see things around the camp (through the tent) at night. This is also cheap, about $8 worth of plastic and rope. It also will not be made useless by the failure of one part, like a lot of tents. It is fixable in any camp, and you could easily buy a new one in any hardware store in any town.

On this day, we traveled 35 miles in 9 hours and 35 minutes. We were cycling for a total of 4 hours and 46 minutes. Our average speed was 7.3 MPH.

Here is the profile of the trip from Canyon to Bridge Bay. Note that the vertical difference is only about 300 feet:

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