From the Rockies to the desert

Yellowstone National Park

The weather is bad, lots of wind and rain, which later changes to wet snow. We are so happy to be able to sleep inside for a few days, and watch the weather from our bedroom window. We stay at Travis through Warmshowers. Although we have never met him, we received the code for the door of his ”mancave”, in the village of Island Park. He himself lives in the city more than 100 kilometers away. It looks like the mancave is a base for all kinds of outdoor activities such as fat biking and snowmobiling. Everything is there, a kitchen, a pantry with food, bathroom, washing machine. And it is also nice to spend a weekend in a house, just the two of us.. After three days, the weather improves and we decide to continue cycling.

It snows lightly when we are on our way to the entrance of Yellowstone. An advantage, we think, it should be nice and quiet on a weekday with this bad weather. After we have entered the gates I already see a row of cars along the road. There are some bisons in the grass. There are still more than enough tourists. China in particular is well represented. But that shouldn´t spoil the fun. We see many more bisons, a number of elk and two coyotes early in the morning. Amazing to see all wildlife in real life, instead of just hearing them at night when we are camping.. The first night we go to an established campground, because we are obliged to do so in a National Park. A spot for our small tent turns out to be twenty dollars, almost the same price as for people with a big motorhome. And for that we don’t get much, no running water or a shower, just a hole-in-the-ground toilet. Fortunately, Lynn has done her homework well, because there are also campgrounds where you are only allowed to come on foot or by bike, and these are for free. We still need permission from a ranger. When we call the ranger he asks if we carry bear spray and he tells us to be careful because there are many bears in the park. When we arrive at the campground there is nobody at all. We have a nice spot at a small lake with sufficient firewood.

Free campground in Yellowstone
A bison by the river

The next day we cycle along all the geysers and hot springs, which look extra nice with a layer of snow around it. We are often addressed by the other tourists in the park, many are curious as to what we are doing. The last night we camp close to the exit of the park in the south, it is cold so we go to bed early.

A male elk
Elk in the distance
Robert and a bison

It snows the next morning. We want to wait until it stops, but it doesn’t seem to end any time soon. There is a thick layer of snow on the road and almost no cars. Normally it is busy on the main road, so they must have closed the road, we think. It is beautiful, our big tires do well in the snow. A jeep overtakes us and the driver asks if everything is going well with us. “Sure!” we answer. A little later it starts snowing even harder and we have to put on our sunglasses to see. A bit further down the road we see that two cars have slid against eachother and it appears that a bus has been pushed off the road. The jeep is behind accident, waiting for the problems to be solved. I smile and raise my hand again as we pass the jeep. When we have descended a bit, the road is free of snow and we arrive at the exit of the National Park. There is a long line of cars and nobody knows what’s going on. All drivers ask us why they are not allowed inside the Park. After explaining at least twenty times that the road is closed due to an accident and the heavy snow, we decide to cycle quickly to the warmth of a supermarket.

The Grand Prismatic Spring
Hot springs and geysers everywhere
Old Faithful geyser
Cycling in the snow storm

From the Tetons to Utah

In the supermarket we meet Ruben from Germany, he is on his way from Seattle to Los Angeles. Directly after Yellowstone we cycle through Grand Teton National Park together with Ruben. The weather is beautiful and we enjoy the high mountains of the Tetons. After a night at the National Park and a nice night at a Warmshowers host in the town of Jackson Hole, we say goodbye to Ruben. He goes en route to Colorado and we continue towards Utah. Unfortunately, bad weather is coming again. We are at the top of the first climb and already see the dark clouds coming in the distance. We put on our rain suits and overshoes. But we only get a few drops of rain. Those Americans always, (exaggerating) about storms! In the Netherlands we just call that a small shower, we joke at eachother. Well, two hours later we are in a real storm and we have to cycle straight against the wind. I see the temperature dropping from 10 degrees Celsius to well below freezing. Our rain suits and gloves no longer keep us dry in the extreme rainfall and I have no longer feeling in my fingers. I try to cycle as quickly as possible so that we don’t freeze, and I hope that Lynn will keep up with me. After about twenty kilometers of cycling through the storm we reach a gas station in the village of Alpine, where to our luck they sell pizza and we can warm up again. At the supermarket in the village we are invited by Bojan, he has cooked soup and a spare room for us! He was born in Macedonia and has traveled a lot with his American wife, last year they and their daughter canoed the Yukon River in Alaska. This is the beauty of traveling, one moment you freeze in the cold, the other moment you sit comfortably next to a fire place, with a beer in your hand talking about travel. The greatest things happen unexpectedly.

Cycling in Teton National Park
Together with Ruben
Sunny day while on our way to Jackson Hole

Canyons and a dry desert

After a few days more in the high mountains of Utah, we descend to Moab, a city known for the most beautiful mountain bike routes. The environment is changing drastically. The trees, mountains and rivers change into a dry desert-like landscape. It is a lot warmer here and it´s a long time ago we did not have freezing tempertures in the night. We soon find out that all the rivers on our map have dried out, which we have not taken into account at all. A number of our water bottles froze till they broke in the previous weeks, so we don’t have a lot of water with us. We cycle from river to river and everywhere we come to the same conclusion, no water. We are worried about the next three days, because we will not encounter any village.

Descending from the Rockies over singletrack
The desert is in sight

Our route goes through a special place called Little Grand Canyon. When we arrive there we meet a couple with a camper van and we ask them where we can find water. The man says there is no water, nowhere in this area, only in the river that runs deep below us through the canyon. But he has some water for us and gives all he can miss. We camp along the edge of the canyon with a beautiful view and the next day we follow a mountain bike route that follows the entire canyon. When we continue our route we cycle past a drinking place for cows, where the water comes out of the ground in a large container. The water has a terrible taste, but we are saved for now.

View in Little Grand Canyon
The San Rafael river deep down in the canyon
Filtering water from a stock tank

The next stretch is even more remote. One of the larger rivers in the area runs halfway along the route. We do not see anyone all day long and the river on which we have set our hopes appears to be dry. We decide to take another road, which is super bad, but will lead to the river that flows down the canyon. The road is a dead end and when we arrive at the place it turns out to be incredibly beautiful. The river flows, but we cannot reach the water because the water is two meters below a rock wall. We come up with a system with a rope and a dry bag so that we can still bring water to the surface. A moment later I see a very large beaver building on his dam right below me. On the rock we make a small fire under the beautiful starry sky. Out of need, we ended up here, we cycled and pushed over the bad roads and the reward is this beautiful camp spot.

The beautiful but rough road to the San Rafael river
Amazing camp spot
Finally, the river, water!

The next day we arrive in the next town, where we can stock up on food and water. Just when we reach the asphalt, we meet the friendly couple with the camper van again. They have worried about us whether we´d have enough water and are happy to see us again. It is still two days by bike to Moab but our route leads us through the beautiful Arches National Park. And when we arrive in Moab, we immediately buy some new water bottles and an extra water bag 😉 .

A gravel road to Arches National Park
Interesting rock formations
Arches National Park

One Comment on “From the Rockies to the desert”

  1. Ben jullie blogs aan het terug lezen, leuk om te lezen. En weer hulp van anderen.
    De bicycle junkies hadden in de zelfde regio de zelfde problemen met water.
    Prachtige foto’s en mooi beschreven.

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