Sunday, April 25, 2010

Weekend Moutntain Bike Ride

15 Miles
Cold, wet and windy
Chico Hot Springs, MT
Yellowstone National Park

I was in Chico Hot Springs this weekend for the final installation of our Uncommon Sense program focusing on "greening up" our businesses.  Brad and I represented my firm for the last two years bringing back information and implementing changes.  We graduated this weekend from the program.  Since I was so close to Yellowstone, I salivated at the chance to do a little biking in the Park.  However I didn't have a lot of time to do so and I didn't want to stray too far from Chico since I was on a business trip.  I found a nice mountain bike ride from the North Gate to Mammoth via the Old Gardiner Road.  Its a dirt road so I decided to take my mountain bike to Chico Hot Springs with me. 

Chico Hot Springs Trail - 4 miles
When I got to Chico, I thought I'd try a ride there as well so I talked to a guy at the guest services desk that showed me two trails I could try.  I got up early Friday morning and ventured out into the muddy hills above Chico Hot Springs.  The guy at the lodge swore that I could mountain bike it but I might have to walk part of it.  I'm pretty embarrassed to show only 4 miles for my morning ride, about an hour, but hopefully these pictures will help explain why.
So far so good.  A little muddy from the rain storm the night before but it was still ridable.

Nice rustic scenery even though it was still kind of dark.

Ok, there was so much mud and loose rocks on the trail that I had to shift down to my 24 inch gear here.  (24 inches = 2 feet.  I had to start walking if you didn't get the joke there.) 

Chico Pond.  Still walking here.

Near the top of my climb.  Still walking but looking forward to riding back down.  I had to ride my brakes the whole way.

Yellowstone National Park
10 Miles 
After my seminar was completed, I headed down to Gardiner for a short ride.  I say short because its only ten miles but I knew that it was going to be a challenge climbing 1000 feet in just 5 miles on a dirt road. 
Sarah and I have been talking for quite awhile about riding through Yellowstone National Park some day.  Even though I was about to embark on a very small adventure by comparison, I got really excited to ride under the Roosevelt Arch into the Park.  Notice the elk standing just inside the gate?

These guys made me nervous and I started to question riding a mountain bike through Yellowstone without the protection of a vehicle.  I gave the bull elk a wide girth and sped past them.  They didn't even look at me.  I figured it was going to be alright after that.

This is the beginning of the Old Gardiner Road.  I didn't take very many pictures after this one because I was too busy huffing and puffing as I struggled to climb the steep grades I encountered later on.

The entire road was pitted with elk and bison tracks.  I had to watch the road fairly closely because the elk had left big holes and trenches in the road.  That's when I saw several of these unwelcomed tracks.  After my ride, I showed a park ranger the photo and she said it was either a really BIG black bear or a grizzly.  Great!

As I climbed, I tried to take in all the scenery.  I was pretty focused on looking for grizzlies though.

As I rode along I kept hearing movement in the brush but couldn't see anything at all. As I rounded each bend, I scanned the hillside for that lurking grizzly, hungry from a winter of hibernation.  Ok, I wasn't really that concerned but I was cautious.

I came around another bluff and scanned the hillside above me an saw nothing but brush.  As I looked below I saw six cow elk staring right back at me about 20 yard away.  I stopped to watch them for awhile then went another fifty yards before I saw hundreds of elk scattered all along the hillside on both sides of the canyon.  They were everywhere and they were all focused on me.  It was a cool experience.  I've run into wildlife on my bike before but nothing like this.

I needed to photo document that I was actually here on my mountain bike.  I took several pictures just to prove it.
There are a couple elk behind me above the left side of my helmet.

Even though I was having a blast, I was really tired of climbing.  I was very glad to see Mammoth Hot Springs in the distance.

End of the Road in Mammoth.

Mammoth Hot Springs

I pulled off the road into a parking area to take some pictures of Mammoth Hot Springs.  When I stopped my bike, I looked to my right to see this guy just fifteen feet from me.  Maybe I'm not as observant as I thought.  Maybe that bear was tracking me all the way and gave up once I got into civilization.  Nah.  I think the rangers at the North Gate were just messing with me when they told me that there were grizzly sitings in Mammoth.  I don't know but a little paranoia did set in by the end of the ride.

I took the Old Gardiner Road back to the North Gate.  It went much faster.  In fact I had to ride the brakes much of the way down to stay in control of the bike.  It was a short but exhausting ride.  I think it was all worth it if nothing more than for this picture.

1 comment:

AliJ said...

I don't blame you for being nervous about bears. When your dad and I hiked the Bechler hike, I felt them behind the whole time. Kind of eerie. Looks like you had a great time, though.