After our travels on the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route where we were cut short due to snow, Dave and I continued north into Wyoming and Montana to see Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, with a stop in Logan, UT where my dad went to Utah State University in the late 60s. It was easy to see from the surrounding mountainous area why my mom refers to his time spent there as, “ski-versity.” I would have been distracted, too.
On June 4 we were in Jackson Hole, WY riding alongside the impressive Teton range. This was an area where I’d hung out for about three weeks 20 years ago to do some climbing. It was great to be back there remembering a great climb up the Grand Teton with my friend Mark Litterick. From the Tetons we rode into Yellowstone, the US’s first National Park. I was blown away by this place. It’s a bubbling cauldron of geo-thermal action and through the steaming pools and gushing geysers you’ll see roaming bison, elk, sheep, grizzly and black bears living their peaceful lives in the rolling green pastures, oblivious to the hundreds of camera lenses focused on them for that perfect wildlife shot. Here we saw Yellowstone Falls, which has the largest volume of water in the US Rocky Mountains. We watched Old Faithful while eating ice cream and snickered to each other after the earth’s ‘ejaculation’ was over and we overheard one lady say to another: “Well, that was disappointing. I thought it would be larger and last longer.”
Outside of Cooke City, MT we met Bill and Shirley from Billings, Montana, who were stopped on the side of the road checking out a waterfall. They were riding two-up on a KLR 650. We stood talking for quite a while and Bill then suggested Dave and I ride a backroad near where they were camped south of Red Lodge, MT, about an hour down the road. He told us to stop at their site first to grab some bear spray as he had ridden his KLR up that road before and seen a grizzly.
An hour later we arrived at their camping site in an idyllic spot along the confluence of two raging creeks. They immediately offered us food and we stood talking with them while eating sandwiches and chocolate bars before heading up the 8 m (13 km) road that dead-ends at a trailhead for a 6 m (9.6 km) round-trip hike into a lake. The road was bumpy and gorgeous. We parked the bikes and hiked 3 m (4.8 km) to an overlook for the lake, which was still mostly frozen over. It was a beautiful day and the trail although still covered in a lot of snow, was pretty. We saw a smattering of marmots, deer and a coyote ran in front of my bike but thankfully no grizzlies. That night we ended up camping in the same area as Bill and Shirley and spent a lot of time talking with them. They are really nice people.
We rode over the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway on June 7, which links Cody, WY with Beartooth highway and Yellowstone’s northwest gate. It’s a paved road that winds its way higher and higher within its 45 m (72.4 km) length. We spent the night of June 8th on the shores of Seeley Lake in Montana watching an incredible lightening show. I’ve never seen lightening strike upwards or in some cases it would stretch its glowing fingers out toward us but never seem to touch earth; more like giant electric rivers that would just drain out into the night sky.
We spent the following two days in Glacier National Park, doing day hikes and pouting about not being to ride over the Going to the Sun highway, which was still closed for the season. The hikes were beautiful though and it was nice to get some exercise after all the sitting we tend to do on the bikes.
We entered into Canada on June 10 trailing a raging storm into Alberta. Our plan was to head into Waterton, a place we’d both really wanted to see, but the weather was so bad we didn’t think we’d get any more hiking in so we pressed on into Pincher Creek, AB, where we found a restaurant to warm up in. We hung out for a few hours using their wifi and chatting with other people at their tables. After hearing we were planning on forging ahead in the storm to find camping, we were told of a nearby campground that was cheap and pleasant. When we got there it had cleared up but we still took full advantage of the hot showers and indoor sitting area with a hundred copies of old Beautiful British Columbia magazines to hold our attention through the evening. Once back in our tent for the night, the rains started again and hammered all night. We were under a huge tree and listened to the water dropping onto the tent, somehow cozy and happy in our soggy fabric home.
The morning was clear so we walked into town for breakfast then took off on our ride for the day. I hadn’t seen my friend Christa McPherson, now living in Canmore, AB, for over seven years. We used to work together at a backcountry lodge and I messaged her a few days in advance to see if we could come for a visit.
Dave and I wanted to ride into Canmore via Highway 40 over Highwood Pass in Kananaskis but it was closed for animal migration. We found an alternative route and headed to Canmore. For this day, we had wind, hail and rain interspersed with sun. Welcome to summer in Canada! Along the way we stopped on the side of the road and ate some lunch. A van passed us, honked then did a u-turn. A young couple got out offering us beer. They’d just returned to Canada from riding through Columbia, South America and were full of enthusiasm to hear about our travels. We stood on the side of the road and talked to them for well over an hour. They had left their bike in Columbia and were home hoping to earn enough money to get back out there. We had a great time talking with them and truly hope they find the means to continue their adventure.
It was great to visit in Canmore with Christa and meet her family. The next morning, June 12, Dave and I headed to Calgary. I have an indestructible grandpa who still has his marbles at 102 years old. We brought him a milkshake, which is the tradition when visiting grandpa and we had a great catch up visit telling him stories of the last six months travelling through Mexico, Central and South America. We spent the night at Dave’s aunt and uncle’s in Calgary and enjoyed the visiting time we had with them as well.
In the mid-70s, my grandpa and dad built a cabin at the base of Panorama ski resort, where my sister and I learned to ski. My parents sold the cabin years ago but this June they were celebrating their 47th anniversary at Panorama so from Calgary Dave and I headed to Invermere and up to Panorama. We spent a night there visiting with my folks and walked over to see our old cabin, still in great shape after all these years. From Panorama Dave and I headed to Revelstoke for a few days of visiting with friends and my family and then went to visit his mom and step-dad in Oliver, as well as an old friend of mine I’ve known for over 20 years.
On June 21, we rode back into the US and while Dave rode a part of the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route I rode the highway to Cashmere, WA and hung out drinking a milkshake at the 59’er Diner. At one point I struck up a conversation with a man named Greg and his daughter Kirstin. She had just graduated from high school and one of her projects was to build a motorcycle from scratch. Her dad, Greg, helped her in the endeavour. By the time Dave showed up (three hours after I’d ordered my milkshake; he’d missed a turn and rode more of the route than he planned to), Greg had invited us to spend the night at his family’s home in Plain, WA. We got their address and showed up about 45 minutes behind them. They have a beautiful piece of land and a home that backs out onto the Wenatchee River. It was an incredible setting but we didn’t want to talk too much about how lucky they were to live in such a great place because they were within days of moving to Spokane. Before we left I told Kirstin she was a very impressive young lady building a motorcycle and wished her well in her pursuits studying mechanical engineering. Greg is an awesome dad for teaching his daughter some of those skills and his wife Alison was a great sport welcoming us last minute into her home in the middle of packing everything for a big move.
From Plain, Dave and I took a back road over to Steven’s Pass, where Dave learned to ski as a kid. We took the day to ride to Arlington, WA, where Dave’s dad lives. He welcomed us after six months of travelling by telling me I looked like a bum. Tough love! And so with this inviting welcome, Dave and I spent the next two weeks in Rick’s home organizing for the next leg of our trip. Stay tuned for posts about our travels up north through BC to the Yukon and Alaska!