Riding your bike through the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem will undoubtedly have highlights. Each day will bring incredible views, exciting wildlife sightings, the thrill of descending quick hills and the accomplishment of summitting long climbs. It’s a beautiful, perfectly paced way to get to know and fall in love with this remarkable part of the world.
As much as I cherished the expected joys and the “better than expected” moments of Cycle Greater Yellowstone, Wyoming edition, I thought I’d share a few of the daily highlights that might surprise you—that did surprise me.
Day 1: Cody to Meteetsee
1) Meeteetse’s Museum . The curator of the Meeteetse Museum is exuberant about sharing his town’s story, from the rediscovery of the black-footed ferret to the way ice picks are used. Only one museum was open that evening because there is only one of him.
2) Meeteetse’s pool. That will do a body some good after 70 miles on the bike in 100-degree weather. Too bad I left my swimsuit in my tent and was too tired to go back to retrieve it.
Day 2: Meeteetse to Thermopolis
1) Gooseberry Creek badlands. What an incredible landscape. The otherworldly hoodoos and stripes of reds, purples, and greens left us in awe. On the other hand, the juxtaposition of a bunch of spandex-clad cyclists wandering this setting gave me the giggles.
2) Wyoming Whiskey. The tour of the distillery was fun and informative, and the sample of this year’s special batch was smooth and just enough burn to distract me from the burn in my legs.
3) Hot Springs. Thermopolis is home to the world’s largest natural hot springs. That will do a body some good after 142 miles on the bike, and I remembered to grab my swimsuit this time.
Day 3: Thermopolis to Pavillion
1) Traveling Wind River Canyon by a fourth mode of transportation. I have driven through Wind River Canyon. A handful of years ago, I participated in the Cowboy Tough Adventure Race wherein we ran through part of the canyon and rafted the rest of it. Thanks to CGY, I have now traveled it by a fourth mode of transportation: cycling.
2) Watermelon in Shoshoni. ‘Nuf said.
3) Dance exhibition by the Eagle Spirit Dancers. As a resident of Wyoming’s Wind River Country, I’ve seen exhibitions by this Native American group and others before. But feeling the wave of cheers and appreciation from hundreds of my cycling peers who were seeing and hearing these songs, dances, and histories for the first time gave me chills.
Day 4: Pavillion to Dubois
1) Those Dubois badlands. They are so dramatic and stunning. From the red rock cliffs to the colorful hills, Dubois rises up from the plains with drama that’s even more extraordinary at 17 miles an hour than at 70.
2) Teaming up against the Wyoming wind. I don’t know who he was, but I’d recognize his calf tattoo any day. Thanks to the guy who traded turns pulling through the wall of afternoon wind and made those last 16 miles some of the most fun (instead of dispiriting) miles of the week.
Day 5: Layover Day in Dubois
1) Tales from other cyclists. I wasn’t up for many of the optional miles up Togwotee Pass, which I am sad about. But I got to hear from thrilled riders that the views were as beautiful as I remembered and that some even spotted a bear. Sharing in their appreciation for my backyard was just as special as seeing it myself.
2) Free wifi. Yes, it may be a statement about my generation, the world we live in, or the screen addiction. And yes, it was valuable to be unplugged in for most of the days, most of the miles that I was sharing with my mom and sister through the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. But I also wanted to share my images and stories from the first four days with people who weren’t there experiencing it. The town of Dubois offers free wifi to all, so I took full advantage. I’d also like to add that I wasn’t the only one glued to my screen part of my time in Dubois.
Day 6: Dubois to Lander
1) The aid station in Fort Washakie. I don’t particularly enjoy crafts. I’m downright bad at art. But the chance to explore Maker Space 307—part art studio, part STEM lab, part business incubator for residents of the Wind River Indian Reservation—was presented in the form of crafts. So I made a pin with dried flowers and blinking lights, and though it isn’t pretty, it was a highlight experience.
2) Dinner. It was prime rib served up with live music by a local band. I don’t need to say anything more.
Day 7: Sinks Canyon
1) Through much of the week, smoke from wildfires in nearby states hindered our views of the mountains. I know how beautifully they can stand out, and I mourned the fact that Wyoming’s cycling guests weren’t able to enjoy them. But on the last day, for the last 34 miles, the smoke cleared and the Wind River Mountains revealed themselves.
2) The last few beautiful miles of the week with each of the two people who made this possible for me: my mom and my little sister.