The last few weeks on Ďmyí ranch in Montana were spent looking at weather forecasts waiting for a warm dry spell to make a dash south to Utah. The weather would be warmish for a while then it would snow and make motorcycle travel hazardous and chilly.
Just When You Think It Is Warm Enough To Leave (12th April 2010)....
..... It Snows Again! (13th April 2010)
I had been looking at the snow capped mountains behind the ranch all winter hoping for an opportunity to walk amongst them. I made an attempt on my last weekend although I could see there was a fair bit of snow higher up. It was a warm sunny morning when I set off. After a couple of miles and a 1000 feet of height gain I got to a plateau with snow drifts here and there and solid snow all the way up to the peaks. A hailstone shower started and lasted half an hour just as I wanted to sit down for a picnic lunch. The route went through a dip before climbing again and the dip was full of snow. I tried crossing in two places and was sinking into the snow almost to my waist. I bravely or foolishly (depending on whether you are my mother or not) crawled and dragged myself through the drift at the second spot reaching trees where I thought the snow wouldnít be so deep. I was right but I was still sinking into soft snow up to two foot deep with no sign of it reducing. After a couple of hundred yards I gave up and retraced my steps back down.
Snow Capped Mountains Behind Ranch
I had wanted to put on a barbecue for all the friends I had made during my winter in Montana but it was the middle of calving and lambing and they were too busy to come up to Ďmyí ranch. Instead, they laid on a barbecue at ranch HQ which was great although I felt a bit guilty as I had wanted to play host for all the hospitality shown to me through the winter.
Bike Beside Partially Frozen Pond On Ranch
The forecast for 19th April 2010 was good in Montana and on my route to Utah so I made plans to leave then. I had hoped to travel south through Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks but the road south from Yellowstone was still closed for the winter. The north and west entrance roads had just opened on the 16th April so I was able to travel through Yellowstone from Gardiner to West Yellowstone passing through the Theodore Roosevelt arch.
Theodore Roosevelt Arch, Yellowstone N.P.
I saw my first grizzly bear in Yellowstone. It was between 200 and 250 yards away. Close enough to see clearly but too far to get a photograph with my camera. It looked pretty big and in good condition considering it must have just emerged from winter hibernation. Iíd assumed they would be thin, bedraggled and hungry for tourist blood after sleeping through the winter.
Yellowstone National Park
There was a bison in a picnic area. The park rules are that you are not allowed off the park roads and paths to get closer to the animals and you canít get close enough to distress them. As the bison was in an area open to the public rule one didnít apply. I got within 20 feet without it showing any signs of distress although I was beginning to get a bit tense. Yellowstone animals are used to tourist snapping away with cameras and donít have the fear of humans that animals in the true wild have. Hunters have been known to take advantage of this lack of fear of humans on any animal that strays outside the park boundary. The boundary is known locally as the thin red line and hunters wait to shoot any animal that strays over it.
Bison In Yellowstone National Park
I was heading for Wendover, Utah the closest town to Bonneville Salt Flats on a 400 mile detour to get a photograph of the land speed record course before going to Moab, Utah. Wendover was 588 miles away and I planned on camping at a national forest campsite on the way but when I got there it was still closed for the winter. I had felt a bit tired on the interstate section around Idaho Falls but got my second wind when I got onto a country road with good scenery on a beautiful clear evening and kept rolling along keeping an eye out for campsites or a motel. Once it got dark I was only an hour from Wendover so kept going and did the 588 miles in a day.
The following day I travelled the short distance to Bonneville Salt Flats. The ground was a bit soft so I didnít venture off the tarmac onto the course. I was told that the salt flats can be a shallow lake at this time of year. As the winter water evaporates the course hardens ready for speed week in August.
Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah-The White Stuff Is Salt Which Makes A Change From Snow!
From Bonneville my route took me on an unavoidable interstate towards Salt Lake City then on a better sweeping road to Moab with the scenery improving all the time. The interstate around Salt Lake City was a busy ten lane highway which isnít my idea of fun. Last summer I was pretty successful at avoiding interstates and keeping to quiet interesting roads while travelling through the eastern States and Canada. This summer I am having to make some compromises to get to all the places I want to visit and leave the USA by the 9th September 2010 when my visa expires. Still, it beats working for a living!
Salt Lake, Utah
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