Outdoor Philosophy

Harnessing the power of adventure to inspire environmental action

22 – 23 July 2006

through teton national park into yellowstone, which i realised when i arrived i’d confused in my head with yosemite, wondering where half-dome was going to arise on the skyline…. durr. gears playing up again and pannier rack loose on top, needing the one allan key i don’t have. stopped at a garage to borrow one. the mechanics came out to watch. You started where?! you’re going

where?!! are you on medication, or what?! odd couple of days. mostly cycling through trees i couldn’t see beyond on roads with no shoulder and lots of traffic. it’s hard not to come to hate traffic if you happen to be biking here. and not just because of the occasional idiots. one blasted his horn and shouted ‘get a car’ – as he revved past. for the first time i put up a finger and wished him (and some of the rv’s that have shaved my legs today) a recurring flat. what kind of a crazy culture are we that we put fences around ‘special’ bits of nature and then come in cars in such huge numbers that we we threaten the very places we treasure? occasional views through the trees. one of the tetons across jackson lake, looking more solid in morning light, patches of snow in the in the sunshine.

(grand teton is something over 13,000 feet). then a spectacular canyon with (i think) snake river hurtling through the bottom of it and a forest of dead trees, grey, branch-less trunks, on either side. a sign explained this as a legacy of a forest fire in 1988 that had leapt the 500ft canyon

putting human-man fire barriers well into perspective. sat on a wall looking down into the canyon watching a swallow – a voilet-green swallow assuming females have different head-markings from those on my card (i need some more sophisticated bird id!) – emerald green back, buff head, white tummy, flat-ended tail. what is it i feel watching these birds? a sense of peace, and spirit-lifting. And an anger/protectiveness at the ways we threaten their worlds and lives. as i sat a raven landed on top of a dead tree next to me,

then flew over my head and landed again. as he sat he stopped croaking and made a noise i hadn’t heard before – lowering his head each time – like wood knocking gently on hollow wood. knock. knock knock. at old faithful, a big and disorienting site with bad signposts (‘food’ eg, appears and then disappears before you’ve actually found any), i found my way to the main geyser. a steaming mound and a huge ampitheatre crowd. nothing happened. streams of people left. (how did they know something was supposed to have happened?!) powerful landscape with or without old faithful actually errupting. steam rising in wisps and billows from the pale ground. must look amazing in winter with snow. back in wyoming, on one of the worst head-wind days, i’d been battling up a long hill into a hot fierce wind when a maroon car pulled along-side. the man driving asked, would you like a gatorade? i was in a wind-blasted bad mood. no thanks, i said, i’m fine. how about some cold water? i was low on water and what i had was heated in black plastic water-bottles to just short of boiling point. yes please would’ve been a sensible response. thanks for asking, i said, but no, i’m fine. and watched the car pull away and disappear in seconds. same physical space, totally different experience….some time later i reached the top of the hill. an orange bottle of gatorade sat right in the middle of the hard shoulder. i had to laugh. i stopped and examined the bottle. luke warm, unbroken seal. it had to be him. i drank it. as i was leaving yellowstone a car pulled along-side. ‘did you drink the gatorade?’ maroon-saloon man! he pulled off the road. mike, specialising in ‘golf-art’ and travelling a lot. he’d known exactly what mood i was in and that i’d needed a drink really. ‘i’ve put you in my book’ he said. and then that global warming is a ‘pile of crock. for every scientist that says it’s happening there’s one that says it isn’t’… ‘i’ll put you in my book’ i said, and we parted after i’d accepted a bottle of cold water. left the park and reached west yellowstone about 3.30 ish. refueled in a great bike shop/cafe, used their high pressure pump, chatted about the road ahead and made the first of a series of ‘go-for-it’ decisions, aiming at big sky, montana, 50 miles away. set off with a sense of relief at being out of yellowstone park (which i’m sure i didn’t do justice) and headed out with hard tyres and high spirits into montana.

4pm ish, 50 miles down, 50 to go….landscape opens up, lush, river, distant hills, beautiful. first 15 miles a blast. then a climb. Clouds gathering. thunder. looked less ominous when took sunglasses off. occasional blasts of rain and the smell of water on hot tarmac.

at one point a line of cars with hazard lights on. assumed a crash. but no, a distant, dark, heavily horned moose. when you stop the crickets sound like static electricity in the grass. opened into a really gorgeous valley, wide, lush. the gallatin river. Wooded hills on each side. and the river going the same way as me…. a flashing moose-warning sign, powered by solar. stopped to photgraph it and a mosquito bit my underarm. montana mosquitos seem better adapted to flying in the wind (which is a breeze by wyoming standards). cruised past various good looking places to stay determined (for some reason) to get to big sky, which turned out to be largely a building site full of future ski resort developments. no campsite. a friendly local warned me against continuing – the trucks are especially bad and the road narrow ahead. ended up in a characterless hotel way beyond my budget but what the heck. 9 pm, 104 miles and the shower was absolutely great….. ate a tortilla, wrote journal, recharged phone and camera, washed underway and made various phonecalls. motel stops are busy! in the middle of talking with chris i had such a powerful premonition that i was going to be hit from behind by a truck tomorrow that it completely derailed me from what i was saying.