Yellowstone National Park is my favorite place on earth. I am lucky, a four hour drive from my doorstep gets me to Old Faithful, depending on how many ‘bear jams’ I encounter along the way. I have been visiting Yellowstone for 30 years and even fought forest fires there in my 20’s. I never get tired of it.
When I knew I had a week-long break from breast cancer appointments my first thought was to pack up the Millennium Falcon (my pop-up truck camper) and head to Yellowstone. The trip was also my 50th birthday present to myself! I’d never explored the park by mountain bike and I thought it would be fun. The park has a great brochure on the handful of trails, paths and gravel roads open to cyclists: Bike in the Park.
I usually avoid Yellowstone in the middle of summer due to crowds, but this time I was headed to an area less popular with tourists. I camped at Indian Creek Campground, which is a little out of the way, but a perfect jumping off point to explore trails that were new to me in the Mammoth Hot Springs area.
The two places that allow bikes in this part of the park are the Bunsen Peak Road and the Abandoned Railroad Bed Trail. If you are looking for technical single track or putting in big miles, these trails are not it. But if you are looking for beauty and solitude as well as a unique way to experience the park, this is exactly where you want to be.
Entering the park!
Riding the Bunsen Peak Road, a dirt two-track, which leads to the Osprey Falls Trail.
At the Osprey Falls Trailhead I stashed my bike in the trees to hike the trail.
This friendly marmot was my only company on the Osprey Falls Trail.
More of my friend.
Riding Bunsen Peak Road back to the parking lot – the first and only humans I saw all day were on the way back to my truck.
Yellowstone is unbelievably beautiful
And every evening saw this snowshoe hare.
Yellowstone is peaceful, if you veer off the boardwalks and take the time to really see. For example, every evening I stopped at Swan Lake to watch a pair of adult Trumpeter Swans tending to their nest. I was always the only one there, quietly watching life unfold.
The trailhead for the Abandoned Railroad Bed Trail is just outside Yellowstone’s north entrance behind the Research Heritage Center.
The Railroad Bed Trail follows the Yellowstone River to the park boundary at Reese Creek. The highway is on the other side of the river so it’s not secluded but it’s very pretty in my opinion. The trail is overgrown in places and I was the only one on it.
End of the trail at Reese Creek.
I had been waiting weeks for test results that would indicate whether or not I needed chemo for breast cancer (it was assumed that I would) – in addition to a mastectomy and radiation. Just before I took this photo I received a call from the oncology nurse – I did not need chemo. I was the happiest person in the park, maybe the whole state! What a blessing. After that, I turned off my phone. A week later I had a mastectomy, so this trip was a much needed rest and mind-break.
Terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs.
Even the boardwalks are peaceful – if you go at the right time. I like to walk them early morning or evening.
Morning coffee and planning for the day. This was a solo trip, no kids and no partner. It was just what I needed. I woke up when I wanted to, ate what I felt like (Kit Kats) and took naps. I spent an entire morning reading in my hammock and doing yoga in the shade. Being in a campground during the day is nice and quiet because everyone is out sightseeing. I ventured forth in the evenings when everyone else was coming back into camp. Indian Creek Campground is my new favorite campground in the park.
On the Fourth of July I hiked the Bighorn Pass Trail and went fly fishing on Indian Creek. Once again, another trail I had all to myself. The Bighorn Pass Trail starts at Indian Creek Campground. Whether on my bike or hiking I carry my bear spray and make noise. I always default to singing Janis Joplin “Oh Lord, won’t ya buy me a color TV”… or anything from the Sound of Music, off key and sure to scare any critter away. Or…I suppose an animal could think I’m wounded prey!
Early morning at Norris Geyser Basin.
North Entrance at Gardiner, MT. One of my best trips, despite the circumstances. Or maybe because of. Life is short, and joy and sorrow are alway intertwined.