After we gave our bicycles to REI for maintenance and got out rental car (we booked the smallest one available but still got one which was by far too big for us…), we drove towards north. We got the tip (thank you Eric!), that the North Cascades are worth a visit. Because they were on the way to some relatives of Ines in British Columbia (BC) in Canada, we took the chance and it was worth it. But first we had to adapt to the speed of traveling. What did so far in a week, we did now in a day…
I was a bit nervous about getting through the border, especially with a rental car. But it was actually painless. We were only a bit surprised, that we didn’t have to go through US custom and therefor also didn’t get our passports stamped. If that would be a problem, we would see a bit later…
BC – Yellowstone
After a over night stay in Penticton (thank you Margot and Olaf!), we continued eastwards through BC. And we were happy that we were not cycling because it was raining the whole day. The rivers on the way went high therefor and we saw some spectacular waterfalls on the dams. The bad side were floodings in the area. Thanks to a free ferry, we crossed Kootenay Lake the next day and continued towards US border. With us an Appel. The first questions were the usual ones like what we are doing in the US and so on. But then the officer asked, if we have any fruits or vegetables with us. And because I know that those things can bring you in trouble, I answered fast: “One apple”. But then I was surprised when he asked, if we have something more and let us friendly pass after saying no. Over all a very correct and positive event, I have to say.
We continued our journey towards West Yellowstone. On the way, we saw a few times the smoke of wildfires. Not a surprise, because it was very warm and dry in this area. After a stop at Earthquake Lake (it was formed after the devastating 7.3 earthquake and the following landslide in 1957), we finally reached the entrance of this fascinating park.
Next to all the hot springs and geysers, we had one or the other special experience. It already started at the beginning. For that you have to know, that the roads in Yellowstone form an eight (see map). Additionally, the junctions are not always as clear as they are shown in the map. We drove from West Yellowstone (left on the map) into the park and first visited the geysers in the Norris area. It was already pretty late when we left this area but it only should be around 13 miles till the Canyon Village, where we reserved a spot on the campground. I was the navigator at that time and checked the map already before. Therefor, I was confident that we had to go left, when we left Norris, without consulting the map again. So we kept driving and were enjoying the landscape. I was just a bit surprised, that I couldn’t find all the names on the signs next to the street in my map. They just didn’t add them, I guessed. But when we finally reached some gorges sinter terraces, I knew that something is wrong. They should be in Mammoth and not in the Canyon Village! The only possible conclusion was, that we drove 21 miles in the wrong direction on this circle. Should we now continue for another 38 miles or go back and take the right road which would take around 34 miles? Luckily we had cell phone reception again and could therefor check with the campground in Canyon Village. And because they secured our spot till late, we decided to keep going to see something new.
The sun was already gone, when the RV in front of us suddenly stopped. We stopped us well (there was no choice anyway) and could believe what we saw when a buffalo passed the RV and also our car by only around 4 feet. It just would have to turn his head and the window on Ines side would have been gone… Luckily it was friendly and just kept walking. It should not be the last buffalo which passes us that close on the street. However, they are really huge and can be pretty aggressive… Definitely a special experience :-).
We continued our journey through the park, saw a lot of hot springs and also some animals including a black bear mother with her two cubs. It was definitively worth the time we spent here. Except that the fuel pump of my stove burned itself (thanks to the fire woman Ines, it was only the pump and not also the car which was parked nearby), nothing spectacular happened. Our next destination would be Mount St. Helens. But till there, we had to drive a bit first…
Yellowstone – Craters of the Moon – Mount Rainier
First we passed the Grand Teton National Park, which is just south of Yellowstone. Next were the Craters of the Moon, an older field of volcanoes with some craters and lava fields. It’s for sure interesting but if you have been in Iceland before or like myself near an active volcano just a few months ago in Chile, it’s not that spectacular. But there was still Mount Rainier, a very impressive mountain. I definitively don’t want to be in the area when the crater under the glacier is getting active again. But as calm as he is at the moment, it’s a very nice view :-). And then, there was one of the highlights of this journey.
Mount St. Helens
This volcano was one of many in this region before it got active again in 1980 and almost destroyed itself in a very violent eruption and following land slide. 57 people lost their life during those days but it could have been much more. The landscape got impressively changed and that, we wanted to see. Originally we planed to climb Mount St. Helens. Unfortunately all climbing permits were already gone till September and organized climbs will only start in the next few weeks. Therefore, we drove towards Windy Ridge to see the mountain from the east side. Unfortunately again, the key road 99 was still closed because of snow and we had to turn around. Next try from east to visit the Johnston Ridge Observatory. This one is named after the volcanologist David A. Johnston which was observing Mount St. Helens from the Coldwater Ridge on the day of the eruption. His famous last words were: “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!”. Shortly after he got swept away by the hot gases and debris. This 6 miles away from the volcano. He and several others were never found unfortunately.
We got up very early this Sunday morning to be one of the first there. But first, we had to dry our wet tents in the parking lot. After this, we went for a longer hike to the Harrys Point. There, you have a great view over the partly still with dead trees covered Spirit Lake, Mount St. Helens and the completely change valley in between. Very, very impressive. Unfortunately, the time was too short and we had to go back to Seattle, where our bike were already waiting.
That were our vacation away from cycling. Now we are going to take the train to Vancouver and then cycling up Vancouver Island. This for getting ready for the adventure Canada and Alaska :-).
All the best out of the train to Vancouver,
PS: If you are asking yourself what the OMG in the title means: “Oh My God!”. That’s the expression we heard most during the last few weeks. Mostly from American women when they were seeing or hearing something unbelievable. Like when we were saying, that we are cycling from Los Angeles to Anchorage…
Enjoy also the pictures in the Gallery.