We last left Gavin and Jenna at Yellowstone National Park, where they were taking stock of the nightly amphitheatre shows. Between Day 45 and 51, they get to see one of those nightly shows and learn a lot about the local landscape and wildlife as the week progresses.
Day 45 to 51: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming to Fairfield, Idaho
Monday, July 25 — Sunday, July 31
Distance Travelled: 564.04 km
On our first morning in Yellowstone we dipped our feet into Lake Yellowstone, which is freezing. During our morning ride a coyote came out of the bush and trotted right by us in the opposite direction, maybe one or two metres from our bikes. Unlike the coyotes where I grew up in Burnaby, which are skinny and kind of mangy, this one had a fluffy face and looked well-fed. We stopped at three sets of thermal pools in Yellowstone, as well as Old Faithful.
Our second night in the park we watched an amphitheatre show on bears. Grizzly bears were almost extirpated by the early 20th century due to habitat destruction, hunting and other forms of harmful human interaction. They remained scarce in the park until the 1970s, often feeding at the open-pit garbage dumps. The dumps have been closed and feeding strictly prohibited. Along with other conservation efforts both inside and outside the park, grizzly bears have enjoyed a recovery in the Yellowstone region. The success of Yellowstone in this respect really underlined to me the need for large core protected areas linked by corridors, combined with sensitive land use policies and public education in order to preserve North America’s biodiversity.
Our third day in Yellowstone we biked right by three elk walking into the middle of the road, but we didn’t stick around long because there was a mother and calf, who have been known to become aggressive. We then crossed the great continental divide, which is North America’s largest divide, splitting watersheds from the Canadian north all the way down into Mexico. We ended up crossing it three times as it zigzagged through the mountains. The last time marked the border into Idaho, our second-to-last state.
Late in the week, we reached the black and bizarre terrain of the Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho. The site’s name gives a pretty good indication of what the weird pockmarked landscape looked like. Particularly interesting were the caves formed by lava tubes.
After receiving a free permit indicating I wasn’t a carrier of white nose syndrome (fatal to bats), I was able to bike out and explore some of the caves with my bike light as a guide.
The National Monument is also important for its kipukas, created when magma flows around areas of land to create islands in an ocean of lava rock. The kipukas are now some of the last remnants of undisturbed sagebrush steppe ecosystem left in the region. One beneficiary of the kipukas is the sage grouse, an animal whose habitat has been seriously reduced in Idaho and elsewhere, including Canada. The sage grouse was the subject of a successful case recently litigated by Ecojustice to protect its critical habitat