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Topic: 2010 Tour: Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks: 10 Days, 3000 Miles, 2-up  (Read 11175 times)

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« on: August 13, 2010, 11:23:54 am »

2010 Tour: Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks
10 Days, 3000 Miles, 2-up

Day 1 – Slab to Rapid City.

My wife and I planned this trip for over a year and I spent last winter perfecting MapSource routes, making reservations, acquiring and upgrading gear and etcetera.  This was our first significant tour with the new ST1300, and the only prior similar trip my wife and I had taken was our East Coast trip two years ago when we visited NYC and Mt. Washington. (Videos on YouTube).    We did that trip on our old Buell S3T – which had the unfortunate and nasty habit of blowing out front isolators (Motor mounts) every ~500 miles or so.   In fact, when we pulled into our driveway on the final day of that trip, one of the two Grade 8 bolts holding the front of the motor in the frame fell out on the ground - having sheared off in the aluminum cylinder head due to the failed (for the 3rd time) rubber front isolator.   I sold the Buell and bought the ST1300 less than a week after returning from that trip, but this was the first chance to put the Honda to a real test.

The Honda ST1300 Packed and ready:

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Our first day was to be the toughest.   I planned a conservative schedule with no more than 500 miles in one day since we were 2-up; the first day’s route took us west from Home to Rapid City, SD via I-90 – Slab all the way and about  500 miles.

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We left early in the morning to beat the heat in so much as possible.

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After crossing the plains of southwestern Minnesota, we crossed the border to South Dakota and immediately noticed more arid conditions; however, the ditches fields were flooded from recent rains.  It wasn’t long before the monotony was broken by the Missouri River at Chamberlain.



By this time, the heat was starting to build and we were due for fuel, both for the bike and for ourselves.  We stopped at a freeway oasis for both.  

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After Lunch, we topped off our Camelbaks and used the rest of a Gallon of Water to wet our UA shirts and helmet liners.  The CamelBaks were essential, but they inhibited the airflow though our Tourmaster 3 season jackets.  We like this gear as it eliminates the need for separate rain gear, which is critical when traveling 2-up due to luggage space considerations – however, it is no good over 80 degrees and the pants have no Vents, which is a big problem.
Continuing on into western SD, we saw more hills and sage brush, as well as the Badlands in the distance.  We had been in the Black Hills within the last year camping, and so we forwent stopping again in the Badlands or at Wall Drug.



By the time we were within 60 miles of Rapid City, the heat had become unbearable.  The temperature was 100 degrees, so the hot air blowing though our jacket vents no longer had any cooling affect at all.  
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We finally made it to Rapid City around 2:00 CST – and hour before our actual Check-In time, but the hotel was very accommodating.  

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We spent about 2 hours in the Pool cooling off, and then went right next door to TGI Fridays for dinner.  I am not one of those “Local Restaurant Only” types as I find their quality to be a crap shoot.   I will happily stop at McDonalds for Breakfast and Lunch since I always know what I’m going to get, its cheap, and it is fast.  We will find local restaurants for Dinner when it is convenient, but we don’t go out of our way.  TGI Friday’s had Fresh “Squeezed at the Bar” Lemonade which was mixed with a little soda water and had sugar on the rim of the glass – a bottomless cup no less.   I had about 4 of those before I started feeling somewhat recovered from the heat.

We went to bed early to get a jump on the next day.  I read a little further in Moby Dick, and then it was time for some shut eye.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2010, 03:00:41 pm by naustin » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2010, 03:00:07 pm »

Day 2 – Rapid City to Red Lodge, MT.

Today the fun begins!

There was rain overnight, and lingering storm clouds still on the horizon.   We took advantage of the continental breakfast, loaded up the bike, topped off on fuel, and lit out of Rapid City as quickly as possible.    It was a beautiful morning, and we managed to avoid the rain.  

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We were excited today because we had a short blast up the freeway from Rapid City to Sheridan, WY before we set-off on HWY 14-Alt over the Big Horn Mountains and then on to Red Lodge, MT.  Not only were we looking forward to some nice curves and mountain vistas, the higher elevations would provide some relief from the heat that was sure to return in the afternoon.  Total Mileage was only about 400 this day.

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We made it to Sheridan in the early AM and the Zumo faithfully guided us to a Starbucks just off the Freeway where we each had a coffee and a muffin.  Back home, a Starbucks was built, and about a year later closed at the time that Starbucks closed several hundred locations across the country, so, it was nice to get a tall triple shot Americano after a few hours on the road.  

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Leaving Sheridan, we had another 10 miles or so of freeway before the turn-off for HWY 14 leading over the Big Horn Mountains.   It was very nice to exit the freeway knowing we’d be on two lane scenic Highways for the next week – or longer if you count US 2 in Northern Montana.

Being from Minnesota, the Big Horns looked pretty spectacular that morning, but of course, they were nothing compared to what would come when we arrived in Yellowstone, and later in Glacier Park.



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There was quite a bit more traffic on HWY 14 than I anticipated, however, it trailed off substantially further on where 14 and 14-Alt diverge.  We stopped at one of the turn-outs on the way up, and then continued over the high plateau until we came to the highest observation point which was at about 9,300 feet.  There was a small patch of snow, and a carpet of wildflowers in bloom.   My wife took many pictures of the flora and she bravely enjoyed a cool drink from one of the streams.

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We lingered awhile at the top of the Big Horns before ascending into the valley that separates them from Yellowstone.   It had dropped 10 degrees in temperature on the way up and it was a cool and comfortable 65 degrees on the top.  I knew it would be hotter at the bottom than it had been earlier in the morning and looking out over the flat, sand-tan expanse of dirt and sage brush, I was not looking forward to the next several hours it would take to reach Red Lodge.



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After what seemed like forever we crested a hill and descended down to Red Lodge.  The Beartooth range was striking and I was really looking forward to the next morning’s ride.  But, we were both starving and more than ready to park the bike for the day.

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Arriving at the Yodeler Inn – Highly recommended.  The KLR with the Hack out front belongs to the Proprietors.  

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Once settled in our room, we enjoyed the built in steam bath in the shower.  Something about the combination of Hot Steam and Cold Water was particularly nice.   We changed into casual clothes and struck out to find our supper.  About 5 blocks down from the Yodeler, we found a nice restaurant and wine bar.  It was only 4:00 so we had the place mostly to ourselves.  There were, however, crowds of bikers recently over the pass from the west at a little bar next door bar.  Occasionally groups of 5 or 6 would raucously burst out the door, jump on their bikes, and roar off in full unmuffled glory.  

The food at the restaurant was excellent, especially the appetizer which was called Crab Straws.  I didn’t get a picture because we ate them too fast!  Following that I had an Elk steak and my wife had a nice  Chicken dish.  The executive chef had apparently recently won the honor of “Best Chef in Montana” according inside cover of the menu; of that, I am not surprised!  We split what turned out to be a very decent Malbec and enjoyed the cool of the evening.

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After Dinner, it was Moby Dick on the front porch of our room at the Yodeler, and then off to bed in preparation for the Beartooth and Chief Joseph Highways in the morning.
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« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2010, 04:58:30 pm »

Heading out that way in 2 weeks. Good timing. Subscribed!
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« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2010, 06:26:54 pm »

Do you recall the name of the restaurant in Red Lodge? I'll be there in Sept. and would try it based on your review.
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« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2010, 06:51:04 pm »

It's Bridge Creek...  Its right on the main drag about halfway down on the East side of the road.  Here's their website: http://www.eatfooddrinkwine.com/default.asp
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« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2010, 08:59:43 pm »

Day 3 – Red Lodge to Yellowstone – Via Beartooth and Chief Joseph


As far as the riding side of this trip – This day is the main attraction!  We walked a few blocks up to a local breakfast spot and ate a home cooked omelet with the local road construction crews.  A good indicator for a high quality/value ratio for any restaurant anywhere is the number of contractor trucks you find in the parking lot.  

 The route for Day 3 took us immediately over the Beartooth Highway from East to West toward Yellowstone.  We doubled back to Cody, WY via the Chief Joseph, and then entered the Park Via HWY 16 and the East Entrance on our way to Roosevelt Lodge in the Northeast end of the Park.

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We couldn’t have asked for better weather.  The sky was perfectly clear and the morning sun made for spectacular views on the way up the Beartooth heading from east to west.  We took our time and enjoyed the views.  In places, Chain Mesh had been bolted to the rock face to prevent loose rocks from tumbling down onto the road.  For the most part, the road was very clean and in very good condition.  We saw a few other bikes and cars, but early morning is definitely the best time to do this road if you want to avoid the traffic.

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After the climb, the road levels off on top of a large, high altitude plateau, the entirety of which is above the tree line.  It is tundra, and there are very few highways in the country that traverse this type of terrain.  It was quite chilly, and the temperature eventually dropped to around 48 degrees when we reached the summit at almost 11,000 feet.  We also encountered some road construction.  The pavement was brand new, and when we got to the western side, the repaving project was still ongoing.  We waited about ½ an hour at a Flag-man and then followed a pilot car with the rest of the group that was waiting for several miles over loose gravel.



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Once we got past the construction project, the road became wider and the corners faster and the decent to the junction with the Chief Joseph picked up in pace.



The chief Joseph was a faster road, and my wife and I enjoyed it quite a bit; she even saw a wolf in the valley.  I had the bike wicked up on this road, and there are fewer pictures as a result.  We paused at the overlook at the pass and used the rest-rooms, and fed a chipmunk some trail mix.

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From there, we descended to Cody, WY and then followed the Shoshone River along HWY 16 to the East Entrance of the Park.

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My wife had never been to Yellowstone before, and the last time I was there, I was a teenager with my parents on family vacation.  We came into the East Entrance, turned south to Old Faithful and left the Park the same day.  This time was quite different.  I had 3 nights reserved in a “Rough Rider” cabin at Roosevelt Lodge on the Northeast side of the park, which, in my opinion, is far more beautiful than the Southwestern geyser basis where Old Faithful and the Norris geysers are located.  



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We got settled in after dinner and continued reading our books.  Our Cabin was number 115 and was, according to the desk clerk, one of the most requested cabins due to it being on the edge of the complex and the closest to the burbling brook.  The wood burning stove is not a decoration, and we did light it in the morning to stave off the cold.
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« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2010, 12:04:51 am »

Cool trip - looking forward to reading more!


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« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2010, 12:23:57 pm »

Days 4 & 5: Yellowstone

Our time allowed for 3 full nights in Yellowstone, and yesterday we got a taste of what the touristy areas of the park can be like when we pass through the “Fishing Bridge” area on our way up to Roosevelt Lodge.  Honestly, if my wife had been to Yellowstone as a kid, we probably wouldn’t have even stopped here this time, and rather spent our time in Glacier and hit up the Lolo Pass road instead.  But, as it turned out, I was glad we came because I got to see the North side of the Park where there are fewer crowds, more mountains, and a greater feeling of being in a National Park, rather than the circus feel that embodies the Old Faithful area.

The Plan for our first full day in Yellowstone was to ride the Grand Loop Road and stop at the major sites along the way.  This is really the only way to see the famous face of Yellowstone, so dealing with crowds and traffic was a necessity.  

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This plan, however, presented a couple of problems since we were on the bike.  First – the heat that had been with us the whole trip did not entirely abate at the higher elevations of the Park, and since we anticipated that we’d only be able to average 30 mph in the park due to traffic, the cooling vents in our jackets wouldn’t be much help.  Second, we’d be on and off the bike all day and sometimes walking quite far to see the various geysers and thermal features; as you all know, gearing up and dressing down when you have full gear is tiresome and time consuming.  So, we decided to compromise, we’d wear jeans instead of our armored riding pants, but still wear our riding boots and do our short hikes in those rather than pack along our hiking shoes.  This way, we would still be able to store away all our riding gear in the Bike’s hard cases while we were away from the bike for extended periods of time.

We woke up early (Still on Central rather than Mountain Time).   It was surprisingly cold in the night and I had to get up and close the window that had been left open to allow the sound of the stream to lull us to sleep.  Coffee and breakfast were available at the main lodge.   All the waiters and waitresses were kids from around the country and around the world.  We had one from down south, and another from Ukraine, and all were very friendly and pleasant.  It seemed to be some kind of summer exchange program.   I wish I’d known I could spend a summer in Yellowstone working at one of the camps when I was growing up.

After breakfast, we were ready to set off to the Mammoth Hot Springs area in the Northwestern corner of the Park.   There was little to no traffic at this time of the morning in this part of the park.

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After only 10 miles or so, my wife said she thought she had seen a bear in the distance.  We turned the bike around and doubled back to the last turn-out.  Sure enough – Eagle Eyes had spotted a bear 150 or 200 yards from the road foraging in the sage brush!  I don’t know how she saw it while we were moving because the sage brush would obscure it and make it difficult to see even as we were standing still watching it.   The first picture is taken from the road at 12X zoom.  The second is the same image, digitally cropped.  You can see this is a brown colored Black Bear, not a Grizzly as we first thought it might be.

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We didn’t linger long with the bear before we left him to find his breakfast, and we continued on to the Mammoth area.  There was a small herd of Elk just waking up on the manicured lawns of the cottages and the parking lots were already filling up.  We ran into a Japanese tourist group – probably over 100 people all together.  

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After we had our fill of sulfur and brimstone, we continued south along toward the Norris geyser basin and then on to Old Faithful.   We ran into road construction and ended up sitting in a traffic jam for about half an hour waiting for a flag man.  The road was dirt when we finally got going, and they had water trucks constantly wetting it down to keep the dust under control.    We followed in line for several miles, and when we got to the other side, traffic heading north was backed up for miles waiting for us to pass.  Eventually, we got to the geyser basin.

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We hung out in the Old Faithful area for a couple hours.  The geyser was erupting when we arrived in the parking lot, but it was over by the time we got the bike and gear secured, so we had a wait of about 90 minutes before it would erupt again.  In the meanwhile, we walked up to geyser hill and viewed several other features and hot springs on the boardwalk.  We came back to the cafeteria and waited in line for an hour to get a sandwich.  I’m not sure what the problem was that day, but I have never seen a more poorly run food service operation than that cafeteria.  The kids (Korean) this time had poor English, but there was a manager there from the US and he didn’t seem to be too concerned about the fact that the lines were not moving.  My Advice: avoid the cafeteria – and all food service at Old Faithful -- like the plague.

Our last stop for the day would be at the Canyon.  We got stuck in another traffic jam due to Elk on the road.  A few people stopped and traffic backed up for miles, the original gawkers apparently oblivious and uncaring that traffic was stopped so far behind them.  We were stop-and-go for an hour before we came around a corner and I finally realized what the hold-up was all about.  My wife disconnected her intercom while I talked to myself about it for awhile…

We stopped at Artist’s Point for a while, and then went on to the Visitor’s Center.  Finally, we had dinner at the Canyon Lodge and I enjoyed a double scotch and a rare slab of Prime Rib.  My wife enjoyed some very good tortellini.  After dinner, we shared a “Yellowstone Caldera” dessert.

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After dinner, we returned to our cabin at Roosevelt Lodge.  My wife continued reading Kierkegaard while I continued with Ishmael and Captain Ahab.

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The next morning, we went on a short hike up the hill behind our cabin to “Hidden Lake.”  We had reserved a spot for a 2hr. trail ride (horseback) and we need to check in around noon, so we decided not to venture out of the Roosevelt area during our second day.

Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed on the horseback ride.  They even took our CamelBaks away from us; I suppose they’ve had people fall off their horses while fumbling with things in the past.   The 2hr ride really was more like 3 hrs. and we both enjoyed it a lot.  The Horses were tail trained, but they would respond to the reins as well, unlike some trail rides where the horses are more like pack mules, these horses would have made decent saddle horses and the “wranglers” rode different ones on each ride and would trot and gallop on and off the main trail around the group.

After the ride, we had dinner and spent the rest of the evening reading and packing up our gear for the next day’s ride from Yellowstone to Glacier.
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« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2010, 03:09:53 pm »

Day 6: On to Glacier

We had about 400 miles ahead of us in order to reach East Glacier from Yellowstone.  The plan was to ride entirely on HWY 89 from the Northeast corner of the park, though the Lewis and Clark National Forest, all the way to our motel cabin just off the Going to the Sun road inside Glacier Park.

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We left Yellowstone before the Roosevelt Lodge opened for breakfast, so we contented ourselves with coffee and granola bars.  We stopped for fuel at Mammoth Hot Springs, but after the fuel stop, our StarCom1 intercom system began acting up.  After pulling the seat from the bike to make adjustments and some fiddling, I determined that the problem was with the microphone element in my helmet.  The first rule of electrical repair is: “wiggle the wire,” and after much frustration, this resolved the microphone problem.  Unfortunately, while trying to isolate the problem, I had adjusted the VOX and microphone sensitivity settings on the StarCom.  We stopped twice more trying to get the settings back to what was working well, but the adjustments on the StarCom are less than intuitive and I didn’t have the manual with me.  Finally, parked in front of the Yellowstone Arch, I resorted to disconnecting several other accessories from the Starcom, turned the VOX off completely and resigned myself to endure the wind noise transmitting though my wife’s microphone for the rest of the trip.

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After 3 or 4 stops in the space of an hour to adjust the StarCom, we were ready to make some time and Montana’s 70mph speed limit on 2 lane roads happily obliged.  There was little traffic, and when the occasional pass was required, there was plenty of space.   I set the throttle lock at 75 and at one point, passed two well spaced RVs in one shot; according to the Zumo – I was doing 110, which is plenty fast enough 2-up and loaded heavy with nearly a full 7 gallons of fuel on board.  That was the top speed for this trip.  Soon, we entered the Lewis and Clark National Forest.  

A sharp eye will notice many brown and dying trees.  This is the work of the Pine Bark Beetle.  This pest is rampant in the Black Hills, Yellowstone, and Glacier Park.   In recent years, it has gone out of control and the Forest Service has been unable to check the advance.



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Driving out of the National Forest, we crossed Montana Plains heading for Great Falls where we stopped at a Wal-Mart to buy another 16GB SD memory card for the camera, and then headed to a Perkins for Lunch.   I only eat at Perkins when I’m traveling; it’s always a nice homey feeling to have my Country Club Melt and a Coke.  Once back on the road, it wasn’t long before we could again see mountains on the horizon.

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Hwy 89 was quite desolate at times.  It seemed that we saw more half destroyed mobile homes than actual houses, and the houses were not in much better shape.  Great Falls had an oil refinery that gave off a horrible stench and felt like a very industrial town as a result, but that was nothing compared to Browning, MT.  Stopping for fuel, we were met by a pack of dogs looking for handouts.  One of them had a collar on, but it seemed that all of them were mostly left to fend for themselves.  After a short ride from Browning, we arrived at the Park gate.

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The scenery was truly spectacular; the wide angle lens on our camera does not due the peaks justice.  The cabin was very clean and nice and this one even had its own bathroom.  The only complaint was that there was no sound proofing between the two units in each cabin, so when our neighbors arrived later at night, we heard everything they said and did.  That is, until we flushed the toilet on our side to let them know they were not so alone as they thought.

We were right across from the boat docks on St. Mary Lake, and we walked down to the water to cool off.  There were several families picnicking and leisurely loafing around the rocky shore.  A few swam – briefly.  The water was clear and very cold.  We relaxed for awhile before returning to the “Two Dog Flats” restaurant for dinner.

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After dinner, we bought some souvenirs and a can of Bear Spray in the Camp store, and then retired to our cabin exhausted and looking forward to our ride over Logan Pass in the morning.
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« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2010, 03:59:40 pm »

Terrific ride report! Thanks for sharing. I'm hoping to hit Yellowstone at the end of this month. It's a shame I've lived 5 hours away for over a year now and haven't made it up there yet. Shame on me
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« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2010, 06:33:05 pm »

Day 7: The Sun Road

The weather this morning looked good initially, but we’d soon be reminded that weather can change quickly in the mountains.  Our plan for today was simple: we’d set out early, ride over Logan Pass on the Going to the Sun road, find lunch on the West side of the park at one of the other Lodges, hike the Avalanche Lake trail, and then return back to our cabin.  If we found ourselves with some extra time, we would stop at the visitor center at the top of the Pass.

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With the majority of the luggage unloaded into our cabin, we caught a quick breakfast and set out.  Even at the early hour, the traffic was already building on the Sun Road, which is the only road to cross the Park.  When we got to Siyeh Bend, just below Logan Pass, we ran into construction and the road turned to gravel/dirt.  The crews had traffic restricted to one lane, and we again were subject to Flag Men and Pilot Cars causing about a half hour delay.  

We didn’t mind the slow going.  The views were so spectacular, that I was actually happy for the traffic and construction as an excuse to slow down and take it all in.  Had the road been perfect and deserted, I would have been tempted to go faster and thus miss some of the views.

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When we reached Logan Pass, the parking area was already full.  There was, however, ample designated motorcycle parking which was very cool to see.   We continued on, but we were disappointed that the skies were overcast and our pictures were hazy.  We resolved to save the camera battery and hoped the Sun would come out in the afternoon when we made our return trip.

Because of the traffic and construction, it took longer to travel the road than we anticipated.  By the time we got down to Lake McDonald on the West Side of the Pass, it was already time for Lunch.  There was a 50’s style diner/pizzeria where we found our lunch.  We also saw a lone rider on a GSXR decked out for touring.   We didn’t get to speak to him as he wolfed down a sub sandwich and left quickly, though we did see him later again on one of the hiking trails.

After Lunch, we back tracked a few miles to the Avalanche Lake Trail Head.   Here, we shoe-horned the bike into one of the parking turn-outs.  Cars were parked for more than a half-mile along the road and people were hiking to the beginning of the actual hike.  Avalanche Lake is one of the most popular trails in the park as it is a short 5 mile round trip, and climbs only modestly.  The views are spectacular when you reach the Lake itself.

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About half-way up the trail, we came upon a group from Chicago with a video camera who seemed quite excited.  A Bear had crossed the trail in front of them and came within 80 ft of them not 10 minutes prior to our meeting them.   They were able to get it on video and were somewhat shaken up.   At the lake, they ran into a Ranger who looked at the video and promptly confirmed it was definitely a Grizzly and not just a Black bear.  She led them, and several other groups back down to the parking lot, singing and calling out to warn the Bears all the way.  We didn’t join their group, but later on our way down, two more Rangers passed us hurrying up the trail, presumably to make sure the bear had left the area.

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After our short hike to Avalanche Lake, we changed from our hiking shoes back into our riding boots, and geared up. We decided to head directly back to Logan Pass, and stop at the Visitor Center if we had time.  The Sun had come out and the pictures were sure to be much better on the Sun Road.

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Reaching Logan Pass, we stowed our gear on the bike and changed back into our Hiking shoes.   After topping off our CamelBaks at the only water fountain, we started up the trail to the Hidden Lake Overlook, a short 3.0 mile round trip hike from the Visitor Center.  However, we only went a few hundred yards before it was apparent that some nasty weather was boiling up fast over the ridge.  We high-tailed it back to the bike, intent on beating the weather back down the mountain.  As we struggled to quickly put on our gear, it was obvious the weather was coming in faster than we were going to be able to get down the mountain.  Suddenly, as we were putting on our helmets, we realized the weather was coming in faster than we were going to get out of the Visitor Center Parking lot!  

Before I could even start the bike, it began to hail.  A powerful gust of wind sent a half-helmet left on the seat of a nearby cruiser tumbling across the parking lot 50 feet or more from its bike.  We should have run for shelter in the Visitor Center, but committed, geared up, and engine running we raced out of the parking lot and started down the pass.  We went less than a mile when the rain and wind subsided.  5 minutes later the Sun came out again at the Pass behind us.  

We were upset!  Had we stayed at the pass to wait it out, we would have been able to save 3 more hours of hiking time, but instead, we coasted back down the mountain to our cabin feeling foolish.  When the sky turns that black on the plains, you can’t “wait it out.”  The storm could be 300 miles wide and the worst of it could last hours, and only fully pass by days later.  We found out that weather in the Mountains is different.  One puny cloud can blow-up mad, spit on you, and disappear within an hour…

Storm Clouds Brewing on Logan Pass:

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Back at the Cabin for a Sunny Evening:

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After a meal at the “Two Dog Flats” Grill, we contented ourselves to read.  We had another river below our bedroom window and we both fell asleep before the Sun finally set.
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« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2010, 08:35:44 pm »

Days 8 & 9: The Hikes
Siyeh Pass, Hidden Lake, & Highline Trail

We hiked roughly 30 miles total during the 3 full days that we were in Glacier Park, the majority of which was done the 2nd and final full day when we did all three of the Hikes listed above.  Glacier has a shuttle bus system that is completely free once you are in the Park. You can leave your vehicle at your campground or Lodge and catch the shuttle to Logan Pass, or any one of the Trail Heads along the Going to the Sun Road.  The shuttle takes about 1 hr. to reach the Pass from the bottom of either side, including the time at each of the stops.   Shuttles run every 15-30 minutes, depending on whether you are on the East or West side of the Park.  The shuttle system also makes it very easy to hike from one shuttle stop to another, and then catch a ride back to your lodge.

First, and most prominently on our agenda was the Siyeh Pass Trail which has the distinction of being the highest elevation trail in the entirety of the Park – amazing considering how many miles of remote trails there are in Glacier.  This trail beings at the trail head at Siyeh Bend, which is also the start of the Piegon Pass Trail, and then climbs 1900 feet though a hanging valley known as “Preston Park.”  Preston Park was once filled with a small glacier that flowed down and met another larger glacier.  It was not scoured so deeply as the adjoining valley, and thus is known as a “Hanging Valley.”  The Bears are known to frequent this area, and thus the reason we purchased Bear Spray upon arrival.

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You can hike this trail in either direction as it forms a 10 mile loop around Going to the Sun Mountain with both ends of the trail meeting the Sun Road.  Most people begin at the higher elevation trail head so as to climb 1900 feet and then descend 2300 feet rather than the other way around.  Hiking this way from West to East also affords a more enjoyable decent with St. Mary Lake ahead of you the whole way down.

We Got an early start, caught the second bus of the morning after breakfast, and started out climbing quickly up to the Preston Park area.

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We paused at the end of Preston Park before the climb to the Pass and we were caught from behind by a lone hiker.  She and my wife became fast friends, and she admitted that she was rather nervous to be hiking alone in such prime bear habitat, so we resolved to hike the remainder of the trail together.  We were also joined shortly thereafter by another lone hiker – a local who had hiked the trail many times before.  He stayed with us as far as the Pass, but went on ahead when we paused for lunch.



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We had purchased boxed lunches from the restaurant and lazily enjoyed them at the top of the pass taking in the views of St. Mary Lake, Going to the Sun Mountain, Sexton Glacier and the waterfall running off it down the valley.  Eventually we set off on the remaining 5 mile decent back to the road down next to the Lake in the Distance tripping over rocks as we couldn’t take our eyes off the scenery.

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We reached the Sun Road and waited only about 10 minutes before the Bus came along.  The hike had taken about 5 and a half hours, but it was still early; about 3:00 when the bus dropped us off at Logan Pass.  Despite having already done a 10 mile day hike, we decided to walk up to the Hidden Lake Overlook.  This trail leads from the visitor center up a steep, stepped board walk for about a mile, and then another half-mile of trail to the overlook – about 3 miles round trip.  It is labeled an ‘easy’ trail, and is very popular with sightseers stopping at Logan pass.  There were deer, marmots, and mountain goats all within petting distance, though we didn’t try to pet them.  Though ‘easy’ the steps on the boardwalk are higher than a standard stair tread, and after the ‘strenuous’ Siyeh Pass hike, my calves were burning!

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That night, we had MooseDrool, ScapeGoat, and Huckleberry beer from the Camp Store after dinner, all local Montana microbrews.  The ScapeGoat pale Ale was the best, although the MooseDrool wins the award for best beer name.

The next morning, we repeated our routine, had breakfast and caught the second morning shuttle bus – this time riding all the way to Logan Pass.  On the way up, it began to rain and the skies looked ominous.  Having learned our lesson a few days before, we waited patiently for the weather to clear and then set out on the Highline Trail.  Highline trail runs from Logan Pass 7.5 miles to the Granite Park Chalet.  The trail is parallel to the Sun Road, but while the Road steadily descends from the Pass, the trail climbs 600 feet, and then falls 600 feet such that when you arrive at the chalet, you are at the same elevation as the Pass itself with the road about 2,800 feet below you.  From there, the trail descends to the road over about 3 miles.

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Very shortly after we arrived at Granite Park Chalet, the rain and fog set in.  The Chalet hosts overnight guests, however, reservations are booked well in advance and the only way to reach the Chalet is to hike.  There is no food service; guests must pack in all their own food and water, and pack out all their own garbage.  There was however, a small dining room where day hikers and guests were gathered around large tables and sitting near a wood burning stove.  There were natural gas lamps lighting the room suspended from the ceiling and connected to black iron gas lines.  It was a warm and cozy place to be as the cold rain came down.

About the time we finished our lunch, the rain abated somewhat.  We put on our $5.00 rain ponchos purchased the night before in the Camp Store and set off on the last 3 mile decent.  Due to the clouds, fog and forest, we left the camera mostly packed away.

Arriving at the “Loop” on the Sun Road, we caught the shuttle back up to Logan pass.  Shuttles do not cross the pass, so if you want to go from one side to the other, you must transfer to the other shuttle at the pass.  Luckily, our next bus had not yet departed when we arrived, so we were last on for the 1 hour ride back to the Rising Sun Inn.

Our last night in Glacier, we packed our things and prepared for the next leg of the journey – a straight shot across Montana.
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« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2010, 10:58:13 pm »

Days 10, 11, 12: Running for Home

At this point, we’d seen what we came to see, done what we came to do, and ridden the famous scenic roads we wanted to ride.  Now was the time for the ST1300 to do what it was really made to do – cover vast swaths of landscape like a low altitude leer jet, and keep its passengers happy, comfortable and entertained in the process.  I pushed the nearly 300 mile range hard only once pulling 280 miles out of the tank and replacing 6.5 gallons of the 7 gallon capacity.   According to the onboard computer, the bike averaged 42mpg on the whole trip; the previous numbers work out to 43 mpg on that tank which is not bad 2-up, loaded, and running 75+.  Generally, we stopped for food or restrooms every 2 hours and so I would top off the fuel before approaching the bike’s range limit.

The morning of our 10th day away from home was the start of our journey back.  We woke up at our usual time, packed the bike and pulled down to the office/restaurant to check-out and have breakfast.  The overcast skies of the day before were gone and the clear weather promised the sun a chance to cook us as we would try to scurry like a cockroach across the hot plate of Montana.  But, for now, the searing ball of fiery sky death looked serene and friendly as it rose over St. Mary Lake, illuminating the peaks as they receded behind us.

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As the mountains faded into the haze and slipped below the horizon, we settled into a 75mph wolf trot, the kind of mindless, easy, steady pace that covers distances in time lapse.  We passed hundreds of square miles of sage brush interspersed here and there with colonies of wheat fields full of combines and grain trucks busy harvesting the golden carpets.



Whenever the land would turn from crops to barren wasteland, we would pass a sign informing us we were entering a Reservation and the sage brush would reign until we passed the sign signifying the end of Indian lands, and almost instantly water would surface, and crops and harvesters and hints of far away industry would resume.

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Eventually, we neared the  North Dakota boarder and we saw again distant mountains on the horizon, taller and more majestic that anything we had seen in Yellowstone or in Glacier.  We realized in short order that the heat was giving us hallucinations, and shortly after that, no – we were not crazy after all; storm clouds were building on the horizon.

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Our Plan, although we didn’t make any formal reservations, was to spend the night in Glendive, MT – near the N. Dakota boarder.  For hours, we watched the storm clouds ahead of us grow larger, and we were not sure if we would run into the weather before reaching Glendive or not.  By the time we arrived in Glendive, it was over 90 degrees; we were exhausted after having run 500 miles across the high plains in scalding heat, and ready to relax.  The Zumo gave us many options for accommodations and we chose the Comfort Inn for the Pool and recent renovations advertised on a billboard on the way into town.  When we inquired with the desk clerk, however, we learned that the hotel was fully booked, and other road-worn guests in the lobby informed us that such would be the case at every hotel in town.  There were railroad workers in town; apparently scads of them.   We checked two more of the chain hotels and drove past several other seedy local roach traps before I pulled out my phone, called up the Zumo’s database and found an Americinn 50 miles east and dialed for a reservation.

Now, what happened next was the combination of frustration, shock, heat-induced judgment deficiency, and a complete and total lack of patience.  I paid $250 for a room in an Americinn in North Dakota….

The clerk on the phone had only 2 rooms left, both with whirlpools and fireplaces.  I knew I could likely find a normally priced or even a $49 room somewhere if I only took the time.  But, there was a very large, and very nasty storm ahead of me limiting the distance I cared to travel easterly, North Dakota is a bit spartan when it comes to civilization, and I was not interested in ‘hunting’ off the beaten path at that moment as my core temperature was approaching that of the surface of Venus.  I made the reservation over the phone and we struck out for the final 50 miles to air-conditioned salvation.

Unlike the bratty little storm that chased us off the mountain at Logan Pass several days earlier, there would be no waiting this out…

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The Americinn was 50 miles away, and it turns out the back edge of the storm was 45 miles away.  We got a bit wet.

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Once arrived and checked-in we realized the reason for the exorbident hotel cost; we were at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the North Dakota Badlands, smack in the middle of the biggest tourist trap in NoDak.  Oh well.  We walked from the hotel into the kitschy downtown and found a great little Pizzaria/Saloon.  Nothing beats a pitcher of Coors Light when you are 3 quarts low on body fluid.  None-the-less, we found our way back to our hotel room and fired up the whrilpool tub to get our money’s worth out of it.

The next day, we departed early, locked onto I-94 east and set the autopilot for Alexandria, MN.  

http://i254.photobucket.com/albums/hh107/naustin09/Glacier%20Return%20Trip/Alexandria.jpg

Two weeks earlier we left our dog, and my wife’s car at her parents’ house there.  We ran into more storms around noon near Fargo, and at one point we had to pull over as the cross wind was so strong, even at only 40mph, the bike was leaned almost to the pegs and still being blown across the lanes.  I could feel both tires hydroplaning sideways, and visibility was zero.  We took shelter under an overpass for 15 minutes until the winds subsided.  The rain, however, was welcome relief from the heat, but the temprature was still approaching 80 degrees, not doubt the reason for such strong storms.

We arrived in Alexandria with 26 miles of fuel remaining.  This was the stretch that we covered 280 miles between fuel stops.  It was a happy reunion with our dog, and my wife’s parents were relieved that we hadn’t been murdered by the escaped convicts roaming Yellowstone and Montana.

The next morning we set off for home, me on the bike and my wife and the dog in her car with all of the luggage.  

http://i254.photobucket.com/albums/hh107/naustin09/Glacier%20Return%20Trip/Home.jpg

I noticed how well the bike handled the luggage and the passenger now that they were off the back – it didn’t feel a whole lot different without them at any speed over 20mph.

We stopped at a McDonalds just south of the Twin Cities for Lunch and to give the dog a break.

http://i254.photobucket.com/albums/hh107/naustin09/Glacier%20Return%20Trip/P1010465.jpg

From there, it was a short hour’s ride home.

http://i254.photobucket.com/albums/hh107/naustin09/Glacier%20Return%20Trip/P1010468.jpg

http://i254.photobucket.com/albums/hh107/naustin09/Glacier%20Return%20Trip/P1010469.jpg

It was a great trip.  I got word of a promotion the day before we left, so I have a new job to look forward to on Monday.  Great way to start and end the trip!

Thanks for reading!  
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JGreb
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« Reply #13 on: August 14, 2010, 11:18:35 pm »

You've set the bar high for Ride reports. How do you include the google earth shots? Seems like it would be time consuming?
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naustin
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« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2010, 11:55:33 pm »


Thanks!

The Google earth screen shots are really pretty easy.  Garmin Mapsource will link the route path directly into Google Earth.   Then, you can just fullscreen your Google Earth Window and hit your Print Screen key on the keyboard to copy a screen shot to the clipboard.  Open up Photoshop or any image editing progam, Paste, and save the screen shot as a new image.   Then you can post it just like any other photo.

The tough part is saving out Google Earth vidoe tours without paying $500 for the Pro version.  There is a way to do it, but my crappy onboard video card in this cheapo Dell Laptop can't handle it at any screen resolution above 320x240.....
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Orson
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« Reply #15 on: August 15, 2010, 01:38:46 am »

What a great report. First rate  Smile Thumbsup

Spectacular pictures  Bigok
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notarian
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« Reply #16 on: August 15, 2010, 06:28:24 am »

Most excellent!  Bigok

Thank you.
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« Reply #17 on: August 15, 2010, 10:26:28 am »

Thanks guys!   Bigsmile
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stromgal
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« Reply #18 on: August 15, 2010, 02:29:28 pm »

 Clap   Very nice... the best reports make one feel they are right there.  I've been on a similar trip --'though it was Glacier then Yellowstone-- and I've wanted to return ever since. Going To The Sun Road and the valley were filled with smoke from wildfires when I was there, so it was nice to see from your photos what it really looked like!
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« Reply #19 on: August 16, 2010, 02:31:21 am »

Top Notch!  What a fantastic trip and report.  Great pics too  Thumbsup.  

I have to admit, I'm a bit envious that your wife is willing to tour on the bike like that.  My wife and I love visiting the national parks, but we either take the car or I ride and she drives  Shrug.  

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The coolest thing on four wheels is still two motorcycles.

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