For a couple weeks every year Yellowstone permits bicycle traffic before all the motors get in. Because this window is right after they finish plowing the roads, it is usually terrible weather for biking, cold and windy and sleety. At least that’s how it was last year. This year, we also got a little snowed-on and pushed around by the wind, but other times it was summer-like and I would have been comfortable wearing shorts. We parked in Mammoth and rode over to West Yellowstone to spend the night before riding back– about fifty miles each way.

Lots of yearly ‘firsts’ this weekend: first pika chirping from the rocks, first wildflower (a buttercup), first bear tracks (black), first time the AC got turned on in the car, first grasshopper. All this, in March.

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An Obsidian Boulder

By far the best part, though, was stopping at all the little pull-offs that I never stop at in the summer when they are cluster fucked with crowds and cars. We walked both loops of the Norris Geyser Basin boardwalks, about two miles, and didn’t pass another soul (that said, cheers to my old friend Quentin, who happened to be installing a new floor at the visitor center). At Obsidian Cliff, which has a pullout situated a safe distance from the actual obsidian cliff so that people don’t steal any, we could slow our bikes along the shoulder and actually look at the phenomenon that is worth seeing and was so significant to Native Americans from the West Coast to the Mississippi. Even the ‘green tunnels’– all those straight road corridors through homogenous lodgepole pines the park is infamous for, were remarkable and silent and spellcasting. We came away feeling like we saw the place as it was meant to be seen: as an effortful journey through wild elements where discovery is actually possible.

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