The Trans-America Challenge 2012
7th May - 8th June 2012
Jackson to Bozeman
MAY 21ST, 2012
There was a distinct chill in the air as we left The Wort Hotel this morning although this obviously related to the temperature rather than the ambiance.
Some of the crews claimed that this hotel was the nicest of the trip so far. Traditional yet efficient and we couldn't say anything to disagree with this. Many crews had spent the previous evening in the Million Dollar Bar and over breakfast discussed the saddle seats and the stuffed bear which, according to legend, had been killed by a man with his bare hands.
There was no timing today with the idea that crews were free to see as much or as little of Yellowstone as they wanted to so the departure was quite leisurely. The road out of Jackson was as spectacular as the road into it. The Teton range is everything a mountain range should be. Tree lined, jagged and snowy set against a blue sky. Throughout our US trip we've seen 'Adopt a highway' signs along the road but have never witnessed his scheme in action. Today we did, once a year, one mile either side of their ranch a family of five were voluntarily litter picking. Rat really impressed us.
Until we'd seen what we've already seen Yellowstone was going to be one of the highlights of the trip so we were worried that it might not live up to its billing. Fools that we were! The approach through the Teton National Park was breathtaking and once in Yellowstone continued in the same vein as we crossed the Continental Divide three times and thereby in and out of and back into Montana. Established in 1872 the Park is a massive wilderness most famous perhaps for two things other than its landscape. Firstly it's home to the world’s largest collection of geysers and there was something strangely symmetrical in the fact that there we were chatting to Steve Hyde as Old Faithful blew again. Once the hot air and steam had cleared we turned our attention back to the geyser. Secondly, the wildlife, in particular the bears, wolves and bison.
Statistically, the website tells us we were most likely to have an encounter with a bears at the roadside, well that figures - it's a Rally. The advice was that if you see a bear while driving do not stop. If the bear is within 100 yards, watch and take photographs from inside your car. Don't get between a sow and her cubs.
There's a lot more info' on the subject of bear safety, you can ask a Ranger - the guys in the big hats and the Park also has a useful set of PDFs which can be downloaded covering topics such as: Understanding the bear's mindset, reacting to a bear encounter at a distance, reacting to a surprise encounter with a bear at close range, selecting proper bear spray, how to react to a charging bear, etc. The route book took us through the southerly Grand Loop so bearing all of the above in mind we proceeded with caution and needless to say throughout the entire day we didn't see one single bear although some crews were more lucky and did.
Wolves were introduced in 1995 and they've successfully established a population of more than 300. We didn't see any of them either but we did see more Elk and Bison. From the West exit we had a simple run back up the 191 along the Gallatin River to the night halt at Bozeman.
While most of us had a fantastic trouble free run through the day some weren't so fortunate. Car 14, the Mercedes, overheated all day and Keith and Nora Ashworth arrived at Old Faithful desperate for both lunch and a view of the Geyser. Andy Inskip and Jim Allen had been in attendance most of the way up the valley and eventually they removed the sumpguard in the carpark to get more cool over the radiator. They've booked ahead to Great Falls and have parts waiting for the radiator. They were also called upon by Car 19 the Steinhauser Jaguar which suffered a leaking brake seal. Andy and Jim T'd off the offending part and new parts will arrive tomorrow.
Superlatives were the order of the day over dinner this evening and the Rally went to bed tired but happy.