Rocky Mountains Part II: Wyoming, Idaho and Montana

Text: Uwe Krauss • Photography: Uwe Krauss

The owner slowly scuffles toward the entrance of his café, unlocks the door, and lets us in. Like him, the interior is simple, original and down to earth. Breakfast is the same: a huge pot of coffee, hash browns, bacon and eggs. Eat it or leave it. But something else is provided here in abundance: a great sense of freedom.

That’s the important thing on this sunny Tuesday morning in Jackson, MT, a place far from fast-food chains and luminous advertising. Outside the café a farmer is repairing his fence, another is arriving in his old pickup, a dog in the back. While we sit here in the cozy guestroom, snow-covered mountain ridges surround the valley. A few lonely houses amplify the solitude of this place – only a few people have sustained it. Even our hotel across the street has seen better days. But it’s this simplicity, the endless views, and the peace that captivates us, city people accustomed to comfort, hustle and constriction. Jackson ends up being my favorite part of the tour.

The Wonders of Nature

We start in a completely different scene, Salt Lake City. We take Interstate 80 to leave the tentacles of urbanization quickly behind. After Bear River Divide we get off the interstate and head north on lonely Highway 189, which takes us by the headwaters of the Green River to the wild Hoback Canyon and on to Jackson, WY. The famous ski hub is not too exciting in the summer, but the area a little further north is for sure. The Grand Tetons tower over the blue-green Jenny Lake and are even mirrored in it, a sight as beautiful as can be.

The decision to stay overnight is a good one. As we wake the next morning at neighboring Jackson Lake in Colter Bay, nature gives us an exclusive and short spectacle. Rather by accident I’m peeking out the window as the sun starts to illuminate the Grand Tetons, coloring them bright orange. After breakfast more wonders of nature are waiting just ahead. For a whole day we streak through Yellowstone National Park and sample all its grandness. Bison, elk and even a grizzly eating grass beside the road escort us along the way. Over a couple of hours we cross the Continental Divide three times, a sure sign that we are on the roof of America.

We are riding in beautiful sunshine, and it’s really hard to imagine that it snows up here even in June. High alpine forests encircle us, and just an hour later we are riding through a semi-desert at White Sulphur Springs. There is not much to stop for in town, apart from Doris’ Café. Some locals, a moose, a mountain lion and two buffaloes watch us as we enter. The locals sit at the bar; the animals are stuffed and hang on the wall.

Further north the Lewis and Clark National Forest provides a change in landscape before we cross the Missouri River at Great Falls. Unfortunately dams have tamed the rapids, which gave the town its name. Crossing the bridge is still a remarkable moment considering how far the water of the longest river in the world has to go before it ends at the Caribbean. Two hours later our excitement builds as the Rockies at Glacier National Park rise out of the plains. We ride directly toward them and end up in the hamlet of East Glacier for the night. Although it is only a village of maybe 100 people, everything is world famous, at least according to the owners: the Whistle Blow Café and its huckleberry cake, even the campground.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the November/December 2011 back issue.