This is the first of a three-part installment about the motorcycling adventures of the all-female Motorcycle Media Group (MMG) exploring the Yellowstone-Grand Teton Loop. In Part One, the MMG rides the Yellowstone–Grand Teton Loop to The Pines at Island Park and dines with the Mayor. Written by guest blogger Michelle Baird, aka Elaine Splitter.
“…can you just imagine the sound of 14 women?” Jackie Cameron-Jensen, an employee at The Pines at Island Park, wrote on her Facebook page. She was talking about us, the Motorcycle Media Group (MMG), when we were dining at Phillips Lodge café at The Pines, and Jackie was helping serve up giant plates of meat and vegetables. Actually, there were 13 women and two men at our table, one of them the Mayor of Island Park, and we were at a low-pitched roar swapping stories about our journeys.
We had just spent this early-September day riding an assortment of brand-new 2011 Harley-Davidson motorcycles (which was a thrill in and of itself) through Yellowstone National Park, and we still buzzing with excitement. We had seen wild animals in the park, including a bear and buffalo, walking on the roads; we had caught glimpses of elk and even spotted a wolf running through the brush (though, the group is still divided on whether it was actually a coyote); we had seen lush green forests and snow-capped mountains; and we had witnessed up close the bizarre geothermal formations, including the awesomeness of Old Faithful, in Yellowstone, American’s first National ParkWe had followed U.S. 89 from the west side of Yellowstone until the road melded into U.S. Highway 20, and then we cut across a small chunk of Montana into Idaho, following the Yellowstone–Grand Teton Loop route from the park.
We were on the third of a five-day excursion that was the brainchild of Tourism Division of the Idaho Dept of Commerce as an innovative way to promote Idaho, the Yellowstone–Grand Teton Loop and its scenic byways. The Yellowstone-Grand Teton Loop is part of the massive project called The Top 10 Scenic Drives, which is a public-nonprofit collaborative effort between state, federal, tribal, and local partners and encompasses five U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. Travelers on the Yellowstone–Grand Teton Loop get a dramatic views changing from thick evergreens against the enormous blue sky and farmlands back dropped by the Teton Mountains.
The route is packed with American history, and striking up a conversation with a local will usually result in a colorful story about the mountain men and Native Americans, or the pioneers and cowboys who inhabited these lands. What makes this place different than other parts of historic America hotspots is that travelers won’t be herded down streets of tourist traps loaded up with garish plastic trinkets, and you won’t see any billboards blocking the views: This is home for these folks, and they are not interested in cluttering up their countryside and mountain views.
For some, the curiosity got the better of them, and they asked who were we, what we were doing, and then would proceed to make us late for our next stop by enthusiastically detail the must-see stops, encouraging us to backtrack to see things we missed. Gratefully, we were off schedule many times. We had soaked up the scenery and stories southward on Highway 20 until we landed at the cozy Phillips Lodge café at the Pines.
The Pines is popular with the locals, but I suspect our rowdy chatter and laughter chased off most of the other customers that evening, all except for one charming gentleman and fellow biker, Tom Jewell, who happens to be the mayor of Island Park. “Mayor Tom” had some stories to tell us, too, and, in his native Chicago accent, he gave us the inside scoop on Island Park, and he told us all about his motorcycles, snowmobiles and boats. Everyone we met in Island Park had a garage stuffed with toys. We were in a quite unique little pocket of heaven, peaceful and adventurous at the same time.
We were in the thick of the massive Caribou-Targhee Forest and smack-dab in the middle of hundreds of miles of trails and woods for hikers, snowmobiles and off-roaders, not to mention all the streams and ponds nearby, where fly fishers flock to from around the world. It seems that these Idahoans live life as if it were a long, slow-speed zipline, gathering up the beauty and wildness of Mother Nature, partaking in the surroundings with using it up, and enjoying the ride.
After dinner, we peeled off into trios, bikes safely lined up for the night in front of The Pines, and hiked up through the woods along the forked trails behind the café to enjoy our cabins. Calling them cabins doesn’t give the right image; these were full-on two-story homes packed the most modern of amenities and comforts, with simple luxury of quality leather, linen and wood in the furnishings. Some of us hunkered down chin deep into the bubbling hot water of the jacuzzis on the wraparound porches, ducking from the crisp autumn air and staring up at the black sky, polka-dotted with stars, and some of us warmed our feet at the fire.
The quiet energy of the Caribou-Targhee Forest took over, broken only by the occasional relaxed sigh and the crinkling sound of a chilly autumn breeze in the treetops, and the sound of 13 women was soon silent, in this reverent place.
The MMG’s adventure the next day would reveal a pristine motorcycle-rider’s dream road and an unreal waterfall, right out of a dream…