Gull Point, where I launched / windsurfed from. Note the black “sand.” It’s rhyolite, black volcanic glass (70 – 80% silica) left over from the massive volcanic explosion centuries ago that created a large part of the park.
After an email exchange with the editor of Windsurfing Magazine he suggested if Yellowstone National Park was on my route to stop and windsurf on Yellowstone Lake so I did. Campsites are tough to get and you have to book months in advance to get one but I got lucky and a day before I went I called, asked for a site near the lake and got one there for one night only (Sunday, August 1.) I camped at Bridge Bay.
Your humble guide and narrator, riggin’ on the rhyolite!
I spent the previous night in Cody, Wyoming and did my food shopping there before making the hour or so drive to the park. Once at the park it took me almost an hour and half to get to my campsite. The roads twist through the mountains, buffalo wander across them and people stop to take pics. I got to my campsite at 2:00 p.m., made a quick lunch (turkey and cheese sandwich, crackers and a banana) and had my tent set up by 2:45. I was in a rush and knew if there was wind I’d want to be done and back to my campsite before darkness so I could cook dinner in the remaining daylight.
I went to the nearby marina and to the park ranger’s counter in the office. The ranger was a young guy, rosy cheeks, baby-faced, 22 or 23 but could easily pass for about 14 with short, cropped blonde hair. He looked a little like Richie Cunningham from Happy Days. I asked him if I was allowed to windsurf on the lake. “That’s a good question,” he said, “I’m not sure, let me check.” He then takes out the rules and regulations book and starts reading out loud, telling me what isn’t allowed. “No water skiing, no personal water craft, nothing being towed, no parasailing. So that’s it, I’m sorry, you can’t do it.”
“Aww come on dude,” I said, turning on my best Jersey-boy charm. “I drove all the way here from New Jersey. And I’m not using a boat and not being towed. I’m being powered solely by the wind.”
“Well, I guess I can check with my boss. Do you want me to call him?”
I quickly said yes and he did. But before calling him he turned on a video for two tourists from China who were renting a rowboat to take out on the lake. Everyone renting a boat has to watch this 17-minute safety video. So the two tourists are sitting there watching it and I’m dying to get onto the lake while being forced to listen to the boring narrator talk about water safety. And I’ve got the Sweet Machine II / Mobile Living Unit outside in the parking lot, loaded with windsurfing gear, and Richie Cunningham is on the phone with his boss.
Suddenly I hear music to my ears. “So he can do it?” Richie says into the phone. He finishes the call and tells me it’s okay (and I shouldn’t make fun of the dude, he was really smart, cool and helpful.) He then shows me a print out of the next few days’ weather and says the prevailing wind is southwest. I look at the weather report and the only semi-encouraging day is today, SW, 8-16 mph. I then ask him where a good place to launch is and we start looking at places on the map. He points to a spot not far from us called Gull Point. “Cool man, thanks a lot!” I said while hurrying out of the office.
The path I had to schlep my gear down.
Gull Point is a beautiful beach on Yellowstone Lake. The lake sits 7,733 feet above sea level. But to get to the beach I had to haul my gear down about a 125-foot path in the woods. And the beach was really tough to walk on, your feet sink into it worse than sand because it’s rhyolite (I asked a park ranger), which is black volcanic glass (70 – 80% silica) left over from the massive volcanic explosion centuries ago that created a large part of the park (the lake is actually in the caldera.) The rhyolite covers the park. While it was tough to walk on it didn’t really hurt on bare feet.
As for the windsurfing, the wind was light, I was on a 7.5 and 135 L board, gusty but good and I got dialed-in and on plane about half the time for the first hour. And while I was flying across the lake I had an amazing view of the snow-capped Absorka Range. And I’m really glad I brought my drysuit. The water was a chilly 51 degrees. But once I got on plane and saw those snow-capped mountains I was totally psyched, whooped and hollered out loud like never before while windsurfing and it was totally worth it. Absolutely incredible.
After I left Yellowstone I cruised down to the Grand Teton National Park, just south of Yellowstone. I was hoping to do some windsurfing there but there was no wind the day I got there and they weren’t calling for any in the near future so I split.
Waterfalls on the road to the South Gate, Yellowstone National Park.
The Grand Teton National Park is absolutely beautiful and note the snow on the high peaks – in August!
I stopped (on my way to Boise) for dinner at a rest area on Interstate 84 in Idaho. As I ate at the picnic table (leftover camping food, a tuna fish sandwich, an apple, canned veggies and granola bars) and saw this sunset I couldn’t resist, darted to my car and grabbed my camera.