Yellowstone Bans Cars For Spring Biking Period Yellowstone National Park is often overwhelmed by cars. But right now, only bicycles are allowed on some popular park roads. But bikers have to be ready to dodge bears, wolves and other wildlife.

Before Cars Come In, Bikes Accompany Bison In Yellowstone

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LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

If you want to go for a spectacular bike ride this weekend, you might consider heading to Yellowstone National Park. Every spring, 50 miles of the main thoroughfares are open to bicycles only. And Montana Public Radio's Eric Whitney went for a spin.

ERIC WHITNEY, BYLINE: I've ridden about two miles into the park, and I've just pulled over for a minute and left my bike by the side of the road. Walked about 20 yards over to the edge of the river here, and I'm watching a herd of bison on the other side of the river in a brown meadow that's spiked with rocks and silver sagebrush. There's some snow on the ground, a backdrop of evergreen trees and a couple of really huge bull bison. It's so quiet. The only sound is the water in the river.

JULIE HANNAFORD: We think of quietness as a resource here. Silence is a resource.

WHITNEY: Julie Hannaford is a park ranger who's worked at Yellowstone for 24 years.

HANNAFORD: Those quieter experiences - just to provide an opportunity to have them, we're pleased to be able to do that.

WHITNEY: But Hannaford also wants to make sure that quiet-seeking visitors know what they're getting into. Riding a bicycle into Yellowstone this time of year isn't something to be taken lightly.

HANNAFORD: It's not a zoo. This is a wilderness area that just happens to have a road through it. It's a wild place where the animals and the weather and the environment are in their natural state. And so you have to be flexible and capable and willing to change your plans any time because things will change.

WHITNEY: Flexible and adaptable pretty much describes the family I met after more than an hour of riding inside Yellowstone without seeing another soul.

RANDALL GRIZZLE: My name is Randall Grizzle. And this...

VALERIE GRIZZLE: Valerie Grizzle.

TROY GRIZZLE: Troy Grizzle.

SIERRA GRIZZLE: Sierra Grizzle.

TROY: I'm 10. She's 12.

WHITNEY: They're from Boise on spring break and had planned to drive through Yellowstone.

R. GRIZZLE: At first, I was like dang it. But we happened to have our bikes, and so, like, this is one of the most epic days of my life. Just to be out here in, like, this whole park to ourselves is an amazing feeling.

SIERRA: It was awesome. We've seen some really cool animals.

TROY: There's some bison over there that we just checked out.

V. GRIZZLE: Just huge - kind of surreal and scary at the same time.

TROY: We have everything we need just in case we get stuck here.

WHITNEY: And you got the bear spray? You got bear spray?

V. GRIZZLE: (Laughter).

SIERRA: Bear spray and the gun.

V. GRIZZLE: Prepared.

WHITNEY: And a gun, too.

R. GRIZZLE: Yeah, we're from Idaho.

V. GRIZZLE: (Laughter).

R. GRIZZLE: So that's just kind of normal.

WHITNEY: It's legal to have guns in the park but not fire them. The park says bear spray, which is a kind of pepper spray, is a lot more effective than guns at deterring Grizzlies. Bears are just now starting to emerge from hibernation and can be a little cranky. But most visitors never see one in Yellowstone. The Grizzle family rides off hoping to do 14 miles round trip today.

SIERRA: All right, bye.

TROY: Bye.

WHITNEY: As the weather warms up, more cyclists will take advantage of this brief car-free window in Yellowstone - up to a few hundred a day on weekends. And then on April 21, the park will throw the gates open to cars again for the summer season. For NPR News, I'm Eric Whitney, in West Yellowstone, Mont.

(SOUNDBITE OF EL TEN ELEVEN SONG, "TRIANGLE FACE")

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