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Winter in Yellowstone, MT
2012-01-1410 by
Winter in Yellowstone, MT  
Walk / Tour5.00 Miles          
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I took advantage of the long weekend to travel 13 hours north to Yellowstone NP via West Yellowstone for a winter tour. Yellowstone is a very special place to me having grown up just a couple hours away. I've been in the park in the winter a few times, but its been several years ago. Circumstances fell into place: long weekend, good roads, good weather, available reservations.

We (Mr. Fotogirl and me) arranged a private snowcoach for a day with Yellowstone Alpen Guides in a 1952 Bombardier snowcoach retrofitted with a 350 Vortec engine. At each stop along the way, guys would come over to admire the vehicle. It is the oldest snowcoach in Yellowstone.

John, our guide, was a former pro photographer who was adept at spotting wildlife along the way. Because the snowcoach was much faster than the vans with tracks used by the other outfitters and Xanterra, we were able to do the lower loop including Canyon and Lake in a search for wildlife. I really wanted to spot wolves and river otters, but no luck. We ran into a herd of bison on the road, including one with a lame back leg. There were wolf tracks along the road and we wondered if she had been attacked at some point. John said there are 2 wolf packs that are hunting bison in the park. Moose are virtually gone in the park and elk have also moved out. The wolves are thriving and the packs exchange members frequently.

We arrived at Old Faithful in the afternoon and got into our room at the Snow Lodge, which is the only lodging open in the winter. We stayed in a "cabin", which is really a 4-plex and very new. Not much ambiance, just basic accomodation. We got up before dawn on Sunday to catch the sunrise and explore the area around Old Faithful. We didn't need our snowshoes because of lack of snow on the walk out to Biscuit Basin, but we used our poles which helped on the hardpack. We could have used cleats, but I had left them back in the room. Duh.

A lone coyote shared the trail with us for the 2.5 miles out. I had expected to see bison along the way but they weren't hanging around the hotsprings or geysers. The boardwalks around Old Faithful were covered with thick ice from freezing steam and very difficult to navigate, but we made the loop without falling--that was quite an accomplishment.

Sunday afternoon we caught the last of a tour out to West, stopping at some more geyser features but the wind had really picked up with an incoming front. All the steam was blowing sideways and I got windburn on my face. Then it was back to the truck and south to Flag with a stop in Salt Lake for the night. We missed the big snowstorm and made it safely back home. I recommend a winter trip into Yellowstone, but you should spend more time than just a day and a half.
Allergic to cities.

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