Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Jellystone! No wait, it's winter, you can call it Yellowstone again

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting one of our national treasures and seeing it how it was meant to be.  In the summer, Yellowstone is more aptly described as Jellystone, as it is crawling with camera-toting tourists gawking at the bison, thermal features, and everything else remotely interesting.  It is a zoo, and the only place in Montana or Wyoming where traffic (well buffalo/tourist) jams are a problem.

Thank goodness for the winter-the park receives so much snow it is impractical to plow it, so the only way to get in to the heart of the park is by a snowcoach or snowmobile.  Guides are required and numbers are limited.  In other words, you pretty much have the park to yourself once you spread all of those people out.

We had a gorgeous, sunny day.

We drove down to West Yellowstone, hopped in our snowcoach, named DeLacy, and beat it into the park.  I had the impression snowcoaches crawled, because they have treads and the fact that the oldest oneswere built in 1955.  Turns out not-we flew down the road at 35-40 mph.  Check out the hatches in the roof for peaking out and the wooden dashboard.  Vintage.

On our way in we almost got stuck by a herd of bison enjoying the packed down road.  Why wade through a couple feet of snow when there is a pre-groomed trail, eh?

Looks like this cow did NOT like us sneaking around them.

We visited some thermal features, snowshoed around, saw some elk, ate lunch on the trail, and drank in the scenery.  We were in the caldera area of Yellowstone (it is one ginormous volcano), so even though it was sunny the whole day it was pretty darn cold.  The cooler air sinks down and stays.

Anyway, the most exciting part of the day was a black wolf sighting.  When we arrived on the scene of stopped snowmobiles peering off the road the wolf was just on the far side of the river, slinking slowly off through the trees.  The snowmobilers informed us the Park Service had tranquilized the wolf and then released it.  Maybe they put a radio collar on it.  I didn't get a picture of it, but just use your imagination-or Google.  They are bigger than you might think.

I also did not photograph the elk we saw swimming across the river right in front of us.  It was a day to just enjoy the scenery and not worry about getting pictures.  Here is one more for you though, with the Gallatin range in the background.

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