Adventures beyond time

Adventures beyond time

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Our Trip to Yellowstone in Winter

The posts below chronicle the trip Pam, James, and I just made to Yellowstone. We were away 7 days. the final day was fully consumed by air travel, which is not worth of being chronicled. Therefore,  I have selected a couple of favorite videos to include in this post. The posts below follow our fun from Day 1 through Day 6. You will have to click on "Older Posts" a couple of times to see all the days.

Steam Vents

Mud pots

A Coyote on our trail

 Old Faithful Geyser Basin

Castle Geyser

Old Faithful

At Norris Geyser Basin

Monday, January 14, 2019

Yellowstone in Winter, Day 1

On January 4 2019, I flew out to Bozeman Mt for a week in Yellowstone's winter wonderland with Pam and James. Russ decided he had a lifetime of winter while living in star Lake and that he preferred to stay home in Florida with Stela.

I had seen pictures of snowy Yellowstone over the years and imagined how beautiful and fun it might be to visit when the roads go unplowed and you need to ride in on a snowmobile or in a 'snow coach' with huge, low-pressure wheels. In July, I got an email ad (probably because of my Grand Canyon walk two winters ago) touting the wonders of winter in Yellowstone and offering a big discount. I fell for it. Later I learned that the Christmas in July discount is not any better than the usually available Frosty Fun Package, but both are better than the rack rates.

It took a lot more planning during the fall to determine our dates and select our activities. That kept our excitement going. Finally, the day arrived.

I flew from Gainesville to Atlanta to Minneapolis to Bozeman. Pam and James from Richmond to Minneapolis to Bozeman. We arrived together on the final flight, checked in to our Bozeman hotel and walked through the city's quaint downtown before dinner back to the hotel. It was a smooth first day ending with a nice walk and good dinner.

First view of the mountains, from the ground, was at the airport.
Pam in Bozeman. The ornate brick buildings were mostly built by Irish laborers in the 1800s.
Bozeman has many restaurants, pubs, and shops in these old brick buildings. This pub's murals were notable.

Outside a brick pub
Downtown Bozeman
The original Ted's Montana Grill
The sidewalk cafe called to us only as a photo opp on this snowy Friday afternoon

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Yellowstone in Winter, Day 2

The second day of our adventure involved two shuttle rides to get us to the Old Faithful section of the Park. The first was a large bus that drove us from Bozeman, through Paradise Valley, to Mammoth Hot Springs, the Park's north entrance. We had about an hour there to walk to the travertine terraces that are the highlight of the spot. We then boarded our 15-passenger Snow Coach to ride on the unplowed, snow packed roads to the Snow Lodge at Old Faithful.

Because President Trump's government shutdown includes the Department of Interior, we were unsure until the last minute whether the National Parks would be closed and our trip would be cancelled. However, he allowed the concessioners who operate the lodges, shuttles, and tours to continue to use the National Parks, although all federal employees were furloughed.

There were no rangers taking entrance fees or monitoring the north entrance when we drove through. Most noticeable to us was the large number of snowmobiles on the roads. Yellowstone allows only 200 snowmobiles per day into the Park. They must enter in groups no larger than 12. Drivers must be 18 and have a drivers license. The concessioners must provide  training to the machine drivers and must have a licensed guide with each group to keep them on allowed roads and assure safety. The machines must be of the most up-to-date technology to minimize pollution. Rangers assure the rules are followed, but there are no rangers now and rules were clearly not being followed. We saw many young teens, but hopefully they were not the drivers.

The Visitor Center at Mammoth was closed as was the one at Old Faithful while we were there. The roads in the interior are not plowed in winter; they are groomed by Park employees. The concessioner that runs the Snow Lodge hired groomers to assure safety. We saw one snowmobiler overturn his or her machine on soft snow at the edge of the road. We heard of another who fell, with her machine, into a river. The folks who told us about it had been in a Snow Coach right behind her. She was not with a sanctioned group. The Snow Coach passengers called 911 and a helicopter landed on the groomed road to take the woman to a hospital.

We had a totally delightful ride on our Snow Coach. The driver-guide stopped foe about an hour at one of her favorite places in the Park, Norris Geyser Basin. It was our first really snow view. Most of the trees are lodgepole pines. The snow was piled on their branches. The earth was boiling up from the volcano beneath us. It was the first of many breathtaking walks in the Park.

It was almost dark when we arrived at the Snow Lodge. It did not disappoint. The lobby is beautiful. In front of the huge fireplace, chairs are arranged around tables with puzzles and board games, and people working them. Our comfortable second floor rooms were just off a loft overlooking the lobby. My hand soap was shaped like a teddy bear. There are no televisions.  The dining room was efficient and relatively quiet. The staff were great. It was hard to turn in on such a day, but we had a trip to the Great Continental Divide at 7:45 the next day, so we had to give up before too late.
Roosevelt Arch leading into the Park
Buildings at Mammoth appearing on our horizon
Travertine cone

travertine terraces
Boarding the Snow Coach for the several-hour ride to Old Faithful

Early view from the Snow Coach
Obsidian rock that has been found traded by the Native Americans as far east as Ohio
We walked way down there at Norris Geyser Basin, our stop along the route into the interior of the Park

Lodgepole pines in the snow
Pines and geysers

hot, blue earth

rivers of green

Stay on the walkway!
Walking back up to the bus

What an introduction!
Snow Lodge lobby from our loft lobby perspective

View out my window right over the entrance to Snow Lodge

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Yellowstone in Winter, Day 3 in the morning

Sunday dawned bright and cold. We had booked a trip by Snow Coach across the Continental Divide, to Kepler Falls and then to the West Thumb Geyser Basin.

After an early coffee and scone, we met in the lobby wearing silk long johns, pants, waterproof over-pants, gators, thermal socks, boots, base-layer shirt, shirt, double layer jackets, scarf, fur-lined hats with earflaps, and double gloves. Luckily, we boarded the Snow Coach quickly and it was heated very lightly, which helped to have the windows fog less. By 8:00, we were off to see the snow and thermal features!
Still pretty dark when we started out.
This is Kepler Falls in winter.
At the Continental Divide
Those poles are marking the edge of the "road" so the Snow Coach doesn't fall off.
The next several photos are at the West Thumb Geyser Basin.

Mystical places. All the steam and ice!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Yellowstone in Winter, More of Day 3

After the morning excursion, our driver dropped us of at Old faithful, just shy of the entrance to the Snow Lodge. We had Old faithful almost all to ourselves in the snow. We watched her erupt, then walked all around the short loop that goes behind her.

This is the path to Old Faithful from the parking lot where our driver let us off
Steamy thermal pond near Old Faithful
Old Faithful gearing up

Walking the path behind Old Faithful

Benches are provided for those who want to sit and wait for the eruption
We had lunch in the grill after our hike. It was packed with snowmobilers, some of them were youngster about 10 years old. There were surely more than 200 snowmobiles in the parking lot, although 200 is the total allowed in the whole Park on any given day. We heard that the outfitters had said they had machines and people who wanted to rent them. Since no rangers were working, they would go for the extra income.

Lunch was good . . . organic quinoa and kale soup :) I worked on a drawing and they read for a while. We met up for a hot buttered rum and light dinner in the lounge before suiting up again for our Steam, Stars, and Sounds tour after dark. The night sky was totally clouded over. There was not a single star to be seen. It was as dark as dark can be once we were out of sight of the Lodge on our Snow Coach.
View from my room in the afternoon
Meeting in the uncrowded lobby before dinner.

Ready for the steam, stars, and sounds of the night.

Our driver-guide, Chuck, took us to Firehole Lake geyser area. The wind was brutal and the temperature was about 10 degrees. Still it was magical. With flashlights, we walked out to the geyser area. All four of the thermal features of Yellowstone are found in this area . . . geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles (steam vents). When we arrived at the mud pots we all turned off our flashlights and just listened to the muddy earth boiling around us in the darkroom-esque black with the cold and the wind wrapping around us.

Then we heard steam and waterfall-like noises just beyond where we were standing on a boardwalk. The Great Fountain Geyser was erupting. It goes up 75 to 215 feet and erupts every 9 to 15 hours. We watched it by flashlight until we had all had enough. What a magnificent piece of luck to see to, and at night!

Chuck served us hot chocolate when we got back to the bus. We learned that Chuck, like Pam, was born in 1968. He was a salesman of medical spine implants until he sold his company and retired early, opting to be a cowboy guide by summer and snow coach driver by winter. Okay!
Waiting for my hot chocolate.
A second-of-the-day hot buttered rum called to us when we got back to the lodge. What a Sunday!