Jan 172009

Our trip is nearly over. We had a glorious time in Yellowstone. While we did not have access to the internet there, I still wrote up daily journal entries. Unfortunately, you will have to wait a few more days for me to get pictures posted as I’ve taken hundreds and have not started weeding through them. We are sitting in Bozeman with internet access and I’ll take the opportunity to post our activities from the past week. Here is the first of a few posts.

January 10, 2009

Today was a travel day. We took the Alpine Taxi (shuttle service) from our condo in Steamboat to Hayden Airport, flew to Bozeman with a connection in Salt Lake City, then were shuttled via the Karst Stage Shuttle from the Bozeman airport to West Yellowstone. Luckily all our travel worked out as scheduled and we had no problems.

January 11, 2009

We arrived in Yellowstone today and it is just as pretty as I imagined it would be. The thermal features are steaming in the cold air and all the trees in the steam are iced over with what’s called hoarfrost that turns them completely white covered in ice and snow. Now they are ghost trees standing on the edge of boiling mud pits and bubbling geyser basins.

This morning we took the Xanterra express snowcoach from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful. We rode in what’s called a Bombardier and is pretty hard to describe. It’s almost like a very small and aerodynamic tank that sits on snow tracks. There is a luggage rack on the roof to hold our suitcases, and we sat in side on benches that lined the walls of the interior of the Bombardier. Eight of us fit inside, and we might have been able to squeeze in 2 more if we were forced to, but it was cozy with 8. Since this was an express shuttle, we went straight to Old Faithful with no stops. There were about 4 photographers on board including myself and I was the least equipped. The others had a tripod or two, and full camera backpacks full of lenses. The hardest part of travel for me is deciding how much photog gear to bring and I usually try to minimize it as much as possible because it is less to haul that way. We took photos as our snowcoach bumped along noisily through the park’s entrance road. Hopefully I got a few non-blurry shots.

We arrived at Old Faithful just in time to see it erupt so we trekked out to have a look. We took a less-traveled path and ended up thigh deep in snow. Thankfully we found the traveled path and continued in on foot. The day was overcast and the steam was pouring from the blowhole. We could tell there was some water shooting up, but mostly we saw a mixture of clouds and steam. It was still spectacular, but the photo-op was less than perfect. There will be many other opportunities, however. We strolled around the Old Faithful area on the boardwalks finding it easy to stay on the path because of the foot-trampled snow in front of us. There are lots of signs warning us not to travel off the path, but in the winter the boardwalk covered in snow looks exactly the same as the thermal area next to the boardwalk covered in snow. Finally we were cold and hungry, so we went back to the Old Faithful Snow Lodge for lunch. Did you know that the historic Old Faithful Inn that we all see pictures of is not equipped to handle winter guests? Apparently the people who built it figured that no one would be brave enough to come into the park during the cold winter months, so the Inn has no insulation. It’s closed. So, we are in the somewhat adjacent Snow Lodge that has winter services. Our next snowcoach was picking us up soon, so we borrowed some books from the little library cart they had and read about Yellowstone while we waited.

The four hour snowcoach ride from old Faithful to Mammoth Springs was excellent. We pulled out and walked around the area of the Painted Pots where we got to see a lot of ghost trees and bubbling mud. We also stopped for any wildlife on the side of the road that we wanted to capture on camera. Our guide was really nice about stopped anywhere for us. We got to see lots of bison in the distance digging their massive heads into the snow. They dig down to the Earth to hopefully find grass to eat. When they rise from their digging hole, their heads are giant white masks of snow. We also saw lots of Canadian geese, trumpeter swans, other ducks, a couple eagles, ravens of course, elk, and of course lots and lots and lots of snow. The snow here is white and untouched and when it blankets an interesting landscape full of rocks, downed trees, thermal features, and more, it is really quite beautiful to look at. Many of the streams here are fed by thermally heated waters so they do not freeze over, but move briskly through the snow-covered canyons and meadows. At the end of our journey it not only started snowing to almost white-out conditions, but it also got dark, so when we spotted a carcass a ways off the road, we could only imagine what it must look like in the non-hazy conditions. There were ravens and even an eagle eating their dinner.

we can’t wait for our tours tomorrow when we’ll see even more features and wildlife.

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