January 16, 2009
Well, our vacation is coming to an end. We’ve been having a great time. I’m actually getting used to the snow now and bundling up to go outside. I love Yellowstone in the winter time. The views are just breathtaking. The landscape changes every day making taking photographs so much fun. I just can’t get enough of this place. I would estimate that I’ve taken about seven gigs of photos in Yellowstone alone. That’s approximately 1400 photos. And I could still take more. Plus there are so few visitors in the winter that we feel like we have the whole park to ourselves. We don’t have to fight the crowds to see the mud volcano. The geysers and hot springs are so much more impressive in the winter as the steam billows out in the freezing temperatures. Plus you can see exactly where the ground is hot due to the brown patches surrounded by snow. The rivers that are fed from thermal waters run freely in the snow covered wilderness and steam as they travel. There is no traffic on the roadways except for the guided tours, so there are no traffic jams and less vehicles for the park to worry about. The number one killer of all animals in Yellowstone is the cars. You can find complete silence almost anywhere. The animals are much easier to spot with the snow on the ground. Not only can you see where they’ve been due to their tracks, but also they stand out against the white backdrop. Besides the wildlife, my next favorite thing to photograph and marvel at are the ghost trees. These are the trees that are covered with ice and frost formed from the thermal steam. They are white from afar and when you are close up, you can see all the ice crystals forming.
In fact, as we woke up today we saw that the whole park was covered in ghost trees. It was a perfectly sunny day and the clouds were low in the morning freezing to the trees in the form of hoarfrost. Or at least I think that’s what happened. Beautiful. We took our last walk around Old Faithful and covered a much larger area seeing many of the hot springs and geysers in the basin. It hasn’t snowed in several days and the snow is well packed along the boardwalks and pathways that foot travel is not a problem. The hardest part was not tripping in the holes caused by the bison crossing over the boardwalk.
Sadly it was time to go and we took the express Bombardier out to West Yellowstone. It was a quick ride. Along part of the way we traveled at the same speed as an eagle flying by. We watched the trumpeter swans swim in the Gibbon River and we even saw Elk grazing in a meadow. i definitely recommend visiting Yellowstone in the winter time. It is an amazing experience and a wonderful vacation.
We had about an hour to kill in West Yellowstone before we were picked up by the Karst Stage Shuttle, so we walked over to the Grizzly Discovery Center to watch the wolves howl in song and the Grizzlies play with tree limbs. (Grizzlies don’t need to hibernate in the Center because there is enough food for them) The Discover Center was empty except for only a couple other people. It was a perfect way to end our journey.
Our Karst Stage Shuttle picked us up and we traveled into the night to the tiny town of Belgrade. Belgrade is the tiny town next to Bozeman that holds the airport. The Country Kitchen next to our hotel was still accepting dinner guests, so we didn’t have to eat only potato chips and Cliff Bars. =) Tomorrow we will leave and encounter the normal world full of people and the bustle of life.
Below you’ll see pictures of a plant covered in hoarfrost, Canadian geese, Mark and Joanna with some ghost trees, and a wolf at the Discovery Center.