February 15 to February 26
We have been to Yellowstone National Park twice in the past, both times in the summer. The first time was August 2004 and then again in July, 2013. So, I decided it was time for a winter trip. Not perhaps the smartest thing for an Albertan, living in a winter setting to go on a trip in the winter to a winter destination. In fact, Yellowstone is at a much higher elevation than central Alberta and is much colder. And snowier. The only way into the main part of the park is by tour on either a snowmobile or a snow coach. Wisely, I chose the latter.
There is a section of road in the northern part of the park that is kept open and I hope to drive that to the Lamar Valley and with luck, see some wildlife.
Click on the photo for each day to view that day's photos.
Day 1 - February 15, 2023
Well, I am off again, this time to Yellowstone National Park. Today was a long day in the car to Great Falls, MT. The map says 8 hours but with stops it was over 10 hours. A beautiful sunrise, a stop at Lundbreck Falls, a few shots of the mountains and some interesting buildings just across the border in the U.S.. Tomorrow, on to Gardiner, MT.
Day 2 - February 16, 2023
Yellowstone National Park. It never disappoints. At this time of the year, the only road that is open is on the far northern end of the park from Mammoth Hot Springs to Cooke City.
Mammoth Hot Springs is a former military base surrounded by beauty. The hot springs have been boiling for millennia and the resulting residue has built a mountain of travertine with the boiling water still flowing over. Simply gorgeous!
And the wildlife is everywhere. Especially bison. There were fewer elk than I expected but plenty of deer and the bison are everywhere. I was told by a local that over 2,000 have left the park this year because the snow is so deep they are having trouble foraging for food. I was also shown a black bear den and the bear is moving about a bit. He/she hasn't come out...yet. As for wolves, I did see a couple different packs but about 1-2 miles away. Too far for a photo. Perhaps tomorrow? I have one more day in this location.
Day 3 - February 17, 2023
Gardiner to Mammoth Hot Springs to Cooke City and back. Total about 120 miles. All day. I must have seen over 300 bison, two coyotes just walking down the road like they were going to Sunday church. A pack of wolves (again over a mile away so not great shots), the Yellowstone River, a single wolf traversing along the Lamar River in deep snow (again a long distance away), next a coyote on a carcass (probably an elk killed by wolves?), then finally the first male elk seen so far and finally a sunset including an elk silhouetted against the pink sky.
Off to West Yellowstone tomorrow. There is a winter storm warning for Sunday and the first half of next week. Perhaps 2 feet of snow. Photography might be a challenge.
Day 4 - February 18, 2023
I moved from the north end of Yellowstone to the west side and West Yellowstone today. Stopped in Bozeman for breakfast. Very nice, quaint little town. Got a few shots of the downtown before moving on. A few shots along the way.
Lots and lots and lots of snow here in West Yellowstone. In places where they plow, the piles are 20 feet high. 4 to 5 feet on some roofs. Oh, and there is a storm heading this way with a potential of another 2 feet! Too early to check in to the timeshare so I took a drive up to Ennis, MT. Another quaint little town, my mandatory chocolate milkshake then back to West Yellowstone. Lastly a few shots of the condo.
Day 5 - February 19, 2023
The first of what will likely be three snow days. There is a winter storm warning in effect starting today until Wednesday with up to three feet of snow expected. Sooooo, not much today. A quick trip to the grocery store for some supplies. Then just a few shots around the resort.
I will probably have to lay low for the next couple days so there likely won't be much in the way of photos. And I will be going stir crazy from boredom. I am not much of a TV guy. Perhaps a walk around town in a blizzard???
Day 6 - February 20, 2023
The snow let up for a few hours today so I headed out for a drive around town. A wee bit of snow here. While I would like to claim I saw these bears and wolves in the wild, it would not be true. There is a sanctuary here and it is very well done. You can actually see the animals without glass or wire in the way.
The grizzly bears were very co-operative and playful. Check out those claws! And the wolves. Majestic. Larger than I expected. Beautiful doesn't begin to describe.
Day 7 - February 21, 2023
Once again the major snow storm failed to show up. Only flurries. There is a walking tour you can take around to view the historic old buildings of West Yellowstone. Most of the buildings are closed in the winter. I only did about half of it because walking is not easy in all the snow.
First stop, a beautiful train car built in 1903 for the VP of the Union Pacific Railroad. It was retired in 1935 and now sits inside the Holiday Inn. It was luxurious travel to be sure.
Next a walk along Yellowstone Avenue for a few shots of the closed historic buildings and then into the lobby of the Three Bear Lodge. Built in the 1930s it was the first to offer winter lodging and tours into the park. It has been the victim of fires 3 times. They have salvaged a restored it each time. There painted Bison all along the walk.
Next the Historic Center. Also closed but a lovely young lady gave me a tour anyway (thanks Mary). Now used for weddings, and other functions, the fireplace(s) are massive! Lastly some unique creations in a store and a log McDonald's with a drive through used in the winter by more snowmobiles than cars.
Day 8 - February 22, 2023
The weather simply does not want to relent. It cleared up enough by about 1:00 that I headed out to attempt to drive to Virginia City. I got about half way but turned around because of visibility being only about 50 yards.
However, I did get some beautiful photos along the Madison River and Hebgen Lake. At one point I was on a ploughed back road (rare) and followed some large canine tracks. No human tracks. Wolf? I am no expert but... The tracks were fresh or they would have filled with snow.
A herd of Mountain Goats, more snowy roads and then back to West Yellowstone.
Day 9 - February 23, 2023
The day finally came. Day #1 of 2 on snow coach tour into Yellowstone National Park. So beautiful. There are no words to describe the beauty, the wildlife, the nature. A picture is worth a thousand words and they can't begin to convey the beauty.
Today was the tour to Old Faithful. Along the Madison River, then the Firehole River, through the Lower, middle and Upper Geyser Basins to old Faithful. First, a shot of "Uncle Billy" the snow coach, then into the park. Wildlife everywhere. Rivers that never freeze due to the hot water flowing into them from the geysers and hot springs. There are over 10,000 thermal feature in the park. Geysers, hot springs, fumaroles and mud pots. The weather can change from gorgeous to ugly and back again in minutes. And does, many times a day.
Bison everywhere. Coyotes, wolves, swans, eagles and more. There is a shot here of the carcass of a bison beside the Madison River that is almost picked clean.
There are too many photos here but this is only about 20% of what I took. Spend a few minutes. Obviously I am biased, but I think it will be time well spent.
Day 10 - February 24, 2023
The second and final tour into the park. Today down the Madison then north to the Norris Basin and on to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The Yellowstone River has Upper and Lower Falls. In the winter they create huge ice falls and snow hills at the bottom.
Again, incredible beauty, wildlife everywhere. There isn't room to describe everything. Really though, where a million words can't do it justice, only one is needed.