I had never been to Yellowstone. When I saw it on the list of Zephyr’s trips for 2009, I had to sign up! The weather was great, the guides were knowledgeable, and the trip was simply fantastic. Here’s a recap of what I learned on my first ever visit to Yellowstone National Park:
There are no cars allowed in Yellowstone National Park during the winter. The quiet – aside from the occasional sound of (environmentally friendly) snowmobiles – is amazing. So we rode into the park on a snow coach from Mammoth Hot Springs. The journey took us about 4 hours, with stops for photo opportunities and wildlife viewing. We were in no hurry, as the landscape was so amazing. In fact, I wouldn’t have minded if the trip had taken an entire day. There is so much to see, and it’s incredibly peaceful. We stopped to see the waterfall and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It was cold, but tolerable, and the snow coach van was comfortably heated.
Bison are smart. Not only do they graze around the warmer geothermal features in areas where the ground isn’t quite as frozen, but they even conserve energy by swinging their enormous heads back and forth in the snow to clear a trail through which they trudge slowly in a paceline of sorts. But don’t let their size deceive you; these amazing beasts can accelerate up to 30mph fairly quickly.
On the day of our Spring Creek Trail ski, we encountered a sleeping bison on the wide trail. We gave him a wide berth, traversing up and around on the nearby slope so as not to disturb him. The photo on the right was taken before we detoured up and around the resting giant.
Everything is beautiful when the world is frozen. Being around steaming fumeroles and geysers when the air is so cold allows for some amazing photos. We went snowshoeing around the hot springs, bubbling mud pots and fumaroles of the Upper Geyser Basin, and saw the most amazing ice formations on the surrounding trees. We skied to the Lone Star Geyser, arriving just in time for it to erupt, creating ideal photo opportunities. We skied to Old Faithful and watched its carefully timed eruption. We even did a moonlight snowshoe hike under an incredible canopy of stars in one of the world’s best constellation viewing spots. All of this activity was followed by wonderful meals, and time to rest and rejuvenate in the comfortable lodge Who needs TV and internet when there is so much amazing scenery to enjoy?
I thoroughly enjoyed the peace and beauty of Yellowstone in winter Cross-country skiing is a perfect way to see this national treasure and observe wildlife in their natural habitat. In fact, I was so taken with it that I purchased the book “Silence & Solitude: Yellowstone’s Winter Wilderness” by Tom Murphy, which has some amazing winter images of the park and its wildlife.
Skiing on pristine snow in a peaceful winter wonderland was exactly what my soul needed at the time, and I found the magnificent scenery of Wyoming and Montana to be rejuvenating and invigorating. (Yes, I said invigorating. )
It’s a wonderful thing to disconnect and get away from the world for a while, especially during the winter months. It’s wonderfully exhilarating to be outdoors even in the cold, providing that you’re wearing enough layers! It was sunny when I was there, and the sky was an incredible shade of blue, providing a great contrast to the pristine white snow. The trip was everything I needed: good exercise, comfortable lodging, and great food. As always, the Zephyr staff and guides did everything possible to ensure that the trip was fantastic!
And yes, I’d do it again!
This guest post was contributed by Linda, a Zephyr Alum who has been on trips to Glacier, Yellowstone and Italy. She lives in Portland with her cat, Levi, and is always looking forward to more adventure. @lindajellison