Monday, February 18, 2008

Yellowstone in Winter

One of the best things about living here is that we can drive down to Yellowstone for the day, just because we want to. And yesterday, we wanted to. So we climbed into the car and drove the hour and a half or so to the northern entrance to Yellowstone at Gardiner.

Because it's winter, most of the roads in the park are closed to automobiles. But the northern entrance is still open, and there are a couple roads you can still take, at least for a little ways. We don't often head into the park via Gardiner, but it's fun when we do because we get to see the arch.

A little piece of trivia for you... Yellowstone was the first National Park, established in 1872. March 1st, in fact. If you don't believe me, read the sign...

On the way into the park, we were fortunate enough to see 3 bald eagles perched in a tree overlooking a river. They were incredibly majestic, sitting there against the backdrop of the mountains.

Once we were into the park, we made our way through the little town of Mammoth Hot Springs. I think the name should be changed to Elkville, though, because every time we are there we see tons of elk. They seem to think they own the place, and they can apparently read signs and know just where it is that they are supposed to plop down:

As is typical of any trip to the park, we spent most of the day in the car. The winter sun spent most of the day in our eyes. To make Ellie's life a little easier on the long car ride, we let her watch Baby Einstein and covered the seat with a blanket to keep the sun out of her eyes. She is much like her daddy and likes to be in a dark cave...

Winter has got to be the best time to visit Yellowstone. It's definitely the off-season, so there aren't too many people around. The views are spectacular in the cold, clear air, and everything is pristine all covered in snow. It is beautiful.

We decided to get out of the car and go for a little walk about mid-afternoon. So we put on all our snow gear (after our little trek up at Hyalite I was prepared for thigh deep snow this time!!) and headed out along someone else's trail in the snow. As usual, Ellie didn't want to walk in the snow, but she did give it a good try a couple of times, despite being cold.

The snow was mostly packed down, but every so often your foot would fall through and you'd find your leg lost in the snow up to the hip. You can only see one of my legs in the following picture, because the other is covered in snow. In fact, I am standing straight up on that leg, despite the fact that it looks like I am sitting in the snow. As you can imagine, it wasn't a very long walk.

We have been to Yellowstone a number of times, but one thing I have never seen in the park is wolves. They were reintroduced in 1995 and have reportedly been doing very well, but they like to stay out of sight. But while we were out on our little walk, we had the privilege of seeing 4 wolves harassing a few grazing bison. They were beautiful to watch and I was pretty excited to see them this close up. We saw a couple others, too, but they were much farther off.

We were fortunate enough to see another animal that we've never seen inside the park, too: big horn sheep. That's another reason to visit Yellowstone in the winter... all the animals come out to graze. The park is so serene and there seems to be a greater variety of wildlife to be seen. Here are the sheep, searching for a little something to eat:

As the sun started to dip below the horizon, we saw a bull elk grazing by the side of the road. We stopped to admire and in the quiet of the evening we heard the sound of owls hooting in the forest. It is a sound I'd never heard in the wild before and it was ethereal. The hooting echoed through the trees and made me stop and listen in wonder. It was amazing.

We started back home and enjoyed the setting sun over the snowy landscape and it made us both thankful that we live in such a beautiful place.


Jenn said...

Thank you for the reminder of how beautiful this part of the country is. This time of year there are many days when I long for the warmth and thunderstorms of East Texas.

Susan Beth said...

Okay, I will have to plan a trip - maybe Saturday if I get all my stuff done. I want photos like that and memories like that! How great you took the time and effort to have such a great day as a family!

Christina said...

AMAZING!! These are postcard pictures. The wildlife is unbelievable - especially the wolves. Thanks for sharing the day with us!

Becca said...

These pictures are so beautiful! How great that you live close enough to visit the park whenever you want to. Awesome!