Sunday, January 22, 2012

Yellowstone National Park, WY

Ruth and I, with Michelle and Chris, took a day off from the slopes due to arctic temps, high winds, and an heavy snow front that was projected to hit Big Sky by noon. These are not ideal conditions for skiing when you are so close to Canada, which everybody knows is where all the cold air comes from. So instead of getting hypothermic and blown about on a chair lift, we decided to drive the hour and a half over to the north entrance of Yellowstone. Unfortunately, the north entrance is the only access by vehicle to the park during the winter season. The west entrance is only a half hour south of Big Sky, and is the easiest route to such sights as Old Faithful, but of course that entrance is closed this time of year. An additional bummer because the town of West Yellowstone is home to a neat Grizzly Bear/Wolf center, which would have been cool to see (next time).
Anyhow, we called the park roads line, figured out what was available to those just wanting to tour the  park in their car (which wasn't much), and started driving. I'm glad we went, for it turned into a cool, laid back, North American safari. By the time we left the park we had seen herds of bison, elk (wapiti), white tail deer, and big horn sheep, as well as an assortment of birds. Along the way we explored an very active geothermal site called Mammoth Hot Springs. The springs does indeed cover a large area and many strange mineral formations have grown out of the springs over the years. 
Though there are services that get one into the true interior of the park during the winter season, I hope to show that just a few hours in the park are worth taking the time. All this basically off the road.

Ruth, on a section of the Mammoth Hot Springs observation trail.
This is the remains of a geothermal spring, called The Liberty Cap.
This tufa stands about 35 ft tall.
Above and below: springs and stream vents of lower Mammoth Hot Springs. I like the tiered mineral formations found here.

Above and below: you aren't supposed to walk out to these pools. Something about this being unstable ground over unseen steam shafts.

Big vistas. Everywhere.

Above and below: coral-like constructions of hot spring minerals.

Enlarge me.
Ruth getting steam-cleaned on the walk out to the infinity pool.
Above and below: Upper Mammoth Hot Springs.

The bridge on the way to Tower Roosevelt and Petrified Tree.
Undine Falls
Buffalo everywhere.
Ruth and I, at Undine Falls overlook.
Big Bull Buffalo
Bison Herd
White Tail Deer
The North Entrance Arch. The side one sees when entering the park
states, "For the good of Man".  Beyond is the shining metropolis
of Gardiner, MT. This arch also defines the border between Montana and Wyoming.
Welcome to Montaneee! One thing Montana does well is
the preparation and serving of red meat.
Taxyderrmy'ed critters lend frontier authenticity to this
store's offerings of cheap tourist crap from China. 
Sun is shining, temps are plunging.
On our way back from Yellowstone to Big Sky we drove right through a pretty good snow storm. This, of course,  means that tomorrow's skiing will be excellent.
I actually enjoy driving in the snow. Always use the transmission. Never use the brakes.
Ruth & Michelle.
A view of our accommodations.
I got a good laugh out of this.
Above and below: Dining at Buck's T-4 grill.

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