For several months, I had been getting the itch to return to Yellowstone National Park in the winter. It finally culminated on New Year’s Eve, when Tom was making his plans to venture out on his annual month long snowboarding trip. I thought … why should he have all of the fun? I know that I didn’t have a month’s worth of vacation to spend, but could I have a month’s worth of fun in just 1 week? The answer was an overwhelming YES!
That’s how I decided to join a group of photographers for a Winter in Yellowstone photo tour … then it hit me … NO SHERPA! Yikes! Well, it was more than time to pull on my “big girl panties” and so I packed my 48# camera bag carry-on (bless all of the men who helped me with my gear on and off the plane), my tripods, my winter clothes and off I went … looking like I was indeed going on that month-long trip, like Tom. :-)
I arrived into Bozeman and was transported to West Yellowstone the following day (after literally about 18 hrs of sleep, yes, I had burned the candle before making the trek). By the time I arrived in West Yellowstone, I already had felt a great comfort with the other members of my group. Yes, it was the start of an amazing trip!
The day began with an early boarding on our snow coach. As we all piled in, ourselves and our equipment, I distinctly heard a “holy crap” when my bag was hoisted inside. It did get lighter as the week progressed. A girl from south Florida into the winter wonderland of sub-zero temperatures of Yellowstone, just had to be sure to have everything she needed.
As we drove down through Madison, we immediately found several pairs of trumpeter swans on the river. What a great way to get those image-taking fingers warmed up!
We would pass more trumpeter swans, but we were on a mission to Hayden Valley, so we passed them up. ”Stop the bus” was called out for a coyote on the hillside, only to find out 2 things: #1 There were several coyotes there, including 2 frolicking along the rivers edge right across from us & #2 The snow along the roadside is REALLY DEEP! Of course, I found out the hard, but fun way! LOL
The coyotes were running around up and down the hillside, through the deep snow, in the absolutely gorgeous light!
We stayed there longer than planned, but how could you leave these beautiful creatures when we were all having so much fun …
A much needed bathroom break yielded probably one of the most bizarre situations of the week. There was a dusky grouse who was hanging out at the rest stop, apparently making good use of the human’s crumbs. Well, the park service didn’t like that and tried their best to make it leave. Meanwhile, it entertained the visitors as it ran around, flew to the top of a nearby shack, tried to bury itself in the snow on the roof, and eventually flew down to the snow, amongst the visitors. What a thrill for me and quite a beautiful bird.
Other birds along the way included some time spent with an American Dipper, as it would fly from the frozen river bank to the water and back … repeatedly. The goldeneyes were also congregating nearby and plunging into the water as well.
Of course, no trip to Yellowstone is complete without visiting Yellowstone Falls … such an iconic sight to see, and even more beautiful when draped in winter’s snow & ice. I don’t think that its ever looked more beautiful!
We got our first glimpses of the bison, as they notoriously carry around much frozen snow and ice on their coat.
When we were having so much fun with the coyotes, I jokingly asked Dan if he could arrange a lynx for me. He laughed and said that he would see what he could do. Well, we didn’t get the lynx, but we did get the bobcat! What a beautiful creature it was too!
It didn’t do much, other than sit there … look at us … blink … turn slightly …. and close its eyes, but it didn’t matter. I was jumping for joy with this sighting and I thought to myself … I can go home now! Of course, I didn’t mean it literally, but I was thrilled beyond belief.
How could our trip possibly get better? Well, I was about to find out!
Stay tuned for more, as I will blog more about the magical winter experience I had in Yellowstone NP.