Yellowstone in Winter:
Doug and Sandi joined a National Geographic Expedition tour of Yellowstone National Park in February 2012, in the heart of winter. Winter in Yellowstone is a harsh, yet magical, mystical and beautiful place. Snow, ice and hoarfrost abound, covering land, water, flora and fauna alike. They explored, by motorcoach, snowcat, on foot and on snowshoes, and photographed geysers, hot springs, mudpots, steaming river, bison, bighorn, elk, wolves, eagles and trumpeter swans.
Website photos, with captions and slideshows (with music) can be viewed at:
Bozeman to Mammoth: The first segment of the trip, after driving from Bozeman, Montana up the Yellowstone River valley to the Park's northern entrance at Gardner, based out of the Mammoth Hot Springs area. Highlights included hiking down the Mammoth Hot Springs terraces, winding through spectacular thermal formations.
Mammoth to Upper Geyser Basin: Exploring the Lamar Valley in search of, and finding, bison, bighorn sheep, bald eagles and wolves (albeit from afar). The following day the group loaded into van and mini-bus snowcats and headed south and east into a snowstorm toward the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. After brief stops along the Canyon rim and lunch, the plan was to turn south and go through the Hayden Valley down to the Big Thumb and Yellowsone Lake area and then back west to Old Faithful. But the snowstorm worsened and one of the snowcats went off the road (really just markers in the snow) in Hayden Valley, so people were disbursed among the other vehicles and taken back to Canyon Village. From there it was a detour back to Norris Junction and then down along the Firehole River, through Lower and Upper Geyser Basin areas and, finally, to the Old Faithful visitor area. A long day and an exciting, glorious adventure!
Upper Geyser Basin/Old Faithful: The next day brought a hike of the Geyser Hill area around and above Old Faithful in the morning, followed by a snowshoe hike to a more remote thermal area in the backcountry in the afternoon.
The last full day of the tour consisted of riding in 'bombadier' snowcats and driving back up along the Firehole River, through the Upper and Lower Geyser Basins, to Madison Junction and then out along the Madison River to West Yellowstone.
Black Sands Basin/Fountain Paint Pots: Stops for walking, sightseeing and photographs included the Black Sands Basin and the Fountain Paint Pots areas.
Last Leg Out: Continuing along the Firehole River to Firehole Falls, then to the Madison River and out to West Yellowsone. Along the way, the group was caught in a bison 'traffic jam' that took almost 20 minutes to work through, the second such encounter of the trip. A parting gift was a spectacual view of a trumpeter swan on the Madison River, just before the West Yellowstone park exit.
Video/slideshows of the trip can be viewed on YouTube:
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