03 January 2012

Wintertime Adventures

I alluded to the fact that I spent my holidays in and around Yellowstone National Park this year. Though I have visited Yellowstone many times, this is my first real visit to the park in winter.  I present you now with select pictures from my winter adventures.  

Before Yellowstone, we stayed at Chico Hot Springs.  Chico is located north of Yellowstone and features naturally heated outdoor pools.  It's a favorite of cowboys and celebrities alike (Dennis Quaid and Jeff Bridges are regulars).  The accommodations range from turn of the century, more rustic rooms to well appointed suites and guest cabins.

The resort also features an AMAZING gourmet restaurant that is easily my favorite meal in the state of Montana.  Every meal I've had there has been finished with a flambĂ©ed orange.  The orange is hallowed out, lined with chocolate, filled with orange zest ice cream and topped with meringue.  When brought to your table the orange is doused in alcohol and lit to toast the meringue into gooey goodness.  I've had it countless times and it's still impressive.  And effing delicious.

At the north entrance of Yellowstone, just outside Gardiner, Montana, stands the Roosevelt Arch which was dedicated by Teddy in 1903.  The top of the structure is inscribed with words from the original act of congress that created the park, "For the benefit and enjoyment of the people."

Originally, this was the primary entrance to the park when trains were used to bring visitors to the park where they would enter in carriages.  Today cars still enter under the arch when arriving via the northern park entrance.

After entering the park, we stayed at the Mammoth Lodge.  Due to heavy snow in the winter, only two lodges are open to guests and only Mammoth - a few miles inside the north entrance - is reachable by car.  The Winter Lodge at Old Faithful is also open, but is only accessible by tracked vehicles.  The following pictures were taken in and around Mammoth. 

Mammoth is home to thermal features consisting of terrace like steps on a hill of travertine. Overtime, spring water that is rich in calcium carbonate is cooled and the deposits create natural, steplike terraces.

My parents wandering the boardwalks around Mammoth Hot Springs.  Yellowstone uses boardwalks in most of its thermal areas and geysers basins as a way to both keep visitors safe and to protect the delicate nature of the environment.  While the danger of thermal features might seem apparent, people are often ignorant of their power and delicacy.  In fact several geysers and hot springs throughout the park have been changed or even rendered extinct due to human interference, especially in the early years of the park.

Yellowstone in winter boldly contrasts from summer visits.  The landscapes are often stark and cold, but lend themselves to truly appreciating the heat emitted from thermal features and simply the ground itself.

The remaining pictures were taken on excursions outside of Mammoth in both the Lamar Valley - an area for prime wildlife viewing - and on a trip to Norris Geyser Basin.  Norris, while perhaps less known than the Old Faithful basin, is home to the world's largest geyser, Steamboat.  Steamboat reaches a height of over 400 feet during eruption (nearly four times the height of Old Faithful), but is unfortunately very unpredictable with intervals between four days and fifty years.  Steamboat's last eruption occurred in May of 2005.

A lone elk rests in the Lamar Valley, which - like the rest of the park - has significantly less snowfall than usual.  Generally the area will be covered by several feet of snow by late December.

A snowcoach (a tracked vehicle) tour to Norris Geyser Basin took us through Swan Lake Flats and offered us glimpse of the Gallatin Mountains.

To the left, a view of the tracks left by snowcoaches.  While the roads are groomed to make for a less bumpy ride, the majority of Yellowstone remains unplowed through the long winter months.  On the right, a snowy trek into Norris Geyers Basin.

So how was your holiday season?


  1. Wow! Compared to yours, my holiday was nothing remarkable--which was what I was hoping for, actually. Thanx for sharing the pix, Sauce. Beautiful. Just beautiful!

  2. I loved Yellowstone on my one and only visit last May.

    I was lucky enough to be close to Beehive Geyser when it went off. Awe inspiring.

    I was continually reminded that I was on a very thin skin of crust over a very hot ball of magma. Amazing place.



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