Our original plan, laid out in February of last year, was to see the striking beauty of Yellowstone Park in the spring. But as we’re getting low on time and of course money, we had to see it in mid-February, which in Yellowstone means the cool, snowy center of winter.
So when we arrived in Butte, Montana we tried to gather as much information about Yellowstone as we could to guarantee we’d get the most from our brief daytrip into the park. Since I hadn’t been here in a decade and a half, I didn’t remember much and the National Park Service website is surprisingly limited.
We got up in the morning and drove the two hours southeast to the North Entrance, the only entrance open year ‘round. We immediately went to the main visitors’ center to talk with the park ranger – who as has been our experience nearly everytime, proved to be friendly and a wealth of information.
The ranger sadly informed us that, due to recent snow, only one road was open throughout the park that day. She let us know that this is prime wolf-watching season in the Lamar Valley, which would be accessible from the road. She also mentioned we could take a snow coach to see the Norris Geysers but it didn’t leave until noon, returning well after 4:30. With a snow storm potentially rolling over the Rockies, we didn’t want to commit to the park too late. So, it was off to the open road.
Almost immediately, we came upon an American buffalo rooting for grass along the side of the road. The buffalo’s massive shoulder and neck muscles are perfectly suited for digging for grass under the deep, cold snow of the Wyoming. This was the closest buffalo we would see all day, but it’s also the closest I’ve ever been to a buffalo, so it made my day.
As our drive continued, we saw the beautiful bison in various fields which made me happy, but the wolves eluded us. We were the first to come upon a warm elk carcass surrounded by wolf prints, and waited some time to see if any wolves would return – but (we assume) they had had their fill and had slunk back into the forest for a nap. By the time we drove by later in the afternoon, a half dozen “wolf-hunters” were poised near the kill with cameras.
This drive was so beautiful with the snow coming down, we decided to keep our windows open and the heat blasting to get as close as we could to nature on this abbreviated trip. We were disappointed that we weren’t able to see any geysers, but we’ll back in the summer to hike through one of the largest national parks and see it up close and personal.
For more information or to plan a visit click here. Enjoy the photos.