Winter Wonder Yellowstone
Visitors from the world over flock to explore Yellowstone’s breathtaking 2.2 million acres of forest, meadows, rivers and mountains. Yellowstone’s colorful history is populated with mountain men, fur trappers, explorers and runaways. Photographer William Henry Jackson and artist Thomas Moran’s passionate documentations of Yellowstone convinced Congress it should be America’s first National Park in 1872. Today the Park is revered as a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site.
Anytime is perfect for an adventure or a field course of study in Yellowstone, but winter without crowds offers a spirit renewing silence. Listen to snow falling softly, meditate alongside steaming hot springs, and photograph crystalline lakes against purple mountains. Be watchful: you may be rewarded with sightings of buffalo, wolves, elk, coyote, trumpeter swans, and eagles.
In winter, heated snow coaches squire you around in comfort for an up close and personal visit. Since Yellowstone possesses over 80% of the world’s geothermal features, the clear skies of winter enable artists to create mystical photos of the park’s geysers, steam pots, boiling mud holes, and hot springs. Sit before the grand Dame, Old Faithful, and watch her spew 3700 gallons of steam and water 180 feet into the sky.
Brave the cold, pile on all your warm layers, and enjoy a winter cross-country ski adventure with a guide from Yellowstone Association Institute. My group schussed along winding forest trails, enjoying the magnificence of a peaceful winter day in one of Planet Earth’s most pristine parks.
As my group schusses ahead, I pause to photograph a massive curly haired bison standing knee deep in the snow. Our guide had told us that in the mid 1800’s, the United States was home to over 75 million bison. But by 1889, only 1,000 animals were still alive. They had been killed for their hides, their meat; even their tongues were made into soup. Fortunately, bison were saved before extinction and today Yellowstone is home to thousands of bison living peacefully in the Park.
Through my close up lens, I see Mr. B. glaring at me with disdain. Chomping a mouthful of snowy grass, he snorts disgustedly, and trots off, disappearing into the forest.
Alone on a dusky trail with a megaton beast, he could have killed me if he wished. But thankfully, I was of no interest. So lucky me: I’m left with a treasured memory of a magic encounter on a snowy winter day in Yellowstone National Park.
IF YOU GO
Expert naturalists and biologists through The Yellowstone Association Institute offer 100+ field, backcountry, and family courses year round.
“Winter Wolf Discovery.”
“Yellowstone on Skis,”
“Spring Wolf and Bear Discovery,”
“Summer Wildlife Exploration”
and “Writing the Wild.”
Programs and Registration, contact: Yellowstone Association.
© 2011 Sharon Spence Lieb
Email: sharonspence @ cs.com