Yellowstone for Xmas!

Published: December 29th 2014
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Enjoyed the hot/cold buffet breakfast at the Quality Inn hotel this morning. There was a wide selection of foods including cereals, waffles, bacon, yoghurt and fruit. Coffee was exceptionally good here.
After checking out of the hotel we had to stop by the grocery store to pick up a few bits and pieces including some duct tape to repair my suitcase. Even though we have purchased good quality cases they get so roughly treated going in and out of aircrafts they just don't last too long..anyway the duct tape has done a good enough repair job.

Rental car dropped back at the airport then we had nearly 2 hour wait for the shuttle bus to take us to Mammoth Hot Springs in YNP. The bus was old (40yo) in fact but it was a comfortable and warm ride for the 2 hour journey.

From early November to early May most park roads are closed. The exception is the road in the park between the North Entrance and Cooke City. This road is open all year round. As we headed towards Yellowstone you could see and feel the weather changing. The landscape too also changed along the way. Gardiner is the closest town to YNP and around this area there were herds of elks hanging around the town and just inside the park we were lucky enough to spot big horn sheep.

The road follows Yellowstone River and along the banks several Eagles were spotted - sitting and waiting for a feed. The bus driver told us that during the summer months Eagles feed on fish but during the winter they enjoy a change of diet and ducks are the food of choice.

On 1 March 1872 congress legislation made YNP the world's first national park. Roosevelt Arch marks the north entrance to YNP. Over 2.2 million acres of forest, grassland, steaming geysers, crystalline lakes, thundering waterfalls and panoramic vistas are found here in YNP.

96% of the park is in Wyoming and small portions of the park lie in Montana and Idaho. All accommodation and activities are run by Xanterra Parks and resorts services who work alongside The National Park Service (who protect this unique resource).

The road into YNP had been snow plowed. I'm glad we took the bus in as driving conditions can change quickly here. Mammoth is as far as cars can go into the park during winter months - Mammoth is at least 1100 ft lower in elevation than old faithful area.

3 million visitors come to Yellowstone each year with 2 million of those visiting during the months of June/July. There's something very special about this park that draws so many people here time and time again. If you love nature and solitude then you need to experience YNP for yourself. I'm sure that if you come once you will understand what the fuss is all about.

The mammoth Hotel as it stands today was opened in 1937 - the original hotel was built in 1883. Checking in seemed to take ages. There is a lot of paperwork to go through - dining and activity reservations are also finalised at the same time. Our room was on the ground floor. The room was simple and we have a shared bathroom (we never saw anybody else use the bathrooms - they seemed like they were all ours). Although the hotel is old, it is well maintained and always spotless.

Dinner reservations at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel Dining Room were for 7pm. The dining room is in a seperate building from the accommodation - this isn't a problem but you do need to be careful walking across the slippery icy surfaces. The dining room is huge but as its the only place to eat during winter reservations are a must. For dinner we had baked sweet potato filled with black beans and then we had a bison burger which came with a small salad and whipped cauliflower. We asked to share our meals and were very surprised that they served the meals all separate on individual plates - no problem at all.

Reviews we have read on the food at Mammoth were not that good so we were really surprised at the quality of food we had tonight. Portions were large which made splitting the meal ideal too. Throughout our stay in the park all meals were fabulous -Only the last night proved to be a disappointment.

We also placed our order for a "boxed lunch" to take on our "Lamar Valley" tour tomorrow. The boxed lunch consists of your choice of sandwich along with a granola bar, kettle chips and water for $10.95. Our tour tomorrow means an early start - we are touring Lamar Valley - meeting at the front of the hotel at 7am and returning at 2pm. Cost for the tour $187 for both of us.

Day 1 In the Park - We had a quick breakfast in our room with supplies we had picked up in Bozeman. Tour bus left on time with 7 guests onboard. We were given a box breakfast which consisted of a blueberry muffin and a tropical fruit juice. The roads out to Lamar Valley were quite hazardous with white out conditions. Our tour guide Karen has been working in the park in a number of different roles for 16 years.

Her commentary along the way was interesting and informative. Lamar Valley is a wide open space where a variety of animals are seen quite often mainly in the early morning. As we left at 7am we were travelling in the dark until the sun rose just a few minutes before 8am. There weren't as many animals to be spotted as we had hoped - maybe they had moved on to warmer spaces yesterday before the snow came in heavy.

Still we did get good sightings of a herd of bison, a few moose and a coyote. It was an enjoyable trip and Geoff got some great photos (as always). Those Bison are incredibly tough animals. The large hump on their backs helps them to use their enormous heads to plow their way through the snow to reach the grass below which basically has the nutritional value of cardboard but hey you've got to eat something to survive the long hard winters that Yellowstone delivers.

Their thick woolly coat keeps them warm and they don't even begin to feel the cold until temperatures reach the -30f. The females and their calves usually stay in herds while the males are quite solitary- happy to be alone or with a couple of other Bulls. Of course mating season is a different story.

The park currently has 4,900 bison within its boundaries which is 1,000 more than they require. The park bison need to remain under this population otherwise there will not be enough food to sustain the herds. The extra bison will be given away usually to native tribes. Of course some of these bison will eventually end up being slaughtered and served up on our dinner plates. Under law the NPS is unable to sell any animals so the mission has begun to find new homes for these beasts.

After our return back to Mammoth we took a hike up to the hot springs area. The hot springs area is a collection of hydrothermal features. YNP has the largest collection of hydrothermal features in the world.

At Mammoth, a network of fractures and fissures form the plumbing system that allows hot water from underground to reach the surface. The water comes from rain and snow falling on the surrounding mountains and seeping deep into the earth where it is heated. Thermopiles (heat loving micro-organisms) create a tapestry of colour where the hot water flows among the terraces. Colourless and yellow thermopiles grow in the hottest water; orange, brown and green thermopiles thrive in the cooler waters. Colours also change with the seasons.

We walked along Boardwalks and up several hundred steep steps to explore the area. We passed by Liberty Cap, Palette Spring, Opal Terrace, Minerva Terrace, New Blue Spring, Grassy Spring and finished off with views of the Canary Springs. By the time we had got to Canary Springs, the weather had closed in and the snow was falling quite heavily. At the top of the terraces we stood and admired the scenery all around us...picture perfect in every way! We were so excited to be in this magnificent part of the world - couldn't ask for any better place to be.

We had dinner in the dining room - once again sharing a soup - red pepper and Gouda $6.95 and a main meal of linguine with Tuscan chicken $18.95 Before heading back to our room we watched a 45 minute slide show in the "map room"..every night there is a different slide show guests can watch - they go for around 45 minutes and are all based on the history, wildlife and natural beauty of YNP.

Day 2 in the Park - buffet breakfast in the dining room $13.95 each. Food was fresh with a good selection of hot and cold foods to choose from. Today we were booked in for a snow coach tour of the Grand Canyon of YNP - $168.30 per person. The snow coach arrived for an 8.15 departure. The snow coach was bigger than expected and surprisingly very comfortable with plenty of room.

On board today was 9 passengers - 2 Americans and 7 Aussies from Brisbane!! Tour guides name for today's trip was Woody and he great value. Woody was very informative and helpful during the entire day trip - Although he did struggle at times to understand the Aussie accent.

This trip was totally amazing right from the get go. It truly feels like the scenery we saw today couldn't possibly be real - just so beautiful and each corner we travelled was even more spectacular than the last (if that was even possible)!! We drove past the forest area of the Park that had been destroyed by fire back in 1988. Park fires that occur naturally are left to burn themselves out as fire is a natural cycle in forest life. Had a photo stop at Roaring Mountain. The mountainside has loads of furmoles which you can hear hissing and roaring from the roadside.

Along the way we passed Norris Basin Geyser which is the hottest basin in the park. 3000 earthquakes happen across the park every year therefore cracks in the thermal features are always changing.

Woody took us off the beaten track onto some fresh snow that hadn't been driven on which led to a spectacular vista named Washburn Hot Springs Overlook..Words just can't possibly describe the views. The sun was out and shining bright - not a cloud in sight - and we couldn't have cared less that the temperature was -11 Celsius.

We were at 8,500 feet in elevation in this part of YNP. Diamond dust was everywhere today - caused by the humidity freezing in the cold air. How Cool that was to see! I had a go at making a snow angel (laying in fresh snow and spreading your arms and legs backward and forward - when you stand up you have a snow angel right there!). I must say the children that were on the tour did a much better job and didn't struggle as much as me to get back up out of the snow!! All good fun though.

We enjoyed our boxed lunch in the snow coach with a magnificent backdrop surrounding us from every angle and Hayden Valley was right below us as well - what more could you ever ask for. Next was a rest room stop at Canyon Village and also a look around the Canyon Village information centre which also acts as a warming hut during the winter months. Here we saw loads of snowmobilers who were out exploring the area.

While here Woody also refuelled the snow coach and told us we had travelled 49 miles and used 30 gallons of fuel. Snow coaches are not an economical form of transport - using 1 gallon of fuel every 3 miles.

The Grand Canyon was still a bit of a drive away so we all got back onboard and admired the scenery until we reached our destination for the day and what a sight it was too. Here we found the most breathe-taking sights as the turbulent Yellowstone River roars and foams for 20 miles through the Canyon.

First we visited the upper falls which are 109 ft high then we drove to the lower falls which are 3 times as high - standing at 308 feet. The water from the falls rushes down into the Yellowstone River with such force its truly emblematic of the power of nature.

Lookout Point provided us with our last look at this magnificent Canyon before we made the journey home. Along our drive today we saw bison plowing their way through the heavy snow - using their huge heads to dig down to reach the dry grass below. Along the River we saw Numerous trumpeter swans who seemed to be enjoying a leisurely afternoon in these cold icy waters. The wing span of the trumpeter swan is 9 feet.

Many parts of the Yellowstone River partially freeze over during the harsh conditions of winter But bald Eagles and Ravens are still always hanging around high in the trees looking for a feed.

The journey home was just as spectacular as we retraced our steps from this morning. The majority of us had a nap on the way back only to be suddenly awoken when the snow coach hit a bump in the road - making us jump so high that we were quickly alert once again!

Driving through Swan Lake Flats it was coming on sunset and the surrounding mountains looked so majestic as they stood there proudly in the background. Arrived back at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel just on 5pm. We gave the tour guide a generous tip - after all he had provided us with a day to remember forever.

Being a snow coach driver requires a lot of skill and concentration as well as local knowledge of the area. After all it certainly wouldn't be too hard to fall down one of the cliff sides if proper care was not taken.

Time for a shower before dinner in the dining room. We shared three plates tonight - Chicken Satay Sticks - $9.25, Wild Game Chilli with jalapeño cornbread - $7.50 and finishing off with Trout Tacos accompanied with red and yellow corn chips and Guacamole - $12.75 - all totally yum.

Xmas Eve in the Park - started with an early departure from Mammoth Hot Springs via Snow Coach - direct to The Snow Lodge at Old Faithful Lodge. Over-snow vehicles are the only way into the lodge and they leave Mammoth Hotel at 7.30am for the 4.5 hour journey - $93.50 each. Our driver for this part of the journey was Karoline - this is her second season working here at Yellowstone. The drivers provide an interpretive tour along the way stopping for wildlife viewing and explorations of Yellowstone's natural wonders.

The ride from Mammoth to The Snow Lodge is 52 miles long over ice and snow. We drove along part of the route we took yesterday including Swan Lake Flats, Golden Gate Canyon (named due to colour of the rocks), Willow Park and the Obsidian Mountains. Today's weather was overcast so all these areas looked different in appearance than they did on yesterday's adventure.

Stopped at the rest rooms at Gibbon Meadows, photo opportunities of "chocolate pot" thermal features that flow into the Gibbon River. Another stop at Terrace Springs which remain at 150 degrees all year round. Boiling point here is considered 199 degrees Fahrenheit.

Unfortunately there are many people who suffer third degree burns by testing out the water temperatures - despite the numerous signs that warn of the danger. Also the occasional beast will wander too close - hoping to soak up the heat - lose footing and fall into one of the thermal features. Fire hole river never freezes over. It maintains a temperature of between 50/60 f all year round.

Over flow channels from thermal features keep the river at toasty temperatures. We spotted American Dipper birds diving into the water. These birds are small black birds that dive down and can walk along the river bed. There were also trumpeter swans and Ducks spasmodically seen throughout the drive.

A rest room stop was next up at Madison junction. There are flushing toilets here as well as a warming hut. They have a warming hut that has a fireplace which was surrounded by snowmobilers trying to warm up before heading off. The temperature gauge here at Madison showed the temperature at around -5 Celsius at 10.30am.

The warming hut also sold hot drinks and light snacks. Madison has the only staffed warming hut in the park. During winter the conditions here are very harsh and extreme - weather can and does change frequently. To be out in the elements you need to be fully prepared for whatever nature throws your way.

After checking in at the Snow Lodge we organised for the bell hop to deliver our luggage over at our cabin on a snow mobile - the other option was to take the luggage ourselves using a sled - we passed on that one! Most of the bell hops (luggage handlers) seem to female - how they do this job astounds me - hauling heavy luggage in and out of the snow coaches, up and down stairs - this has to be one of the hardest jobs around here.

Our cabin has 2 queen beds, a bathroom and a storage area. A Keurig machine with coffee and tea pods are also provided. The cabins are by no means flash but they are clean and warm - $192.20 per night. The downside to the cabins is that you need to traipse through the snow to the lodge for meals, etc. That doesn't bother us in fact we prefer the experience of the cabins more than a hotel room any day.

A brief walk through the snow and we were standing in front of Old Faithful geyser...she erupts around every 92 minutes or scheduled eruption was 2.54pm and she erupted in a spectacular fashion at 2.58pm - sending thousands of gallons of steaming water thundering into the sky. The eruptions are as high as 180 feet and last for up to 5 minutes.

The snow fall during the afternoon was quite heavy but that didn't deter people from making the walk over to watch this amazing display of natural beauty. Old Faithful is part of the Upper Geyser Basin. There is a 3 mile round trip trail that showcases more than 150 hydrothermal features including numerous hot springs and a mud pot.

Just outside our cabin Geoff spotted a coyote roaming freely around - he appeared to not be fazed by humans being close by. He was on a mission to find food. It was obvious he knew the routine well searching through any rubbish left outside the Cabins. We followed him along his journey and eventually the coyote found exactly what he was looking for, a boxed lunch conveniently left in a backpack on a snowmobile. He removed it from the backpack and easily devoured the contents before heading over to the Geyser area in hope of more free food.

Enjoyed a late lunch/early dinner at the Geyser Grill - Beef Chilli, vegetable soup and french fries all washed down with a cup of hot apple cider. We spent the next few hours sitting in some extremely comfortable lounge chairs in the lodge. I did some reading while Geoff did a jigsaw puzzle - the whole environment just makes you want to chill and relax - so we did. There are plenty of books, puzzles, chess sets and other games available for guest use at both Mammoth and The Snow Lodge.

At 6.45pm we went into the lobby to meet up with our tour guide for a scheduled tour - "steam, stars and winter soundscapes"tour $47 each. This tour took us in a Bombardier - built in the 1960's. Another awesome experience.

The bombardiers will be retiring in a couple of years - they are a tough beast with no power steering but that didn't seem to bother our tour guide who was a small young lady named Meka who grew up living in the park - her father was a park ranger.

Driving through the dark night with the snow belting down on the bombardier was a special experience. The snow sounded like hail stones hitting the windscreen of the vehicle. Meka took us to biscuit basin where in the still of the night we walked along the boardwalk listening for the sounds of the geysers.

We watched Jewel Geyser erupt (she erupts every 8 to 10 minutes). Across from Jewel,we saw Shell Springs - looking very pretty with light shining from the torch. Next stop was at Kepler Falls. Although you couldn't see the falls it was awesome just standing in silence and absorbing all the sounds of nature.

Back in the bombardier all the guests were given a thermal mug filled with Hot Cocoa - just a perfect way to finish the day.

Xmas Day - waking up on xmas day was certainly different to how it would be back home in Australia. Snow was falling heavily and had done so all night. In fact 10 to 12 inches had fallen. Walking over to the Snow Lodge for breakfast was quite a workout.

We had the buffet breakfast this morning - $13.25 each before Geoff headed off for an all day photo safari with Xanterra tours - $187. I enjoyed a lazy morning by the fire admiring the perfect xmas day ever I've had in my life. The snow is so white and soft - something I have never experienced before. Most certainly I would recommend a white xmas to anyone - hopefully this won't be our last!

Sitting by the fireplace I did a whole lot of people watching. It's something I really like to do when travelling. Everyone's life has a different story - it simply fascinates me. I was watching some upper class folk - they typically sit by the fire ordering hot drinks and maybe playing chess. I wonder whether if they ever leave the hotel and experience the great outdoors or maybe they just admire it from the inside as they sip their hot chocolate dressed in their pristine clothes and immaculate make up...I'm sure you get the picture. In any case I find it intriguing that's for sure.

This morning I got to talk to a park volunteer "Charlie". I was totally enthralled by his stories of growing up in the 1950's and visiting YNP. In those days visitors were encouraged to feed the Bears. Garbage from the hotels was placed outside and seating areas (bleechers) were set up so you could view the black bears and Grizzlies feeding. Charlie told me he would feed the Bears oreo's from the car window.

This pattern of bear feeding was stopped in the 1970's when park services realised that feeding the Bears was not a good thing to do and was also resulting in more than 400 bear attacks per year.

As a park volunteer Charlie gets free board and food and earns $14 per Day. He also gets in house training and the opportunity to experience the trails and unique features within the park during the season. What a fabulous way to meet people from all over the world - living and learning in such a magnificent environment.

Geoff's photo tour was great - he really enjoyed himself travelling along the groomed roads in a bombardier. His tour guide Lisa has conducted tours in that particular vehicle for the past 10 seasons. Lisa will certainly feel sad when the park service retires her bombardier in the near future.

Geoff was pleased that he got to sit in the front seat of the bombardier next to the tour guide. It's such a one in a life time experience.I was lucky enough to have the same experience last night on our steam and stars tour.

Geoff learnt many new techniques to practice with his camera. His tour took him to the firehole cascades, along the firehole river to Madison warming hut - then the tour followed the Madison River west before returning to Old Faithful.

The tour stopped along the way for photo opportunities. Wildlife seen today were bison, 2 bald eagles, 14 trumpeter swans and other water foul and female elk. Lisa took the tour to a special location that she likes to visit on a regular basis. This is a secret place that Lisa likes to call her own "Chocolate Springs" and the photos say it all - there simply isn't a bad place to visit here in the park.

My trip Madison was just as scenic - we travelled in a bombardier again today which by the way averages 1 to 3 miles to the gallon. Our trip took as alongside the firehole river - rest room stop at Madison and then followed the corridor alongside the Madison River.

Over a foot of snow had fallen during the night. Truly a winter wonderland xmas. Snow here is pristine, super soft and so so white. Without wheeled vehicles travelling on the groomed roads the snow stays in good condition.

Bison were spotted along the riverbank along with Trumpeter swans and this trip we also spotted a few bald eagles. We also saw "xmas tree rock" - a tree that is actually slowly growing on a rock in the middle of the river.

This tour was a three hour tour - $85. Our guide today was Alex - a young man who is very keen on YNP and in particular bird life in the park. Temperatures today reached a maximum of -8c with a minimum of -16c expected overnight. Snow was falling heavy most of the day - easing off in the afternoon.

Dinner this evening was in the obsidian dining room where we shared a xmas dinner. We had a sample plate of wild game sausages $10.95 - sausages were bison, boar and chicken with pheasant. All very nice. We followed this with a traditional Turkey dinner that was accompanied by pumpkin pie - $22.95.

I've ended up with a sinus infection due to the cold weather. Luckily I was prepared and had filled a prescription of antibiotics before I left Australia. I've suffered the same experience prior when visiting Alaska In 2013.

Once again I need to say that people who do not travel and experience this unique piece of natural wonder are missing out on something so amazing. Although our photos are fantastic to share nothing beats being here for the hands on experience. The park attracts people who love nature and all it has to offer - certainly it gives you a new perspective on life - that's what we love.

Day 5 - we had our first sleep in since starting this holiday. Then we wandered over to the lodge where we met up with a family from Arizona who did the photo tour with Geoff yesterday. We had a chat with these folk then headed over to the geyser grill for breakfast. Geoff started his day with a serving of Chilli cheese fries and a bowl of beef Chilli. I did better with oatmeal, yoghurt and granola. The geyser is a casual eatery and prices are reasonable. Food is cooked fresh when ordered so you may wait a few minutes for your order - great place for families or those wanting a "quick fix".

Today was our "free" day with no tours reserved we decided this would be our hiking day. We took a hike through the old faithful upper geyser basin which is in the area of where we are staying.

The return trail - morning glory pool is a 4.4km loop. Temperature today around midday was -23c but the sky was a brilliant shade of blue, the sun was shining and there was no wind in sight - perfect day (yet again). The hike was hard work in some areas where the snow hadn't been groomed.

At one point we decided to veer off the main path and follow some ski tracks to Daisy Geyser. All was going well until we came across a patch of soft snow and sunk down way past our knees. At this stage we decided to turn around and head back to the main trail. While we were digging ourselves out of the snow holes we heard Daisy erupting. Bit of bad luck that time!

The end of the trail brought us to morning glory pool - named in the 1880's for its remarkable likeness to its namesake flower. Unfortunately this blue pool became victim to vandalism. Over the years visitors have thrown tons of coins, rubbish, rocks and logs into the pool. Much of the debris became embedded in the sides and vent of the spring, which then reduced the circulation and the water temperature. The pool is no longer a vibrant blue - as the water has cooled - orange and yellow bacteria now thrive on the pool.

At this point of the hike Geoff and I stood looking around us - not another human in sight - and the sound of nothingness was complete bliss. Being here with nature and not a care in the world. This is what life should be about every day!

Along the hike we saw a few bison grazing on the banks of the firehole river. We also spotted a bald eagle flying above us and even a squirrel running along a branch of an aspen tree. There are 3 large geyser basins in this area including Old Faithful - this is where you will find the majority of the world's active geysers.

Some of the other geysers we passed today include Anemone, Plume, Beehive, Solitary, Giantess, Crested, Grand as well as a number of pools and fumaroles. Lugging a back pack and trudging through snow and uneven surfaces was certainly a work out.

Although we enjoyed every minute of the hike we were glad to make it back to our cabin. The hike took us around 4 hours to complete. We finished off the day with hot buttered rum drinks in the obsidian lounge.

Here we came across our new "yellowstone friends" - Larry, Barbara and Chris. It's so fantastic to connect with people from different walks of life. We swapped email and facebook addresses so we can continue to keep in touch. This family visit the park on a yearly basis and have so much knowledge of the area. We picked up numerous tips for our next yellowstone adventure.

Dinner was in the obsidian dining room where Geoff and I split a meal of bison short ribs, with seasonal veg and whipped cauliflower $27.95 accompanied by sweet potato Stuffed with feta and brocolli $6.95.

Internet is available at the Snow Lodge for a fee - I believe $25 for 72 hours. We didn't bother with this - and glad we didn't. There is no TV anywhere in the park and we haven't missed that either. Laundry facilities are also available on level 2 of the lodge. $2.50 for the washer and $2.00 for the dryer.

Day 6 - heading back to Mammoth Hot Springs. Today's weather saw snow falling, cold wind and little in the way of sunshine. We had planned to try a bit of snow shoeing this morning but the weather was not favourable plus my sinus was feeling much worse today. Packed up all our luggage and headed over to the lodge where we waited for our 2pm snow coach ride back to Mammoth Hotel.

Had a casual brunch at the Geyser Grill and tried out a bison bratwurst sandwich for lunch. Must say we are partial to bison meat. The snow coach was full on the trip back to Mammoth. Our tour guide / driver Nathan stopped by the Fountain Paint Pots where we had a tour of the mud pots, geysers and hot pools.

The history of this area is interesting - the land across the road from the Paint Pots had a hotel named the Fountain Hotel built in the late 1800's. The hotel used the water from the geysers to heat the hotel and the walls of the hotel were painted using liquid from the mud pools.

The hotel cost $100,000 to build, and was situated so that you could sit on the front porch and watch Fountain Geyser (in the area now known as Fountain Pain Pots) erupt. The hotel had 133 rooms, electric lights, steam heat, and hot water pumped in from Leather Pool to provide baths to its clients. The hotel had its own laundry and stables, and they raised their own cows, which were slaughtered on site near the hotel's dump (located to the northeast of the main building) to provide meat for the meals for the guests.

The hotel was burned in 1927. Today, you can still see parts of the main building's foundation, along with the foundation of the furnace building, and the blocks upon which a cistern built in 1915 rested. The hotel's dump also remains visible; there are remnants of old china and glassware on the ground surface.

Along the road a couple of bison stood quietly as we passed by only a few metres away from them. Further along we saw more bison digging their way through the fresh snow in search of food. Next stop was at Madison where we used the heated bathrooms and visited the warming hut - purchasing a hot cocoa for the journey. Temperature at Madison at 4pm was -23c.

The ride back to Mammoth took 4 hours and it was dark on our arrival. We headed over to the mammoth dining room for dinner. Previous meals at the dining room had been great but tonight was quite different. Service and food was disappointing. The manager apologised for our dissatisfaction and refunded us some of our bill.

The Park Ranger was delivering an informative evening in the Map Room - all about Bison. It was an interesting 1 hour session all about the history, the politics about Bison and the incredibly difficult life of this animals. I'm glad we took the time to attend the session.

Our overnight room here has a shared bathroom on the third floor of the hotel. This was our last night here in Yellowstone - what wonderful memories we take back of the winter wonderland we have experienced over the past week.

Day 7 - off to Bozeman via the bus at 8.30am. Woke up to snow falling - we had breakfast of leftover pre packaged food for breakfast. After a not so good dinner experience last night we didn't feel like checking in at the dining room for breakfast - besides the pre packaged food needs to be eaten - less to carry on the plane.

The bus ride back was scenic with plenty of elk spotted in Gardiner and surrounding areas where the elevation is lower than in the park and there is still edible grasslands around. We were also lucky enough to see a few big horn sheep along the way. Heading into Bozeman we drove through Livingstone and the snow was really coming down hard.

The drive from Mammoth to Bozeman airport took just over 2 hours. Snow looked set in for the day with pretty much white out driving conditions. We were thinking of hiring a small car for our overnight stop but with the current weather conditions we decided that taking the shuttle bus to the hotel would be a wiser choice.

Our plane flight to NYC is scheduled for 6.05 tomorrow morning so an early night is in order.

We have had an enjoyable week in YNP - and there's something about the place that says "we will be back".

Additional photos below
Photos: 71, Displayed: 46


30th December 2014
Plowing the snow

I hate, hate, hate winter but this photo looks great.
31st December 2014

Love your pictures
Your pictures are great Wished I was there Will have to plan my trip ASAP Strange so hot here but I can feel the cold when I look at your pictures Hope your Christmas was good Have a happy new year
1st January 2015
Coyote at snow lodge

The Best Christmas Ever!
Now, I must go back and read your other blogs from this snowy journey! How fabulous to experience Yellowstone in the magical winter, whereas I, like most tourists, have only seen it in the easier seasons. I'm from coastal California, and like you Aussies, am enamored with the snow though I, maybe like you, found it pretty difficult when I fell in above my knees. I love that you saw so many animals even though it was winter--our California coyotes are much thinner. I must say, I was shocked at the prices (I'm a backpacker/camper), so thanks for letting me experience these grand tours, cabins and yummy meals through you. Thanks, especially, for telling of the Christmas meeting with volunteer Charlie--this could be my future position if/when I return from South America! Happy travels!
2nd January 2015
Coyote at snow lodge

Thanks for your comments
Yellowstone is fabulous in's a bucket list thing but well worth every cent...we will go back in the summer and possibly Rv it! Glad you enjoy the blogs xx
3rd January 2015
The Grand Canyon falls

The Grand Canyon falls
The Grand Canyon Caverns can help arrange and organize your visit to the spectacular Supai waterfalls. We are the closest place to stay to the “Hill Top” (the starting and ending point) before and after your Supai adventure. . If you are able we hope you hike at least one direction to be able to get a feel for the canyon walls in all their glory.

Tot: 0.105s; Tpl: 0.033s; cc: 18; qc: 31; dbt: 0.0127s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.5mb