It is just before dawn and an azure blue sky is slowly emerging as the sun’s rays begin to crest the crater walls. Pam and I are layered and bundled in winter gear scraping snow off of glistening snow machines in West Yellowstone strapping camera gear and lunches into place for the day's 100 mile ride. The air is still and the temperature is 15 degrees Fahrenheit. At 35 MPH (speed limit in the park) we will be experiencing a windchill factor well below 0 degrees as we ride! Luckily for us the machines are equipped with hand and foot warmers!
Predawn color in the Lamar Valley
Male bison dueling over a patch of buried grass - Hayden Valley
We are brimming with excitement over the adventure that awaits as we are about to embark into Yellowstone NP. For more than 10 years we had talked about a winter excursion into the park, keen on seeing the unique and wonderful geothermal features that abound and hopefully recording images of some of the wildlife that braves winter inside one of the world’s most formidable super volcanoes. At this time of year the park is only accessible via snow machine or snow cat (warmer but slower) and the summer crowds are missing making the winter landscapes even more magical. Winter is also the very best time of year to try to see wolves in the park as their prey (principally elk and in some cases bison) are more vulnerable and visible at this time of year. We managed a couple of distant views of wolves but narrowly missed seeing the entire Wapiti pack (17 individuals) as they navigated on the road near the Lower geyser valley early one morning. We had to be satisfied with fresh tracks this time!
Here are some of the highlights in images of our week exploring the park. Truly breathtaking for us!
Sunrise Madison River
Golden Eagle prepares to fly - Soda Butte, Lamar Valley
Hayden Valley winter landscape
Bull elk near Mammoth Hot Springs
Bison on the run near Hell's Roaring - Lamar Valley...a sign of an impending snowstorm
Otter scarfing a fish - Pebble Creek
Bull elk near Blacktail Creek
Coyote pounces on a rodent - Madison River
American dipper finds a snack - Pebble Creek
Near Mammoth Hot Springs
Red fox makes the jump on a rodent - Pebble Creek
Bighorn Ram near Pebble Creek
Bull Moose feeds on willow - Lamar Valley
Bison near Nez Perce
Hoar frost at minus 20 degrees at Gibbon Falls
Lower Geyser Basin
Bison - Hayden Valley
Coyote hunting - Madison River
Trumpeter swans - Madison River
Coyote near Fishing Bridge
Otter - Yellowstone River
Bald eagle - Madison River
Wolf track near Gibbon River - Wapiti wolf pack moving south toward Old Faithful
Old Faithful goes off on schedule......again!
Very rare glimpse of a badger outside his den in winter - Soda Butte, Lamar Valley
Beautiful red fox - Lamar Valley