Winter in Yellowstone

One of the top advantages to camp hosting at one location for an extended period is that you can usually experience at least one change of season. In Yellowstone, we experienced three. Summer, Fall and Winter. Fall was probably my favorite. But the starkness of Winter and its beauty was breathtaking. Prior to camp hosting in Yellowstone, the majority of our time camping there has been in the dead of Winter -usually February. Mammoth Hot Springs Campground is open year round. The north entrance at Gardner is the only entrance open to the public. And the road from Mammoth to the Lamar Valley is the only road open to the public. The road is pretty well maintained-it has to be-children from Cooke City and Silvergate are bused into Gardiner for school.

Whenever we camped in February we usually arrived to 1-3 feet of snow-a beautiful winter wonderland. So being here when the snow was just beginning to fall and accumulate was a new experience.

I was inspired by fellow photographer and co-camphost, Gary Felton, to experiment a little with converting my photos to black and white. These are my first efforts and would love your feedback.

The majority of the photos on this blog were taken during our last trip to Lamar in October 2021. It was very cold, in the low 30’s and we had snow falling lightly and periodically during the day. I especially love the photo of the bison in the snowstorm. These amazing creatures have to survive conditions in Yellowstone in the Winter that most of us would be challenged by. As the winter progresses and the snow deepens they tend to use the highway through the Lamar Valley as their pathway. You will also see them warming around geysers and mud pots. Just incredible.

This last trip was bittersweet, knowing it was our last trip of the year, yet seeing the colors still fighting against the white of Winter. The yellows and oranges of the remaining leaves on the trees shone more brightly and warmed the landscape. It gave us the chance to say goodbye to Autumn and hello to Winter!

Hillsides and rocky mountain outcrops that in the Fall are different shades of grey,brown and black with green pine trees become majestic with a coating of snow. They look even more rugged and challenging. And when you see a puff of snow rise up from among the trees, it makes you wonder what creature has caused that or how strong the wind was to do that.

What a gentle looking soul

We spotted this tagged female in a small den off the highway. Believe it or not she had two cubs inside with her. People were lining the cliff to get photos and she appeared bored with the activity and took a nap. I used a telephoto for this shot and we were about 200 yards up a steep cliff from her. A safe distance from her and her cubs.

The skies were starting to darken and we could see a storm headed our way so we made one last run east on the highway, then turned around and headed back towards Mammoth Hot Springs.

As we were passing this little marsh area I spotted movement, but wasn’t sure what caused it. Jim pulled over for me and just as I got close enough to the brush area off the highway I spotted a coyote running west and across the road. Most times not getting the shot is as exciting as getting it. I quietly watched him disappear up a canyon and we moved on. I kept the photo to remind me of how fleeting a moment is.

This elk was not spotted in the Lamar Valley, but back at our campground at Mammoth Hot Springs. They are regular visitors to the campground in the winter when it’s much less occupied.

With all the geysers, colors and animals around Yellowstone, the Lamar is still and will always be my favorite place. There is both a wildness in its beauty and a peacefulness in its surroundings. I could sit and stare at hillsides, trees and wandering bison all day long without anything crowding my mind , just the appreciation of the moment in the Lamar Valley. It’s a soothing tonic for the soul. It saddens me when I leave but my soul is filled with such joy at what I experienced in my moment in the Lamar Valley. Safe travels my friends, enjoy the peacefulness of your Winter and stay warm.

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, ‘go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”

-Lewis Carroll