"Have you ever thought about the CMC winter trip to Yellowstone?" my best friend Mary asked me last summer. "I think about it every year" was my response. But when I looked at the dates and discovered it was occurring during my 60th birthday, I couldn't resist. I invited my closest ski and snowshoe buddies and surprisingly 11 agreed to join me. Three even came from Florida!
After a day long bus ride (with an interesting stop at the Mountain Man Museum in Pinewood Springs) and a night in Jackson, we toured the Teton Visitor Center where cute ranger Justin gave a fascinating presentation on elk. We then bundled up for a sleigh ride to the Elk Refuge where elk are fed supplemental food during the harsh winters.
From there we drove to Flagg Ranch where our snowcoachs awaited us for the journey to Old Faithful and the Snow Lodge. The snowcoaches were orignally built in the 1950's as Canadian school buses and have been refurburished considerably since then.
Along the way, we made several stops.
To view frozen waterfalls.
And the geyser basin at West Thumb.
I especially liked the "ghost trees" caused by hoar frost from the steam of the geysers.
And we arrived at Old Faithful just in time to watch it erupt at sunset. Perfect.
The next day was my birthday and we had access to snowcoach dropoffs at trailheads for skiing. I had a coachload of friends who wanted to go to Fairy Falls and was concerned others would get that coach instead of us. I was ready to play "the birthday card" but as it turned out, we were the only ones who wanted that first thing in the morning drop off. It was a twelve mile ski so we wanted to get as early a start as possible.
The falls were beautiful and the frozen part did resemble fairy wings. We watched a pair of dippers diving in the pool at the base. From there we skied to Imperial and Spray geysers.
Then we headed back along the road for about 1/4 mile past these guys. Our ski back took us the extra mileage that the snowcoach had driven us in the morning.
One of the exciting features of backcountry skiing in Yellowstone is the different hazards to take into consideration. In Colorado, I am tuned into the trees, rocks and cliffs. Here we added thermal features and bison hazards.
We skied through several thermal areas.
To the infamous Morning Glory Pool where we stopped for photos.
And we got to Castle Geyser just as it was erupting.
On Feb. 5 I spent mostly with Terry and Lauren from Florida. We were teaching Terry's daughter Lauren to ski but had a bit of a rough start when we discovered that her skis were completely iced up and had NO glide. She was a very good sport but later admitted that she thought at first that the sport "pretty much sucked". After we applied Maxiglide to the skis and got her gliding, she took off like a shot.
We were fortunate to catch Grotto Geyser erupting.
And Riverside Geyser.
The next day Mary and I caught the Divide snowcoach and skied down Sunset Creek toward Lone Star Geyser. A beautiful ski through a deep, wooded canyon.
In places, the walls are so narrow, you are skiing on the creek. It is a winter trail only.
Lone Star Geyser is aptly named. The only thermal feature in the area.
The next day we packed up and drove out via snowcoach to Flagg Ranch. As is typical with adventure travel, the adventure is in the travel. One of the snowcoaches broke down and we had to send a coach back from Falgg to get the people and luggage. Then we were drivng back in a blizzard whole way. The highway department was literally closing the roads behind us. Our predicted 11:00 pm arrival ended up being 4:00 am. But we made it safe and sound and a good time was had by all.