GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Accompanying travelers to the national park since 2002

Winter in Yellowstone, Part I

The Tauck Tour of “My” Park, January 8-15, 2012

Chico in the snow

Chico, with the convention center at left, original 1900 building at rear

January 8th: There he was with the large Tauck sign, waiting for me as I started toward the baggage carousel in the Bozeman airport. Randy was to be my tour director, and he had already placed my suitcase on a cart to be loaded onto the shuttle for Chico Hot Springs Resort. Having traveled to Yellowstone at least twenty times on my own since 1995, I was not used to such service—but I had no trouble accepting it throughout the trip.

Mile-high Chico has been a favorite out-of-park stop for me for many years. I even have a family connection with it, since my paternal grandfather died there while seeking medical treatment in about 1920. It used to include a clinic, since in those days people “took the waters” in the hope of curing all sorts of ailments. I had a nice soak in the 100-degree-plus pool and a pleasant reception and dinner later with the folks I would spend the week with.

January 9th: Next day, after Paul Schullery’s inspirational morning talk, summing up some early Yellowstone history with quotes and his personal feelings about the park, I got to meet him and his wife Marsha Karle. I thanked him personally for his very positive and helpful review of my next book (translated with colleague Suzanne Cane from the French 1886 account): Yellowstone, Land of Wonders.

Lower Hymen new spring

Lower Hymen’s new spring on berm next to Clematis Creek

We piled into Karst Stage motorcoaches for the short trip to Mammoth Hot Springs, where I only had time to visit Palette Spring and Devil’s Thumb, and then one of my favorite terraces, Lower Hymen, which rewarded me with a brand-new bubbling spring—not there last summer. In the comparison below, the active section visible to the right of Devil’s Thumb in 2006 had dried up by 2012 and is not in the picture.

That evening Bob Landis shared some of his remarkable footage of Yellowstone wildlife that does not appear in his popular films.

January 10th: The next day we set out with excellent Yellowstone Institute guide George Bumann to find some wolves in the Lamar Valley. With expert help from Rick McIntyre and his wolf-collar-sensing antenna, we did see nine members of Mollie’s Pack across the river, but too far away for a picture.

On that day I most loved the gentle snowstorm we encountered at remote Cooke City where we had lunch and I wandered up the quiet main street to enjoy the snow. I don’t often see falling snow since becoming a Californian.

The lecturer that evening, Jim Halfpenny, surprised me by not talking about tracking Yellowstone mammals, the specialty I know him for, but rather about his vast experience with winter and cold, explaining the relationships between water, ice, and vapor on the one hand and the rime, hoarfrost, and ice needles they create on the other.

Continued in Part II . . .

EXPLORE MORE: Here are the websites for Chico Hot Springs, Karst Stage, and Tauck tours.

CREDITS: The photo of Chico is courtesy of the Chico Hot Springs website. The other photos on this page are by Janet Chapple.

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