DAY ONE - Monday, December 23


My 2019 Christmas trip is about to begin!

I am ready to leave just before 11AM. Bozeman has been unseasonably warm the last three days and itís already up to 45 today. Weíve had no new snow for over a week.

The sky is partly cloudy and although there is some snow on the mountaintops, the slopes are already bare.

I am driving my very own chocolate brown Subaru - on its second trip to YNP since I bought it in October. I just love this little car! Itís just the right size for me and it handles great. Iíve gotten used to the various fancy features it comes with, which are now standard on practically all cars these days.

The Yellowstone River looks very low (which is normal) and to me the trees and hillsides look like they do in October. Thatís not normal!

The sky is a bit hazy at 12:30 as I drive through the arch. The temperature has not changed much, itís now 43.

I have a nice visit with Allison and then turn on my radio. No chatter, so I assume the wolf action has ended or is too far to the east for me to hear. The Park feels quite empty, which is just how I like it. I do see bison and birds but only a few people & cars.

Mammoth actually has a bit more snow than I expected but itís not a lot. I do see a few elk on the rolling hills.

I stop at Blacktail Ponds as usual, and find a small herd of bison grazing the dry grass.

I stop again at the Childrenís Fire Trail, where I scope all by my lonesome for a while. I find small groups of elk to the south and many bison. The day has turned fine with bright sun and high clouds.

The roads are a little wet so it may have rained earlier. The Park looks gorgeous to me.

At Elk Creek, I meet up with Rick and Kara, as well as Larry & Linda. Great to see everyone. Alas, no one has seen wolves today. Yesterday, though, the Junctions had a carcass visible near the Mixed Confer/Aspen forest.

We have a nice social visit while scoping in all the usual places. Linda invites me to Christmas dinner at Bobís. She is cooking a turkey! I say yes and decide Iíll get a room in Gardiner so I donít have to drive at night.

I continue east, stopping to scope at Boulder, Aspen & then Lamar Canyon West. From this last high spot, Kara points out where the wolves were seen yesterday. But today we only see bison and elk.

In the canyon the Lamar River appears partly open and partly frozen. Hmm, it looks like fun for otters. And itís really quite beautiful!

I smile broadly as I enter my favorite valley in all the world. There is a fairly large bison herd in the flats south of Dorothyís and many graze near the winding loops of Rose Creek. I spot a coyote tooling around out there in the bison-disturbed snow.

Then I spot a second coyote amid another group of bison. Heís mousing, and I enjoy seeing that lovely hop-and-dive move.

Boy, is it pretty here!

I stop at Picnic to look for otters. Nope, not today.

By 3PM itís gotten a bit colder, only 37.

As I near the Trout Lake pullout a car ahead of me hits the brakes. I slow down and look to the south Ė aha! Thatís what they see: two moose, a mom and a yearling calf just nearing the tree line.

Very nice.

They disappear into the forest and we drive on. I stop at Round Prairie, looking for moose here, too, but only find bison.

I call it a day and aim for Silver Gate.

Today I saw: bison, 2 coyotes, elk, 2 moose and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

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