DAY ONE - Sunday, February 9

GLORIOUS SUNSHINE

Bozeman has had three days of snow in a row; about a foot all told. And that fell on top of older, existing snow. But itís bright sunshine today, great for traveling to the Park

I leave a little after 9AM; 14 degrees, snow everywhere.

Even though the weather is good today and the highway has been plowed, I still find the uneven conditions on I-90 treacherous to drive on, so I get off at Jackson Creek and take the frontage road the rest of the way. The surface is packed snow/ice but unlike the highway, there is little to no traffic, which means I can go as slowly as I want without causing trouble for other drivers.

There are frequent ground blizzards swirling across the pavement, so I do take my time. The sun is glorious and makes the snow sparkle. The Livingston side of the pass is clearer than the Bozeman side (which is, of course, normal) but rather than return to the highway and all the trucks, I stay where I am.

Past Livingston I enjoy the views of the Absarokas. They are quite stunning today. I have a few elk at the Tom Miner Junction and several more just outside Gardiner.

I stop at the Super 8 and check into my room. I leave a few things there and then set off again. I am through the arch before noon.

I have my visit with Allison and then get underway. The roads are good, packed ice and totally driveable.

I have not been in Mammoth in February in a dozen years and the snow level looks fantastic to me. Iíve lucked out with a gorgeous day to boot.

I see elk & bison in the rolling hills west of the High Bridge.

The sun is so warm, I donít even need the heater. Itís only 18 degrees but I drive with my window open!

In the Wraith Falls area I am happy to see the Big Boys are back. Five big-racked bulls are bedded or grazing quite close to the road, delighting the photogs. I remember seeing these guys on my early winter trips back in 2000 and 2001.

I stop at Blacktail Ponds and find them iced over with snow on top. No water is visible, nor tracks, nor critters.

I stop to scope at the Childrenís Fire Trail. I see many bison, many bull elk, and a single coyote. The snow has been plowed into high berms in this area.

Little America is snow-covered as well and looks stunning. Just west of Fishermanís I come upon a bison jam. While Iím creeping along, I grin at the high snow level all around me. It nearly covers the sage. In fact, I cannot see the shale of the shale forest!

I stop at Dorothyís and scope a bit. Itís just so beautiful. I find two coyotes roaming along the riverís edge. I see hardly any tracks on Jasper or Amethyst or the flats. The only disturbed snow is where bison have been.

Dorothyís pullout has only half its usual space because of all the snow piled up against the railing.

There are ducks swimming in Rose creek and steam is rising from it. Further upstream there is just enough thermal activity to keep this little waterway open most of the winter.

As I pass mid-point I chuckle to see a bison bedded right here in the lot.

At Confluence I see 7 bighorn grazing the hillside. And there are several more on the eyebrow hill opposite HP. Photogs are happy. I knew that Yellowstone had gotten a huge snowstorm on Saturday, on top of another one on Thursday. I can certainly see the result! At Footbridge, the berm of piled up snow is so tall, I cannot see over it to the south, from my carís window!

At Soda Cone there are still more bison in the road, including a calf of the year, a yearling & a cow. While Iím stopped for them, a bull bison arrives from the south, smashing through the snow berm like itís water. He is a MONSTER, this bull, as big as my car, for sure. Just ginormous.

Luckily for me, he moves north and the herd goes with him, so I drive on.

Further east, in the Round Prairie area, I notice that many tree trunks have a thick, wide line of packed snow against them, apparently blown there by a steady wind from the west. In the pullout I see weasel tracks, probably an ermine. But I donít see the critter.

I love seeing the great expanses of untracked, pure, glistening snow. Itís so beautiful!

I continue up to Silver Gate and take photos of Laurieís snow-filled driveway. It looks like it could be 2 feet deep, so I decide not to try driving through it!

On my way back west I see two coyotes: one in Round Prairie and one near the Ranch. Just above the Yellowstone Bridge I see a fox roaming in those big boulders to the north.

Wrecker pullout is not plowed, and neither is Hellroaring. I suppose they will get to them eventually but with fewer visitors it is less of a priority.

Just outside the North Gate I see a cow & calf elk, posing for photos. And a spike is nearby.

I get back to the Super 8 and walk down to the Mine for dinner. And Iím back in my room by 7PM with plenty of time to check email, write my note and hit the hay.

Today I saw: bison, 3 coyotes, mule deer, elk, a fox, bighorn sheep, and the spirits of Allison and Richard

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