Saturday, October 12, 2013

Yellowstone charms in autumn, segues into winter wonderland

Nation's first national park retains its magic for all seasons

A bison nibbles on the last of the autumn grasses on a recent drive through Yellowstone National Park.
One of Yellowstone's 10,000 hydro-thermal features,
this hot pot steams away in Norris Geyser Basin. 


THANKS TO Teddy Roosevelt and other nature loving visionaries, Yellowstone National Park has been a splendid destination for the world's travelers since its christening in 1872.
"Bully" Teddy would probably have Yellowstone open today! In our high-tech age we are privileged to see the same geysers, hot pots and wildlife that lured our pioneering forebears, fascinated and fed Indians and explorers and captured the imaginations of painters and photographers.
After dozens of visits, I have the same awe and respect for Yellowstone that I had as a child.
DRIVING THROUGH the gorgeous, fall-fringed Wapiti Valley to the park's east entrance, we spied our first grizzly.  Three days later, full circle as we wended our way through Mammoth and Gardiner, we spied another, a silver back. Three days and two grizzlies! Both were looking for food and the second one tossed a log over searching for grubs.
Wildlife abounds -- 67 species of mammals and 320 bird species.  On our Yellowstone swansong
Elk can often be seen around the Gardiner, Mammoth area.
for 2013, we saw elk and bison, eagles, osprey and much more.
IN THREE magical days, we entered or exited four of the park's five entrances, missing only the Northeast, which had closed earlier in the week and has been closed and opened a couple times since. We didn't want to risk it.
A snow coach trip to Yellowstone is a winter treat. 
THE PARK'S shops, galleries and restaurants cater to the Old West feeling that permeates Yellowstone. Awaiting our place in the lovely dining room at Lake Yellowstone Hotel, we enjoyed sunset and the lobby's live piano music -- Gershwin, Sondheim, Joplin.

OLD FAITHFUL Inn still draws acclaim. Architect Robert Reamer's signature blend of stone, pine and ornamentation charms, with its massive fireplace, clock and cozy ambiance.

A last look at the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone
as photographer Rick Cosgriffe admires the vista.

  Wintertime, we've enjoyed the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, walking distance to the famous Geyser.
Old Faithful isn't as reliable as it once was, but still she sprayed gloriously for us. We took the snow coach in from West Yellowstone, stopping for bison to navigate the wintry road.
LARGE ICE AGE animals adapted to the cold and wet of the Yellowstone region before becoming extinct.  But the first humans didn't arrive in the region until about 11,000 years ago.
 Old Faithful attracts winter visitors, just as she does in summer.
Today, hospitality, scenery and recreation combine to charm and delight people of all ages and backgrounds to Yellowstone's varied stores, eateries, lounges and cabins. There's something for everyone in a food-and-lodging range from simple cabins and cafes to lavish dining, with suites and condos offering stunning views.
IN OUR BRIEF visit, we heard a dozen languages and shared the beauty with Japanese, Italians, Germans, Swiss, French and Norwegians. Leaving our Lake cabin, we sipped cappuccino near a family from Mumbai, spellbound by the exotic critters and steaming pools.
THE SAME spectacular scenery that welcomed yesterday's mavericks and outlaws lures today's summer guests, winter's cross-country skiers and year-round appreciators of natural wonder with modern hospitality.
Wintertime lodging is cut back when much of the park closes the first Sunday in November, but it's possible to visit by snow coach and other snow vehicles mid-December to mid-March. The park reopens for wheeled vehicles in mid-April.
The north and northeast entrances are open year-round as is the road from Gardiner to Cooke City.
The famous Roosevelt Arch in Yellowstone.
For road updates, call 307 344-2117.  Nearby West Yellowstone offers a variety of year-round lodging. Contact Xanterra Parks and Resorts for information, reservations and timelines. 866 439-7375 or visit

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