Friday, January 29, 2021

Travel's future: COVID makes a huge gash in industry. What's next?

 

While hundreds of cruise ships have been docked in 2020, there's good news for smooth sailing
on the horizon for 2021.  Many lines plan to return to the seas, with many changes.

WHEN WILL WE FLY AND CRUISE AGAIN? TRAVEL INDUSTRY GEARS UP WITH NEW REGULATIONS IN THE STORMS OF COVID 

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
Airline passengers will find new distanced seating protocol
and masking, during the entire flight.


THE TRAVEL industry has suffered a mighty blow these past 11 months. Slowly, in parts of the world, ships are returning to the high seas.
Airlines are beginning to schedule more flights, with strict health regulations.
Beginning this week, on Jan. 26, U.S. airlines began to require a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery for all incoming international travelers, including U.S. citizens.
America's leading cruise lines have battened down the hatches due to COVID and many are not sailing until  mid-to-late 2021, others until 2022. 
Some lines have sold off old ships which are resurfacing in small new cruise lines. 
American Cruise Lines' all-U.S. itineraries on small ships will become even more attractive to passengers. American offers the comfort of larger ships with safety of U.S. ports and crew, while other lines are struggling with foreign port and entry restrictions. 
Lovers of cruising will find fewer options and
more limited ports of call in the next few years.
President  Joseph Biden on Monday reinstated the COVID travel restrictions that our former president lifted  on non-US citizens who have been in Brazil, Ireland, the United Kingdom and much of Europe.
Biden also extended the restrictions to travelers who have recently been to South Africa.
Hawaii -- whose tourism was dramatically curtailed by the pandemic -- will likely require a "Covid negative" proof when tourism gears back up.
SO WHAT does all this mean for the millions of us feeling travel deprived?
Fliers will find their wings clipped, with more safety regulations both prior to boarding and once checked in.  Cruising -- locked down in North America and much of the rest of the world -- will likely not make a serious comeback until late-2021 and beyond.   Cruising's "post-Covid future" will offer fewer options, less shore excursions and tight rules on touring. Experts predict a surge in domestic travel and in our country, heightened interest in "close to home" trips which avoid air travel entirely. 
Keller and Cookie enjoy a promenade aboard Queen Elizabeth.
The long-awaited return of  cruise ships will begin slowly -- perhaps in May -- and continue through summer and into autumn and winter as people are vaccinated, and feel more confident to set sail again.
POLICIES are changing frequently and dramatically, so savvy travelers are planning ahead and checking the fine print and CDC edicts. Know the rules, consider the risks when  foreign travel cruising returns.
Royal Caribbean saw an overwhelming response to its trial sailings but canceled all departures through the end of April, with the exception of sailings out of Singapore and China. The line began limited sailings out of Singapore for Singapore residents only on Dec. 1.
A cruise ship anchors off the coast of Malta.
CUNARD canceled all departures through mid-May with Queen Victoria scheduled to return to service on May 17. Sailings on Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth are canceled through May 28 and June 4, respectively. The venerable old line also halted sales for cruises eight days or longer that include a call at a U.S. port through November.
Crystal canceled its river voyages until late April and its ocean cruises into June. he line also has delayed the debut of its sleek new expedition ship, Crystal Endeavor, until mid-September.
American Cruise Lines' newer luxury riverboat vessels
make attractive use of glass for prime views. A small
passenger load of 184 assures intimate, attentive service.
U.S. ports are a plus, plus amenities of a large luxury vessel.
  
OCEANIA, NORWEGIAN, Regent and many other lines have canceled sailings through the end of April. Regent scratched its long awaited 2021 world cruise.
Princess canceled sailings through May 15, and cruises in Japan through June 26.
While we cruise travelers are anxious to get back out, we are  aware of the dangers and would rather be safe than sorry. So we wait for vaccinations and safety.
Many of us have canceled trips to favorite Greek Isles and other enticing Mediterranean locales. We've postponed vacations to Ireland, Norway, Iceland, Russia, Chile, Brazil and the Far East. Cruise lines are offering 125 per cent back on deposits, so that's an enticement to at least plan for the future.
A cruise ship pulls into a berth in Skagway, Alaska, which
will not see a return of the full season's cruising until 2022.
MANY LINES have canceled or postponed their Alaska 2021 seasons. Several are still touting roundtrip cruises from Vancouver and Seattle  
to Alaska, hoping to be able to make port visits in Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. Carnival Freedom is still scheduled to make its roundtrip voyages to Alaska from Seattle beginning April 27, 2021. Cunard Line cancelled its planned 2021 Alaska season last June, opting instead to redeploy its 2,081-passenger Queen Elizabeth on voyages from the UK
 AMERICAN CRUISE Lines with its all-domestic ports and routes offers "premium, personalized services" with reduced capacities, sanitation touch points and precautions to prevent the
spread of the virus. American cruises the Pacific Northwest, New England coast, the Mississippi, and more.  The highly rated line is also known for its small, tastefully designed ships, cultural enrichment programs, spacious staterooms, and an ambiance that encourages discovery and contemplation rather than "buffets, casinos and wave pools." Its all-U.S. ports are a large incentive in "Covid times."
Go on line, do some research, check out your options and keep up with updates from the CDC. For U.S. citizens, this might be the time to discover what's in our large and varied backyard and be grateful for that.

For more, go to: cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise/index; 
americancruiselines.com; cunard.com; crystalcruiselines.com;  celebritycruises.com; royalcaribbean.com; latecruisenews.com;cruiseindustrynews.com; 


Actors Jeff Kober, left, and Wally Kurth share
a moment in the "General Hospital" studios.
UP NEXT: Two Montana born actors are entertaining faithful fans on television's "General Hospital," one of history's longest running and most popular soap operas.  Wally Kurth and Jeff Kober didn't realize each was from Montana until friends told them -- and they met and even shared scenes on the set of the popular melodrama. Created in 1963, the storylines intersect and spin off with every manner of twist and turn. For a fun read about two talented men and their different paths to the long-running soap opera, tune in next week. Meanwhile, explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at the arts, nature, travel, family, health and more: whereiscookie.com

 









 

 


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Presidential inauguration's music, poetry enhance a historic day

Lady Gaga's moving rendition of the National Anthem set the tone for a day of musical celebration.
Music highlighted the inauguration, ending the day with a concert by well known musicians.

HERE COMES THE SUN! GREAT MUSICIANS, POETS PLAY IMPORTANT ROLES IN AMERICA'S CHANGING OF THE GUARD

Editor's Note: We're publishing early this week because of tremendous interest in the Presidential Inaugural.  Happy reading. And please share the link. It's been read in Asia, Australia, South America and Europe. Apparently the world is watching! 


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

Garth Brooks sang  a lovely a capella
version of "Amazing Grace."  
FOR THIS performance deprived redhead, Wednesday's inauguration was a fulfilling feast for the eyes, ears and heart.
Ample pomp and circumstance -- influenced by our English and European roots -- was accented with  Yankee spunk and innovation, making it a truly American "concert." A United Nations of participants paraded before us. It was a day of diversity and drama, with many touching moments, all accompanied by music.
The message of hope and unity was a musical joy to behold. From the stately U.S. Marine Band, with its precisely delivered military marches, to actor Tom Hanks introducing a raft of the country's best musical talents at a special "Celebrating America" concert from the Lincoln Memorial, music was the glue that held the glorious day together.
Lady Gaga was escorted
to the stage for the anthem.
MUSIC ENHANCED the snow peppered morning ceremony at the Capitol, in which Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths becoming U.S. President and Vice President. At day's end, music capped the dramatic day via a beautifully orchestrated concert from the night-lit Mall, Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.
The U.S. Marine Band lead the activities, from
the swearing in to the walk to the White House.
 
At the inaugural, Lady Gaga's singing of the National Anthem was a stirring symbol of the nation's longed for transformation. Resplendent in red skirt, navy blue coat with white-gold olive branch and dove jewels, she sang our nation's anthem with emotion. Her arrangement was perfect -- slow and deliberate -- no reverberations. She sang with elegance and  eloquence, preserving the song's dignity but with Gaga's trademark bluesy touches.
Singer Jennifer Lopez began her medley with
Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land."
MUSIC SUSTAINED the theme of unity and love throughout the day, emphasizing the new administration's goal to overcome division and rancor. At the inauguration, country star Garth Brooks' a capella version of "Amazing Grace" lingers.  He took off his black cowboy hat to close his eyes as he delivered the powerful gospel song. It was touching to hear the audience join in, even masked as they were, gazing at thousands of American flags. The flags added a splash of welcome color to the mall, replacing the usual human crowd prevented from gathering because of Covid and stringent security.
Young poet Amanda Gorman marked the day with
a spirited, lyrical poem about hope and humanity.

Poet Maya Angelou read for
President Bill Clinton.
JENNIFER Lopez will be remembered for her lovely medley beginning quietly with Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," then a segue to "America the Beautiful" with a bit of the "Pledge of Allegiance" in Espanol fitted in.
  Vice President Harris wasn’t the only woman of color to break ground on this prestigious Inauguration Day. Poet Amanda Gorman became the youngest inaugural poet in American history when she recited her astonishing work, “The Hill We Climb.” 
Jon Bon Jovi sang a lyrical "Here Comes The Sun"
at a special musical celebration to end the day's activities.
POET GORMAN, protege of  Maya Angelou, who read at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, reminded us of other famed poets who read on this momentous day.  Robert Frost struggled to read a new poem -- blinded by winter sun -- then improvised with an older one, at John F. Kennedy’s swearing-in. Angelou spoke of dinosaurs, God and unity at Bill Clinton's. And Richard Blanco greeted a typically American diverse crowd with “hello, shalom, buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días.” That was at Barack Obama’s second inaugural.
Yo Yo Ma's "Amazing Grace'' ended with a few
notes of Aaron Copeland and a Quaker hymn.
OTHER FABULOUS Jan. 20 musical moments linked speeches and ceremony. The Marine Band's bugler played a perfect "Taps" at Arlington National Cemetery's wreath laying. 
Singers Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Katy Perry, and cellist Yo Yo Ma put a musical coda on the evening. Ma's stunning version of "Amazing Grace" was particularly moving.
Rocker Bon Jovi's sweet and lyrical acoustic version of The Beatles' tune "Here Comes the Sun," reflected the hopeful mood of many Americans with Biden and Harris now our new president and vice president.
JFK's inauguration featured acclaimed poet
Robert Frost, then 86 years old.
SINCE MUSIC and poetry have long marked inaugurals, it seems a metaphor that the outgoing president did not include a poet in his inauguration. Arts were not a noticeable part of life in the White House, unlike other presidential stints in which music and concerts were an important part of life.  From Frank Sinatra to Marian Anderson, Duke Ellington and Johnny and June Carter Cash, musicians have enhanced the occupants' reigns and reflected the diversity of our culture. Long may it be thus.
   
We bring you news of cruise line reopenings, reschedulings 
and more. Travel is slowly opening up again, so have faith.
UP NEXT: Fellow travel junkies, listen up.  We're researching the return to the skies and seas. Airlines and cruise lines are gearing up with new Covid restrictions and requirements for travelers. Buoyed by the new administration, vaccinations  in all 50 states. We couldn't be happier or more excited.  With more than 125 cruises under our life vests, we've been following the industry's disastrous hit during COVID times.  Slowly, ships are returning to the waters so  and airlines are opening up more flights with strict masking and distancing. Meanwhile, remember to mask, distance, and explore, learn and live while we await a vaccine. Please share this column, too, and comment.  We appreciate that!

Friday, January 15, 2021

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens offers splendid global flora, fauna

 

A mother cheetah and her growing juvenile wander about a beautiful preserve near Palm Desert.
They are not caged, but able to roam within a large expanse at Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.

TAKE A WALK WITH NATURE FROM OTHER CONTINENTS WITHOUT LEAVING THE U.S.


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
A group of Australian budgerigars a
is almost close enough
to touch -- but we wouldn't disturb them. We know them
as "budgies" or parakeets, and they love seeds.

IMAGINE in these cloistered "Covid times," a walk with nature from around the world.
Picture yourself admiring graceful gazelles on the African plain, or getting up close to a pair of playful wallabies in the Australian outback.
Zebras, giraffes, beautiful green and yellow "budgies."
Foxes, oxen, exotic deer from distant  continents.
You can join us. We were thrilled to find this exotic, international outing possible, without leaving California.
IT HAPPENS at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens  near Palm Desert, Calif., not far from Palm Springs.
It's a magnificent, welcome native wildlife zoo, considered by many to be one of the finest zoos in the world.
 accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, exhibits more than 40 species of animals and hundreds of species of plants native to the Chihuahuan Desert. The park provides an up-close experience for visitors, with a variety of fun interpretive programs for every season, geared for the
All wallabies are marsupials ,
with young born tiny, helpless
and undeveloped. This mother
has a young "joey" in her pouch.

family. Living Desert also has beautiful hiking trails, picnic areas and group facilities.
WE PICKED a Sunday for our visit, arranging tickets on line, as the website requests.
Because of distancing and masking, the zoo has reopened with strict protocol in place, and we were happy to see our fellow animal lovers behaving in respectful, courteous manner.
One of our favorite exhibits was to the wondrous wallaby enclave. Several wallaby adults are hopping about not far from the paths that lead zoo visitors around from "continent to continent."  There are several dozen species of kangaroos and wallabies, and they are among the favorites at the beautifully designed zoo and gardens. 
While viewers are welcome to get fairly close to many of the animals, guides and guards monitor the flow of viewers, keeping a close eye on behavior to make sure these beautiful critters are protected. 
Keller and Cookie spent a "masked afternoon"
discovering wildlife at Living Desert Zoo.
Numbers of entrants are monitored so the wildlife wonders unfold in a leisurely manner, allowing visitors to step up to viewing areas without crowds, respecting social distancing edicts.
WHILE SOME of the enticing attractions are closed -- no giraffe feeding or endangered species carousel for now -- there's plenty to entertain a family on holiday, or anyone simply looking for a unique, nature-driven outing.
We headed past the in-progress rhino attraction, which should open within the year, and stopped first in Australia, then on to Africa.  We didn't do justice to North America, since we live here and have
A graceful Arabian oryx eyes the camera.

The grounds and buildings are handsomely designed.
seen bobcats, badgers, wolves, foxes and eagles in the wild.  The exhibit is praised for its beautiful and varied collection of critters, ranging from coyotes to desert tortoises, jaguars, bighorn sheep and peccaries.
The large North America section is also home to some striking gardens, including palms, cacti, ocotillo, and many others of the varied plants our continent enjoys.
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens was known for a time as the Living Desert Museum. The current name better represents the place, which is both a remarkable desert botanical garden and an impressive zoo.
Palm Desert isn't far from Palm Springs, and this is a great time to view the Sonoran Desert as spring begins in the Coachella Valley and Santa Rosa Mountains foothills.
Architects have fashioned an inviting terrain to simulate that of the animals' native homes.
The attraction is also a "free range" zoo, along with a marvelous botanical garden and nature preserve, protecting 1,200 acres of desert.
WE WANDERED through carefully marked garden and plant areas, which greet the eye on a casual stroll.   
The nature trails were not open the day we visited, but the non-profit enterprise is slowly rebounding from closure at the beginning of the "Covid scourge."
 It's a wonderful place to visit and learn and when Covid is conquered, the petting zoos, wildlife and reptile shows and lectures will be back in business.  Meanwhile, a worthy endeavor to support.

Go on line to livingdesert.org to book tickets in advance for your visit.


Lady Gaga's tremendous arrangement of The National
Anthem was moving at Wednesday's Inauguration.
UP NEXT:  Wednesday's Presidential Inauguration was rich with moving moments, many of them musical. From Lady Gaga's fabulous soulful singing of the National Anthem to Garth Brooks inviting the audience to join him in "Amazing Grace," all backed by the nation's finest band, the U.S. Marine Band. We'll take a look at the meaning of music, poetry and the arts in Washington D.C. and the White House and  important moments in the country's history. Meanwhile, remember to mask, distance, and explore, learn and live while we await a vaccine. Please share this column, too, and comment.   

Friday, January 8, 2021

'Jeopardy!' ends an endearing era with Alex Trebek's January 8 finale

Alex Trebek with one of his Emmy awards. He received  "Outstanding Game Show Host" Emmy
seven times,  and was presented with the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National
Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.  He died Nov. 8, and his last taped show aired Jan. 8.
 

BELOVED GAME SHOW HOST SIGNED OFF WITHOUT FLOURISH

A giant billboard of host Alex
Trebek greets "Jeopardy" fans
who line up for tapings. We
joined the queue last autumn.
The billboard will remain.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
and Sony Pictures Television

A montage of Alex Trebek's
"Jeopardy!" moments
moved viewers Friday.
IF YOU tuned into "Jeopardy!" Friday, you did not hear an inspirational message from the game show's popular host, Alex Trebek. But you were treated to a bittersweet, 90-second montage. The moving tribute was set to Hugh Jackman singing the Peter Allen song “Once Before I Go." 
It was a whimsical, laughter-filled remembrance showing Trebek's evolution through his 36 years as host. We saw him with moustache and without, with curly black hair then with grey, with costumes and snappy suits from several decades. The show was taped in October, days before Trebek died, not realizing it would be his last.
Earlier in the week, he'd used his opening time Monday to deliver a powerful message urging unity, compassion and generosity.  That felt like a farewell to us.
ACCORDING to the show's executive producer, Mike Richards, “That was something Alex decided to do in that moment.” The audience greeted the impromptu message with enthusiastic applause, grateful shouts, cheers and whistles. That was his welcome in the studio all week. 
Many of us shed tears when Trebek's pancreatic cancer was diagnosed in March of 2019. 
San Francisco professor Jim
Gilligan won Friday's game.
Friday's winner, Jim Gilligan, said in an interview after Trebek's November death that the veteran host was a pro to the end, and that no one on set had any idea the final game would indeed be that. 
The correct answer to the "Final Jeopardy" clue was "What is isotope?"  The San Francisco professor was one of only two players to make it to that last question. "Alex was incredibly intrepid and very positive. I think we were privileged to have him around.
 Monday's spontaneous thundering ovation obviously moved Trebek who has hosted the popular show for 37 seasons. His final episode was taped Oct. 29.

"Jeopardy" staff ready the show and quiet the crowds before
the taping begins. The lady walking up the steps at left is
coming to order a viewer to put his phone camera away.
THAT LAST SHOW had no fanfare or formal farewell from the veteran host, nor any kind of personal message to viewers in the opening statement. That's because “Alex didn’t think it was going to be his last show,” Richards said.  The show was filmed only 10 days before Trebek died Nov. 8 at his Los Angeles, family at his side, following a heroic and much publicized battle with the disease. “He had planned to host the show again that next week, and was focusing on that," Richards said in an interview. "Then when he wasn’t feeling well, he told me, ‘I don't believe I'll be able to come this next Monday or Tuesday but let’s look at the following Monday and Tuesday’." Trebek died days later.

"Jeopardy!" champion Ken Jennings takes a
selfie with the legendary Trebek two years ago.
Jennings temporarily takes the helm next week.
AS RICHARDS 
A young Alex Trebek in
"Jeopardy's" earlier days.
and his team put the final touches on this week's final Trebek episodes, a search for his successor began.
“It's going very well. There are  lots of people very interested in hosting Jeopardy!, which is gratifying, and also appropriately reverent of the shoes they will be stepping into,” Richards said. “We have had some great conversations with people.” 
"Jeopardy" champion Ken Jennings will be the first guest host beginning Monday, Jan. 11, after Trebek's sign off Friday, Jan. 8.
Media mogul, entrepreneur
 and former TV host Katie 
Couric is a top contender.

Johnny Gilbert, now 96, says part of him died
when news of Trebek's death reached the crew.
'KEN STEPPED in and did a great job for us as a guest host,” Richards said. The plan is to have a series of guest hosts through spring, using the mix of stars' and past winners' appearances as prospective auditions, Richards told fans. “You'll also see big-name people who are not going to be considered for the role but they just love the show, love Alex and wanted to pay tribute,” he said. “We don't want to hurry to name a new person. We all are still mourning the loss of Alex, and I think to just turn around and name someone would be irresponsible and not thoughtful."
Alex Trebek and his wife Jean
at a fundraiser. His ashes rest
at their Los Angeles home.
Christene "Cookie" Meyers,
excited to be on the lot
where "Jeopardy!" is filmed.
 Trebek’s death leaves a void, including deep sadness for announcer Johnny Gilbert, 96, who golfed with Trebek and worked with him since 1978. 
 The staff of "Jeopardy!" is unanimous in its affection for Trebek, who Richards said, "was in inspiration to us all. He was so professional, so hard working, so intelligent and in all of that,  also incredibly kind. When you hear people say it will not be done like that again, that’s true.  But we can all aspire to do it that well again.”
A permanent new host won’t be named before spring, Richards said in a press conference. 
FORMER 'TODAY Show" host Katie Couric is believed to be on the replacement host list. Actor and children's PBS TV host LaVar Burton is also said to be a candidate for Trebek's replacement.
"Reading Rainbow" host
for many years, actor
LeVar Burton, is a
contender for new host.
Veteran actor and TV personality Betty White, 98, may take a turn as guest host, speculators say. She was married to "Password" game show host Allen Ludden until his death in 1981 and was a good friend of Trebek's.
“We are going to take our time and talk to a lot of people, have some people guest host and see what our fans think as well,” Richards said.
This week's final Trebek shows were originally slated for the end of December, but were moved into the new year. Check your local listings to see what time the show airs Jan. 8. (We get it at 6 p.m. in Montana and 7:30 p.m. in California. It airs as early as 4:30 in some markets.) 
We have cherished memories of our three "Jeopardy!" viewings and I'm proud to have met Trebek twice.  We'll keep the Kleenex nearby tonight as we watch his last show. In true show biz fashion, the "Jeopardy!" show must go on. Once it's up and running again, tickets are available on line. They are scarce, and coveted. Check out:  jeopardy.com/tickets

The regal cheetah mother surveys the landscape with her
juvenile, at left. Found usually in Africa, this family
lives happily and without cages near Palm Springs.
UP NEXT: While we're celebrating our favorite game show, we'll take readers with us to visit another California attraction. Join us as we journey into a world of spectacular nature and wildlife, at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Springs, California. It offers an  enlightening insight into the lives and beauty of animals around the globe.  We recommend a visit for families, couples or anyone with an affection for plants and wildlife. Come visit this national treasure, ranked among the top zoos and gardens in the world. Until the COVID situation is resolved, distancing and masking are enforced, and numbers are limited, so make a reservation first. Remember to explore, learn and live, and share these stories with your friends. Check out: livingdesert.org and 
whereiscookie.com

Friday, January 1, 2021

Yellowstone in winter: greet 2021 with nature's delights in an uncrowded wonderland

 


If you visit Yellowstone National Park on a warm winter day between snowstorms you'll see bison 
snacking on the grass that must sustain them until the spring rains bring fresh grazing material.

PARK'S WONDERS UNFOLD IN A CLOAK OF SNOW, ICE AND STEAM

Keller and Cookie enjoy a winter trip
to the park each year. Here, they hopped from
the snow coach for a look at the frozen river.

 


 



STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

YOU'LL SHARE Yellowstone's wonders with its four-footed inhabitants if you venture into the country's first national park this winter. There's no better way to celebrate the breakthrough with COVID, and hope for a healthier, more normal 2021.

The glorious hot pools in Yellowstone are a 
wondrous sight with the steam and snow.

Christene "Cookie" Meyers, left, awaits entry to the coach.
In Yellowstone National Park, winter means seeing the park in a new light -- fewer crowds, frigid temperatures, and steaming geyser basins.  No shorts and t-shirts. Jackets, tights, warm boots. 
FOR A FEW months each winter, snow coaches are the only vehicles to traverse the park's inner roads.  "Oversnow" travel 
means snowmobiles and snow coaches, the only travel allowed.  The season ends in mid-March, when plowing crews begin clearing a winter's worth of snow. Down the road, as spring comes around mid-April, temperatures begin to climb, roads start re-opening and normal cars can begin touring. 
 Meanwhile, beginning around this time of year in mid-December, roads in Yellowstone open to limited snowmobile and snow coach travel. This means the only way to visit the park's iconic wonders -- including Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and other geysers, hot pots, steaming cauldrons and canyons -- is by guided snowmobile or snow coach, or through the non-commercially guided snowmobile access program. Most stores, restaurants, campgrounds, and lodges are closed during winter. 
Hiking, snowshoeing, nature viewing, 
bird watching await in a winter park experience. 
A series of warming huts are open for cross-country skiing, and ranger-led programs are offered periodically for winter guests at Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs. (Check the websites because the hotels are not scheduled to reopen until winter of 2021.) Park partners and other businesses offer guided activities and trips during winter, and there are "COVID" precautions in effect.
WE FOUND our winter snow coach tour through Yellowstone offered a remarkable connection with nature in a winter wonderland I'd not seen in my many trips through the park. We spotted wildlife at a relaxed pace and were warm, even cozy, inside our coach. It's a much different experience than the summer-autumn visits I've enjoyed all my life.
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is a rustic get-away in winter.
It is closed because of Covid, but park officials say
the plan is to reopen later this spring.

Winter in Yellowstone does indeed deliver, as the brochures promise, "a more intimate experience" -- fascinating snowy landscapes, and frosty animals. We could see steam from the bisons' mouths as they grazed in a plain where snows had melted and nearly vanished.




Keller and Nick enjoy R&R in 
Kelly Inn in West Yellowstone.


WE STAYED in two places, two different winter sojourns: Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. But COVID has thrown a wrench in in-the-park lodging. You can stay in West Yellowstone, where we recommend  Kelly Inn for its comfy, western inspired rooms, pet-friendly ambience and closeness to the wonders of the park.
When Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel opens again, it provides a rustic wintertime place to stay, and a 10-minute walk from Mammoth Hot Springs,
Geyser basins and hot pools take on an other-worldly look, induced by cold temperatures. One might call them canvases of fire and ice. The winter experience also offers opportunity for photography, skiing, snowshoeing and wildlife watching. Explore the winter experience through lodging, snowcoach tours, skiing and snowshoeing, packages, and snowcoach transportation.
yellowstonevacations.com/guided-tours/snowcoach-tours-wy; yellowstonekellyinn.com/

Alex Trebek's final "Jeopardy" show airs
Jan. 8, followed by a tribute package
celebrating the popular host's legacy.
UP NEXT:  
 Alex Trebek's final "Jeopardy" episode airs Friday, Jan. 8, so we celebrate the life and legacy of this master wordsmith, congenial host and compassionate, brave human being. We have some inside info on the future of the popular game show as well. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a fresh look at the arts, nature, travel, family and more. Please share the link with like minded friends: whereiscookie.com