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Old 01-14-2016, 10:32 PM   #1
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Northern Yellowstone

I headed to Yellowstone over New Yearís weekend. Iíve never been along the northern road during the winter months. Normally Iíd enter the Park at West Yellowstone which is a 2 Ĺ hour drive but since the Park roads are closed you only have one option and that is to enter at the North Entrance at Gardiner.

You actually can enter at West Yellowstone, but only by guided snowmobile or coach. Iíve taken a coach into the Park in the past, once, but this time I wanted to see what the Lamar Valley was like in winter. They keep the road open all year from the North Entrance to Cooke City, located about 4 miles beyond the Northeast Entrance. To get to Gardiner from Pocatello itís another 3 to 3 Ĺ hour drive beyond West Yellowstone to Bozeman, then to Livingston and then down to Gardiner. Itís a beautiful drive north to Bozeman along Hwy 191 and the Gallatin River. Bozeman to Livingston and then south to Gardiner is mostly grazing and farmland until you get close to Gardiner. Lots of deer and elk in the pastures as you approach Gardiner.

I stayed at the Mammoth Hot Springs campground just inside the Park. They keep the first loop of the campground open all year. Itís $20/night and has heated bathrooms.

I arrived just after dark on Wednesday night and headed toward the Lamar Valley early Thursday morning. Temperatures were scheduled to be below zero during the night/early morning hours and warm up to the teens and possibly even the 20ís during the day with sunshine and blue skies. The weatherman (weatherperson?) was correct. Woke up to single digits below zero at the campground and got a little colder as I approached the Lamar Valley. I had a great day taking in the sights and photographing the wildlife.

Sunrise on Thursday morning. Looking east out over Elk Creek toward the Lamar Valley.



The YURT on a cold morning.



Quite a few visitors to the Park but nothing compared to the summer crowds. Many were photographers and wolf watchers. Got to see two small packs of wolves off in the distance. Too far away for pictures but pretty cool when looking through binocs and someone elseís spotting scope. Saw lots of bison, elk and coyotes and met some serious wolf aficionados. Some of them take their hobby very seriously.


Stopped for lunch at the Yellowstone Picnic Area.





This is one of my favorite images of the entire trip. These were the 4 largest rams in a group of 7 that were feeding on the hillside in the Valley.




I headed into town on Thursday night for a burger and a beer to close out 2015 and ring in the New Year. Not that I was going to actually stay up that late. I was back to the campground and in bed by 10:00!

I donít remember what the temperature was at the campground on Friday morning but when I got to the Lamar Valley it was -24 degrees. On my way out, about 7 in the morning, I came across a Park wildlife sightseeing van stuck off the side of the road leaning to the passenger side with both his tires buried. The driver was out shoveling trying to dig out. Several others stopped and helped with shovels and I hooked him up to the winch and pulled him out. I havenít had the opportunity to use the winch on the SMB since I got it. Everything went well and he came right out. He said he thought it was an unplowed turn out. Turns out, it wasnít! The van was a Chevy!



This is what -24 looks like along Soda Butte Creek.




Spent the day in the Valley taking photos and just taking in the sights. On the way back to Mammoth two large six point bulls had attracted a large crowd. They didnít seem to mind the people so much but a few got a little too close in my opinion.

Hereís one of the big guys.




It wasnít quite as cold on Friday night. I headed through town in the morning and out to Jardine in the mountains on the east side of Gardiner. Spent part of the morning exploring near the old mining area and driving some roads Iíve never been on.


Either he didnít mind me getting close or he was frozen to the ground and couldnít move.



Before I left town I had to get a shot of the North Entrance arch.




A couple of the locals in downtown on main street, Gardiner, MT.





I headed back Saturday afternoon, taking my time between Bozeman and West Yellowstone. Most of that drive is directly along the river through the canyon and is beautiful.

I highly recommend seeing Yellowstone in winter. The wildlife are dressed in their winter coats and really stand out against the snow.

Thanks for looking,

Mike
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Old 01-14-2016, 11:12 PM   #2
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Nice pics and report, thanks for posting!
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Old 01-15-2016, 03:08 AM   #3
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SO GREAT!! Seeing the pics/reports gets me thinking we could do some winter camping too...don't think others realize the encouragement the Forum members and trip reports give other drivers! Just seeing it done! Thanks!! What was the temp in your rig in the morning?!? We have had some cold mornings N of the Brooks Range in mid-September...BUT -24, and you had the penthouse up too!!!!!!! Do you have a furnace? Do you winter camp often? What are a few must haves? We do have a furnace...thanks again for the post/report!
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Old 01-15-2016, 05:44 AM   #4
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Nice write-up Mike! You drove right past my place on 191 in Big Sky. Three questions if you don't mind humoring me:
1) How did the van do in that extreme cold
2) What type of heat are you running
3) What type of side steps are you running, they look nice and tight to the body

Thanks,
Taylor
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Old 01-15-2016, 08:16 AM   #5
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Great report and photos! I've been to YNP several times summer and fall, but have always wanted to go in winter. Definitely is high on "the list." A bit of a pain to get to in the winter when you have to fly in and rent a car somewhere, as no direct flights to anyplace close to there from PHL airport (I hate connecting, especially in the winter).

One September some years back I was in Lamar on a personal photo tour and camped at Pebble Creek, sleeping in the back of my rented Subaru Outback. Got down to -10 that night in September and light snow. Thankfully I brought my winter sleeping bag, but it was still pretty chilly. A heated SMB is definitely the way to go!
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Old 01-15-2016, 08:54 AM   #6
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Looks like a great trip. Very nice photos!
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Old 01-15-2016, 09:27 AM   #7
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Good stuff Mike. As always, thanks for sharing!
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Old 01-15-2016, 06:49 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ctb View Post
What was the temp in your rig in the morning?!? We have had some cold mornings N of the Brooks Range in mid-September...BUT -24, and you had the penthouse up too!!!!!!! Do you have a furnace? Do you winter camp often? What are a few must haves?
I don't remember the temperature at the campground on any of the mornings, but I do remember looking the first morning and it was single digits below zero. The other mornings were colder but I didn't pay attention until I was out in the Lamar Valley where it was the coldest. I'm assuming the coldest morning at the campground was -10 to -15, somewhere around there.
I have an Espar d4 heater. I sleep down below in a '50' layout with the top up usually. I did put the top down the second night because it was supposed to be the coldest night. I have 3" of memory foam, sheets, a blanket and I unzip my down sleeping bag and use it as a comforter.
I usually winter camp several times a year. Besides a reliable heater, I always have a good book to read, as the evenings are long. Most of my meals in the winter are cooked inside. I don't have a built in stove so I use a jet boil and dehydrated dinners.
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Old 01-15-2016, 06:57 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Taylor3633 View Post
1) How did the van do in that extreme cold
2) What type of heat are you running
3) What type of side steps are you running, they look nice and tight to the body
The van did well. I did have some issues with my house battery on the -24 degree morning. I went to charge my cell phone and the battery monitor read "battery too cold" and when I flipped on the inverter it read "inverter disabled". Needless to say, it wouldn't charge my phone. Once it warmed up, it started working. The battery had juice because I could run lights. I even tried to run the heater to see if it worked and it did.

My heater is an Espar d4.

The side steps are Laverne. Not sure of the spelling. They are more of a rocker guard than a step but they look good and I do use them as a step.

Mike
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Old 01-15-2016, 07:08 PM   #10
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Looks awesome!
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