A Call To Your Wild: Yellowstone in Winter

Yellowstone calls out on silent, frigid winter nights. Do you hear it? Does it give you chills?

Its message is carried through the dark forests of lodgepole pine by the whips and whistles of icy wind. And on some nights, even from the comfort of a fireplace warmed lodge, the howl of a lone wolf is heard far off in the distance. He howls in that familiar, yet rare to your ears, call. For what, or who, does he call?

“Deep in the forest a call was sounding, and as often as he heard this call, mysteriously thrilling and luring, he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire and the beaten earth around it, and to plunge into the forest, and on and on, he knew not where or why; nor did he wonder where or why, the call sounding imperiously, deep in the forest.”

― Jack London, The Call of the Wild

There are a number of things about wintertime in Yellowstone National Park that stand out. Human visitation is low, wildlife numbers (and thus sightings) are typically high, and the landscape becomes a quiet tapestry of white, covered in blankets of deep powdery snow. An average snowfall of 150 inches transforms Yellowstone National Park into a 2.2 million-acre ice world wonderland of hunters and the hunted.

Visitors who brave the sinking temperatures and frozen landscapes are treated to a small slice of time far removed from the hustle and bustle of the four million annual visitors who make Yellowstone America’s sixth most visited National Park. In fact, according to records, 91% of the Park’s average annual visits take place between May and September. Only 2.09% of visitation happens between December and February.

While tourists are mostly gone, the wildlife, sprawling landscapes of mountains and valleys, and the world-famous thermal features remain. And those lucky enough to join Backcountry Journeys for its Yellowstone in Winter Photography tour will reap the rewards.

This exciting wildlife and landscape-based photography tour stops at the world’s first National Park each February, as it becomes alive with wildlife such as Pronghorn, Bald eagle, fox, elk, bison, Bighorn sheep, wolves, and much much more. Bison covered in snow, hot breathe visible in the frosty air, has become as iconic as anything with regard to Yellowstone. It is an image sought by many photographers and is one that is nearly guaranteed as these burly beasts are prevalent in the Lamar Valley and amongst thermal areas where they can more easily search for food.

Backcountry Journeys has been traveling and photographing inside Yellowstone National Park for over 15 years and is confident that we offer the most finely-tuned, and well-practiced itinerary in the business. Our winter trips here have proven to be one of our ‘Guest Favorites’ throughout the years as we combine fantastic wildlife and landscape photography with knowledgeable guides, superb lodging, and delicious meals to accentuate our visit.

Park roads (with the exception of one) shut down to private vehicle traffic in winter, and instead of plowing, roads are groomed for over-snow travel by way of snowmobile, or a snow coach.

In order to access areas of the park otherwise snowed-in, we’ll travel in our exclusive private snow coach, which is an advantageous means to search for wildlife sprawled out amongst this winter wonderland. Snow Coaches sit much higher than a passenger vehicle and seats are equipped with huge windows that afford folks aboard fantastic views of wildlife and landscapes along the way. 

We’ll photograph iconic spots such as Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon, Mammoth Hot Springs, as well as the Upper Geyser Basin, which contains nearly one-quarter of the world’s geysers. We’ll get to photograph Grand Prismatic, one of the most picturesque and powerful thermal features in the park.

When Old Faithful erupts in winter, it sprays its water more than 100 feet in the air. When the near-boiling water hits the cold air it forms “geyser rain,” dropping tiny icy crystals and flakes to the ground.

What better way is there to end a long frost-biting day in the field than by returning to that cozy warm lodge? We’ll do exactly that each night, leaving camping for another time. Here we have the chance to sit by the roaring fire and think about the happenings of the day while editing photos, or simply reveling at the moment. And, if you listen closely, you just might hear a call to your wild. Perhaps from that lone wolf, howling amongst the pines and the dark cold night of Yellowstone in Winter.

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.'” – Lewis Carroll

Kenton Krueger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kenton Krueger has spent the past several years guiding backpackers, hikers and photographers into the wild places of the American West such as Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Katmai, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands National Parks, as well as internationally in Costa Rica & Brazil. In addition to backpacking and camping, his adventures include rock climbing, exploring the slot canyons of southern Utah, mountain biking, and bagging 14ers in Colorado’s San Juan Mountain Mountain Range. Kenton is a trail runner, former pilot, and spent roughly five years writing and photographing for the award-winning Omaha World-Herald newspaper, out of his hometown, Omaha, Nebraska. Kenton looks forward to utilizing his years of trip leading and guiding experience, combined with his passion and experience behind the lens, to provide memorable and unforgettable experiences at the wild places we will visit together.

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