Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Yellowstone: A Photo & Word Journal, Pt. One


Last year, when we went to Bryce Canyon over spring break, I did a little "Photo & Word Journal" on the blog, which I loved (if for no other reason than that it more completely documented our vacation than just a normal blog post). 

Hope you don't mind a repeat :)

(All photos taken by either me or my husband except for the one of both of us)


Day One (Wednesday)

Even though it's just a 4-hour drive from Logan to West Yellowstone, Matt and I decided to not stress ourselves out by trying to drive up after a full day of work and school. This morning I woke up, went on a quick 3-mile run, and then went into a frenzy of packing and preparing. Our goal was to be out of here by 11 AM, but we quickly realized that that was going to be impossible because we'd forgotten to update the GPS, which is all too good at getting us lost if we forget to plug it into the computer and get the updates.

After an excruciatingly long wait of over two hours, we are out of the apartment by about 1 PM and cruising north, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows blasting out of the speakers and a bag of freshly made cookies in the cooler behind us. While Matt drives, I play Candy Crush on his tablet and flip through some fun non-fiction reads I picked up from the library before we left---a couple books on blogging, a memoir that looked entertaining, and some magazines (of course).

Upon driving into West Yellowstone at about 5 PM, one thing becomes painfully clear--

There are a LOT of places that are closed down during the winter season.

We decide to check into our hotel before panicking too much about our lack of options, and it takes us 3 trips to lug everything out of the car. Because of the weather fiasco last spring break, we have overpacked so that we are prepared for whatever March decides to throw at us---blizzard or rainstorm, blazing sun or light flurries. And because we are determined not to repeat past mistakes, we have packed a LOT of sunscreen.


The hotel is quiet and definitely experiencing its off-season (although there are a couple weathered-looking tourists sitting in front of the big fireplace in the lobby). We ask the woman at the front desk what there is to do and mention snowmobiling, but she seems a little nervous, as if there isn't much to tell. 

After unpacking in our room (a luxury king-size bedroom with a fridge and microwave we got at a steal due to the time of year), I go back to the front desk to ask about the location and hours of their hot tub, which I had been greatly looking forward to all day as I had watched the thermometer in the car drop lower and lower the more north we went.

The nervous woman started off with, "Uhhhh..." and the clerk behind her laughed and said, "WHAT hot tub? Right now we haven't got anything."

I was not amused, especially as the guest services listed had included a hot tub (which was only nonexistent apparently because it was under construction).

Hot tub or no, I wasn't going to let our night be spoiled, so we decided to drive around town and see what was what and find something to eat. Everywhere we drove, boarded up windows and "Closed" signs met our eyes, and we worried that we would have nothing to do all vacation but eat at the same three restaurants and watch t.v. in our hotel room.

After grabbing hamburgers and fries at the cafe across the street from the hotel, we discovered with relief that we did have a couple options available to us---the bear and wolf preserve, the IMAX theater (which only showed nature programs), and going into the park on a guided tour on either a snowcoach (a massive van with tank-like wheels meant for snow) or a snowmobile.

We decided to hit the local stuff the next day and try to get on a snowmobiling expedition on Friday, then we headed back to the hotel for a relaxing evening of cable t.v. and WAY too many treats.



Day Two (Thursday)

Matt is overly excited about the bear and wolf preserve, and I try to lower his hopes a bit by explaining that the last time I'd gone into Yellowstone with my family (about 6 years ago), we hadn't been able to see much going on, so it wasn't very exciting. But we still bolted down our complimentary continental breakfast (which was fabulous), and headed out to the preserve.

Despite being in the high-30's, we found ourselves shivering in the mostly outdoor center as we waited for something to happen--the two bears who were out were lying down and barely looking around, and the wolves were lying on their backs with their tongues hanging out.

I worried that we wouldn't get much out of the $20.50 we'd just spent on tickets.

However, I saw that the bears were due for a feeding soon, so we parked ourselves in front of their enclosure and watched as an assistant herded the bears into cages in the back then came back and spread food all around the enclosure, covering it with branches and rocks and even putting some bits of what looked like small dog biscuits into a blue ball with a slight hole in it.

By this time, we were surrounded by virtually all the other people at the center (perhaps about 15 total), and we all looked on with interest as five bears came tearing out of their cages and directly towards the food. Large crows circled the bears' heads as they scooped up handfuls of food and shoved them into their mouths, and I kept half-hoping that one of the bears would take a good swipe at the birds as they circled around being pesky, but they never did.

Matt and I bemoaned the fact that we didn't have a better zoom on our camera because it made it much more difficult to tell if we were getting a good shot or not.


After we'd had our fill of the bears, we strolled through some of the indoor museums and the gift shop before deciding to head back for lunch.

Matt was insistent we come back to see the wolves fed though, so we were back to the preserve within a matter of about 90 minutes to see the wolves do something other than sleep.

After seeing the large carcasses in the wolves' cages, Matt was eagerly hoping that the assistants would throw in large pieces of a deer or elk and we'd get to watch the wolves tear it apart limb from limb. Unfortunately for Matt (but fortunately for me), they feed the wolves the bulk of the food in their cages in the back where no one can see and just put some other little bits of animals out in the open enclosure for "exploratory" and "enrichment" purposes.

My personal favorite "enrichment" activity was watching the biggest wolf roll around and around in the spot where they'd sprinkled deer urine.




Even though we were pretty cold thanks to a 20-degree wind blowing through, I had to admit that the center had been worth the stop this time---we were able to see these creatures close up that we normally couldn't have, and Matt was able to show off all the info he's gleaned about bears and wolves from all his nature shows (which, try as I might, I just canNOT get into).

Plus, the cold just made me that much more excited for dinner and souvenir shopping later, so the whole thing was a win-win, really.



On the schedule for tomorrow---snowmobiling!

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