I’d vowed to bicycle once a week through this winter to help stay in shape and to fight off those winter blues. With the record snowfall and the intermittent cold spells this season, it’s been a tough resolution to keep. Fortunately, I also thought a monthly trip might help get me through to spring and true cycling season.
When I led our Yellowstone National Park bike tour for the first time last June, I knew I wanted to return this winter. I wanted to see the park without all the people and to see the hot springs and geysers amidst all the snow. So I planned a cross-country ski trip to Yellowstone to help keep my legs in shape and the winter blues at bay this January.
|Bison use the roads for easier walking.|
What I hadn’t realized is the haven that is Yellowstone for wildlife in the winter. The thermal areas keep the rivers from freezing and make food easier to find. I saw trumpeter swans, snow geese and bald eagles everywhere. In addition, the snow makes for easy tracking. It made me realize that foxes, elk, snowshoe hares and bison were all around us even when we didn’t see them.
But we saw plenty. We watched two coyotes test the ice with their front paws, trying to close in on four swans in a small patch of moving water on the Yellowstone River. After much squawking and wing flapping, the swans called their bluff and the coyotes sauntered away.
We also watched a pack of wolves circle a herd of bison. We counted 13 wolves as they maneuvered to separate a weak animal. They eventually gave up and disappeared into the forested hillside. Then we listened as they howled and as another pack miles away answered their call. It was one of those moments most of us only watch in nature shows on TV.
|Petrified lodgepole pines.|
The wildlife was a bonus I hadn’t planned on. And so was the weight I lost during the trip, despite three huge meals a day. We XC skied through fresh powder down Dunraven Pass, across regenerated forests from the great wildfires of 1988, and to mud pots and fumaroles and geysers. We broke trails for miles through the backcountry, using compass readings to find hot springs not noted on most maps. I skied until I couldn’t move anymore.
If you’re looking to fight off your winter blues, get in shape for bicycling, or see wildlife as you never have before, consider visiting Yellowstone this winter. There’s no place like it. And if you do go, stay in the yurts with Yellowstone Expeditions. I had a blast, and I’m not being paid to say this.
I think I love Nordic skiing as much as bicycling. I may just have to keep up my cycling to stay in shape for next ski season….