Yellowstone Expeditions Yurt Camp

Woke up to a very cold morning (the phone app said 20 below F) in West Yellowstone. Full of apprehension about our forthcoming backcountry trip into Yellowstone itself.  We have both been suffering from colds and yesterday was a low point for me. Glad that all we had to do was drive up from Clayton’s, taking our time, have lunch and then check into the Stagecoach Inn, West Yellowstone. Great old hotel, the entrance foyer/ lounge is full of stuffed mounted North American animals (bison, wolf, moose, big horn sheep …). Hunkered down in our room and only ventured out for a pizza across the street at it was too cold to go exploring further afield!

See below for a video of our drive in and first day. Press play to view

The snow coach, driven by Brendon one of our guides, picked us up on time and there was plenty of room for our kit. All seemed to be going well at first, then he struggled with traction on the roads which were hard packed ‘snow and ice’. It got worse, Brendon managed to break the tie rod, which stopped us from being able to turn right. Time for a new snow coach! Fortunately we were just at the entrance to the park so it did not take long for the rescue Yeti with big picture windows to come and collect us.

We had a lovely drive in, saw some bison, including a small herd of female and juveniles crossing the Gibbon River, then a couple of large males sitting in the road being photogenic. We also saw trumpeter swans and ducks in the river, a couple of coyote which apparently have leant to catch fish for food in this area (unusual behaviour for coyote) and a single female elk standing watching us in a meadow.

Gibbon Falls

Fantastic. We stopped off at the Gibbon Falls to stretch our legs and admire the semi frozen water cascading down over the rocks (about 84ft drop).

At lunch time we had another stop, the Norris Geyser Basin. See the link for more info from the NPS https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/photosmultimedia/norris-geyser-basin-tour.htm

Had time for a quick walk round the Porcelain Basin. It was really stunning bathed in sunshine. The contrast of snow, the steam from the geothermal activity and the green algae bands which apparently thrive in water heated to 60 to 90 F was wonderful. We were also taken by the milky blue porcelain coloured pools, caused by there being so much silica in the water that it can’t dissolve and the contrasting clear blue pools, where the silica manages to dissolve. It was a real treat in the afternoon winter as there were no other people around and the geothermal heating is far more evident from the exposed bare earth and the extremely low temperatures that enhance the steam billowing from numerous vents.

We met the other members of our group who had travelled separately, when we returned to our snow coach – they were glad to see us as we had their packed lunches! The team comprised:

  • A group of 4 friends: Hap, CD, Bruce and Jane.
  • 3 brothers: Blair, John and Rich.
  • A father and son: Jeff and Scott. The father had visited last year and did a lot to put my mind at ease as to what was ahead of us over the next few days (ie not a ‘survival boot camp’!)
  • A couple from NH: Vince and  Lynne who were doing a long tour of the West visiting different XC ski areas
  • At the camp there were also a couple of doctors who had been there for the previous 4 days (John and Tom)

As all we had seen prior to the trip was a list of names it was nice to put faces to those names and find out a bit about them. As with all trips of this ilk it is the people who really make it – a good crowd will add something undefinable but if the group is at odds with each other then no matter what we see whilst out exploring the trip will never reach its full potential. We found out that we were very lucky to be part of this group of guests.

We got to our yurts which were very comfortable, we had been allocated no.1 closest to the dining yurt – do they know something about us? I could even wear my slippers across the short distance to the main yurt! Spent a short time unpacking, thank goodness for all the hooks as we had plenty of space to organise our kit. We then headed out for our shakedown ski. 

Rough outline of our ski trail, clockwise

We went from the yurts down to the North Rim of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. Really beautiful in the afternoon sunshine. The Yellowstone Falls were outstanding, the right half frozen with a huge flow of water on the left side with plumes of spray and steam resembling organ pipes standing high above the falls. Decided we both felt good enough for the ski back up to the base, which was fun winding through the woods. Hanging out with the group as I write this having some tea and looking forward to our Green Chilli New Mexican Stew.

Below are some photos from our drive in and shakedown ski. Press the play button to view