Group photo – minus Ben who was doing the honours
Our last big day, Ben suggested that we go to Violet Creek, which is warmed by Violet Hot Springs, where there are some (hot) natural pools one can bathe in. A pretty unique spot as there are only about 4 similar places in the Park, ie hot pools in creeks rather than hot springs – which people are not allowed to bathe in.
Ben promised that this would be the ‘Epic Trip’ of the day and he was spot on, but probably not for the reasons he thought as I allude to below! There was also a shorter more direct (but only by 1 mile) route in and out to the pools. Although Mike’s shouder was still feeling sore from yesterday’s exertions we decided to opt for the longer route.
We started slightly further up the same road from yesterday’s trip but headed off south through some new lodgepole pine regrowth. Memorable moments en route to the Thermal area were:
- Bundu-bashing through the trees which were in places very narrowly spaced.
- A snow formation which reminded me of the Snowman in Roland Briggs illustrations.
- Numerous snow holes along the way to fall into, which I think we all managed to find at least one. Ben ended up to his waist in one, after which his bindings deteriorated, and eventually broke away entirely from the base. Fortunately they held out, just, until we got back to the road where we were being picked up.
- Marcus ended up loosing his pole down a tree well, after a couple of minutes of fruitless searching, probably hampered by the fact that he could not see, Piper came to the rescue and although we nearly lost her down the hole she came up trumps with the pole.
- I managed to have my own fall in a hole going down a beautiful slope. I had seen the hole was there from watching the people in front and I thought to avoid it by going left but it was bigger than I thought. Each time I tried to rolllover and get my body over my skis my bum sunk further down into the hole. Eventually with some help from Daryl and Mike I managed to right myself.
- Seeing Hayden Valley spread before us when we got to the top of a ridge. Totally unexpected as I was not aware that we had reached that point in the trip and it was beautiful to look out over.
- Bowling Alley which was a straight gentle slope of snow between an avenue of trees. I managed to ski down that with no mishaps, good for my confidence. At the bottom we found a sheltered spot for lunch.
About 15 minutes after lunch we reached the Violet Springs thermal area. Ben, On Mike’s suggestion left his boot attached to his ski where the binding was failing and then walked bare footed round the thermal area. There was a lot of evidence of bison sheltering in the area during the storm (poops) and we followed their trail across the exposed sandy area. This was in the belief that we would not break through the crust if it had supported a bison! Surprisingly they tended to follow one path out of the area rather than ranging. So I think this was a good suggestion from Ben. In some areas the underlying water was very close to what was seemingly a solid surface and I did manage to create a New Small Pool myself!
There were many sulphur vents and large areas of sulphur deposits. Some small yellow chips and other much larger deposits that looked like yellowish rocks. We came to a stream that we needed to cross which was a beautiful green colour. Ben dipped his toe in it and said it was very warm. He also warmed his foot over a small sulphur vent which he said was very nice.
We skied up from the thermal area and after crossing a small ridge, spotted Walter and Dale in the distance heading home having done the valley route to the pools with Brandon. From the ridge we had a lovely slope to ski down into Hayden Valley. Managed not to fall over, although I did ski quite cautiously. The snow around the thermal springs was very grippy and heavy at times, and at others consolidated and slick so it was quite hard to manage. Did quite a lot of side stepping down from the ridge to the thermal area which is why it was nice to feel confident skiing down to the creek.
The thermal pool was outstanding. A quick strip off in the snow and I got into the pool ASAP, once in the pool it was lovely and warm without being overpowering, there was a small waterfall which gave the best back massage ever! All too soon it was time to get out ( the other group spent 2 hours in the pool!) but I was happy with the experience we managed to have. I noticed the wind was starting to pick up so go out (first one out) and did a quick redress. Did not get cold which was an initial worry and all in all I can say this was the outstanding highlight of our trip to Yellowstone. One thing I really liked was the feel of the knobbly smooth rocks in the pool. As a sub note, it clearly did my cold no good, I had a major relapse and missed a couple of days at Big Sky as I was not up to going out. However, I am still glad I made the most of this rare experience.
See below for a compilation of photos. Press play to view
The tour continued to improve. With the winter storm many bison (a combined herd, spread across 4 groups, a couple of hundred strong) had moved up to the creek area we were passing though. Probably because it is warmed by the thermal springs and the creek doesn’t freeze over. It is also fairly sheltered from the wind. It was surreal skiing past this many bison. They seemed content to forage for grass moving their huge heads back and forth or scraping with their hooves, only giving us the odd watchful look as if to say don’t bother us and we won’t bother you.
Just after passing the main herd we had to ski down a small slope to a side creek which we had to cross. There was a mother with her young calf about 60 yards away from our crossing. The idea was to side step across, however, unfortunately Mike got too close to the edge and one ski plus boot went in, after that he seemed in such shock that he totally wiped out on the other side. Funny to watch and fortunately his feet did not get wet thanks to the gators we were wearing. I proceeded very cautiously and was glad to get across in one piece.
Slightly further on we noticed flocks of ducks being disturbed from the river and flying up towards the Bison. Delight of delights, we saw they were being hunted by a bald eagle. Ben said it must have been very hungry after the storm as apparently normally they stay still watching for prey rather than actively flying to hunt along a river valley. Beautiful to see.
We were lucky as the snow conditions across the Valley were excellent, firm wind blown crust. The wind had also sculpted beautiful overhangs along the river bank with the different layers of snow clearly visible. In one area the edges looked as fine as a knife edge. We had a fast good ski back through the valley to the road where Arden shortly arrived in a snow coach to pick us up.
A final fiesta dinner which I thoroughly enjoyed. All in all a great day full of many memorable moments.
See below for a video of our day. Press play to view