Walks and hikes are great, but sometimes the road trip getting there is spectacular as well. Even in the car we can slow down and look around enjoying the landscapes, critters in the meadows, and features unique to the drive. We had six inches of snow overnight at Lamar Buffalo Ranch and the clouds are closing in as flurries begin to fall. A gorgeous winter wonderland, just in time for Christmas!
It is now totally overcast and the snow in the mountains is creeping into the valley. It was a great stay at Lamar Buffalo Ranch, but we need to head home. We’ll be taking our time since the road is snow covered and can be slippery even with snow tires.
The Buffalo Ranch sits in the middle of Lamar Valley and has a rich history. The ranch was used in the early 1900’s to reintroduce bison to Yellowstone. It now houses the Yellowstone Institute offering seminars open to all on many Yellowstone topics through the Yellowstone Association. It is definitely snowing to the east and in the mountains, so let’s get going heading west then north to home.
The trees are beautiful covered with snow. Let’s stop here a few minutes to walk along the river and enjoy the peace and quiet that comes with gently falling snow. The Lamar River runs from the Valley into Lamar Canyon flowing beneath the ice and snow until May.
The northern road from Mammoth to Tower then to Cooke City is the only park road open all year for cars and trucks, but they must have snow tires. It is really snowing now. Merrily we go . . .
Look carefully over the meadows, you never know what you’ll see. There’s a coyote, just standing there looking around, then suddenly disappearing over the ridge.
A few short months ago these aspens glittered neon gold. Still standing tall, they will be beautiful again in the spring, but are now at rest.
Driving below Specimen Ridge we see Douglas Firs growing next to their nursery rocks, the glacial erratics that scatter the valley. The fir seeds have a better chance at germinating when protected by a rock host. The boulders provide shade, moisture, and shelter from winds and also absorbs and radiates heat so ice and snow melt quicker around their bases giving the seedlings a chance at life. This Doug Fir just needs a few ornaments and it becomes a beautiful Christmas tree. Pretty beautiful anyway.
We are sharing the road with roaming bison. Driving slow, they usually stay on their own side of the road, but if not we have a bison-jam and have to wait until they decide to move out of the way. Today they are taking a look at us, but seem happy to walk on the side of the road. See you later girls!
This is my favorite pullout just before Tower Junction. From here we can see the Yellowstone River and the bridge we will be taking to Tower. Walking down the hill behind us, we come to the confluence of the Yellowstone and Lamar Rivers. That is a walk we’ll take come spring.
Elk Creek offers a surprise today–a bull moose chowing on the willows. He isn’t interested in us and that’s good because moose can be very ornery. Love seeing them though since they are not common in the park. The moose population has declined over the last 40 years due to a combination of issues including loss of old growth forests surrounding the park, hunting outside the park, burning of habitat in the park, and predators (bears and wolves taking moose calves). This fella may be shedding his antlers soon. Shedding their heavy antlers helps them conserve energy thus promoting easier winter survival. Moose are well adapted to survival in deep snow because of their long legs. They can stand 7-1/2 feet tall at the shoulder.
Let’s stop at Undine Falls–careful walking down the hill to the viewing area.
It is hard to see water falling under the snow and ice, but we can hear the water. That is a lot of ice!
Here we are at Mammoth, ready to head home. It has been fun traveling with you on this snowy day! Have the happiest of holidays my friend. See you on our next adventure!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!