Yellowstone Christmas - Day 3

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Get up, shower, go for breakfast, very quiet morning again. This whole place is totally set up for _lots_ of people, which they must get in summer. Got to mammoth before the visitor center opened, so we went for a walk around the hotsprings themselves. Not bad, but nothing flash either really. Quite chilly. 18F when we got up this morning. Stopped in at the visitor center, and had a lovely chat with Jen, who told us all we needed to know about nice walks, nice snowshoes, how the snowcoach operates, where would be nice and so on. Very helpful. Wondered over to the hotel, to talk to them about the finer details of snowcoach and lodging and times and so forth. Decided we will take the snowcoach to old faithful on wednesday morning, stay a night at the snow lodge at old faithful, do a snowshoe/ski around there, and come back to mammoth christmas day afternoon. A bit pricy. the snowcoach is $50 each way, but it will be worth it. The drivers are meant to be very good guides.

Rent snowshoes for two days, so we can take them with us out to cooke city and back. Drive off around 11, to explore the other sights along the northern loop road. Stop at tower falls and decided to walk ou tthe 2.5 miles to the falls. I have seen pictures of really nice falls, that I'm sure said tower falls, but I'm perhaps mistaken. :) We walk out with the snowshoes in our packs. We are walking out the road from summer, and it is quite well packed. Quite an enjoyable walk, we spot two coyotes, some squirrels, and a few birds. Plenty of elk beside the road. (on the drive) Eventually reach Tower Falls, after passing a family of skiers. I think this route would have been more suited to xc skis. The falls are a bit of a disappointment. From the overlook they are mostly obscured by trees, and the trail to the bottom is closed due to a track washout. Oh well :) It was a nice walk out anyway. We snowshoe back, to try that out, which is fine, but not overly different to walking on that road.

Keep driving, taking a couple of pictures of elk and bison along the roadside, and eventually get to trout lake, which we were told is a very nice snowshoe. This is more like snowshoeing! A windy trail through deepish snow through trees up a hill far steeper than I'd see most people xc ski. It brings us out to a lovely frozen lake beneath the mountains, with a bison foraging on the far shore. We walk around the lake for a bit, then walk back straight across the middle of it. Which is all well and good, and lovely, until we get to the far shore (the near shore when we got there) which is closest to the outlet, which was still flowing. The snow started to give a bit too much, and we could see slush underneath the snow, not the hard ice from the far side of the lake! A bit of an adventure, We sped up, and made it to shore ok, but was a bit interesting to have the lake surface giving and moving and slushing out under the snowshoes. We would have been very wet without snowshoes I imagine :) The snowhoes also made the waltzing around in the deep snow very comfortable. Very leisurely walking up and down hills, not postholing and slipping all the time.

Continued on to Cooke City, the end of the road, where there is much more snow, and much bigger and more imposing mountains. Very cool. Very mountainy. Outside the park, so snowmobiles parked all over the place. Checked into the Soda Butte Lodge, very nice looking place, probably the best place in town, and still only $75/night. Go next door to arrange snowmobile rentals at the petrol station. He fills us in on all the details. Sounds good. Very unlike a rental car. Here, have a highpowered motorized weapon, yeah, it'll do 90mph, you really got to try it out on the roads, here's a map, you just need to practise a bit, see how you feel off trail, get some air under you, just go with what's comfy. Way more likely to do damage than with a rental car, but wayyy less hassle. (More expensive than a days car rental of course :))

Lovely dinner, and then sitting in the room, typing up trip notes, and leeching free wireless at 6:30pm! Feel well exerted from the day, not exhausted per se, but like we've been doing stuff outside. Very pleasant.

Get bored quickly, and go out to the lounge and bar to soak in the atmosphere of cooke city. Scott chooses reading in the lobby, and I go to the bar to see who I'll meet. End up having a good chat to lots of different people, and even find out what Dr McGillicutty's is. (peppermintish schapps stuff) No beers on tap. At all. Busch cans, ($1.75) seem to be the local beverage of choice. I get a trout slayer, and then move to fat tire. Not much better :) After drinking far more than I had planned on, but having a good chat to people is ok too. Good value. I Head out to go to bed, and find Scott ensconed monopolizing a Monopoly game with the local underage/out of money crew. The younger crowd stayed up later than the drinkers, but eventually, and far too late anyway, we went to bed.

Terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs

Minerva Terraces

Scott at the start of the road to Tower Falls

Coyotes looking for rodents

Calcite Springs

Funky lava rock near Calcite Springs

Groovy Rock near Tower Falls

Tower Falls, A bit frozen up