8th December 2005
Bozeman, Montana

We wake up to splendid view of the river below our room. Amongst the solid ice the water steams and flows. We make a flask of tea and head back into Yellowstone. The lady at the gate, the same lady as yesterday, doesn't recognise the car. She has a good look at the tires to make sure that we're going to be able to make it through. She lets us go but not without a warning. In the Lemar Valley the temperature hit levels that would freeze your skin in about 15 seconds - stay in the car.

We make the decision to take the drive to Cook City fairly quickly and then stop off at the sights on our way back through once the sun is higher in the sky and the temperature has risen, however little. It is a wonderful road to drive at this time of year. There are no cars around, the scenery is liberally scattered with snow and the wildlife is close to the roadside. En route we spot uncountable Elk, Deer, Coyote and Bison. The rangers warnings seem accurate as we watch the car thermometer plummet to -17F, a slightly terrifying -27C.

At Cooke City we stop off at the hotel / restaurant and have a very good lunch. Outside in the street the vehicle of choice seems to be skidoo rather than car or van. To the sides of the roads the snow has been ploughed into 7 feet high walls. In the summer we would have the option of carrying on through the town and exiting the park. At this time of year the pass is snowed in and the only way out is back the way we came.

As we head back through the park we spot a small cluster of cars parked by the side of the road. We park up and wander over to a group of photographers with very long lenses pointed up into the hills. One of them has spotted a wolf and they are trying to spot it again to get a snap of it. Try as we might we can't spot anything. Their lenses really are huge and we have no chance of seeing anything with a naked eye.

As we drive away and round the corner we get our own wild animal encounter as a coyote rushes out in front of the car and plays a game of chase with us. After twenty seconds or so he dashes off to one side and watches us intently from the snow bank before disappearing off into the distance.

We make several quick stops on the way back to take in the scenery and the animals. It's an enchanting place at this time of year and we resolve to return one year and see it in the glory of spring or summer.

We finish up the day by driving north to Bozeman.

 

Chris Cottam

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