A Travellerspoint blog

Cross country skiing and ice dogs hockey

16 January 2016


Carb loading was in order this morning as our first activity was to be cross country skiing. The club had a huge breakfast burrito that did the trick for me. The best western shuttle took us to the fairgrounds where we met up with the free shuttle to Bohart Ranch. The ranch is a huge cross country ski area and we were quickly fitted with skinny skis and off on the tracks. It was not quite as flat as I had expected but I still had a great time trying something new.
It was a significant increase in our normal activity in the past 10 days so immediately we took a rest under the auspice that we were watching Kansas City lose their playoff game.
Finally we were hungry again so took the shuttle down town to Sweet Chilis Thai restaurant. This may have been the best food we ate on the trip. Egg rolls started it all and then we split pad thai and baked lobster rolls.
The Ice Dogs are the Bozman minor league hockey team and we were able to walk from downtown to the game. Unfortunately they lost 4-5 against Helena but it was a good game and we got to stand up against the glass. We sadly walked home in the snow after the loss.

Posted by ErinDriver 14:04 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana

15 January 2016

overcast 30 °F

Both our guides from yesterday recommended we see the Museum of the Rockies so we had the hotel shuttles take us. Montana is apparently a great place to find fossils and the majority of the museum is fossils and bones that has been collected in this area including the largest t-rex skull in the world.
It is quite an interesting section and I spent way more time reading plaques than usual. There were also displays on early settlers to the area and native Americans. I believe the warner Brothers display was a traveling one but it was also pretty neat to see how these early cartoons were made.
Our guide Kevin had informed us that there was a good café right near the museum called Sola. It was a bit pricy but one of the farm to table restaurants so very tasty. From there we walked about one mile to check out some of the stores in the downtown area.
This was capped by beers in the White Dog Brewery. I was surprised to see an actual white dog running around and I thought the dog tag labels for the different beers were a nice touch. The Best Western hotel shuttle picked us up to get home and we spent the rest of the evening enjoying the hotel amenities like the hot tub and buy one get one free drinks.

Posted by ErinDriver 13:46 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Cooke City to Bozeman

14 January 2016

overcast 28 °F

Five inches of snow fell overnight and according to the locals this is “nothing”. Snow plows got through early in the morning and we continue on our wolf watching without a hitch. Right away we see some moose in the early morning light and spend a fair amount of time watching them and some bison waking up in the background.
After that we move on to a morning watching wolves. We see them about to cross the road coming towards our group but a snow plow turned up so they went back the way they had come. Before too long they move on to the wood line where we loose sight.
The morning was otherwise still great for wildlife. We see a beaver, big horn sheep and a coyote pouncing on a mouse. Unfortunately we eventually have to head towards Mammoth Springs and lunch in the dining room there. It never occurred to me to put meat loaf in my grilled cheese but they thought of it and it was great.

We went on to see some terraces of limestone springs just up the street then started our drive towards Bozeman.
On the way we stopped for some more big horn sheep, prong horn sheep, eagles and slowed for a coyote walking down the road ahead of us.
We make the requisite stops at the Yellowstone Sign and Roosevelt Arch.
It seems strange to arrive in a city after our time in more remote areas of the park but on this Thursday night Best Western is hopping. The group meets one last time for dinner at the Best Western and we enjoy laughing at things that went on over the weekend. Much of the group must catch 0615 flights but luckily we have two more days in town.

Posted by ErinDriver 19:55 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Wolf Watching and Snow shoeing

13 January 2016

sunny 20 °F

My lucky number 13 pulled through again for me today in the form of wolf sightings. We had to wake up at 0515, breakfast at 0600 and off to see the wolves by 0645. Cooke City is about 20-30 minutes away from the Lamar Valley where the wolves hang out. Our first pull-off did not produce any sightings but the second one found 8 wolves (the entire Lamar Valley pack) coming down from the mountain and across the road. I also got a good look at a coyote.
We were able to watch these 8 wolves all the way until lunch time. The howling was incredible and our guide reported some of the best he has heard. They are very hard to get photos of those as the naturally stay very far from people. We had a short talk about the wolves from one of their top researchers, Rick Macintyre.
Lunch was at Buns and Beds and was really fantastic. Our expectations were not high after yesterday’s dinner but I had a fabulous burger and an amazing chocolate milk shake while Curt had the sausage special.
After lunch we went to the cabin and gallery of Dan and Cindy Hartman. They are wildlife photographers and do a lot of work with national geographic. He gave us a photo presentation and then took the five of us that wanted to show shoeing around his cabin. The walking wasn’t nearly as difficult as I imagined but it was a beautiful day to take in the surrounding scenery.
After our walk it was back to Yellowstone. Our other group that skipped the show shoeing was already animal watching and had seen the wolves again. We ended our day the same way we started, by watching these incredible creatures.
We were all somewhat reluctant to go to dinner because we had no choice but to go back to the Bistro that subsequently had even less food and beer than they did last night. Our guide, Paul, gave a talk about the wolves in Yellowstone to try to draw everyone to the restaurant.

Posted by ErinDriver 18:32 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Anybody a snow coach repairman?

12 January 2016

sunny 20 °F

After a fabulous buffet breakfast at the Snow Lodge we were back in our coaches and heading to the world’s largest collection of mud pots.
Yellowstone has 75% of the worlds geothermal features and mud pots are one of the four types. There is a boardwalk around them and we had a nice walk with plenty of time for photos.
Along the way today we saw herds of bison and a couple of beautiful trumpeter swans we spent time photographing.
Unfortunately at one of the rest stops we had a problem with one of the snow coaches and it wasn’t able to continue. This threw a wrench in our plans because we had to wait for a replacement coach. The guides were very professional about keeping us informed and even got out snacks to make the best of the situation. During the wait we took a walk to the river and got to see an eagle flying around.
Once back in the coach we made it to Mammoth Springs where we had our box lunch and switched back to regular vehicles. On the drive to Cooke City we were treated with another amazing fox sighting and a group of buffalo walking down the side of the road. No wolves but we did now enter their home of the Lamar Valley.
Cooke City has 50 year round residents and our group is stretching the limits of the Alpine Motel and the bistro. Rooms are comfortable but basic and the restaurant does their best with limited supplies. Instead of TIA (this is Africa) we have TIM (this is Montana).

Posted by ErinDriver 16:31 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Grand Teton to Yellowstone

11 January 2016

sunny 21 °F

We finally have to leave our cozy hotel in Jackson to head towards Yellowstone. On the way we make a few stops when we see wildlife. Kevin spots a carcass and we spend a fair amount of time watching through the scopes. Coyotes seem to be very nervous around a carcass and a lot of ravens are gathered. A bald eagle sits watching in a tree and is joined by a second. Paul even spots a porcupine in a near by tree.
Another treat was waiting for us along the road. A fox was just sitting on the snow drift and held his spot long enough for us to get photos from the roof hatch before he sauntered off in to the woods.
We eventually hit Yellowstone Park and once at the end of the paved road we transfer to the snow coach. These are basically vans on tracks so we can make it through the deep snow. They are nice a roomy but a bit bumpy over the snow. A waterfall stop is beautiful and a bald eagle flies out of nowhere right at us. Unfortunately it happened so fast we didn’t get any photos.
Lunch was at a warming hut but we managed to have soup, sandwiches and an assortment of other treats.
Not long after this we made the rest of the drive to Old Faithful so we could see the expected 4:13 eruption.
They also led us around the boardwalk through the thermals right at sundown.
The only hotel open in Yellowstone in the winter is the Old Faithful Snow lodge and everyone here either came on snowmobile or by snow coach. The roads are not open to vehicles this time of year. The restaurant served a nice dinner and it was much faster than the previous evening.

Posted by ErinDriver 11:48 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Grand Teton and Sleigh Ride in Elk Refuge

10 January 2016

sunny 18 °F

Minature animals seems to be the theme of the morning. We start the day with a heat wave of 18 degrees and spend some time looking over the Elk Refuge and very tiny mule dear, elk and coyote. Driving through Grand Teton National Park we see miniature moose, bald eagles, big horn sheep, elk, bison and coyote.
One moose has horns that we are told may be the only one we see at this time of year. We all practice trying to take photos through the spotting scopes. We all give up and give our phone to the guides to take photos for us. I learn that I spent a lot of money for a camera and renting a lens when the iphone takes better photos through the scope. Who knew.
We see some wolf tracks and hear that the Gros Ventre pack has been very active but no luck for us today. We do see Shane cabins that are famous from the western movie Shane. Django with Jamie Foxx also had parts filmed here. We pass the "hot springs" that he and his wife were sitting in during the movie. We were assured that the actors were not hot while filming.
We have lunch at the cafe in the Museum of Wildlife Art and have a chance to walk through and see some wonderful paintings. Across the road is the elk refuge and the highlight of the day for me. We went in a horse drawn "sleigh" (more like a wagon really) through the elk refuge and got really close up pictures of the elk. I will let them speak for themselves.....

Posted by ErinDriver 08:11 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Dog sledding in Wyoming

9 January 2015

snow 30 °F

From the minute we were picked up for this adventure we were promised that dog sledding would be the highlight of our trip to Jackson Hole. We went for a half day tour with Jackson Hole Iditarod and they did not disappoint. From the very beginning you could sense their love for all of the 170 dogs in residence. It took a bit of time to get gear, people and dogs sorted but it was great once we got going.
It is quite a noisy production to get going but right off the bat Curt was doing the driving of our sled. The group leader, Mary was in front of us ith her team and then we had 6 dogs pulling us. One of them even was the leader of a team to do the Iditarod in Alaska. Shortly after we got going I was able to stand on the back of the sled with Curt and put a bit more distance between me and the dogs rear ends.
After about 45 minutes of sledding through just pristine landscape we stopped for a "picnic" lunch of chili and hot chocolate. Here we got a chance to meet a couple of our dogs, Patsy and Poptart were our leading ladies. Poptart is 11 years old!!
After lunch Curt and I were both drivers of our sleds as here was another couple who didn't want to drive so we had to break up. They also changed a few dogs and many times I had to put all my weight on the break to keep from passing our leader. But what a wonderful experience that was had by all.
Once we returned to town we spent the afternoon at the Old Town Tavern watching Kansas City beat Houston in the playoff game.
By 6:00 it was time to meet the rest of our Natural Habitat group for dinner. Our leaders Kevin and Paul have been doing this for 14 years and seem very knowledgable. There are 13 in our group and seems like it will be a great one. We had a welcome dinner at the Wort with either salmon (me) or skirt steak (Curt) and a wonderful apple crisp. We are all excited to start our wildlife viewing tomorrow!

Posted by ErinDriver 20:28 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Snowmobile Riding in Grand Teton National Park

8 January 2016


Scenic Safaris took us on the best snowmobile trip we have ever been on. We had a great guide in Mikey and a small enough group that made it a bit more enjoyable than those of past locatins. The morning was foggy again for the ride to Grand Teton but we were quickly off on a well groomed trail at a really descent speed.
Before long we came across big horned sheep in the road and a ram pretty close by. We were able to stop and take a few photos before moving on to one of th locations of a camp site along the river.
The next stop was at an elk head laying in the road. Mikey felt it was likely this was dragged their by wolves as he could see their prints on the road.
We made it to an elk feeding ground where he again mentioned they seemed very edgy and that wolves were likely in the area. We saw a distant coyote but no wolves. After the turn around we hit the same sheep in the road on the way back.
After the ride back we quickly headed to Pinky G's which had been featured at Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. They have probably the cheapest option for lunch in the town with a slice of new york style pizza and a beer for $5.
Later in the afternoon we walked back to Snow King Mountain for the tubing. One hour was $20 for as many times down the hill as you could stand. As one man there reminded us as he was getting in his tube "Fun isn't only for kids!"
Right across the street from the tubing was a cute little restaurant called lift where we had hot chocolate and a beer before walking back in to town. They had the awesome US map made out of license plates! To cap off the day we split a burger and skinny fries at Liberty Burger. An absolutely delicious burgerand fantastic fries.

Posted by ErinDriver 20:55 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Snow King Skiing

7 January 2016

overcast 36 °F

The day started a bit cloudy but that didn't stop us from walking to the slopes at Snow King. It was really a dream day of skiing. Most people go to Jackson Hole Resort to ski so Snow King was almost like we had the whole mountain to ourselves. The runs were just challenging enough and in the end the blue sky even peaked out.
The resort has what they call the Cowboy Coaster, basically a roller coaster down the ski mountain. This was really fun and included with our lift ticket package with the military discount!! Thanks Snow King! Curt likes to brag that he never put the brakes on and what we felt when it slowed was the ride doing it automatically because we had hit 25 mph.
After the roller coaster we took a break for lunch at Haydens Post. We split some nachos and a chicken sandwich that came with the most tasty sweet potato fries.
The downtown was just coming alive when we walked back through a few shops on the way back to the Lexington. The town definately wants to show off its western side with everything from canoeing raccoons to moose lollipops.
Curt was pretty exhausted after a half day of skiing!
Caldera thin crust pizza was the perfect way to cap off a great ski day.

Posted by ErinDriver 19:34 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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