I spent two days at Yellowstone National Park this winter, January 7th and 8th, 2008. I've been driving back and forth on highway 90 for years, seeing the exit signs for Yellowstone, not realizing it was so close. You drive into the park from Livingston, Montana. It's about 60 miles south.
The park's headquarters is at Mammoth Springs, and in winter, the only park road open for automobile traffic is through the Lamar Valley to Cooke City, on the Parks NE corner.
It's a fantastic landscape. Brutal, stark, severe, eerie, awe inspiring, otherworldly.
The first day I stayed close to the headquarters, walking around Mammoth hot springs. Steam and limpid pools, subtle colors and skeleton trees. Terraces of milky stone.
Second day, I drove down a two lane blacktop, dusted with snow, curving through a forest of ghost tree skeletons, remnants of the fire 0f 1998, into the wide spaces of the Lamar Valley. It's winter, and the animal population have moved down from the mountains. Elk by the side of the road. Hundreds of buffalo graze on the plains, plowing through the snow with their thick heads.
At the end of my drive, I stopped to look through a telescope, and saw a fantastic vision of nature. A wolf had killed an elk, and about 40 ravens were swirling densely around in the air, some were perched on the antlers of the downed elk. The wolf was on the carcass. Wolf and ravens were dark, in motion, silhouetted against the white snow. It was a vision into primeval nature. I stepped back from the telescope, stunned. (and then a ranger explained the complex interdependence/relationship, between wolf and raven.)
That afternoon I took a Snocat tour into the Norris geyser basin, walking through thick powder, past subtle and beautiful colors in pools, hues of archaea, bacteria, eukarya; whiteness of steam, ice and thick powder snow, stark silhouetted trees, wilderness pure and beautiful under cool, luminous sun.