Up and after a cup of coffee for the husband/driver, we leave our cozy cabin and head for the park. Now, if it were up to us, we would go straight to Flagg ranch and into the park. However, Xanterra had this stupid schedule we have to follow. So, patiently we drive to Duboise and have a big breakfast at the Cowboy Cafe. I am better at eating after being awake for an hour, and enjoyed my pecan pancake, bacon and cowboy potatoes, washed down with hot cocoa. Husband tried the Cowboy Benedict upon recommendation and liked his as well. Unsure how long it would be before another really good meal, we both left stuffed. Weather was warm and sunny, roads clear and we head for Togwotee Pass.
And the weather turns to winter. Heavy snow slows our progress and completely blocks any view of the Tetons :( Slowly but surely and safely, we arrive at Flagg Ranch in plenty of time. We knew there was a good possibility of bad roads once we reached the pass and crossed over the mountain, so allowed more than enough time. If the weather had cooperated, we would have spent time taking pictures of the beautiful Tetons. Instead,envision a windshield of snow, grey roads, grey skies and black and white trees.
With anticipation, we pull up and take the photo pf the Road Closed barricade at Flagg Ranch. Not nearly as much snow as 1983, but still, I can not imagine how people pass that and think they can drive in the park! On to Flagg Ranch parking lot, and begin our organization of our luggage. Husband prepped for our return by cleaning out the snow from the wheel wells and removing piles of snow from around the tires. We have packed a snow shovel and ice scraper & brush. No tire chains, so we hope for the best upon our exit trip over the mountains again.
We are allowed 2 pieces of luggage each. I packed as much as would fit into the 4 large pieces we took. I vacuum bagged my clothes, unsure if my luggage selection would keep the snow out. A smallish cooler fit in one suitcase, holding the most crush-able food items, and the rest of the suitcase held food and beverages for our 5 night stay. We dressed warmly for our trip in on the snowcoach as advised. Others obviously had a different idea of dressing properly. More on that later...
We had a snack (still full from breakfast) knowing it would be hours before we got to the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. The coach drivers had fueled up and we met our driver. When the time arrived, they helped move our luggage, they all help each other loading the luggage on top of the coaches and we load up for the trip in. There were 6 coaches going in on our Sunday. A tour bus took 4, a van tour took one, and we were in a packed coach (10 guests and the driver). There is a little room inside the coach for backpacks, but most of us had a bag on our lap. It was very close quarters, and I was glad I put only necessities in the bag I took on the coach. Others had bags of food they had just purchased in Jackson. Some snacks and water are a good idea. Several days worth of snacks took up too much room (It is possible to take a van from Jackson and not have a car at Flagg Ranch. Nice for those who fly into Jackson I think.)
Promptly at 1:00, We head out with Jay at the wheel. His first year as a driver, but he did a fine job with "Lucy" and seemed to know his stuff. First stop at the Yellowstone sign and Snake River for photo op. The underdressed became aware of their plight very quickly. One nicely dressed lady was on her bottom in a couple feet of snow, with her cute boots and leather jacket almost as soon as she stepped off the coach. We were dressed in layers, warm winter boots and our rain layer on top. It payed off well with the heavy snow we had for our first day in the park.
Stops at Moose Falls, Lewis Falls and West Thumb. Walking break at West Thumb, along with potty (freezing outhouse) break. Weather really hindered the viewing, but still a great place to stretch your legs and get a taste of the steaming winter world of the thermals.
A short unscheduled stop to repair a lost bolt on the track of the snowcoach. The last coach always stops for any ahead of them that have trouble. They have spare parts. Our driver quickly identified the problem, and luckily it was right outside the door, so no long process of finding where the bolt was missing from. Only about 10 minutes and we were back on the road to Old Faithful.
We arrived, unloaded people and luggage. Unfortunately- or fortunately- one of the boys in our coach was sick immediately after stepping off the coach. Staff quickly took care of things. We presumed motion sickness- he was in the back and it was quite squirrely with the heavy snow and our speedy finish. Much like a rocking boat. However we later saw them, and he spent the next day in bed, so more than just motion sickness :(
Arrival was at dusk. A 4 hour trip in from the South Gate. We are anxious to see the basin. We are Geyser Gazers (as will soon be apparent) so that was our first stop. Straight through the lobby of the Snow Lodge, out past the Visitor Center and to the boardwalk. Almost instantly, Old Faithful welcomed us :D A familiar noise drew our attention to across the basin to Geyser Hill. BEEHIVE!! We LOVE Beehive! What an awesome start- just enough ambient light to see the steam. And the sounds our fun geyser makes. You can hear so clearly in the stillness of the park in winter. This is why we came! With hopes of clearing skies for the full moon, and some night viewing, we return the way we came, find our luggage and check in.
We were unable to get all 5 nights in the same place. So, first night was the lodge itself. Very nice room, and would love to spend all our time there. However, all 5 nights were not available there either, and it is much pricier, so we are Ok with moving. If you plan earlier, you can most likely avoid that issue. We were also going at a slower time (late January) which is why we were able to get rooms and coaches at all that worked.
Cleaned up, husband explored and chatted with an acquaintance that works in the gift shop. We had hoped to get the skis rented upon arrival, but the shop closed at 5 :( Dinner reservations for the dining room were late. Something else that you can get better choices if you book ahead. We were hesitant to reserve at all, but the Geyser Grill has limited hours and we felt we should have some plan. A drink in the lounge (yummy hot buttered rum) and we were seated. I tried the duck and was happy with my meal. Husband tried Pork Osso Bucco (never had it before) and was happy. Meals come with different sides- rice, veggies, potatoes, etc. I assume you could substitute, but we always took what it came with. Salads were extra, we never ordered any. Bread was yummy, and they will bring more if you want it. Water glass was always filled. And you need to drink a LOT! Altitude and dry air require lots of liquids. Too full for dessert, we head back to the room.
The clouds remain, so no full moon night walk in the basin for us. View of snow and trees in the dark from the window, but as we have a ground floor room, we closed the shutters and had our first nights sleep in Yellowstone! Upstairs neighbor clomped, but hit the bed soon after we did, and the neighbor snored, but then, so did we, lol. Not the quietest rooms, but nothing that was a problem for us. Another day under our belts!