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solo snowshoeing, critter watching, and dog sledding trip

Hagerman, Idaho
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solo snowshoeing, critter watching, and dog sledding trip

Hi. I plan to visit YNP in mid February, with a stop north of the park to go dog sledding (hoping with Yellowstone Dog Sledding). In the park I want to snowshoe and see as many wolves as possible, maybe a bobcat or wolverine:) I was thinking about staying at Chico Hot Springs for the dogsledding and at Mammoth as a YNP base. I was in YNP this summer and camped in Lamar and loved it, so I would like to stay in Cooke as a base, but I suspect there is greater chance of the road getting closed and fewer hotels. My questions are 1. is Cooke just a bad idea? 2). there are shuttles that drop you off at snowshoe spots-is it feasible to snowshoe these areas alone? I had several hikes I skipped as a single hiker this summer due to brown bears and obviously I don't plan on backcountry stuff, so while I would rather not see other people while I am out, I would also like to know someone will go look for me if I don't return to the hotel! How well are thermal areas noted so you do not accidently enter a thermal area? 3) related to that-is there a good book (like the Yellowstone hikes book?) for snowshoeing there or do they just give you maps of the trails at the hotel? 4) other than the Monday and Saturday ranger snowshoe trips (and are these worth it or are they for kids?) what other snowshoeing guided opportunities are there? I cannot afford to do the wolf package-the single person price is $900 and same for the $1000 snowshoe to a yurt excursion-i am just looking for maybe a guided day trip one of the days to see critters somewhere more remote than I can go alone. I am on a budget and planning on the bathroomless room at the Mammoth and am traveling alone so please no uber-expensive tour ideas. 5) I am coming from southern Idaho. On a good day driving north past the west gate and then south from the Livingston area would take about 7 hours-I have not driven the northern Idaho-Livingston-Gardiner road-are these bad mountain passes where I need chains? I have studded winter tires and plan to purchase chains to bring with me for YNP if needed, but I want to know if I need to factor in the time for putting chains on my tires and driving slower etc on the way there (and maybe spend the first night in Bozeman or Livingston). Thanks :)

N. Idaho
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for Yellowstone National Park
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1. Re: solo snowshoeing, critter watching, and dog sledding trip

I can't answer your specific questions about winter activities, but you should be fine driving with studs on. Either way you are planning to go (I15 to Butte and east or I15 to IF/20 to West Yellowstone/191 to Bozeman) should be OK with studs unless it's storming when you travel, but I am guessing you have more winter driving experience than to do that!

Of both routes, I think the worst pass would be Homestake Pass east of Butte. To me it is the most *pass-like* if that makes any sense at all. There is Mon-Ida Pass north of IF that is not bad. There is Targee Pass on the ID/MT line west of West Yellowstone that is not too bad either. I've not driven Bozeman Pass between Bozeman and Livingston in winter, so can't comment.

I would get chains if you are worried. Buy them from Les Schwab as they will let you bring them back at the end of the winter if you haven't used them. I bought some a few years ago that were some kind of European cable chains that were supposed to be easier to put on. I practiced in the driveway and they were not too bad. I fortunately never had to. If you are going that far, you might consider something like Carhartt coveralls to put on if you do have to install the chains.

Looking at www.sunrisesunset.com it looks like sunrise in Twin in Feb is around 730 so I would be set to leave then which gives you a good 10 hours to get to Gardiner/Mammoth before sunset, so plenty of time so you don't worry!

Have a wonderful time! We would love for you to do a Trip Report when you get back!

Pam

Moose, Wyoming
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2. Re: solo snowshoeing, critter watching, and dog sledding trip

I'll try to add a little to D0bby's advice.

>see as many wolves as possible, maybe a bobcat or wolverine:)

You've got a good chance to see wolves, unlikely to see bobcats and about zero on the wolverine.

1. is Cooke just a bad idea?

No, but get a reservation ahead of time. We use CC as a base when we hike and ski in the Lamar Valley and areas surrounding CC. There's an excellent XC trail that leaves from Silver Gate and goes all the way into the park. Also great snowmobiling there.

>2). there are shuttles that drop you off at snowshoe spots

Not that I know of.

>is it feasible to snowshoe these areas alone?

Sure. But you run the risk that if you get injured (for example, fall and sprain your ankle), it may be some time before anyone happens upon you. (We hike with a sat phone.)

> I had several hikes I skipped as a single hiker this summer due to brown bears

We have grizzlies in this area, but not brown bears. In any case, they're asleep in February.

>while I would rather not see other people while I am out, I would also like to know someone will go look for me if I don't return to the hotel!

Let your motel know where you're going, your car's make, model and plate number, and when to expect your return.

>How well are thermal areas noted so you do not accidently enter a thermal area?

Most are signed or clearly visible (the snow suddenly ends and there's steam in the air). I've never had any issues skiing and hiking anywhere near CC.

>3) related to that-is there a good book (like the Yellowstone hikes book?) for snowshoeing there or do they just give you maps of the trails at the hotel?

You can hike in the Lamar Valley about anywhere, which is part of the fun for us. We park at a pulloff and then ski down to the Lamar River and do a giant loop back to the car. Unless you're in the woods, who needs trails? Here's groomed trail maps (scroll down to printable maps).

www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/skiyell.htm

If you hike on these trails, be sure not to disturb the grooming.

>I have not driven the northern Idaho-Livingston-Gardiner road-are these bad mountain passes where I need chains?

The Livingston to Gardiner road is pretty flat, so no passes there. imo, cables are easier to work with than chains.

Edited: 02 January 2014, 17:45
Hagerman, Idaho
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757 posts
128 reviews
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3. Re: solo snowshoeing, critter watching, and dog sledding trip

Good information about the drive and the chains-thanks D0bby. Les Schwab it is!

I meant Grrizzy bears-they are brown:) I saw my share this summer and was very careful. Saw a black bear on every single hike I went on. I was just pointing out that I was limited because I was by myself-in winter it is likely different things that will limit me than bears. It's the trade off of doing something alone vs staying at home. Home is boring:) Not really sure what the snowshoe trails are like-if they are groomed, monitored, essentially the hiking trails I went on this summer. I liked the big open areas in the Lamar where all the bears where this summer so that is cool to know it is open for snowshoers-should be a nice place to wander. I am thinking about getting a SPOT phone. It will, at least, make my poor mother happy. As for wolverines.....they are my number one bucket list critter so I am always searching for them:) someday.....

Moose, Wyoming
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for Wyoming, Jackson, Jackson Hole
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4. Re: solo snowshoeing, critter watching, and dog sledding trip

> As for wolverines.....they are my number one bucket list critter so I am always searching for them:) someday.....

I wish you the best of luck. There's about one sighting a year reported in Teton County, which encompasses Grand Teton NP and 40% of Yellowstone. On the following site, adjust the start date to 1/1/09, so you'll see 5 full years of sightings. There were only 5 during that period.

www.naturemappingjh.org/Observations.aspx

(5th on the list is mine.)

N. Idaho
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5. Re: solo snowshoeing, critter watching, and dog sledding trip

Cool!! A porcupine! Usually I see the *flattened* variety around here.

serval_girl, BTW, I have no connection to Les Schwab! Should have put a disclaimer in the first post, but I figured you, as most people in the West, would know their policies and I was fairly certain there was one in the Twin area.

Pam

Hagerman, Idaho
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757 posts
128 reviews
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6. Re: solo snowshoeing, critter watching, and dog sledding trip

I love porcupines! Grew up around Allegheny mountains in PA and my dad used to take me out at night with a spotlight just so I could see porcupines. I have been out here a year and have not seen any yet, except for one of D0bby's "flattened" ones. That Nature Mapping Project is a really cool idea-I love citizen science stuff. No worries D0bby-did not think you worked for Les Schwab-I just had a horrid experience with Sears and needed someone else for tires etc so it's good to know about their chains policy. I've never used them before, but last year there were a few places I tried driving that said "Chains required beyond this point". I better get some coveralls:) I have never even seen a wolverine in the zoo-hear they hang out by Salmon-though I would not be surprised if some crazed derby hunter shot one the other day. May this be a critter bucket list year for all:)

7. Re: solo snowshoeing, critter watching, and dog sledding trip

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