Yellowstone in Winter
After visiting Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and Devils Tower Monuments, we arrived at Yellowstone. Most of the roads were closed because it was so late in the season. I have been to Yellowstone years ago in late September and the place was extremely crowded, despite the fact that it was technically the off-season. Although I was disappointed we wouldn’t get to see many of the sights the park is known for, experiencing Yellowstone covered in snow gave me a new perspective. Most of the time it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.
There was only fifty miles of road open to us, so we drove through the park, turned around and came back to enjoy a cheeseburger and beer in town. The next day we took one more trip into the park and stopped at a bridge to explore the Yellowstone River.
We headed into Grand Tetons and even less of the road was open to us. Thick cloud cover blocked our view. We were looking for the Grand Tetons and expected such a large mountain to be easily visible. Luckily the clouds moved for us just long enough to get a glimpse before the peaks disappeared for good.
We traveled through Teton Pass under cover of night with pine trees and snow covered mountains lit by moonlight. It was slow driving in a car on icy roads. We stayed in Jackson Hole and prepared for our next stop.
The Teton Pass had closed due to inclement weather and we would have to re-route. We drove to Salt Lake City Utah through a blizzard. It was a white-out and we followed semi-trucks at a distance. Chain law went into effect and all the semi-trucks pulled off the road to chain up. We were on our own. It was one hell of a ride and we white knuckled it the whole way. There were many wrecks and stranded drivers off the side of the road. We got lucky as three snow plows waited for us to pass and came out right behind us to create a buffer zone for any following traffic. Then the snow plows started to catch up. Any touch of the brakes and we started sliding. It was a long and terrifying ride, but we finally arrived in Salt Lake City and pulled into the first gas station to let our nerves settle. I laughed as I kicked and scraped all the ice off the headlights, only to look around and realize the storm hadn’t arrived here. The other cars were spotless.
We found a hotel for the night and tried to visit the Salt Lake the following morning before we carried on. As soon as we left the city the blizzard and ice made the roads treacherous. We got off the exit for the Salt Lake and could only stare at the parking lot. Even though it wasn’t much of a hill, it was enough to know we’d be stuck there if we entered. “Well, there’s the Great Salt Lake.”
We got back onto the highway just in time. All six lanes of traffic had shut down and were blocked off. All traffic was being detoured onto a one lane exit. It was an absolute mess, and if we hadn’t gotten back onto the highway when we did, we would have been really stuck like the mass of traffic behind us. Several police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances were headed down into the part of the highway that had been shut down. We never did see the wreck, but after what we had seen already, a pile up was our assumption. It was a thrilling ride from Yellowstone to Salt Lake City, but we weren’t ready to do it again. Luckily the sun came back to greet us as we entered into Zion National Park.
Next Installment: Zion National Park
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