Trek to Old Faithful from the South Gate, what an adventure!
In January I had the opportunity to join a guided group on the trek from Flagg Ranch to view Yellowstone Park with Old Faithful as our destination. Our guide was Dino Zimmerschield from Jackson Hole Snowmobile Tours, one of the commercial trip providers from Jackson, Wyoming.
Before I start the story on the trek, I want to set the stage with the makeup of my group of riders. The locations represented by my fellow riders was very interesting. I had folks from Queens Town, Australia, New York City, Atlanta, Georgia, Miami, Florida and Jackson, Wyoming. The group makeup clearly shows that Winter in Yellowstone appeals to folks in the Eastern United States, Internationally and locally.
Guided snowmobile tour group prepares to set out from Flagg Ranch to Yellowstone National Park.
On the 110 mile round trip trek, I saw first hand how first time visitors enjoyed the snowmobile as transportation to Old Faithful. In addition, how having a very knowledgeable guide added to the adventure!
Here is a summary of our adventure trek. We started our day early with a van ride to Flagg Ranch from Jackson, Wyoming. At Flagg we got suited up for the adventure. Next we had a short safety talk by Dino, our guide, who covered the operation of the new 2014 Arctic Cat four stroke snowmobiles and the hand signals we would use as we toured the Park.
As we left Flagg Ranch the weather was overcast and the road/snowmobile trail had been freshly groomed. Our first stop was the Yellowstone Park South Gate. This is a very popular stop because of the large Yellowstone entrance sign, a great place for group pictures. With only a few miles under our belts, my group looked forward to riding the Arctic Cat four strokes, and the guide and I wanted to make sure they had a great experience on the trek. I also wanted to explain the history of the winter access issue and snowmobiling in the Park.
After Dino, our guide, checked us in, he returned and we discussed our destination for the day, Old Faithful. On the trek to the Old Faithful we planned on having lunch after the geyser went off and seeing additional thermal activities on the way back. Also, we would have time to view many of the animals that inhabit the Park in the winter.
The weather was cool and crisp, the trail was, of course, the groomed summer highway and it was very smooth. However, we saw that snow-coaches can leave ruts. As we headed for our next stop, the Lewis River Falls, the riders got their first taste of the beautiful scenic vistas of the Park as we traveled along the rim of the Lewis River Canyon. They also saw evidence of the historic 1988 Yellowstone fires. At Lewis Falls the folks from Australia commented that so far the snowmobile was a great way to experience the Park and looked forward to the rest of the day. In addition, one of the riders asked why the snowmobiles had restrictors on the throttles? I explained the Park's speed limit is only 45 mph and these Arctic Cats without restrictors would go much faster. I also pointed out to the group that the snowmobile is just one of the forms of transport in Yellowstone for winter access. The group commented that this trip in the Park would be the major highlight of their vacations.
We continued on to the Old Faithful area with a short rest stop at the Yellowstone Lake overlook. During our stop at overlook the group got to see their first snow-coach and asked about how it fit into the Yellowstone transportation system. I explained that it was another form of access to the Park. The folks from New York commented they like the snowmobile better!
We continued on to Old Faithful. The timing was perfect! We arrived with just a few minutes before the Old Faithful Geyser went off. When the geyser finished it was lunch time. Dino, our guide, had brought a large cooler with hot stew, soup, cheese and bread. We had a choice of hot cider or hot chocolate. The hot meal was great. During the lunch I was asked why anti groups want to eliminate access by snowmobile to Yellowstone. I explained the issues and how the snowmobile community had solved the many issues presented by the antis.
Time was growing late. However, before we headed back to Flagg Ranch we headed toward West Yellowstone to view several groups of bison. We also got to tour several thermal features on foot. After returning to our snowmobiles we started the trek back to Flagg Ranch. We kept pushing and arrived back at Flagg at 4:45 pm. After filling the Arctic Cats with fuel we exchanged contact information. The entire group, and especially the folks from Australia, agreed that "closing snowmobile access to Yellowstone would just not be right because they felt that the snowmobile provided the best form of transportation to see the natural wonders of Yellowstone Park!" They all agreed that "Snowmobiling to Old Faithful was something they will long remember!"
As we said our goodbyes they stated they would return some day for another Yellowstone winter snowmobile adventure!
For information on Yellowstone Park Snowmobile tours go to:
www.jacksonholesnowmobile.com or call 800-633-1733
Note: Starting in the 2014-2015 winter season in Yellowstone you will be able to enter the Park without hiring a commercial guide. You can take a total of five BAT machines into the Park as a non-commercial guide after meeting the Park Service certification requirements. Please look for more information on this non-commercial guide program at the BlueRibbon Coalition's dedicated website site at: www.saveyellowstonepark.org.
The BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) is a national non-profit organization that champions responsible recreation and encourages a strong conservation ethic and individual stewardship, while providing leadership in efforts to keep outdoor recreation alive and well -- all sports; all trails. With members in all 50 states, BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education and collaboration among recreationists. 1-800-BLUERIB - www.BlueRibbonCoalition.Org.