Cold and Quiet

Spring camping in the Park. 

Yellowstone has yawned herself awake and begun to shake free her winter blankets of snow and ice. Freshly thawed riverbanks swell with the promise of willow buds, hillsides whisper green, and that steadfast mountain chickadee has shivered through its last cold night and into the warm dawn of spring.

This time of year, it becomes easy to wax poetic about the springtime splendors of Yellowstone. We all have a touch of the cabin fever, and while we pretend to be excited that it’s snowing again because “we need the moisture,” we really just want it to be green outside already. While a visit to Yellowstone to observe newborn bison frolicking in the mist of ancient geysers will certainly relieve some of these doldrums, an early-spring camping excursion requires checking weather forecasts, bringing multiple backup pairs of socks, and the knowledge that if you drink a hot, caffeinated beverage directly before bed to compensate for unplanned cold weather, you will be wide awake all night.

Springtime in Yellowstone is a study in the temperature ranges a human body can physically withstand. Expect everything to be frozen at daybreak—fingers, boots, snowshoe bindings, the sausages you intended to eat for breakfast. As the sun climbs above the horizon, the world begins to thaw. You’ll gradually weigh down your pack with extra layers and eventually strip to shirtsleeves. Snowshoes will end up being dead weight as you wade through flowing rivers of buffalo patties (which thaw faster than the ground around them).

Yes, now is the season to visit Yellowstone. No mosquitoes, no traffic jams, and no question of whether the bears are still hibernating or out of their dens and really, really hungry—the extra burden of pepper spray is shouldered with neither doubt nor regret. And the two million summertime visitors to the Park have not gotten the memo… let’s keep it that way.