Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Slowly turning into a gear junkie!

It was 55'F when we left Seattle from our vacation and the temperature steadily declined as we drove closer and closer to Yellowstone. After 11 long hours of driving we arrived at the West Yellowstone entrance. It was dark, snowing and the gate barricade was locked but since the roads are currently opened for administrative travel we unlocked the barricade and drove into the park. For some reason I felt like I was doing something wrong- breaking into a National Park!

Our new 4 wheel drive truck is sure coming in handy because although the roads had been plowed the fresh snow was accumulating quickly. The further we drove, the heavier the snow was getting and I began to fear that we would not be able to cross Craig Pass in order to make it home. I began thinking of our options such as breaking into my bosses house in Old Faithful since she was, afterall, on vacation and surely she would approve such a break in! But thankfully as we approached Old Faithful the snow subsided and we crawled up Craig Pass (We were extra safe Mom!). We made it home to Grant to find a winter wonderland. Every tree was dripping with glissening snow whilst the roof tops were drapped with thick white blankets.

It is kinda hard to prepare for Thanksgiving when it feels like Christmas. In fact, Santa did come early this year; 14 boxes of goodies had arrived while we were away! Cabela's, REI, and Sierra Trading Post boxes littered our living room floor and even though it was now midnight Shane and I could not contain ourselves- we just had to open our boxes! And so there we were at Midnight trying on our new Thermal Underwear- Expedition Weight! The next morning I continued to go through our boxes. We had purchased so many things to prepare for winter that we actually forgot what was in the boxes! 

So what sort of gear is needed to spend a winter in the interior of Yellowstone? I learned to not ask this question to the outdoor enthusiasts who have lived in the park awhile because they will say things like "Oh, you'll need at least three different kinds of skis: Crosscountry, Backcountry and Skate Skis! Needless, to say I do not make that much money to buy three sets of skis in my first winter! However it was obvious that winter sports gear was a top priority. As I began searching for what skis to buy I realized that ski shopping is a much grandeur feat than shoe shopping at Dillards where my biggest concern was "should I buy the shiny red one's or the shiny black?" After hours of reading and searching and learning that not only are there numerous kinds of skis but there are an equal number of ski bindings to chose from, I finally found the easy way out: REI's ski package sets! For $300 they would ship me Unisex Rossignol Touring Skis with the compatible bindings, ski poles, and ski boots. Ahhh...problem solved: "I'll take two sets, please!"

Now, that I made my "recreational" purchase it was on to more serious matters such as winter gear to sustain -20F with a snowmobile windchill of -40F. After ample searching I decided on Cabelas Guidewear Gor-Tex Parka and Bibs along with a pair of Winter Range -60'F boots. My Cabelas purchase also included an assortment of soft shell jackets, fleece sweaters and pants in various colors and weights since "layers" are an important part of keeping warm. I also made sure that there was no cotton in my products since "cotton-kills" in wet-cold weather.

Next stop: Sierra Trading Post! One pair of Manzella's warmest weather proof mittens with liners, one red fur trapper hat with a liner, one fleece balaclava (face mask), 1 wool hat, 1 pair of wool mittens, one pair of ski goggles and sunglasses and  90 pairs of toe/hand warmers for the extra cold days! I also imagine myself living in thermal underwear therefore a full set of thermals in each weight: light, mid weight and expedition weight. And the best purchase of the season goes to the calf length down-feather Merrell coat recommended by my friend Laura Goforth who once lived in Grant as well!       

So, although I was officially ready to take on winter in the interior my attention shifted to Alice, my little 38 lbs Beagle-Shepherd mix whose favorite thing to do is lay in the sun! I had no idea the price and variety of winter dog gear! With a little research I decided to play it simple: one fleece jacket, a new warm plush bed and doggles. Yes, you read right: DOGGLES! Goggles for dogs! So now when she rides to town with us on the snowmobile her eyes will be protected.

Thankfully, Shane and I already had snowshoes and a lighter weight snowsuit and the park will provide us with snowmobiles and helmets. This weekend will be the big snow tire purchase and hopefully that will be the end of our purchases for next 5 months! Total expenditures of gear to date: $2800. Luckily the park has paid for $800 of our necessary gear.  

I am quickly learning that winter in the interior is not for wusses or for those who want to save their money! Purchasing Keno's flip flops in Key West was the old Sabrina;  the new Sabrina wears Cabelas Winter Range -60F boots!     


  1. Sabrina--when Bob and I lived at Colter Bay, we found our food intake went up substantially in the winter. Two chicken breasts each with dinner was normal. We knew spring had arrived when we cooked enough food for a typical winter meal and couldn't eat it all...so stock up on those groceries, too! Cherry

  2. Wow! Thanks for the advice! It is so hard to determine how much we'll need but I think we have a really good stock of food and with the occasional trip to town I am hoping we're good. Shane and I eat a lot on a normal day so it will be interesting to see how much more we'll eat!

  3. I was wondering how you managed to find housing that allowed your pet in/near yellowstone. I'm considering a job there and being able to bring my dog is a deal maker or breaker. Thanks!

  4. Hi Lexie,
    I am a permanent Park Service Employee- so the rules are a little different. When I was a seasonal I was not allowed pets either but as a perm. employee we have families, pets, our own furniture etc...Sometimes a park can find you single housing so you can bring a pet but that is a rare occasion.