A Wildland Trekking outdoor guide gives the inside scoop on why winter is the best time to visit Yellowstone.
For 12 years, Colorado outdoor enthusiast Ron Bubb has been guiding private groups for Wildland Trekking in places like Yellowstone National Park and Grand Canyon National Park. In the summer, he leads backpacking trips. When the snow starts to fall, he shows people the wonders of Yellowstone via cross-country skis and snowshoes on lodge-based trips. Editor Tori Peglar of National Park Trips Media teamed up with him and Wildland Trekking for a four-day group snowshoeing trip and asked him about his career guiding people in the parks.
Q: Why lead winter trips in Yellowstone?
Ron: I like traveling in the backcountry in snow. I do that a lot on my own, which is why I lead these trips. My focus is on backcountry hiking trips, but because I’m a skier, it’s my way of working in the field in winter.
Q: What might surprise people about Yellowstone in the winter?
Ron: I think that people can comfortably travel in what looks to be a harsh environment. People may not realize the level of solitude you can have here in Yellowstone on a lodge-based trip in the winter. They may think it is hard to get away from people. And there’s a lot of wildlife you can see in winter. You are going to see bison and possibly wolves.
Q: Best thing about Yellowstone in the winter?
Ron: You can see the historic districts of the park with like less than one-tenth of the people. This is the way you can see Old Faithful and not be overwhelmed with the logistical nightmares [parking, traffic, crowds]. You can come to the places you’d avoid in the summer and really enjoy them and still get a lot of physical activity in.
Q: Why see a geyser?
Ron: It’s so unique. There are only like five places in the world [Chile, Iceland, New Zealand, Russia and Yellowstone] where you can experience them. You get a sense that there is so much going on that we cannot see. When I think of the plumbing systems underground, it makes me feel so small. We have a need as humans to understand these systems, but how much more is going on underground that we don’t understand? When you hear a ranger talk about geysers, the first half of the talk is all factual and then during the second half, you start hearing the ranger use phrases like “What we think may be happening…” Sometimes, we even find what we thought was wrong. And that’s impressive.
Q: You are celebrating your 12th year of guiding for Wildland Trekking this year. What keeps you working outdoors?
Ron: I love to be outside. Often, I tell guests, ‘Once we step on the trail, nothing matters but the present.’ All that matters is right now and that we are a team and will do what it takes to be successful. In this day and age, it’s so hard to be present. Being able to show people that and watch them accept it is why I do what I do. In my everyday life, I try to focus on what’s happening now, not what happened in the past or what will happen in the future.
Q: You were raised in Illinois. What brought you out West?
Ron: I learned to ski my senior year in Wisconsin and it was fun. In college, I came to Keystone in Colorado to ski and that’s when I was like, ‘Oh, this is the real thing.’ So every year, I’d do a ski trip. Every time I drove back home, I’d watch the mountains dissipate in my rearview mirror. It always made me think about when the next time I was going to come back.
Q: Is there a particular place people should have on their outdoor bucket list?
Ron: I think everybody should go below the rim of the Grand Canyon, even if it’s just a half mile down because it changes your perspective of that environment, of that place. You get such an appreciation for what the Grand Canyon is.
Q: Anywhere else?
Ron: Hiking in the backcountry of Yellowstone when you are not the top of the food chain. It puts your senses on a heightened level and that’s something that is pretty powerful. In this day and age, we are such kings and queens of our worlds. Most of us have pretty good control over our worlds. [Being in Yellowstone’s backcountry] puts our egos back in their places. It reminds us we are traveling in something else’s environment that could change our world. A lot of people are not comfortable with it. Putting yourself off the the beaten path when you are not the top of the food chain is hard to do, but there’s a big reward.
Q: Why should people visit national parks?
Ron: Because even though the National Park Service has done things to accommodate the public, national parks are our most protected public lands. Once you get off the beaten path, it brings me a sense of respect for how I feel we should treat it- with Leave No Trace principles. I feel strongly about the seven Leave No Trace principles and when I go to the most protected places in the country, even if I see even a sesame seed on the ground. I pick it up. [Being there] gives me a heightened sense of respect.
For more information about guided hiking trips in Yellowstone and other places around the world, contact Wildland Trekking at 800-715-4453, International 927-379-6383, www.wildlandtrekking.com