Christmas in Yellowstone

“Well, other than fly-fishing and being the filming location for A River Runs Through It and Horse Whisperer, I don’t really know where else to point you in Livingston…”, the young, skibum-like barista shrugged his shoulders. We were the last customers and he wanted to close down and call it a day.

It was 12/24 and we found Chadz, a small coffee shop in Livingston, MT, just an hour from the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park, to escape the freezing temperature. Outside the windows, the afternoon sun barely penetrated the clouds, and the entire town felt like a theatre deserted by all its audience. I was thrilled though, since this was what brought me to this part of the country in dead winter – the solitude and silence.

The last time I visited Yellowstone was 10 years ago. Being my first road-trip, I tried to pack as many destinations as possible, and Yellowstone almost became an insubstantial stopover on our way from Montana to Utah. It was the middle of the summer; we wowed at the eruption of Old Faithful with hundreds of other visitors, weaved our ways among crowds to the upper terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs, and felt too exhausted by the heat to walk to Morning Glory Pool. We were amazed by the abundance of wildlife, and perhaps even more so, by the abundance of Homosapien.

The rest of the memory has long vaporized like steam arising from the numerous geysers. Here I am, sitting in an empty coffee house 50 miles away from America’s first national park, knowing that I would see a totally different park this time.