This will take up more time than some want to spend reading; so I will break it up into five parts. Some will be longer than others.
Part I: Preparations and Travel
Like many, I am on a limited budget, so when my wife and I, along with my two sisters decided we wanted to do a photo trip to Yellowstone, money was one of our main considerations. With no large camper or motor-home, we were dependent on rented lodging. Even with a camper or motor-home, the rest of the trip described here would apply just as well. We all knew the purpose of going there was to do photography and nothing else, so we began to plan the trip. Lodging would need to be a clean place to sleep and take showers and nothing more. A coffee pot and tea water would get us out the door before sunrise in the mornings, and we would take healthy snacks to allow us to eat breakfast and lunch on the move. We would end the day with a sit-down meal that did not need to be elaborate in any way. Fifteen days of this would give us time to cover most of Yellowstone as well as the Grand Tetons as long as we were on the road before daylight and back to our sleeping place after dark. I had done extensive research on the most likely locations to see wildlife and the best times, as well as best times and locations for scenic shots.
We coordinated with Fed Ex on transit times from our different homes and shipped our tripods and heavy clothing to ourselves in care of the FedEx office nearest the Billings, MT airport. We coordinated airline reservations, then my sisters drove to my house and we all flew together from Atlanta to Billings. At Billings, we rented a mid-sized SUV, loaded our suitcases and camera bags, then swung by the FedEx office and retrieved our shipments. A quick stop at the Walmart on the way out of Billings for a small cooler and food supplies and we were on our way. The forecast was for snow over the Beartooth Highway, and I wanted to get through there before they closed the roads. GPS worked fine in Billings; but once we entered the Beartooth we were on our own for the rest of the trip. It snowed the whole way; but the roads remained clear and we arrived in Silver Gate, MT around 6:00 PM. We secured our two tiny little cabins (Whispering Pines) in Silver Gate, which is about one mile from the northeast entrance to Yellowstone, and prepared to head out on our first day come morning. I laughed when I first saw the winter clothes my sister from Florida had shipped; however, before the trip was done, I was wishing I had done the same.
We had dinner at the Log Cabin Café, which turned out to be one of our favorite places, then went back to our cabins to get organized for the first day of our photo adventure. One night we drove into Cooke City to eat, and were disappointed we had not gone back to the Log Cabin Café. We were happy to find a coffee pot in one cabin and a microwave and small stove in the other. We got our gear organized and got ready for the fist day of our photography expedition.