(This is a guest post by Abbigail Kriebs on getting outside and using the off-season to get away. As much as I enjoy writing about the outdoors, I enjoy reading about it, and I’m pleased Abbigail sent me this account of a trip to Yellowstone. Parks take on a different aspect in the off-season, and I envy her seeing a near-empty Yellowstone in its winter garb.

By day, Abbigail Kriebs is the associate editor of a B2B publication with an audience of about 30,000. By night, she is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer. She is trying to remember to blog about life, books, and story at www.inkwellsandimages.com.)

Sometimes, you need to live life at a slower pace. I’ve been learning that this year, over and over again. In a life that is lived amongst cubicle farms and email notifications, there is just too much hurry, too much bustle. Sadly, not many of us can do anything about it: these are our jobs, our livelihoods. The way we put bread on the table.

I have discovered, though, that frequent escapes to the woods are good for the soul.

 A year ago now, my husband and I decided to take a page from everyone around us and go to the beach. We saved, we packed, and we flew down to the beautiful island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean. We stayed at a nice resort and enjoyed the sun and the sand. But the only day that we look back on and wish we could relive is the day we climbed Gros Piton, the largest mountain on the island. It was the one day that we were surrounded by trees and birds – by nature, and not man-made artifice. It was lovely, but such a small part of the trip. We came home still restless, still wishing for more time.

Fast-forward to this year, and we decided to go on a completely different sort of trip: one that was truly an escape from the everyday. We decided to head west and spend a few days in Yellowstone National Park in the middle of winter. Since home base for us is Wisconsin, we are no strangers to the cold and snow. Our friends and neighbors just could not understand why we were trading one snow-covered landscape for another. Our reply: have you ever smelled mountain air in the winter? We hadn’t, but we knew that it was what we wanted – and needed. So, west we went. We packed all our winter gear, loaded up the car, and along with good friends drove over 1,000 miles just to get away. And it was well worth it.

 Often called America’s favorite National Park, Yellowstone National Park is even more of a retreat in the winter months. I have heard that only 5% of the visitors to the park travel there in the winter. The park closes all the roads at the first snowfall, leaving them unplowed until the spring thaw. This creates not only an air of mystery, but one of preservation and apart-ness. The vistas have an air about them of being chosen. Visitors must gather at the south or west entrances and be shuttled into the park, often by Bombardiers (Bom – bar – dee -ay, as they are from French Canada), as shown here.

 Our journey into the park was magical. it was my first time seeing the park at all, and the view in the winter was just breathtaking.  The day we went snowshoeing was like taking a step back in time. I felt almost how early pioneers would have felt, had they made it a practice to snowshoe while wearing North Face parkas. We had the privilege to snowshoe the rim of the canyon at Yellowstone, and the eight of us in our group were the only ones on the trail – the only people for miles and miles. There was a hush about the woods that allowed my soul to quiet like it never could in the office. My self expanded to be the person that I wanted to be always, but that fought against time constraints and expectations back home.

 There is something in us that responds to the woods like it responds to no other thing on earth. While I know that others enjoy the beach or a vast skyline, I am never more at home than in the woods where there is life and shelter and beauty all around. I understand why Neil focuses so much of his time enjoying and reflecting on the outdoors. I can’t ever get enough, either.