Yellowstone National Park
May 27, 2018
Witnessing Old Faithful seems like an American rite of passage, so why did it feel so anticlimactic? Maybe visiting Iceland’s “original” Geysir months prior spoiled me. Or maybe I had become jaded by the sheer volume of eruptions I observed over the past three days. Or maybe the overzealous hype set my expectations too high. Whatever the reason, I am saddened to say that Old Faithful was not the highlight of my trip to Yellowstone. But the inn, however, fascinated me.
When we drove into the Old Faithful area, Buffalo Bill’s direct commentary read that we “absolutely must go in and view the lobby of the Old Faithful Inn. You really should do it. Really. You have to see it.” He wasn’t joking either. Mom and I both found the lodge at Old Faithful more impressive than the geyser itself. The “park-itecture” of this lodge feels reminiscent of a huge treehouse constructed from locally sourced timber. Laborers worked through the winters of 1903 and 1904 to create the icon we stand in awe of today. According to the booking website, the Old Faithful Inn is considered the largest log structure in the world.
A grand lobby with a tall stone-built fireplace welcomed us inside. The way long logs connected to form the terraces four tiers up made me feel like a kid at a luxurious summer camp. I had never seen a lodge created from such simple materials that felt so elegant in design. Mom and I checked the Old Faithful prediction clock and devoured two bison bratwursts before the next scheduled eruption. As the time approached, we made our way upstairs where we grabbed beers to take outside on the balcony that directly faced the American legend. Anticipation could be what makes experiencing Old Faithful so thrilling but in spite, the build-up is what left me feeling so devoid. The significant amount of steam that arises with the gushing hot water too easily masks what I enjoy about these nature fountains. Even though this geyser is impressively tall, it does not boast any superlatives. Perhaps the novelty of an eruption so large so often (approximately every 90 minutes) is enough for everyone to love Old Faithful.
We stayed our last two nights in West Yellowstone, a small Montana town outside the boundaries of Yellowstone park. From here, we could easily access the remaining southwestern part of the park including densely populated geysers around the Old Faithful area. In two days, we leisurely enjoyed walking around the natural gems in the vicinity. One full day here would have felt too rushed. Also, you’ll want to make time for the inevitable bison traffic jam on your way out of the park due to one bison mounting the other in the middle of the road.
Throughout our visit to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, we observed incredible displays of wildlife. While it was disappointing to not spot a single grizzly, we did rest easy that our bear bells kept us safe. Even though our time in the parks was over, our vacation was not. To save an enormous amount of money on flights, we chose to fly in and out of Salt Lake City. On our drive back through Idaho, we briefly stopped at Upper Mesa Falls before finishing our monotonous trek back to beautiful Utah. After watching the Book of Mormon in Melbourne with Anthony and his family for his dad’s 70th birthday, I had a good idea of what kind of social experience we might find in “Sal Tlay Ka Siti,” but Mom and I were not prepared enough. The strict alcohol laws shocked us, even as Virginians. You can feel the church’s presence everywhere, even sitting in traffic behind a car advertising Amen Trees. Apparently “trees are the Answer,” but I’m not even sure what the question was…
With the over 4 million tourists traveling to Yellowstone annually, we found the end of May a great time of year to visit. Next time, we would like to splurge on a stay at the Old Faithful Inn and hopefully find better luck in spotting a grizzly (from a distance). Thanks to those who had the foresight to protect this land in the early 1870s, we are fortunate enough today to appreciate Yellowstone’s unspoiled beauty.
What is your favorite part about Yellowstone? Share in the comments below!
Stay tuned for a full itinerary of our Grand Tetons and Yellowstone trip