DISCLAIMER….This post documents our vacation from September, 2019, We continue to write while being at home more than normal because of social distancing due to the coronavirus. We are about 1/2 way through our adventure and hope everyone is enjoying the posts. I encourage you and yours to visit all the beautiful places that the USA has to offer once our great nation overcomes this terrible obstacle in front of us. Stay safe and God bless, we will get through this!
Gibbon Falls was a great unplanned stop, but now we were back on the Grand Loop Hwy getting ready to turn left at Madison Junction and head South toward Old Faithful. It was getting later in the afternoon and as we drove closer to our final destination for the day, the traffic and geyser activity were both on the rise. Looking at the time and considering the crowds at each of the geyser basins, we decided to forgo any further stops and spend more time at Old Faithful. We had to be in Jackson Hole that night and knew time would only permit one more extended stop that day.
The scenery along Grand Loop Hwy from Madison Junction to Old Faithful is full of volcanic energy. When you visit Yellowstone, and see all the different areas where geothermal activity occurs, it’s readily apparent how large the caldera below the park really is. The road we were on has the highest concentration of geysers and geothermal activity in the entire park and the weather was perfect to highlight their features. The colder temperatures and the high humidity in the air meant steam was easily visible from the smallest of fissures to the largest of geysers. It seemed like the ground was smoking everywhere we looked. All this did was broaden our smiles and get us ready for the big show at Old Faithful.
We followed the signs and got off on the interchange for Old Faithful. That’s not a misprint, interchange like highway interchange. We knew this area would be large because of its popularity, but the infrastructure of the visitor area was even bigger than we imagined. You have the incredible and historic Old Faithful Inn, the Old Faithful Lodge (complete with an indoor recreation area, with a full size basketball court, known as Geyser Hall), the visitor center, other visitor centric spots and a HUGE parking area that was packed.
We parked and got out into a drizzle of tiny ice crystals and headed over to the Lodge to check it out first. We weren’t stressed about getting over to Old Faithful right away because we had just missed an eruption and knew there wouldn’t be another one for about 50 minutes to an hour. Yellowstone’s most famous geyser doesn’t erupt at an exact time but, it’s “faithful” enough that, the Park Service gives out approximate times for the next eruption. We grabbed an ice cream cone at the Lodge, went into Geyser Hall and shot some baskets. After killing a little time in the warmth the gym had to offer, we headed over for the big show.
Standing around Old Faithful with all the other tourists was kind of an out of body experience for us. We had seen and heard about “Her” our entire lives and now, we were finally going to see and feel something we had dreamed about since we were kids. All this anticipation boiled down to one moment and then it happened. Just like her namesake, she erupted right on time. Her outburst lasted 4 minutes this time, which seemed a lot shorter than it was. While we were watching, we wanted Her to keep going and going but, as with all good things, the eruption came to an end. There’s no way to adequately capture in words or video what it’s like to see Old Faithful and the geyser basin. The sites, the sounds, the smells, the feeling and the overall atmosphere are incredible. As beautiful as the pictures and videos are, it’s so much more of everything when you’re there.
With the eruption over until the next one in an hour or so, it was time to walk the geyser basin with easy boardwalk access right in the middle of the action. The variety of geysers and other geothermal features around the basin are incredible. The smell of sulphur in the air, the welcoming heat coming off the thermal features and the sounds of bubbling liquid were transfixing. On this day, we welcomed the heat as it was chilly and windy. The clouds were producing ice crystals that pelted our skin and I could have used windshield wipers for my glasses. What an experience! We could have spent an entire day just walking between geysers in the basin!
Once we had explored the basin until our time limit expired, we decided to seek out some hot chocolate and head over to “The Inn”. This is a must see even if you are not staying in one of their 327 rooms. It is as impressive from the outside as it is when you walk through into the lobby. The first thing you see is the massive clock/four sided fireplace. The warmth coming from this stone masterpiece was very welcoming. If my photo had been taken, you all would have seen my eyes and mouth open wide like a child on Christmas morning.
The glow from the lighting of the Old Faithful Inn provided tones of warmth and welcoming vibrato. With the violins playing, it was as if we had stepped into the history books and were visiting the Titanic on land.
Once we got our bearings, Frank noticed a lady to the right of the entrance in front of the gift shop who was selling books. It just so happened that she was Elizabeth Watry, an author from my own publisher, who had co-written Images of America, Yellowstone National Park. Of course, I went over to talk to her and after an extended conversation, I went into the gift shop and Frank bought me her book for my birthday which was the following day. I took it out to Elizabeth and she signed it. It is always great meeting other published authors who have endured the same writing experiences as you have.
We walked out of the Inn and into the first sun we had seen since early morning. Old Faithful was starting to erupt, right on time, and it was time for us to hit the highway and head toward Grand Teton. We watched this amazing natural phenomenon for the last time and walked slowly to the parking lot. Our emotional state was kind of a happy and excited melancholy. Happy and excited to have experienced such an amazing place and sad to be leaving. We suggest that you plan a day or two to walk the grounds and geyser basin for a “full on” Old Faithful experience. We took as much time as we could and it wasn’t enough. I suppose, we will just have to plan another trip.
Back on the road our adventure continued. The days and nights in and around Yellowstone were magical and we looked forward to what was to come.
Living in the Moment is what we do while enjoying our time in nature. If you missed any of the other Living in the Moment Series, you can click on them here. Just After Take Off, Day 1, Day 2 Mammoth Hot Spring, Day 2 Traffic Jam, Day 2 Undine Falls and Lava Creek, Lamar Valley – Slough Creek, Day 2 Trout Lake, Lunch at Otter Creek, Mount Washburn, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Paddling the Yellowstone River, The Tiny House, Old Yellowstone Trail, Gibbon Falls – Drive to Old Faithful. Please look forward to our next post as the adventure continues.