Old But Faithful

Friday, September 12, 2008 Road Junkies 0 Comments

MELLOW YELLOW ROAD TRIP, CHAPTER 7:  IN WHICH WE MEET THE YELLOWSTONE QUEEN 

Day 7:  West Yellowstone, MT to Lake Yellowstone, MT.   Five miles after we entered Yellowstone Park this morning, cars parked along the roadway foretold the presence of wildlife. When we reached the area, we discovered several elk on either side of the roadway, some within about six feet.
Roadside elk

Signs throughout the park warn visitors to stay at least 25 feet away from wildlife—for the safety of the animals and the visitors. However, it was not unusual to see tourists standing about 3 feet from these large and dangerous animals for a photo op. 

We had another day of perfect weather. It was 31 degrees when we left the hotel in West Yellowstone this morning but quickly warmed up to the mid fifties—perfect for a visit to Firehole Falls, a 40-foot high waterfall at the foot of dark rhyolite cliffs.
Firehole Falls

After visiting some other geyser fields, we made our way to the famed Old Faithful. Not favoring overcrowded sites, we were a bit skeptical about the Old Faithful experience, thinking it might be too jammed to enjoy. We were wrong. Although there was a significant group present for each eruption (times are publicized), the viewing area was sufficiently spread out that you could still get a good look with no interference.
Old Faithful's large fan club

This old geyser did not disappoint. She performed right on schedule to the delight of the crowd. Although we expected a reaction like cheering or applause, the response to the 70-80 foot eruption was more akin to subdued awe.
Old Faithful, right on schedule
Thanks to Jeanne for telling us about the Old Faithful web cam. We had a lot of fun with it. The Old Faithful area is one of the few in the park where we actually had an AT&T cell signal, so we contacted family and friends and waved to them from the web cam while they watched on the internet. Other park visitors who heard us followed suit with their friends and relatives.

Ken waves to the web cam

Web cams on tree near viewing area for Old Faithful
Old Faithful Inn

Near the geyser are a visitor center, post office, several gift shops, and a couple of lodges. We were enchanted with the Old Faithful Inn, one of the world’s largest log buildings, completed in 1904. The log rafters of the seven-story lobby rise nearly 80 feet.

The logs used in the construction are lodgepole pines, which comprise about 80 percent of the trees in Yellowstone.
Lodgepole pine forest

Lodgepole pines, with their straight polelike trunks, are self-pruning and often have limbs only near the top of the tree. Lodgepole pine cones have two kinds of seeds, some of which are dispersed annually like other pines, while others which are released only after fire melts the resin sealing those seeds in the cone.
Lodgepole pine cone
As a result of this phoenix-like quality, large tracts of Yellowstone which suffered forest fires in 1988 (and other smaller areas since) have been naturally replanted by the lodgepoles themselves. Areas with fire-ravaged older trees are interspersed with baby lodgepoles throughout the park.

Young lodgepole pines seeded after a fire

We ended the day at Yellowstone Lake, staying for the first time in lodging within the park. We lucked into a new cabin, which is very clean and pleasant but as promised on the Yellowstone web site, is not “corrupted” with telephone, internet or television. A neighborhood bison foraged by the roadside as we neared the lodge.
Hanging out in the neighborhood
FRIDAY, 12 SEPTEMBER 2008