Wednesday, May 14, 2014

2014--May: 30th Anniversary in Yellowstone (part I)

Old Faithful Inn
Thirty years ago, on May 12th, 1984 Chimene Robertson became my wife and I became her husband.  We have had a great thirty years.  Our first apartment was a ramshackle, converted motel room in West Yellowstone, Montana.  For the next five years we moved between Provo, Utah and West Yellowstone, Montana.  We wintered in Utah and summered in Montana.

I had grown up in Rexburg, Idaho and West Yellowstone because my Dad taught at a local junior college in the winter and owned the Playmill Theatre and ran it in the summer.  So Yellowstone National Park is my home away from home.  I spent many wonderful hours there as a child, teenager, young adult and my new bride and I spent a lot of time in the park for the first five summers of our lives together.

One of the things we always talked about doing was spending a night in the Old Faithful Inn.  You might say it was the first item on our combined bucket list.  About two months ago, Chimene texted me and said she could get a reservation on our thirtieth wedding anniversary at the Old Faithful Inn.  I said, "Let's do it!"

For years, whenever we'd go into the park we would see something that looked interesting and we would say, "Someday we should do that."  Because of work or money or any number of excuses, we didn't do many of the things we wanted to do in Yellowstone.  About six years ago, we decided to drive from southern Idaho to Yellowstone to visit the park.  We didn't have an agenda that day, and Chimene looked at me and said, "I think it's 'someday'!"  I told her I thought she was right.  It's been 'someday' ever since for us. Now, instead of going to see all the same old stuff, Yellowstone has opened up to us and we have seen so many things that the average visitor never sees.  We love the park.  Every time we leave to come back home, I'm always planning the next trip.

Thirty years ago I decided to marry Chimene.  I consider it to be the best decision of my life.  I love you Babe.

We spent two days in Yellowstone.  The first day was all about the Old Faithful Inn.  The second day was all about the animals.  We decided to have a photo-safari and find as many wild animals as we could.  We took over five hundred photographs in those two days.  I won't post all of them, but I think it's still too much for a single blog post.  I will divide this trip into two parts.  Part I will be all about Old Faithful and Part II will be about the photo-safari.  I hope you will enjoy sharing this odyssey with me.

Part I

Day 1:  When driving in to Yellowstone from the town of West Yellowstone, the road follows the Madison River through a dense forest for seven miles.  The road then crosses a bridge called Seven Mile Bridge. From that point on, the road passes by open meadows, thickets, marshes and all other types of animal habitats.  We rarely see any significant animal life in the first seven miles but begin to see some of the major ungulates in the next seven.  We usually see elk and bison in the Madison River Valley.

I've seen ten hundred million billion bison and almost that many elk in my life so I don't usually stop for them unless I see something unique like bison or elk babies, or males fighting, or antlers coated in velvet.  Things like that.  That doesn't mean I don't like them.  I do.  I love both bison and elk.  I've just seen them a lot in my life.

At one of the turnouts just before Madison Junction, we saw a small herd of bison with some babies.  There were also a couple of young bulls practicing for the fall rut.  I had to get some pics of that.

Bison babies

Bison baby

Young bulls practicing

More practice

Who is going to win?

Oh, that guy is

No bison were injured in the making of these photos
We continued on to Old Faithful and checked into our room.  The temperature hovered around 37 degrees while we were there, so it was a little chilly.  I don't mind the cold as much as the Hot Chick does.  I grew up around it while she grew up in Seattle.  Lots warmer there.

Part of the charm of staying in the Old Faithful Inn was the idea of staying in the old section.  Robert Reamer, a 29 year old architect designed the Old Faithful Inn and built it in 1903.  Throughout the years he designed a few additions to the hotel.  The east wing is very rustic while the newer west wing is more modern.  The west wing was built in 1927, so it's not exactly new, but it lacks the rustic nature of the older east wing.  We stayed in the part of the inn called Old House.  The room we stayed in was original to 1903.  The east wing was extended in 1914.  Even though the west wing has the look and feel of a more modern hotel, it is important to note that it was designed and built under the supervision of the original architect, Robert Reamer.  All major additions and renovations were overseen by him.  Any work done on the building in recent years has been done with the intent of returning it to the original ideas.  This is a cool building.  Certain things have had to be changed.  A sprinkler system was installed, the bathroom situation was improved in some of the rooms.  Things like that.  By and large, though it looks very much the same as it did when it opened in 1903.

The original construction and the east wing extension were all built with locally harvested materials.  The foundation stones were harvested from the rhyolite flow around Black Sands Basin and the lodgepole pines were taken from the area within a five mile radius of Old Faithful.  Reamer sent teams of men all around to find bent wood for the arms and buttresses seen in the main lobby.

Indexed for inflation, the total cost of the Inn would be about 3 million in today's dollars.  You couldn't build it for that now.  I think the restoration they just did on it cost somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty million.  I also don't believe it's legal to harvest materials for construction within the park boundaries any longer.  Times have changed.  This building is on the National Historic Register and it has a ranking one above that as a National Historic Landmark.

The building has survived the 1959 earthquake and the fires of 1988.  It has also survived the ravages of time.  I love this old girl.

Many of the rooms in Old House do not have an in-room toilet.  There are communal restrooms and private showers convenient to the rooms in Old House.  To us, this was part of the charm of staying in the Old Faithful Inn.  We wished to stay in the oldest part of the building.  It didn't bother us at all that we didn't have in-room facilities.

Our room was about ten feet by fourteen feet.  Not very big.  There was a bed, a chest piece, a table and a small sink.  That was it.  No in-room television, no in-room telephone.  None of the amenities one would expect in a modern hotel room.  What it did have though was an unobstructed view of Old Faithful and a rustic charm.  We were in heaven.  When we opened the window and saw Old Faithful we decided we needed to see an eruption from our room.  Anyone can go out to the boardwalk and see the geyser go off.  Not many people can say they saw it from their hotel room!  We can.

Corner #1 in our room.  The wall lights are actually original to the building in 1903

Corner #2

Corner #3

Corner #4

Unobstructed view of Old Faithful Geyser

Modern lamp meant to evoke the style of the original building

Old style radiator

I like the detailing on the radiator.  I'd forgotten how much I like radiant heat

The door hardware in our room.  Awesome!

We were in room 48.  The door numbers in all the rooms and elsewhere were made from pencil rod steel, bent and welded.  Very cool.
We had a reservation to the dining room at 6:45.  The Hot Chick thought of everything!  We got a cold smoked salmon on corn cakes for an appetizer.  When it came, it looked a lot like salmon tartar.  It was pretty close to it.  Cooked but not cooked.  Raw but not quite.  I ate it but Chimene enjoyed it. I was determined to eat bison, but the only thing on the menu that was both bison and gluten free was their bison bolognese.  It was really more like spaghetti with bison chili on it.  I remembered the little old lady on the Wendy's commercials in the 70's, "Where's the beef?"  I kept looking for the bison in the sauce but found precious little of it.  Chimene, on the other hand ordered a red trout which was very good.  Desert made it all good, though.  They had a gluten free cheesecake/creme brulee with a raspberry syrup drizzled on it.  Made me forget all about the bison bolognese.  I told a friend from Alabama about that and he said his motto was, "When in doubt, order the steak."  I think I'll adopt that from now on.  Dinner wasn't so good for me, but it in no way spoiled my stay.  Not in the least.  I'll stay here again, but I'll know what to order next time.

After dinner, we kicked around the Inn for awhile and waited for Old Faithful to erupt so we could go see it from our room.  Chimene read by the enormous fireplace and I lurked around the inn with the camera.

The Hot Chick said watching Old Faithful from the hotel room was "Epic!" and that it "upped the ante exponentially."  I agree.

Hallway in the Old House

Dining room from the orchestra balcony

Local artist playing a carbon fiber cello.  The image is fuzzy because there was low light and I didn't want to disturb her playing by using the flash.  She played very well.

Immense stone fireplace

Timber construction of the lobby

The Hot Chick by the fire.  Also a little fuzzy because I used the zoom lens from the second balcony and used ambient light, no flash

The Hot Chick by the fireplace.  Notice how the fireplace tools are taller than she is!
Old Faithful at the beginning of the eruption.  Taken from inside the room
in the Inn.  No flash, camera stabilized by pressing it against the window frame.

More eruption

Getting bigger

Full blown eruption


Seeing Old Faithful from the room was far superior to anything an in-room television could have offered.  After that we turned in for the night.

Day 2:  At about six o'clock the next morning, my eyes popped open.  We were facing the east and something about that big round glowing orb in the sky told me to wake up.  I got up and got ready and let Chimene sleep for a little while longer.  I decided to go out to see Old Faithful in the morning.  It was chilly but I had a nice jacket on so it didn't bother me.  I also lurked around the lobby with the camera for awhile as well.

There was a beautiful mountain bluebird eating breakfast near the geyser.  I watched it while I was waiting.  That's the state bird of Idaho, by the way.  When Old Faithful went off this time there was no breeze at all so the water was obscured by the steam.  I discovered that a slight breeze that blows the steam away from the geyser is ideal.  You get to see the steam and the water.  Didn't know that before.

After the geyser erupted, Chimene texted me to let me know she was ready and we went to breakfast.  I woke up with a bit of a headache and by the time we sat down to eat it was raging.  After breakfast, there was a tour of the inn that we had wanted to go on.  I told Chimene to go on it without me and I was going to take a nap to try to beat the headache.  I'm glad I did because it helped.  If I had not done so I do not think I could have beaten the headache.  She enjoyed the tour and spent the next hour of the drive telling me what she had learned.  It was very interesting.  So much so that I wish to take the tour for myself.  Sometime this summer I will.  I am glad I took the nap and I am glad she took the tour.  It made the rest of the day so much more enjoyable.

After we checked out, I loaded the car and noticed Old Faithful was getting ready to erupt again.  So I had to watch it a third time.

Stairs near our room in the Old House

Buttress support for the balcony made of bent wood

Really cool newel post

And it's brother

There were railings like this all over the place.

The doors were heavy and rugged.  Designed to withstand grizzly bears and
Indian uprisings.  The guests in the early 1900's were actually afraid of that.
We've come a long way baby.

I found this book in the giftshop.  No, I didn't buy it.  Tempted...

The doors from the outside

Our room from the outside.  Great view of the geyser from room 48

Upper Geyser Basin in the early morning hours

The bluebird of happiness

Old Faithful obscured by steam

Still impressive nevertheless

Iron chandelier

Orchestra balcony in the dining room

Heavy iron chandeliers

Scissor trusses in the dining room

Even the table bases are cool

Original artwork from the bar downstairs.  Now in the snack shop upstairs.
Done by sandblasting and frisketing Douglas Fir.

The Crows Nest about seventy feet above the floor

Timbering meant to evoke the mighty lodgepole pine

Stairs to the Crows Nest

Rhyolite drinking fountain

A view of the exterior

And another view

Old Faithful, third eruption



This is a different angle than I've ever seen it before

Parting shot of the Hamilton Stores.  As we left Old Faithful, I decided to take a picture of the Hamilton Stores sign and the Knotty Porch.  Hamilton Stores is the primary vendor to Yellowstone National Park.

This is enough for now.  This was the best anniversary we have ever had.  Chimene suggested that we make it a tradition.  I'm all for that.  I will continue blogging about this trip on Part II.

Hamilton Stores

The Knotty Porch


  1. LOVED IT!!! I'd LOVE to stay at the INN!!! I Never get tired of going there!!! Loved your dialogue!!

  2. You ever want to borrow the book, I have one. Loved your pics!