Old Faithful

Lewis Falls was just off the highway

The first part of out trip had gone well. We had a nice evening in Jackson Hole. We did a great hike at Jenny Lake. We had an incredible stay at Jackson Lake Lodge. The next morning Shannon and Jimmy did a horseback ride while Sandy and I stayed at the lodge and tried, unsuccessfully, to do a hike. Now it was midday and we were leaving Grand Teton National Park and moving on to Yellowstone National Park.

We didn't have a specific destination in mind. Our plan was to go to the nearest Visitor Center, which would be at Grant Village at Yellowstone Lake. There we would see what information we could get to help us plan the rest of the day. On our way there, about ten miles into the park, I noticed cars parked along both sides of the road as I approached a bridge. I pulled over and parked and we walked over to see why everyone was stopping. Maybe a hundred yards upriver from the bridge was Lewis Falls, a thirty foot high waterfall. With the river overflowing with spring snowmelt, it was an impressive sight.

Lewis River and typical Yellowstone wilderness

At the Visitor Center there was a large electronic display that gave a projected time for the next eruption of Old Faithful. It said that it would be in an hour and a half. Everyone wants to see Old Faithful when they visit Yellowstone so we quickly decided that we would go there first. We figured that we had plenty of time to get there, park, look around, and get to a good viewing spot. Even though it was less than twenty miles away, after experiencing the crowds in Yosemite on our trip there last month, we wanted to allow time in case there was heavy traffic or some other delay.

On the way we passed another large turnout. I pulled in and we got a chance to see Kepler Cascades. It was another beautiful waterfall, just a short distance off the road. Both above and below the main falls, the Firehole River plunged down a narrow, rocky canyon in a dramatic series of cascades. Without doing any work we were seeing some spectacular sights.

Kepler Cascades

As we drove through the park we were pleasantly surprised that the traffic wasn't that bad - until we got to the turnoff for Old Faithful. It wasn't just a road junction. It was a freeway-style interchange. The main highway through the park was only two lanes. When we turned off for Old Faithful, it changed to divided highway with two lanes in each direction. Traffic was backed up and moving slowly. There were people every few hundred yards directing cars to the very large and numerous parking areas and encouraging them to keep moving. It felt like going to a big stadium for a major sporting event.

Once we were parked we had to figure out where to go. Old Faithful Village has a lot of development: the old lodge building, a new hotel, visitor center, store, restaurant, and various Park Service maintenance buildings. Eventually we found our way to the geyser basin where Old Faithful was featured front and center. There were a lot of bleacher style seats all around for watching the show. We had arrived in plenty of time. The Park Service gave a projected next eruption time plus or minus ten minutes. We had half an hour till the start of the window. Sandy grabbed a spot in the bleachers. Shannon and Jimmy went off and sat in the shade. I took the time to look around.

There were LOTS of people waiting to see Old Faithful erupt

Our friend Janet, who stays at our house with Abby while we are away on trips like this, worked at Old Faithful Inn for a summer when she was young. I took some pictures, both inside and outside of the lodge. This was time well spent because I discovered that there was an ice cream shop just off the lobby. This info would come in handy later.

One of the things that Sandy said that she really wanted to see during our visit to Yellowstone was a bison. They are common in the park but you obviously can't predict where you might encounter one. Well, as I was walking by the lodge, there was one lying on the grass, apparently oblivious to the fact that there were hundreds if not thousands of people walking by. While I wouldn't have been surprised to see bison along the road, finding one here was just weird, where there were crowds of people more appropriate for Disneyland than for the wilderness. It didn't seem to bother the bison though.

Old Faithful was right on time and put on a good show

Now it was time to head back for Old Faithful. By now a sizeable crowd had gathered and the bleachers around the geyser were full and then some. Every few minutes there would be a sound from the geyser and everyone would lean forward in anticipation. Then some water would spew out, maybe a foot into the air, and the crowd would gasp and everyone would grab their cameras to be ready. Sandy asked how long the eruption lasted and I said "About three to five minutes, if I remember correctly."

Old Faithful teased everyone for five or ten minutes before it finally really erupted for real. It was impressive, with water flying well over a hundred feet into the air and a huge steam plume issuing from the vent. It made all the earlier excitement about the one foot bursts seem pretty silly. I got lots of pictures and even some video. It did go for several minutes, long enough that most people did their oohs and ahs, took their pictures, and then actually got up and left before it finished. I guess most people have short attention spans. At least we stayed until it was completely finished.

Old Faithful Lodge

Next we headed over to the lodge. When I mentioned ice cream, everyone wanted to check it out. The ice cream shop was crowded but that didn't deter us. We were willing to wait in line. It was worth it too. Jimmy treated us all. I got salty carmel ice cream and it was delicious.

While we were eating I mentioned the bison that I had seen. At first everyone was skeptical but then they wanted to check him out. He had moved but we found him easily and everyone got their photos. It was a little anticlimactic. It doesn't sound that adventurous to photograph an animal that's sleeping in the sun while hundreds of people walk by fifty feet away. But we could always leave that little detail out when we told our stories and we did get good pictures.

Before leaving we walked through the rest of the village. We checked out the visitor center (no good tshirts). We went by the general store (still no good tshirts). Then it was back to the car and time to head out. Although lots of people were leaving, the Park Service was set up pretty well and it didn't take us long to get back to the main road and on our way.

A bison taking an afternoon nap next to Old Faithful Lodge

It was late afternoon so we decided to head out of the park. Our reservations for the night were in Cody Wyoming, the gateway town outside of the east entrance to the park. We had about a hundred and twenty miles to go and Google said it would take us over two and a half hours to get there. I had picked Cody because my recollection from my last visit to Yellowstone, over forty years ago, was that the east section was the prettiest. I also thought Shannon and Jimmy would enjoy seeing an old west town like Cody.

My memory turned out to be pretty good. We drove by Yellowstone Lake, which was very pretty, except for some sections where there had been bad forest fires in previous years. As we drove out through the east entrance, we went through some very nice mountains as well. Sandy was getting anxious since she thought it was a long way to drive, so I didn't do my usual photo stops. We made good time and got to Cody about six in the evening.