Friday, August 31, 2012

More about the Inn

Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872, but it took many years for the current features to be developed (hotels, roads, etc...).  Though today seen as iconic the Old Faithful Inn wasn't the first hotel in the park.

The Old Faithful Inn welcomed its first guests June 1, 1904.  It has weathered severe winters, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, and the fires of 1988....  Its design is the creative work of Robert Reamer, a 29-year-old architect from Ohio.  he utilized local materials to recreate a forest indoors; the lobby measures 76'6".  The lodgpole [sic] pine, including twisted supports, was cut 4 miles south of the site.  500 tons of rhyolite rock were quarried 5 miles away to build the mountainous lobby chimney.  Blacksmith George Colpitts forged the hardware for all the doors, fireplace tools and the clock frame on site.  Construction of the original 140 rooms, today called the "Old House", took place in just 13 months time.
--from Xanterra Old Faithful Inn brochure
The building is beautiful, and quite distinctive and recognizable, even from a distance.  I'm sure we came by here when I visited Yellowstone 15 years ago, but I don't remember too much about it.  The closer you get the more obvious the various bits of architecture are that give the building its distinctive style.

Finally, in 1891, the road from Old Faithful to Yellowstone Lake was completed and visitors could travel a southern loop around the park.  More people came on their own and stayed in the rustic lodgings around Old Faithful.  To serve their needs, stores and additional tent camps opened.
Stagecoach tourists expected finer accommodations than existed at Old Faithful.  A large hotel was needed. And so, the Old Faithful Inn was begun in 1903 and opened in 1904.  Now the Old Faithful area could lodge visitors of all incomes and expectations.
--from NPS Old Faithful Historic District brochure (50¢ donation)

As I mentioned before the building is well situated for views of Old Faithful.
There are actually multiple clocks situated around the building predicting the time of the next eruption.  Not all of them were this beautiful wood design--but several were similar.
The Old Faithful Inn has been hosting visitors since June 1904.  Designed by Robert Reamer, it is an early example of rustic architecture (also known as "parkitecture").  The east wing opened in 1914; the west wing in 1927.  Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987, the Inn almost burned in the fires of 1988.  Pavement, stead streams of water from fire hoses, newly installed roof sprinklers, and a last-minute shift in the wind saved the building.
--from NPS Old Faithful Historic District brochure (50¢ donation)
 The building is amazing, and was intricately detailed both inside and out.  Wood is the dominant feature, especially the malformed lodgepole pine branches and trunks used as railings and decorative supports.

The building was started in 1903 and construction continued through the winter.  We took a tour of the building the morning that we checked out and our guide explained that there were only a couple pictures of the building under construction and neither one shows very much detail.

Its mighty walls and stone fireplace rose skyward as the first snows of 1903 fell.  Begun in the summer, work on the Inn continued swiftly throughout the bitterest cold of a Yellowstone winter.  In the heart of the Rockies, on a high plateau surrounded by 10,000 foot mountain ranges, winter in the park comes early and stays late.  For seven to eight months of every year the ground lies frozen under a blanket of white.  Temperatures can drop to sixty below and may hover around zero for days or weeks at a time.  Blizzards rage and winds howl.  Snow depths reach four to ten feet standing.  Drifts lie up to twenty feet deep.  it would have been a hard place to be, thirty miles from the nearest community at West Yellowstone, and it took a tough breed of men to endure the hardships which they must have faced.
--from The Inn at Old Faithful, by Susan C Scofield (c) 1979; p 9

In the past guests were allowed to go up on the roof.  However since an earthquake damaged the stairs leading up to the upper landings and the roof they have been closed off from most people.  I think that one person a day can go up when the flags are lowered--but I don't remember if that is a current policy, or an old one.
[W]here the roofridge ends, the flagpoles begin, adding another twenty to thirty feet to the height of the whole.  Flown daily are the American Flag, the Wyoming State flag, and pennants representing the National Park Service and the current concessioner.
--from The Inn at Old Faithful, by Susan C Scofield (c) 1979; p 15

Outside I even got to take a picture of one of the iconic yellow tour buses that travels around Yellowstone.  Sometime it might be fun to take a ride in one of these--but I'd save that for a trip where we aren't trying to see as much as possible.  To really maximize a tour and see what I find interesting I think it is important to have my own transportation.
 We actually ate in the Inn's main dining room.  The food was a bit pricey, but I think it was worth it for the ambiance and the experience.  We took our time and enjoyed the evening.  I particularly enjoyed the painting of Old Faithful that was hung on the fireplace.  I took a picture that you can see below but didn't think to capture any other pertinent information about the piece.

Tomorrow I'll have more about the tour, including several videos.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Inn Old Faithful

No, I'm not going to talk about being inside Old Faithful (though I have seen an interesting video where researchers did lower a camera into the geyser's mouth to study its plumbing), notice the extra "n".  When we planned our summer trip route through Yellowstone I thought of Old Faithful Inn.

I've loved the old National Park lodges for years.  My parents bought me a book about the park lodges (based off the PBS TV series).  It is a great coffee table book with many wonderful pictures and stories about the history of the lodges:
Stand amid soaring Douglas fir in the great hall of Glacier Park Lodge or sit in the setting sun and gaze into the Grand Canyon at El Tovar. This beautiful gift book will transport you to the majestic lodges of our national parks to relive the glory of past vacations or plan adventures anew. This book and the PBS television series of the same title (to air in spring 2002) take armchair travelers into these architectural wonders and explore the surrounding natural beauty of our national parks. Lodges, wildlife, and stunning vistas are showcased in 175 full-color and black-and-white photographs, along with historical documents from the PBS series. In his introduction, Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, offers a call to preserve this national heritage, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book go toward the rehabilitation of these magnificent buildings.--from the book description on
Anyway, I really enjoy the National Park Lodges, especially Old Faithful Inn.  I've only seen pictures, but I would love to explore Disney's Wilderness Lodge (based on the same architectural style).  I soon discovered that you need to book your stay months (12-18 to be precise) in advance to get the reservations that you want.  Thankfully I was able to find a one-night reservation in Old Faithful Inn on the night that we were arriving in the park (June 8, 2012).  The opening I found was in the old part of the Inn with shared bathrooms.  We actually enjoyed this part of the building more than we would have the newer portions (I say newer, but they're all still decades old).  The room was dominated by wood and wood accents--it was everything that I thought it would be...and better!

A few years the rooms were all remodeled and sinks were added--or upgraded.  As you can see in the left-hand picture above the sinks resemble washbasins.  You get hot and cold running water, so you can always wash your hands or brush your teeth in the privacy of your room.  It was only a short walk down the hall to visit the bathroom--and it was very nicely decorated with stone and shiny metal features.  It looked very classy as well as old, in a good way--classic let's say.  None of my pictures really do the room justice (please pardon the unmade bed--I didn't think to take these pictures until we were leaving to check out.
Here is a video tour of the room, briefly done, again, right before we checked out.

The fixtures were all either old or they were reproductions designed to look old.
We also got to walk up a couple flights of stairs to our room and I enjoyed the walk each time.

At one point during the evening we checked into the Inn I had to run out to our car to get something.  I noticed that Old Faithful was erupting and grabbed a quick video with my iPhone.

The inn was built so that visitors driving or riding up to the front of the building would get a great view of the famous geyser.  The front porch features a large number of benches and the same great view.  I'd like to stay at the inn again sometime (for more than one day) and enjoy some time relaxing around the place.

Another reason to go back is to enjoy the fireplace.  During an earthquake in 1959 the massive central fireplace was damaged, and since then only one of the flues has been fully functional.  This summer the decision was made to refurbish the fireplace.  All of the interior bricks were taken out and the flues completely cleared.  For the first time in decades all four hearths will be able to be used.  Unfortunately our only views of the fireplace were behind plastic sheeting.

 Another area where I would like to relax (and perhaps do some writing) is the balcony areas where several old writing desks are available for use.  They look amazing and it would be fun to write letters or even jot down some notes for more blog entries from one of those chairs.

Tomorrow's post will reveal more pictures from the inside and outside of the inn along with much of its history!


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Old Faithful Education

On the afternoon of June 8, 2012 Amy and I arrived in Yellowstone National Park and drove to Old Faithful Inn where I had managed to snag reservations for one night in the oldest part of the building.  There will be more about that in another post--but it was an amazing place to stay!  After we checked in we decided to make the most of the season's abundant daylight and explore the area of the upper geyser basin on foot.

One of the first things we saw was the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center.  [Random note, did you catch the palindrome in the last sentence?]

It is a fairly new building--well new to me.  The last time I was in Yellowstone was 1997, fifteen years ago.  So anything that is new since then is considered new in my book--and this one did open only a couple years ago.  The stamp I got in my passport book all those years ago doesn't actually exist any more.  I just discovered that you can virtually visit this center on-line, so check it out at this link.

Yellowstone’s hydrothermal features have always fascinated park visitors. The “curiosities” of the area—the geysers and other hydrothermal wonders—spurred further exploration and led to the eventual protection of Yellowstone as the world’s first national park. Today these natural wonders draw approximately three million visitors to the park each year. 
The new Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, opened Aug. 25, 2010, and tells the story of Yellowstone’s hydrothermal wonders.--from the NPS Old Faithful Virtual Visitor Center

There were a good number of exhibits inside, but it is important to remember that Yellowstone itself is the main exhibit, so visitor centers only supplement what you can experience outside.

Did you realize that Yellowstone (most of the park anyway) sits in the cone of a massive not-completely-extinct volcano?  It has erupted several times in the past (since the Flood on a Creationist timeline) and that ash traveled quite a way away from the area.  Compare it with the Mount St. Helen's eruption on the above map.

I knew that I lived in an earthquake prone area in California--but Yellowstone experiences many earthquakes as well!  They're actually good for the geothermal features (for the most part).  While they do occasionally shut down existing features they also serve to keep the "pipes" running by jarring lose obstructions.  Because of the sensitive nature of these systems the park doesn't allow any utilizing of the energy inherent in geothermal systems.  In other places (New Zealand and Iceland for example) it has been observed that messing with the system often causes unforeseen reactions.  Nobody wants to be responsible for Old Faithful shutting down!

There are several fairly common types of rocks native to the Yellowstone area due to the massive amount of geothermal activity.

We saw quite a few of these "bobby socks" trees as we traveled around the park.

This may only be a model, but it did give us a good preview of many of the features that we would see during our trip around the park.  I lost count of how many hot water pools and geothermal features that we saw.

One of the amazing things about all of the features is the sheer number of bacteria that live in the often boiling hot waters!

Amy and I each picked up one of these fascinating free lenticular bookmarks.  As you angle the bookmark you can see an eruption of Old Faithful.  I picked up plenty of guides and purchased many postcards.  I like to have all the information I can about an area--and I want to be prepared for the next time that we visit Yellowstone.

This chunk of rock is a remnant from the explosion of Porkchop Geyser in 1989.  The visitor center was great to visit--and if I recall correctly we even stuck around for a special ranger presentation about travel in Yellowstone in the early 1900s--but I don't remember if I recorded any of the presentation.


PS The above pictures and a couple more are in this album:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

First Views of Yellowstone

We left my sister Cheryl's house early on the morning of Friday, June 8 to dive to Yellowstone.  Along the way we briefly stopped in Pocatello to visit with my good college friend Jeremiah.  But then we pushed on towards Yellowstone.  We had reservations that evening in the Old Faithful Inn.  We only were able to get reservations for one night, so I wanted to make sure we had enough time to enjoy it.

We did stop for gas in West Yellowstone, but didn't stop to see anything else.  I figured that we would come back out to the town at least once during our stay in the park (and we did end up doing this).  Again it was nice to present my pass and drive in without paying (this would have been our expensive visit with a 7 day pass to Yellowstone and Grand Teton costing $25).  I couldn't resist stopping when we saw our first bison.

Of course bison are so numerous in the park that after a couple days we didn't stop any more--but we decided the people that did stop were all park newbies as we had been just a short time earlier.

We did follow the rules and stayed a safe distance from the bison, however, we saw plenty of other people getting too close.  I'm not sure why so many people feel like flaunting the rules--but they are only in place to keep visitors and the animals safe.

Amy's favorite sight was seeing the young bison.  It wasn't exactly spring, but there were still enough young animals around that she was quite happy seeing them.

I'm pleasantly surprised how these shots turned out.

I also noticed the hills, especially the fallen logs, wonder if this was an area that had seen fire sweep through at some point in the recent past.

If you'll notice from the first picture above (and the video) not all of the bison were in the fields.  They are quite accustomed to wandering anywhere they want to.  It can make for some interesting traffic delays.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Jumping the Creek

We spent much of our time in Idaho at my sister's house, and it was very nice to relax and spend time with her family, especially getting to know my nieces better.  One day we headed up to a local canyon to take a hike.  I'm glad we took the hike, not only because it was a fun adventure, but because fire swept through the area the next month:
A wildfire in the Jump Creek Canyon area southwest of Marsing charred about 1,400 acres and was continuing to burn Sunday evening....The Bureau of Land Management has responded to an unusually high number of wildfires this year because a lack of rain and snow has left grasses especially dry and fluffy.--from the Idaho Press-Tribune
I hadn't been to my sister Cheryl's house since 1999, when they were still building their house.  In fact I don't even remember spending much time inside the house that trip--I'm not sure if I ever saw the upstairs--as my parents and I stayed in our tent trailer in the driveway.  So this was a long overdue trip to see my sister, brother-in-law, nieces, and nephew.  We didn't have too much on the agenda apart from relaxing and celebrating a couple of birthdays (my wife and sister share the same birthday--exactly twenty years apart).  One the same day that we hiked up Jump Creek Canyon we also drove into Oregon so that Amy could say that she visited the state.  Of course we'd like to visit more of the state in future years (including the Pacific coast), but it would have been a shame to be so close--in far western Idaho--and not to visit.
The area around the canyon is a bit dry--it isn't exactly a rainforest in the area, but it still has a rugged western beauty.

I think my wife and sister enjoyed talking to each other on this trip.  I do enjoy opportunities to have my wife meet members of my family.  I've met most members of her family--but there are plenty of my relatives that she hasn't met yet, or hasn't seen very often.

My niece and I both took pictures of several flowers and other plants along the hike.  You can see some of her pictures on my sister's blog.

The path wasn't entirely in shade, but there were several nice spots where we got to walk through trees.

Can you see an animal in this picture?

We saw a couple apparent caves along the hike, and of course my "would live in a cave if he could" nephew had to check them out, ;-).

The waterfall was quite pretty.  I need to figure out how to take more detail shots of water like the right hand one above.  I enjoy shots like that and sometimes only end up taking one or two.  If I take multiple pictures then I have a better chance of getting a really good one instead of perhaps just ending up with one bad one and no alternatives.

The lighting was also fun to experiment with.

My nephew and niece climbed up to another cave area--and Amy and Cheryl also climbed up there.  So I grabbed their picture before they came down.

Have I ever mentioned that I love the zoom on my camera?  It might not be telephoto exactly--but it is 35X. The picture above was taken with no zoom utilized, the one below with maximum zoom.

On the way back Emily spotted a lizard--but I didn't get my camera out fast enough to get any good shots apart from this one.  I tried to zoom in but I couldn't get the camera to focus before the lizard ran off.

I'm not sure what the area looks like now after the fire--but I'm sure that if plants were burned off that they'll grow.  It is part of the way that God designed to work--fire cleanses and allows for growth and regrowth.  One of my upcoming Yellowstone blog posts will especially illustrate this necessary cycle.


PS It isn't exactly from the canyon, but I can't not post this video I took.  Western Idaho is somewhat dry, so for agriculture farmers rely on irrigation (not that they don't elsewhere, I've just noticed that there was quite a bit of irrigation in the area, even for some homes and lawns in certain areas).  I took this short video one morning at my sister's place while the irrigation system was dumping water into the cornfield.

PPS You'll find all of the above pictures (and more) in this album: