Friday, January 06, 2006

Log Cabin Living My Way: Old Faithful Inn

I stirred in the bed and rolled over, looking towards the open window, the cool air chilling me despite it being June. The sound was like a jet engine at full throttle, and I pawed for my glasses as my wife slept on, oblivious. An incredible sight was perfectly framed in the window opening, lit only by the moonlight. A vast white jet of steam and water shot into the air nearly 200 feet with terrific force while the powerful sound – a jet underlaid by moaning, continued. Dumbfounded, I watched for at least five minutes until it abruptly ended, the night silent except for the distant sound of coyotes calling to each other. I laid my head on the pillow and returned to sleep.

That nighttime interruption was one of many special experiences that I enjoyed while staying at Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful Inn. Dominating the Old Faithful Geyser Basin, and standing next to its eponymous geyser, the Old Faithful Inn has provided lodgings for weary Yellowstone travelers since it opened in 1904.

The day we arrived, we hiked through the upper geyser basin overlooking Old Faithful, and admired the seemingly perfect nozzle-like vent of Beehive Geyser. The sign said that Beehive geyser was as large as Old Faithful but only erupted once or twice a day at unpredictable intervals. We walked on, sure that we would never see Beehive erupt. That night, I discovered that because of our choice in lodgings, we were wrong, when Beehive Geyser’s nocturnal eruption awakened me.

The Old Faithful Inn is unlike any hotel I’ve ever stayed in. It is the largest log building in the United States and has a spectacular lobby that rises over 90 feet to the exposed ceiling. The centerpiece of the lobby is a massive fireplace made of local stone, its chimney rising through the space. As an historic building, the Inn retains a high degree of integrity with many of the original light fixtures and wood furniture still in use today. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark, the highest honor any historic building may receive in the U.S.

Our room was located on the second floor of the old building and had a view of the Upper Geyser Basin and Firehole River. The room included a sink, no bathroom, rough-hewn wooden walls, a metal-framed bed, dresser, wardrobe, chair and the coolest thing for me: an original rotary light switch to operate the lights.

If you’re not an historic building aficionado like me, allow me to explain -- used in the early twentieth century, these switches were usually abandoned or removed when buildings were rewired. They were kind of big and make a satisfying solid click when you rotated them. I had never seen one in use, although I’m not surprised that they could last 100 years because they seem so solid.

The new wings of the Inn, added in the 1920s, consist of larger rooms with private bathrooms many with views of Old Faithful Geyser itself. These rooms are more conventional and less rustic. I didn’t mind the shared bathroom that we had to use. It was close to the room, spotlessly clean and the whole time we were there, I never encountered another soul in there even though the Inn seemed to be booked solid.

The Old Faithful complex around the Inn includes the Visitor’s Center, and two other lodgings: The Old Faithful Lodge and The Snow Lodge, as well as shops and other concessions for visitors. On summer days it can seem that every visitor to the Park is there as the crowds around Old Faithful Geyser swell. I found it considerably more civilized in the evenings when the tour buses have departed and you and a few other guests enjoy the deserted landscape from the second floor porch while sipping a cocktail from the bar. You’ll feel as if Old Faithful is putting on a private show just for you.

Add to Google

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.