Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Old Faithful Inn and Geyser with the Carful of Kids

The first trip to Yellowstone National Park for the carful of kids
The carful of kids left Central Texas to explore the Rocky Mountains a while back, so far we've seen the Black Hills of South Dakota and Glacier National Park before heading across the Canadian Border to explore Banff and Jasper National Parks. We're on our way back home but first, we have a week to explore Yellowstone National Park.

The carful of kids spent the night in the Bozeman area after picking up Dad from the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airportthis is a great alternative to Jackson, Wyoming. It's less expensive and more assessable than Jackson Hole for lodging, flights and rental cars--it also has all the provisions that you need to buy for a week in Yellowstone.

I recommend at least a week in Yellowstone NP, there's so much to experience in a park that encompasses 3,400 square miles. Yellowstone's world-class geothermal activity, premier animal viewing and unique geological features make this park a must-see destination.

Another new state for the carful of kids, it's a quick drive into Idaho from West Yellowstone. 

Since the carful of kids are collecting states like some people collect stamps, we enter Yellowstone National Park from the West Entrance after taking a side trip into Idaho, 15 miles from the town of West Yellowstone. West Yellowstone has all the services for Yellowstone visitors, though I find it a bit touristy for my taste.

Yellowstone National Park is open every day and the 7-day admission is $ 30 for a private vehicle or you can purchase an annual America the Beautiful Pass for $ 80 to gain entry into the majority of national parks and monuments. Seasonal road closures affect most routes except the North and Northeast entrance which are open year-round to vehicles.

Yellowstone National Park was the first national park in the world when it was created in 1872, an idea that other countries would adopt to protect their special places. Yellowstone, derived from the descriptive French and Native American name for the area, has the highest concentration of geyers in the world and half of the world's geothermal features because of the Yellowstone Caldera, an active supervolcano.

Adventure awaits.
Where to start--no trip to Yellowstone is complete without visiting Old Faithful Inn and the Old Faithful Geyser, that erupts every 35 to 120 minutes with a certain amount of predictability. They're as much a symbol of Yellowstone as the bison; sure, you can visit America's favorite log building but if you can, try to stay in this ultimate log cabin.

On our first visit to Yellowstone NP years ago, I fell in love with Old Faithful Inn and vowed to stay here one day. So it was the first property I reserved and planned the rest of our trip around it. By checking the reservation system at least twice a week for months, I picked up two consecutive days in the original section of the hotel called Old House.

Was that a lot of trouble--Yes. Is it worth it--Absolutely. At that moment when we drive up and I see Old Faithful Inn--standing tall after earthquakes and epic wildfires--I knew my effort was not in vane. I had to share this experience with my kids.

My youngest taking it all in for the first time.

Walking through the pair of red doors into the towering lobby, I experience all the wonder with my kids. It's an amazing log cabin structure that was conceived and built by a relatively unknown 29-year old architect, Robert Reamer, over a hundred years ago. It is awe-inspiring.

The building is such an innovation that it gave rise to a new architectural style, National Park Service Rustic--most of the building materials were harvested within the park or constructed on site during the winter of 1903-1904. This gives Old Faithful Inn its irreplaceable organic feeling that got it named one of the 150 favorite buildings in the US by American Institute of Architects.

I check in for our two-night stay and the Old Faithful Inn staff greets me with the epitome of western hospitality. After leaving our luggage with the bell hop to place in our room when it's ready, the carful of kids head out to explore the area.

Old Faithful Geyser always draws a crowd.

Our first stop is the Old Faithful Geyser for its next scheduled eruption, park rangers are really good at estimating the time, and it's a must. Afterwards the carful of kids walk over to the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center to learn more about what goes on under the surface and to grab the Yellowstone Junior Ranger Booklets, $ 3 each at the bookstore.

Yellowstone NP also offers a Young Scientist Patch Program, the booklet is $ 5 and you can check out a pack full of equipment needed to conduct experiments. This is an excellent activity if you will be in the Old Faithful Area for a couple of days to finish the program.

Morning Glory Pool, one of my favorite pools in the Upper Geyser Basin.
I grab an Old Faithful Trail Guide to guide us through Upper Geyser Basin; our destination, Morning Glory Pool, a 2.8 mile walk roundtrip from the visitors center. This is great for families as the trail is paved or on wooden boardwalks--you pass the Castle Geyser and Grand Geyser along with many pools.

The Upper Geyser Basin along the Firehole River is a great introduction to the geothermal activity that Yellowstone is renowned. To keep this area for future generations, please follow all signs and stay on the trail.

Outside the Old Faithful General Store where you'll find food and souvenirs.

Nothing like a three-mile hike to get the carful of kids hungry, we stop by the Old Faithful General Store for lunch. This original log structure serves typical family-friendly food along with restrooms and souvenirs. A gas station is next door with ice and groceries too.

So glamorous, the vintage buses of Yellowstone.
The carful of kids feel refreshed after lunch and a Huckleberry Shake; good thing, we have an excursion planned for this afternoon that I reserved before our trip. I booked a tour of Fire Hole Basin on one of the 1937 yellow tour buses.

The Geyser Gazer Tour ( $ 26/ adults and $ 13/ kids 3 to 11) departs from the lobby of the Old Faithful Inn at 4:15 and takes us on an hour and a half long educational tour along Fire Hole Lake Drive. Our tour guide, Steve, is great and riding around in one of the remaining eight restored buses is a hoot--as much attention as the bus gets, you feel like you're riding with a celebrity.

Heading up the stairs to our room at Old Faithful Inn

After our tour, we decide to check out our room on the second floor so up the stairs we go. The details in the Old Faithful Inn make it a special place and even the room numbers were handmade during the recent renovation.

Our cozy room for the next two days, complete with a sink and vanity.
The room is a great place to sleep and change clothes, you won't find any entertainment included and my carful of kids are officially unplugged for our trip through Yellowstone. Data is hard to find and slow, Wi-Fi is scare and overloaded--take your pictures and forget about posting.

Our room is located just off the second floor mezzanine where there is plenty of seating for relaxing or reading. We grab a couple of drinks at the coffee bar and head out on the balcony overlooking Old Faithful, it's about to erupt again.

Watching Old Faithful erupt from the balcony of the Old Faithful Inn.

The second floor balcony is a great area with rows of benches for geyser watching and tables for sipping and socializing. The carful of kids pull out some cards and start playing a game--I won't lie, it's nice when your kids can entertain themselves.

Looking down into the Old Faithful Dining Room, 
After relaxing for a few minutes, it's time for dinner at the Old Faithful Dining Room. The dining room is casual enough that you can wear your hiking boots while enjoying seasonal entrees; they feature a children's menu as well.

I love the OFI china.
The carful of kids enjoy dinner and the waitstaff is efficient and friendly; we finish it off with a trio of seasonal ice creams that the kids inhale. After dinner we head back up to the second-floor mezzanine where a violinist entertains the hotel guests.

During the day, the Old Faithful Inn is quite contested but after dark the crowd dies down. The kids grab their bananagrams for family game night--Yellowstone style, on an historic gaming table.

The carful of kids enjoy sitting on the second-floor mezzanine, playing games.

Before you know it, the violinist is packing up and the guests start to retreat to their rooms. The carful of kids make their way to the bathrooms down the hall before calling it a night. We have another full day exploring the wonders around Old Faithful Inn.

This is the shared bathroom in the Old House of Old Faithful Inn.

Know before you go: I reserved an Old House Room with a shared bath for a reasonable $ 115 a night--yes there isn't a bathroom in this room but the facilities are amazing and right down the hall. A sink with a mirror and vanity is located in the room so you can brush your teeth and wash your face.

There are no televisions or radios in the OFI rooms but there are outlets to plug in your phone, though service is spotty throughout Yellowstone NP.

The reservations for the lodging within the National Park System is available 13 months in advance; during the high season you have to be persistent to get rooms at the more popular locations within Yellowstone NP. I was and got all the properties I wanted--MAKE RESERVATIONS months in advance, even for camping, if you are visiting Yellowstone NP during the high season.

Old Faithful Inn dinner reservations are recommended for the best times. Breakfast and Lunch are open-seating.

Up Next: Another day exploring the Old Faithful Inn Area and Madison Junction.

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