You know you have a great job when part of your duties require you to travel to work through the interior of Yellowstone on a 2 ½ hour snowcoach ride. On Wednesday, I journeyed out to Old Faithful for a two-day trip to inspect the facilities. As snow covers all interior park roads in winter, the only way in is via snow transportation.
The trip to Old Faithful revealed a sublime winter landscape, rolling hills of white with steam from the geysers and hot springs drifting in the air like fallen clouds. We passed curious elk and bison, and waited many times for a bison jam to clear before proceeding. I admire the bison for their indifference to vehicles of any size.
The Old Faithful area in winter has an immense charm. Automobiles are notably absent, and visitors and park employees ski or snowmobile on the snow-covered roads. Stands of colorful skiis sticking out of the snow decorate the entrance to every employee dorm, and everybody wears at least three layers of clothes. Yet there is a quietude to the landscape—-the whiteness of winter stretches for miles in every direction.
I braved the cold after lunch one day and ventured out to watch Old Faithful. Insider tip: Old Faithful isn’t as trustworthy as her name implies. The current 90 minute or so interval between eruptions used to be as short as an hour. Earthquakes, and the resulting effects (shifting landscape, mineral deposits, changing water flow) can cause the interval between eruptions to shift.
When Old Faithful erupts, she pushes between 3,700-8,400 gallons of boiling water to a height of up to 184 feet. If you haven’t checked out the National Park Service’s live streaming webcam of Old Faithful, it’s worth a viewing (See my Yellowstone Webcam Links). I called the Yosemite Association staff when I arrived on site and waved to them while Old Faithful erupted. Technology is fun!
Before we left, I was also fortunate to receive an evening tour of the Old Faithful Inn, a grand park lodge designed by Robert Reamer and described by one historian as “rusticity gone berserk.” The lobby, constructed with beautifully finished log beams and supports, rises to 76 feet in height. As the Inn isn’t occupied in the winter, our footfalls echoed in the empty rooms. And yes, given the remote winter setting and the empty hotel, I had the inevitable thoughts of "The Shining." Luckily, no twin girls appeared, but I did utter redrum to my coworkers a few times.