It’s not really a new year in Yellowstone until the Old Faithful Inn opens, and it opened a few weekends back on Friday, May 4.
I had managed to score a room for opening night—but not for the following night, Saturday—the Inn was already sold out that night several months ago when I made my reservation.
I knew I would have a room in “Old House”—that is, a room in the original, central portion of the building, which was constructed over the winter of 1903-1904 and opened later that summer. I didn’t know which room I would be assigned to, but from running around the Inn as an employee while holding various jobs there in my 20s, I still know my way around a number of the Old House rooms. Most of the Old House rooms are still “European style,” that is, without private bathrooms in the room but rather a shared, public restroom with showers nearby.
The bathroom down the hall is no hardship if it means a chance to spend the night in the Inn. My room was No. 47, which is located on the ground floor down the hall from the front desk. A single-stall shower room was right next-door, and the restrooms were not far away. The window looked out onto the front sidewalk that led to the Old Faithful Geyser. The room had a very comfy queen bed, a stylishly retro sink, and a copper-topped side table. It was pretty small, but very cozy. I had remembered to pack my slippers for the walk to the bathroom, and a very comfy one-size-fits-most robe was standard in the room.
Being tired after a day of sightseeing, or maybe the logs were just somehow soothing, but whatever the cause, I slept hard and well in that little log-walled room.
I thought the room, given its location off a major first-floor hallway—the hallway accesses the East Wing, which was constructed in 1913-14—had the potential to be surrounded by noise, but I was pleasantly surprised. There was never much noise—no clanking radiators like in the not so distant past, no children delighted to run up and down the halls, not even the chatter of excited guests talking about their day in Yellowstone while traversing the hallway.
There was only one apparent set of stomping boots early Saturday morning. The stomp sounded like a giant in very large hiking boots going up and down the nearby staircase with a decided tone of, “If I have to be up early, everybody else should be, too!”
It may surprise people to learn that most of the Inn’s rooms do not face Old Faithful Geyser itself, which is a short walk from the Inn, and a “geyser view” room is pretty rare. The reason is that the Inn’s architect, Robert Reamer, wanted visitors to see the world’s most famous geyser not from their rooms, but as they pulled up in front of the hotel.
The day I arrived, the view toward the geyser was obstructed by a large piece of construction equipment—the boardwalk and benches around the geyser were being replaced. I hope the plan is to replace the not-so-old plastic boardwalk with plain old wood. The plastic boardwalk, made of recycled plastic bottles, is slippery when wet or snow-covered and showed signs of worn-in paths where millions of feet have trod over the years.
My companion and I took in the sights of Geyser Hill the next morning after enjoying an eruption of Old Faithful Geyser. We sat to the east of the geyser, directly in front of another historic building, the Old Faithful Lodge. We were downwind from the eruption’s spray and enjoyed a couple of light mistings, the steaming-hot water already cooled by the time it fell gently on us.
My friend was immediately entranced and realized the significance of the very light dousing.
“How often can you say you’ve been baptized by a geyser?”
How often, indeed.
Welcome to the 2018 Yellowstone summer season.