Welcome to Gardiner
Tuesday, August 15, 1995
Today we would see Old Faithful! But, we were still a ways off. Cody is about an hourâ€™s drive from east entrance of the park. But, our plan was to stay in Gardiner, Montana, just outside the north (original) entrance. I do not recall my reasoning for picking the northern boundary to stay. Perhaps it was the price of the hotel Staying outside the park is much cheaper than inside. There are only a handful of roads that get you around the, very, very large Yellowstone National Park. If Yellowstone was a state both Rhode Island and Delaware would be listed as smaller in size.
Actually combined, RI and DE would be still smaller. It took us about an hour to get the 52 miles from Cody to the east entrance. It took us about 2 Â˝ hours to get from the east entrance to our hotel, in Gardiner, MT. So by the time we checked into our hotel, The Best Western-Mammoth Springs, it was about 11:30 AM.
Stone gate at the North Entrance
We were more excited than hungry, due to snacking on the way, so we decided to eat lunch in the park, after we got to Old Faithful. It was another two hour drive from the North Entrance to Old Faithful, which is in the upper southern end of the park. By the time we got there, we were hungry. But, we were on geyser time, so we parked and headed straight to the Visitorâ€™s Center. There they had the predicted time of the next eruption posted for all to see. We saw that we had about an hour.
Old Faithful is so named because it is so predictable. It is still a natural wonder however, and doesnâ€™t care about schedules, so we wanted to be back at least 20 minutes before the predicted time.
Margo and the Girls
As Old Faithful is far and away the most popular attraction in the park, then National Park Service has built a very nice village there. It several stores, gas stations, the aforementioned Visitorâ€™s Center, a Rangerâ€™s Station, and three different lodges/inns. Each of those has a restaurant. We ate lunch in The Old Faithful Lodge. We finished eating with plenty of time to spare.
Built around the worldâ€™s most famous geyser is a wooden observation area. There are signs warning you not to go any closer. No one did.
I was surprised, but I shouldnâ€™t have been, at how far away we were from the geyser. There was no real mystery where the water would be coming from. There was a mound about 100 yards in the distance with steam coming out. There were plenty of people waiting for the eruption, and we picked out a good spot. I wanted to try to get a picture of the girls with Old Faithful in the background.
Jessi and Jolene in front of Old Faithful
If I remember correctly Old Faithful was a little bit early, but I am still positively amazed that they can predict it at all, let alone accurate enough to gather a crowd. It started out slow, with a bit of sloshing over the edges of the mound. Then it started to come in surges. Each surge was higher than the last, and would come before the water from the prior surge had died down. I took the picture with the girls and had time to take two others before the nature show was over. I didnâ€™t time the event, but it lasted much longer than I had anticipated.
It certainly exceeded a minute and may have been longer than two. Itâ€™s hard to judge how high the water was thrown, but comparing how high vs. how far away we were, it had to have been more than 100 feet.
Then it was over. We had seen Old Faithful. It was worth seeing again, but if we waited around for the next one that would probably be all of the southern section of the park we would see. At the Visitorâ€™s Center there were other geysers predicted to erupt, but none for hours. We would have to be on our way.
We headed east towards Yellowstone Lake. I donâ€™t think we even stopped at the lake. One lake is pretty much like the next.
I have nothing against lakes and even enjoy them on occasion, but Yellowstone has a lot of unique features and we were heading towards on of them.
We reached the Mud Volcano area, and parked. It had taken over an hour to drive from Old Faithful. When we got there, we were practically the only people here. The first thing you really notice is the smell. The air is very acidic and sulfurous. If the wind was right, it was a bit hard to breathe. Mostly it just smelled bad. The next thing that jumps out at you is the amazing visuals. The Mud Caldron, which is about what the name suggests, is the predominant feature. It is a pool of light brown mud that looks like it is boiling.
The trail you are to stay on is a wooden boardwalk.
There are signs everywhere warning you to stay on the trail, and further informing you that the ground you might step on (off the trail) could just be a thin crust over a pit of boiling water. I was intimidated. No chance of me ending up as a Wyoming lobster.
The area is named after the Mud Volcano, discovered by white men (as Indians had known about the area for centuries) in the 1870s. The Mud Volcano was a small (compared to the caldrons) hollow filled with boiling mud, that would periodically explode and sent scalding mud everywhere. But, that activity has long since died down, and today it just simmers and boils.
Maybe that will change one day. We learned that every time there is an earthquake, and the area is seismically active, the patterns of geysers and other thermal features changes.
After a quake some geysers erupt more frequently, some less. Some that were dormant start up, some active ones become quiet. But most donâ€™t even notice the occasion.
Mud Volcano area
After visiting the Mud Volcano, we were starting to get tired. It was after 5 PM, and we had been at it for about 10 hours. Most of that had been in the car. We were in the middle of the park, and still had about 1 Â˝ hours of driving to get to our hotel, so we decided that we had had enough for the day.
By the time we were back in Montana we were hungry. We ate at a place called Outlaws which was near our hotel. We also noticed that right across from the hotel was a stable. I took the girls over to pet the horses. Jolene has always had a fondness for them. We had gotten a flyer that told us the name of the place was Headwaters, and that they offered trail rides. Both girls liked that idea, but I wasnâ€™t sure if we would have time. For today, they had to settle for petting the animals and taking a swim in the indoor pool.