Sept. 4, 2004
It is early morning, a fire going in the wood stove. A few cars roll by as guests depart. It’s still very quiet, but not as quiet as it was at six this morning when I woke to a freezing cabin, frost-breath billowing from my mouth as I tried to breathe in the icy air. Patches of white hovered on the ground as I made my way to the shared restrooms, several cabins away. It was good to return, start the fire, and get back in bed. I switched on the coffee pot and waited for the French Roast/Hazelnut blend to brew, the rich aroma filling the crisp air.
A lengthy stretch of road inside Yellowstone National Park brought me to Roosevelt Lodge, established originally in 1906 as Camp Roosevelt after a camping vacation by Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. The lodge was built in 1919-20, and additional cabins were added over the years.
I checked in, headed for my night’s hideaway, and unloaded the car. Already a little cool, I built a fire with the fire-starter and pressed wood logs supplied by the lodge. I set up the coffee pot for the morning, hung a heavy jacket and flashlight by the door, and settled in.
As the evening progressed, dinner at the lodge started to sound good, so I headed over and was given a primo table next to the fireplace. Hungry after the long drive and numerous photo detours, I didn’t hold back. I soon had a plate of prime rib, mashed potatoes, and glazed carrots in front of me, along with a green salad and basket of cornbread muffins. The sun lingered briefly on the pine trees outside the window, then slipped off into the distance, leaving a soft rose-gray glow on the horizon.
Back in my cabin, I built up the fire and fell into bed with my laptop, downloaded and edited some photos from the day before curling up under the covers with a book. I slept fairly well but woke up, as I expected, to a freezing cabin. A space heater would have been a good idea to have along as wood stoves only burn continually stocked. A down comforter I’d brought along, hot coffee, and a newly-built fire soon warmed me.
The cabins and lodge were comfortable and pleasing. Though rustic in accommodations, the linens and amenities were the same as those in the park’s higher end lodges. A bed, nightstand, lamp, and writing desk were provided, along with a rack for luggage and wall hooks and hangers for coats. Although the bathrooms were communal and necessitate a short walk, they were pristine clean and well-heated.
The lodge building itself is one long room, divided into dining and lounge areas. Impressive stone fireplaces stood proudly at each end of the 90’ by 50’ space. A long front porch offered rocking chairs for outdoor relaxing. The overall result was spacious, welcoming and friendly, creating an excellent gathering place for visitors.
I lingered after checking out for another meal in the dining room. As the first guest, I was able to nab the closest table to the fireplace, where I enjoyed a teriyaki chicken sandwich and the warmth of the fire before hitting the road.
Heading south, I stopped at nearby Tower Falls and hiked down to the riverbed below. The trail to the base of the waterfall was washed out and closed, but the river vistas were wonderful. An osprey circled the sky above, returning many times to one sole pine tree above the river. I suspected there was a nest within the branches.
Continuing on, my attention was soon drawn to a large gathering of tourists. You know, those pesky people who hover by the roadside with cameras to view the wildlife. I am one of them, admittedly. I pulled over and found a black bear not far from the roadside. He was not a very cooperative subject for the camera, seeming to think it more important to keep his nose in berry bushes than to smile for the photographers. But it was wonderful, almost magical, to watch him amble about. He delighted everyone at one point by standing to scratch his back against a tree.
Park rangers were on hand to handle the crowd, and I was impressed with their patience. They managed just the right balance of safety and education, allowing people to enjoy the wildlife experience. A few handed out information cards about bears. I was lucky enough to get one before they ran out.
I took over 100 pictures, not one perfectly clear. Only so much is possible with a moving target, moving tourists, and rangers moving people about, trying to open up space along the roadside so the bear could cross, if he wished. When he finally did, I was fortunate to be standing just down the roadway with a clear view.
Driving back through the park, I stopped at Old Faithful Inn to pick up a few additional things in the gift shop. Just as I was leaving, the famous geyser erupted, giving me a fine finale to an excellent trip.
I stopped once more to watch the sunset from a lakeside clearing. But the air grew colder quickly as the sun disappeared below the horizon. I soon climbed back in the car, turned up the heat, and headed out.