yellowstone national park and old faithful

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet
This is the second post (of a few) in which I’m sharing our itinerary for our recent trip out to Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. The first post is here, if you missed it. 

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Day 4:Yellowstone National Park – South Entrance to Old Faithful

As much as we hated to leave the Grand Teton National Park, we knew that adventures awaited in Yellowstone. We also knew that we’d have a chance to revisit the Grand Tetons during the last two days of our trip, since we were spending the last two nights of the vacation back in Jackson. Those snowy peaks, despite the fact that we couldn’t reach them (and oh, how we wanted to), had imprinted themselves on my heart.

After one last breakfast at the Pioneer Grill, and after one final view of the mountains through the hotel’s large glass windows, we checked out of the Jackson Lake Lodge and headed north to the southern entrance of Yellowstone. The distance from the Jackson Lake Lodge to our hotel for the night, the Old Faithful Inn, was listed as 39 miles and should have taken us just over an hour. We took our time, however. We did not want to miss a single sight along the way, so it took us about three hours.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

It was a pathetic snow pile, but my kids didn’t care.

Soon after entering Yellowstone, as we entered higher elevations, we started encountering snow. The kids were thrilled to see snow, and especially snow that wasn’t just in the distance on faraway mountain tops, but in piles and slicks on the nearby mountainside, just off the road. We pulled over at least twice so Maddie and Oliver could throw icy snowballs at each other and at their father. They kicked the snow and poked at it with sticks and squealed and giggled. They lamented that we live in Florida, where it never snows.

It was obvious when we arrived at the Old Faithful area for two reasons. First, the road became more modern, with well-marked, interstate-style exit ramps leading to the famous geyser and the associated historic hotels (the Old Faithful Inn and the Old Faithful Snow Lodge). Second, as we approached the geyser area, we noticed steam rising from barren spots of earth in all directions, as if there were fires burning under the earth’s surface.

It was surreal. It was also a very visual reminder of how insignificant we are in the much larger scheme of things here in the universe. No internet in Yellowstone? No television? Who cares. There’s a giant volcano underneath Wyoming, just biding it’s time. Waiting. Stewing.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

Here’s a tip we learned on the fly: if you want to have a leisurely lunch at one of the restaurants in the Old Faithful area, and if you don’t have reservations, wait until Old Faithful is about to go off and you’ll find the restaurants are nearly empty. We happened to time our lunch perfectly. It was nothing fancy – a bison burger and fries at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge Geyser Grill – but it was heaven to not have to fight a crowd or wait in a long line.

After lunch, we waited on the next eruption of Old Faithful, finding a spot in the grassy area behind the main viewing platform. It was incredibly crowded, not liked I’d remembered from when I was there as a kid. Of course, as a kid, I focused more on the marmots, not Old Faithful or the people watching. The eruption was spectacular, exactly as advertised. Oliver and I had discovered the Old Faithful live webcam about a month prior and we had been watching it from the comfort of our air-conditioned living room in the weeks leading up to the vacation. Watching in person is so much better.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

Old Faithful and her faithful crowds.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

Old Faithful.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the mile(s) of footpaths around the other hot springs and geysers in the Old Faithful area. There are so many more thermal features to see other than Old Faithful. Each one is unique and has its own personality. Some sputtered and coughed, others bubbled violently, and other seemed so calm with their blue and turquoise waters quietly steaming – so deceptively cool and serene, yet (as we learned in the Visitor Center) – near boiling to the touch. Any of these features could be fatal if you happened to fall in.

Again, it was a great reminder of how little we are in the larger perspective.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

Hot springs smell of rotten eggs, in case you were wondering.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

Again, the sky is bigger in Wyoming.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

Blue Star Spring.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

I made two advance dinner reservations over the entire nine days of our vacation, and our Day Four dinner was one of them. After cocktails (Shirley Temples for the kiddos) on the upper patio of the Inn, we had a wonderful meal in the Old Faithful Inn Dining Room. This was the location of one of the three food photos I took during the entire vacation. The photo doesn’t do the meal – a red trout hash with asparagus, bacon, and potatoes – justice.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

The red trout hash. It was fantastic.

Later, after dinner, the geyser viewing area was nearly empty. Even though it was late, almost 9pm, it was still light out. We wandered over to the boardwalk surrounding Old Faithful and sprawled on a bench. Our legs were tired from walking at least six miles that day (more if you trust my husband’s FitBit over mine). We lost our binoculars, and then we found them again at the Old Faithful lost-and-found desk – some kind person had turned them in after finding them. We had sunburns from not being diligent with sunscreen reapplication. We were exhausted but completely happy. We watched one last eruption of Old Faithful – this time with a front row seat and no one blocking our views – and it was a perfect nightcap to our day.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet


yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

The inside of the Old Faithful Inn is worth seeing, even if you don’t plan to spend the night.

On day 5, we would check out of the Old Faithful Inn and head to Mammoth Hot Springs and to Lake Yellowstone, the location of our next hotel, the Lake Lodge Cabins.

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For more information on where we stayed and ate, during this leg of the trip, here are some links:

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29 Responses to “culinary institute of america – the bootcamp, day one”

  1. 1
    Velva — October 2, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

    This is so exciting! What a great opportunity to experience a professional kitchen and culinary school life. Awesome!!!

  2. 2
    Heather in SF @HeatherHAL — October 2, 2011 @ 9:27 pm

    I can’t wait to read your future posts, you did something I too have dreamed of doing. How exciting! Your pictures are wonderul, congratulations on doing this course!

  3. 3
    Macaroni Mama — October 2, 2011 @ 9:31 pm

    Oh, my goodness! Can’t wait to hear all the minute details of your time at the Culinary Institute.

  4. 4
    Snippets of Thyme — October 2, 2011 @ 9:51 pm

    This sounds like an incredible experience. I’ve been seeing your tweets about it and it is so fun to take a peek inside what it was like. I would just love this!

  5. 5
    Winnie — October 2, 2011 @ 10:02 pm

    GREAT recap MJ! Loved having you and it’s so fun to see what you were up to at the CIA 🙂

  6. 6

    So interesting to read the other side. Me … I went to culinary school full-time (here, I wrote all about it: “Culinary School: Three Semesters of Life, Learning, and Loss of Blood” – ). A different world. Indeed!

  7. 7
    Paula — October 2, 2011 @ 11:44 pm

    I have enough trouble preparing meals in my own kitchen…without anyone around me or watching me so I really commend you for taking this boot camp and preparing lunch (chicken and chips look great) in a kitchen that was new to you and with people you didn’t know. Enjoy reading about your first day and looking forward to hearing all about your second day.

  8. 8
    Irvin @ Eat the Love — October 2, 2011 @ 11:50 pm

    OMG. I love the idea of going to a book camp at CIA! What a great an experience. I’m impressed that you had time to actually take pictures in what I’m sure would be a super intense situation. I can’t wait to read the rest of your posts…

    Oh and the fried chicken looks better than finger lickin’ good!

  9. 9
    Gail — October 3, 2011 @ 7:51 am

    MJ, you took to this bootcamp like a duck to water (or should I say like duckfat to french fries?). Can’t wait to read part 2.
    Going to culinary school was one of the greatest experiences of my life.
    Great to see you this past weekend!!!

  10. 10

    So glad you had a great time!!! And Chef Bruno is fantastic! It was great getting to see you and I can’t wait to read part two!

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  12. 12
    DessertForTwo — October 3, 2011 @ 9:47 am

    How fun! Thanks for sharing with us 🙂

  13. 13
    Maggie @ kitchie coo — October 3, 2011 @ 11:21 am

    Oh! This was so fun to read!! I have been dying to take one of these classes and so glad to hear it is well worth it. I found your blog from the CIA Facebook Page. Nice! Can’t wait to read more!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — October 3rd, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

      Stay tuned! Part 2 coming later this week…

  14. 14
    Jason — October 3, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

    I am signed up for the week long boot camp in San Antonio next month, Im getting very excited! It’s really cool that you had time to snap a new photos, did you use a point and shoot for an SLR? What did you guys do the second day?

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — October 3rd, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

      Jason, you’ll have a blast. I used a point-and-shoot since I could carry it in my jacket pocket. I asked Chef at the beginning of the course if it would be okay and he was great about letting me. Stay tuned for my wrap up of day 2, coming later this week!

  15. 15
    Kate Defrise — October 3, 2011 @ 1:52 pm

    I love this. My family gave me a week-long bootcamp for my birthday and I’m planning on going in January. I am so excited! And a bit intimidated. Thanks for sharing your experience. Do tell about day 2

  16. 16
    sweetsugarbelle — October 3, 2011 @ 5:37 pm

    You are so lucky…this looks fun.

  17. 17
    Laura (Blogging Over Thyme) — October 3, 2011 @ 6:45 pm

    I definitely looked into this program too! Sounded like a lot of fun and a great way to experience it in a short, more affordable time frame. Good for you!

    Looking forward to reading more about the experience…

  18. 18
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — October 4, 2011 @ 8:00 am

    And proud you should be! What a marvelous experience and the food looks divine!

  19. 19
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — October 4, 2011 @ 8:06 am

    MJ – I’ve been to some culinary courses here at George Brown which is pretty amazing by my dream is the CIA. Even just for a bootcamp like this – I would give my eye teeth. Looks like it was everything you imagined and more – can’t wait to read Part II!

  20. 20
    Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray — October 4, 2011 @ 11:02 am

    I LOVE this post. I feel like I was there with you. I would be so nervous too, I appreciate how honestly written this is. I would love to do one of these bootcamps but I would be so scared!

  21. 21
    Lemon — October 4, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

    This sounds so exciting, such a great experience you had. Thanks for sharing.

  22. 22
    Nutmeg Nanny — October 5, 2011 @ 11:45 am

    I love these bootcamps…I really need to take one!

  23. 23

    Oh man, this takes me back to my early days of culinary school. You captured the stress of working in an unfamiliar kitchen with strangers, looking for missing ingredients, cooking utensils, and delivering a meal on time perfectly plated. Good for you for doing this!!! It will be a great experience to look back on I’m sure!!!

  24. Pingback: culinary institute of america - the boot camp, day two | The Merry Gourmet

  25. 24
    Kim in TX — October 16, 2011 @ 7:01 pm

    I’m so jealous! 🙂

  26. 25
    jenjenk — October 20, 2011 @ 10:31 am

    Your chicken looked BEAUTIFUL!! and oh so tasty!!!

  27. 26
    Jenna — October 21, 2011 @ 9:45 am

    I live near Hyde Park, and every time I drive by the CIA, I fantasize about going there. I didn’t realize they offered bootcamps, I will have to look into that!

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