Day 8: Old Faithful area

After our humbling experience with the bison traffic jam the previous morning, on Day 8 we vowed to get up even earlier and make tracks for Old Faithful. We got on the road nice and early, and got to see one of the old yellow 1930s-era Yellowstone buses that have been restored and are still used for park tours today:

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We arrived at Old Faithful by around 8:00 in the morning, which not only meant that we had the place to ourselves, but also meant that a bit of the nighttime chill was still with us in the morning.

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Old Faithful was out there smoking lazily between eruptions when we arrived. We would learn that while it’s not the most spectacular geyser in the park – there are other candidates for sure – it has earned its name over the years. The rangers correctly predicted at least four eruptions while we were there, and all of those eruptions were within about two minutes of the rangers’ prediction.

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When Old Faithful erupts, it sends a marvelous plume of water and steam into the sky.

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We found our ranger talk right after we arrived, and set out on the boardwalks that meander out into the thermal area. Like Norris, this is another place where even a brief wander off the boards could be life-threatening. Fortunately, our kids are all old enough to stick with the walkways without us worrying about them.

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There was a lot of excitement on the boardwalks that morning because the Beehive Geyser, which erupts about every 12-14 hours, was due to erupt again while we were there. When I say there are other geysers that might be more spectacular than Old Faithful, Beehive is at the top of my list.

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The morning wind carried the steam and spray over us. Anna and Maria put on their rain gear and played in the geyser’s rain.

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From there we went uphill to Grand Geyser, which puts on a much longer show than the other two – about ten minutes of erupting from a fairly wide base, compared with 2-4 minutes for Old Faithful and Beehive. That gave us enough time for a family picture.

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Next we wandered over to the Old Faithful Inn, the crown jewel of the National Park lodges, and inspiration for countless imitators from Disney to Great Wolf Lodge. It was beautiful inside.

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We went back to the van for a picnic lunch, where we decided that all the natural splendor had also left us hungry for – you guessed it – ice cream:

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Heading back to the north, we took a side drive through Firehole Canyon, one of the few places where the Park Service explicitly allows swimming within Yellowstone. Regrettably, the Firehole River was still far too high and strong from snow melt for us to swim safely. There was also grizzly bear activity along the river’s edge, making a swim even more of a bad idea. Still, the canyon was beautiful and felt very remote, though we were only a couple miles off the main loop road.

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We went back to the campsite to enjoy a relatively quiet late afternoon and evening in our temporary home. Lots of people took naps – myself included – and we went for a hike around the perimeter of the campground after dinner.

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It goes without saying that the scenery was beautiful. Yellowstone is absurdly beautiful. You get completely overwhelmed. Animals! Snow-capped mountains! Geysers! All of us were sleeping long nights and stealing naps during the day. I felt like a baby or toddler who gets overstimulated and then crashes to sleep in self defense. (In a good way!)

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Tomorrow: Hanging out with bison in the Hayden Valley.