Our second day in Yellowstone National Park was much less hectic than our first in July 2019.
The day before, we’d had an early morning mad dash from Idaho Falls into the park to secure a campsite, ending up at Indian Creek Campground just south of Mammoth Hot Springs.
After setting up camp, then-13-year-old Madison reluctantly climbed back in the car to explore the Mammoth area, and we stopped at Sheepeater Cliff on the way back to cool off in the Gardiner River.
That helped wash off the work of the day, and we had a delicious dinner around the camp fire and relaxed.
The next day, I planned to show Madi some of the features that usually come to mind when thinking of Yellowstone, the hot springs and geysers — including world-famous Old Faithful.
After a hearty breakfast, we headed south toward the Norris Geyser Basin.
We stopped at Roaring Mountain, which we’d sped past the day before on our way to secure a campsite.
Roaring Mountain is a hillside of acidic thermal vents spewing steam and sound into the air.
Farther down the road, we stopped for a view of the Norris Geyser Basin, an absolutely beautiful area full of hydrothermal activity.
Then we stopped to see a hot spring just off the main road, and took the boardwalk to within feet of the spring.
The heat from the hot spring, and the strong sulphur smell that accompanied it, kept our visit short, but it was a great preview of what we’d see later that day.
At the Madison Junction, where the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers merge, we headed south toward the Lower Geyser Basin, Midway Geyser Basin, and on to the Upper Geyser Basin and Old Faithful.
We took a detour along Firehole Canyon Drive, with amazing views of the Firehole River’s waterfalls and rapids, and weaved past the masses of people parked along the road as they headed to the swimming area near the end of the drive.
It was a hot day, but we decided not to fight the crowd there for a swim, and continued our drive south.
The hydrothermal features of the geyser basins emerged on both sides of the road.
The parking area at the colorful and popular Grand Prismatic Spring, a hot spring 220-330-feet in diameter and 121-feet deep, was overflowing with visitors.
We decided to bypass this attraction and continue south, where we stopped and started exploring the wonders of the area with the highest concentration of geysers in the world.
Walking on the boardwalk through the hydrothermal area, Madi was surprised at all of the colorful formations.
She asked how they were formed, and I pointed out a kiosk that explained that microscopic organisms called thermophiles (“thermo” for heat, “phile” for lover) thrive in the hot water in the area.
Each Thermophile is too small to see with the naked eye, but trillions group together to form the colorful formations.
A long walk took us past steaming vents, warm creeks lined with orange, red, blue and green thermophiles, and on to many clear hot springs, with deep blues in the deeper part of the spring that were surrounded by an array of colors as they got closer to the edge.
I again told Madi about the importance of staying on the boardwalk, reminding her of the stories of visitors leaving the boardwalk and disappearing in the hydrothermal features.
Then, it was on to the Upper Geyser Basin and Old Faithful, one of the biggest attractions in Yellowstone.
A handy phone app offering all kinds of information on Yellowstone includes an estimation of when Old Faithful will next erupt.
We pulled into the immense parking lot at Old Faithful and found out the next eruption was estimated to be in half an hour — perfect!
But it took almost half an hour to find a parking spot, and we hurried toward the world’s most famous geyser.
I remembered Old Faithful from our family visit when I was a child, and didn’t want Madi to miss its next eruption.
Old Faithful is more predictable than most other geysers, erupting on average every 74 minutes. but it can still vary to between 60 and 110 minutes.
The Old Faithful Visitor Education Center is one of the more populated areas of the park, with the historic Old Faithful Inn, stores, restaurants and other lodgings surrounding the educational area.
Old Faithful sits on a mound surrounded by walkways and areas for visitors to watch eruptions.
We found a spot amid the huge crowd of expectant spectators, and we all found out Old Faithful isn’t always so faithful!
But within 20 minutes of arriving, Old Faithful delivered, shooting water high into the air to the cheers of the crowd.
Old Faithful can shoot as high as 180 feet, with the average being 130-140 feet, and last a minute and a half to five minutes.
The eruption we witnessed lasted about three minutes, and was as exciting as I remembered as a kid!
We then ventured over to the Old Faithful Inn, which was built in 1903-04 out of local stones and logs. Inside, it rises three stories with magnificent stone fireplaces dominating the space.
We did some shopping, I picked up a three-day fishing license, and it was time to head back to camp.
Madi wanted to take a dip in Indian Creek, about a quarter mile from camp, so as she cooled off I grabbed my fly rod and headed upstream to try my luck.
After about half an hour, I heard a huge crash in the woods across the road from where Madi was swimming, and ran back to make sure she was OK.
A couple of hikers emerged from a trail near where the sound came from.
They were off-duty park rangers, and said the sound was a mother black bear with two cubs. They’d just knocked over a tree for grubs to eat, the rangers said.
That was enough to end the swim and fishing, and send us back to camp for the night!