Chasing Geysers from Canyons to Old Faithful

by - July 28, 2018

Can we please just get to Old Faithful already? That's how this blog series feels now that I'm to the tenth post, because, hey, isn't Old Faithful the pinnacle of the Yellowstone experience? Maybe... but the true beauty of the place to me is that behind the the walkways and frequented sites, I know there is still something wild, and I know its just beyond what I got to see on this trip. One day I hope we can do some backcounty camping to see the secret wild things. Old Faithful is visible nearly 360 degrees by walking paths and predictably erupts about 23 times a day, although the intervals can range drastically. To me, it feels a little like a caged lion at a zoo... surrounded on all sides but still shouldn't be poked. That said, I ran out to the boardwalk at least six times to see it erupt. So before I post a map and load up this entry with the details of our time at Old Faithful Inn, here's a picture of Old Faithful. She's a beauty.




June 17 was Wookie's 8th birthday as well as Father's Day. That morning, we went to the general store for more yogurt, and Wookie was 100% ready to get his birthday present, which he had picked out several days prior -- a Yellowstone Pocket watch. This sucker wasn't cheap at $25, and wouldn't you know it took a ride in spin cycle of the wash not long after we returned back home? Fortunately it came out fully intact, and after some mama magic with the blow drier, it was up and ticking again.

The skies continued to drop rain periodically, so the boys continued to wear ponchos and I carried an umbrella. After checking out of Canyon Village, we first stopped at Norris Geyser Basin. I have so many pictures of bubbling pits, little spurts of geysers, and crusty-edged pools. I failed to take pictures of the placards and couldn't sleuth them out online, so for most of my Norris Geyser Basin pictures, I have no idea what the subject matter is.


Emerald Spring
Steamboat Geyser
Cistern Spring



 We got to see Vixen Geyser erupt.



At the next stop, Artist Paintpots, Susu stayed with the boys in the car, and the rest of us made the quick trek around the loop. There was still drizzling rain and the boys were over the board walk views for the day. The view from the top was quite lovely, as you could see just about the entire hillside.

View from Artist Paintpot Overlook


Near the top of my must-do list was to swim in Firehole River. Given the amount of rainfall, the river was roaring, and there was no way we were going swimming.


The very top of Joe's must-see list was Grand Prismatic. We skipped the first pull-out since the line to park was spilling out onto the main road, and at the overlook trailhead pull-out, I just about ripped a young millennial to shreds who dared to attempt to take the spot I had patiently been waiting on. He whipped in front of me and pulled ahead to parallel park, and I laid on the horn and pulled in behind him before he could reverse into the spot. Holla back city-dwellers! I parallel park a mini van like a boss. He might not have realized there was only that one spot left and the letters on the road were actually not marking an additional spot, but they jumped out in the rain, looked around and saw the writing on the pavement and my sink-eye, and they drove off. I have been telling my boys my number one rule for them is "Don't be a jerk!" I feel it's my personal calling to enforce that rule with other drivers, but sometimes that means I have to be a jerk back. I haven't sorted all that out yet with God.

View from Grand Prismatic Overlook

At the top of Grand Prismatic Overlook we took our group photos. Some kind man offered to take them for us. We headed back down the hill and could see the storms gathering for another round, and by the time we made it back to the parking lot, we were wet. Fortunately Old Faithful Inn was only a few minutes away. 






Once we checked in and unpacked, we mosied out to the lobby to see the gift shop and then went out on the balcony to watch Old Faithful with a crowd of onlookers. I chatted it up with a mom from Minnesota who had four kids and were staying at the KOA and West Yellowstone. We had dinner reservations, thanks to Dad's thoughtful planning, and dinner at Old Faithful Inn was awesome, not because of the food but because Wookie absolutely freaked out when the staff came out to sing him a song. He turned bright red and kept trying to hide under my arm. I believe he said something like, "Mama! What did you do!?" But his face once he saw the pile of brownies, ice cream, chocolate fudge and whipped cream let us know that all the shame was totally worth it. We destroyed that pile. 



The next day we did not drive at all. It was amazing. We had breakfast at the inn, which I feel was better than the dinner. Scoops got an amazing hot chocolate. There is enough to see around Old Faithful Inn that we spent the entire day chasing down eruptions eating and poking around the gift shops. We didn't even see all the hotsprings, pools and geysers. As I was writing this post, I saw an entire section we missed!

Anemone Geyser
Blue Star Spring

South Scalloped Spring
Heart Spring



There was one miserable point during the day when we walked out to see this group of three geysers erupt - Grand, Vent and Turban Geysers. The temperature dropped, the rain fell, and that daggum Grand Geyser took forever to go off. After we'd been sitting there an hour though, I wasn't about to leave. I was in it to win it. Joe was in shorts, so he was freezing. Once they blew, there were warm wafts of steam to heat us back up.


From NPS: "An eruption of Grand Geyser, the tallest predictable geyser in the world, occurs every 7 - 15 hours. A classic fountain geyser, Grand erupts from a large pool with powerful bursts rather than a steady column like Old Faithful. An average eruption lasts 9 - 12 minutes and consists of 1 - 4 bursts, sometimes reaching 200 feet (60m)."

The last night, we went back out for one last sprint adventure. We went to the visitor center after dinner and looked up at the eruption prediction board. Several were set to erupt all within a fairly short window and we hedged our bets on what order to attempt them all as some of those windows overlapped. Around 7:30 we came up on Castle Geyser and did the classic dragon's breath poses before realizing we had spent a bit too much time and needed to rush to see the others. I personally got distracted by the wildlife when a pair of ospreys circled overhead.



We caught the tail ends of Grotto and Riverside Geysers, as in we sprinted to each only to see them sputter out. It felt a little like a mad game of whack-a-mole. This might would have been disappointing had I not paused a couple times to take in the entirety of the landscape and admire the puffs of steam rising from all the different spots along the boardwalks. I visited "Geyser Times" and looked up June 18, 2018 and then narrowed down the table to the geysers that were erupting to give you an idea of just how active the upper geyser basin was at this specific moment. We came up on Castle around 7:30 pm, so it had been going off for awhile. We barely caught the tail end of Riverside at 7:59 pm. Joe camped out in front of Giant, which was never going to go off, and we saw Grand and Vent going off over our shoulders. Scoops sprinted back and saw Grand from the bridge before we all headed towards Grotto, where people were leaving because it had just ended.


Castle 6:55 PM
Riverside 7:36 PM
Old Faithful 8:00 PM
Grand 8:01 PM
Vent 8:04 PM
Grotto 8:13 PM
Bulger 8:21 PM
Daisy 8:26 PM


I will admit that this was my fault. If I hadn't spent so long having the boys pose in front of Castle to try and make it look like steam was coming out of their butts, we might have had a better view. We didn't get a single good picture, but those sillies sure did laugh.


Judge us, please, judge us.

Castle Geyser
Riverside Geyser and Grotto Geyser not waiting for us
Riverside Geyser



Grotto Geyser

The very best, most glorious show was seeing Daisy Geyser erupt at 8:26 pm with the sun going down in the background. There were only a few other tourists, and I would say, hands down, we worked the hardest for it.



Old Faithful Inn was as impressive as I remembered it from childhood. It feels a little like you are standing inside some boy's Lincoln Log fantasy.


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