Thursday, August 22, 2013


The second we decided to go to Wyoming on vacation this summer, we knew we had to visit Yellowstone and see Old Faithful.  It is just one of those bucket list destinations.  I only wish Banner was a little older so he would remember it.

(Aside:  My parents took me on a vacation to Europe when I was nine months old.  I remember NOTHING, but the pictures documenting the trip are fabulous.)

The entrance to Yellowstone is about an hour north of Jackson (Old Faithful is an additional 40 miles beyond that), so we decided to eat lunch in the car and do the bulk of the driving while Banner took his afternoon siesta.  The boy LOVES to go for rides in the "ka-ka" (car) as long as said rides are no longer than SEVEN minutes.  Coordinating long drives with naps is a necessary evil at this age - especially since he could care less about TVs, iPads, games or pretty mountain views.

We had purchased a week long pass to Teton National Park and Yellowstone (they group them together) for $25 the day before.  So all that was left to do was sit back and enjoy the breath-taking scenery during the drive up to Old Faithful.  Which, luckily, was made all the sweeter by the peace and quiet of the sleeping babe in the back seat.

Seriously, silence really can be golden.  Except when the toddler is awake and out of sight. Then, silence is terrifying.

We arrived at Old Faithful just before 3 PM, and had about 45 minutes to kill before the next anticipated eruption (she blows every 90 minutes or so).  So we used the facilities, learned that Yellowstone was experiencing an outbreak of the norovirus and, as a result, tried to avoid touching ANY surface because, OMG:  NOROVIRUS.  Which, with a very active toddler, is much, much easier said than done.

Finally, we headed outside with the hope that maybe norovirus preferred inside surfaces over outside surfaces.  Which is completely irrational, but made me feel better anyway.

Plus, it was getting close to "that time" and we didn't want to risk missing Old Faithful do her thing.

While we were waiting, a gust of wind blew Banner's hat off and it landed in a stream of runoff from the geyser.  I didn't think anything of it, though, and simply picked it up, shook it off and plopped it back - still damp - on Banner's semi-bald head.

We would later overhear a park ranger loudly inform a group of rowdy teenagers, who had been splashing about in the water just off the designated path around Old Faithful, that geyser runoff is full of all sorts of geothermal bacteria, virus and other such extreme heat-loving microorganisms and extremophiles.  After sternly lecturing them about how they were putting their health at risk, he demanded they go inside and wash their hands immediately.

Meanwhile, Banner had been teething on a hat soaked in geyser water for the last twenty minutes.


He woke up sick 2.5 days later.  Coincidence?  Urgent Care said it was an ear infection, but I'm not convinced it wasn't some sort of weird geyser disease.  Because I am super lucky that way.

Other than that, though, seeing Old Faithful was a wonderful experience.  Seriously.  And I say that sincerely to all the naysayers out there. 

Yes, naysayers.  And all the "I was disappointed" geyser haters, too.

Here's the thing about Old Faithful: it is a geyser.  We knew it was a geyser.  We expected to see a geyser.  We drove 180 miles (+/-) roundtrip to see a geyser do its thing for the three or four minutes every hour and a half (or so) that she does it.  I expected it to be crowded and touristy because it is flipping Old Faithful.  I cannot tell you how many people texted, emailed or Facebooked me something along the lines of, "I hope you guys enjoyed it more than I did."  Because, OMG, what did you expect?  IT IS AN EFFING GEYSER!  Not a grizzly bear giving some guy a lap dance while singing show tunes from the musical Oklahoma.  Expecting more than a geyser when visiting Old Faithful is like going to Antarctica and being disappointed about all the ice, cold and lack of shops selling souvenir sweatshirts.  What is wrong with you?!

(Steps off soapbox.)

That said, seeing Old Faithful blow was everything I thought it would be and more.  And I'm not just saying that because I saw a bunch of steam come out of a hole in the ground.  There is something uniquely special about visiting Yellowstone, and realizing that you are standing in the middle of the caldera of a super volcano.  That magma is churning not far beneath the surface that you are standing on.  And it isn't JUST Old Faithful, either.  Yellowstone is home to more than half of the world's geysers. All around Old Faithful you can see steam rising from neighboring geysers and thermal features.  It is awe-inspiring. I would do it again in a heartbeat, and hopefully will.  I'd love nothing more than to have more time to leisurely explore the area on foot.  Maybe without a teething toddler in tow (not that he isn't awesome and all, know.) 
In fact, my only regret is that we didn't have someone else with us to take a family picture of us in front of Old Faithful.  Because taking selfies is difficult enough without a toddler AND a semi-predictable geyser.  Case in point:

Some sweet lady DID stop and offer to take our picture for us.  Here is the thing, though: it is not only wicked unflattering BUT she also managed to not get Old Faithful in the picture at all:, no, no.

But, hey.  It isn't like we paid her to take our picture.  If nothing else, it makes me giggle.  Because geyser?  What geyser?  We could be in New Mexico or Peru for all you know.

(And what's with the arm on the hip?  And the sleeves rolled up?  I mean I know you weren't expecting a stranger to offer to take a family photo, but make some sort of effort SELF!)

It is like this one time in college when my roommate, Sarah, and I went to NYC to tour grad schools.  We took an afternoon off to do touristy things, and decided to take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  On the way out, some nice person offered to take our picture with the statue in the background.  Except, once we got our pictures developed, we discovered that said stranger managed to not get the giant, green statue in the picture at all.  It just looks like Sarah and I are on a boat...somewhere nondescript.  There was absolutely nothing to suggest we were in North America, much less NY harbor.  How do things like this happen?

But I digress.
To prove I was there, I shot a video with my iPhone.  Except I didn't intend or even set out to tape it.  I had just been filming Banner jumping/dancing on the Old Faithful boardwalk/deck thingy when she started erupting.  The sun was bright, so I thought I was just taking a picture at first.  But then I realized I was recording and just went with it.  And then, on the way back to Jackson, I almost deleted it and momentarily freaked out about losing something I had really only gotten by accident.

Trevor joked that had I actually lost it, I would have made him turn the car around so I could tape it again.  And, well...he is probably right.  I'm kind of crazy that way.

Luckily (for Trevor), all was well with the original recording and now I can remember relive it over and over again for years to come on You Tube:

After watching Old Faithful do her thing, we went back inside the visitor's center.  There was an author who writes children's books set in national parks visiting that day, and Trevor wanted to buy a signed copy of the Yellowstone adventure for Banner.  It will be years before Banner will be able to read it (I think it is on a middle school reading level), but we both thought it was a nice memento of our short visit to Yellowstone.

Then, after a brief stop at the souvenir shop across the street to buy various apparel with "Yellowstone" on it, we were back on the road to Jackson.  But, of course, the trip home required several stops because it didn't coincide with naptime and the ride was much, much, MUCH longer than Banner's seven minute max.

Luckily, we were in Yellowstone, and there were more than a few beautiful reasons to pull over and stretch our legs.  The follow are a few of my favorites:

The drive back was soooo beautiful even with the road construction
and Banner's "150 Fun Songs For Kids" on repeat.

This is Jackson Lake, which is technically in the Teton National Park.
But it was on our drive home, so it still counts.  ;P

We intended to return to Yellowstone, spend the night and see more of the sights before returning to Texas, but that was before Banner got sick a couple of days later.  So, even though our day trip was brief, I am so happy we decided to go when we did and see what we saw.  It may have been less than 1% of what Yellowstone has to offer, but Old Faithful was totally worth every nanosecond.

Until next time, geyser-land!

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