Our second day at Yellowstone was even more jam-packed than the day before, but it also involved a lot more driving. The day began with more exploring for Xander, Selene, and Aspen while Tye and I made breakfast and cleaned up. As the kiddos explored they called themselves The Chipmunks and marched through the forest on special missions. I love how nature causes kids to use their imaginations. They have so much fun and there’s absolutely no screen time required. It’s part of why we take our kids on so many adventures.
After clean-up duty we gathered up the Chipmunks and got into the car. We briefly stopped to throw away some garbage (which will be meaningful later) and headed to the East part of Yellowstone. As we drove around Yellowstone Lake we got our first glimpse of a buffalo herd, which of course meant that we had to stop.
Bison or Buffalo or Whatever
Buffalo are such amazing creatures and it was so fun to see so many of them together. Xander kept reminding me, “Mom, they’re called bison.” (Thanks Park Ranger guy.) But I still call them buffalo. Some quick Yellowstone “buffalo” facts,
- There are an estimated 5,500 bison in Yellowstone.
- A male bison (bull) can weigh up to 2,000 pounds.
- A female bison (cow) can weight up to 1,000 pounds.
- Bison typically live 12-15 years but some have lived as long as 20 years.
- Bison can run up to 30 miles an hour (they’re a lot faster than you think).
- Yellowstone is the only place in the United State to have a continuously free-ranging bison population since prehistoric times (how they know that, I have no idea).
- Bison have caused the most injuries to Yellowstone visitors out of all of the animals.
We loved seeing the buffalo, although we did have to get out the binoculars to really get a close look.
Our next stop was at the Mud Volcano area. This place is full of mud pots or, as my kids called them, stink pots. Mud pots are very acidic and have really dark-gray or brown-colored water due to the iron sulfide. They are also full of hydrogen sulfide, which produces a lovely rotten-egg smell.
In addition to the mud pots, there are a lot of fumaroles in this area. Fumaroles, as we learned, are little steam vents. They make a lot of the area look like it’s on fire with all the smoke billowing out of the ground.
We made a stop by Sour Lake. This lake looks like the kind that would be fun to take a quick swim in. It has a nice little beach and beautiful scenery. I can imagine if I stumbled upon it hundreds of years ago that I might have wanted to take a little dip, but that would be a huge mistake. Sour Lake is named for its acidic water. This water is basically like battery acid. And now I can use this lake as firm reasoning for daintily putting my toe into any body of water before getting in it, which is a relief because I didn’t have any reason for doing it before besides my own fear of cold.
One of the things my children liked the most about the Mud Volcano area were the bathrooms. That’s right, the bathrooms. You see, at this area there was a peculiar type of toilet that my kids had never seen before and it caused no small amount of giggles. None of us were brave enough to use the squat toilet, but we sure were amused by it.
Mud volcano, the area’s namesake was interesting to see but my favorite part of the Mud Volcano area was Dragon’s Mouth. This was the kind of thing that spurs imaginations to new heights. You can’t look at it without expecting a dragon or some other monster to come forth at any moment. The constant billowing of steam and the loud gurgling, rumbling noise that emanates from it, would give anyone second thoughts about getting too close. Who knows what’s really in there?
We also saw cool features like Mud Caldron, Mud Volcano, and Black Dragon’s Caldron. Black Dragon’s Caldron has a temperature of 191 degrees and it looks like a pool of bubbling, black death. It was pretty cool. Mud Volcano was not quite as cool but I guess that it used to be. It used to be constantly bellowing and exploding mud all over the place but it’s been pretty quiet since 1979. We stayed completely mud free.
If you are looking for buffalo (or bison), then Hayden Valley is the place to go. Herds are constantly in this area grazing. It made for a fun drive as we pointed out buffalo after buffalo. We even got to see cute, baby buffalo.
All of that driving does tend to make kids a little stir crazy, so we did have to get out every once in a while and do some superhero poses.
We saw these buffalo as we drove along and were able to snap this picture from the car window.
Our next stop was Artist’s Point. Artist Point is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Looking out you can see amazing waterfalls and the Yellowstone river breaking their way through the canyon. The Lower Falls is described as being more than twice the height of Niagara and it is a pretty amazing sight to see. It’s so beautiful that it almost doesn’t look real.
Xander, Selene, and Aspen decided to take advantage of the beautiful scenery and spent a lot of time being artists at Artist’s Point.
Places like these make me wish I could draw more than just stick figures, sadly that is not the case. But that’s okay, I have a camera.
We had so much fun at Artist’s Point and it was so amazingly beautiful that we didn’t want to leave. But we were getting a little hungry and eventually our stomachs won out.
We stopped at Canyon Village to have lunch at one of their outside picnic tables. However, we soon discovered that instead of a grocery sack full of sandwiches and snacks, we had a grocery sack full of garbage. Remember how I mentioned throwing away some garbage in the morning? Well, instead of throwing away the camp garbage, Tye had mistakenly thrown away our lunch and all of our snacks for the day. It was pretty funny, to me, at the time, although Tye didn’t share in my amusement. And it’s really funny now, even to Tye. I’m sure it’ll go down as one of the great family travel stories that we can laugh about for years to come.
We are constantly telling our kids to turn problems into opportunities and here we had a chance to put that into action. So we told our kids that all of the lunches were gone, but that we were about to turn that problem into a great opportunity. So we took the opportunity to eat lunch at the Canyon Village Grill. The kids loved the food and were soon glad that their sandwiches were in a dumpster. Plus, we were able to pick up some huckleberry licorice (for me and the kids) and some huckleberry jerky (for Tye and a little for the kids) and a stuffed Wolf that we affectionately named Quest, who became our new family mascot.
After lunch we went to the Ranger Station at Canyon Village. Our kids had finished their Junior Ranger books and were excited to turn them in to become Junior Rangers. The park ranger spent a lot of time with the kids talking about the park and about how to take care of resources. She also asked them lots of questions about their trip and what they liked. And then, there was the swearing in ceremony. The kids took the Junior Ranger oath and officially became Junior Rangers. They got a fun Junior Ranger patch and, because it was the National Park Centennial, they got a really cool pin too.
After our kiddos had become Junior Rangers, we were ready for more exploring. The Artists’ Paintpots Trail is a 1.1-mile lollipop loop that allows you to see a ton of amazing features in a relatively short period of time. There are colorful hot springs around every corner and two large mudpots.
It also allowed our kids some room to run.
And the scenery from the top of the loop is incredible.
Plus there’s stuff like this that is so white it looked like milk. How does nature come up with this stuff?
While we were at the Paintpots it began to drizzle. This didn’t dampen our spirits any but it did add one extra natural wonder, a beautiful double rainbow.
Our kids loved the rainbows, especially Aspen, and they loved running along the boardwalk. This is definitely a place in Yellowstone that I recommend to families, especially those with small kids. It’s an easy hike, not long at all, it’s accessible, and it’s so very beautiful.
After a long day we headed back to camp for dinner. And, what would you know, we found another rainbow. And I’m pretty sure our campsite was at the end of it.