Looking at the title of this post you would probably be thinking we had been to some exciting National Parks lately. After all, we all know Old Faithful is in Yellowstone and there is a whole Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. But did you know that there is another Old Faithful in Calistoga, CA and a Petrified Forest just down the road? I didn't either until I stumbled upon Roadside America and its wonderful website full of kitschy roadside attractions. It is a website definitely worth checking out if you love a little quirk in your road trip. Truly something for everyone.
My Mom, Aunt Karen (or Auntie Wacko as we affectionately call her) , and Uncle Bill were in town for the kid's birthday so I decided to drag them on one of my adventures. I figured a drive through wine country would be nice this time of year and I have been wanting to go to the dueling tourist traps ever since I first read about them months ago. So we loaded up the SUV, popped in the Aristocats, and were on our way.
We arrived at the Old Faithful Geyser first. I knew not to expect much based on the reviews I had read and decided approaching the place with a sense of humor was the way to go. The kids were outside with their Grandma so I knew they were happy, and really, that's all that matters right?
After paying the entrance fee we exited the gift shop, opened those magic doors and entered the wonderful world of the geyser. The first thing we came across was the Tennessee Fainting Goat pen. Evidently these goats are supposed to faint when frightened. I have seen videos of them online but have never had the privilege of making an ass out of myself while trying to scare one of them stiff. There were three goats, two of them kids, and they were very used to people shouting "boo". They barely blinked, let alone fainted. I was very disappointed. But what can you do?
From there we walked down the path to the splendor that is Old Faithful. They had a nice little waiting area with chairs and umbrellas. The kids occupied their time by throwing gravel into the pond formed by the geyser even though there were signs around asking people not to throw things in the pond. I tried people. I tried. But the boy is a rock throwing machine and I have to take pictures every once in a while!
After about ten minutes of waiting, the geyser went off. As someone who had never seen a geyser before, I was impressed. I know it was nothing compared to Yellowstone but hey, not bad for Calistoga.
I'd like to say that the kids were fascinated by the geyser, but they weren't.
Oh well. I was impressed and they had some good fun tossing rocks and getting into trouble.
From there we went to where the goats and llamas reside. This was the highlight of the day for Mari. She has inherited my animal loving gene and could have spent hours talking to the goats and feeding them individual pellets one at a time. We never paid for a bit of the feed since Uncle Bill taught the kids how to shake the machine and get feed to fall out. Once again, we proved just what a classy group we are. I tried once more attempted to scare the goats in hopes that maybe one or two of the fainting variety were mixed in with the herd but no such luck.
Lastly we hit up the bamboo forest maze. It was really cool to be surrounded by bamboo. I felt like I was in the jungle. Mari was happy that it led back to the goats where she could spend more time bonding with her barnyard friends. Ben loved that the bamboo made an excellent stick perfect for pounding other sprigs of bamboo. Grandma was the only one to complete the full bamboo maze by using the Marco Polo technique of following the sounds of our voices from one end of the maze towards us at the other end. I now feel confident that if I were ever lost in a maze with my mom, she could get me out.
We decided we had enough fun at this location and as we headed out the geyser but on one last show for us. Overall I would say if you are already in wine country and are looking for a break between wineries, check the place out. If you have already been to Yellowstone, you won't be impressed. But if you have never seen a geyser, love a little cheese, and want to take you shot at making a goat faint, then why not?
After lunch at a local deli we made our way over to the Petrified Forest. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the experience. The trail was very nice and stroller friendly (though we didn't bring a stroller. It isn't very long. You don't need one if your kids are in the mood to do a little walking) and the displays were informative and interesting.
The petrified logs looked like old trees but felt like rocks. It was very cool. Evidently the ones they have in the displays are power washed so you can see them better. This is how they look in their natural state:
How anyone figured out these weren't just rocks is beyond me...
And here is how the displays of the larger, more intact trees looked:
The kids had a blast getting up on the observation decks and jumping because of all the good sounds the wood deck made. I decided to join in the fun as well:
I really enjoyed the trail and I think the kids did too. I would definitely recommend this place to anyone who likes a nice walk and a little education.
We took the back way home and winded through the mountains, enjoying parts of California most people never see. Once again I was reminded why I love this state. So much diversity and so much to do!
If you would like to see other great travel photos and adventures check out this link!