Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

3 Months Post Peroneal Tendon Surgery

I’ve finally made it to the point where I forget for hours at a time that I’ve had surgery.

It took me three months to get here.

Yesterday I spent a couple hours on my feet in the kitchen making granola bars and heavenly gluten-free ginger cookies. Right as I was about to put my first batch in the oven I realized my ankle hurt.

Now you could blame the cookies for blinding me, but in reality I had finally made it on my feet for an extended period of time without pain. I finally made it past the threshold where that pain is always right around the corner, always on my mind.

3 Months Post Peroneal Tendon Surgery


3 Months Post Peroneal Tendon Surgery Progress

These days I’m walking. Big news over here. I can now tolerate walking around a mile and a half before the pain starts to set in. While I’m starting to get sick of the brace, I’m overjoyed to ditch the damn boot. Also, it helps that I only wear the brace when I’m out of the house.

Sleeping has gotten so much easier since I had to sleep in the boot/ the night splint made from my (smelly!) old cast. Unfortunately my side-sleeping habits still put too much tension on my tendon at night. Pro tip, a couple stiff pieces of tape can fix this right up. Tape from the center of your arch up the outside of your foot and ankle so the tape holds your foot in slight eversion and you are good to go (to sleep).

The gym has gotten more exciting. I can finally weight-bear which means not only can I carry my own equipment, but I can also start doing some light deadlifts, air squats to parallel, and standing arm exercises. (Also, another important tip. Do not try to crutch with 20lb dumbbells in each hand. Does not go well. You’re welcome.) It’s to the point where I don’t mind sweating it out on the bike instead of freezing on a winter run. Timing is everything.

I can drive! Okay, technically I can drive, but someone backed into my parked car the week I started being able to drive again. So you know, I can drive when my car is back from the shop.

Post Peroneal Tendon Surgery

I got the okay to try kicking, but it’s way too cold to even think about swimming. So that’s on hold until I get braver, it gets warmer, or I find a comfortable indoor pool.

Up Next

I’m still quite a ways off from running, but I’m working hard to strengthen my feet, ankles, and hips so the rest of me is ready when my tendon is. I’m finally getting into heel raises and balance work, which is both exciting and acutely painful.

Yoga is my next goal. I think I’m about ready to heavily modify my favorite power yoga class. A couple blankets, two blocks, and a ton of tape is all it takes.

3 Months Post Peroneal Tendon Surgery

And hopefully my ankle and foot will stop turning purple soon too.

Minimalist Gift Ideas

You can have a joyous, fulfilling, heart-warming Christmas without piles of gifts pilling out from under the tree. There is also nothing inherently wrong with giving someone a physical gift, but most of us have more than we would ever need.

These minimalist gift ideas will help you give a meaningful, clutter-free gift to anyone on your list. They are also great ideas of what to ask for if you would like to avoid receiving physical gifts.

Minimalist Gift Ideas for Everyone

Minimalist Gift Ideas


Exercise classes

Give a voucher to their favorite class or a gift card for somewhere new that you think they will love. If they love a bunch of different workouts/studios, you may want to look into something like ClassPass.


Hobby gift cards

It can be incredibly difficult to purchase an item that will fit in with your recipient’s hobby and what they already have. Gift cards are a great way to recognize what they love to do and allow them to get something they will really value and use. Great places to consider are art supply stores, yarn shops, cooking stores, local running shop, tech centers, local golf course, or anywhere else that supports a specific hobby. I personally love getting a gift card to my local running store and it supports their small business too.


Museum tickets

Take your friend on a museum trip or just purchase a gift card and let them buy tickets for the day that’s best for them. Even your local museum/aquarium/theater should offer a gift certificate.


Event tickets

Concerts, sports, movies, shows, the list goes on. You can buy specific tickets, offer a self-made voucher, or give a gift certificate for the location or ticketing company.



Or dog sitting as it may be.


Favorite food

Cookies just for me? Yes, please. You can also make their favorite meal and freeze it or give a coupon for a fresh batch in the future.


Other edibles

A bottle of wine, an assortment of local beers, coffee beans – the list goes on. Bonus, these are easy to tailor to your recipient’s taste and they are easy to buy in bulk.



Many years ago (before it was cool), my mom gave my grandparents a Netflix subscription. My tech-savvy grandpa loved it. There are so many subscription services today – although I would encourage you to avoid any that send stuff unless it’s quickly consumable like wine. Subscription boxes can quickly add clutter and feel overwhelming.


Homemade consumables

Soaps, candles, beauty products, and other homemade consumables are a great way to cover multiple people on your list without adding a ton of clutter. Once they are used up they are gone.


Your time

It sounds so cheesy that my face is getting hot just writing it, but some of the best gifts really are spending time with your friend or family member. Take them on a picnic or a hike. Invite them over for tea and snacks. Offer to help with a big task like painting the room that’s driving them crazy or decluttering an overwhelming closet. If you can’t think of anything great, make an open-ended voucher for an afternoon of your time and let your recipient cash it in on whatever they want.


No gifts please

When someone specifically asks for no gifts, it’s best to respect their wishes and not get them a gift. But that doesn’t mean you can’t clarify and see if something on this list (like spending the day together or a bottle of their favorite beverage) would still be alright.

You can also ask to not receive gifts without causing a kerfuffle. The best way is to explain why you don’t want any physical gifts this year and offer alternatives (like the list above) to people who are adamant about getting you or your family something. (This article or this forum may help you broach the subject.)


Looking for more ideas? Check out these great posts.

Minimalist Gift-Giving from The Minimalists

90 Clutter-free Gifts and 18 Non-Toy Gifts for Children from The Minimalist Mom

21 Minimalist Gift Ideas Under $100 from The Minimalist Vegan

You can read more about my previous minimalist Christmases here.

Losing My Independence

Yesterday I left the house alone for the first time since surgery. The realization hit me while I was locking the door with my own keys, which had been sitting on my dresser for months.

What used to be an every day thing for me now felt foreign and slightly frightening. I had been hiding behind other people and relying on them for my basic needs for months. And now I was suddenly back out in the world, fending for myself.

Losing My Independence

More than anything else, the hardest part of my injury has been losing my independence and my ability to move about freely in the world by myself.

I miss grabbing my shoes and heading out for a run on a whim. I miss being able to take care of my boring errands like going to the post office or the library without having to schedule it with someone else or ask to be taken there.

Today it’s coming back.

These days I feed myself, do my half of the housework and cooking, and spend the work day by myself. I started driving this morning, and daily walks are my new reward for hard work.

But I feel like I have to learn how to be in the world again. A couple of weeks ago I took BART into downtown San Francisco for my first real adventure on my own post-surgery. I was shocked by how uncomfortable I was out in public. It certainly doesn’t help that my boot (and previously cast/crutches) draw a lot more attention than I am comfortable with, but my time hidden away in the house has made me feel awkward and unmoored out in public.

I’ve been working from home since January, and my time in my own bubble is clearly taking its toll. Ironically, at a time when most people want to stay home and spend extra time with family, I’m itching to get out and meet new people and be a part of the outside world again.

What I Learned From a Year-long Injury

It’s been a year since I first hurt my ankle. I’m torn between the part of me that wants to wallow in fate or misfortune and the other that’s ready to celebrate.

This has been a year of challenge. A year of learning. A year of pushing my limits and redefining the way I see myself.

Of course I miss running like crazy and I want to be the badass I once was, but I am way more resilient and grateful than that woman was. She didn’t know how hard it was to feed yourself on crutches. She never woke up crying in the middle of the night because her ankle was on fire. She didn’t know what it was like to persevere through a full year of pain and frustration and set backs.


What I learned from my year-long injury

1. You can sob all you want, but you can’t change reality.

I fell apart as my friend helped me off the court. I couldn’t accept that I was poised to set a PR and instead I was going to be rehabbing a severely injured ankle. Crying and disbelief won’t change anything.

First time back in years. Blew out my ankle. #basketball

A photo posted by Mandy Ferreira (@treading_lightly) on

2. Ice cream won’t kill you.

I’ve done my best over the past year to severely limit my sugar intake. It’s a known inflammatory food and I need all the help I can get healing. While I stand by my decision, I also don’t regret the times I had ice cream or another sweet treat.

3. You aren’t what you do.

Runner. Yogi. Lifter. Athlete. These are all just parts of me. They don’t define me. And even when I’m not able to do them, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still a part of my identity and a part of what makes me me.

4. Do what you love.

I love to run and push myself and move my body, but even before I discovered my love for sports I fell for books. This year has given me the opportunity to spend more time than ever before reading. Reading has fulfilled me in ways that running or lifting arguably could not.

5. But how is it today?

It’s so easy to get caught up in how I think things should go or should be. But life doesn’t work like that. I had to learn to take my recovery a day at a time and realize that each day was going to be wildly different. Turns out it fits for even more than just an injury. Things look and feel different every day. Some days cooking feels like the worst way to spend my time and others it leaves me feeling warm and content. How is it today?

6. Slow down.

There’s nothing like crutches or a bulky boot to slow you down. But more than physically, I had to try to slow down mentally. As much as I tried, you just can’t look ahead two months and try to project where you will be. Recovery is slow and your body does its own thing. This year forced me to drop my obsessive planning and projecting, or at least try to.

On the move! #sixmonths up on the blog #physicaltherapy #running

A video posted by Mandy Ferreira (@treading_lightly) on

Exercising with an Ankle or Foot Injury -year-long injury

7. Keep moving.

An injury (most of the time) isn’t a sentence to the couch. I did my best to move both before and after surgery. I don’t always feel like exercising these days and it’s really difficult for me to make it to the gym since I still can’t drive, but I’m trying my best. A very nice woman around my age who was doing a seriously badass workout came up to me and told me that seeing me workout in a boot was really inspiring to her. She made me realize that it should be inspiring to me too. It forced me to look at what I was doing and the effort I’ve been putting in and appreciate my effort more.

Peroneal Tendon Surgery Recovery -year-long injury

8. Put your feet up.

Don’t forget to relax. Healing takes time and a ton of your body’s energy. Respect that! A week after my surgery I thought I could go to the farmer’s market. I was so wrong. I ended up sitting on a cold concrete bench willing myself to apparate home. Even almost two months later, I still feel like I have to sleep all day after a workout. Indulge in healing. Treat yourself to some elevation and a nice soothing soak.

9. Listen to yourself.

That pain is your body trying to tell you something. The voice in your head that says “this is a bad idea” is probably right (unless it’s just fear talking, then tell it to STFU). I’ve gotten a lot better this year at checking in with how I feel and adjusting accordingly. In the past I’ve been the queen of pushing through pain, which usually ends in a lingering injury. Since I already have one of those, I’m trying to be extra in-tune with what my body needs and what I really want. It’s changed the way I work, spend my time, and exercise.

10. Pain is temporary*.

It’s so hard to remember that it won’t last forever when you’re in the thick of it. The pain spreads like wildfire, lashing at everything in its path. But it will burn out. In a few days or a few weeks, you won’t remember just how bad it was. It will slowly drain away until there’s nothing left.

*I am blessed that this is actually true for me. I don’t know how people handle debilitating pain on a daily basis. Those people deserve our admiration, love, and help.

11. Trust.

This year I learned to trust. To let myself be taken care of. I’ve never had surgery, and while I was ready for this to be all over, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea. I put complete trust in my surgeon and the entire team. I felt safe going under, and while I recovered I forced myself to let go and lean on my friends and family. I also have to trust that I’m going to recover and be back to 100 percent in the future.

Where I am now

Lately I’ve been having weird flashbacks to the first month of my injury. Post surgery it seemed like I was in worse shape than when I first hurt it, but now that I’m really making progress it reminds me of last October. Only this time I actually know what’s going on and what my body responds to best.

After weeks of crutches and cast/boot life, I’m so happy with my progress.

Goodbye Crutches

FINALLY! I was originally told I would be on crutches for three weeks post-surgery. What they really meant was I could not put any weight on my foot for three weeks. After that I would slowly! transition to weight-bearing until I could walk without my crutches. It took me two weeks or so to get down to one crutch and be able to walk the seven steps from the sink to the dining room table without feeling like I was ripping my ankle in half.

Last night I walked two (short) blocks in just the boot and felt pretty good! The way back to the car was less fun and rest of the night was a bit uncomfortable and swollen, but it felt so good to move around in the world without the crutches.

Bye Bye Boot-y (er… sort of)

A couple weeks ago I got the okay from my doctor to start putting weight on my foot without the boot. I started with putting a teeny tiny bit of weight on my foot while brushing my teeth or showering. Progress has been slow, but earlier this week I made it up and down the stairs in Tiny House in just my socks. I’m still stupid proud of myself.

Six Months Eversion Ankle Exercise with Thera-Band

Physical Therapy (Round 2)

I’m back to doing nightly Thera-Band exercises in addition to everything else I’ve been doing. It’s only been a week, and my progress is astounding. Physical therapy gives me the warm and fuzzies. And hope for the future. And really weird marks.

Soothing Nightly Routine

There is something so comforting about a routine, especially a nightly routine. The right routine can set you up for a good night’s rest and an even better next day.

The hours before bed are precious. But it’s all too easy to try to get as much done before the day runs out. The laundry that’s been strewn about all day, the dishes from your after-dinner snack, the pile of work you didn’t get to today.

I’m fully guilty of this. It’s so easy to run around and clean up my messes and randomly decide to organize my closet in the hour before bed. But since my surgery I’ve been more strict with my nightly routine. To be fair, I didn’t consciously stop doing all of the random tasks that used to distract me and keep me from getting in bed in time – I can’t physically do them on crutches. But my limitation gave me the space to create a relaxing nightly routine.

My Soothing Nightly Routine

The hour and a half before bed have turned into my healing and soothing time. I massage my ankle, drink a magnesium supplement, and do a quick sinus rinse. I wash my face and slather myself in aloe vera and jojoba oil. Next I spend 25-30 minutes contrast bathing my ankle. I’ve started adding epsom salts to the bucket of hot water, which makes it feel extra indulgent.

soothing nightly routine

How to Create a Soothing Nightly Routine

The best part of a soothing bedtime routine is that it’s all yours. You can make it into whatever you want. These quick tips will help you make your own soothing nightly routine that you won’t want to skip.

1. Set Aside Time

Nothing is relaxing or calming when you are rushing to fit everything in. Decide when you are going to start your nightly routine, and be strict with yourself about it. You can set an alarm that reminds you to start your bedtime routine if that will help.

I have found that for my pared down nightly routine, 30 minutes is cutting it too close. I like to have a full hour, and if I get done early it means I get to read in bed or do something else relaxing with my extra time.

2. Slow Down

Take a few deep breaths and slow your roll. When we spend all day running from one task to the next, it can be hard to sit still and take things slow. Let your body and your mind transition from your busy day into a calming night. Give yourself space to adjust.

3. No Screens

Trust me, it’s hard for me too. It’s so tempting to scroll through Instagram while I brush my teeth or to watch a video or two while I contrast bath. But between the light from the screens and the nature of online content, we leave ourselves more wound up than when we started. Turn it all off. You’ll sleep better and the time away is refreshing.

4. Relax

My nightly routine used to just consist of getting ready for bed, but since I’ve started sitting in the bathroom for a half hour dipping my foot into buckets, I’ve had time to actually read before bed. I equate reading in bed with luxury. It feels like a soak in a really deep bathtub without the pruning or the water use.

You don’t have to read. You can write, play a game (IRL, no screens), draw, meditate – whatever helps you relax.

5. Play Around

I haven’t been sleeping all that well since my surgery. Between a busy mind and a restless body, I have trouble settling in and falling asleep. My daily routine is a mess and my body doesn’t know what to do without its daily hit of exercise.

To try to help myself get to sleep faster, I’ve been playing with my routine and my timing. I’ve been switching up the time I get in the morning and the time I go to bed to try to trick myself into being tired sooner.

You might not find the perfect nightly routine right away. Being flexible and playing around with what you do and when is a great way to sort it all out. And don’t freak out if your nightly routine stops feeling right for you. Switch things up until it all fits again.

Tips for Exercising with an Ankle Injury

For the first time in years I’m having trouble motivating myself to exercise. I’m not training for anything – all of my energy is focused on recovering and healing. While exercise is definitely an important part of that, my limited abilities are a total downer.

If you don’t mind me borrowing from Beyonce, “I’m not feeling like myself since the baby” ankle injury. My drive is muddled in feeling frustrated and trying to moving forward. My focus is on improving my ankle motion, depriving myself of sugar in the name of healing (AKA eating the best nutrients I can every day), managing inflammation, improving circulation, and trying to figure out how much pain is alright.

I don’t have a ton of mental energy to get creative with my workout. Especially since I can’t actually drive myself to the gym and crutching there may kill me. I have no experience working out at home, and so far I have to be honest, I hate it. Going to the gym is a reset. Even if I don’t feel like exercising, once I’m in the gym that feeling disappears 95 percent of the time.

How to Exercise With an Ankle or Foot Injury

Despite my whining, it’s fully possible to get a great workout without weight-bearing on an injured foot/ankle. Bonus, you’ll heal faster if you do.

Exercising with an ankle injury

1. Change Your Priorities

The last time I was off my ankle, my arms and core were solid. I returned to CrossFit being able to do things that were impossible for me before. Sure, you’ll have to build up your leg strength and balance again, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fine-tune something else. All is not lost.

Target your weaknesses and focus on setting yourself up for a quick, safe return. I’m focusing on hip strength and stability (yes, even without weight-bearing), core strength, and getting rid of imbalances between my arms.


2. Embrace a New Focus

I fight change like a boxer. I refuse to let it go, even when it’s clearly going to win anyways. Before I hurt my ankle I was working on running further faster and improving my leg strength. Weeks before surgery, I hit my previous squat PR.

After surgery I’ve had to let go of all of that. You can’t mourn the strength you are losing or the effort that was “wasted.”

Put all of that energy into something new. I’m all in on my recovery.


3. Track Your Progress

I write down what I’ve done each day to recover and heal, including how I felt and the quality of my sleep. Your workout journal is a great place for this. My phone is full of (nasty) pictures of my incisions so I can scroll through and remind myself how much as changed and how far I’ve come. (Pro tip: These are also great for freaking out your family and friends. You’re welcome.)

Same goes for my workouts. I write down what I did that day, if anything caused pain, and if anything was too easy/hard.


4. Drop the Comparison

You wouldn’t say any of the shit running through your head to someone else with a similar injury. Stop comparing yourself to what you used to be able to do. Yes, it’s disorienting and frustrating. Quit being an ass to yourself (talking to myself here).

An injury is a clean start. Stop looking back at what you used to do and explore what you can do now. I’ve stopped flipping through my workout log to decide on weights. Instead of failing at them and feeling less than, I’m listening to my body and getting a solid workout.


5. Plan

This is the most important. Go into your workout, whether at home or in the gym, with a general idea of what you are going to do. Leave room for making adjustments based on how you feel (and the availability of equipment). This will stop you from wasting time once you get going and will make exercising so much easier.


Exercises to Do When You Have an Ankle or Foot Injury

This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s what I’ve been working with so far. This list is for people who cannot weight-bear at all. These exercises are perfect if you are in a boot/cast or are on crutches.

  1. Russian Twists: use a plate, medicine ball, or dumbbell to make these more difficult
  2. Bird Dogs: put a balance pad beneath your knees for added difficulty
  3. Fire Hydrants on hands and knees
  4. Hamstring Curls with resistance band or machine. I’ve been doing it like this.
  5. Side Plank 
  6. Plank with injured leg raised out to the side or draped over other foot
  7. 1 Leg Pushup: Hello, core. Or pushups on both knees, increase reps or add weight to your back for a challenge
  8. Pull Ups: Play with grip, embrace the weight of your cast/boot/brace
  9. Dips
  10. Ab Roll Outs: AKA accidental faceplants if you are me.
  11. V-Ups & Boat Pose
  12. Supermans
  13. Kneeling/seated lat pull down with resistance band or cable machine
  14. Kneeling tricep rows on bench or floor
  15. Side Leg Raises
  16. Leg Raises
  17. L-sits & L-hangs
  18. Seated bicep curls or really any seated arm exercise


Exercising with an Ankle or Foot Injury

Ride a stationary bike. No, you probably can’t go to SoulCycle, although by all means ask your doctor. My doctor got me on the bike in my cast for five minutes at no resistance. I’ve slowly built up to 10-15 minutes in my boot, still with no resistance. 100 percent ask before trying this if you are not supposed to be weight-bearing.

Swim. Be sure to have proper support for your injury (tape or brace), no kicking, and don’t push off of the wall with your injured foot/ankle.

Arm cycle. No one wants to do it, but it will definitely get your heart rate up.

Row. Put your injured leg on a skate board and go for it. Personally I feel off-balance when I try this, but see how it feels to you.


What have you tried? Are there any other good non-weight bearing exercises?

11 Months + Peroneal Tendon Surgery Recovery

While it’s been 11 months since I first injured my ankle, I’m only three weeks into my peroneal tendon surgery recovery.

After a solid two weeks of rest, I finally felt ready to do my first workout. It felt so so good to move around and get a little sweaty, although I was less excited to be sweating in my cast. I’m still trying to figure out creative things that I can do while sitting or lying down. I’m planning on including a list one of these days so you don’t have to scour the entire internet like I did. For some really hardcore ideas, you can check out Lauren Fisher’s Instagram.

peroneal tendon surgery recovery – Exercise

I got the cast hacked off me and breathed a huge sigh of relief when I finally got to wash my leg and trim my toe nails. (Casts are a worst nightmare for a germaphobe like me.) But I haven’t exercised since I got the cast off on Monday. It took me a solid 24 hours to adjust to life in my boot. The first night was terrible, but we’re starting to understand each other better.

peroneal tendon surgery recovery

I may attempt to flop around on the floor a bit today in the name of stretching and exercise, but since I started partial weight-bearing today and my ankle wasn’t a huge fan, I’m waiting to see how things progress into the afternoon.

Peroneal Tendon Surgery Recovery Lifesavers

1. Friends and family.
I have been blessed to have so much help. You don’t really realize how limiting crutches are until you are trying to get yourself grapes out of the fridge and you have to sit on the floor and eat them right there because you can’t crutch and carry them.

My lovely boyfriend has taken the brunt of it. He makes me a solid three meals a day, does the dishes, retrieves snacks, and doesn’t say anything when I ask for the chocolate… again.

2. Extra pillows.
Fun fact, my whole foot turns purple when I don’t elevate. While it is an interesting hue, I find it best not to experience it.

3. Knee-height stool
I scoot myself around the kitchen with a stool. It means I can ditch the crutches, actually have clean hands, and carry things. Amazing!

4. A great book… or four
Reading has kept me sane. It’s one of my few hobbies that I can still do while recovering.

5. Tasty Tea
And the disgusting turmeric tea I drink to appease the gods of inflammation. But man do I look forward to my warm cup of green tea in the morning. Bonus points if you drink tea every time you ice too (unless it’s a thousand degrees outside like yesterday, and then by all means put some of that ice in your cup).

6. No-poo trend
While I already had the precedent of stretching the time between washes, I feel no shame rocking full on greasy hair these days. Thanks, internet!

7. What laundry?
Not really a lifesaver, but this bonus should not go unnoticed. It turns out not going to the gym and spending most days at home means you produce 1/4 of the laundry you once did. Score! Especially since the aforementioned lovely man has to do it all by himself.

8. Creativity
While I was rarely left to fend for myself the first week and a half, the time came for me to be more self-sufficient. My biggest barrier (other than pain anytime my foot was below my hip for more than two minutes) was my inability to carry things.

I fixed that problem. A little creative problem solving goes a long when fending for yourself in less than optimal conditions.


I’m in the boot for six weeks, but my doctor has encouraged me to start testing my range of motion. Full discloser, that has been awful! My total range of motion is less than three degrees at most and it lets me know what it thinks of this plan loudly. Needless to say, I’m not rushing into that.

Ideally in the next week I will ween myself off the crutches (and become a more fully functional human being in the process). While my hands are ready to burn the crutches for what they’ve done to them, my ankle has made it clear that a very slow transition will be necessary.

I start PT (yay, again!) in three weeks. I have legitimate fear about it right now. But three weeks is a lot of time to heal (and toughen up).

In case you missed it:

I thought I could still play basketball
One Month Later
10 months and surgery

One Day in Yellowstone National Park

We spent a whirlwind day in Yellowstone on our trip to Wyoming this summer. While that’s really not a lot of time, especially when you sit down in front of a guidebook or map about Yellowstone and factor in drive time to and from the park, we got to see just about everything we wanted to.

What to see if you only have one day in Yellowstone National Park

Since we were staying just outside of Teton National Park, we entered Yellowstone through Teton via the south entrance. The drive there was gorgeous, and well worth the time in the car.

1. Old Faithful

We somehow missed the signs (there had to be signs… right?) for West Thumb – our intended first stop. Instead we ended up going to see Old Faithful first.

I had heard mixed reviews about the geyser, but I really couldn’t imagine going to Yellowstone and not seeing it.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park – Old Faithful

I felt like a brat – Old Faithful did not live up to my expectations. You only see pictures or short video clips of it shooting into the air with force and stamina. In real life it spent maybe 10 seconds at its full height and the rest of the time half as high if that. It also took forever to get enough steam. There were a lot of false starts and disappointments. It didn’t help that we were parking during an eruption and thus had to wait 90 minutes or so to see it.

2. Area around Old Faithful

While we waited to see the geyser, we walked around the pools and crazy landscape around it.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park – Boiling Thermal Pool

The experience was surreal, and way better than Old Faithful if you ask me.  I’ve never seen a landscape like it. The pools of boiling water were like something out of a dark-magic movie.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park

3. Gibbon Falls

We just happened to pull over because the area looked beautiful and there was a turnout. I’m so glad we didn’t miss these falls. They aren’t the most impressive of the (many) falls in the park, but they were a nice little stretch break and a great view.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park – Gibbon Falls

If you visit, you’ll likely be just as impressed looking at the valley below the falls.

4. Canyon Village Upper and Lower Falls

I was impressed from the lookout at the top. I was even more impressed from halfway down the cliffside.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park – Lower Falls

We took Uncle Tom’s Trail down to the lookout along the canyon. The trail featured many flights of stairs after zig zagging a bit on a regular trail. (We also saw a deer who could not care less that we were all standing there. S/he really held up traffic while lazily eating in the middle of the path.)

The stairs were a bit frightening. I’m not huge on heights, and I particularly didn’t like that you could see straight down into the depth of the canyon below through the metal stairs. They were also wobbly in places or had (small) holes in others. The stairs cling to the side of the canyon in a not so comforting fashion, and they had a tendency to move a bit as people waked on them. Add in the huffing and puffing from climbing stairs at elevation, and I was thankful to get back on solid ground.

Despite the scare, they are 100 percent worth the views at the bottom (and along the way if you aren’t freaking out and staring at the hand rail calculating if it will really save you). Bonus, you get in a good workout before hopping back in the car.

5. Yellowstone Lake

To be fair, we just drove around the edge of it on our way home, but this expansive lake was incredible. It’s the largest high elevation lake in North America. With 141 miles of shoreline, it felt like it went forever. It blew my mind that the lake is frozen for nearly half the year. I can’t imagine what it takes to freeze a lake that’s roughly 20 miles long and 14 miles wide.

I’ve spent my fair share of time around Lake Tahoe, and this lake didn’t stop impressing me. It went on for miles and miles. Stunning.

So much more

There is plenty more to see, but if you only have one day in the Yellowstone National Park, this southern loop will give you a good start. There are plenty of places to pull over along it to see jaw-dropping views and wildlife (between the two parks we saw bison, elk, a wolf, lots of adorable chipmunks, squirrels, unidentified birds, and cute dogs traveling with humans). We got to the park a little before lunch and left around five or so.

One Day Yellowstone National Park

One Day Yellowstone National Park – Chipmunk

After a day of exploring (and what does start to feel like too long in the car), we were spent.

Helpful Tips

There are water bottle filling stations at just about every tourist information station.

The food sold at Old Faithful did not look appealing – I’m very thankful I brought my own lunch.

We stayed with other people in well-populated areas and didn’t have to worry about bears. If you do want to hike around and have a little more space to yourself, it’s a good idea to bring bear spray and take the snacks out of your bag.