YELLOWSTONE TREASURES: Accompanying travelers to the Park since 2002

Wildflowers galore!

Wildflowers galore!

What to say about an idyllic three days in the Lamar Valley enjoying and learning more about Yellowstone wildflowers? Even in seasons without so many flowers the valley is one of my favorite places anywhere.

Whenever I’m there, I can never get enough of the changing light as you look up the valley to Saddle Mountain and its neighboring peaks or across the river to Specimen Ridge. But this green early summer with bison grazing everywhere is really special.

Also special in every way was the Yellowstone Institute class called The Art of Wildflower Identification. Instructor Meredith Campbell is not just knowledgeable about botany and a fine artist. She is wonderfully qualified to patiently teach us about keying in Rocky Mountain wildflowers as well as about some techniques of drawing and using color. We were using a little booklet that asks us specific questions about the leaves and flowers and (sometimes!) leads us to identify the one we are looking at.

This was my third time for taking this class, but the second was seven years ago, and I need lots of review. Special for me this year were the other members of the class, who included the current Mammoth Clinic doctor (also trained as an architect and capable of lovely flower drawings), several caring people who work for the park service or for the Yellowstone Association, and others with interesting backgrounds and reasons for being there. They were particularly kind to me as by far the oldest class member.

It hardly mattered that it rained on and off for the first two days and the third was sunny—but when we went partway up Mt. Washburn seeking subalpine flowers, we encountered a strong cold wind. You never know what to expect in the mountains.

I am hoping I can soon add a Lamar Valley picture to this post, one taken by Kathie Lynch, who spends so much time studying Lamar wolves that her license plate is “YNP WOLF.” She writes interesting reports about the park’s wolves on The Wildlife News.

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What you can find in the guidebook

Janet Chapple on Mount Washburn

Author Janet Chapple poses among wildflowers at the start of the Mount Washburn trail.

Are you planning your first big trip to Yellowstone National Park? With Yellowstone Treasures you can figure out the distances between various gateway towns and parts of the park, what time of year is the best time for you to visit, and where you should plan to stay. The book tells you all about the campgrounds and lodgings in the park, plus listing resources for exploring the national forest campgrounds and town motels on all sides of the park. There are also lists of what to see, recommended hikes, and helpful maps, all of which Janet describes in “The Features of Yellowstone Treasures.”

Once you are there, the road log format lets you figure out what you will come to just ahead—a picnic area, a hot spring, the chance to see bison, a waterfall—there are so many possibilities! Here’s an excerpt of the road log from the East Entrance to Fishing Bridge Junction. You get details about how strenuous a hike is, where to park, which mountains you can see at a particular viewpoint, and even how many picnic tables there are. Janet checked out every spot in the road guide and hiked on every trail she recommends, sometimes multiple times.

You may wonder, do I need to travel by car to use Yellowstone Treasures? Janet feels that even people who go through the park by bus would enjoy a copy of her book, both while in the park and afterward. Though they would not benefit from the mileage indications between points of interest, every other facet of the book should be useful, including maps, pictures, and planning aids.

—Editor Beth Chapple

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Countdown to my Yellowstone wildflower trip

In a few days I’ll fly to Idaho Falls for a brief visit with a friend before I drive to the Lamar Buffalo Ranch in northeastern Yellowstone for my Yellowstone Institute class. This is a class called The Art of Wildflower Identification, taught by Meredith Campbell. I’ve taken the class twice before and simply loved it.

We start with the elementary botany of flowers, and since for me it’s always quite a few years between these classes, I can use all the review I can get. Meredith also shows us some techniques for drawing with our colored pencils. Then we’re off for three days in various outstanding fields of flowers that she’s found in advance.

Here is a forget-me-not, a sample of the wonderful flower drawings by Mary Vaux Walcott in the 1920s (from page 352 in Yellowstone Treasures):

Mary Vaux Walcott watercolor of flower

—and my best effort at drawing a clematis during the 2007 class:

Clematis by Janet, 2007

Clematis by Janet, 2007

You can see why I need more classes!

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A Different Take on Yellowstone Wolves

Here’s a newspaper story from Twin Falls, Idaho, that was not what I expected but was fun to read.

And the picture reminds me that in 16 more days I will get to join the wolf-watchers in Lamar Valley!

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Camping in Shoshone National Forest

When planning to camp during your Yellowstone trip, you will find the chart of the 12 campgrounds in Yellowstone on page 365 of Yellowstone Treasures to be helpful. But keep in mind there are many more opportunities just outside the park, both private and public.

Beartooth Butte

Beartooth Butte

Six national forests either border Yellowstone National Park or are very nearby. In Shoshone National Forest, outside the East Entrance, there are 31 campgrounds. At the foot of Beartooth Butte lies crystal-clear Beartooth Lake. There you’ll find a campground with 21 sites, a picnic area, fishing, hiking trails, and a boat ramp. Shoshone was the first national forest in the United States. You can find out more and get a full-color visitor guide by calling 1-307-527-6241 or visiting the Shoshone National Forest website.

All the nearby national forests are clearly marked on the maps in the guidebook, and we include a phone directory for the ranger districts near the approach roads to the park.

—Editor Beth Chapple

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A National Monument West of Yellowstone—Great Idea!

I’ve just learned that President Obama has designated an area called Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in New Mexico as a national monument. I was reading
Rocky Barker’s post in the Idaho Statesman, and his beautiful photo of Upper Mesa Falls took me back to the several pleasant visits I’ve made to that area. What a great idea to make this area, already public land in Caribou-Targhee National Forest, a national monument! Here’s the same view from Yellowstone Treasures.

114_Upper_Mesa_Falls

Both Upper and Lower Mesa Falls are worth a detour off U.S. 20. Besides the falls, the area sports beautiful 1930s stonework, good visitor access, and the Big Falls Inn’s small visitor center. Those of us who have been there should urge President Obama to use his ability soon to designate this part of Idaho just west of and contiguous with Yellowstone Park as a national monument. A portion of Yellowstone Treasures’ map on page 115 shows where the falls are located along Idaho state road 47.

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Muskrat in a kettle pond

Can’t resist sharing this cute picture of a muskrat in a Yellowstone kettle pond with you. What’s a kettle pond, you may ask? Here’s what the Yellowstone Treasures glossary has to say: “A pond formed in a depression caused by the ground collapsing when a buried block of glacial ice melted. Also called kettle hole.” The melting snow of the caption to this National Park Service photo is just this past winter’s. The hole is much older.

You can find out more about how glaciers reshape the landscape on the illustrated pages 311-312 of the “Geological History” chapter in the guidebook.

—Editor Beth


Yellowstone in social media and more

From the Spring 2014 issue of Yellowstone Spring (published by the National Park Service and formerly called Yellowstone Today), you can learn a lot that’s useful for an upcoming trip to the park.

Yellowstone has stayed at the forefront in social media. Here are some addresses currently offered that you might like to follow:

twitter.com/YellowstoneNPS
twitter.com/GeyserNPS
www.facebook.com/YellowstoneNPS
www.youtube.com/YellowstoneNPS
www.flickr.com/photos/YellowstoneNPS
For predictions of Old Faithful Geyser’s eruptions whenever the park is open, follow @GeyserNPS on Twitter.
[And don't forget to follow us on Twitter as well: @GPPublications --Ed.]

There are webcams you can watch at Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, and the Mount Washburn Fire Lookout.

The paper also has the following useful information that may affect your travel plans within the park. You can expect these construction delays:

1. From Gibbon River to Grizzly Lake: nightly closures from 11 pm to 7 am all summer; this section of road will be a fully closed from September 14 at 11:00 pm through September 30 at 7:00 am.

2. To replace the Isa Lake bridge, the road between West Thumb and Old Faithful will close for the season on September 2, 2014.

You can also download a PDF of the entire Yellowstone Spring 2014.

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Just a quick update

Mushroom Pool

Mushroom Pool with Thomas Brock


I’ve been pretty quiet on this blog for the past two weeks, but I’ve been thinking about Yellowstone as much as ever. Right now I have a big writing project about microbes in Yellowstone like those found here by microbiologist Thomas Brock at Mushroom Pool. This is where he located an amazing thermophilic microorganism (heat-loving bacteria in plain English). The article I’m writing will first go on another blog, but I’ll be putting it up here soon after. It’s title may be something like: “A Great Vacation Destination is a Treasure Trove for Scientists.”

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