YELLOWSTONE TREASURES: Accompanying travelers to the Park since 2002

Watching Yellowstone wolves

Watching Yellowstone wolves

Just so my readers don’t miss it, I am passing on a link to a lovely story about the difference seeing wild wolves can make in people’s lives. The story appeared yesterday on the National Parks Traveler site.

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Yellowstone Geyser Eruptions: How Do They Work?

Knowing that lots of people would like to learn how geysers work, I’ll take a stab at explaining the requirements and the mechanism as simply as possible.

What is required to create a geyser and what’s happening when it erupts? All geysers have four requirements: water, heat, the right kind of rock, and a system of conduits and reservoirs (plumbing) that includes one or more constrictions to keep water and steam from flowing freely to the surface. The water pooled above such constrictions acts like a lid to maintain pressure on water below. Such constrictions differentiate geysers from the much more common hot springs. Although no one has yet been able to see exactly what this plumbing looks like, it must be something like this diagramGeyser Mechanism Figure drawn by my husband Bruno Giletti for Yellowstone Treasures. The countless different shapes the underground plumbing may take must account for the great variety in the patterns and timing of Yellowstone’s geyser eruptions—what I call their personalities.

Whether the water comes from the vent in the distinctive cone of Beehive Geyser2004_BeehiveG. or from the beautiful geyserite-ringed pool of Great Fountain Geyser, 2008_GreatFtnG the mechanism is the same.

Deep below the geyser’s vent or pool seen at the surface is a kind of rock that is rich in silica. In Yellowstone this rock, called rhyolite, was deposited in huge amounts when the caldera erupted. Silica is the primary element in the hydrous silicon dioxide (technical name for geyserite) that is deposited both along the conduits of the geyser’s water passages and all around its surface vent.

Also deep below a geyser are a source of heat—in Yellowstone it is the still extremely hot volcanic rocks more than two miles below the surface. Add to this the water that has seeped into the earth from snowmelt and rain (meteoric water), and voila!—the geyser erupts.

As water gradually fills the reservoirs and is heated from below, it becomes superheated and forms steam bubbles, and the water pressure increases. Eventually, the steam pushes some water out of the vent, and steam—which requires something like a thousand times more space than water—is also released. When the pressure is thus sufficiently reduced, the steam in the conduit can blow the water column out of the vent. In many geysers, when the water supply is exhausted, the remaining steam continues for the steam phase of the eruption.

I have gleaned some ideas for this post from the sidebar my husband Bruno Giletti, a geochemist, wrote in Yellowstone Treasures (pages 88 and 89) and from T. Scott Bryan, a former ranger and also a geologist and author of books about geysers, including his Geysers: What They Are and How They Work. But as early as the mid 19th century, German scientist Eberhard von Bunsen and others already had it pretty well figured out. You can find out more about the study of the geyser mechanisms here in my September 2013 post.

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A quick heads-up on Yellowstone’s wolves

Exactly twenty years after gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone Park, Kathie Lynch has given us a wonderful summary of their present very healthy state in the park. This is spite of the unfortunate killing of several collared wolves, at least three of them alphas, in the three hunting seasons since they were removed from the Endangered Species list in Montana, Idaho, and (until September 2014) in Wyoming.

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Time lines

Jack Baronett wooden bridge

“Yellowstone Jack” Baronett’s bridge over the Yellowstone River


Inside the guidebook Janet shares many anecdotes about the human history of the Yellowstone area, from prospector Jack Baronett who built a wooden toll bridge in 1871 to tourist Hazel Decker who camped in her car for 52 days to observe Steamboat Geyser. In the road logs she discusses the evidence of prehistoric peoples and the recent discoveries scientists have made at the bottom of Yellowstone Lake using a submersible robot. She compiled a time line of many of the important events in the Yellowstone area and the world in a chapter of Yellowstone Treasures called “Chronology: Yellowstone Since 1800,” which takes readers from the Lewis and Clark expedition up to the present day.

But when she and I were creating the first edition of the book in 2001 it became necessary to cut pages from the manuscript and restrict the time line to the most recent couple of hundred years of human history, even though the geological history of the region goes way back before that. Her Geological Time Line, which you can read right here on this website, extends all the way from Earth’s formation 4.6 billion years ago, through the time the Absaroka Range volcanoes formed 53 to 44 million years ago, to the time 12,000 years ago when glaciers last covered Yellowstone. This last episode was the Pinedale Glaciation, evident throughout the lower Lamar Canyon.

Thanks for spending the time with us,
Editor Beth

Credit: Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park.

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Our sale is ending

U.S. book buyers map

The map shows who has bought the guidebook from this website as of December 2014

The U.S. states colored yellow in the map are those where at least one person has ordered a book directly from this website as of December 2014. Site visitors from Germany and the United Kingdom have also bought the book.

Is your state white on the map? Of course, in those states people chose to buy the book at their favorite online or local bookstore instead of from our site. Yellowstone National Park visitors can find the book at the park’s visitor centers, Delaware North general stores, and some of the hotel gift shops.

This year we have had our best holiday sale ever for Yellowstone Treasures: A 20% discount off the list price, with free shipping. That means you pay just $19.96 for an award-winning, 400-page guidebook packed with maps, historical information, a field guide to the animals and plants, and more! Since Media Mail shipping will cost you nothing, this price beats Amazon.com. To get this discount, just enter “HolidaySale” in the Voucher box in the shopping cart when you
Buy now!

But hurry, the sale ends this Saturday, January 10, 2015, at midnight.

Editor and Publisher, Beth Chapple

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Navigating around yellowstonetreasures.com

You might like to know how to make the most of your visits to yellowstonetreasures.com, so I’ve decided to provide you with a sort of navigational post.

First, on the home page, by clicking on the white bar below the row of pictures at the top, you can move across the page and find seven different pictures. Then, clicking on any one of the pictures or on the descriptions below them takes you to a page related in one way or another to the home page picture. For instance, clicking on the elk gives you a detailed article about the resident elk herd at Mammoth Hot Springs.

Also on the home page, moving your cursor across the top yellow strip to click on Author Blog, you will find the page with our current posts (most written by Author Janet, but some by Editor and Publisher Beth). At the top right of this page is a search box where you can enter a word and come up with all the blog posts and pages (or nuggets) covering that subject here since May of 2009. I just put in the word “bears” and found 18 posts and 8 nuggets discussing grizzlies and black bears. A search for “geysers” brought up 28 posts and 24 nuggets.

On every single page of the website, you can find things another way by scrolling down and entering your search word in the Search box at the bottom right.

One further search aid you might find helpful while you are on either the main Nuggets or Author Blog pages, is the Categories and Archives boxes at the lower right.

Happy navigating in 2015!

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Happy New Year, 2015

Grotto Fountain Geyser Jim Peaco 2001

YELLOWSTONE TREASURES: Accompanying travelers to the Park since 2002

Credit: NPS photo of Grotto Fountain Geyser by Jim Peaco, July 2001.

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Pilot Peak, Wyoming

View of Pilot and Index Peaks, accompanying the guidebook section on the Beartooth Highway.

View of Pilot and Index Peaks, accompanying the guidebook section on the Beartooth Highway.

Just outside the Park’s Northeast Entrance are a prominent pair of peaks in the northern Absaroka Range known as Pilot and Index. You can get a great view of them from a short side road off the Beartooth Scenic Byway, which covers the 70 miles (113 km) from Red Lodge, Montana to the entrance. “Pilot, the pointed one, is a glacial horn; four glaciers carved its pyramidal shape” (Yellowstone Treasures, page 195). Read more about the beautiful Beartooth Highway in the guidebook, pages 190-195.

The first ascent of Pilot Peak was on August 12, 1932, by Hollis Mees and Robert McKenzie. They amazingly did the climb without climbing gear. It’s now known as a difficult climb because of the loose rock. You can see footage of Mees and McKenzie’s ascent in this video:

By the way, we have been collecting some interesting Yellowstone videos, mostly of geysers, on our YouTube channel here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF0XW_RT5rtr4vJ3MVoaDoQ/feed

–Beth Chapple, Editor

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Vic Sawyer Builds Models of Yellowstone Hotels

Our children and grandchildren are eagerly anticipating Santa Claus and his helpers, some of them hoping to get a dollhouse or a train set with wonderful buildings along the track. I’m a grandma who never got a dollhouse or a train set, but last summer I got to see a truly unique “dollhouse” being constructed and learn how it’s done.

As I was visiting with people who came by my author’s table in Old Faithful Inn last August, one especially interesting man who works at Old Faithful in the summer stopped by to talk. He told me he was the manager of the nearby Haynes Photo Shop, totally renovated last year by the Yellowstone Foundation. This historic building now showcases the photographic work of father and son, F. Jay and Jack Haynes, and informs visitors about the good works done by the Yellowstone Foundation.

My new friend’s name is Vic Sawyer, and he offered to show me the scale model he is building in a small shop set up in the Haynes Photo Shop’s back room. The model he is now working on is of the huge and elegant historic Canyon Hotel, built in 1911 but torn down by the owners, the Yellowstone Park Company, in 1959–60 to maximize their profit on the nearby recently built Canyon Village motel-like units. Since Vic has not been able to locate the plans for the Canyon Hotel, in 2014 he can only work from pictures and perhaps some verbal descriptions. Ironically, as of this past summer the Canyon Village units are being torn down and replaced by small lodges.

Vic Sawyer and model

Vic has a fabulous and unique hobby. He showed me pictures of the first model he built, that one of Lake Lodge. He has not yet settled on where he might exhibit these remarkable models, but his first one is now being stored by friends a long way from Yellowstone. For that model he made most of the furniture as it now looks in the real Lake Lodge, using masking tape painted with acrylic paints to look like leather upholstery. He found the tiniest possible incandescent lights and bits of clear plastic for windows.

He has not yet settled on where he might exhibit these remarkable models. His “dollhouses” are 1:300 to-scale models built of thin sheets of wood, and the furniture is of tiny bits of various wooden objects (like popsicle sticks, coffee stirrers, tooth picks, broom straws, and the tiniest twigs), then carefully painted. The Canyon Hotel model, he told me, will have LED lights.

Vic does beautiful, painstaking work, and I was delighted to meet him and get to see what he’s up to. I’m eager to see the completed Canyon Hotel and wonder when he will tackle Old Faithful Inn!

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Yellowstone Park Opens to Over-snow Vehicles Today—But Wait . . .

Today, December 15, is when the winter season officially begins in Yellowstone. This means you should be able to travel in snowcoaches or with commercially guided snowmobile groups starting now.

But the snow cover is so limited between West Yellowstone and Old Faithful, that the National Park Service is allowing “only commercial snowcoaches with rubber tracks or large oversnow tires” on that stretch of park road, according to today’s Jackson Hole News and Guide.

If I were so lucky as to be going to the park this winter, I would make my plans for mid January through the end of February, when snow conditions are much more likely to be good. Here’s where you can read about my unforgettable January 2012 luxury winter trip.

Of course, you can also make all the arrangements yourself through Xanterra (307-344-7311) or a private concessionaire.

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