GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Books accompanying travelers to the Park since 2002

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News you can use about traveling to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming with kids or friends.

Tips for a great Yellowstone vacation

Categories: Park environs, Trip planning
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It’s almost Valentine’s Day and high time to make those reservations, if you are planning a trip to Yellowstone Park next summer. Already some of the lodgings may be sold out on the dates you need, but you still should be able to find some places available at the six possible lodging areas in the park. The best way to make bookings is to call the park concessionaire, Xanterra, at 866-439-7375 or 307-344-7311. Also, it may help to know that motels and hotels in the gateway communities do not sell out as early as in-park lodgings do.

Some years ago I came up with some tips for enjoying your Yellowstone vacation. I’ll put up the first five of those right now and more in the next post.
1. DO plan to camp or reserve lodgings in more than one place. A few nights in each of two to four locales will maximize what you’ll see and minimize driving time.
–BUT–
2. DON’T expect to see everything in one trip or visit too many different places. Allow time for the unexpected bison jam or to catch a second eruption of a phenomenal geyser.
3. Be prepared to do some walking. Going a mile or two away from any road, where you can get away from crowds, can be very enjoyable.
4. Include at least one area just outside the park in your itinerary: the Grand Tetons, Cody, Red Lodge, West Yellowstone, and the Gallatin Canyon are all good choices.
5. Know the Yellowstone seasons. At 7,000 to 8,000-foot elevations, the short spring does not come until sometime in May, and even then some roads may be blocked by snow. Autumn begins early in September, and winter is long! Bring layers of clothing but plenty of sunscreen.

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Yellowstone closing for the autumn break, 2011

Categories: Trip planning, Winter
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As Hallowe’en excitement draws to a close, I’ll pass on to any of you thinking of visiting Yellowstone soon that you have only one more week before almost all the roads close for the autumn break. From 8 am Monday, November 7, until December 15, the roads will be closed except for the one across northern Yellowstone from Gardiner to Cooke City, Montana.

The winter season, when the Mammoth Hotel and Old Faithful Snow Lodge reopen and many roads will be prepared for snowcoaches and commercially guided snowmobiles, stretches from December 15 through March 15. This is a good time to make travel and accommodation reservations for the winter experience of a lifetime.

The National Park Service limits allowing 78 snowcoaches and 318 snowmobiles per day to enter the park will continue in effect this season.

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At last! A negative review of “Yellowstone Treasures.”

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[NEW: See comment at end.–Ed.]
Well, you might be surprised to see an author posting this for all to contemplate. I’ve always figured that if someone bought my guidebook and didn’t like it, they would just give or throw it away and not write about it. Wrong!

Here’s a lady who found she couldn’t plan her trip with this book. I had hoped that the two-and-one-half pages near the beginning where it lists all the Best Sights of Yellowstone (pages 17-19) would be just that kind of assistance to people who had limited time to spend in the park or little patience for all those words I wrote. I’m hoping that she just missed that section but that others will find it useful.

Here’s the one (out of 61 Amazon.com reviews) that got two stars out of five:
Bad for planning ahead. Good if you already have a plan
June 11, 2011
By daniela
This book is probably great if you’ve been to Yellowstone before and know where you’re going. We’ll be going to Yellowstone for the first time this year, and this book is just not useful for planning the trip. The book is a set of road-logs: it tells you what sights of interest you will find as you drive along the Yellowstone roads. There is a lot of information but it is organized according to the road location, which makes it almost impossible to plan what sights you want to see on each day, unless you read the entire book end-to-end. I typically prefer having also cross-lists of points of interest that can be used for planning.

7-14-11 Reader David Reed comments:
My suggestion to Daniella. READ THE ENTIRE BOOK FROM END-TO-END. Before you go to Yellowstone you need to have a good idea of the many, many wonders that await you, and Yellowstone Treasures is the place to find out. The more you know, the better you will be able to formulate a plan. The time you take will be well spent, even though you obviously will not be able to see everything in one or even ten visits. Have a great visit, Yellowstone is the most fabulous place in the world.

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Yellowstone roads close for early spring break

Categories: Flora and Fauna, Trip planning, Winter
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I find it ironic that on the very first day of road closure, the most snow I’ve seen on the Old Faithful Webcam all winter has piled up around the Old Faithful Geyser sign, and it’s still coming down in mid afternoon!

If you use a PC rather than a Mac, you should be able to see the Old Faithful Webcam yourself at:
http://www.nps.gov/yell/photosmultimedia/yellowstonelive.htm. For the link I use on my Mac, write me at janet@yellowstonetreasures, and I’ll send it to you.

This has been a spectacular winter for snow cover in the park. I wonder what it will mean when it all melts—lots of flooding? many animal carcasses showing they didn’t make it through the winter? A ranger has reported that there are at least seven bison carcasses in the Old Faithful area right now. Time will tell what spring will be like.

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Winter travel in Yellowstone is almost over

Categories: Transportation, Trip planning, Winter
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[March 2011] Wanting to keep my readers informed, I’ll pass on the fact that you have only six more days this season to enjoy going through Yellowstone by snowcoach or snowmobile. All such travel ends at 9 pm next Tuesday, March 15, and plowing the roads will begin when conditions make it feasible, readying the roads for their gradual opening to cars and buses, beginning on April 15.

Hotels and cabins are already closed at Old Faithful and Mammoth; they are the only in-park winter accommodations.

The long-term plan for oversnow travel should be coming out in Draft Environmental Impact Statement form in a few weeks, followed by a sixty-day comment period. The National Park Service intends to finish the plan and issue any new winter use regulations before the start of the 2011-2012 winter season. I’m very interested to see what they decide upon and will keep you informed when decisions are made. 


Plans for my own summer visit have been made for some time already and will include an all-day book-signing in Old Faithful Inn on Sunday, July third.

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Snowpack and Bison

Categories: On the Web, Trip planning, Wildlife
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Much has been written in the past few weeks [2011] about Yellowstone’s bison and their brucellosis problem. I will not go into details here, which are much too complicated to be dealt with effectively in a guidebook writer’s post, but I will send along the URL of the best summary of the situation I have come across lately. It’s in today’s East Oregonian and written by Samantha Tipler.

Much of this year’s bison dilemma stems from an excellent snowpack in the park, which is hard on all the animals while being great for human visitors’ enjoyment of this beautiful place. The February snowpack map of the Rocky Mountain states and Alaska shows western Yellowstone with 110% to 129% of “normal”—taken as the average snowpack from 1971 to 2000—and eastern Yellowstone (where most of the mountains are) as 90% to 109% of normal. You can look at a snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

How I wish I could go back this winter! But it is not to be. I do have the delightful memories of three winter trips there: in 1988, before that summer’s devastating fires; in 1990, when I first got to see Lower Falls with its fabulous ice-cone; and most recently in 2006.

You have only a couple more weeks before the park closes for its annual early spring road plowing and readying the facilities for the summer season. All roads close to oversnow travel by March 15. Then the various roads and accommodations gradually reopen, beginning April 15. Details about the facilities are at the NPS Opening & Closing Dates for Facilities page. But beware, this year almost all accommodations are already booked through most of the summer.

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End of summer season. Winter starts now.

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It’s been said with good reason that Yellowstone, a park with an elevation of mostly 7,000 to 8,000 feet, has only two seasons, summer and winter. Mid October is the end of the summer one, not just because the aspen leaves have turned golden and snow may begin staying on the ground, but because facilities and then roads are beginning to close. Most lodging is already closed now, and all interior park roads close on November 8th [2010] for the quiet time that lasts until December 15th.

This [2010] was the busiest summer the park has ever seen. More people are learning what a phenomenal place it is. This testimonial I recently read says it well: “Traveling through this huge & magnificent park is something you’ve heard about your entire life. It seems like the hype would be impossible to live up to. Untrue! We spent 2 days and could have easily spent 2 weeks. The views are constantly changing and the geology is like nowhere else on earth,” (http://billgisele.blogspot.com/2010/10/yellowstone-park.html).

Just in time to be closed again, the new road and bridge over the Gibbon River opened to traffic a few days ago. The nearby picnic area is to open on October 23rd, so you have two weeks to set up your picnic there before all the roads are closed!

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At Old Faithful Village, 2010

Categories: News, Science, Thermal features, Trip planning
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Old Faitful visitor center

Old Faithful Visitor Education Center dedication, August 25, 2010

We were there when the new Old Faithful Visitor Education Center was dedicated and opened on August 25th. A sizeable group of visitors and interested employees of the park attended. The ceremony began with a real mounted color guard presenting the flag and continued with short speeches by Park Superintendent Suzanne Lewis (who will retire next month), NPS Director Jon Jarvis, and others important to the creation of the new building and its exhibits. It ended with lots of Yellowstone National Park pennant-waving and with the miracle of Old Faithful Geyser erupting just as keynote speaker, historian Paul Schullery, was concluding his inspirational remarks.

At one point Schullery asked for a show of hands of people who remembered the first visitor center (then called a ranger station and museum), razed in about 1970. Of course, I raised my hand, since the exhibits at that museum and the kind rangers who worked there are fond memories of the years I got to live nearby as a little girl.

The building itself is very roomy and quite impressive, with a long curved counter where rangers can answer your questions, an excellent bookstore, and a pair of exhibit rooms, dedicated to showing and explaining all the important aspects of Yellowstone’s hydrothermal features. They cover the caldera, the rocks formed in it, the various types of thermal features and their characteristics, life forms found near them, discoveries of features under Yellowstone Lake, microorganisms, and possible similarities to other planets and their moons. The centerpiece of the main room is a life-forms diorama, and of the young scientists’ room, a model geyser that builds up to a small eruption about every nine minutes.

Old Faithful exhibit

“Life in Thermal Areas” exhibit at the visitor center

I was grouching before seeing it about the new museum being called an “education center,” thinking that people on vacation, especially schoolchildren, might not enjoy being told they are being educated. But I have to admit the curators have done an excellent job. Now—if only all those electronics can be kept operating!

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A few personal notes

Categories: Bio, Transportation, Trip planning, Wildlife
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12 Sept. 2010: Back from Yellowstone for a week now, I have lots of things to write about and will start with a few personal experiences and observations, some of which might be instructive to other visitors.

This year we opted to drive from our home in California rather than flying and renting a car. It’s always nice to have your own car in the park, but, besides not having to cope with the expense and hassle of flying, it’s pleasant to see how our 2004 Camry loves to go 75 and 80 miles per hour on those Nevada and Idaho highways—we got over 37 miles per gallon on one tank of gas!

For me, having spent my first eighteen years in Billings and environs, going back to that part of the country is a great opportunity to enjoy old friends as well as the places I love. I met two of them at Lake Hotel and participated in a joint birthday party for seven who graduated from Billings Senior High School in the Class of ’53, with a luncheon held at Red Lodge. At East Rosebud Lake in the Beartooth Mountains, I took part in a rededication ceremony, unveiling in its new location the 1929 plaque that named Mt. Inabnit for my maternal grandfather.

During my two weeks in the park, I saw no bears this year, but at Old Faithful Village I had a near-adventure with a herd of bison. In the late afternoon one day, eight or ten of them were browsing near the lower general store as I returned from walking in the Upper Geyser Basin. A rain-and-lightning storm was just starting, as a law-enforcement ranger was making an attempt to deflect the bison from the path. The ranger had driven his patrol car part way up the paved path toward Castle Geyser. He suggested that those of us walking back toward the Inn should make a big detour across the meadow and take the outer path toward the gas station. Fortunately, the bison did not come that way, so meeting them head-on was averted. Another routine day’s work for the ranger. . . not so routine for me.

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Late summer visitors—Don’t miss the new visitor center at Old Faithful!

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For everyone planning to be in Yellowstone later this month [August 2010], you are invited to attend the dedication of the large new Visitor Education Center that has gone up during the past year and more at Old Faithful. The center will be dedicated at 11:00 am on August 25th in a ceremony with Superintendent Suzanne Lewis, special guest National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, and keynote speaker Paul Schullery, a Yellowstone historian and author of many books about the park.

For children of Junior Ranger age (5 to 12) there’s to be a Yellowstone Wildlife Olympics that day at 1:00 pm. For details see: http://ypf.convio.net/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5415.

The Yellowstone Park Foundation is proud to tell us that the new building uses about one-third less energy than other similar size buildings, contains high percentages of recycled materials, and that interior furnishings contain raw materials such as cork, flax, and wheat for sustainability.

And here is yesterday’s news about park visitation: More than 957,000 visitors entered Yellowstone in July 2010. That’s the most ever recorded for any single month.

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