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

All posts tagged lodgings

Living in the Anthropocene, Part IV

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Many nonprofit organizations are making a difference in how we use and affect Earth. They are offering programs that train young people to value and care for our special lands and resources. In the U.S. these include the Nature Conservancy, NatureBridge, and the Student Conservation Association.

Individuals are also making a difference in mitigating the changes humans have brought to Earth. I have come up with three small examples. Stanford University graduate student Mike Osborne and friends have set up a series of podcasts and a website they call Generation Anthropocene [1]. They have interviewed and posted essays by scientists and others who are working full time on the big problems. A quote I like from their website goes, “If humans are the force that has harmed the Earth, we are responsible for turning it around.” Osborne is ultimately optimistic: Humans “thus far have demonstrated that we’re perhaps the most adaptable organism in the history of the planet. We are amazing innovators, and you have to believe that we’re an evolutionary success. . . .“

On Hawaii’s island of Oahu, a land and town planner named Bruce Tsuchida runs a small planning company that creates land and water conservation plans for numerous native Hawaiian organizations, including educational components for high school students. The goal of the high school program is “to protect this very important cultural landscape and see that it is used in culturally appropriate ways. . . .” [2]

Karen Chapple backyard cottage in Berkeley My daughter Karen Chapple is a University of California—Berkeley associate professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning and the faculty director of their Center for Community Innovation. In connection with her concern that many more units of affordable housing are needed in the San Francisco Bay area, she has built a tiny “green” cottage at the back of her Berkeley property. She says it “helps people understand how they could reduce their material possessions and carbon footprint” [3].

Maybe the new word Anthropocene or the question of declaring a new epoch are not important to everyone, but the human-caused problems are the concern of us all. We can try to understand, ponder, and discuss the implications of the Anthropocene, and we can contribute in our smaller or larger ways to the goal of allowing Earth to support human life for as long as possible.

References

[1] Generation Anthropocene podcasts and essays
[2] The Ka’ala Farms project that planner Tsuchida is involved with: Cordy, Ross. “Archaeology: How the land tells its story,” Ka’ala Farm blog, April 17, 2013.
[3] Dr. Karen Chapple’s backyard cottage featured: Maclay, Kathleen. “With streamlined regulations, in-law units could boost East Bay affordable housing stock and economy, study finds.” UC Berkeley News Center, September 13, 2011.

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Landing room reservations in Yellowstone Park

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Yesterday I found an excellent article by Kurt Repanshek about booking rooms in prime locations in various national parks, with an emphasis on Yellowstone and its wonderful Old Faithful Inn. Agreeing with everything I read there, I was going to write a short comment to say so and found that the well-known environmental historian Alfred Runte had written essentially what I would have commented.

I have had very much the same experiences as these two men have had and can only add that, especially for Old Faithful Inn, you should book a year or more in advance of your visit. However, I’ve sometimes had good luck calling a day or two before I needed a room and learning that a cancellation has created an opening.

The entire article and comments are on the National Parks Traveler site.

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Traveling to Yellowstone in the winter

Categories: Trip planning, Winter
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Silex Spring in winter

An island of rime-coated grass in Silex Spring’s runoff


For most of the winter, the West, East and South park entrances are closed to cars and trucks but open to skiers, snowshoers, snowcoaches, and snowmobiles. These winter activities are possible until early to mid March. Then most of the park is closed to everyone until various roads open between April 18 and 23. Call the Yellowstone National Park information office (307-344-2117) for current road information.

The one park road that is kept open all winter takes you from the North Entrance to the Northeast Entrance via Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower-Roosevelt. See the Park Map.

Only two park lodgings are open in winter—the Snow Lodge at Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. Go to Xanterra’s Yellowstone site for more information and reservations.

Also, be sure to read Janet’s report about her Tauck tour of the park in 2012. The many photos give you an idea of what it is like this time of year.

Happy New Year!

Have a good journey,
Beth Chapple, Editor

Updated Jan. 2, 2014

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Trip planning

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One aspect many people wonder about when getting ready to travel to Yellowstone is how do people stay in touch? Cell phones have limited usefulness in Yellowstone, but relay towers are gradually being added throughout the park. The most reliable service can be found at Canyon, Grant, Mammoth, and Old Faithful. In 2013 a tower at Lake was announced as planned for the near future. Many geyser enthusiasts (“geyser gazers”) use FRS radios to keep in touch, especially in Upper Geyser Basin.

Are you wondering what the seasons are like in the park? We have just posted a table showing you what the weather will be like in each season, to help you decide when to go.

Many of the posts Janet has written on her blog over the years give you more tips to help you reserve lodging, decide on what to see, and plan when to go. She also lets you know about facilities that will be closing or opening for the season. A quick way to find these tips is to search for “trip planning” in the Category list in the right column of this blog.

Have a good journey,
Beth Chapple, Editor

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Late Season Visits to Yellowstone Park, 2013

Categories: Trip planning, Wildlife
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You can count on fewer people on the roads and at all the major features in Yellowstone now that most schools have begun. Here’s what a mid summer eruption of Old Faithful Geyser looked like from Observation Point— a delightful short hike above Upper Geyser Basin. From now until the park closes for its autumn break, you won’t find those tremendous crowds, even around the world’s most famous geyser. (Click on the picture to see the crowds circling the geyser.)

Old Faithful from Observation Point

Bears are now fattening for their winter hibernation, bull elk are rounding up their harems and bugling to show their dominance, and bison are in their rutting season. Nights are already beginning to be colder, and it could snow at any time. Remember, Yellowstone’s minimum elevation is about 6,200 feet (1,900 m).

All park roads and most facilities are open into early November every year (barring a possible closure due to fire). Road closure dates have not yet been announced as of late August.

Campgrounds close between September 2 and November 3, hotels and cabins between Sept. 22 and Oct. 20.

For NPS-operated campgrounds, see:
http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/camping-in-yellowstone.htm.

For Xanterra-operated campgrounds, hotels, and cabins, see the Xanterra website or call 307-344-7311.

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Grand GeyserNot having traveled with children in the park for a great many years, I learned a couple of things new to me that might be useful for other parents and grandparents to know about. Stuffed animal toys that Xanterra places in hotel rooms and that I have always pushed out of the way to make room for my own stuff are—not surprisingly—a magnet for little ones. My granddaughter Lexi ended the visit the proud owner of a cuddly bison and an even cuddlier black bear!

Be forewarned that the hotels no longer provide cots in your room for kids. But they are happy to loan you some bedding, so we made nests for Lexi on the floor—and she was out like a light in two minutes each night after crawling in with her animals.

One of our most delightful shared experiences was our geyser day at Upper Geyser Basin. Starting by going to the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center at 8:00 am to copy down the predictions for six major geysers, we set out after breakfast to catch the Grand Geyser eruption, predicted to erupt within about one-and-one-half hours of 10:40 am. Lexi did not complain at all about the wait, and when Grand accommodated us at 11:20 (above) and again with a second beautiful burst at 11:37, she was every bit as thrilled as the other hundred or so visitors watching it.

We went on to visit the wonderful pools and formations beyond Grand and were just in time to catch the Riverside Geyser eruption a little after 1:00 pm. Then our party split into two, and, fortuitously, Suzanne, David, and I caught Grotto Fountain and Grotto Geysers erupting on our way to see Punch Bowl Spring and Black Sand Pool. Returning from that extension of the trail, there was Daisy Geyser erupting as we came back to it! Not to be outdone, Beehive’s Indicator was going before we got back to the Inn, and we were able to see the whole Beehive Geyser eruption. Then, for “dessert,” Old Faithful joined the display not long afterwards. What a geyser day!

2013

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Yellowstone’s hotels will remain in good hands

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Good news arrived in my inbox first thing this morning [February 2013]! Xanterra Parks and Resorts will continue to manage the hotels, restaurants, and some activities in Yellowstone.

I have known the concessionaire contract was up for renewal but not exactly when a new one would be awarded. As a yearly (or oftener) visitor to the park, I’ve had nothing but good experiences with Xanterra, and I find they keep getting better. Rooms are always clean and equipped as promised, restaurant food has been getting better, and their personnel is pleasant, helpful, and seems content to be working there. Many of the seasonal help return summer after summer.
Xanterra has also embarked on making the park greener, with recycling, serving locally obtained food products when possible, and other worthwhile projects. A major part of their new contract involves redevelopment of the dilapidating cabins at Canyon. Hooray!

An excellent article about Xanterra’s new contract by Ruffin Prevost appears at:
http://www.yellowstonegate.com/2013/02/park-service-chooses-xanterra-for-20year-yellowstone-concessions-contract/

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Reading the news that eight national park lodges have recently [2012] joined the Historic Hotels of America program caused me to reminisce about my experiences with the ones I’ve stayed in—that is, all but three of them. And this made me think of a little notebook I still have, where at the age of eleven I began an alphabetical list of U.S. states and the places in them I’d like to visit.

I don’t know what inspired me to start that list or where I got my information, but over half a century later it’s fun to see what’s on the list and how many of the places I’ve seen. Not surprisingly, most of the ones I’ve visited are in the west, where I’ve traveled the most.

Old Faithful Inn in the snow

Old Faithful Inn (Winter 2006)

The historic national park lodges I have not stayed in are Bright Angel at Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, and Zion, although I’ve been to those parks. My memories of the others are strong and always positive, beginning with Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn (opened in 1904), which I think of as my second home.

Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon are the only parks that sport two and three historic lodges respectively. The other one at Yellowstone is Lake Hotel (1891), where I’ve enjoyed several stays. Sometime in the 1990s then-concessionaire TW Services seems to have decided that changing the name to Lake Yellowstone Hotel would draw more visitors or have more cachet, but I refuse to drop its historic name.

I’ve most recently added El Tovar (1905) at Grand Canyon to those I’ve visited. Last May I enjoyed two pleasant nights and spent the days viewing the canyon from its many color-rich overlooks. In the Grand Canyon I’ve also stayed at Phantom Ranch (1922)—unquestionably the most difficult to access; the steep descent to the bottom of the canyon on a hot summer’s day was a feat I won’t tackle again.

Furnace Creek Inn

Furnace Creek Inn

Next to Old Faithful Inn, the other favorite I would happily stay in for months at a time (but who could afford it?) is Furnace Creek Inn (1927) in Death Valley National Park. Their beautiful terraced garden descending along a trickling creek shaded by huge palm trees is almost unbelievable in such a desert. The rooms are not exceptional, but the garden and my favorite swimming pool anywhere are the greatest.

In recent years I’ve visited Crater Lake and Zion National Parks but missed out on their inns (opened in 1915 and the 1920s, respectively). I tried to book rooms in both but called too late to get a reservation.

For the National Parks Traveler’s interesting article on these inns, see http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2012/11/eight-national-park-lodges-join-historic-hotels-america10765.

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Tips for a great Yellowstone vacation

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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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