GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Accompanying travelers to the national park since 2002

Why is Yellowstone National Park important?

Why is Yellowstone National Park important?

This question came up on Quora today, and I decided to answer it. Here’s what I submitted:

The superficial answer might be simply: It is important because it was the first place called a national park ever set aside by any country.

In answering this question one would have to ask two others: Important to whom? and Important in what way or ways?

Important to whom? Well, to anyone who cares about preserving remarkable landscapes from commercialism or from being despoiled. In 1872, when Congress passed the act setting aside the park and President Ulysses S. Grant signed it, the Yellowstone area was compared to Niagara Falls, because that phenomenon had not been preserved officially nor were businesses forbidden from setting up to sell whatever they wanted to the tourists who flocked there.

How was it important? Although no one in Congress had seen this remote western area, the men who had gone there were able to show photographs and paintings and tell them stories of what they had seen—phenomenal geysers and hot springs, lakes and waterfalls, mountains and valleys teeming with wildlife.

Not only Americans but people from all over the world are now able to visit and experience a place like no other, where only the necessary concessions are permitted and noone is trying to sell you anything outside of the few souvenir shops you may enter if you wish.

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John Muir’s 180th Birthday

John Muir Home in Martinez California On April 21, 1838, famous naturalist John Muir was born in Dunbar, Scotland. So this 21st we celebrate the 180th birthday of a hero of the conservation movement, without whom the national parks of the world might never have been created. Muir’s writings about the beauty of U.S. lands, particularly in California and Alaska, convinced the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier as national parks. He also included a chapter on Yellowstone in his 1901 book Our National Parks, and Janet quotes his 1898 description of Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone Treasures. Here’s a famous quote from a letter he wrote to his sister Sarah in 1873: “The mountains are calling and I must go.”

In June 2017 I took the opportunity during a visit to the Bay Area to see the peaceful house where he lived with his wife and two daughters, Helen and Wanda. A highlight of the tour is his study, which he called his “scribble den,” with its bright daylight, fine wooden furniture, and landscape paintings. It is also great fun to walk through the seven acres of orchards and other parts of the grounds, including the oldest structure in the town of Martinez, the Vicente Martinez adobe. (Click for larger images.)

Muir study with typewriter

John Muir’s study

Historical markers

Historical markers for the Vicente Martinez adobe and the John Muir home




Think of Muir as you celebrate Earth Day this weekend! If you are in the Bay Area on Saturday, a John Muir Birthday / Earth Day celebration at the John Muir Home National Historic Site in Martinez, California, this year includes family-friendly activities, music, food for sale, and self-guided tours. Learn more about what you can see on a visit in this “National Park Getaway” article.

—Beth Chapple, Editor and Publisher

P.S. Here is another lovely John Muir quote: “Handle a book as a bee does a flower, extract its sweetness but do not damage it.”

Photo credits: The exterior of the John Muir house is an NPS photo. All other photos by Beth Chapple.

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What are those pairs of numbers in the road logs of Yellowstone Treasures?


Elk crossing Madison River, September 2016.

Recently two readers wrote to ask what the numbers next to so many entries mean. As author Janet Chapple wrote in her nugget called “The Features of Yellowstone Treasures,” “Some people get confused about how to use the mileage markings in the road logs in my book. I explain these in the Introduction [on page 17]. They show the distance from an entrance or major junction as well as the distance from the other direction, since a visitor may be traveling either way when consulting the guidebook.”

Here’s one letter we just received on April 1, 2018.

Hello,

Just purchased Yellowstone Treasures and still trying to figure what to visit in June this year and which trails to hike. I have one question, which I still can’t find the answer to while following the book.

You have numbers in front of some trails, like 0.0/20.5 “Yellowstone National Park boundary” on page 33 or 0.9/19.6 Dailey Creek Trailhead, and many others.

What do these mean? How should I use them in planning the trip and the places to visit?

Thanks,
Ross

Well, much of the guidebook is written as a road log, which means the author and her husband Bruno Giletti actually drove the roads to find out how far from the major road junctions or villages each trailhead or picnic area is located. To follow this explanation best, look at pages 286-87 in your book or open this link to the “From Norris Junction to Madison Junction” book excerpt. Each chapter in the guidebook starts with the junction or park boundary given as 0.0, like this:

0.0/13.4 Norris Junction. . . .

From there it’s just under 4 miles (3.9 mile) to the Artists’ Paintpots, so that paragraph starts:

3.9/9.5 Side road to parking for Artists’ Paintpots . . . [with icons that show you this is a recommended hike and there are restrooms]

But suppose you’re doing the chapter in the other direction, because you entered the park at the West or South Entrance and are coming from Madison Junction. Then you can see that the hydrothermal area is 9.5 miles from that end of the road (the second in the pair of numbers). See the map to confirm that Artists’ Paintpots is about a third of the distance from Norris to Madison (and for a recommendation that you look across the road in Gibbon Meadows for wildlife such as elk or bison).

We don’t really expect everyone to be zeroing their trip meter in the car every time they come to an entrance or a junction (though you could!). And people even use the book when they are riding on a bus tour. So the mileage indicators serve to show you the order of the sights and help you plan approximately how long it will take to get places. For example, if you are heading north to Norris, you know it’s just 0.6 mile after the Artists’ Paintpots to a picnic area.

When you are planning your trip don’t forget you can also use the driving distance chart on pages 20-21 to figure out how much you could get to see in a day. Hope that helps!

Photo Credit: The photo of elk is by Suzanne Cane. We use it on page 41 of Yellowstone Treasures, updated fifth edition.

—Editor and Publisher, Beth Chapple

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Is It Spring Yet? and What To Expect on Yellowstone’s Roads This Summer

Once upon a time, a friend of mine who lives in Switzerland offered to meet me in a Yellowstone springtime to take pictures for my guidebook. He wrote that April would be a good time for him. But no, I wrote back, in April many roads are still closed, and the chances of more snow are still quite great. The park is totally closed for road plowing and other maintenance until mid April, and most facilities don’t open until some time in May.

Today we are four days past the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, but this Old Faithful Geyser webcam still is what I found this morning on the Old Faithful webcam.

You will understand why spring is so late in Yellowstone, if you factor in that most auto-accessible areas in Yellowstone are at 7,000 to 8,000 feet (about 2,100 to 2,400 meters) in altitude. This spring the park roads will begin reopening on Friday, April 20th, when the West Entrance to Madison Junction, Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful village, and Norris to Canyon Junction roads will open. Higher stretches of road open throughout May, with the last being the Northeast Entrance / Beartooth Highway opening on Friday, May 25th, for Memorial Day Weekend.

This summer season you can expect construction delays of up to thirty minutes on the five-mile stretch between Apollinaris Spring and Roaring Mountain (Mammoth to Norris road); on some parts of the rim roads and trails at the Canyon of the Yellowstone; and along the East Entrance Road between Indian Pond and Fishing Bridge.

Year-round, for Yellowstone road conditions, take a look at this NPS park roads website. Or you may receive Yellowstone road alerts from the National Park Service on your mobile phone by texting “82190” to 888-777; an automatic text reply will confirm receipt and provide instructions.

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Yellowstone Treasures named finalist in two book award contests

Big news! On March 14, 2018, the Independent Book Publishers Association announced that Yellowstone Treasures: The Traveler’s Companion to the National Park, updated fifth edition (2017) is a finalist in the 30th annual IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards in the travel category. This is a true honor, since finalist status with IBPA means the book will receive either a Gold or a Silver medal. The IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards recognize excellence in book editorial and design in 55 categories. See this year’s finalists on the IBPA Book Awards page.

Then on March 20 we learned that the popular guidebook has been recognized as a finalist in the 20th annual Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards, too! The Foreword Reviews editorial team selected their finalists from more than 2,000 individual titles spread across 65 genres. The complete list of finalists for the Foreword INDIES awards can be found at: https://www.forewordreviews.com/awards/finalists/2017/. Winners are now being decided by a panel of judges across the country, reflecting Foreword’s readership of booksellers and librarians.

We’re glad the new cover, 65 new color photos, and updates to the geyser and wildlife viewing information have captured both IBPA’s and Foreword’s attention again this year.

Stay tuned. Winners of the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards will be announced during Publishing University in Austin, Texas, on April 6, 2018; the Foreword INDIES winners will be announced on June 15, 2018.

Read the full news release in the media kit or learn about our books’ previous awards.

—Editor and publisher, Beth Chapple

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Why we say it is Yellowstone National Park’s birthday today

1872 Yellowstone act excerpt

Excerpt from page 50 of Through Early Yellowstone

On the first of March in 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill setting aside “the tract of land in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming, lying near the head-waters of the Yellowstone river,” creating the nation’s first national park at Yellowstone. We reproduce the text of that act in our historical anthology, Through Early Yellowstone, to share with other readers what this foresightful law was meant to do. This land was “set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” And the act continues to inspire governments to dedicate land for conservation throughout the world—just look at Chile and Peru for recent examples.

The month of March in Yellowstone also means that park roads start to close to oversnow travel, in preparation for plowing and reopening in April and May. While the road from the North Entrance (Gardiner) to the Northeast Entrance (Cooke City) is open year-round, today at 9 pm the road from the East Entrance to Lake Butte Overlook (Sylvan Pass) closes to snowcoaches and snowmobiles, and other roads follow throughout the next two weeks. Conditions permitting, there is also a schedule for reopening the roads for motorized traffic. See the Park Roads page at https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm.

This period between closing the park roads to oversnow travel and reopening them is a time when cyclists and hikers can travel the roads but car drivers are not allowed. See the National Park Service’s Spring Bicycling page to learn about the regulations and reminders, since you must still share the road with bears, administrative vehicles, and snow removal equipment. No services are available within the park during the spring shoulder season.

—Editor and Publisher, Beth Chapple

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Geyser watching as family sport—beats TV!

Grand Geyser

Grand Geyser (2013)

Here is an excerpt from an article in the February/March 2018 issue of The Geyser Gazer Sput that went straight to my heart. This family,the Altstidl’s, lives near the Bavarian Alps.

GOSA: How long have you been geyser gazing?
The parents first fell in love with Yellowstone in 1994 and so decided to return in 1997 with the twin boys. They were only 13 months old, but not too young to enjoy Echinus Geyser. Since 2001, we have been coming back to this beautiful place every year and, with time, developed our passion for geysers. While waiting for our first major geysers like Grand and Great Fountain, we were taught about the things to look for by a lot of very helpful and friendly people and learned they were part of the GOSA community. We began subscribing to the Geyser Gazer Sput in 2007 and have enjoyed being part of the community ever since.

GOSA: How did your family begin geyser gazing?
Initially, we used the predictions provided by the National Park Service. We still remember waiting for Madison VC to open on our way from West into the basin to get some information and plan our day. Those were the days before we had the Internet! With the children still in a stroller we already tried to wait for at least Echinus, Daisy and Grand. We were so lucky that the boys were very patient.

But I think what really got us hooked in the first place was the nice atmosphere while waiting for Great Fountain. The anticipated eruption with sparkling diamonds combined with blue at the bottom just took our breath away. It was there where Jeff Davis and Lynn Stephens started teaching us where to look to make our “own” predictions and told us about other geysers not predicted by the NPS like Fountain and Artemisia. After that we got “fireworks” at Grand; rainbows at Beehive; thumps at Oblong; playful, never tiring Fountain; mystic, blue-green Artemisia; soaking, funny Fan and Mortar; and graceful, blue and high Morning. So many eruptions which brought us joy and delight, but also the feeling of awe and gratefulness. We always saw something new or interesting. Attached to almost every geyser are memories of people sharing knowledge and giving advice. Such an openness, especially towards foreigners, was what made it special and we feel like part of a huge family now.

Excerpted from The Geyser Gazer Sput, Vol. 32, No. 1, February/March 2018, by permission of editor Pat Snyder. Photo credit: Beth Chapple, June 23, 2013.

I’ve been privileged to see eruptions of all ten of the wonderful geysers mentioned here, even though I get only a very limited time in the Upper Geyser Basin each summer. The Altstidl’s mention of their children being patient reminds me of how my then-six-year-old granddaughter Lexi made no complaint about our hour-long wait for Grand Geyser to erupt; perhaps small children sense that something wonderful is about to happen.

You, too, can become a member of the now thirty-year-old Geyser Observation and Study Association. Write c/o Bill Johnson, PO Box 5031, White Rock NM 87547; email store@gosa.org; or sign up on the website: www.gosa.org.

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Encourage teens to join the Youth Conservation Corps

Yellowstone youth conservation corps members

Youth Conservation Corps members at Inspiration Point, Yellowstone National Park (NPS photo, circa 2012)


The National Park Service is announcing that the deadline to apply for one of the two month-long sessions at Yellowstone this summer is rapidly approaching: March 1, 2018. This will be the 29th straight year that the Youth Conservation Corps is offered in Yellowstone National Park. Sixty young people between the ages of 15 and 18 can participate in this program, which has educational, recreational, and work aspects. Teens help NPS staff with trail and campground restoration, resource management, visitor support, maintenance, and more. “Applicants should possess a positive attitude, a willingness and ability to work in a physically active outdoor program, and get along well with others,” according to the press release. What a great opportunity! For more information and to obtain the application, see the YCC page on the official Yellowstone National Park website.

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Unique experiences in the park

Mud Volcano winter

Mud Volcano area in winter (2012)

While everyone knows that visitation just keeps increasing in Yellowstone, most of us are seeking ways to make our own trips unique and special to us. New Deputy Superintendent Pat Kenney says in the winter 2017 issue of Yellowstone Quarterly from Yellowstone Forever, “I have always enjoyed finding the subtler things that make our park special.” His example is “it is great to spend an evening up on Swan Lake Flats, listening to the snipe and watching the Milky Way appear.”

Author Janet Chapple aims to help with this quest, even including a list of “Less Well-known Yet Beautiful Places” on page 19 of the Yellowstone Treasures guidebook to help with your planning. As she writes in the preface, “Yellowstone means many things to many people: bears and bison, geysers and colorful pools, hikes and horseback rides, distant vistas and the stillness of the backcountry. It can also mean clear dry western air, spectacular sunsets, and night skies so full of stars you think you’re seeing to the end of the universe.”

Through Early Yellowstone compiles a variety of stories from long ago, and each travel writer has his or her own encounter with joy or amazement. Make sure to take advantage of our 25% off sale while it lasts, just through January 31, 2018.

May your 2018 include unique experiences in Yellowstone and our other national parks! You are welcome to share some highlights of your trips in the comments.
Beth Chapple, Editor and Publisher

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Good news for visitors to Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel with snowcoaches in winter


I had learned a couple of years ago that the historic hotel at Mammoth Hot Springs would be closed during the winters of 2016-17 and 2017-18 for major reconstruction. Now plans have changed, according to the Public Affairs Office; right now you can reserve rooms for winter visits, starting on December 15th, with the dates similar to those for the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins. Visit Xanterra’s Winter Lodges page or call 1-307-344-7311 to book your room.

Starting in fall 2018 through winter season 2018–19 you will find the hotel closed again for further work on the interior, but I expect the related cabins, the dining room, and the casual Terrace Grill will be open.

Incidentally, in recent summers I’ve found meals in the pleasant hotel dining room—located across the street from the hotel proper—to be excellent. So far, this dining room has not required advance reservations, but that could change.

Photo credit: Jim Peaco, National Park Service, December 12, 2012

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