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

A delightful bird found in Yellowstone, the American dipper

A delightful bird found in Yellowstone, the American dipper

(Part I)
There’s a rather small and plain bird that I’ve loved to watch whenever I’m lucky enough to be in the Western mountains. Formerly called the water ouzel, the American dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) shows up on pages 337–38 of Yellowstone Treasures in a quote from Owen Wister. But there’s a longer story I came across in an old Forest and Stream magazine.
320px-American_DipperPhoto from Wikipedia Commons

The winter adventurer, Billy Hofer—whose story of an incredible 1887 ski trip through Yellowstone will appear in my forthcoming anthology, Through Early Yellowstone—must have done some research on dippers, although he does not tell us that. His delightful story about them, written two years before his winter trip, is one that all bird watchers can appreciate. Here’s what he wrote 130 years ago.

[American dippers are] curious little drab-colored birds, progressing with an odd bobbing motion along the water’s edge, or taking short flights from one almost submerged rock to the next.

[The bird ranges from] Alaska to Mexico, and it only insists on clear streams among the mountains. On such brooks and rivers as fulfill these conditions the dipper is found in abundance—though it is not a particularly sociable bird, and seems rather to prefer to be alone—and its cheerful song and remarkable habits render it a pleasing feature alike of the dark cañons and of the open sunlit glens.

One feels a ludicrous sensation of astonishment when first observing this species. It is not very surprising to see a bird sitting upon the water or flying above it, dive beneath its surface, but it is really startling to see one calmly walk down a shelving rock or a smooth beach into the water, and keep on without any apparent attempt at swimming or diving, until it has disappeared. It wholly upsets one’s ideas of specific gravity, for we are accustomed to think that birds and mammals will naturally float, and that to dive or disappear beneath the water requires some apparent effort. It is not so with the dipper, however. He marches deliberately into the turbulent water, which engulfs him and usually sweeps him several feet down the stream before he bobs up serenely to the surface, and either takes wing or sculls himself ashore. It must not be supposed that he always enters the water in this way. Quite as often he dives from the wing or from the surface of the stream, but perhaps the method which he likes best is to plunge from the top of a high rock or a log a foot or two above the current, and then, after his battle with the torrent, return to the same perch, from which at intervals he trills his simple though very sweet song.

His method of progression under water is like that of most, if not all, diving birds, by means of the wings. His feet are not better adapted fro swimming than those of a robin, and although he gets along capitally when sculling about the edges of the mountain holes, they would be of little service to him under water except sometimes as anchors. He flies under the water therefore with nearly open wings, and gets about very actively.

(To be continued tomorrow.)

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Super-creative battery use at Lamar Buffalo Ranch

Over the past couple of decades I’ve spent some delightful weeks at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch participating in over twenty Yellowstone Institute classes. Now I’ve learned—from The Guardian’s Sustainable Business section—that solar power collected at the field campus is being stored in used hybrid batteries recovered from Toyota dealers.

Kevin Butt, chief environmental officer for Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, had a vision for how old Prius batteries could be repurposed rather than recycled. In a pilot program at the Buffalo Ranch, the previously installed solar panels are now connected to a raft of batteries to supply all the power needed at the ranch.

I’m excited about this program and just wanted to share it with my blog readers!

This is the picture Toyota supplied of the project.
Toyota'sBuffaloRanch_project_ScreenShot

Go here to read the entire article.

Editor’s Note: To find out even more about the project and the Yellowstone Park Foundation’s projects to install an emission-free micro-hydro turbine and replace aging solar panels, see: “Off the Grid in the Lamar Valley.”

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Granite Peak Publications attends a trade show

On the morning of October 3, 2015, I set up and opened the Book Publishers Northwest table at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association trade show at the Holiday Inn Portland Airport. This show, closed to the public, is a chance for publishers and others to hawk their wares to the bookstores and libraries of this region, explaining why readers would like their books. One day earlier I got to hear a dozen authors describe and read from their new books. Great to see all those book lovers in one place!

The fourth edition of Yellowstone Treasures and the advance flyer for Through Early Yellowstone were prominently displayed at the BPNW table, along with about a dozen other books by independent publishers. I enjoyed discussing our books with the booksellers, librarians and fellow publishers who came to the show.

—Beth, editor and publisher

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Bear safety

Grizzly bear from page 344 of Yellowstone Treasures, 4th ed.

Grizzly bear from page 344 of Yellowstone Treasures, 4th ed.

In a recent press release about preparing for fall, Yellowstone National Park rangers remind us that the park is bear country. Here’s their advice.

In the fall, grizzly bears and black bears usually move to higher elevations to feed on whitebark pine seeds, and consume the calories they need to sustain themselves during winter hibernation, but they may be encountered along roads or hiking trails throughout the park. When hiking or backpacking, remember to travel in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail, and be alert for bears. All hikers should always carry bear spray so that it is readily accessible—not inside a pack—and know how to use it. Bear spray is proven to be highly successful at stopping aggressive behavior in bears. It is sold at bookstores, gift shops, outdoor stores, and service stations inside the park, as well as in many stores in the surrounding communities. New this year, bear spray is now available for rent at Canyon Village in a kiosk near the Canyon Visitor Education Center through late September.

Park regulations require people to stay a minimum of 100 yards (the length of a football field) away from bears and wolves at all times. If you see a bear along the road, move off the road and park on the shoulder or in a pullout and stay in your vehicle to watch the bear. Use your binoculars, telescope, or telephoto lens to get a closer look at the bear rather than approaching the bear.

Happy wildlife watching, and stay safe!
—Beth Chapple, editor at Granite Peak Publications

Photo credit: Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park

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What are the different species of mammals in Yellowstone Park?

On the website Quora.com, someone recently asked about the mammals one sees in Yellowstone Park, so I tried my hand at an answer. I’m not a real animal person, being more enamored with things that stay in one place like geysers, hot springs, flowers, lakes, waterfalls, and mountains, yet I have personally seen all but the rarer animals in my many visits to Yellowstone.

The big mammals—sometimes called “charismatic megafauna” with tongue in cheek—are the bison (around 4000 currently), the elk (8,000 to 10,000), the moose (very scarce, and more often seen in neighboring Grand Teton National Park), and both grizzly and black bear (several hundred of each).

The gray wolf population is hovering around 100. Mule deer are much more common than white-tailed deer. Then there’s the pronghorn (commonly but incorrectly called antelope)—my favorite animal for being so beautiful, graceful, and fast. Their population fluctuates around a couple of hundred seen in northern Yellowstone, as are bighorn sheep.

Pronghorn

Pronghorn

Coyotes are very common, less so the red foxes and mountain goats (the latter considered to be migrants to the park). Mountain lions, bobcats, and especially lynx are there but almost never seen.

Small carnivores you might see include badgers, river otters, and raccoons. Then there are the most common rodents: yellow-bellied marmots, Uinta ground squirrels, muskrats, red squirrels, and the tiny pikas or coneys. Beaver have become more numerous in recent years.

Pika

Pika

And this is just a sampling. There are many smaller mammals like voles, mice, bats, and shrews.

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More beautiful hot pools in Yellowstone Park

Continuing the occasional posts about my favorite hot springs and pools in Yellowstone, today I’ll feature two located in Upper Geyser Basin. One of these is a short walk from Old Faithful Geyser and next to the remarkable formation of Castle Geyser. The other takes more effort to reach but is also worth every bit of it.

Crested Pool, pictured by my friend Suzanne Cane on a beautiful sunny day a couple of summers ago,Crested Pool copy has gone by many names since first seen by writers about the park. It has stayed consistently beautiful since it was first described in the 1870s—not true of all Yellowstone’s hot pools. We’ve used Suzanne’s picture on the cover of our guide to the park’s most accessible thermal areas, Visiting Geyserland.

Lee Whittlesey, Park Historian, lists no fewer than ten names for this pool in his Yellowstone Place Names. First it was called “Fire Basin” by expedition leader Ferdinand V. Hayden (1872). Then the goddess Diana was featured in three names as “Diana’s Spring,” “Diana’s Well,” and “Diana’s Bath.” Sadly, the most appropriate old name was “Devil’s Well”: in 1970 a young boy jumped or fell to his death in this pool.

If you cross the Firehole River beyond Crested Pool and pass other great features like Grand, Oblong, and Riverside Geysers and Morning Glory Pool, you’ll come to the unmaintained trail (and former road) that leads uphill to Artemisia Geyser. It’s a real geyser, but you have to be very patient or very lucky to see an eruption. It goes off extremely irregularly; somewhere between one-third of a day and a day-and-a-half will pass between any two eruptions. However, as you can see from my June 2015 picture, it is worthwhile visiting,
ArtemisiaG_6_15 just for its gorgeous-colored pool and the unusual patterns of its geyserite surroundings. You can continue on the path past other lovely features all the way to Biscuit Basin.

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Celebrating the National Park Service’s 99th birthday—in a couple of ways

First I want to pass along the fact that next Tuesday, August 25th, is the NPS’s birthday. The good news is that all national park entrance fees will be waived that day. So, if you have time to visit a park that’s not too far from you and can stay only one day, that would be a good day to go.

Next, I hope many people who normally read my blog posts have been visiting Yellowstone or another park this month, since there’s been nothing new to read on this website since August first. Editor Beth has been both flying and sailing (but not in Yellowstone), while author Janet has stayed earthbound and had time to catch up on work that needs doing for her next Yellowstone book. This new book will be a historical anthology full of good things to read and look at. So I’m celebrating the NPS birthday by beginning to reveal bit by bit what’s in my new book as we approach next spring’s publication date. I’ve mentioned the upcoming book twice before on my blog; on October 6, 2014, and March 3, 2015, I was calling it Magnificent Playground: Early Yellowstone in Words and Watercolors, but now we’ve decided on a title that gives a better idea of what’s in the book.

Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis offers a potpourri of historical articles that are both important to Yellowstone history and fun to read. There are ten major stories in this book but also several short selections—what I call snippets of information and historical ambience. All will give readers a feeling for the gradual change in the ways of enjoying, using, and also studying the world’s first national park. The selections span the time between establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 and the country’s entry into World War One.

I’ll let you know as the months go by more about what Through Early Yellowstone contains, but today I want to tell you about one of the amazing people we feature who have contributed to the park’s history.

~ ~ ~

Here’s the headline of a one-page article, in which the editors saw fit to honor a woman resident of New York City who was an avid horsewoman.
MorrisNYTMheadline
In the early 1900s Mrs. Robert C. Morris (Alice Parmelee Morris) had become enamored with the scenery of Yellowstone Park and spent many summers at the Silver Tip Ranch just north of the park. Then in 1917 Mrs. Morris conceived, financed, and carried out her remarkable plan to explore and map an interconnected loop of trails throughout the park and its environs. At that time Yellowstone Park trails totaled about 400 miles—but not all were suitable for equestrian traffic. Mrs. Morris spent four summer months leading her pack train throughout the park. She presented a twenty-nine-page typed report, “Notes on Trail Study in Yellowstone Park 1917,” to Park Supervisor Chester A. Lindsley. Included with the report was a detailed and professionally produced map showing the proposed trails, which we will reproduce along with the New York Times article in the anthology.

So what became of this report that Mrs. Morris worked out so carefully? No evidence of action taken on her work turns up in a search of Yellowstone Park archives. One can speculate, however, that there could have been several reasons for this.

First, lack of funds: a request to Congress for $50,000 for a system of trails and bridle paths in Yellowstone went nowhere. This is not surprising—the bill was submitted on the exact date of President Woodrow Wilson’s request to Congress for a declaration of war with Germany: April 2, 1917.

Second, administrative turmoil between the National Park Service and Yellowstone: in 1917 and 1918 there was disagreement as to which agency was in charge of roads and trails, since the NPS (created in 1916) was gradually replacing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for such construction projects.

Third, low priority: automobiles had almost completely replaced horses in the park. In 1918, for example, among the park’s 35,039 tourists, only 808 came in horse-drawn vehicles. The number of people who came on horseback is not recorded but must have been very small.

Fourth, two other Yellowstone enthusiasts contributed their own plans to the park administration: long-time park employee Milton P. Skinner and pack-trip leader Howard Eaton had both worked on the question of improving the trails, and both submitted plans. Mrs. Morris’s plan was scarcely acknowledged. Some money must have been found for trails after the war, however, since in 1923 a complete system of trails was dedicated to Howard Eaton.

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Those noisy contraptions can now enter Yellowstone Park!

It’s August 1, 1915.
“Hooray! Today we can finally drive our new automobile into Yellowstone National Park.” Something like this must have been shouted between the open-topped cars lined up to pass through the North Entrance Arch on the first day it was legal to “motor” through the park. [Turns out we showed you that arch in our July 28th post.]

It’s true that a man named Henry G. Merry from nearby Horr, Montana had decided thirteen years before, in 1902, to “pilot the car [a Winton] to the fort and talk things over with the commandant,” according to Merry’s son’s account many years later. Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 10.40.57 AM
You see, the Secretary of the Interior and superintendent Colonel John Pitcher had agreed that year that automobiles must be banned from the park due to the terrible condition of the roads and the danger of frightening the horses. But Merry went anyway—and was told he was under arrest and would have to pay a penalty. However, according to son Edward T. Merry: “When my father asked what the penalty would be, the officer very seriously replied, ‘You will have to take me for a ride in this contraption.’” But soon Merry was ushered out with a warning never to try it again.

Officials knew they would eventually have to improve the roads enough for cars to use them, and eventually this was done. Exactly one hundred years ago today the new era began. Fifty Fords, Buicks, Wintons, Haynes, and others entered the park. Within a year it was obvious that horses and autos were incompatible on the bumpy, narrow roads, and of course, the horses lost the contest.

[My source for this story was The Yellowstone Story, Volume II, by Aubrey L. Haines, pages 264 to 269. The late 1890s Winton touring car is courtesy of Wikipedia commons.]

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Follow-up on summer 2015 road construction

North entrance arch

Photo by Leslie Kilduff, page 252 of Yellowstone Treasures.

While the construction near Gardiner around the North Entrance Arch will be ongoing right up to the centennial of the National Park Service on August 25, 2016, there is a total road closure at night you need to be aware of if you are making a trip this summer.

The section of the Grand Loop Road from Mammoth Hot Springs to Norris Junction is closed to all travel every night, from 11 p.m.-7 a.m., seven days per week. Also, expect 30-minute delays when traveling between Norris and Golden Gate.

As always, current road information is available by phone: 307-344-2117.

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Updates in the second printing

As promised, here are some of the updates we included in Yellowstone Treasures, Updated Fourth Edition, in the second printing this summer. You should get a sense for the level of detail in the book, as well as learning a bit of news.

Quake Lake

Quake Lake was created by a huge landslide (Yellowstone Treasures, page 36).

If you’re entering or leaving the park via the West Entrance, it’s worthwhile to make time to visit Earthquake Lake, northwest of West Yellowstone on U.S. 287. The picture here, taken by Bruno Giletti, is the same one you will find in the book. We rewrote the description to tell you the Gallatin Forest visitor center was remodeled in 2014. It displays interesting exhibits about the 1959 earthquake and landslide that killed 28 people, and how a potential Madison River flood was avoided.

Janet revised a bunch of the geyser information based on data from the Geyser Observation and Study Association and the folks at geysertimes.org (see our Yellowstone Links page for information about those organizations). Here are the changes in the Upper Geyser Basin descriptions:

  • Oblong Geyser’s eruption interval went from three to seven hours to four to six (see page 92 of the guidebook).
  • Giantess Geyser had no eruptions between October 2011 and January 30, 2014. Their rarity means you will be lucky to see one when you visit. By the way, you might enjoy this five-minute edited video of the October 13, 2004 eruption.
  • Daisy Geyser’s eruption interval went from about two-and-a-half hours in 2012 to about two to three hours in late 2014 (p. 101).

Changes in what you can see when you visit led Janet to revise some wording. At West Thumb Geyser Basin, when you get to the lakeshore near Lakeside Spring you used to be able to see a remnant of concrete that supported a boat dock long ago. Now you can’t really see that, so we changed the sentence to be more informative and say “A boat dock for the Zillah, which ferried passengers to Lake Hotel from 1890 to 1907, was located here” (p. 141).

Also, when you stand at Uncle Tom’s Overlook on the South Rim Drive you can no longer see little Crystal Falls of Cascade Creek as easily across the canyon, because branches obscure the view (p. 180).

It’s interesting to see what a long-time observer of the park notices, isn’t it?
—Editor Beth Chapple

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