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

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Links to interesting Yellowstone websites and news.

The magma system or reservoir under Yellowstone is 2.5 times larger than previously known

Recent articles including “supervolcano” in the headline in the blogosphere and in media such as the New York Post shout “We’re probably doomed” and tell us of “a volcano that could wipe out U.S.” That gets people’s attention! The whirl of media activity is all due to research presented at last week’s American Geophysical Union (AGU) annual meeting in San Francisco.

An interesting session and a poster presented by Drs. Robert Smith and Jamie Farrell have stirred up a lot of emotional response, as has a November earthquake swarm in the area. The more these things are discussed in the media, the less rational readers seem to become. Media loves sensation. Perhaps the scientists whose work inspired the sensationalism will soon issue something to calm people down. Meanwhile, I’ll do what I can with this post.

I attended Smith’s 15-minute session at AGU and read Farrell’s poster last week. I am not a scientist, but I know enough about Yellowstone and current research to say this: The size of the magma reservoir below Yellowstone tells us nothing about when it will explode. Just as a reminder, magma is liquid or molten rock, including any dissolved gases or crystals, found deep within Earth.

More and more researchers are using various methods and instruments (seismometers, strainmeters, geochemical analyses, geodesy, instruments measuring electrical conductivity, and so on) to study what is under Yellowstone and its surroundings. Let’s wish them well and not panic about a catastrophe that is very unlikely to happen within the lifetime of anyone who can read this.

What about those earthquakes? One useful conclusion reached by this recent research is: “A large earthquake at Yellowstone is much more likely than a volcano eruption,” according to Farrell.

ON THE WEB: Here is some reliable and interesting information:
1. University of Utah’s Seismology and Active Tectonics Research Group’s faculty member Bob Smith stated on December 5th that U. of Utah’s seismographs will “continue to monitor Yellowstone earthquakes and will provide additional information if the earthquake swarm activity increases.”

2. U.S. Geological Survey’s Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. Swarms of (usually small) earthquakes have been reported frequently over the years; they are detected by the USGS seismograph array in Yellowstone.

3. Phys.org’s article called “Study: Yellowstone magma much bigger than thought (Update).” A relevant quote serves to sum up my comments here: “For years, observers tracking earthquake swarms under Yellowstone have warned the caldera is overdue to erupt. Farrell dismissed that notion, saying there isn’t enough data to estimate the timing of the next eruption. ‘We do believe there will be another eruption, we just don’t know when,’ he said.”

ON THIS WEBSITE: For more about the quest to understand what’s under Yellowstone, be sure to read the nuggets called “The Yellowstone Supervolcano,” “The Yellowstone Hot Spot: History of the Science“, and “The Yellowstone Hot Spot: Modern Science“.

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An unlikely place for an article: “An Unlikely Look at Yellowstone’s Geysers”—and Fall Closure begins soon

Categories: News, On the Web, Thermal features, Trip planning
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The website Weather.com just came up with this beautiful collection of close-ups of the amazing variety of colors found around Yellowstone’s hot springs:

http://www.weather.com/news/science/unlikely-look-yellowstones-geysers-photos-20131030

Just now you have only through this coming Sunday, November 3, to take in all the treasures of the park, since all but the Gardiner to Northeast Entrance road will be closed as of Monday for the annual fall-into-winter break. This is when the park’s natural features and the animals, including two-legged ones who work there, get a break from the pressures of visitors.

Reopening to snowcoaches, snowmobiles, and skiers begins on December 15 this year (snow accumulation permitting), except for the East Entrance Road, which will open on December 22. The winter season continues until mid March. Then there’s another break for road plowing until late April 2014.

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National Parks moving to the forefront in energy saving

Categories: News, On the Web, Transportation
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If only I did not have a cello to carry around occasionally to chamber music sessions, I would certainly have a small hybrid or electric vehicle instead of a standard car. But I’m a firm believer in using as little energy as possible and am happy to know that the National Park Service is doing their part.

I’ve noticed the solar panels at Yellowstone’s Lamar Buffalo Ranch, where I’ve spent some delightful times staying while taking classes at the Yellowstone Institute. The panels have been sitting there in a nearby field for several years, but I just learned how they are used: NPS staffers based at the ranch use a low-speed battery electric utility vehicle and get power from that EV charging station, running entirely on the sun’s energy.

The Huffington Post article where I read about this [in 2012] also mentions that Great Smoky Mountains N. P. (North Carolina and Tennessee), which gets some three times as many visitors annually as does Yellowstone, has at least 24 recharge stations. Even better located for catching the sun’s energy are the solar panels at Zion N. P. in southern Utah. Way to go, NPS!

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/12/charging-stations-national-parks_n_2117545.html

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Reviews and Constructive Criticism, Part 2

Categories: On the Web
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One long review with a useful criticism

Recently I decided to go through the ideas of one reviewer carefully for constructive suggestions—and I found one! More about what I learned and about what I can’t resist disagreeing with will appear soon in a new nugget of information on our website. [See The Features of Yellowstone Treasures.]

One thing the reviewer certainly got right: the book certainly reflects the author’s interests—and what book does not? I check out as many places in Yellowstone as I can every year, but I confess that I spend the most time where I most like to be.

I thank the reviewer for saying he “got a sort of ‘wikipedia’ to Yellowstone” instead of what he was expecting. That’s a compliment!

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Reviews and constructive criticism, part 1

Categories: On the Web
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Since we published the first edition in 2002, Yellowstone Treasures has received 84 reviews on Amazon.com. Of those, 81 are four- or five-star reviews; one each received three, two, or one star. Barnesandnoble.com shows six four- and five-star reviews, two 3-star, and one 2-star, most with no text.

Naturally all this positive response made me happy. My main goal in writing such a detailed guidebook has always been to provide visitors with a really useful book. The occasional constructive suggestions offered online and in person by my readers contributed to the gradual improvements that my editor Beth and I have incorporated in the next two editions.

An article called “The Best Reviews Money Can Buy” caught my eye in the August 26 New York Times Sunday Business section. It seems an enterprising man named Todd Rutherford found a way to capitalize on selling positive online reviews to self-publishers. He wrote some himself and hired others to write them—you could buy reviews in bulk: $99 for one or $999 for 50. The system worked splendidly for a few months, but Google began to limit Rutherford’s ads and then Amazon cut back on the reviews, and Rutherford went into other ventures.

To my way of thinking, paying for reviews is unethical. I had qualms about asking one friend who had used Yellowstone Treasures in the park to write a review. It has been great to have feedback about what can be improved. Tomorrow I’ll post my reactions to the very long and detailed one-star review the book received earlier this month.

2012

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Winter plans when it’s still early summer

Categories: News, On the Web, Transportation, Trip planning, Winter
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My deadline with the copyeditor of Yellowstone, Land of Wonders having been met, I am free to catch up on all the current Yellowstone news.

Unlike other western areas this month [June 2012], no fires threaten the park yet, but it is still early, and if drought and heat continue there will certainly be danger.

While we watch the summer scene, some people are thinking about the winter one, and a long and excellent article appeared this week about the still-unsettled plan for snowmobile and snowcoach access next winter. You can find all the details at: http://www.yellowstonegate.com/2012/06/yellowstone-draft-winteruse-plan-allows-110-transportation-events-daily-keeps-sylvan-pass-open.

Scroll down on that site for a list of all the documents on winter use since discussion began in 2000.
In brief: a plan preferred by the park service has been put forth that states that there may be “a maximum of 480 snowmobiles in the park” but “the average maximum use would be 342 snowmobiles per day.” It gets more complicated from there on and now calls what were “sound events,” “transportation events.” An improvement in language?

Some groups of snowmobiles led by unpaid guides would be allowed in each day, in addition to professionally guided tours. The East Entrance over Sylvan Pass (always a controversial subject) would remain open in winter.

Public meetings on the subject will be held in mid July, and comments from the public will be received for 45 days.

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Elk and wolves

Categories: Flora and Fauna, On the Web, Wildlife
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I really must pass this on and keep quoting it in the future, because it’s an article by a highly respected Bozeman writer, who has done a convincing study about the effect of gray wolves on the elk population around Yellowstone and beyond. There has been a lot of waffling about whether or not to blame the last few years’ shrinkage of the Greater Yellowstone elk herd on preying wolves. This looks at the issue from the point of view of hunting outfitters.
Here is food for thought:
http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/opinions/article_dc2057ce-a135-11e1-9499-001a4bcf887a.html

2012

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In Yellowstone Park 94 years ago

Categories: History, On the Web
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I’ve been neglecting my blog lately, writing about once a month instead of meeting the once a week goal I had set for myself. It’s not as if I weren’t thinking about Yellowstone most of every day. But most of that thinking, reading, and writing are related to my book projects rather than to my online presence.

I just came across an interesting article by Brett French, the outdoor editor at the Billings Gazette, whose writings I’ve admired for several years. It’s about the Howard Eaton Trail in Yellowstone. Brett interviewed two of the best current authorities on old trails and roads, Leslie Quinn of the Xanterra concessionaire, and M.A. Bellingham, who volunteers at least one day a week, working for Park Historian Lee Whittlesey.
Howard Eaton was a rancher from near Sheridan, Wyoming, who led horseback parties though Yellowstone from the mid 1880s for something like forty years. 1883 was when one could first send horses to the park’s northern edge by railroad.

Brett’s article did not mention that this trail was laid out by a New York horsewoman named Mrs. Robert C. Morris (in the days when married women did not use their given names in public media). In June of 1917—the year after the park was opened to automobiles—Mrs. Morris, who had a ranch near Yellowstone, began to “map out an elaborate system of trails through the park, which will make it possible for visitors to ride through the most beautiful and picturesque portions of the great ‘reservation,’ journeying in an unhurried and enjoyable fashion, seeing much that cannot be seen from the motor roads alone, and never once traveling on the motor highways.” This quote comes from the New York Times Magazine for February 10, 1918.

Mrs. Morris used existing trails, but most of the work of her pack train, which covered 1,500 miles in the park, was in finding connections and marking the suggested new trail routes. She made general recommendations to the National Park Service for constructing the trails. But most of all she emphasized the enjoyment both of blazing the trails and in the use of them by others.

The work of this dedicated woman resulted in the opening in 1923 of the Howard Eaton Trail, used for decades by horseback parties. Parts of the trail are still in use, both by riders and pedestrians. In Yellowstone Treasures I recommend the part of this trail that goes from Swan Lake Flat toward Mammoth Hot Springs, and I mention several other segments of the trail.

Brett’s article can be accessed at:
http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/article_f1892b48-71d9-5409-bb82-34156ecf05f7.html#ixzz1YQ9z3GHA.

2011

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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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Snow bikes

Categories: On the Web, Transportation, Winter
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Behold! Another mode of transportation I didn’t know existed: a snow bicycle, in particular one made by Surly Bikes. This is not a commercial, and I know very little about bikes, but it seems like an interesting idea to me. Here’s what I read about it:

Recently, 53-year-old Rick Buchanan was turned away when he tried to lead a group of snow cyclists into Yellowstone National Park.
Tim Reid, Yellowstone’s chief ranger, told Buchanan that the bike is not an approved means of winter travel, therefore, the group could not ride in the park. Under Yellowstone’s winter management plan, one can only enter the park by approved snowmobiles, snowcoaches, cross-country skis, or snowshoes. But the snow bike has actually been gaining popularity in the past 5 years.

My hope is that the park authorities will get in step with this new possibility and begin allowing them into the park during the winter season.
For more details, see “Snow Cyclists in Yellowstone.”

2011

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