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

All posts in Park environs

“Stop the Car”

Categories: Park environs, Trip planning
Comments Off on “Stop the Car”

Here is an entertaining link to a Yellowstone Insider post I am happy to pass on.

I did not know about this place with the unusual name and will surely try to stop there when I pass through Silver Gate to enter the park through the Northeast Entrance next month.

The Beartooth Highway and Chief Joseph Scenic Byway are both beautiful ways to reach the newest entrance to Yellowstone. The former opened in 1936, and the latter was fully paved only in the 1990s.

Share Button

Looking back at 2016’s Find Your Park campaign

Categories: Park environs, Wildlife
Comments Off on Looking back at 2016’s Find Your Park campaign

Elk Grand Tetons

Elk in a Teton meadow

One of the best aspects of the #FindYourPark campaign promoted by the national parks for the National Park Service centennial last year was the chance it afforded for experts to reminisce and share their expertise on particular parks in the system. Janet did so for Yellowstone National Park last April, in a guest post for the University of Nebraska Press blog called “From the Desk of Janet Chapple.” Another fun one, this time from the other national park in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, Grand Teton National Park, was submitted by Bruce Smith, a wildlife manager and scientist. You can read all about the 60-mile migrations of the Jackson elk herd and the tribulations of trumpeter swans here: “From the Desk of Bruce Smith.”

Which is your favorite national park and why? Leave us a comment.

Photo credit: NPS.

Share Button

What is meant by “Greater Yellowstone”?

Categories: Flora and Fauna, Park environs, Wildlife
Comments Off on What is meant by “Greater Yellowstone”?

Back in 1872, when Congress was wise enough to set aside a large area of “useless” land and name it the Yellowstone National Park, the main purpose was to reserve the remarkable geothermal features and their surroundings “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” This phrase was later inscribed on the park’s North Entrance Arch. Park boundaries were set to correspond to obvious natural features and partially along lines of longitude and latitude.

Protecting wild animals was not a big concern in 1872, since there seemed to be a great many of them. But it soon became apparent that they needed protection from overzealous hunters. Concern for the buffalo (now usually called bison) was great. They were rapidly being wiped out, largely because of government policy that rewarded buffalo hunters richly. Native American Plains Indians depended upon the buffalo for their very livelihood, but U.S. officials wanted the tribes to settle on reservations and make life safer for Eastern homesteaders.

Bison herd in winter, by Bruno Giletti, "Yellowstone Treasures," page 343

Bison herd in winter, by Bruno Giletti, “Yellowstone Treasures,” page 343

Even before bison were nearly driven to extinction, people who cared about preserving wildlife and the western lands from rampant development moved to set aside more land for special protection. In 1891 the Department of the Interior created the Yellowstone Park Forest Reservation (now part of Shoshone National Forest), paving the way for today’s 155 national forests.

Now we skip ahead one century plus a year after Yellowstone Park was designated. In 1973 concerned thinkers and planners convinced Congress to pass the Endangered Species Act. By then, bison were thriving but the grizzly bears were not;

Grizzly bear, Courtesy of NPS, "Yellowstone Treasures," page 344

Grizzly bear, Courtesy of NPS, “Yellowstone Treasures,” page 344

local agencies also found by the 1970s that cutthroat trout, pronghorn (also called antelope), whitebark pine, and quaking aspen trees were of special concern. An area of about four million acres with Yellowstone at its center was christened the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. In 1986 the federal government recognized Greater Yellowstone, when a joint congressional committee report outlined shortcomings in interagency coordination and concluded that the area’s essential values were at risk.

Exact boundaries of the GYE are hard to define, and they  keep changing over the years.

Exact boundaries of the GYE are hard to define, and they keep changing over the years. Map from Greater Yellowstone Coalition website.


The National Park System now describes the GYE thus:
• 12–22 million acres; 18,750–34,375 square miles (Sizes, boundaries, and descriptions of any ecosystem can vary.)
• States: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
• Encompasses state lands, two national parks, portions of five national forests, three national wildlife refuges, Bureau of Land Management holdings, private and tribal lands
• Managed by state governments, federal government, tribal governments, and private individuals.

In addition to government agencies like the Interior Department’s National Park Service and the Forest Service (part of the Department of Agriculture), a number of nonprofit agencies work to help preserve Greater Yellowstone; National Wildlife Federation, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition are three of them. Two prime concerns of all these entities are climate change and providing corridors for wildlife migrations.

Another spectacular mountain area farther north is the Crown of the Continent, an initiative spearheaded by University of Montana geography professor Rick Graetz with the assistance of his wife Susie Graetz and others. Covering the area centered upon Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, it extends some 250 miles from Alberta, Canada south along the Continental Divide into central Wyoming.

A stated goal of this coalition is to maintain “wildlife corridors [that] may mean the difference between a robust grizzly population and one needing continued human protections, particularly in an age when movement will be essential for both grizzlies and other species that might need to head north to weather the impending climate storm.”

Educators and governmental agencies in this entire area are stressing the interconnectedness of the ecology of this beautiful mountainous area all the way from Alberta, Canada to west-central Wyoming. I was interested to find that western North America is not the only part of the world pondering this question. An Australian website states: “Wildlife corridors can range in size – from small corridors created by local communities to large corridors that stretch across many different landscapes.

“For example, a small corridor might be an area along a creek that has been revegetated by a local community group to link two patches of forest. Native animals could then move more freely between these forests to find food, shelter and opportunities to breed.

“Large-scale corridors might span tens or hundreds of kilometres across multiple landscape types and jurisdictions. Typically a large-scale corridor would require collaboration between a wide range of groups working in partnership to manage them.”

A puzzle I have not been able to solve in my research into the two U.S. entities is whether they would wish to connect the Crown of the Continent with the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, since there’s a large part of Montana between them where many people live. Grizzlies and wolves are not compatible with what we consider civilization. Perhaps just making more people aware of the beauties of the two areas, the threats to the species we share them with, and how we can help preserve them is enough for now.

Share Button

Gateway business for the park

Categories: Park environs, Trip planning
Comments Off on Gateway business for the park

Following up on the theme of organizations that support Yellowstone National Park, started by Janet in her October 22, 2015, post. . . .

member logo

Member, Gateway Businesses for the Park

This year, Granite Peak Publications joined the Gateway Businesses for the Park, a program of the Yellowstone Park Foundation. What does this really mean?

The program was designed so the retailers in the gateway towns could post a sticker on their windows, showing their support for the projects that YPF organizes. While Granite Peak Publications does not have a brick-and-mortar presence, we still consider our books to offer everybody a gateway to the park, and we heartily support YPF’s conservation, youth, maintenance, visitor experience, and other projects. I’d like to share a short video showing some of the cultural treasures YPF works to preserve:

Here’s a tip that will help you find nearby trails, natural wonders, and picnic areas on your next visit to the park—the Yellowstone Outdoors app. Go to this article for screenshots and features, or just download it for free on your app store. This is yet another program of the Yellowstone Park Foundation.

You can learn more about the gateway towns, such as West Yellowstone and Cody, from the chambers of commerce websites we list on our Yellowstone Links page.

—Editor and publisher, Beth Chapple

Share Button

Pilot Peak, Wyoming

Categories: History, Park environs
Comments Off on Pilot Peak, Wyoming

View of Pilot and Index Peaks, accompanying the guidebook section on the Beartooth Highway.

View of Pilot and Index Peaks, accompanying the guidebook section on the Beartooth Highway.

Just outside the Park’s Northeast Entrance are a prominent pair of peaks in the northern Absaroka Range known as Pilot and Index. You can get a great view of them from a short side road off the Beartooth Scenic Byway, which covers the 70 miles (113 km) from Red Lodge, Montana to the entrance. “Pilot, the pointed one, is a glacial horn; four glaciers carved its pyramidal shape” (Yellowstone Treasures, page 195). Read more about the beautiful Beartooth Highway in the guidebook, pages 190-195.

The first ascent of Pilot Peak was on August 12, 1932, by Hollis Mees and Robert McKenzie. They amazingly did the climb without climbing gear. It’s now known as a difficult climb because of the loose rock. You can see footage of Mees and McKenzie’s ascent in this video:

By the way, we have been collecting some interesting Yellowstone videos, mostly of geysers, on our YouTube channel here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF0XW_RT5rtr4vJ3MVoaDoQ/feed

–Beth Chapple, Editor

Share Button

Western art in Cody

Categories: News, On the Web, Park environs
Comments Off on Western art in Cody

Just found out via Twitter that the Whitney Western Art Museum of the Buffalo Bill Center for the West in Cody, Wyoming, has recently acquired a new painting by John Mix Stanley. What’s special is that more than 200 of that artist’s works were destroyed in a fire in 1865, so not many survive. Another bit of news is that the museum will gather about 60 works by Stanley for an exhibition called Painted Journeys: The Art of John Mix Stanley, which will open June 6, 2015. If you are interested in American art of the West, make plans to enter or leave Yellowstone Park by the East Entrance this summer!

–posted by Beth Chapple, editor

Share Button

“There goes another one!” Joan pointed out, as we lay on our flat porch roof in Billings, Montana, watching the August meteor shower. It was 1947, and in our small town we could see millions of stars and pick out several constellations. Sometimes we could even see the Milky Way.

Now it’s 2014, and even in Yellowstone this past summer, I could barely find the Big Dipper. Was it that our entire atmosphere is polluted, or was there now too much ambient light even at Old Faithful and Mammoth Villages to enjoy the stars?

Listening to a National Public Radio broadcast the other day, I became absorbed in the story of what has happened to the night skies in America in the past few decades. NPR was interviewing author Paul Bogard about his book The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light. Use “Look Inside” for Chapter 9 on the Amazon website for light pollution images, a sample of what’s in the book.

I’m going to have to read this book, since I fully agree with the reviewer Bill McKibben, who wrote on Amazon: “The most precious things in the modern world are probably silence, solitude, and darkness–and of these three rarities, true darkness may be the rarest of all. Many thanks to Paul Bogard for searching out the dark spots and reminding us to celebrate them!”

Take a look at our nugget that includes what the author of a classic Western novel wrote about
experiencing the night.

Share Button

Rebecca and Ryan Means from Florida are gradually fulfilling an unusual goal. They’re hiking “on a quest to identify and visit the most remote locations in each of the 50 states.”

Not just enjoying the out-of-doors far from civilization, they have a mission. The essence of their philosophy is shown in Ryan Means’ answer to a comment last year on his website, remotefootprints.org: “The conservation problem arises when loud, fuel consumptive, destructive, motorized vehicles enter wildlands. The landscape gets scarred. Habitat and wilderness character get lost. Another roadless wildland gets fragmented. Then development usually follows. We are basically calling for an end to the era of road building (and sprawling development) in our great country, especially in public lands.”

They hike carrying heavy packs—Rebecca’s includes a carrier for five-year-old Skyla. So far they have written up their visits to remote spots in 23 states. They don’t always find solitude, but they do get far away from roads and navigable rivers. They especially loved Wyoming’s most remote spot, the Thorofare corner of Yellowstone, 21.6 miles by their reckoning from the nearest road, even farther by trail. The Means’s experiences on this trip have not yet appeared on their website, but their trip was mentioned on October 4, 2014 in the Rapid City (SD) Journal.

Reading this, I thought of one of the selections in my upcoming book (with the working title, Magnificent Playground: Early Yellowstone in Words and Watercolors). I was reminded of Barton Evermann’s 1891 commission to find how trout got into Yellowstone Lake. He visited and carefully described a phenomenal place called Two-Ocean Pass, just south of the Thorofare and the park’s border.

My own related delight is in finding places—even in the hills just above my noisy downtown Oakland—where stopping on a trail you hear no sound, unless it’s a distant bird or a trickling stream. It clears the head. And there are so many such places to be found in Yellowstone. . . .

Share Button

A National Monument West of Yellowstone—Great Idea!

Categories: News, On the Web, Park environs
Comments Off on A National Monument West of Yellowstone—Great Idea!

I’ve just learned that President Obama has designated an area called Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in New Mexico as a national monument. I was reading
Rocky Barker’s post in the Idaho Statesman, and his beautiful photo of Upper Mesa Falls took me back to the several pleasant visits I’ve made to that area. What a great idea to make this area, already public land in Caribou-Targhee National Forest, a national monument! Here’s the same view from Yellowstone Treasures.

114_Upper_Mesa_Falls

Both Upper and Lower Mesa Falls are worth a detour off U.S. 20. Besides the falls, the area sports beautiful 1930s stonework, good visitor access, and the Big Falls Inn’s small visitor center. Those of us who have been there should urge President Obama to use his ability soon to designate this part of Idaho just west of and contiguous with Yellowstone Park as a national monument. A portion of Yellowstone Treasures’ map on page 115 shows where the falls are located along Idaho state road 47.

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 1.55.39 PM

Share Button

Trip report: Back to the park from Heart Mountain

Categories: Park environs, Trip Reports
Comments Off on Trip report: Back to the park from Heart Mountain

Steamboat Hill

Sunlight Gorge

Overall, our side trip to Heart Mountain this summer was very worthwhile, reached by taking U.S. Highway 14A thirteen miles northeast of Cody and turning left on Road 19.

A bonus added to this excursion was that my friends and I returned to the park by way of the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, across the beautiful 8,071-foot pass over the mountains and into the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone. The pictures show scenes along the road: Steamboat Hill on the left and Sunlight Gorge on the right. Friend and colleague Suzanne Cane was my wonderful 2013 photographer.

Share Button