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Janet celebrates her 75th anniversary in the park, part 4

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ranger station museum Old Faithful 1953My sister Joan was a life-long games person, becoming a fine contract bridge player and a tournament Scrabble player in her later years, besides making games out of every chore in her life—including the routines she recommended to her piano pupils. She could make a game out of anything, including something as simple as balancing on the logs that surrounded the Old Faithful Ranger Station and Museum. We would collect state names on license plates to see if we could find at least one car from each of the then 48 states. And we played lots of card games and board games, too.

As often as Mother would allow it, we would go into the museum to mosey around and talk to the rangers. One of the rangers called us “Dimples.” Perhaps he was the same one who gave us a copy of Cubby in Wonderland by Frances Joyce Farnsworth and signed it “From Ben Lundquist, 1942.” We loved that book and its sequel, Cubby Returns. Some years ago I read those books to my grandsons.

I remember the specimens of park rocks in the museum and the samples of plant matter such as the cones and needles from the different evergreens of the park. There were a few small stuffed animals. I think there was a large bear, too, but I’m not sure about that. I would have stayed well away from it.

I also remember the model of a geyser, but I don’t think I ever saw it working. (I have read somewhere that Jack Haynes built a geyser model, and perhaps it is still in the archives. But I have found a reference (in Yellowstone Nature Notes, July 30, 1926) to models made by Chief Naturalist Ansel F. Hall and placed at Old Faithful and Mammoth. [See my September 13, 2010, post on this blog for the exhibits you can now find at the new Old Faithful Visitor Education Center.]

In back of the ranger station and museum was an amphitheater with a screen (now part of the huge west parking lot). I don’t remember the pictures shown on the screen or the subjects of the rangers’ talks, but I do remember well the sing-alongs that always ended the evenings. I know we sang “Home on the Range” and “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain,” and many others.

Our local world was bounded by the Inn, the bunkhouse, the museum, and the geyser, but I remember that a favorite place where Joan and I played was around the bridge over the Firehole River behind the geyser. To this day I am strongly attracted to that spot, and I always spend a little time there early in the morning when I visit Old Faithful.

More from Janet’s memoirs in the last post of this series . . . .
CREDIT: The photo of the Old Faithful Museum is from the Haynes Guide, 1953.


The full article “Celebrating an Old Faithful Area Seventieth Anniversary,” was published in August 2009 in The Geyser Gazer Sput, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 5-8.
Janet wrote a longer version of these memoirs at the instigation of Park Historian Lee Whittlesey, and they are now preserved in the library of the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center in Gardiner, Montana.

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Sunset Magazine features Yellowstone and other western parks

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The March 2014 Sunset has a section called “The Ultimate Guide to the West’s Classic National Parks” and devotes four pages to Yellowstone, including an entertaining essay by novelist Nevada Barr and write-ups on five other popular parks.

I learned that there are now 59 national parks, with 40 of them in western states. A sidebar quotes geyser guru T. Scott Bryan on why he (and I!) love geysers.

Just a couple of items of advice to visitors could be improved upon. To “ogle bears,” both black and grizzly, I would not suggest the Lamar Valley but more likely the Tower-Roosevelt area or even around Canyon or Mammoth. “About 100 gray wolves. . . can be spotted near the Blacktail Plateau” is misleading; best chances for viewing wolves have usually been some 20 or 25 miles east of there on the Northeast Entrance road; second best may be in Hayden Valley—but, then, you really never know where wolves or bears are going to be.

About boating on Yellowstone Lake, the suggestion to “rent a boat and paddle out onto the blue waters” is tempting, but they need just a few words of warning about the very common afternoon storms or perhaps even a mention that at least 40 people have drowned in the lake, many in small boats.

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Late Season Visits to Yellowstone Park, 2013

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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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Wolves in winter

Categories: Wildlife, Winter
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Working most of my waking hours to prepare the next edition of Yellowstone Treasures for the printer, I have neglected my blog [February 2013]. But I never neglect looking at interesting tidbits written by other Yellowstone enthusiasts. Here’s a quote I particularly love from an article by Josh Eells about the wolves. It is just appearing in Mens’ Journal—which I don’t read routinely! I highlighted my favorite sentence:

With the Lamars out of sight, finding wolves was tougher than expected. On the other hand: If you’re not going to see wolves, there’s no better place to not see them than Yellowstone in winter. The park is majestically empty, devoid of the theme-park masses who crowd it in the warmer seasons. The bears had already gone into hibernation, but we saw loads of other wildlife: bison, elk, pronghorn, coyotes, ravens, and eagles. One day, a friend and I hiked up a trail called Specimen Ridge, where a snow-peaked Mount Washburn towered in the distance and the ice-cold Yellowstone River wound its way through steaming geothermal vents in the canyon below. We saw a set of fresh mountain lion prints in the snow, atop some also-fresh deer tracks – a real-time picture of nature at work.

Takes me back to last winter, when I got to visit the park for a week. See my trip report, Winter in Yellowstone, Part I and Part II.

Read more: http://www.mensjournal.com/magazine/yellowstones-wild-gray-wolves-20130214#ixzz2KzJrWh5h

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Yellowstone grizzlies know it’s spring

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If you know and love the Yellowstone area and the wild mountain country around it, you may have your own bear stories. But you’ve survived to tell them, and two of last year’s hikers did not. Now it’s the season when bears emerge from their dens, and the memory of last summer’s two fatal attacks by grizzlies in central Yellowstone is still fresh.

This month the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and Yellowstone National Park have released their detailed reports, and the park is initiating major efforts to increase bear awareness and encourage the use of bear spray by backcountry hikers.

An excellent report on last summer’s grizzly-caused deaths and the recommendations of the study group appeared on March 20th [2012] in the High Country News Range Blog:
http://www.hcn.org/hcn/blogs/range/rethinking-recreation-in-grizzly-country. If you’re planning to take hikes away from the most popular sights and routes in or around Yellowstone, you need to prepare by reading such reports and follow the associated advice.

As for me—I admit that I stay within a few miles of the roads and always hike with small groups of friends or family. I’ve had a healthy fear of bears since early childhood. Of course, my bear stories are pretty tame as a result.

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Absaroka-Beartooth Front

Absaroka-Beartooth Front. Photo ©2011 Dave Showalter/ iLCP.

When my husband Bruno and I accepted an invitation to a downtown San Francisco reception given by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, we thought it would be fun to meet some people involved with this organization and learn more about what they do. Walking into The Matrix one evening last week—the only rainy week we’ve had this winter in the Bay Area—we were greeted by friendly people, not just by barkeeps but by GYC board member Charlotte Vaughan Winton and very tall, bearded Executive Director Mike Clark.

The Matrix is a Marina District jazz club owned by Judge William Newsom, father of the former mayor of San Francisco and present Lieutenant Governor of California Gavin Newsom. We were in good hands, and Judge Newsom was most generous with free drinks and hors d’oeuvres.

The serious part of this gathering was to explain to us what and where the Absaroka-Beartooth Front is and why it needs protection. The slide show given by Northwest Wyoming Director Barbara Cozzens did not provide a map but did include interesting pictures of the rare high-elevation meadows, mountain views, bighorn sheep, and unspoiled terrain. The area is roughly defined as the area of public lands just east of Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, a good deal of which is on the Shoshone National Forest.

Shoshone National Forest is in the process of updating its management plan this year. They need to find a balance between the pressures of interests advocating industrial and motorized use of the area and people and organizations who believe in trying to manage the land and wildlife with the long view toward conservation for future generations.

Threatened by rural land development and oil and gas drilling projects, the Shoshone and nearby lands are “one of the wildest places remaining in the lower 48 states,” according to the GYC website,

The Front hosts the full complement of native Yellowstone wildlife, including large herds of all of North America’s big-game species—pronghorn, elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat—as well some of the highest concentrations of grizzly bears and wolves outside of a national park. Genetically pure populations of Yellowstone cutthroat trout inhabit the region’s pristine, free-flowing rivers and streams.
This area also supports a number of significant big game migration routes, including one of the longest-known elk migration routes in North America, with animals migrating over 60 miles from the southeast corner of Yellowstone National Park to the region’s public and private lands.

A map and much more information is at: http://greateryellowstone.org/issues/lands/Feature.php?id=300.

2012

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Grizzly bears on a teeter-totter

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Back in 2009, when Yellowstone grizzly population had reached about 550, a federal judge ordered the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to remove Endangered Species Act protections for the grizz. But Chris Servheen, acting for the USFWS, appealed that decision.

Now, just in time for my editor Beth and me to finalize the changes we want to make to Yellowstone Treasures for this coming spring’s reprint [for 2012], the judges reviewing the case decided that the bears must to returned to threatened status. This is a little surprising to me, since it comes at a time when many people are concerned about living with so many grizzlies in the area. Four people have been killed by grizzlies in Greater Yellowstone in the past two years.

A strong factor cited by the court in their decision is the collapse of whitebark pine seed production, which is due to warmer winter temperatures in the last decade. This affects the reproductive rate of grizzlies and contributes to greater human-caused mortality.

Just for the record—the word “teeter-totter” in my title this week reflects my Montana background; I guess most people call that playground object a seesaw.

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Your authority on bears preens a little

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All authors of non-fiction books like to be considered as some sort of authority—otherwise, why would they have written their books? I am no exception. I have to admit it’s rather flattering to me to be called an authority on Yellowstone, although I’ve only been researching the park for about 15 years, and some people I know are still learning more about it after 30 or more years. I still mostly just consider myself a researcher.

However, the latest review of Yellowstone Treasures on the book’s Amazon.com page certainly implies that I’m an authority. I found it so amusing to read, that I just had to respond and now pass it on to my blog readers.

“Falmouth” in Boston wrote in part:

So many people have covered the reasons why this book is fantastic, so I don’t need to add more. Except I do want to say that where the author notes that you may see a specific type of animal, believe it. We saw two black bears on different occasions exactly where she stated they frequent and we saw two mama grizzly bears with a total of 5 cubs where she said we might. How cool is that?

I commented:
“Hello Falmouth,
I can’t help but be amused by your review where you said the bears were where I said they’d be. That is some kind of luck! Congratulations! I can’t claim to have any power over the bears, but I think it’s great that they appeared for you.
Hope you’ll return to Yellowstone for many more memorable vacations.”

2010

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Bears out already

Categories: Wildlife, Winter
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I just read today that both blacks and grizzlies are coming out of their dens a little early this year [2010]. It’s not really surprising, since the snow pack is way below normal, and it has been relatively warm in Yellowstone. Tracks and bears have been sighted in both Grand Teton and Yellowstone, starting in early February, according to the Jackson Hole News and Guide.

It saddens me to look at the Old Faithful Webcam—which I do nearly every day—because the viewing benches should be deep in snow this time of the year, but they usually haven’t been. And this can mean increased fire danger and hardship for all the animals, unless the next few months reverse the trend.

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