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Over four million visitors enjoyed Yellowstone in 2015!

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The National Park Service has announced that Yellowstone Park has just had another record year. Nearly 600,000 more people passed through the park’s five entrances in 2015 than in 2014, a total of 4,097,210.

As always, the West Entrance was the most popular, and more people visited in July than in any other month, with August and June just behind in numbers.

The NPS attributes this year’s popularity to lower gas prices, stepped-up marketing by Montana and Wyoming tourist bureaus, and the NPS’s own “Find Your Park” program. In addition, beginning last year, to encourage visitation, all families that have a fourth grade student may enter any national park without paying an entrance fee.

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Enjoying Geyser Eruptions, 1939 to Today

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The countdown to my getting back to Yellowstone is down to seven days now, and the excitement grows! Anticipating seeing my favorite geysers and places and visiting with friends while I do it, I can hardly wait. So there’s lots to be done before I leave, and maybe you’ll forgive me if I go back eight years to a blog post I wrote when I was still blogging on Amazon.

In those blog posts I was reminiscing about my unforgettable four childhood summers (beginning in 1939) at Old Faithful, where my father was working in the Inn as Transportation Agent, and my mother took my sister and me to wonderful places, always driving, since she didn’t like to walk. So, from 2007, here goes. . . .

Two geysers we saw quite often when I got to live at Old Faithful were Great Fountain and Lone Star, both accessible by road in those days. We would take a lunch and a book or our game of Parcheesi and drive out north or south to wait for these geysers to erupt. It seems to me we would often have them to ourselves. LoneStarG_B.LasseterTo the left is Lone Star Geyser by Barbara Lasseter, from Yellowstone Treasures, page 106.

The most thrilling geyser viewing experience I can remember was being roused in the night to drive over to see Giant erupt. Daddy took me on his shoulders so I could see over the crowd. Somehow, the group excitement made more of an impression than the actual eruption! According to George Marler’s Inventory of Thermal Features, the first half of the 1940s was a relatively quiet time for Giant, so I was privileged to be there at an eruption. And the next time I got to see one was on July 3rd, 2006—again with a lot of excited viewers. Recently Giant has been erupting quite reliably every few days and thrilling hundreds of us. [Oops! Not these years. Giant hasn’t erupted since 2008.] You can sometimes even see the huge steam cloud from its eruptions on the Old Faithful Webcam.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned there are actually hundreds of active geysers in Yellowstone, maybe 500 of them, but changing all the time. Each one has its own shape, size, and personality. There are many “geyser gazers” who go to the park only to watch and study the geysers.

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Science for Parks conference, part 4

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4. Sally Jewell and the Horace Albright Lecture in Conservation

Presented as a part of the Science for Parks conference, UC–Berkeley’s annual Horace Albright Lecture in Conservation, open to the public on the evening of March 26, treated us with an all-too-brief introduction to Sally Jewell, U.S. Secretary of the Interior since April 2013, and four other illustrious speakers. Jewell was one of the panelists discussing “America’s Two Best Ideas—Public Education and Public Lands.”

To open the event, University of California Chancellor Nicholas Dirks gave a brief address. The panel’s moderator was Michael Krasny, a familiar voice to listeners to San Francisco’s public radio station KQED as host of the station’s morning Forum program. In addition to Jewell, the other two panelists were Janet Napolitano, formerly Secretary of Homeland Security and now president of the University of California, and history professor Douglas Brinkley of Rice University, the author or co-author of some 23 books relating to American history. The entire evening’s event was videotaped and can be accessed at: parksforscience.berkeley.edu.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell
Secretary Jewell was born in London, England, but her family immigrated to Seattle, where she received a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Washington. She and her engineer husband have two children. After working in petroleum engineering and then in banking for many years, she became a board member of Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) and then its chief operating officer. She’s an outdoor enthusiast herself, having climbed Mt. Rainier several times.

Listening to Ms. Jewell talk about her work at Interior, we can feel that the department is in very good hands. In fact, her co-panelist, historian Brinkley, pointed out that since the creation of her department in 1849, the work she has done there in less than two years compares well with that of Harold Ickes under President Roosevelt (Interior Secretary from 1933 to 1945) and of Stewart Udall (1961 to 1969) under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

Two initiatives taking shape under Secretary Jewell are Every Kid in a Park and the Youth Initiative. Feeling that “the best classrooms are those with no walls,” she is finding a way, beginning in fall of 2015, to give every fourth grader and his or her family a free pass to a national or state park. She intends to continue this program for twelve years. This is a beginning in an effort to change the statistics Jewell quoted: The average American schoolchild spends 56 hours per week in front of a screen and 30 minutes in the outdoors; she says they have a “nature deficit disorder.”

Already in place, another program called the Youth Initiative has begun in 50 cities with the participation of YMCAs and funding from American Express. The program was launched last year “to bridge the growing discontent between young people and the great outdoors” with goals to help children play, learn, serve, and work in outdoor spaces. Jewell cited one unit of the program’s launch, where Miami children learned to dissect small fish in nearby Biscayne National Park. This program will take place in some of the more than 75 urban national parks and other refuges and on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recreational lands.

Secretary Jewell is also deeply concerned with the need to make parks more relevant to American minorities. “People need to see themselves and their stories in the national parks.”

Asked about the role of technology in the parks, she suggested that cell phones can (and in some places already do) give out local information in the voices of people who live nearby, and tech companies (or perhaps even REI!) could develop games involving plants, animals, or invasive species.

As she brought up the water fights in drought-stricken California, Jewell insisted that the parties must get together, stop talking over and around the subject, and solve the problems by finding common ground. “It’s hard to let go of the ‘from’ if you don’t know what the ‘to’ is,” she told us.

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A celebrated author

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grandmother granddaughters

Janet with three of her four granddaughters, ages 6, 8, and 10.

This February, guidebook author Janet Chapple was pleased to celebrate her birthday with a banquet at the Bellevue Club, in Oakland, California. Family and friends traveled from far and wide to join the party. Four of Janet’s friends played a Haydn string quartet for us.

One guest, a violinist, revealed in a short speech that he learned on a trip to Yellowstone how highly regarded the book by his musician friend really is. A park ranger told him that Yellowstone Treasures was the best guidebook to the park he’d ever seen. He realized then that the book was by the cellist he enjoys playing chamber music with.

Two granddaughters watch Janet with her cake

Two granddaughters, one from New Jersey and one from Berkeley, watch Janet as she blows out her candles.

After dining on sea bass, salmon, or filet mignon, the approximately 40 guests, myself included, got to try this lovely layer cake.

—Beth Chapple, editor and daughter of the author

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“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.

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More about my geyser day

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riverside geyser firehole river

Riverside Geyser (2004)

While I waited for Grand on August 12, 2014, several geyser gazers mentioned that Riverside Geyser was due around 1:30 pm, so I thought (although I hadn’t brought a lunch)—why not stay out in the basin? So on I went to relax in the shade at Riverside and catch its 1:55 pm eruption—a little less rewarding than sometimes, because the wind was blowing the water and steam back at the geyser cone. It couldn’t create a beautiful drape across the river, as I’ve seen many other times. [This ten-year-old photo shows a faint rainbow, something else to look for when you visit. –Ed.]

Just as I approached on the long walk back up the paved road (the former Grand Loop Road), Castle obliged me with my fourth major eruption of the day at about 2:25 pm.

But that was not all! After some sustenance and a rest, I took off again for the early evening eruption of Great Fountain. A few minutes after establishing myself with a book on the viewing bench, my neighbors on the bench and I struck up a conversation. Nine-year-old Emma from Portland wanted to tell me all about her many trips to the park and environs and to pick my brains about what I knew, so the book was put away.

I timed the first overflow of Great Fountain at 6:38 and knew we still had at least 45 minutes to wait, so I asked Emma if she’d like to walk back along the road to see Surprise Pool and Firehole Spring. She asked her father’s permission, and off we went. Like me, she was mesmerized watching the big white bubble of steam rise over and over in Firehole Spring and sometimes burst at the surface. And I had to scold her father for never stopping there on the way to Great Fountain.

Nevertheless, Emma had a one-up on me, when she said she’d been to Oblique Geyser—and I haven’t. I’m more inclined to call it Avalanche Geyser (see “A Yellowstone rock in the Smithsonian, Part II“—but I’ve never been there.

Great Fountain began its significant bursts at 7:21. Never having seen it erupt on the same day as Grand, I had never noted the contrast in their eruptions. Grand pushes up its water higher and higher and continues with constant jetting until it all disappears down its big hole. But it’s always worth waiting a few minutes, because as on this day, it can return with one (or sometimes more) great spoutings; on this day, the second was higher than the first, as I caught on my second video:

In contrast, Great Fountain begins rather tentatively (and may have a blue bubble at its base, but not this time). It seems to die back, then surges up again numerous times. I watched for only 20 minutes but suspect it went on longer.

And so to rest, with visions of spouting waters to last me another year.

CREDIT: The photo of Riverside Geyser was taken by my son-in-law Niklas Dellby on August 5, 2004.

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Janet celebrates her 75th anniversary in the park, part 5

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In this last installment of this series of her park memoirs, Janet focuses on her geyser memories. If you are just tuning in now, you might want to start with her first post in the series.

Geysers

Old Faithful 2013

Old Faithful Geyser from Observation Point (2013)

The bunkhouse room we slept in faced Old Faithful Geyser. Of course, we watched it often, but we rarely went close. I do not know whether other predictable geyser eruptions were posted in those days, and we never went to wait for Grand or Riverside. I see from George Marler’s Inventory of Thermal Features of the Firehole River Geyser Basins (Geyser Observation and Study Association, 1994) that Grand’s average eruption interval was something like 38 hours in those years.

Two geysers we did see quite often when I got to live at Old Faithful were Great Fountain and Lone Star, both accessible by road in those days. We would take a lunch and a book or our game of Parcheesi and Mother would drive us out north or south to wait for these geysers to erupt. It seems to me we would often have them to ourselves.

The most thrilling geyser-viewing experience I can remember was being roused in the night to drive over to see Giant erupt. Daddy took me on his shoulders so I could see over the crowd. Somehow, the group excitement made more of an impression on me than the actual eruption! According to the Marler Inventory, the first half of the 1940s was a relatively quiet time for Giant, so I was privileged to be there at an eruption. And the next time I got to see one was on July 3, 2006—again with a lot of excited viewers.

Besides going to Lone Star or Great Fountain geysers, we often visited Biscuit or Midway geyser basins. I remember that the surrounding “biscuits” at Sapphire Pool were outstanding; they were destroyed when the pool erupted after the 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake.

I now realize how extrememly fortunate I was to spend so much time during formative years in the magic environment of Yellowstone. It is ironic that one of the most potentially dangerous places in the world—the Yellowstone Caldera—is also, if one takes sensible precautions, one of the safest.

Our months in the park were some of the most benign and happy of my life. No doubt this is why in my later years I have been thoroughly engrossed in learning and writing about the park I love.

by Janet Chapple

ON THIS WEBSITE: Be sure to see the nugget called “Wonderful Geysers Not to Miss,” and there is a lot more information about geysers elsewhere on the site and, of course, in the guidebook.


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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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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Janet celebrates her 75th anniversary in the Park, part 3

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During the summers of 1940, 1941, and 1942, we stayed in a room in the bunkhouse. It was a long, narrow building divided into small rooms that primarily housed bus drivers for the Yellowstone Park Company. In our room, which, I think, had a window alongside the door, there was just room for two double beds, one or two chairs, and a small table with a wash basin and a cooking element, where Mother improvised meals for three, since Daddy ate with the other employees. A chamber pot was kept under one bed. I believe we had two such rooms one of those years.

Old Faithful Village map 1950s

Old Faithful Village map, center section, 1950s. Find the museum almost in the center; the bunkhouse was the small building southwest of there, marked “YPCO.”

The bunkhouse was located behind the ranger station and away from the back door of the Inn, an area now part of the big west parking lot. I was happy to find the exact location on an old map, since the bunkhouse would have been torn down long ago. I snapped this photo of the map during Lee Whittlesey’s June 2006 Southern Park History class.

Calling Old Faithful Inn our home

Some of my most vivid memories center around the Inn. We spent relatively little time inside the lobby. In fact, I believe Mother made sure we were never in the way of the tourists or the Inn employees. But I remember that occasionally a bellhop would pop some corn in an oversized corn popper in the lobby’s huge stone fireplace. A few times during our summers in the park we were taken up the many stairs to the top of the lobby and out to the roof. I remember the many flags always snapping in the wind and the unique two-person wicker chairs, shaped like an S. From the roof I saw an Old Faithful Geyser nighttime eruption lit by a spotlight a few times, but that was usually too late for us little ones to stay up. It was thrilling to see.

balcony desk

Partner writing desk on an Old Faithful Inn balcony.

Another thing that made a big impression on me was the unique style of the balcony desks. Joan and I would often sit at these and play–or perhaps she would read to me by the light of the center lamp. The desks there now are not the originals designed by Robert Reamer, but they are very similar to those I remember.

Sometimes we would watch Daddy as he got out his large red megaphone and called out the names of people who were to ride in the big yellow buses. I remember feeling that he was a very important person indeed with that responsibility.

Returning to the Inn many years later, I realized that the area around Daddy’s transportation office had been changed. Where you now find a large window and the porters’ stand was a door to the back of the Inn and the place where we could find Daddy during working hours.

More from Janet’s memoirs in the next post in this series . . . .


CREDIT: The photo of the partner writing desk is by Leslie Kilduff. You can find it on page 77 of Yellowstone Treasures, fourth edition.

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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New Junior Ranger activity book

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Many of the national parks have a program that allows children ages 5-12 to become junior rangers by jotting down the animals and features they see in an activity book and attending ranger talks and walks. Now Yellowstone has just published a new one.