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

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Yellowstone’s Fire Lookouts

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Today I spontaneously decided to check into the status of the fire lookout towers inside Yellowstone National Park, since the guidebook points out the ones on top of Mount Sheridan and Mount Washburn. Well, I was saddened to learn that the Mount Holmes fire lookout burned to the ground on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. The tower was built in 1931 and had historic value. A fire observer working in the Mount Washburn lookout tower spotted the lightning-caused fire. This first Yellowstone fire of 2019 means that the Mount Holmes Trail is closed until public safety can be assured. The Billings Gazette had one good story about the event, and National Parks Traveler had another.

If you’d like to learn more about the job of being a fire lookout in the park, I recommend this short Inside Yellowstone video on the National Park Service website.

—Editor and Publisher Beth Chapple

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Excerpt from A Place of Marvels

Categories: History, Through Early Yellowstone
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We’ll soon be celebrating National Parks Week, April 20-28. But let’s get a head start. On this day in 1870, park writer Ray Stannard Baker was born in Lansing, Michigan. This Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist is best known for his biography of President Woodrow Wilson, for whom he had been the press secretary. Baker worked for McClure’s Magazine at the time he published his Yellowstone report, excerpted here.

On Hymen Terrace by Blumenschein

Engraving of Ernest L. Blumenschein’s 1903 drawing. Tourists on top of Hymen Terrace, Mammoth Hot Springs.

Beyond the Upper Basin one cannot escape a veritable succession of marvels. At the Fountain there are many strange forms of geysers and hot springs, often gorgeous in coloring, surrounded by water-formed rocks in many curious and beautiful designs, and veritable caldrons of bubbling mud, and bears in the garbage-piles, and I know not how many other wonders. At Norris there are growling, jagged holes in the earth, belching forth huge volumes of hot steam, which, having killed and bleached all the verdure of the near mountain-side, has given the whole valley an indescribable air of desolation, as if the forces of nature had gone wrong—the very work of the devil, after whom so many of the marvels are named. Farther along one shudders under the brow of Roaring Mountain, makes a wry face while sipping water from the Apollinaris spring, wonders at the Hoodoo rocks [at Silver Gate], or admires the gorgeous colored pulpits and terraces of the Mammoth Hot Springs.

And yet after all these things, amazing as they are, one turns again to the road and the mountains and the trees. Undue emphasis may have been laid upon the odd, spectacular, bizarre—those things, dear to the heart of the American, which are the “biggest,” the “grandest,” the “most wonderful,” the “most beautiful” of their kind in the world. But the Park is far more than a natural hippodrome. The geysers appeal to one’s sense of the mysterious: one treads on the hollow earth not without an agreeable sense of danger, thrills with the volcanic rumblings underneath, waits with tense interest for the geyser, now boiling and bubbling, to hurl its fountain of hot water into the air; one is awed by these strange evidences of a living earth, guesses and conjectures, as the scientists have been doing for centuries, and then, somehow, unaccountably weary of these exhibitions, turns to the solemn, majestic hills, to waterfall and marshy meadow, to the wonderful trail through the forest. For, after all, the charm of the Park is the charm of the deep, untouched wilderness, the joy of the open road.

Indeed, the very name Park, associated as it is with smooth lawns and formal, man-guarded tree-groups and stream-courses, seems out of place when applied to these splendid mountain-tops. Here is a space nearly sixty miles square—a third larger than the State of Delaware, and, with its adjoining forest reserves, which are really a part of the public wilderness, nearly as large as Massachusetts or New Jersey. Visitors see only a narrow road-strip of its wonders, though the best; upon vast reaches of mountain and forest, lakes, rivers, geysers, cañons, no man looks once a year; probably many areas have never been seen by human eyes. The United States regular soldiers who guard it keep mostly to the roads, the boundaries of the Park being for the most part so wild and rugged that even poaching hunters could not cross them if they would.

It was a carping German traveler who complained that this Park was no park. “Look at your dead trees and burned stumps in the woods,” he said, thinking perhaps of the well-groomed, man-made forests of his native land, “and your streams, full of driftwood. It is not cared for.”

And Heaven help that it may never be cared for in that way! Not a park, but a wilderness, full of wild beauty and natural disorder, may we keep the place as nature left it, disturbing no land-slide where it lies, no natural dam of logs and stones heaped here by mountain freshet, no havoc of wind-storm or avalanche. The windfall, with its shaggy spreading roots full of matted earth and stone, rapidly being covered with grass and moss, and the river-bed full of bleached driftwood, each has its own rare quality of picturesqueness, its own fitting place in this wild harmony. There is beauty even in the work of the forest fire, which has left whole mountain-sides of freshly scorched pine foliage, a deep golden red smoldering in the sunshine; and many a blackened bit of forest, longer burned, leaves an impression of somber shadows, of silence and death, which cannot be forgotten. One even comes to begrudge this wilderness its telephone poles, its roads, and the excellent stone embankments which keep them from slipping down the mountainsides into the swift streams below; for they detract from its wild perfection. We may behold nature in its softer and more comely aspects almost anywhere; but every year, with the spread of population in our country, it becomes more difficult to preserve genuine wilderness places where hill and forest and stream have been left exactly as nature made them. Already our indomitable pioneers have driven the wilderness into the very fastnesses of the mountains, so that only remnants now remain. And this great Yellowstone Park remnant has been fortunately set aside by the government for the enjoyment and inspiration of the people forever.

CREDIT: “A Place of Marvels: Yellowstone Park as It Now Is,” The Great Northwest Series, The Century Magazine 66, no. 4 (August 1903): 481–91. Reproduced in Chapple, Janet, ed. Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis, pp. 215–17. Lake Forest Park, WA: Granite Peak Publications, 2016.

Believe us, the engravings of Blumenschein’s illustrations for Baker’s article come out far better in the print version of the book.

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Yellowstone trail reconstruction in 2018

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NPS Yellowstone Canyon Closures Map As this lovely map from the National Park Service website shows, the Canyon area is filled with construction projects that are going to improve safety and accessibility for people, and only some of them have been finished. The map is from October 11 and does not include the Uncle Tom’s Point project that was finished on October 20, 2018. (Tap or click the image for a larger version.) For example, the Brink of Upper Falls is closed for construction through the summer of 2019. And the portion of the North Rim Trail between Brink of the Lower Falls and Chittenden Bridge is still closed.

Here’s the good news: the Uncle Tom’s Point reconstruction that was completed on October 20 added new walkways and improved overlooks with views of Upper Falls. Canyon Overlook and Sunset Point are wheelchair-accessible, and you will now be able to walk the South Rim Trail to Chittenden Bridge in 0.87 miles (1.4 km).

There’s more to come for trails through Yellowstone National Park. Mount Washburn trails and trailheads closed for the season on July 12, 2018. They are reconstructing the trail and building a telecommunications structure at the historic Mount Washburn fire lookout. Also, on October 15 Fishing Bridge closed for construction, and more recently a boardwalk on Geyser Hill had to be closed due to activity underneath. On Twitter? Follow us (@GPPublications) and the park itself (@YellowstoneNPS) to keep informed about trail changes and improvements.

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park superintendent Norris

Superintendent Norris, as reproduced on page 205 of Yellowstone Treasures

After an August when I deserted not just Yellowstone but left the country for a trip to Germany, France, and Switzerland, I am back picking up my research project where I left off. This project will, with luck, turn into a new biography of Philetus W. Norris, Yellowstone’s second and most dynamic superintendent, who served from 1877 to 1882.

There is much to learn about Norris, including reading his several reports as superintendent. His only other extensive published work, unless you include the letters he sent to the Norris Suburban newspaper, is a book of annotated poems called Calumet of the Coteau. The book’s title refers to a peace pipe and the French word for hill or hillside.

I have quoted two of his poems in my historical anthology, Through Early Yellowstone: “Rustic Bridge and Crystal Falls” and “The Wonder-Land.” Norris’s unfailing use of iambic tetrameter or pentameter can get monotonous, but the sentiments are nice.

I can relate to “The Cloud-Circled Mountains,” especially to the second of its six stanzas:

My heart’s ’mid the mirage, the lakes, and the plains,
The buttes and the coteaus, where wild nature reigns;
My heart’s ’mid the coulees and cañons so grand,
And bright-spouting geysers of lone Wonder-Land.
Oh, my heart’s ’mid those fountains and streamlets below
Those cloud-circled mountains, white-crested with snow!

Read more about my trip to Europe in the nuggets Savoring France, Part I and Part II.

Photo credit: Record Group 79, National Archives and Records Administration, Yellowstone National Park.

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Is Yellowstone about to blow?

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Gibbon Falls

Gibbon Falls is near the edge of the Yellowstone Caldera. A good place to see the caldera rim is between there and Madison Junction.


Frequently I hear the question “Is Yellowstone about to blow?” as I run into acquaintances here at Lake Park Retirement Center. My best answer is usually “Not on my watch” or maybe “I’m going there again soon, and I definitely don’t worry about that.” We have treated the supervolcano issue in several posts on this website in recent years. Here also is a recent reassuring statement I found thanks to the Yellowstone Insider website. The news was about a 100-foot-long fissure found near Hidden Falls in Grand Teton National Park.

Yellowstone’s magma chamber, most geologists agree, currently does not contain the volume of magma needed for such a large-scale eruption, and the process of replenishing that chamber occurs on slow timescales. The USGS considers the risk of a caldera-forming apocalypse at Yellowstone in the next couple of thousand years to be “exceedingly low.”

In short, if a volcanic super-eruption at Yellowstone Park were imminent, the signs would be much clearer than a 100-foot crack in a rock wall. (Source: https://www.snopes.com/news/2018/07/18/fissure-opens-near-yellowstone-causing-park-closures-irresponsible-headlines)

Photo credit: Leslie Kilduff, 1996. The photo has been reproduced in Yellowstone Treasures from the first edition to the current fifth edition, where you can find it on page 290.

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Updated for 2018, part 1

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Abiathar Peak


After a review by our consulting geologist, Jo-Ann Sherwin, we changed the sidebar on page 203, “Why do the mountains look striped?” The layers you can see on some mountainsides are not lava flows per se but deposits of material called tephra from volcanic eruptions. And the eruptions happened closer to 45 million years ago rather than the 50 mya it says in the first printing of Yellowstone Treasures‘s fifth edition and used to say in the nugget on this website.

You can read the nugget “How did these mountains get striped?” to see the new explanation. Stay informed with Yellowstone Treasures, both the book and the website.

Photo by Niklas Dellby, 2013

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John Muir’s 180th Birthday

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John Muir Home in Martinez California On April 21, 1838, famous naturalist John Muir was born in Dunbar, Scotland. So this 21st we celebrate the 180th birthday of a hero of the conservation movement, without whom the national parks of the world might never have been created. Muir’s writings about the beauty of U.S. lands, particularly in California and Alaska, convinced the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier as national parks. He also included a chapter on Yellowstone in his 1901 book Our National Parks, and Janet quotes his 1898 description of Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone Treasures. Here’s a famous quote from a letter he wrote to his sister Sarah in 1873: “The mountains are calling and I must go.”

In June 2017 I took the opportunity during a visit to the Bay Area to see the peaceful house where he lived with his wife and two daughters, Helen and Wanda. A highlight of the tour is his study, which he called his “scribble den,” with its bright daylight, fine wooden furniture, and landscape paintings. It is also great fun to walk through the seven acres of orchards and other parts of the grounds, including the oldest structure in the town of Martinez, the Vicente Martinez adobe. (Click for larger images.)

Muir study with typewriter

John Muir’s study

Historical markers

Historical markers for the Vicente Martinez adobe and the John Muir home




Think of Muir as you celebrate Earth Day this weekend! If you are in the Bay Area on Saturday, a John Muir Birthday / Earth Day celebration at the John Muir Home National Historic Site in Martinez, California, this year includes family-friendly activities, music, food for sale, and self-guided tours. Learn more about what you can see on a visit in this “National Park Getaway” article.

—Beth Chapple, Editor and Publisher

P.S. Here is another lovely John Muir quote: “Handle a book as a bee does a flower, extract its sweetness but do not damage it.”

Photo credits: The exterior of the John Muir house is an NPS photo. All other photos by Beth Chapple.

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Granite Peak Publications revises our logo

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Granite Peak Publications logo

In 2017, you’ll see this new logo more often.

Back in June, we got a surprising message. The logo we have used since Janet founded Granite Peak Publications in 2000 is a mirror image of the real Granite Peak in Montana! Ralph Saunders, a friend, avid hiker, and mapping expert with Rocky Mountain Surveys of Billings, Montana, let us know with the following note as he ordered a copy of Through Early Yellowstone.

Just a little note. The picture of Granite Peak in the logo is actually reversed. Turn the paper over, hold it up to the light and you’ll see the terrain as it actually is. Not a big deal but thought I would let you know.

Well, it is a big deal, and we will gradually rectify it to the one you see above as we publish upcoming editions.

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Looking back at 2016’s Find Your Park campaign

Categories: Park environs, Wildlife
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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.

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Announcing our photo contest

Categories: Flora and Fauna, Geysers, News
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We are pleased to announce our 2016 Yellowstone National Park photo contest! Our Giant Geyser frontispiece since the third edition was obtained in a similar contest. For the fifth edition of the Yellowstone Treasures guidebook, to be published in 2017, we are looking for a new front cover photo and will consider additional photos for the back cover and the interior. Here are our ideas, but your photo may be considered if it is of a similar or nearby subject.

Possibilities for the cover, possibly with a rainbow

Beehive Geyser
Giant Geyser
Grand Geyser
Riverside Geyser
Unique shot of Old Faithful Geyser

Interior photos we would like

Geological

basalt lava flow near Calcite Springs
Canyon from Grand View
Clepsydra Geyser
Electric Peak
Emigrant Peak
Mount Moran (Grand Teton N. P.)
Norris Geyser Basin geyser or hot spring
Porcelain Basin overview
Rock Creek Valley or other Beartooth Range view
Twin Lakes

Living things

Harlequin Lake
Penstemon wildflower
Rosecrown or bitterroot flower

The deadline is coming very soon, August 19, 2016, so gather your recent, high-quality, high-resolution photos of Yellowstone (please, no more than five per entrant). Please read the further guidelines and rules here:
Yellowstone National Park Photo Contest. You are welcome to write to editor Beth Chapple at webmaster [at] yellowstonetreasures.com or author Janet Chapple at janet [at] yellowstonetreasures.com with questions about how to locate the pictures on our picture wish list.

We’re very much looking forward to seeing your photographs!

Here is a form you can use for entering. Put “Photo Contest Entry” in the subject line.
Photographer’s Name:
Residence:
E-mail address:
Twitter and/or Instagram handle:
Date of photo:
Photo subject:
Description:

—Editor Beth

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