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

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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

Categories: History
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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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What is meant by “Greater Yellowstone”?

Categories: Flora and Fauna, Park environs, Wildlife
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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.

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Pilot Peak, Wyoming

Categories: History, Park environs
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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

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