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

All posts tagged rangers

This time I want to write about three separate subjects that only relate to my recent [2010] trip to Yellowstone because they center on people in the park.
First, I want to publicly thank Yellowstone’s Park Historian, Lee Whittlesey. He has been encouraging to me about all my projects relating to the park and has helped me immeasurably to find what I’ve needed and to understand a great many things. I’ve gone to him with questions ever since 1995, when I began research relating to Yellowstone. This month he supplied a strong shot in the arm to the project my colleague Suzanne Cane and I have been working on for over two years, a translation of Belgian travel writer Jules Leclercq’s beautifully written 1886 French book called La Terre des Merveilles or The Land of Wonders. His help and enthusiasm are propelling us forward. What an amazing guy he is!

Next I’ll mention the delight I felt when, by chance, I got to meet USGS geologists Bob (“Chris”) Christiansen and Jake Lowenstern while waiting for Fountain Geyser to erupt. These two were presenting interesting geological remarks to a small group of people that turned out to be a field trip from the group Geologists of Jackson Hole. When they were about to leave I got up the courage to introduce myself and my husband Bruno Giletti, and they were both most cordial. These are two of the most important contemporary researchers into Yellowstone-related geologic questions, and I have known about them for many years, so it was a pleasure to finally meet them.

Lastly, at Mammoth Hot Springs in previous summers I’ve been able to consult the rangers’ logbook to learn what the various springs and terraces have been doing since the last time I was there. Now, I learned, there is no longer a logbook, and, as far as the rangers at the information desk in Albright Visitor Center could tell me, no one is keeping track for the park of where there are new springs, which ones are most active in building the travertine terraces, or any other current data about Mammoth’s remarkable features. If this is so, it is really a shame. I suppose it is directly related to lack of sufficient funds to have enough park service personnel to do all the things that should be done, and this type of study is a low priority. But the geysers all over the park have their own non-governmental group called the Geyser Observation and Study Association, with some 250-300 members. What about these unique hot spring terraces? I would love to be able to help personally with reviving the data collection on thermal features at Mammoth. Maybe in the next life. . .

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A few personal notes

Categories: Bio, Transportation, Trip planning, Wildlife
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12 Sept. 2010: Back from Yellowstone for a week now, I have lots of things to write about and will start with a few personal experiences and observations, some of which might be instructive to other visitors.

This year we opted to drive from our home in California rather than flying and renting a car. It’s always nice to have your own car in the park, but, besides not having to cope with the expense and hassle of flying, it’s pleasant to see how our 2004 Camry loves to go 75 and 80 miles per hour on those Nevada and Idaho highways—we got over 37 miles per gallon on one tank of gas!

For me, having spent my first eighteen years in Billings and environs, going back to that part of the country is a great opportunity to enjoy old friends as well as the places I love. I met two of them at Lake Hotel and participated in a joint birthday party for seven who graduated from Billings Senior High School in the Class of ’53, with a luncheon held at Red Lodge. At East Rosebud Lake in the Beartooth Mountains, I took part in a rededication ceremony, unveiling in its new location the 1929 plaque that named Mt. Inabnit for my maternal grandfather.

During my two weeks in the park, I saw no bears this year, but at Old Faithful Village I had a near-adventure with a herd of bison. In the late afternoon one day, eight or ten of them were browsing near the lower general store as I returned from walking in the Upper Geyser Basin. A rain-and-lightning storm was just starting, as a law-enforcement ranger was making an attempt to deflect the bison from the path. The ranger had driven his patrol car part way up the paved path toward Castle Geyser. He suggested that those of us walking back toward the Inn should make a big detour across the meadow and take the outer path toward the gas station. Fortunately, the bison did not come that way, so meeting them head-on was averted. Another routine day’s work for the ranger. . . not so routine for me.

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Yellowstone news of early winter: report on skiing and wildlife

Categories: On the Web, Trip planning, Wildlife, Winter
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Things are off to a slow start this year [2009], with snow cover just sufficient to open the roads to over-snow vehicles on December 15. As of Dec. 27, Old Faithful and the West Entrance had 15 inches of snow on the ground, the East Entrance had 14, and Mammoth only 3. The new official (but temporary) plan allows 318 snowmobiles and 78 snowcoaches to enter Yellowstone per day.

Jim Holstein, a Yellowstone tour guide, reports that although skiing at Big Sky north of Yellowstone is great, he is anticipating a very slow January in the park itself. Even the wildlife are staying in the upper elevations, and it “has been the slowest start for wildlife that we have had in the Northern Range in the 19 years I have been guiding.”

Just outside the East Entrance, one of the oldest downhill ski centers in the U.S., dating from the 1930s, has re-opened after having been closed since 2004. There’s where you can catch the lift at the Sleeping Giant Ski Area, or you might go across the road to use the cross-country trails at Buffalo Bill’s summer home, Pahaska Tepee.

Inside the park, visitors can now cross Sylvan Pass. As of December 22, after rangers used howitzers to help prevent avalanches from blocking the 8500-foot (2600 m) pass, it was opened to over-snow vehicles and ambitious skiers. Winter use of this entrance has created controversy for years due to the high cost of keeping it open for relatively few visitors.

Here is good winter news for Yellowstone’s beleaguered bison: Horse Butte near Hebgen Lake just west of the park will be permanently closed to cattle grazing. In recent winters “bison have been needlessly hazed from Horse Butte back into the park with helicopters, horses, ATVs, and snowmobiles. A lot of time, resources and your taxpayer dollars are unnecessarily wasted along the way,” according to Matt Skoglund in his “Guest Opinion: Gallatin National Forest presents gift to Yellowstone bison.”

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Yellowstone driving: stuck behind the old guy

Categories: On the Web, Transportation
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I read this recently on an anonymous blog and was reminded of the only time in over fifty years of driving that I’ve ever been stopped for speeding. It was where park employees have a cross-walk from Old Faithful Village to their dorms. I was going 25 or 30 and it is marked down well below that. I was really embarrassed to be stopped, since I should certainly know better, but the law enforcement ranger let me go without a ticket. Here’s the full story from the blog.

As we were making our way out of the park, I ended up getting stuck behind an elderly gentlemen driving an old Land Rover. I’m not sure if was the man’s age or limitations of his vehicle but he was averaging 30-35 mph the whole way. The roads in parts of Yellowstone are narrow, curving passes (read: no passing lanes or clear views to pass for long stretches). I wanted to get back to the cabin in time for sunset so I was getting really frustrated that this guy was impeding my progress.
I finally had the opportunity to pass him and wanted to make up for lost time. Unfortunately, a park ranger passed me and clocked me going a wee bit over the speed limit. I saw him flip around and knew I’d been caught. I’ve never been pulled over for speeding before. I wondered if tickets cost more in national parks. The cop approached my car and I started apologizing profusely. Apparently, I’d been doing 58 in a 45. Doh!
I told him that I knew that I was speeding and explained that I’d been stuck behind the old guy for miles. He laughed and thanked me for my honesty. He took my license, registration, and proof of insurance back to his vehicle.
I don’t know if he can tell that I’ve never had a speeding ticket or been pulled over before. Or maybe he’d been stuck behind the old guy earlier in the day. But, either way, he came back to my car, handed me my stuff and told me to slow down. Pretty lucky, don’t you think?

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Janet Chapple’s Bio, 2009

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author Janet ChappleBorn and raised in Billings, Montana, I was the second daughter of musician parents: my mother gave piano lessons for most of her life, and my father taught piano, organ, and voice until the World War II years, when he became a teller and later an officer in a bank.

My association with Yellowstone goes back to very early childhood, when both parents worked in Old Faithful Inn in 1939 and my father worked further summers as transportation agent. I trace my love of Yellowstone Park to memories of wonderful times with my sister Joan: waiting for geysers to erupt, visiting with rangers, attending slide shows and sing-alongs in the amphitheater, playing hide-and-seek in the inn, and watching as my father assigned passengers to the big yellow tour buses.

After college at Stanford, U. of Washington, and U. of Southern California, I married Bill Chapple, who was also from Billings. He took all his degrees at Caltech in geology, later becoming a professor of structural geology at Brown University. While raising three daughters, I worked as a professional performer and teacher of cello and spent over forty years in Rhode Island.

In 1981 I lost Bill to a very rare form of cancer. In the next few years I sold my house, lived about a year and a half in a graduate dorm at Indiana University, and received my Master of Music degree in cello performance. Then in 1984 I married Bruno Giletti, a geology department colleague of Bill and a good family friend for over twenty years. This increased the count of daughters to five–and now the count of grandchildren has risen to six.

In 1995 I began research for the guidebook that became Yellowstone Treasures in 2002, and by 2000 I had retired from teaching cello and from the musical groups I played with. That’s also the year I formed my own publishing company, Granite Peak Publications.

Since all our daughters had long since left New England, Bruno and I decided to enjoy our later years in a year-round pleasant climate, and we both favored the San Francisco Bay Area for that and for its beauty and cultural attractions. So 2004 found us buying a condo in the area, choosing to be near friends Bruno had known since high school. We kept up a bi-coastal existence until late October of 2005, when we condensed our life from nine rooms in Pawtucket to five-and-a-half in Menlo Park. Then in 2010 we moved to the best retirement community anywhere around, Lake Park Retirement Center. There are three of us here (out of about 200) who are not retired. Publishing, researching, and writing about Yellowstone still occupy most of my time, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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