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

All posts tagged trails

Happy Birthday, NPS

Categories: News
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August 25th is the official 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service. Every year the national parks offer free admission on this day, but for the centennial the free days have been extended through the weekend, to August 28th. Enjoy!

Yellowstone Park is holding a big, sold-out celebration at Arch Park at the North Entrance, with shuttles from Gardiner. If you didn’t get a ticket, you can still participate virtually via Livestream.

If you do have plans to visit Yellowstone any time soon, be sure to keep track of the fires and other construction and road alerts at the official Yellowstone website. Sean Reichard has written several posts recently about the various fires being fought. Here is one of his articles this week: “More trails close as fires grow in Yellowstone National Park.”

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Celebrating the National Park Service’s 99th birthday—in a couple of ways

Categories: History, Janet Chapple's Other Writing, News, Through Early Yellowstone
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First I want to pass along the fact that next Tuesday, August 25th, is the NPS’s birthday. The good news is that all national park entrance fees will be waived that day. So, if you have time to visit a park that’s not too far from you and can stay only one day, that would be a good day to go.

Next, I hope many people who normally read my blog posts have been visiting Yellowstone or another park this month, since there’s been nothing new to read on this website since August first. Editor Beth has been both flying and sailing (but not in Yellowstone), while author Janet has stayed earthbound and had time to catch up on work that needs doing for her next Yellowstone book. This new book will be a historical anthology full of good things to read and look at. So I’m celebrating the NPS birthday by beginning to reveal bit by bit what’s in my new book as we approach next spring’s publication date. I’ve mentioned the upcoming book twice before on my blog; on October 6, 2014, and March 3, 2015, I was calling it Magnificent Playground: Early Yellowstone in Words and Watercolors, but now we’ve decided on a title that gives a better idea of what’s in the book.

Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis offers a potpourri of historical articles that are both important to Yellowstone history and fun to read. There are ten major stories in this book but also several short selections—what I call snippets of information and historical ambience. All will give readers a feeling for the gradual change in the ways of enjoying, using, and also studying the world’s first national park. The selections span the time between establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 and the country’s entry into World War One.

I’ll let you know as the months go by more about what Through Early Yellowstone contains, but today I want to tell you about one of the amazing people we feature who have contributed to the park’s history.

~ ~ ~

Here’s the headline of a one-page article, in which the editors saw fit to honor a woman resident of New York City who was an avid horsewoman.
MorrisNYTMheadline
In the early 1900s Mrs. Robert C. Morris (Alice Parmelee Morris) had become enamored with the scenery of Yellowstone Park and spent many summers at the Silver Tip Ranch just north of the park. Then in 1917 Mrs. Morris conceived, financed, and carried out her remarkable plan to explore and map an interconnected loop of trails throughout the park and its environs. At that time Yellowstone Park trails totaled about 400 miles—but not all were suitable for equestrian traffic. Mrs. Morris spent four summer months leading her pack train throughout the park. She presented a twenty-nine-page typed report, “Notes on Trail Study in Yellowstone Park 1917,” to Park Supervisor Chester A. Lindsley. Included with the report was a detailed and professionally produced map showing the proposed trails, which we will reproduce along with the New York Times article in the anthology.

So what became of this report that Mrs. Morris worked out so carefully? No evidence of action taken on her work turns up in a search of Yellowstone Park archives. One can speculate, however, that there could have been several reasons for this.

First, lack of funds: a request to Congress for $50,000 for a system of trails and bridle paths in Yellowstone went nowhere. This is not surprising—the bill was submitted on the exact date of President Woodrow Wilson’s request to Congress for a declaration of war with Germany: April 2, 1917.

Second, administrative turmoil between the National Park Service and Yellowstone: in 1917 and 1918 there was disagreement as to which agency was in charge of roads and trails, since the NPS (created in 1916) was gradually replacing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for such construction projects.

Third, low priority: automobiles had almost completely replaced horses in the park. In 1918, for example, among the park’s 35,039 tourists, only 808 came in horse-drawn vehicles. The number of people who came on horseback is not recorded but must have been very small.

Fourth, two other Yellowstone enthusiasts contributed their own plans to the park administration: long-time park employee Milton P. Skinner and pack-trip leader Howard Eaton had both worked on the question of improving the trails, and both submitted plans. Mrs. Morris’s plan was scarcely acknowledged. Some money must have been found for trails after the war, however, since in 1923 a complete system of trails was dedicated to Howard Eaton.

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Precipitation in Yellowstone—but not at the best time

Categories: News, Trip planning
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Although the Beartooth Highway and Dunraven Pass opened on time yesterday (May 22), cold and rainy weather is the norm right now in Yellowstone.

There was less snow than normal again this winter, following a decades-long trend, but the park service announced a rain-caused trail closure on Wednesday. Recent heavy rain and snow caused a rock and mud slide across the Brink of the Lower Falls trail, and the popular trail is closed until conditions dry out and the trail can be cleared. Yellowstone Canyon District Ranger Tim Townsend said, “Right now the entire slope above the trail is still wet and unstable, making it unsafe for crews to work in the area.”

From page 185 of Yellowstone Treasures, here’s the thrilling view you will not be able to access until the trail is rebuilt.YT_pg185_2015-05-23 at 4.18.34 PM

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What you can find in the guidebook

Categories: Trip planning
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Janet Chapple on Mount Washburn

Author Janet Chapple poses among wildflowers at the start of the Mount Washburn trail.

Are you planning your first big trip to Yellowstone National Park? With Yellowstone Treasures you can figure out the distances between various gateway towns and parts of the park, what time of year is the best time for you to visit, and where you should plan to stay. The book tells you all about the campgrounds and lodgings in the park, plus listing resources for exploring the national forest campgrounds and town motels on all sides of the park. There are also lists of what to see, recommended hikes, and helpful maps, all of which Janet describes in “The Features of Yellowstone Treasures.”

Once you are there, the road log format lets you figure out what you will come to just ahead—a picnic area, a hot spring, the chance to see bison, a waterfall—there are so many possibilities! Here’s an excerpt of the road log from the East Entrance to Fishing Bridge Junction. You get details about how strenuous a hike is, where to park, which mountains you can see at a particular viewpoint, and even how many picnic tables there are. Janet checked out every spot in the road guide and hiked on every trail she recommends, sometimes multiple times.

You may wonder, do I need to travel by car to use Yellowstone Treasures? Janet feels that even people who go through the park by bus would enjoy a copy of her book, both while in the park and afterward. Though they would not benefit from the mileage indications between points of interest, every other facet of the book should be useful, including maps, pictures, and planning aids.

—Editor Beth Chapple

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Recommended walks in Yellowstone Park

Categories: Trip planning, Winter
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Until the park reopens fully next April, we won’t be able to follow any of its wonderful trails except for those open to skiing and snowshoeing. But I have happy memories—as well as anticipation for my own future use—of walking wonderful Yellowstone trails in the summer season.

Yellowstone Treasures’ first edition (2002) listed 59 trails that I recommend, having walked all of them myself, most of them several times. But now in the fourth edition we’re down to 56, and here’s my chance to explain what happened to those three lost trails!

First, in the Canyon area, the trail from Artists’ Point east along the canyon’s south rim, where I’ve written (on page 182 in the new edition) that you can see “some of the most awe-inspiring sunset colors you will see anywhere, with the sky and canyon rivaling each other on a beautiful evening.” This trail is not maintained for casual walkers. The National Park Service warns hikers of uneven footing and steep drop-offs; it’s also narrow and sometimes slippery.

Next, the trail to the base of Tower Fall has proven so difficult to maintain over the years that it disappeared from my table of walks (pages 366 to 368) as early as the second edition of Yellowstone Treasures, which came out in 2005. The picture below shows Tower Fall from the easily accessible viewing platform.
Tower Fall

Most recently, I’ve had to remove a quiet, little-used, level road with many wildflowers and lovely mountain views that was formerly open to biking and walking, This was a two mile (in and out) route leaving the main road south of Swan Lake in the northwestern part of the park. It has been closed for public use for a year or two now and is only a service road.

For your information: The park will not reopen until December 15; from then on until early March there will be relatively limited access. Only snow coaches and snowmobiles may use the groomed roads. The one road that is plowed for cars and trucks goes from the North Entrance at Gardiner to the Northeast Entrance and on to Cooke City. Of course, winter is the best time to see wolves along that road, especially in the Lamar Valley.

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White Creek and Yellowstone Treasures

Categories: Thermal features
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From the time Yellowstone Treasures was new in 2002 until the third reprint of the third edition earlier this year [2012], I’ve told readers about a narrow unmaintained trail that leads from the Great Fountain Geyser parking area to some interesting hot springs and geysers along White Creek. Certainly not intending to go against National Park Service regulations, I nevertheless neglected to point out in recent printings that the trail was closed to visitors in about 2010.

This action was probably taken because visitors were overusing the area and harming the natural features, as a knowledgeable geyser gazer pointed out in an e-mail message last week. He said that “the number of people going up White Creek to look at Octopus Pool and other features increased drastically” about ten years ago. He also said that these visitors “had no knowledge of how to be safe in such situations. Nobody understood how much environmental damage they were doing, either,” and he pointed out that “anybody with access to the internet and popular guidebooks thinks of White Creek as a destination.”

Not surprisingly, this gave me a sense of mea culpa, which has been gnawing at me these past few days. Although I cannot correct old editions, I will no longer write about the White Creek hydrothermal features in Yellowstone Treasures—and I will point out that the area is now closed to visitors. White Creek is one of several interesting but fragile and even potentially dangerous places in the park that have suffered from overuse and been judged by the park service to need time to recover.

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In Yellowstone Park 94 years ago

Categories: History, On the Web
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I’ve been neglecting my blog lately, writing about once a month instead of meeting the once a week goal I had set for myself. It’s not as if I weren’t thinking about Yellowstone most of every day. But most of that thinking, reading, and writing are related to my book projects rather than to my online presence.

I just came across an interesting article by Brett French, the outdoor editor at the Billings Gazette, whose writings I’ve admired for several years. It’s about the Howard Eaton Trail in Yellowstone. Brett interviewed two of the best current authorities on old trails and roads, Leslie Quinn of the Xanterra concessionaire, and M.A. Bellingham, who volunteers at least one day a week, working for Park Historian Lee Whittlesey.
Howard Eaton was a rancher from near Sheridan, Wyoming, who led horseback parties though Yellowstone from the mid 1880s for something like forty years. 1883 was when one could first send horses to the park’s northern edge by railroad.

Brett’s article did not mention that this trail was laid out by a New York horsewoman named Mrs. Robert C. Morris (in the days when married women did not use their given names in public media). In June of 1917—the year after the park was opened to automobiles—Mrs. Morris, who had a ranch near Yellowstone, began to “map out an elaborate system of trails through the park, which will make it possible for visitors to ride through the most beautiful and picturesque portions of the great ‘reservation,’ journeying in an unhurried and enjoyable fashion, seeing much that cannot be seen from the motor roads alone, and never once traveling on the motor highways.” This quote comes from the New York Times Magazine for February 10, 1918.

Mrs. Morris used existing trails, but most of the work of her pack train, which covered 1,500 miles in the park, was in finding connections and marking the suggested new trail routes. She made general recommendations to the National Park Service for constructing the trails. But most of all she emphasized the enjoyment both of blazing the trails and in the use of them by others.

The work of this dedicated woman resulted in the opening in 1923 of the Howard Eaton Trail, used for decades by horseback parties. Parts of the trail are still in use, both by riders and pedestrians. In Yellowstone Treasures I recommend the part of this trail that goes from Swan Lake Flat toward Mammoth Hot Springs, and I mention several other segments of the trail.

Brett’s article can be accessed at:
http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/article_f1892b48-71d9-5409-bb82-34156ecf05f7.html#ixzz1YQ9z3GHA.

2011

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