Tag Archives: Gardiner MT

Three weeks ago, Day 13

 Morning to research and afternoon to explore.

The elk were gone from the campground in the morning, apparently having moved to the Gardiner school’s athletic field.  And the pronghorns were grazing on the hillside, too.  I drove back down to Gardiner, bought milk and ice — the Gardiner supermarket is sensible enough to carry block ice, thank you very much — and went back to the Heritage Center to finish this trip’s round of research.  They let me leave bookmarks behind in their rack, too, which was nice of them.

After that, I headed back into the park, and down towards the Norris Geyser Basin.  Norris has two basins, actually, the Porcelain Basin and the Back Basin (geysers always occur in low spots, which is why they’re called basins).  I wanted to walk the Porcelain Basin, called that because the sinter looks rather like it from a distance.  All smooth and pale and with very little in the way of plants in the basin proper.  The main thing I like about Porcelain Basin is the little spring/spouters that make this really nifty spitting/sizzling sound.  I grin every time I walk by them.

After that, I decided to drive over to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, to see all that high water I’d been seeing in the Yellowstone River for the last couple of days go over those spectacular falls.  The falls were about as full as I’d ever seen them, which is saying a fair amount.  And I discovered a new-to-me place, which is not something I can say very often anymore about my park.  Somehow, in all of my visits, I had missed a little sign along the road between Canyon Village and the Chittenden Bridge saying temptingly “brink of upper falls.”  This time I didn’t.  I turned off down the short road and came to a parking area and a path, which ended in a staircase.  At the bottom of the staircase, it was almost like standing at the railing at Niagara.  Not anywhere near as enormous, obviously, but every bit as loud and misty.  Complete with a rainbow.  Just lovely.  And I saw some veronica along the way.

After that it was back to Norris (it’s only twelve miles one way between Canyon and Norris, across the center of the figure eight that is the Grand Loop Road), which is named after the second superintendent of the park, back in the 1870s, Philetus W. Norris, who had a penchant for naming things after himself.  He has a bit part in Repeating History, and was an interesting fellow.

This time I wanted to walk the Back Basin trail, a mile and a half through the woods and along the boardwalks past geysers and springs and fumaroles.  This trail goes past Steamboat Geyser, the world’s largest but also one of its most erratic geysers (its recorded intervals between eruptions range from two days to over fifty years).  I would give my eyeteeth to see Steamboat erupt someday, but the chances are slim to none.  Still, this is one of the best walks in the park, and there’s lots of interesting things to see.  Including, today, a flower I’ve never seen before, bog laurel or Kalmia microphylla.  It’s the same genus as back-east mountain laurel, which is one of my favorite plants.

By the time I made it back to my car, it was late enough in the afternoon that I needed to head to West Yellowstone (known locally as just plain West), where I had a reservation for a bed in the hostel at the Madison Hotel, the oldest hotel in town, which is, as I know from personal experience, haunted [g].

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If you like my travel writing, you might enjoy my fiction set in Yellowstone:

Repeating History, “A GRAND yarn you can’t put down.” Janet Chapple, author of Yellowstone Treasures
http://mmjustus.com/fictionrepeatinghistory.html

Three weeks ago, Day 12

 “I am back in my park.”

So starts my journal entry for the day.  The park in question being Yellowstone.  I think, with nine visits in the last not-quite-fourteen years and one book set there so far and another in the works, I am qualified to be possessive about it.  My other park is Mt. Rainier, but that’s because I live within sight of it and, depending on where in the park I’m going, as close to it as a 45 minute drive (the northwest entrance, at Carbon River).

I was also back in the land of research and promotion, for the aforementioned book.  My first stop of the day after I hit the road was in Livingston, a small town with a fascinating history.  You see, Livingston was the original entry point to Yellowstone, back in the days when almost all long distance travel was accomplished by passenger train, and you had to be rich to do much traveling.  Oh, for the days when a five day package tour of the park cost less than $60, all inclusive.  Which was a lot of money back in the 1880s.

I visited the two main museums in Livingston to tell them about my book and to leave bookmarks as well as peruse the exhibits.  First was the Livingston Depot Museum.  The building itself is not the first depot on the site and only dates back to 1902, but it is a magnificent building, and they’ve done a terrific job with it.  I think my favorite part was the 1920s film promoting travel to the park.  The other museum I visited was the Yellowstone Gateway Museum, housed in the old Livingston school.  It used to be one of those “everything including the kitchen sink” museums, but it has a new director and new exhibits these days.  The redesign is well done, but it’s very different than it used to be.  One set of artifacts that I am assured is only in storage, but that I missed seeing this time were souvenirs from the early days of the park that had been created by putting objects into the springs at Mammoth and letting the travertine coat them. 

After an early lunch I drove down the spectacular Paradise Valley (where a number of movie stars own ranches) to the town of Gardiner, the northern entrance to Yellowstone and the home of the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center, the official park library and archives.  I spent most of the afternoon collecting material on the 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake for my next book, and the rest of it at the Yellowstone Association headquarters bookstore getting contact information for their book buyer.

When the research center closed at four, I drove the five miles (across both the Wyoming state line and the 45th meridian marking the halfway point between the equator and the North Pole) south to Mammoth Hot Springs and Fort Yellowstone.  I went to the campground there, paid for and was assigned a campsite, then went up to see how the Springs themselves have changed since the last time I’d visited, two years ago.  They always do.  New springs pop out and grow, old ones die, and sometimes, although not often, they encroach on existing roads, trails, and/or buildings, and then the park service has to figure out how to preserve, say, an historic building like this (click to page 3), designed by Robert Reamer in 1908 in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright, and a rapidly growing hot spring, all at the same time.

I was pleasantly astonished at the wildflowers that populate Mammoth at this time of year.  The last time I was in the park in June was 27 years ago, in 1985.  I had forgotten.  A hillside of phlox, several meadows’ worth of larkspur, forgetmenots surrounding more balsamroot, and a few others. 

When I got back to my campground, it was to find, to my bemusement, several cow elk browsing unconcernedly between campsites.  Now in the past, when I’ve stayed at the Mammoth Hotel in autumn, I’ve been kept awake by bull elk bugling under my window all night, and I kept a wary eye out for calves this time, but all in all, the ladies turned out to be good neighbors.  Quiet, thank goodness, and they kept to themselves.

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If you like my travel writing, you might enjoy my fiction set in Yellowstone:

Repeating History, “A GRAND yarn you can’t put down.” Janet Chapple, author of Yellowstone Treasures
http://mmjustus.com/fictionrepeatinghistory.html