Posts Tagged With: Wyoming

more earthquakes in Yellowstone

This article from my local news station, located in Seattle, talks about recent swarms of earthquakes in Yellowstone.  Earthquake swarms aren’t all that unusual there, but what fascinated me was the last three paragraphs:

“Smith traced the three recent earthquake swarms to the Hebgen Lake quake [in 1959 — my time traveling hero’s earthquake].

‘These are a really related,’ he said.

‘We think that much of the seismicity is still aftershocks from that event in 1959. It can go on for hundreds of years.'”

 

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Categories: geysers, national parks, outdoors, parks, Repeating History, Yellowstone | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Three weeks ago, Days 17 and 18

 And home again, home again, AKA bombing home on the Interstate.

It takes about a day and a half for me to get home from Yellowstone.  A very long day and a half, but still.  I left my cabin at Old Faithful early in the morning, feeling wistful as I always do, and comforting myself with the thought that I will be back.  At the rate things are going, I’m not sure when my next visit will be, but return visits will remain inevitable until I become too decrepit to travel.  A long time in the future, I hope.

I did not make any more stops in the park, as I hoped to get as far as Spokane that day, which is less than ten miles shy of 500 miles.  I did make two stops in West Yellowstone, one for just enough gas to get me to the Interstate, where it’s about thirty cents a gallon cheaper than in West, and the other at the hostel to pick up the wristwatch I had inadvertently left there two days before.  Fortunately, the cleaning staff had found it and set it aside for me.  And, I discovered later, sent me an email to let me know they had it.

After that, well, Kestrel and I could probably drive this route in our sleep.  North out of West to Hwy. 287, which runs along Hebgen Lake to Earthquake Lake, the site of the landslide caused by the earthquake I’ve been nattering on about for the last two weeks.  Up and over the natural dam, and downstream along the Madison River, past the Gallatin Mountains and through the little town of Ennis, which makes a great deal of its living from the fly fishermen who flock to the Madison every year. 

And on north.  It takes about three hours to get from Old Faithful to I-90, headed westbound.  From Old Faithful to Livingston is only about two hours, give or take an animal jam in the park, but that puts you an hour and half east from where 287 eventually debouches, so it’s not a time-saver that way.

Once past Ennis, the land opens up and the mountains draw back, but after I landed back on I-90 it wasn’t all that far to my last crossing of the Continental Divide on this trip, at Homestake Pass, then Butte, where my great long lasso of a trip reached its knot and I was back on highway I’d already traveled this trip.  I stopped in Butte for lunch and gas, then let Kestrel really start eating up the miles. 

It was about the middle of the afternoon, somewhere along about Missoula, I think, that I started thinking, why don’t I just keep going?  Theoretically, if I drove straight through (something I have never done in all my Yellowstone trips), I could make it home before midnight. 

I debated the idea for miles.  All the way through the last 100 miles of Montana and the 60 or so miles across Idaho as far as Coeur d’Alene, where, in spite of the fact that I still had over a quarter of a tank of gas, I stopped to get more because I knew the price would jump forty cents a gallon as soon as I crossed the state line into Washington.  However, the moment I climbed out of the car, I knew I wasn’t going to do it.  One of the odd things about spending the entire day making miles is that I tend to not realize how tired I am until I actually stop.  So I resigned myself to that one last night on the road.

I crashed and burned in a little mom and pop motel out by Spokane International Airport, and got up and out at the crack of dawn the next morning.  I was pretty much sick of breakfast bars by that point, so I decided I would see what the little town of Ritzville, which is the next wide spot in the road after Spokane, had in the way of a diner.  My mouth was set for pancakes.  I did find some, or, rather one enormous one after the waitress told me two would be overload, bless her, but only after giving myself the grand tour of the entire town.  It was worth it, though. 

Back on the highway, I stopped at a rest area to clean up, then took a glance to the west and did a doubletake.  Was that Mt. Rainier?  Surely not, I was still too far east.  I fetched my binoculars and stared again.  Lo and behold.  Home.

You see, I have this theory.  My theory is that there are place-oriented people and there are people-oriented people (kind of like the way there are introverts and extroverts). I am a very strongly place-oriented person, which is a good thing because a) I’m really bad at marriage, having tried twice and failed both times, and b) my blood relations are scattered all to hell and gone in places I wouldn’t live in on a bet.  I was born in New Orleans and grew up in LA, Denver, and San Franscisco (my father was an engineer, which is the next thing to being military for getting transferred regularly), so it’s not like I have a hometown, either.

But home is the Pacific Northwest, and in particular, my corner of western Washington, where I’ve lived for the last almost twenty years. I moved to Oregon in my mid-twenties and loved it, but then I made the mistake of falling in love with a Midwesterner who hoodwinked me into moving to Ohio.  He claimed that we’d only be there long enough for him to finish grad school before we moved back to Oregon. Then he got within two hours’ drive of his seven brothers and sisters and I never did pry him loose.

I finally managed to finish grad school myself, leave him, and find a job in Tacoma, Washington. I remember driving over Snoqualmie Pass in tears because, dammit, I was home. Never mind that I’d never lived here before. It was just like the John Denver song, only a different part of the country. 

Anyway, I still had about two hundred miles to go, but I was home.  Much as I love traveling, and as you can see I really truly do, I love coming home almost as much.  Especially since this is where I get to come home to.

I hope you enjoyed my travelogue, and that you will stick around for more adventures. For one thing, I am in the process of adopting a pair of kittens, which ought to be good entertainment value.  And there are always new places to discover, even in the old familiar stomping grounds.  And beyond.

 

There. On the horizon just to the left of the yellow sign, that’s not a cloud, that’s Mt. Rainier.

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

Categories: cats, exploring, food, national parks, outdoors, travel, Yellowstone | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Three weeks ago, Day 16

Waiting for things to erupt!

 Actually, three weeks ago yesterday.  Monday got away from me, alas.

Anyway, the weather did a 180 from Sunday night to Monday.  When I woke up the sun was shining and the birds — or were those chipmunks? — were chirping outside my cabin at Old Faithful, and it was positively balmy compared to the day before.

Happily I loaded my backpack with my Kindle, my cross-stitch, a bottle of water, and a notebook, slathered on sunscreen, slapped on my hat, and headed out.

First stop was the lodge, for one of their large, delicious muffins.  Second stop was at the visitor center, to check the eruption predictions and make notes.  Three geysers were predicted for late in the morning — Daisy and Riverside around 10:30, and Castle for just after eleven.  Grand’s prediction wasn’t till the afternoon, at 3:45 (which really meant any time between 1:45 and 5:45 — Grand’s window is always two hours on either side of the predicted time). 

I headed down the paved trail, which used to be the old road before the early 70s when they rerouted automobile traffic out of the geyser basin, only to have a ranger redirect me around a stretch past several bison cows and their calves, and the bull who was apparently keeping an eye on them.  As I made my little detour, I heard the ranger trying — apparently in vain — to keep someone from strolling right up to them who did not realize the danger of getting too close to something that weighs 2000 pounds, can run faster than you can, and has babies to protect.  Yellowstone is not a zoo, folks.  Those animals are wild.

I had been planning to watch Daisy and/or Riverside, but somehow I didn’t get any further than Castle at first.  Castle is great fun to watch, and to listen to.  I hadn’t seen a whole Castle eruption, from the first spout of water through to the steam, which makes a mighty roar, in a long time, so I decided to wait for it.  It was well worth it, as you can see in the photos.  I’m just sorry I can’t reproduce the sound for you. 

I struck up a conversation while I was waiting for it with a lady from Virginia whose first visit to Yellowstone this was.  She queried me about a lot of things, including wanting to know which was my favorite geyser, so I got to tell her about Grand a bit.  Turns out that was my good deed for the day, as I will explain later.

After Castle finished bellowing, she and I walked down to catch the last of Riverside Geyser, and to see Morning Glory Pool.  By that point it was getting to be lunch time, and she and I each went our own way.  I went back to the lunch counter at Lower Ham (one of the two general stores at Old Faithful — the other one being called Upper Ham, short for Hamilton), to grab a quick meal before heading out to stake my bench at Grand.

It really was a glorious day for geyser-gazing.  Other than a few white puffies, the sky was a never ending blue, it was warm without being hot, there was just enough of a breeze to keep things comfortable, and the boardwalks were bone dry.  The flowers were blooming, too — I saw gentians and shooting stars, among others.  And, of course there were red dogs (bison calves).  What more could you ask for?

Well…  I ran into Lisa from the geysers email list and we had a nice conversation.  I’d been at Grand for about an hour when Kristin, the lady from Virginia, showed up, with the comment that she wanted to see the geyser I’d gone on so about.  Less than an hour after that, Turban went and Grand overflowed, and then up, up, up it went. 

It was a terrific eruption.  I will never, ever, ever get tired of watching Grand erupt.  There’s something about geysers that makes them look like they are having way more fun than is good for them.  They’re just exuberant.  Playful.  Whatever.  I know better than to try to anthropomorphize them, but I can’t seem to help it.  And when it was over, people applauded, which always just tickles the heck out of me.

I glanced over at Kristin, who was sitting there with her fingers over her mouth and her eyes wide, and after it finished I said, was it worth the wait?  And she said, oh, yes.  Like I said, my good deed for the day.

What was left of the rest of the day after the stroll back to the cabin, which wasn’t much, was an early supper, then one last viewing of Old Faithful, with an eruption of Lion in the distance.  And early to bed.  Because, whether I wanted to or not, tomorrow I needed to head home.

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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

Categories: animals, exploring, geysers, national parks, outdoors, plants, travel, weather, Yellowstone | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three weeks ago, Day 15

Snow, blast it!

So.  Five days before today the temperature was 99F degrees.  Today I woke up to snow.  Not horrendous amounts, but enough that I had to scrape it off of my car before I could set out for the morning.  I won’t tell the story about snow on July 4th in the park when I was small, or mention that I have now been snowed on in the park at some point in every month from May to October, except August.  Which is sort of ironic, because Repeating History‘s hero Charley got snowed on in the park in August.  Very late August, but still.  Anyway, I just won’t mention any of that now.

By the time I left West Yellowstone and headed into the park it was more sleet than snow, and it was blowing sideways, but the roads remained clear and just a bit wet.  In spite of the weather I decided to get out and walk the boardwalk at the Fountain Paint Pots, where I saw yellow monkeyflowers blooming along the edge of the boardwalk, as well as perpetually spouting Clepsydra Geyser and lots of paint pots and pools.  My jeans were soaked on one side and dry on the other by the time I got back to the car due to the wind, but it could have been worse.

I skipped Midway Geyser Basin, because when you combine two hot springs the size of Excelsior Geyser Crater and Grand Prismatic Spring and weather in the forties, you basically end up with steam thick enough to cut with a knife.  For the entire length of the boardwalk.  Besides, my jeans were still damp.

The weather seemed to be improving slightly by the time I got to Biscuit Basin, however, so I did get out and walk there, in the company of a group of tourists who sounded eastern European of some kind to my ears — Russian, maybe?  One of the young women was wearing a t-shirt, leggings, and sandals, along with a Jayne hat.  I shivered just looking at her.  The snow was beginning to collect on the boardwalks, and I’m not sure there are many surfaces as slippery as jugwalk (planks made out of wood pulp and recycled pop bottles) with snow on it.  But I it was nice to see Sapphire Pool again, especially since every mention of the park during the 1959 earthquake that I’d seen in my research was replete with its magnificent eruptions in the aftermath.  I’d have loved to see that.

So I finally wended my way to the Upper Geyser Basin, aka the home of Old Faithful (the link goes to the live, streaming webcam).  I had been planning to spend this day out in the geyser basin, but I was cold and damp and needed at the very least to warm up and dry out before I went walking outdoors again.  The snow had warmed up just enough to become a cold, penetrating drizzle, but it was still pretty miserable.  So I bought a cookie in the lodge and ate it while gazing wistfully out the big windows, then headed over to the bright shiny new visitor center that opened in August of 2010.

It’s about time that the Upper Geyser Basin acquired a decent visitor center.  And it has a virtual version, too, if you’re interested in checking that out (the introductory video is a hoot).  The old visitor center dated from Mission 66, I think.  At any rate, its amenities included a ranger desk, an auditorium, and a small bookstore.  Not a single exhibit.  The new visitor center has a whole enormous room full of exhibits, many of them interactive, telling all about how thermal features work and why they are where they are and, well, let’s just say that both my museum curator persona and my inner Yellowstone junkie were vastly impressed.

So that gave me time to dry out.  Lot of good it did me.  I went out walking around Geyser Hill, and about half an hour into my stroll, slipped and fell flat on my tuckus, and covered myself in the sleet/dirt/etc., that was on the jugwalk.  At least I didn’t fall off the jugwalk.

I decided enough was enough, and took my cold, wet, dirty self off to the showers at the lodge, then to the laundromat at the Snow Lodge (two different places), and got me and my stuff cleaned up.  That was the first time I had to wash that coat.  I’m glad the manufacturer meant that “machine washable” tag.

After that, I checked into my lodge cabin and holed up, hoping for better weather the next day.  It was my last day in the park, after all.

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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

Categories: exploring, food, geysers, museums, national parks, outdoors, plants, Repeating History, travel, weather, Yellowstone | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three weeks ago, Day 14

First real geysers of the trip

It was chilly but the clouds were not at all ominous when I left West Yellowstone this morning.  I stopped at one of the picnic areas along the Madison River to write, then stopped again at Madison Junction, to find the ranger station/bookstore that I hadn’t visited before.  It has a nice view down the Madison River valley, and some really nice fabric blocks printed with vintage postcard images and such.  If they hadn’t been so expensive, I’d have bought them in spite of the fact that I’d already overrun my fabric budget for the trip.  Well, there’s always next time.  Or the website.

My next destination was the Firehole Lake Drive.  I wanted to see if there was a prediction posted for Great Fountain Geyser.  Great Fountain is the only geyser with regular predictions outside of the Upper Geyser Basin, and it’s well worth the effort it takes to see it (you have to understand, I have a thing about, a fascination with, a passion for geysers, so I may be a bit biased here, but going to Yellowstone without spending time waiting for geysers to erupt is like going to New York City for the first time and not visiting the Statue of Liberty — as one of my favorite fictional characters often says in other contexts, that’s just wrong). 

Anyway.  Great Fountain did indeed have a prediction written on the plastic sign at the entrance to its boardwalk.  It was for later that afternoon.  So I got back in my car and decided to drive down to West Thumb, saving the rest of the geyser basins for Sunday and Monday.  Except that Cliff Geyser was going off as I drove by, and how was I supposed to keep going without stopping at least for a while to watch one of my two favorite small geysers? (the other is Sawmill, in the Upper Geyser Basin)

As I drove over the Continental Divide on my way to West Thumb, one of the most scenic spots in the park in my humble opinion, I noticed that there was still snow along the road at the highest elevations.  I wondered if the lake would still be frozen.  I have seen it frozen before, except for the spots where there are hot springs on the floor of the lake which keep those parts open all winter, even in below 0F temperatures.

As it turned out, the lake was thawed.  As it also turned out, the weather was beginning to turn, spitting cold rain and wind.  I searched under my car seat and lo and behold, discovered that the canvas sack I keep my knit cap and mittens in was still there!  There are some advantages to being too lazy to completely clear out the car before heading out on a long trip.  Between that and the coat I had had the sense to bring with me, I was just fine.  I spent the better part of several hours wandering happily along the boardwalks admiring the beautiful hot springs, the spectacular lake, and the gorgeous Absaroka Mountains on the other side of the lake, until it dawned on me that if I wanted to attempt to catch Great Fountain, I had better hit the road.

The drive back to Great Fountain was uneventful, except for the ice pellet shower I ducked through over the Continental Divide.  The pellets themselves were tiny, about the size of the head of a quilting pin, but plentiful enough that I had to use the windshield wipers.  By the time I got back to Great Fountain, they’d stopped, though.  Good timing.

Even better was Great Fountain’s.  The pool was already beginning to overflow, and I only had to wait about half an hour, watching the center begin to bubble and boil, until all of a sudden there it went!  It was a good, one-burst eruption.  I’m not into the scientific part of the whole geyser thing, all the if it does that now when it’s already doing this it’ll go off in the next event cycle (a process Grand Geyser watchers in particular elevate to a fine art); for me it’s more just a very strong aesthetic appreciation.  But oh, I do aesthetically appreciate a good geyser eruption.  It’s one of my favorite things on the planet.

After Great Fountain did its thing, I drove on around the Firehole Lake Drive.  I had stopped to walk another boardwalk when the ice pellets struck again.  When an ice pellet hits you in the face, I am here to tell you it can sting.  So that was the end of that.  By the time I got back to West, the sun was out.  But it had been a long day, so I found some supper and holed up at the hostel for the night. 

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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

Categories: animals, exploring, geysers, museums, national parks, outdoors, philosophy, plants, quilting, travel, weather, Yellowstone | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Categories: exploring, geysers, history, museums, national parks, outdoors, plants, Repeating History, research, travel, Yellowstone | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Categories: animals, books, exploring, history, museums, national parks, outdoors, plants, Repeating History, research, self-publishing, writing, Yellowstone | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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