Heart Lake Logistics

Previously, I posted about my experience backpacking in the Heart Lake Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park. It required much planning in terms of gear, our itinerary, and registering with NPS. The hard work was worth it, though. So, here are some resources we used for our visit.

Our first criteron for a backpacking spot was a place where we could safely chill out in some geothermal water. While the Bechler area in the southwest corner of the Park has this is spades, the trailhead for the Heart Lake Geyser Basin is more accessible. It’s trailhead 8N1 located just off US 191/287 in the southern section of the park, on the eastern side of the road (across from Lewis Lake).

Our second criterion was something that could be done as one overnight, in the range of 15-20 total miles. This was just enough distance to hike in one day and finish before sundown. We felt we’d “gotten away from it all,” without pushing ourselves too hard to cover some ridiculous injury-inducing daily mileage. The trails continue around the lake, however, and onward to the Continental Divide Trail, so a multi-day trip is possible.

There are descriptions of this hike online, including this great Backpacker magazine document. It has a map, profile, and is formatted as an infographic. This visual format is very concise and, if printed out, portable. It includes the side trip to climb Mt. Sheridan, which we didn’t do.

For my part, I found the Lonely Planet:Yellowstone guide book most useful during the trip. In the Park, it was great to have a resource that didn’t depend on WiFi or cell connectivity, and we used it to find other (non-backpacking) sites and activities. Looks like the .pdf version for a tablet, etc. is a steal at $3.49.

We used National Geographic map #201 for Yellowstone while backpacking. It shows topography and much more detail than the NPS-issue park map/brochure.

The NPS process for obtaining your backcountry permit is here. There are a handful of backcountry permit offices throughout the park, and you must visit, sign waivers, watch a safety video, and have your dates and destination in mind. As described in my previous post, the backcountry is staffed and they will check on you at your assigned campsite. It’s the most strict process I’ve experienced, but not unreasonable. Restricting the flow of backcountry visitors meant that we saw few people, and were able to have a memorable wilderness experience for a couple days.

My favorite “primer” on of the local ecology is here, at the Yellowstone wiki.

Happy trails!

Los Angeles, CA

Other 2013 Fave Articles

Last week, I wrote a post about my five favorite popular press articles from the past year.  I felt the following were noteworthy as well and are great resources.

Organized by topic, in no particular order:


How Chris McCandless Died” by Jon Krakauer, The New Yorker, 9/12/13
Absolutely riveting story of Krakauer teasing out the health effects of McCandless’s meager diet. It’s also a reminder of how mysterious the field of botany remains, at times. We can describe all the plants, but how much do we really know about all of their effects on and interactions with the human body?

Climate Change:

Climate change our most serious security threat” by Michael Breen, SF Gate, 08/23/13
Here, the author recalls his own deployment to Iraq, where our over-dependence on fossil fuels and the weather extremes of climate change, were especially amplified.

How Much Will Tar Sands Add to Global Warming?” by David Biello, Scientific American, 01/23/13
Straightforward breakdown on the potential impact of burning this inefficient fuel source, if total extraction and production were to proceed.

Hydraulic Fracturing / Fracking – Dakotas:

A Mysterious Patch of Light Shows up in the North Dakota Dark” by Robert Krulwich, NPR News, 01/16/13
Using a series of NASA satellite images, this article illustrates the light pollution of ND oil fields that is now visible from space.

North Dakota Went Boom” by Chip Brown, New York Times, 01/31/13
Great piece describing the extent of landscape, economic and social transformation currently occurring in North Dakota.

Hydraulic Fracturing / Fracking – California:

Vast Oil Reserve May Now Be Within Reach and Battle Heats Up” by Norimtsu Onishi, New York Times, 02/03/13
Published right on the heel of “North Dakota Went Boom,” this was the first I’d heard about the true extent of the Monterey Shale. I was gobsmacked by the possibility that reserves may be “four times…the Bakken Shale in North Dakota.”

California Legislature passes fracking regulation bill” by Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times, 09/11/13
Despite some environmental groups withdrawing support after this bill passed, this is a start towards (previously nonexistent) regulation.

‘Fracking’ the Monterey Shale – Boon or Boondoggle?” by Alex Prud’homme, Los Angeles Times, 12/29/13
Great Op-Ed on the possible over-estimation of oil reserves, current state of regulations stand, and complexity of issues and stakeholders involved.

Land Use:

Land transformation by humans: A review” by Roger LeB. Hooke, José F. Martín-Duque, and Javier Pedraza, GSA Today, December 2012
One of the best, most concise summaries of land degradation I’ve read, with a great collection of references to important works and scholars.


Our Overcrowded Planet: A Failure of Family Planning” by Robert Engelman, Yale Environment 360, 06/24/13
Female empowerment and education is a running theme of Engelman’s articles on population control. I recommended this to my “Global Environment” students this year as a complement (and, update) to Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons.”

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats,” photos by Peter Menzel, Time, 09/20/13
Amazing photo essay of families around the world, with a week’s worth of food and drink spread out, with cost listed in dollars. This was started a few years ago, but had an update in September.


“The Lost World,” [2 parts], by Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, 12/16/13 and 12/23/13.
Fantastic story of old-school paleontology and the how the idea of extinction evolved [Part 1], and discussion of whether or not we’re witnessing – and causing – the next large extinction event [Part 2]. Unfortunately these are behind a paywall.

What Killed off the Woolly Mammoths?” by Jennifer Abbasi, Discover Magazine, 09/09/2013
A summary of the complex suite of climate (and possibly anthropogenic) factors that led to the demise of the mammoth, based on work my advisor (Glen MacDonald) recently conducted.


Who Will Speak for the Bees?” by Katie O’Connor, Conservation Biology Institute Blog, 09/16/13
This post is about an unfortunate, and unintended loss of a bee population in Oregon. It reminds me of Muir’s quote on ecosystems: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

Megadrought in U.S. Southwest: A Bad Omen for Forests Globally” by Caroline Fraser, Yale Environment 360, 06/20/13
Discussion of fire ecology, and inevitable extreme wildfires that are predicted to occur with widespread warming and drying in the Southwest.

Yosemite Fire Puts San Francisco on the Front Lines” by Glen M. MacDonald, SF Chronicle, 08/29/13
Written by my advisor, this article mentions how the Rim Fire threatened Hetch Hetchy water supply. A good reminder of just how dependent our urban centers are on seemingly-distant wilderness areas, and the ecosystem services they provide.


Los Angeles, CA