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: