GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Books accompanying travelers to the Park since 2002

Janet celebrates her 75th anniversary in the park, part 2

Janet celebrates her 75th anniversary in the park, part 2

In the summer of 1939, Mother (Margaret Inabnit Orvis) played in a small musical group they called the Ladies’ Ensemble. That was a group of musicians from Billings, probably organized by Melville Moss, who was a daughter of P. B. Moss, a prominent and wealthy Billings banker. The Moss family sandstone house was the most elaborate dwelling in our town and is now open for public tours.

Melville played string bass and also harp, but I think she left the harp at home. Other members of the ensemble were Jean Todd, viola, Mary Vaughan, clarinet (if I remember correctly), and Elsie Spencer, violin. Mother was the pianist when they played for tea in the afternoons, and she hastily learned to play the drums so she could be a part of the dance band in the evenings. There was a sixth lady who covered the piano part for dancing: Marguerite Behrendt.

Ladies Ensemble Morning Glory Pool

The Ladies’ Ensemble of Billings at Morning Glory Pool, National Geographic Magazine, June 1940, Vol. 77, p. 777.

The first five women I named are immortalized in a picture I found in about 1998, while researching for Yellowstone Treasures. I was reading the June 1940 issue of the National Geographic in my local library. There on the page was a picture of Morning Glory Pool with eight people, five of whom were members of the ensemble. The one seated to the far right is my mother, next to her Elsie, a good family friend and my sister Joan’s violin teacher. Imagine my amazement in finding my mother in an old Geographic!

The Ladies’ Ensemble did not play from the crow’s nest near the top of the Old Faithful Inn lobby as some musical groups did. Naturally, they could not hoist a piano up there, so they set up near the fireplace. While the musicians rehearsed in the Inn during the quiet time of late morning, Joan and I would sometimes make the halls our playhouse, hiding from each other and trying to be invisible to the maids.

More from Janet’s memoirs in the next post in this series . . . .


The full article “Celebrating an Old Faithful Area Seventieth Anniversary,” was published in August 2009 in The Geyser Gazer Sput, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 5-8.

Janet wrote a longer version of these memoirs at the instigation of Park Historian Lee Whittlesey, and they are now preserved in the library of the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center in Gardiner, Montana.

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Time to crow a bit: Yellowstone Treasures wins two awards!

eLitAward_GoldRef_YT4

Granite Peak Publications was surprised and happy recently to be honored with not one but two awards for our Updated Fourth Edition e-book of Yellowstone Treasures. Not only did we receive the Gold award in the Reference division, but a similar attractive plaque arrived for the Bronze award in the Travel Guidebook division. Now our readers can access all the pictures and maps as well as the full text in this very portable way.

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Janet celebrates her 75th anniversary in the park

Janet Joan Orvis and Yellowstone bus

Yellowstone bus at Gallatin Camp way station, 1937. Janet is on the right, her sister Joan is in the center, and her cousin Judy on the left.


The summer of 2014 marks 75 years since author Janet Chapple first spent a summer season in Yellowstone. To celebrate, YellowstoneTreasures.com will serialize excerpts from her memoirs of her experiences from 1939 to 1942.

Living within sight of Old Faithful Geyser

Residing in Billings, Montana, my parents both made their livings as music teachers when I was a small child. In the summers they found jobs near Yellowstone Park, including managing the 320 Ranch in the Gallatin Canyon one year and working in the office of the Gallatin Gateway Inn another. Around 1937 and for either one or two summers, they ran the “Gallatin Camp” way station to service the park buses that brought Yellowstone visitors from Gallatin Gateway Inn to the West Entrance.

From looking through the Yellowstone Park Company payroll books held at Yellowstone’s archives, my sister Joan Orvis and I learned that my father, L. Worth Orvis, was employed as Assistant Transportation Agent for Old Faithful Inn in 1939, and that he advanced to be Transportation Agent in 1940. We were surprised to be reminded that we stayed at Old Faithful, not just in 1941, but also in 1942, when the war had begun to cut drastically into people’s summer vacation habits.

I cannot remember which events and impressions took place in which years, except that 1939 was quite different from the others. I believe we stayed in one of the tourist cabins that year in the group of them that were east and south of the ranger station/museum, long since torn down.

The main difference for us in 1939 was that that summer Mother (Margaret Inabnit Orvis) played in the Ladies’ Ensemble. More about that small musical group in the next post in this series . . . .


The full article “Celebrating an Old Faithful Area Seventieth Anniversary,” was published in August 2009 in The Geyser Gazer Sput, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 5-8.

Janet wrote a longer version of these memoirs at the instigation of Park Historian Lee Whittlesey, and they are now preserved in the library of the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center in Gardiner, Montana.

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Short hikes

This is a great time of year to go hiking. Some delightful short hikes can be taken by going partway on a long backcountry trail. For example, start the Seven-Mile Hole Trail along Yellowstone Canyon’s north rim or head toward Point Sublime on the south rim. If you are interested in this one, take a look at the Canyon Area map.

Another idea is to start the Pebble Creek Trail. Park at the upstream end of Pebble Creek Campground (9.7 miles after the Northeast Entrance). Layers and layers of limestone about 350 million years old are exposed in cliffs in a lovely canyon. Look closely at the rock to see bits of tiny marine organisms.

For a fantastic view of Yellowstone Lake and a trail with some interesting small hydrothermal features and great wildflowers, take the Yellowstone Lake Overlook Trail south from West Thumb Geyser Basin.

walks list in Yellowstone Treasures You can certainly find good sources for longer hikes, but author Janet Chapple believes there are lots of older people and also young families who want to do less ambitious walking and would like to know where the best hikes for them are. So she has put together a chart of “56 Recommended Short Walks in Yellowstone” starting on page 366. See the “How to Find Great Hikes in Yellowstone” nugget for more about that list and other possible hikes to choose among.

—Editor Beth Chapple

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Microbes of Yellowstone beware!

The hundreds of thousands if not millions of species of microorganisms lurking in Yellowstone Park’s hot springs won’t have a chance of staying anonymous, if Eric Boyd has anything to say about it. This dynamic young scientist, whose office window looks out on the mountains south of Bozeman MT, continues the demanding and time-consuming study of these infinitesimally small living beings, with the ultimate goal of learning how life began on earth.

professor Boyd

Eric at Cinder Pool, Yellowstone

Read all about his work and that of many others in his field in the newest nuggets of Yellowstone information we’ve put up on this website.

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Wildflowers galore!

What to say about an idyllic three days in the Lamar Valley enjoying and learning more about Yellowstone wildflowers? Even in seasons without so many flowers the valley is one of my favorite places anywhere.

Whenever I’m there, I can never get enough of the changing light as you look up the valley to Saddle Mountain and its neighboring peaks or across the river to Specimen Ridge. But this green early summer with bison grazing everywhere is really special.

Also special in every way was the Yellowstone Institute class called The Art of Wildflower Identification. Instructor Meredith Campbell is not just knowledgeable about botany and a fine artist. She is wonderfully qualified to patiently teach us about keying in Rocky Mountain wildflowers as well as about some techniques of drawing and using color. We were using a little booklet that asks us specific questions about the leaves and flowers and (sometimes!) leads us to identify the one we are looking at.

This was my third time for taking this class, but the second was seven years ago, and I need lots of review. Special for me this year were the other members of the class, who included the current Mammoth Clinic doctor (also trained as an architect and capable of lovely flower drawings), several caring people who work for the park service or for the Yellowstone Association, and others with interesting backgrounds and reasons for being there. They were particularly kind to me as by far the oldest class member.

It hardly mattered that it rained on and off for the first two days and the third was sunny—but when we went partway up Mt. Washburn seeking subalpine flowers, we encountered a strong cold wind. You never know what to expect in the mountains.

I am hoping I can soon add a Lamar Valley picture to this post, one taken by Kathie Lynch, who spends so much time studying Lamar wolves that her license plate is “YNP WOLF.” She writes interesting reports about the park’s wolves on The Wildlife News.

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What you can find in the guidebook

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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Countdown to my Yellowstone wildflower trip

In a few days I’ll fly to Idaho Falls for a brief visit with a friend before I drive to the Lamar Buffalo Ranch in northeastern Yellowstone for my Yellowstone Institute class. This is a class called The Art of Wildflower Identification, taught by Meredith Campbell. I’ve taken the class twice before and simply loved it.

We start with the elementary botany of flowers, and since for me it’s always quite a few years between these classes, I can use all the review I can get. Meredith also shows us some techniques for drawing with our colored pencils. Then we’re off for three days in various outstanding fields of flowers that she’s found in advance.

Here is a forget-me-not, a sample of the wonderful flower drawings by Mary Vaux Walcott in the 1920s (from page 352 in Yellowstone Treasures):

Mary Vaux Walcott watercolor of flower

—and my best effort at drawing a clematis during the 2007 class:

Clematis by Janet, 2007

Clematis by Janet, 2007

You can see why I need more classes!

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A Different Take on Yellowstone Wolves

Here’s a newspaper story from Twin Falls, Idaho, that was not what I expected but was fun to read.

And the picture reminds me that in 16 more days I will get to join the wolf-watchers in Lamar Valley!

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New Junior Ranger activity book

Many of the national parks have a program that allows children ages 5-12 to become junior rangers by jotting down the animals and features they see in an activity book and attending ranger talks and walks. Now Yellowstone has just published a new one.