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

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Biographical information about Janet Chapple, author of Yellowstone Treasures and co-translator of Yellowstone, Land of Wonders.

Janet celebrates her 75th anniversary in the Park, part 3

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During the summers of 1940, 1941, and 1942, we stayed in a room in the bunkhouse. It was a long, narrow building divided into small rooms that primarily housed bus drivers for the Yellowstone Park Company. In our room, which, I think, had a window alongside the door, there was just room for two double beds, one or two chairs, and a small table with a wash basin and a cooking element, where Mother improvised meals for three, since Daddy ate with the other employees. A chamber pot was kept under one bed. I believe we had two such rooms one of those years.

Old Faithful Village map 1950s

Old Faithful Village map, center section, 1950s. Find the museum almost in the center; the bunkhouse was the small building southwest of there, marked “YPCO.”

The bunkhouse was located behind the ranger station and away from the back door of the Inn, an area now part of the big west parking lot. I was happy to find the exact location on an old map, since the bunkhouse would have been torn down long ago. I snapped this photo of the map during Lee Whittlesey’s June 2006 Southern Park History class.

Calling Old Faithful Inn our home

Some of my most vivid memories center around the Inn. We spent relatively little time inside the lobby. In fact, I believe Mother made sure we were never in the way of the tourists or the Inn employees. But I remember that occasionally a bellhop would pop some corn in an oversized corn popper in the lobby’s huge stone fireplace. A few times during our summers in the park we were taken up the many stairs to the top of the lobby and out to the roof. I remember the many flags always snapping in the wind and the unique two-person wicker chairs, shaped like an S. From the roof I saw an Old Faithful Geyser nighttime eruption lit by a spotlight a few times, but that was usually too late for us little ones to stay up. It was thrilling to see.

balcony desk

Partner writing desk on an Old Faithful Inn balcony.

Another thing that made a big impression on me was the unique style of the balcony desks. Joan and I would often sit at these and play–or perhaps she would read to me by the light of the center lamp. The desks there now are not the originals designed by Robert Reamer, but they are very similar to those I remember.

Sometimes we would watch Daddy as he got out his large red megaphone and called out the names of people who were to ride in the big yellow buses. I remember feeling that he was a very important person indeed with that responsibility.

Returning to the Inn many years later, I realized that the area around Daddy’s transportation office had been changed. Where you now find a large window and the porters’ stand was a door to the back of the Inn and the place where we could find Daddy during working hours.

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


CREDIT: The photo of the partner writing desk is by Leslie Kilduff. You can find it on page 77 of Yellowstone Treasures, fourth edition.

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

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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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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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A new review

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Last Tuesday, reader Barbara Shaw decided to write a review of the Yellowstone Treasures guidebook on Amazon.com:

We just returned from a Winter in Yellowstone trip and this was a great resource to keep handy as we traveled around the park. Read more

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Just a couple more days

Categories: Bio, Park environs
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[2012] I’m about to take off for my favorite part of the world. But I want to tell you about another delightful place I’ll go and an experience I’ll have while traveling this month. The place is called East Rosebud Lake, where private cabins are clustered around a beautiful Montana mountain lake and a trail begins, taking you over the Beartooth Mountains to Cooke City on the edge of Yellowstone.

I have hiked only a part of the trail, but my grandfather Fred Inabnit hiked many times in those mountains even before there were real trails. He and hardy groups of hiker/climbers that he organized and led from southern Montana went as far as they could with horse-drawn wagons and later cars in the early 1900s. Then they backpacked, with what we’d now consider crude equipment, into the mountains for many days at a time. They must have subsisted mainly on the fish they caught, because they couldn’t buy freeze-dried meals in 1910!

One of Fred’s goals was to find a way to the top of Montana’s highest mountain, Granite Peak. He never made it himself, but some of his colleagues found a route that took them up there. However, when he died, a group of his friends successfully petitioned the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to name a mountain for him. So this brings me to what I’ll be doing on August 26th.

Two years ago I helped to rededicate and unveil the plaque that had been placed at the foot of Fred Inabnit’s mountain. The plaque was brought down and is now attached to a large boulder in the meadow near the East Rosebud Trailhead. This year the Forest Service has completed an interpretive sign to place next to the plaque, so of course, we need a little ceremony to unveil it! That’s what I’ll help to do next week. A wonderful excuse to stay a couple of days at the place my grandfather loved and called “a little bit of Switzerland” after his native country.

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Counting the days

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I am counting the days until I leave for Yellowstone country. Ten days from now I’ll get close, but I’ll start south of the park to do some research in a library collection in Provo, Utah, and then visit old friends in Jackson Hole.

Then the real work begins. I have lots of things to check out in the park for Yellowstone Treasures. I suppose no guidebook can ever be declared finished, since it is only valuable if kept up to date with the changes that inevitably occur. Yellowstone is more prone to changes than most areas, what with all those geysers that keep changing their personalities. And parts of the roads may be different from a few years ago, along with other man-made features. Then, too, there are always ways to improve a book in general.

For the next edition I want to bring the writing about the geology of the park up to date. Yes, you would think the rocks would stay the same, but geology isn’t just about rocks, it’s also about how the earth got the way it is, how the geology affects all the living things in the neighborhood, and what may be going on under our feet that will bring about changes. Several types of geoscientists are working continuously to better understand the processes that make Yellowstone so marvelous.

Then, too, I’m always trying to understand what geologists are learning and bring some of it to my readers. Helping me this year is an old friend and PhD (from Brown University) in geology, Jo-Ann Sherwin. My map maker, Linton Brown, is back at work tweaking the maps, sometimes in subtle ways, and my editor and my book designer, daughter Beth Chapple and friend Alice Merrill, are doing their things for better verbal expression and design. With a little luck, we’ll have some new pictures to share, too.

And, of course, the Internet and phone access are both a bit iffy where I’m going, so I won’t try to write blog posts while there. There will be more words from me on this blog before I leave home, though. . . .

[August 2012]

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Arizona trip report, May 2012

Categories: Bio, Janet Chapple's Other Writing, Trip Reports
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Just to let my readers know I’m still around, I’ll summarize the high points of the trip my husband Bruno and I took in the first half of May to Arizona. The impetus for the trip was the graduation of my grandson Zeno Dellby—in computer science from Arizona State, Tempe.

The day after the graduation, pilot Beth took me for a flight-seeing ride north of Scottsdale. It’s always a treat to fly in a Cessna 172 with her.


Leaving the Phoenix area we spent a couple of hours at their Desert Botanical Garden, a beautiful place on a not-too-hot day in May.

Three nights on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon took me back there for the first time in 29 years. The last time I was there, I hiked to the bottom, stayed at Phantom Ranch, and back up the next day. Never again! Bruno took some nice shots, but I was disappointed by the amount of haze we had in all our views of the canyon, dulling the colors of the billion-year-old and more geological formations. It’s largely caused, as the rangers and others explain, by industrial pollution from as far away as China. The night we heard a ranger lecture about the geology was when the full moon was at its perigee, or closest point to the earth. No picture, but what a gorgeous sight!

Onward to meet friends at the Museum of Northern Arizona, in the outskirts of Flagstaff—an excellent small museum about the geology, archeology, and art of the area. Then on to get a glimpse of Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona, where we took a Pink Jeep Tour to the Honanki ruins (12th-13th century cliff dwellings) and enjoyed staying in an outstanding B&B (the Creekside Inn), not to mention doing some great eating there and elsewhere on the trip!

All-in-all a fine respite from working on books about Yellowstone. More about those later.

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A thank-you to the Tauck tour leaders

Categories: Bio, Winter
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Not having the time quite yet to post my pictures and reactions to the wonderful winter tour I took last week [mid January 2012], today I’ll just essentially quote what I wrote to Brenda and Randy, the leaders of my Tauck tour.

What I liked about the Tauck Winter in Yellowstone Event

1. Being treated like royalty. All the Tauck leaders had no other thought than to make our trip enjoyable, comfortable, informative, and memorable.

Schullery and Karle

Paul Schullery and Marsha Karle

2. Meeting—or almost meeting—fabulous specialists in Yellowstone and the national parks, people who share my engrossment with and possessiveness of that unique place, but most of whom express it much better than I can:

  • Paul Schullery and Marsha Karle (Yellowstone author and artist, respectively)
  • Chico Hot Springs Resort convention center manager Andrew Doolittle
  • Bob Landis (foremost wildlife cinematographer)
  • Jim Halfpenny—who taught us about cold, although his specialty is wildlife ecology
  • Ken Burns (in his short but very moving video of apology for not being there—he is suffering from kidney stones)
  • Dayton Duncan—“Mr. Waterworks” (his children call him this, because he tears up so readily)
  • Chuck Tauck—who escorted me on his arm across the icy path to the Snow Lodge
  • Superintendent Dan Wenk—who graciously listened and agreed with my spiel about the need for shuttle service on Yellowstone’s west side
  • George Bumann, an outstanding Yellowstone Institute instructor and artist, who was our Lamar Valley guide
  • Gerard Baker—whose incredible talents both as speaker and as spokesperson for the rights of Native American Indians had me in tears throughout his talk
  • The young and enthusiastic directors at the Murie Center, Jon Mobeck and Crista Valentino, whom I met in Jackson’s Wildlife Museum.

I could not have arranged to meet all these interesting people on my own.

3. Spending a glorious winter week in “my” park, with all logistics and expenses taken care of in advance.

What I did not like

Leaving.

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A few personal notes

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12 Sept. 2010: Back from Yellowstone for a week now, I have lots of things to write about and will start with a few personal experiences and observations, some of which might be instructive to other visitors.

This year we opted to drive from our home in California rather than flying and renting a car. It’s always nice to have your own car in the park, but, besides not having to cope with the expense and hassle of flying, it’s pleasant to see how our 2004 Camry loves to go 75 and 80 miles per hour on those Nevada and Idaho highways—we got over 37 miles per gallon on one tank of gas!

For me, having spent my first eighteen years in Billings and environs, going back to that part of the country is a great opportunity to enjoy old friends as well as the places I love. I met two of them at Lake Hotel and participated in a joint birthday party for seven who graduated from Billings Senior High School in the Class of ’53, with a luncheon held at Red Lodge. At East Rosebud Lake in the Beartooth Mountains, I took part in a rededication ceremony, unveiling in its new location the 1929 plaque that named Mt. Inabnit for my maternal grandfather.

During my two weeks in the park, I saw no bears this year, but at Old Faithful Village I had a near-adventure with a herd of bison. In the late afternoon one day, eight or ten of them were browsing near the lower general store as I returned from walking in the Upper Geyser Basin. A rain-and-lightning storm was just starting, as a law-enforcement ranger was making an attempt to deflect the bison from the path. The ranger had driven his patrol car part way up the paved path toward Castle Geyser. He suggested that those of us walking back toward the Inn should make a big detour across the meadow and take the outer path toward the gas station. Fortunately, the bison did not come that way, so meeting them head-on was averted. Another routine day’s work for the ranger. . . not so routine for me.

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Visitor Center at Old Faithful Village

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When I first heard they were putting up a new visitor center and planning to call it a Visitor Education Center, I confess to wondering if that name would put people off. Do people really want to come to Yellowstone to be educated? Don’t the kids who have escaped school for their all-too-short summer vacations want to just enjoy the park and all it has to offer?

Well, they didn’t listen to my (unvoiced) objections, and the new center will be officially opened on August 25th [2010]. I admit I can hardly wait to see it and have planned my own time in the park this year around that date. I would love to tell the NPS officials in charge of the ceremony how I fondly remember the combination ranger station, museum, and amphitheater where I got to spend happy times two visitor centers ago, when my family lived at Old Faithful for four great summers.

I particularly remember the model geyser in the little museum and the samples of the rocks to be found—which, I later learned, are actually created in Yellowstone. The museum also had some labeled plant samples, so I began to learn the differences between lodgepole pines and the other evergreen trees in the park. I believe there were also some sample mounted animals, but I was never a big animal person (live or stuffed), unlike most of the children who come to the park.

The amphitheater was where my family spent many pleasant evenings listening to ranger talks and singing western songs that many people knew in those days. I’ve wondered since that time why they did not have an amphitheater when the visitor center was replaced about forty years ago, but there will be a state-of-the-art indoor theater in the new building.

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