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

All posts in Janet Chapple’s Other Writing

Posts about non-Yellowstone issues, trips to Arizona and New Zealand, and Janet’s other Yellowstone projects, including Yellowstone, Land of Wonders.

From the Desk of Janet Chapple

Categories: Bio, Janet Chapple's Other Writing, On the Web
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Personal Essay for University of Nebraska Press’s #FindYourPark Series

Old Faithful Inn interior

Old Faithful Inn interior, showing the great fireplace and balconies

At the invitation of the publisher of the travelogue by Jules Leclercq that I translated with my colleague Suzanne Cane, Yellowstone, Land of Wonders, I’ve recently written about my personal connection with Yellowstone National Park for their website.

Reflecting a lifetime association with the park—or, at least, a strong association during some of my very early years and then again since the age of sixty—I’ve written about my early memories of being there and why Yellowstone means so much to me that I continue to research and write about it during years when I might be taking it easy.

I hope my blog readers might be inspired to reward themselves with repeated visits to this richly fascinating and incomparable national treasure.

Photo credit: The image of the Old Faithful Inn fireplace from Bat’s Alley is an NPS photo.

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Celebrating the National Park Service’s 99th birthday—in a couple of ways

Categories: History, Janet Chapple's Other Writing, News, Through Early Yellowstone
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First I want to pass along the fact that next Tuesday, August 25th, is the NPS’s birthday. The good news is that all national park entrance fees will be waived that day. So, if you have time to visit a park that’s not too far from you and can stay only one day, that would be a good day to go.

Next, I hope many people who normally read my blog posts have been visiting Yellowstone or another park this month, since there’s been nothing new to read on this website since August first. Editor Beth has been both flying and sailing (but not in Yellowstone), while author Janet has stayed earthbound and had time to catch up on work that needs doing for her next Yellowstone book. This new book will be a historical anthology full of good things to read and look at. So I’m celebrating the NPS birthday by beginning to reveal bit by bit what’s in my new book as we approach next spring’s publication date. I’ve mentioned the upcoming book twice before on my blog; on October 6, 2014, and March 3, 2015, I was calling it Magnificent Playground: Early Yellowstone in Words and Watercolors, but now we’ve decided on a title that gives a better idea of what’s in the book.

Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis offers a potpourri of historical articles that are both important to Yellowstone history and fun to read. There are ten major stories in this book but also several short selections—what I call snippets of information and historical ambience. All will give readers a feeling for the gradual change in the ways of enjoying, using, and also studying the world’s first national park. The selections span the time between establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 and the country’s entry into World War One.

I’ll let you know as the months go by more about what Through Early Yellowstone contains, but today I want to tell you about one of the amazing people we feature who have contributed to the park’s history.

~ ~ ~

Here’s the headline of a one-page article, in which the editors saw fit to honor a woman resident of New York City who was an avid horsewoman.
MorrisNYTMheadline
In the early 1900s Mrs. Robert C. Morris (Alice Parmelee Morris) had become enamored with the scenery of Yellowstone Park and spent many summers at the Silver Tip Ranch just north of the park. Then in 1917 Mrs. Morris conceived, financed, and carried out her remarkable plan to explore and map an interconnected loop of trails throughout the park and its environs. At that time Yellowstone Park trails totaled about 400 miles—but not all were suitable for equestrian traffic. Mrs. Morris spent four summer months leading her pack train throughout the park. She presented a twenty-nine-page typed report, “Notes on Trail Study in Yellowstone Park 1917,” to Park Supervisor Chester A. Lindsley. Included with the report was a detailed and professionally produced map showing the proposed trails, which we will reproduce along with the New York Times article in the anthology.

So what became of this report that Mrs. Morris worked out so carefully? No evidence of action taken on her work turns up in a search of Yellowstone Park archives. One can speculate, however, that there could have been several reasons for this.

First, lack of funds: a request to Congress for $50,000 for a system of trails and bridle paths in Yellowstone went nowhere. This is not surprising—the bill was submitted on the exact date of President Woodrow Wilson’s request to Congress for a declaration of war with Germany: April 2, 1917.

Second, administrative turmoil between the National Park Service and Yellowstone: in 1917 and 1918 there was disagreement as to which agency was in charge of roads and trails, since the NPS (created in 1916) was gradually replacing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for such construction projects.

Third, low priority: automobiles had almost completely replaced horses in the park. In 1918, for example, among the park’s 35,039 tourists, only 808 came in horse-drawn vehicles. The number of people who came on horseback is not recorded but must have been very small.

Fourth, two other Yellowstone enthusiasts contributed their own plans to the park administration: long-time park employee Milton P. Skinner and pack-trip leader Howard Eaton had both worked on the question of improving the trails, and both submitted plans. Mrs. Morris’s plan was scarcely acknowledged. Some money must have been found for trails after the war, however, since in 1923 a complete system of trails was dedicated to Howard Eaton.

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Let’s celebrate March, Women’s History Month, with an excerpt from a Yellowstone story written by Margaret Andrews Allen. In 1885 her family visited Upper Geyser Basin in a horse-driven wagon. Camping near Castle Geyser, they all set out the morning after arrival to see the geysers.

“First, of course, we visit Old Faithful, the Clock of the Valley, hardly varying five minutes in its hourly eruptions. Its low, broad cone of scale-like layers is firm as the solid rock. No thought of danger here. Everything gives us the idea of regularity and order. We are in position, the curtain rises, and the play begins. The eruption is fine, the geyser sending up a solid column of water, with clouds of hot steam, for over a hundred feet. But it is soon over, and we add to our experience by drinking of the hot sulphur water it has left in all the little hollows of the crust. This is merely to add to our experience, for the taste is far from agreeable. This geyser is the great resource of hurried tourists, from its regularity. We met many parties who had seen only this one—and that one alone is well worth seeing. But what one is sure of seldom fascinates. The freaky ones are most sought after and admired.

“We cross the rushing Firehole, and I shall leave it for the guide-book to tell the variety of craters and pools, extinct and active geysers and formations, all the way from Cauliflower to Coral. We come back to our tent already feeling like old residents, ready to initiate ignorant new-comers.

“We have seen various men pass with mysterious bags on long poles, and, on questioning one of our neighbors (a very old resident, for she has been here a month) we find it is merely the family washing. The bag contains soap and clothes, and is to be hung in a boiling spring, when, in a few hours, the dirt will be boiled out. We follow suit, and immediately our bag of clothes is hanging in a lovely little blue pool not far from our tent.

“But we have a ham in our wagon; why should not that be cooked in the same way? The Devil’s Well [Crested Pool] is near, and soon our ham, in a strong sack fastened to a pole, is cheerfully bubbling away. In about two hours it is well done, and lasts us the rest of the journey. Our potatoes are not so successful, for our bag breaks, and down they go to whoever the owner of the well may be, for a perpetual potato-soup.

“At dinner, our neighbor, the Castle, starts an eruption, and immediately the whole valley is in turmoil, rushing hither and thither for a good view. But the geyser changes its mind, the clouds drift up, a drizzling rain begins, and we are settling down for a quiet afternoon in our tent when suddenly, with rumble and roar, the deceitful Castle shoots a column of water into the air and everything is dropped for the show.

Castle Geyser black-and-white photo

“Our neighboring campers are already climbing the sides of the cone, about twenty feet above the road, to have a look inside, and we follow their example. Then stones are thrown in and shot out instantly. I bethink me of our dish-towels, and in they go. In another minute they are fifty feet in the air, and dashed down far on the other side; for a strong wind has risen and driven the water and steam in a great curve to the south. After three such baths they are clean. We have seen the only poetical washing-day in our lives. We wish all were like it. It is not turning the geyser to a base use: it is merely idealizing washing.”

Of course, the thousands of visitors to geyserland today do not use the pools and geysers to wash their clothes and dishes. But think how it must have lightened the load of “woman’s work” for the few days Ms. Allen was in Yellowstone. Times have changed!

Ms. Allen’s entire story will be reproduced in Granite Peak Publications’ upcoming collection, with the working title of Magnificent Playground.

Castle Geyser photo from 1996 by Leslie Kilduff, appears on page 99 of Yellowstone Treasures, Updated Fourth Edition.

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Time lines

Categories: History, Janet Chapple's Other Writing, On the Web
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Jack Baronett wooden bridge

“Yellowstone Jack” Baronett’s bridge over the Yellowstone River


Inside the guidebook Janet shares many anecdotes about the human history of the Yellowstone area, from prospector Jack Baronett who built a wooden toll bridge in 1871 to tourist Hazel Decker who camped in her car for 52 days to observe Steamboat Geyser. In the road logs she discusses the evidence of prehistoric peoples and the recent discoveries scientists have made at the bottom of Yellowstone Lake using a submersible robot. She compiled a time line of many of the important events in the Yellowstone area and the world in a chapter of Yellowstone Treasures called “Chronology: Yellowstone Since 1800,” which takes readers from the Lewis and Clark expedition up to the present day.

But when she and I were creating the first edition of the book in 2001 it became necessary to cut pages from the manuscript and restrict the time line to the most recent couple of hundred years of human history, even though the geological history of the region goes way back before that. Her Geological Time Line, which you can read right here on this website, extends all the way from Earth’s formation 4.6 billion years ago, through the time the Absaroka Range volcanoes formed 53 to 44 million years ago, to the time 12,000 years ago when glaciers last covered Yellowstone. This last episode was the Pinedale Glaciation, evident throughout the lower Lamar Canyon.

Thanks for spending the time with us,
Editor Beth

Credit: Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park.

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Rebecca and Ryan Means from Florida are gradually fulfilling an unusual goal. They’re hiking “on a quest to identify and visit the most remote locations in each of the 50 states.”

Not just enjoying the out-of-doors far from civilization, they have a mission. The essence of their philosophy is shown in Ryan Means’ answer to a comment last year on his website, remotefootprints.org: “The conservation problem arises when loud, fuel consumptive, destructive, motorized vehicles enter wildlands. The landscape gets scarred. Habitat and wilderness character get lost. Another roadless wildland gets fragmented. Then development usually follows. We are basically calling for an end to the era of road building (and sprawling development) in our great country, especially in public lands.”

They hike carrying heavy packs—Rebecca’s includes a carrier for five-year-old Skyla. So far they have written up their visits to remote spots in 23 states. They don’t always find solitude, but they do get far away from roads and navigable rivers. They especially loved Wyoming’s most remote spot, the Thorofare corner of Yellowstone, 21.6 miles by their reckoning from the nearest road, even farther by trail. The Means’s experiences on this trip have not yet appeared on their website, but their trip was mentioned on October 4, 2014 in the Rapid City (SD) Journal.

Reading this, I thought of one of the selections in my upcoming book (with the working title, Magnificent Playground: Early Yellowstone in Words and Watercolors). I was reminded of Barton Evermann’s 1891 commission to find how trout got into Yellowstone Lake. He visited and carefully described a phenomenal place called Two-Ocean Pass, just south of the Thorofare and the park’s border.

My own related delight is in finding places—even in the hills just above my noisy downtown Oakland—where stopping on a trail you hear no sound, unless it’s a distant bird or a trickling stream. It clears the head. And there are so many such places to be found in Yellowstone. . . .

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Just a quick update

Categories: Janet Chapple's Other Writing, Science, Thermal features
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Mushroom Pool

Mushroom Pool with Thomas Brock


I’ve been pretty quiet on this blog for the past two weeks, but I’ve been thinking about Yellowstone as much as ever. Right now I have a big writing project about microbes in Yellowstone like those found here by microbiologist Thomas Brock at Mushroom Pool. This is where he located an amazing thermophilic microorganism (heat-loving bacteria in plain English). The article I’m writing will first go on another blog, but I’ll be putting it up here soon after. It’s title may be something like: “A Great Vacation Destination is a Treasure Trove for Scientists.”

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Welcoming Yellowstone, Land of Wonders to the BLC

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Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West greets The Land of Wonders

A very responsive audience, essentially all of whom indicated they had visited Yellowstone some time in their lives, listened to Suzanne Cane and me this past Monday at the Bill Lane Center. We read them some of our translations of Jules Leclercq’s well-crafted paragraphs and showed engravings from his 1886 book, La Terre des Merveilles, and contemporary photos of Yellowstone scenes.

Created and endowed by long-time publisher of Sunset magazine Bill Lane, the BLC’s goal is to advance “scholarly and public understanding of the past, present, and future of western North America.” With Yellowstone and all 400 of the other National Park Service units temporarily closed due to the government shutdown, everyone there enjoyed reminiscing about visits to the park and hearing Leclercq’s words, such as these that show his sensitivity to preservation of the wonders of the park:

The crater of Old Faithful is already covered with hundreds of names carved by visitors on the smooth surface of the rock. In a few hours the inscriptions are covered with a siliceous coating, which preserves the most insignificant names.

The crude hand of vandals does not stop there; it is truly revolting to see them taking the brutal ax to the fragile and delicate concretions under the pretext of searching for specimens of geyserite.

In building these admirable monuments, in artistically fashioning them, in sculpting and ornamenting them, nature has employed a slowness, a meticulousness, a patience of which men would not be capable, and it takes but one minute for irreverent hands to disfigure the work of thousands of years. There are few craters that have not been damaged by ax and spade, and, if care is not taken, they will gradually crumble to pieces under the attacks of these ruthless destroyers.

It is the duty of the American government to halt these devastations, to prevent the criminal profanations of a sanctuary wherein no mortal should enter without a religious feeling of respect.

I got a hearty laugh here when I interspersed, “And it is the duty of the American government to reopen the parks!”

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Here’s your chance to learn what Yellowstone was like in 1883

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Excellent travel writer Jules Leclercq traveled across the U.S. by train and throughout the then-new Yellowstone National Park on horseback and wrote an engaging account of his experiences. Co-translators/editors Janet Chapple (author of Yellowstone Treasures) and Suzanne Cane (French teacher and librarian) will read some of his revelations and show engravings from his book, La Terre des Merveilles, and contemporary photographs in a series of programs this coming winter and spring: Yellowstone, Land of Wonders. Previous presentations have been enjoyed in Rhode Island, the Bay Area of California, and at Mammoth and Old Faithful in Yellowstone.

— Thursday, February 6 at 7pm: Barrington Public Library, 281 County Rd., Barrington, RI. (Suzanne alone).

— Tuesday, April 8 at lunch time: The Atheneaum, Benefit Street, Providence, RI. (Suzanne alone).

Other dates to follow.

[edited 10/10/13]

Learn more at Suzanne’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/YellowstoneLandOfWonders?ref=stream&filter=1

Leclercq_profilepicture

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Coming up next month are two events centered around the newly published translation of a really old and fascinating travelog about Yellowstone Park.

Belgian travel writer and judge Jules Leclercq visited the park when it was only eleven years old, arriving by train and horse-drawn carriage, and riding horseback in a loop around the park for ten days with a guide. In those early days, that was the only way to see these wonders that had just been set aside by an 1872 act of Congress, establishing Yellowstone as the first national park in the world.

land-of-wondersLeclercq’s book, La Terre des Merveilles, although published in French in 1886, has never before been fully translated and published in English. He was already an accomplished travel writer at age 35. As one reviewer wrote, he was “enthusiastic, energetic, observant, curious, and companionable.” In addition, he studied the existing literature about Yellowstone and included a great deal of the knowledge he gained in his book.

Leclercq describes camping near geysers, washing clothes in a bubbling hot spring, and meeting such diverse characters as local guides and tourists from the United States and Europe. He is aghast at the vandalism he sees around him and advocates for military protection of the incomparable features he describes so aptly.

With Suzanne Cane from Rhode Island, I spent about five years translating and annotating the book, which we call Yellowstone, Land of Wonders in English. Now it is available from the University of Nebraska Press and all online and brick-and-mortar bookstores.

Suzanne and I will be giving presentations, including showing some of the book’s engravings and related contemporary photos of Yellowstone. We’ll also read a number of our favorite excerpts from the book. Join us at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel Map Room on Thursday, June 27, 8:30 pm or at the Old Faithful Inn third floor mezzanine on Saturday, June 29, at 8:00 pm. We’ll also be signing books in the Old Faithful Inn lobby on June 29 and 30 from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. See you there!

2013

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Yellowstone, Land of Wonders: Newly translated Yellowstone Park travelogue

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Yellowstone Land of Wonders book coverI have not been posting these two weeks [Dec.2012, Jan. 2013], since all I’ve been doing is going through page proofs and helping to create the index for the 1886 book that colleague Suzanne Cane and I have translated from French. It’s called Yellowstone, Land of Wonders: Promenade in North America’s National Park, written by Belgian Jules Leclercq. The author was there at a time when Yellowstone was just opening up to tourists; there were few people around and no limits to where they could go or what they could do. So, while climbing around the terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs, author Jules Leclercq decided it would be pleasant to bathe in a hot spring. He wrote:

I experienced supreme satisfaction plunging into a basin whose waters were an exquisite 30ºC [86ºF]. My bath was a meter deep. The siliceous efflorescence that lined the interior walls seemed like velvet cushions.
I remained perfectly still for a long time in this delightful bath, allowing my body to be pervaded by the invigorating influence of those waters, gentler to the skin than the softest comforter and as agreeable to the taste as to the touch.

While I was reveling in my bath, I became aware of the augmentation in water level following a sudden rise in level in a higher spring, and, to my great horror, I noticed a neighboring basin that had been completely dry was now flooded by the rise. Now, it was in that basin that I had put my clothes, my boots, my towels. One must have suffered a similar ordeal to understand what deep despair can arise from the smallest accidents. The proximity of the hotel consoled me in my misfortune.

A similar incident a few years earlier (1879) was described in “Through the Yellowstone Park to Fort Custer” by Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, who, with a physician friend, found “gleaming bathtubs full of water . . . so absolutely delicious that we sank for a few moments into motionless, silent enjoyment. Presently my friend uttered words which I may not repeat, and looking up, I saw that the springs above us had been seized with a fit of prodigality, and had suddenly and liberally overflowed the doctor’s dressing-tables. His visage as he got out of the bath with alacrity was something to remember.”

Our book will be available in May 2013 in hardcover and e-book versions from the University of Nebraska Press.

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