GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Accompanying travelers to the national park since 2002

All posts in Through Early Yellowstone

park superintendent Norris

Superintendent Norris, as reproduced on page 205 of Yellowstone Treasures

After an August when I deserted not just Yellowstone but left the country for a trip to Germany, France, and Switzerland, I am back picking up my research project where I left off. This project will, with luck, turn into a new biography of Philetus W. Norris, Yellowstone’s second and most dynamic superintendent, who served from 1877 to 1882.

There is much to learn about Norris, including reading his several reports as superintendent. His only other extensive published work, unless you include the letters he sent to the Norris Suburban newspaper, is a book of annotated poems called Calumet of the Coteau. The book’s title refers to a peace pipe and the French word for hill or hillside.

I have quoted two of his poems in my historical anthology, Through Early Yellowstone: “Rustic Bridge and Crystal Falls” and “The Wonder-Land.” Norris’s unfailing use of iambic tetrameter or pentameter can get monotonous, but the sentiments are nice.

I can relate to “The Cloud-Circled Mountains,” especially to the second of its six stanzas:

My heart’s ’mid the mirage, the lakes, and the plains,
The buttes and the coteaus, where wild nature reigns;
My heart’s ’mid the coulees and cañons so grand,
And bright-spouting geysers of lone Wonder-Land.
Oh, my heart’s ’mid those fountains and streamlets below
Those cloud-circled mountains, white-crested with snow!

Read more about my trip to Europe in the nuggets Savoring France, Part I and Part II.

Photo credit: Record Group 79, National Archives and Records Administration, Yellowstone National Park.

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Cycling through early Yellowstone in 1892

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Gate of the Mountains Albert Hencke

The Gate of the Mountains by Albert Hencke (1865-1936), originally published in 1893 in Outing magazine. Click for a larger version.

This month Dave Iltis of Cycling Utah decided to reprint Janet Chapple’s annotated version of “Lenz’s World Tour Awheel” in its entirety in the late summer issue of their magazine, Cycling Utah / Cycling West. Cycling Utah has been providing cycling news, information and events in the western United States since 1993. Dave bought the book in the shop at the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center and decided that the charming adventure story deserves wide readership among bicycle riders. You can even get the whole magazine issue as a free download from that website.

Philadelphia-born Frank Lenz made his pioneering side trip through the then 20-year-old Yellowstone National Park as part of his solo round-the-world cycling journey. It took place in late August 1892, but even so he encountered snow. As he says:

I was congratulating myself upon having passed through the most uncomfortable portion of my trip when I espied it raining on the opposite side of the river, and soon the icy-cold spray reached me. When within half a mile of a government engineer’s camp, what was my surprise to see the rain change into snow. As it blew up quite strong. I made for the cook’s tent for shelter, and here for three hours I thawed out my fingers and feet, which were nearly frozen.

Lenz’s story is one of the highlights of our enjoyable anthology, Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis. Other highlights, according to Aaron Parrett’s Montana book roundup in Montana: The Magazine of Western History, include Nathaniel P. Langford’s 1871 “Wonders of the Yellowstone,” Margaret Andrews Allen’s “A Family Camp in Yellowstone Park” (1885) and the journalist Ray Stannard Baker’s “A Place of Marvels: Yellowstone Park As It Now Is” (1903). You can read this and other reviews to learn more.

If you are interested in the shoulder seasons for cycling in the park, see the National Park Service’s Spring & Fall Bicycling page.

—Beth Chapple, Editor and Publisher

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Here is my answer to the 6/11/18 question on the Quora website: What are some sights to see in two days at Yellowstone National Park? (BTW, Two days is not nearly enough for a place as large as Yellowstone.)

Grand Prismatic Spring, the same one that is featured on the cover of “Through Early Yellowstone”


The century-long-and-then-some favorites are the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River with its two great waterfalls and Old Faithful Geyser. But before or after the always-predictable Old Faithful eruption take the Geyser Hill walk with or without an interpretive ranger and enjoy lovely hot springs and the possibility of other geysers going off. The other most remarkable sight near Old Faithful (a few miles north of it) is Midway Geyser Basin, but you *must* get there early or late in the day to find parking.

Be ready to stop as you drive between these major attractions, since there are pleasant surprises (sometimes including wildlife) all along the roads.

Photo credit: Grand Prismatic Spring in Midway Geyser Basin, taken by Bruno Giletti, can be seen on page 65 of Yellowstone Treasures, updated fifth edition.

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Why we say it is Yellowstone National Park’s birthday today

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1872 Yellowstone act excerpt

Excerpt from page 50 of Through Early Yellowstone

On the first of March in 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill setting aside “the tract of land in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming, lying near the head-waters of the Yellowstone river,” creating the nation’s first national park at Yellowstone. We reproduce the text of that act in our historical anthology, Through Early Yellowstone, to share with other readers what this foresightful law was meant to do. This land was “set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” And the act continues to inspire governments to dedicate land for conservation throughout the world—just look at Chile and Peru for recent examples.

The month of March in Yellowstone also means that park roads start to close to oversnow travel, in preparation for plowing and reopening in April and May. While the road from the North Entrance (Gardiner) to the Northeast Entrance (Cooke City) is open year-round, today at 9 pm the road from the East Entrance to Lake Butte Overlook (Sylvan Pass) closes to snowcoaches and snowmobiles, and other roads follow throughout the next two weeks. Conditions permitting, there is also a schedule for reopening the roads for motorized traffic. See the Park Roads page at https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm.

This period between closing the park roads to oversnow travel and reopening them is a time when cyclists and hikers can travel the roads but car drivers are not allowed. See the National Park Service’s Spring & Fall Bicycling page to learn about the regulations and reminders, since you must still share the road with bears, administrative vehicles, and snow removal equipment. No services are available within the park during the spring shoulder season.

—Editor and Publisher, Beth Chapple

Updated August 20, 2018.

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Unique experiences in the park

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Mud Volcano winter

Mud Volcano area in winter (2012)

While everyone knows that visitation just keeps increasing in Yellowstone, most of us are seeking ways to make our own trips unique and special to us. New Deputy Superintendent Pat Kenney says in the winter 2017 issue of Yellowstone Quarterly from Yellowstone Forever, “I have always enjoyed finding the subtler things that make our park special.” His example is “it is great to spend an evening up on Swan Lake Flats, listening to the snipe and watching the Milky Way appear.”

Author Janet Chapple aims to help with this quest, even including a list of “Less Well-known Yet Beautiful Places” on page 19 of the Yellowstone Treasures guidebook to help with your planning. As she writes in the preface, “Yellowstone means many things to many people: bears and bison, geysers and colorful pools, hikes and horseback rides, distant vistas and the stillness of the backcountry. It can also mean clear dry western air, spectacular sunsets, and night skies so full of stars you think you’re seeing to the end of the universe.”

Through Early Yellowstone compiles a variety of stories from long ago, and each travel writer has his or her own encounter with joy or amazement. Make sure to take advantage of our 25% off sale while it lasts, just through January 31, 2018.

May your 2018 include unique experiences in Yellowstone and our other national parks! You are welcome to share some highlights of your trips in the comments.
Beth Chapple, Editor and Publisher

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March 31st, the birthday of a Welsh painter of Yellowstone scenes

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My iPhone shot shows a page from the August 11, 1888 Graphic. You see three scenes engraved from photographs: Livingston, Montana; Pulpit Terrace at Mammoth; and the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. One engraving is from a pencil sketch and two from watercolors: Bath Spring, Orange Spring Mound, and the interior of Devil’s Kitchen.

Today is the one-hundred-seventy-eighth birthday of Thomas Henry Thomas, the author and artist featured at the center of my 19th century collection, Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis.

In 1884, you could travel around the new national park either by horseback or by horse-drawn coach. Thomas chose to ride. He wrote to a friend in his native Wales that he painted “quite half, if not more” of his watercolor sketches from “the logger-head of the Mexican saddle of my Cayuse.” In Through Early Yellowstone you can see 26 of his watercolors and one pencil sketch, none of which have ever been seen outside of Wales.

Born in 1839 in Pontypool, Wales, Thomas studied art at the British Royal Academy and also in France and Italy. His online biography does not tell us where he learned to write with his special combination of erudition, grace, and humor.

He spent most of his life in Cardiff, Wales, where he pursued many interests besides art, including archaeology, geology, and Welsh folklore. He served as artist to the London Graphic, a large-format publication with 16- by 12-inch pages. It took four years for the Graphic to turn some of Thomas’s Yellowstone watercolors and collected photographs into engravings. The first page of one of his two articles for the magazine is shown above.

Before Thomas died in his mid seventies in 1915, he bequeathed more than one thousand prints, drawings, and watercolors to the National Museum of Wales (Amgueddfa Cymru in Welsh), of which he was a founding father.

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Through Early Yellowstone becomes a Foreword INDIES finalist

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Through Early Yellowstone book 2016 finalist
We’re celebrating at Granite Peak Publications since we learned that our historical anthology, published in 2016, has a good chance of winning top recognition for that year! Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis is a finalist in two categories in this year’s contest run by Foreword Reviews, the foremost organization in helping promote outstanding independent press publications. The categories we entered are: Adventure & Recreation and Travel.

During the 21st century I have loved researching in libraries on both coasts and in Montana and Wyoming to locate the best early Yellowstone writings that need to be preserved in a modern book. By 2003 I had divided my findings into 11 categories, including early expeditions, the public entering the new park, early visits by various means, wildlife, poetry and songs, and other subjects. Wow! Even a sampling of the 85 articles I’d read and enjoyed by 2003 was way too much to fit into one collection.

Still, I kept reading. By 2007 I had read a great deal more but managed to pare my findings and categories down to a manageable number of articles and thought it was time to start seeking a publisher. Compiling what I was then calling Magnificent Playground required using my subjective judgment to reproduce the best written and most entertaining of these. In my letter to one university press, I acknowledged my awareness of two other Yellowstone historical anthologies, Old Yellowstone Days, edited by Paul Schullery, and Ho! for Wonderland, edited by park historian Lee Whittlesey and Betsy Watry. I intended to complement these two predecessor collections, not to compete with them. I wanted to avoid repeating descriptions of the many wonders of the park as much as possible, while giving readers a fascinating taste of early, long-out-of-print visitors’ accounts written by entertaining and talented writers and intrepid adventurers.

My editor/publisher/daughter Beth and I decided to publish the book with Granite Peak Publications, which up to that time had concentrated on putting out Yellowstone Treasures. Beth was particularly good at eliminating authors I had become enamored of but who did not fit well into the collection for our readers. I decided that we needed to include the short writings that I call snippets to show how the idea of an area that begged for preservation as the first national park gradually became a prime destination for travelers from all over the world.

The completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad (NPRR) across Montana in 1883 made access to the park much more convenient than before. A majority of the accounts in Through Early Yellowstone were written by people who used the NPRR and then traveled by horseback or horse-driven coach. Automobiles entered the park for the first time late in the 1915 season, and by 1917 they had taken over completely. It seemed to me the logical point for this anthology to end.

I am proudest of having found and been able to reproduce twenty-seven watercolor sketches, which (as the artist wrote to a friend) “are almost untouched travel sketches, quite half, if not more, of the Park ones being taken on the logger-head of the Mexican saddle of my Cayuse [Indian pony].” The artist, Thomas H. Thomas, visited from Wales in 1884. He wrote a delightful two-part article for a London magazine called The Graphic that turned many of his watercolors into engravings. In my book we reproduce many of the engravings along with his articles and roughly half-size reproductions of his watercolors. These reside in the archives of the National Museum of Wales and have never before been seen in this country.

—Janet

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The 145th anniversary of Yellowstone Park

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Yellowstone National Park was set aside as the world’s first national park 145 years ago, on March 1, 1872. An act of Congress on that date made sure that settlement and sale of the land was prevented, and set it apart “as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” We placed the text of this important document on page 50 of the Through Early Yellowstone anthology, along with stories by explorers, adventurers, and tourists. Let’s appreciate what our nineteenth-century lawmakers did for us!

1872 Yellowstone act excerpt

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Another way to share: Tumblr

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In an effort to reach more people and explore the world, Granite Peak Publications is now on Tumblr in addition to Facebook and Twitter. Here’s our first post, sharing another picture from the historical anthology, Through Early Yellowstone (2016), which you can buy from this site or from an on-line or brick-and-mortar bookseller.
—Beth, Editor and Publisher

https://editorbeth.tumblr.com/post/157535481520/mammoth-hot-springs-focusin-on-cleopatra-springs

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Search the book for your name or interest

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Dear readers,
Did you know that Through Early Yellowstone describes a wide variety of people and places? You can now use the Look Inside feature on Amazon.com’s Through Early Yellowstone page to find just what all it covers. Among all the surnames of the writers collected in the anthology or people otherwise mentioned in the book may be your name or the name of someone you know or admire. Names you could look up include ones for just about every letter of the alphabet.

  • Allen
  • Baker
  • Corthell
  • Doane
  • Evermann
  • Folsom
  • Greene
  • Henderson
  • Ingersoll
  • Jordan
  • Kelly
  • Langford
  • Morris
  • Norris
  • Owen
  • Pomeroy
  • Queen’s Laundry (a hot spring, admittedly, but there’s a great watercolor sketch of it in the book!)
  • Roosevelt
  • Saunders
  • Thomas
  • Upper Falls (another geographical name . . . we share a picture from the book below)
  • Victor
  • Wilcox
  • X . . . (OK, now we’re stumped)
  • Yancey
  • Zip (nada for Z)
upper falls Yellowstone 1895

Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River


Image credit: Janet Chapple, Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback and Skis (Lake Forest Park, WA: Granite Peak Publications, 2016), 182. Originally published in Barton Warren Evermann, “Two-Ocean Pass” The Popular Science Monthly, 47 (June 1895): 175-87.

—Editor Beth

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