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

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A Tribute to Yellowstone’s Historian

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I’d like to follow up on the delightful biography of Park Historian Lee H. Whittlesey, posted by Liz Kearney on May 30th on the Yellowstone Insider website. Lee retired a month ago from his long-held position and gave up his office in the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center building.

Every time I’ve been in the park since 1995, I’ve asked Lee for a visit, which he has kindly granted. Lee has been essential to every bit of the research and writing I’ve done there. I remember the first time I timidly asked to interview him with one of the endless lists of questions I generate between my yearly (or sometimes more frequent) visits to the park. From our first visit on, he put me at ease and directed me to all the sources I’ve needed.

I find it hard to think of continuing my Yellowstone research without the rock-solid assistance of Yellowstone’s fabulous historian. Here is a list of his books and National Park Service publications that I own. I may be missing some—but I hope not.
Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National
Park
(1st ed., 1995; 2nd ed., 2014)
Gateway to Yellowstone: The Raucous Town of Cinnabar on the Montana Frontier
History of Mammoth Hot Springs (2010 draft)
A History of the Old Faithful Area
Yellowstone Place Names (1st ed., 1988; 2nd ed. 2006); Yellowstone Nomenclature (2012 disc)
Article in “Annals of Wyoming,” Vol. 88, No. 3, Summer, 2016: “G. L. Henderson: From New York Free-Thinker to Yellowstone Gentleman of Science”
—And with Elizabeth A. Watry:
Ho! For Wonderland: Travelers’ Accounts of Yellowstone, 1872–1914 (2009)
Yellowstone National Park, Images of America series: largely, historic photos with detailed captions (2008).

I will remain in contact with Lee for as long as possible. He has planned a “retirement” full of the writing projects he has not yet had time to complete.

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John Muir’s 180th Birthday

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John Muir Home in Martinez California On April 21, 1838, famous naturalist John Muir was born in Dunbar, Scotland. So this 21st we celebrate the 180th birthday of a hero of the conservation movement, without whom the national parks of the world might never have been created. Muir’s writings about the beauty of U.S. lands, particularly in California and Alaska, convinced the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier as national parks. He also included a chapter on Yellowstone in his 1901 book Our National Parks, and Janet quotes his 1898 description of Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone Treasures. Here’s a famous quote from a letter he wrote to his sister Sarah in 1873: “The mountains are calling and I must go.”

In June 2017 I took the opportunity during a visit to the Bay Area to see the peaceful house where he lived with his wife and two daughters, Helen and Wanda. A highlight of the tour is his study, which he called his “scribble den,” with its bright daylight, fine wooden furniture, and landscape paintings. It is also great fun to walk through the seven acres of orchards and other parts of the grounds, including the oldest structure in the town of Martinez, the Vicente Martinez adobe. (Click for larger images.)

Muir study with typewriter

John Muir’s study

Historical markers

Historical markers for the Vicente Martinez adobe and the John Muir home




Think of Muir as you celebrate Earth Day this weekend! If you are in the Bay Area on Saturday, a John Muir Birthday / Earth Day celebration at the John Muir Home National Historic Site in Martinez, California, this year includes family-friendly activities, music, food for sale, and self-guided tours. Learn more about what you can see on a visit in this “National Park Getaway” article.

—Beth Chapple, Editor and Publisher

P.S. Here is another lovely John Muir quote: “Handle a book as a bee does a flower, extract its sweetness but do not damage it.”

Photo credits: The exterior of the John Muir house is an NPS photo. All other photos by Beth Chapple.

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Unique experiences in the park

Categories: Through Early Yellowstone, Trip Reports
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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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Hear about Yellowstone Books in Montana

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Janet Chapple with First Edition Yellowstone Treasures

The author with the first edition of the Yellowstone Treasures guidebook in 2002


Author Janet Chapple is always happy to talk about Yellowstone National Park and her two books on the subject. She will be speaking at two bookstore events in Montana this month. June 14 is her appearance at This House of Books in Billings, a co-op store that has posted a nice image of a watercolor from Through Early Yellowstone to the blog on their website. On June 22 you can catch her presentation and book signing at Country Bookshelf in Bozeman. I will also be in attendance. You’ll find more details about both talks on our events page. Hope to see you there!

—Editor and Publisher, Beth Chapple

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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

Categories: Bio, History, News, Through Early Yellowstone
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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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An author tour for Through Early Yellowstone

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Janet Chapple lecture BBCW

The author/editor at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming

This fall Janet has been taking the new historical anthology on the road, explaining her research and discovery of the stories and artwork in Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis. On September 9, 2016, she was invited to present a slideshow at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming. Her title, “A Love Affair with Yellowstone National Park,” allowed her to tell the story of her early childhood in the park, her repeated visits, and her research and writing about Yellowstone over the years.

Tidbits of her biography are told elsewhere, such as on the About Us page and in an article called “Celebrating an Old Faithful Area Seventieth Anniversary,” published in August 2009 in The Geyser Gazer Sput (see “Janet Celebrates Her 75th Anniversary in the Park” for some fun stories). But in this lecture she also explained a lot about her research that led to the anthology and the beautiful centerpiece of watercolors.

In her own words:

I spent about a decade reading everything I could get my hands on in libraries on both coasts and at the University of Wyoming library and the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center Library on the northern border of the park. I found that tens of thousands of documents have been preserved. Writers about the Yellowstone area and then the new national park included explorers and adventurers, government expedition members, geologists, artists, park employees, army and administrative personnel, tourists, journalists, and lecturers, all of them thrilled with the wonders they had found.

Buffalo Bill Center of the West poster

The Center of the West lobby with lecture poster

After reading about 250 of these, she, with my help, finally settled on eleven major accounts, many of them illustrated with engravings. These were mostly magazine articles published during 1871-1916, with a few chapters from books. You’ll find the table of contents here, if you are curious and don’t own the book yet.

Back to the story. Here she describes her big find, the watercolors from 1884.

While researching in the Yellowstone Heritage Library, I came across correspondence between Park Historian Lee Whittlesey and a geologist named Alan Channing from Cardiff University, Wales. Channing had done some research in Yellowstone and had become fascinated with the park. Knowing that Thomas H. Thomas, one of my favorite early Yellowstone authors, came from Cardiff, and wondering about the source of the engravings of his Yellowstone scenes, I got in touch with Dr. Channing. He told me that Thomas’s original sketchbook and notebooks were held in the archives of the National Museum of Wales. Then, in 2008 I got to travel to Wales and see the Thomas watercolor sketches in the archives of their museum.

Janet gave substantially the same talk this week at the Bill Lane Center for the West at Stanford University in California. There she regaled the audience with tales while they munched on a lunch that Stanford provided. She has not booked her next event yet, but you are welcome to contact her to suggest one!

–Editor and Publisher, Beth Chapple

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Advance reader copies are here

Categories: News, Through Early Yellowstone
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Through Early Yellowstone advance reader copyExciting news! The advance reader copies of Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis arrived at Granite Peak Publications last week. Now I can send them out to colleagues, potential reviewers, and our distributor, and they can find out what we have been working so hard on! While editor Janet Chapple’s research goes all the way back to 2002, my review of the manuscript began in December 2014. I helped Janet to shape it into its current form of eleven main selections and ten short excerpts or poems. Two prominent authors we unfortunately had to leave out to make a reader-friendly, reasonable-sized book were Ernest Thompson Seton, the famous writer of animal stories and Boy Scouts of America founder, and Sir Archibald Geikie, a nineteenth-century geologist. But the book includes delightful stories by skier Billy Hofer, Pulitzer-prize-winning author Ray Stannard Baker and artist Anne Bosworth Greene, among others.

One of the uses for this early version of the book is the American Booksellers Association Advance Access program. When you go into your local independent bookstore, have you ever noticed a monthly flyer with the Indie Next List? If you haven’t, pick it up some time. Each book is given a short but pithy and passionate review by one of the staff members at an independent bookstore. I am making eleven of these advance reader copies available to booksellers to peruse, read, consider for their stores, and we hope recommend for the Indie Next list.

We will definitely keep you posted on this site’s Reviews page when we do get a quotable comment.

—Editor Beth Chapple

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A celebrated author

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grandmother granddaughters

Janet with three of her four granddaughters, ages 6, 8, and 10.

This February, guidebook author Janet Chapple was pleased to celebrate her birthday with a banquet at the Bellevue Club, in Oakland, California. Family and friends traveled from far and wide to join the party. Four of Janet’s friends played a Haydn string quartet for us.

One guest, a violinist, revealed in a short speech that he learned on a trip to Yellowstone how highly regarded the book by his musician friend really is. A park ranger told him that Yellowstone Treasures was the best guidebook to the park he’d ever seen. He realized then that the book was by the cellist he enjoys playing chamber music with.

Two granddaughters watch Janet with her cake

Two granddaughters, one from New Jersey and one from Berkeley, watch Janet as she blows out her candles.

After dining on sea bass, salmon, or filet mignon, the approximately 40 guests, myself included, got to try this lovely layer cake.

—Beth Chapple, editor and daughter of the author

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“There goes another one!” Joan pointed out, as we lay on our flat porch roof in Billings, Montana, watching the August meteor shower. It was 1947, and in our small town we could see millions of stars and pick out several constellations. Sometimes we could even see the Milky Way.

Now it’s 2014, and even in Yellowstone this past summer, I could barely find the Big Dipper. Was it that our entire atmosphere is polluted, or was there now too much ambient light even at Old Faithful and Mammoth Villages to enjoy the stars?

Listening to a National Public Radio broadcast the other day, I became absorbed in the story of what has happened to the night skies in America in the past few decades. NPR was interviewing author Paul Bogard about his book The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light. Use “Look Inside” for Chapter 9 on the Amazon website for light pollution images, a sample of what’s in the book.

I’m going to have to read this book, since I fully agree with the reviewer Bill McKibben, who wrote on Amazon: “The most precious things in the modern world are probably silence, solitude, and darkness–and of these three rarities, true darkness may be the rarest of all. Many thanks to Paul Bogard for searching out the dark spots and reminding us to celebrate them!”

Take a look at our nugget that includes what the author of a classic Western novel wrote about
experiencing the night.

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