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

All posts tagged Jules Leclercq

Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Springs

Categories: Thermal features, Trip Reports
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A thermal area in the park that attracts me strongly and that I think is underrated in general is Mammoth Hot Springs. Nineteenth-century visitors were sure it would sometime soon be turned into a spa or sanatorium, but fortunately that didn’t happen.

Before soaking in the hot pools became strictly forbidden, lots of people did it. Park hotels did not provide hot showers in those days. Belgian travel writer Jules Leclercq visited in 1883 and 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. . . .” until he noticed water in a neighboring basin suddenly rising. It happened that his clothes and towels were in that basin. “The proximity of the hotel consoled me in my misfortune,” he concluded.

Lacking a volunteer organization such as the Geyser Observation and Study Association that keeps good track of the geysers in and around the Old Faithful area and Norris, Mammoth-lovers mostly have to find out what is happening there for ourselves. Mammoth’s springs and the terraces they create are always changing. The ones I found most active this August were Grassy Spring and its very new (probably as yet unnamed) neighbor; Canary Spring; and Narrow Gauge Terrace.

In the twenty years I’ve been observing it, the hot water activity in Canary has gradually migrated from close to the hillside just below the Grand Loop Road out to the north.

Canary Spring 2009

Canary looked like this when I was there in 2009.


The terraces Canary is building are amazingly high and beautiful. Here’s what I saw on the morning of August 15th 2014:

Near the steps leading down to Canary is a good place to observe how newer springs can begin to form terraces by depositing a thin layer of calcite ice on top of still, level pools of hot water; with time tiny delicate terracettes form around the pools. Eventually these will build up to be impressive terraces, too—and the boardwalk will have to be moved again!

An area not shown on the Yellowstone Association pamphlet map at all but described in Yellowstone Treasures is my other favorite at Mammoth, the extremely active lower terrace formation at Narrow Gauge Terrace. Deeply ensconced in tall trees, the growing terraces are almost impossible to photograph well. It was very dark there in 2009, but my friend Suzanne Cane got a very good shot in June 2013.
Narrow Gauge Terrace 2009

Narrow Gauge Terrace by Suzanne Cane in 2013

This year, the active springs and color from them cover about 300 degrees of a circle. My Narrow Gauge notes: “Building a throne for itself. One large dead tree fully knocked over at south end. No sound here but the musical bubbling at several pitches from various outlets.” Magical!

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August 10th Yellowstone book signing

Categories: News, Yellowstone, Land of Wonders
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Just want to let everyone know that I would be happy to visit with my readers in the lobby of Old Faithful Inn between 11:00 am and 5:00 pm on Sunday, August 10th. I’ll be sitting at a table to the right of the front door and would love to sign your books and talk to you about the park. This applies to both my guidebook “Yellowstone Treasures” (Fourth edition) and the 1886 travelogue “Yellowstone, Land of Wonders” I helped translate from the French and annotate with colleague Suzanne Cane. Both books came out last year.

Please stop in on your way to enjoy the geysers, whether you already own the books or would like to buy one from the gift shop in the Inn!

More about the book signing on our Author Events page.

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Welcoming Yellowstone, Land of Wonders to the BLC

Categories: History, Janet Chapple's Other Writing, Yellowstone, Land of Wonders
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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

Categories: Janet Chapple's Other Writing, News, Yellowstone, Land of Wonders
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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

Categories: Janet Chapple's Other Writing, Thermal features, Yellowstone, Land of Wonders
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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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Jules Leclercq’s Land of Wonders

Categories: History, Yellowstone, Land of Wonders
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Have you ever wondered what it was like to travel through the U.S. when railroad trains had newly opened up the whole country? Do you enjoy travelogues by fluent observers in the graceful cadences of the nineteenth century? Would you be curious as to what you could see and do when you rode horseback along crude trails before smooth asphalt roads opened the park to automobiles?

The intrepid Belgian travel writer Jules Leclercq wrote a book about his 1883 trip that answered those questions and many more: La Terre des Merveilles: Promenade au parc national de l’Amérique du Nord. Unfortunately, this delightful travel account was never published in English until now. The University of Nebraska Press is bringing out the annotated translation that my colleague Suzanne Cane and I have made of Leclercq’s book, calling it Yellowstone, Land of Wonders. We have just learned that the publication date will be May 1, 2013, and, of course, we’re excited to be able to see our work of six or seven years come to fruition.

Here’s a passage that’s a favorite of mine, about the first camping spot Leclercq’s party made after glimpsing Norris Geyser Basin:

Upon our return to the camp, night was falling. As we had eaten nothing since eight o’clock in the morning, I will let you wonder whether we did justice to the elk roast we were served in the tent, by the light of a candle stuck in the neck of a bottle. If, in Clarke’s opinion, the coffee was not as good as that which we had so often happily savored in Iceland, to compensate, the icy water drawn from the nearby river was excellent.
After this copious repast we fraternized with a caravan of American travelers who had just arrived from the south; among them was an intrepid horsewoman. We made a circle in the open air around a large campfire fed by whole pine trees.
While we were conversing around the merry flames, our friend Alexander sent us distant echoes of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from deep in the woods, played on a perfectly portable little concertina that is the companion of all his travels. It was doubtless the first time that these lonely wilds had resounded with such harmonious chords.
This music in the bosom of the wilderness plunged me into a delicious reverie. No other evening has engraved itself more profoundly on my memory. Never had stars seemed to me to shine with such vivid brilliance: one might have said countless golden lamps dispersed in infinity.
I have always been vividly impressed by the beauty of the nights in these high northern regions of the Rocky Mountains. The brilliance of the stars is due to the great clarity of the air at these elevations; the atmosphere is so dry that all you need do is pass your hand rapidly over a bison pelt to make electric sparks fly. Nights are cold, and in the month of August, frosty nights regularly follow blazingly hot days. . .

2012

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My best excuse for neglecting my blog this late fall [2011] is that I’ve been working non-stop with my colleague Suzanne Cane to send off our new Yellowstone manuscript to a publisher. We’ve translated into English a French book called La Terre des Merveilles. We’ve made the title into Yellowstone, Land of Wonders and brought it up to date with lots of explanatory notes.

Our author, Jules Leclercq, was a Belgian attorney and judge, who spent his time away from the bench in traveling and writing excellent books about far-flung places. He went all over the world between the 1870s and the early 1900s: China, South Africa, Mexico, Iceland, remote islands, etc. Of course, his twenty-four travel books were all in French, although he clearly knew a lot of English. As far as we can determine, none of his travel books has ever before been fully translated in English.

Suzanne and I loved his style: well-informed but often humorous, observant of details but never bogged down in them, respectful of his surroundings and his companions if sometimes gently mocking of himself or his situation. His Yellowstone visit was in 1883, but he showed great sensitivity to his environment and was appalled at the vandalism to park features he sometimes observed. We’ve tried to make the English version reflect Leclercq’s typical late-19th-century way of writing: using lots of similes and adjectives, flowery but always sticking to the subject.

I found the book while researching for my Yellowstone anthology of early writings, working title “Magnificent Playground,” which as of now remains unpublished—but that’s another subject. Yellowstone, Land of Wonders will be published by the University of Nebraska Press. Although our work on it is done except for the proofing, it is scheduled for publication in spring of 2013. We’ll just have to wait, but I think everyone with an interest in Yellowstone and western U.S. history will want to read it.

Here’s a sample of Leclercq’s genius for description that will make anyone who has ever seen this spring sigh with longing to go back:

Mute with amazement and astonishment, we gazed upon Grand Prismatic Spring, nature’s most gigantic hot spring. This expanse of steaming, sapphire-colored water is so surpassingly transparent that the thousand fantastical forms on the festooned walls could be distinguished under the crystal liquid. The aqueous layers take on a more and more intense blue color as the eye penetrates deeper into the abyss. Several meters from the edge one loses sight of the bottom of the basin, and the dark color of the water indicates unfathomable depths that are concealed from view. Toward the center of the basin, the water rises several inches high as it boils; agitated by an undulating motion, it regularly spills over from all sides above the reddish and curiously festooned siliceous ring that slightly protrudes around the basin.
An extensive mist of hot vapors rises continually from the bosom of this marvelous expanse of water. Nary a bird glides above it; no tree grows on its banks. Words fail to describe the country surrounding it, sublime in its desolation and nakedness. And yet I need only close my eyes to see it again, for it is unforgettable.

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During recent weeks I’ve been concentrating all my efforts on two long-term writing projects.

One job I’ve given myself this fall [2011] is determining what changes I want to make in the upcoming reprint of Yellowstone Treasures. People do not always know that everything is constantly changing in the park, from realigned stretches of road to new geysers that pop up and old ones that change their behavior. My goal is to keep the guidebook as up-to-date as possible with almost-yearly reprints and new editions about every four years.

The other time-consumer is polishing all the parts of another project I’ve been working on for about three years with a colleague. This one is a translation from the French of the account of a visit to Yellowstone in 1883 made by the prolific Belgian travel writer, Jules Leclercq. Getting this fascinating account published requires a lot of small changes to our manuscript in order to comply with the university press’s guidelines, along with preparing information to be used in promoting the book. It will be called Yellowstone, Land of Wonders: Promenade in North America’s National Park. But don’t hold your breath—it won’t be available for more than a year.

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