Homework for National Park Week

Yellowstone Bison along the Firehole River.

This year National Park Week begins on Saturday, April 16 and continues through Sunday, April 24. If your plans call for a trip to the world’s first national park, Yellowstone, which is officially 150 years old this year, I have some homework suggestions for you. You won’t be surprised that I’m recommending you read my books on park history. Let me add a little bit to the short descriptions to the right of this post or the longer description under the Book button above.

My latest book, Rediscovering Wonderland, describes the adventures of the trappers and prospectors who were the first Euro-Americans to see the area’s wonders. Their reports of a canyon a thousand feet deep, a lake 20 miles long at the top of the mountains, and boiling pools of water that spouted hundreds of feet into the air were often dismissed as tall tales. Rediscovering focuses on the adventures of the Washburn Expedition that explored the area in 1870. Members of the Expedition were prominent Montana businessmen and government officials whose accounts could not be doubted. They not only persuaded the public that Yellowstone’s wonders were real, but also lobbied the U.S. Congress for creation of the park.

The earliest explorers of the remarkable areas at the headwaters of the Yellowstone and Madison Rivers were men. But the ink on President Ulysses S. Grant’s signature on the document that created the park on March 1, 1872, was barely dry before women began visiting there. Sidesaddles and Geysers is a collection of stories by women who visited the park from the time when it was still a roadless wilderness through the dawn of the 20th Century when tourists sped through the park in comfortable carriages and stay in the most luxurious hotels in America.

Encounters in Yellowstone tells the stories of tourists who tangled with the Nez Perce in 1877 when the U.S. Army chased those Indians through Yellowstone Park. It tells the stories of Emma and George Cowan, a couple that planned to spend the second wedding anniversary in the park. Emma and her brother and sister were captured by the Nez Perce for days and then released in the middle of the park to find their way home. George Crawled for 10 miles trying to find help after the Indians shot him three times and left him for dead.

My first book, Adventures in Yellowstone, is a collection of a dozen classic stories like the ones you might hear in ranger talks when you visit Yellowstone Park. In addition to Emma Cowan’s account of her adventures mentioned above, you’ll read mountain man Osborne Russell’s descriptions of what he saw in the 1840s and learn about Eleanor Corthell’s trip in 1903 when she left her husband at home and took their seven children tour the park.

When I was signing copies of Adventures in Yellowstone at Old Faithful Inn, people kept asking for a book of campfire stories, that is, tales that could be read in one sitting. I accommodated them by compiling The Stories of Yellowstone, a collection of 72 anecdotes from 500 to 2,000 words long. Stories begins with a tale about John Colter, who is credited with being the first white man to see Yellowstone’s Wonders. It describes Colter’s being stripped naked by a Blackfeet warriors and ordered to run for his life. He escaped and made it to safety. The book ends with L. Louise Elliot’s hilarious story of getting even with an annoying travel companion by letting the air out of her pneumatic camp mattress.

After I finished my collections of Yellowstone travel stories, I discovered I hadl left-over adventures that didn’t stand on their own so I blended them together in a mid-grades novel. The result was Macon’s Perfect Shot, the story of a 14-year-old boy who takes a job assisting an artist who visits the park in the 1870s to earn money for his widowed mother. When Macon and his companion try to rescue a deer from a boiling geyser, the companion falls in. Macon has to grow up fast to figure out how to get is friend home. On the way, he encounters a vicious band of horse thieves and helps the sheriff bring them to justice.

Those are quick sketches of my books on early travel to Yellowstone Park. I guarantee that reading them will make your visit to Yellowstone Park more fun. In fact, I think you’ll find them fun even if you’re not planning a visit.

Ask for them from your favorite bookstore or order them on-line. Links for doing that are provided with the descriptions to the right of this post.

And celebrate National Park Week by visiting your favorite.


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