By Amanda Eggert EBS Senior Editor
BIG SKY – With two years of record-breaking visitation in a row, it can be difficult to imagine what Yellowstone National Park looked like in its early days as a park, when there were more ungulates than humans, lending the area a mystique that favors the unknown and little-known.
Just as captivating as the descriptions of geothermal features in “Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis” is the portrayal of those who called the area home. The accounts of how it changed travelers who ventured into it are particularly enjoyable. Thomas H. Thomas, who visited Yellowstone in 1884, 12 years after it became the world’s first national park, put it this way:
“Yes, one’s face is blistered with the fierce noons; one is a little stiff from the freezing nights, slightly bruised by the dislocating gait of the faithful ‘cayuse.’ One has had enough of rice and prunes under canvas and of cold meat in the ‘corrals;’ but where are there brighter skies and blither air? That it has been given to one to see the beauty, the grandeur, and terror of this region of ‘wonder-beauty’ before the tourists troop through it in unbroken procession, laus Deo.”
Thomas’ description is one of 11 narratives compiled by Janet Chapple, an Oakland, California-based editor who selected and annotated travel accounts published from 1871-1928. A scholar of and lover of Yellowstone history, Chapple worked on the project for almost 15 years.
The artwork that accompanies the text—a gallery of watercolors from Thomas’ 1884 trip, never before seen outside of Wales—is also stunning and provides for another captivating window into the area.
In late June, “Through Early Yellowstone” won honorable mention in the travel category of the 19th annual Foreword INDIES Book of the Year award.