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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 4 (August 1, 1933)

Our American Letter

page 44

Our American Letter

Rustic Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone Park.

Rustic Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone Park.

At this writing, the slogan, “Buy American and Spend American. See America First,” is being widely broadcast throughout the United States. So you see, your correspondent has no easy task in the work of endeavouring to inspire the patriotic American to travel New Zealandwards. Still, as a friend of mine said the other day, “We real wanderlusters rarely bother about where we're going To. We're just crazy to get away From. One country doesn't do us the slightest bit of good.”

This business of being a lecturer certainly requires the real wanderlust temperament in addition to nomadic inclinations, for it means weeks and months of hustling in and out of trains, and of hurrying in and out of auditoriums until the lecture season is at an end.

I leave for Los Angeles to-morrow, and then in a few days for Chicago. I hear you say “Dangerous territory!” Not at all. Chicago is an amazing city, though the first impression is grim. The noise is fearsome. The weather is terrific. The ill-wind that blows off Lake Michigan blows nobody any good.

But a city is known by the history it makes. Less than a hundred years ago, Chicago was a frontier post of only four hundred souls. Little more than fifty years ago it was a smoking ruin. To-day, it is the second largest city in the United States—one of the great capitals of the world.

No railroad runs through Chicago. It is a full stop. There are more miles of railroad in America than in any other country. Chicago is the world's greatest railroad centre.

The Chicago Exposition will attract millions of sightseers to that unique city, and at time of writing, visitors are already arriving. Admission receipts to date have totalled £682,218. I have watched the Century of Progress rising magically and majestically on Chicago's imposing lake front, and it is an inspiration to inspect what has been done and is being done there.

There is a fascination in being incessantly “on the move,” even after the lecture season is over, and the clubs and cultural organisations, before whose audiences I give my travelogue recitals, are closed for the summer months, I “go places.”

Last summer I visited Alaska and Yellowstone. Vastly contrasting, both are wonder spots on this great continent, and both regions have much in common with our own scenic wonderland, New Zealand.

Yellowstone is the largest and probably the most famous of America's national parks. It is about 62 miles long and 54 miles wide, and has an area of 3,348 square miles—a broad volcanic plateau 8,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by mountain ranges rising from 2,000 to 4,000 feet higher.

New Zealand visitors should try to include Yellowstone in their globe-trotting itinerary. They will see much that will astound them, even though our own Geyserland has many similar features in regard to the phenomena of hydrothermal activity, boiling mud, and hissing steam vents.

While our Hot Springs district is accessible to visitors all the year round, the Yellowstone Park season is, for climatic reasons, very short. The park opens on June 20th, and the last entrance day for a complete tour for railroad passengers is on September 15th. The season closes on September 20th.

Unquestionably the best way to see Yellowstone National Park is by Union Pacific System trains to West Yellowstone, the only rail entrance directly on the Park boundary, thence by automobiles of the Yellowstone Park Transportation Company, which operate over the 300 miles of excellent highways which traverse the Park.

It is possible to make a complete circle of the chief attractions in three and one-half days; but, like the environs of Rotorua, the attractions of this mystic territory are not confined to geyser activity. Without its immense geysers, Yellowstone would remain a region of transcendent beauty, and one could remain a month or a summer and then return again to enjoy its variety.

Of the three splendid resort hotels in the Park, Old Faithful Inn is the most picturesque. Built of native logs and stone, it is noted for its original architecural beauty. Natural branches from the neighbouring forests are cleverly used to build and adorn the interior, and in the wide and lofty lobby, the guest might easily imagine himself in the depths of the forest. The massive fireplace is large enough to page 45 roast an ox, whole. At night a searchlight plays from the roof of the Inn on the ghostly beauty of Old Faithful geyser and on the bears feeding in the woods.

Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park.

Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone, like all the national parks in this country, is under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of the Interior, and the Federal Government has provided a special service of “ranger naturalists” who act as guides to the visitors and give free evening lectures on the Park and the wild animals which inhabit its rugged mountain areas.

Yellowstone is a sanctuary for wild life, but the bears come first in interest. Black and brown bears are numerous, and the Park hotels have special feeding grounds for them. The kitchen scraps are regularly poured into a huge trough, and one of the most interesting sights is to watch the bears at their “lunch counter.”

At nightfall the great “grizzlies” come out of the forest to join the feast, and these monsters are treated with marked respect by the smaller black and brown brothers.

Automobile travellers along the main highway during the season are often “held up” by the “bear bandits” who come loping out of the primeval wilderness and sit up on their haunches right in the middle of the road, and actually “demand.” It is an amusing sight, especially if it happens to be a mother bear with young cubs.

In sheer compelling beauty no single spectacle in the Park approaches the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone with the Great Falls at its head. The gorge is 1,200 feet deep, 2,000 feet wide at the top, and 200 feet wide at the bottom. Its walls are fissured, slashed and carved by Nature into strange shapes, which rise here and there in gothic spires where ospreys make their nests. Over these slopes are gorgeous patterns of colour, and far below, a slender thread, the river flows.

Northward from the Grand Canyon, the automobile road leads, by way of Dunraven Pass, over the shoulder of Mt. Washburn, an extinct volcano 10,346 feet high. Upon the slopes of this great peak are gardens of wild flowers, and from its crest the traveller is impressively reminded that he is in the midst of the Rocky Mountains.

At Mammoth Hot Springs, hot waters heavily laden with carbonate of lime from subterranean sources have built up a number of terrace formations, which call to mind the pictures we have seen of our beauteous “Pink and White Terraces” destroyed by the Tarawera eruption.

Algae, a sort of plant life, living in the cascades that pour down over the slopes of Mammoth have painted these terraces with pastel tints of orange, pink, yellow and blue, while where the water has temporarily ceased flowing the terraces are snow white.

Our Rotorua Lake are famous the world over not only for their beauty, but for their trout fishing. Here again there is a similarity, for the lake and rivers of Yellowstone offer many delights for the angler, and those who come unprepared may rent fishing equipment of all kinds at any of the hotels or lodges. No fishing license is required.

The visitor is impressed by the loveliness of Lake Yellowstone, which covers 139 square miles, and is nearly a mile and one-half above the sea. It is curiously shaped, resembling a hand with five outstretched fingers and a large thumb, and on the “West Thumb” shore round the edges of the lake there are “paint pots” of boiling mud, hot springs, and one active geyser.

The Maori is so much a part of our Geyserland, and we are so accustomed to the sight of the picturesque native life flowing on unperturbed in the midst of weird underground noises and clouds of steam, that we wonder why the American Indian built his wigwam, tepee, or pueblo, so far away from Yellowstone, a region so much like Rotorua, where Nature has so gloriously simplified, for the Maori, the business of living.

Terrace Formations at Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone Park.

Terrace Formations at Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone Park.