Chattering from the cold we left the camp early in the morning to do once more some fishing under the cloudless sky. The owner of the steamboat who is living next to the hotel and who was one of the few polite Americans whom I’ve met loaned us the necessary fishing equipment. With it we made a short crossing of the lake and soon were again in the river. This time everybody fished alone in a boat and I had myself rowed further downriver as I expected it to be a more promising location.
During the crossing I could observe numerous species of the bird world present at the Yellowstone River. Flocks of ducks were flying up and down, geese were flapping with loud cries, seagulls flew around in elegant flight and swift as an arrow. Buzzards, harriers and ospreys were circling above the boat whose movements had caused jays at the shore to take to the air accompanied by hoarse sounds.
In a small bay that looked well suited for a catch I anchored the boat and started my task with great patience. To my joy the first trout bit after about an hour, to be followed by four more in longer intervals. Each fish weighed about a kilogram. Some other trouts that I had already believed to have caught I lost again as it was at times not possible to take in the lightning-fast moving fish hanging on the rod on board. One could clearly see that the fish were only taking the lures with reluctance due to the cold as they often played with it without biting. In the right season, fishing here must be a very entertaining sport as during that time one could catch a hundred pieces in a very short time.
After no trout wanted to bite any more and my efforts in another place proved futile too, I reunited with my gentlemen who had also made some catches and returned to the hotel where seven skunks captured and killed during the night were on display. They have a badger-like body and soft black and white speckled fur. As they befoul the whole area where they are living with their penetrating odor, they are keenly hunted.
In the afternoon we took the route to the Yellowstone Canyon in our coach, first alongside the lake shore, then alongside the Yellowstone river. Soon the closed forest stopped and changed to an open area with Artemisia plants that were surrounded by trees and presented an excellent terrain for feeding game. Probably many a buffalo herd must once have visited these places.
At the halfway mark of the journey next to the road was one of the strangest formations in the park called Mud Cauldron , a deep mud funnel geyser out whose side opening emerged a constant blue-greyish boiling foam with an accompanying strong steam and dull humming, which looks quite uncanny. Every object that is thrown into the funnel disappears in the horrible opening forever, only wood pieces reappear from time to time on the surface but already quite decomposed.
Hayden Valley in the North is a completely treeless waste valley with undulating ridges with a small stream winding its way through it. A still visible beaten path shows the trail where a complete Indian tribe with wives and children had used to retreat from the Southern regions to the North after they had incurred considerable losses in the fights against other tribes. Nowadays, Indians are prohibited to enter the territory of the Yellowstone Park.
Just after we had driven over a bridge I saw a skunk run past. Shouting „Stop“ to the coachman, we grabbed sticks and jumped out of the wagon and now began a happy hunt in which we also threw stones. The skunk did not want to go into the water even if it was cornered but kept running up and down the shore until it finally faced us and made lavish use of its last means of salvation, its horrible perfume. This, however, did not inhibit us to slay it. Thus we had achieved a hunting trophy in the park even without using the rifles. I gave the order to store it in the second wagon and then we drove on, talking about the happy skunk hunt.
As soon as we had arrived at the Grand Canyon Hotel where we would spend the night, Hodek brought a message that the coachman of the second wagon had refused to bring along the skunk. Hodek had tried to tie it to the axle but the coachman jumped down from his seat and threw the skunk far away which led to a big commotion between the two. The skunk had been left behind. I, however, did not want to let go of this catch made with great effort and we held a war council to decide what we could do, taking into consideration that we would not be allowed to take the animal with us into the hotel. Finally a considerable amount of dollars won over the missgivings of the coachman who rode back with Hodek and soon the hide of the skunk lay well packaged in an iron tin between the other baggage pieces.
The greatest landmark of the park is without doubt the great canyon of the Yellowstone river that alone would warrant a visit to the park. Armed with experience I had very much kept my reserve during the praising of this natural beauty, but must gladly admit that my expectations have been surpassed by far.
We arrived just at the right moment as the evening shortly before sunset is the best moment for visiting the canyon. We drove in a small wagon from the hotel. Due to the bad condition of the wood path this trip imprinted itself unsparingly into our memory. Passing by multiple viewing points that let us already guess about the splendor of the valley, we finally arrived at the foot of the Inspiration Points rising 460 m above the Yellowstone river. There the gorge lay in front of us falling more than 300 m down with steep almost vertical walls that had fantastically formed protrusions with wildly jagged peaks and rock needles, while the river was meandering in a blue band through the valley bottom. The rocky peaks that rose next to each other like a backdrop showed the most audacious forms too and enclose small gorges as well as scree slopes filled with dropped off stones. Rhyolith out of which the rocks are made up is also very much exposed to weathering and decomposition so that without interruption individual pieces separate themselves and the jaggedness is continuously increasing.
The most beautiful and strange of the canyon by far are the various colorings in which the rocky stones and especially the scree are gleaming. All the colors one might think about are represented here in various shades but yellow, red, pink and white are predominant. Especially red is present in all nuances from the darkest blood red to the most delicate pink in a range hardly any well equipped paint-box will match. The few dark spots are formed by the not very numerous crippled pine trees that are enduring in the rock clefts.
Even if a painter’s brush managed to create an exact and realistic rendering of all the colors we were seeing here in all their shades and in their glazes and bizarre forms of the rocks, everyone would still believe that the image was unnatural and something close to it could not exist in nature. Even the most detailed description by a master would be insufficient to give a good representation of the surprising variety of the pomp and splendor developed here. Who wants to see it in all its great majesty needs to have stayed here at a beautiful fall evening to have a dream of the most audacious imagination turned into reality.
At the entrance to the gorge one the Great or Lower Waterfall of the Yellowstone becomes visible and falls at this spot foaming and thunderous over a vertical rocky wall of nearly 100 m, while the Upper Waterfall lies in the far distance and appears only as a silver-white point. To the other side, the gorge loses itself into the wooded mountains that take on a dark purple coloring in the evening, while behind them a snow-covered mountain giant concludes the composition in an effective manner. This gorgeous view can only be placed on the same worthy level as the few moments when the fog parted in Darjeeling and revealed the Himalaya’s peaks in their virgin majesty.
Inspiration Point, a rocky peak in the middle of the canyon and not very difficult to reach for those not suffering from vertigo, is the most favorable panoramic spot. All the more I was wondering why there were no safety measures installed for the visitors and there were neither railings nor steps to make the ascent easier on the quite dangerous path of whose outermost point I would like to warn everyone who is not a mountain climber.
The deeper the sun sank below the mountains the more diverse became the game of colors so that we, lost in admiration, could not separate ourselves from the spectacle for a long time, until the repeated warning of the coachman who feared to make the return trip in darkness forced us to leave Inspiration Point. Some large stones that we pushed down, jumped from ledge to ledge and fell down from the enormous height in a few seconds and disappeared with a thud in the river. On one of the rocky needles, glued to its highest peak, we discovered a large aerie whose builder selected a probably inaccessible spot.
In the evening three bears, apparently an old female with two young ones, were rummaging through the heap of tins barely 200 paces distant from the hotel. They were discovered by gentleman who had hidden himself nearby. When the whole swarm of visitors, among them we too, however descended there from the hotel, the bears unfortunately disappeared never to be seen again as the hotel guests, especially the ladies, were very noisy, chatting and giggling, which would have driven away even a tame bear.
Without the implacable „No Shooting“ I certainly would have taken up position in this not very poetic place, convinced that I would have had an opportunity for a shot during the night.