Yellowstone Lake Hotel, 24 September 1893

Fortunately. Clam was able to participate in today’s drive, especially as the weather was to be splendid and a relatively warm day to be expected. At the Fountain Geyser Hotel, the landlord offered us still an example of American unfriendliness by answering our question about the time when the Old Faithful would play again with a moody „I don’t know“. Having just disappeared in the forest, we learned from the hunters in the second wagon behind us that the geyser had jumped into action only a few minutes ago.

Up to the Upper Geyser Basin we took the same route as the day before and then drove on past the geysers visited yesterday. They were smoking especially strongly due to the cool morning temperature. From there to Lake Yellowstone, a forest was our constant companion that looked quite desert and barren but not like one we were familiar with and contained at least some beautiful trees. A large number of them showed fresh traces from bears that had climbed the trees and left cuts from their paws in the bark. These climbing exercises are made by the bears only for entertainment purposes as they find their food only on the ground, while beaver were hard at work on trunks as thick as an arm that had completely bitten through at a height of about 30 cm.

The first point on our route where our admiration was invited was in no way justifying it. These were the Kepler falls that are formed by the Firehole river falling down over a few stones in a small gorge. A rock formation and stony slopes that interrupted the forest were blanketed with a light snow and made us consider as passionate mountain hunters how suitable this place would be for chamois and how much this place would thus be improved in our eyes.

The road with many curves proved this year that all road works and repairs had been canceled. The Yellowstone Park company had had a bad year as the visitor count amounted only to 3000 persons and had to save money everywhere and for example had to fire 100 coachmen and to send 200 horses into the prairie as there was no work for them.

After a longer ascent and repeated watering of the horses we reached a wooded high plateau of considerable size where a table at 2470 m above sea level with the inscription „Continental Divide“ informed about the fact that the watershed between the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean was there. Out of an extended forest shone the blue area of Lake Shoshone to the South and in the far distance rose some snow-covered peaks.

In very sharply turning serpentine roads the route led down the mountain which showed that the park company did not care much for the safety of the visitors or did trust in their horses very much: The small track which was just wide enough for a wagon without any railing or other safety measure was close to the abyss. Furthermore the road bed consisted of very soft material and was criss-crossed by tracks that did not inspire much confidence.

Completely unexpected, suddenly Lake Yellowstone lay at our feet and we enjoyed the gorgeous view was open to the distant surrounding mountains.This lake covers at an altitude of 2360 m an area of 302 km2 and extends into the land with deep bays so that one can compare it to four fingers of a hand. First for us lay the West Bay or Thumb where even the breakfast is usually eaten in a tent.

Very close many hot springs were sputtering, some of which were remarkable, thus a mud spring similar to the Mammoth Paint Pots which however cast out intensively pink colored instead of the white slurry and thus resembles a boiling strawberry cream, then the tanner’s spring with brown water etc. Some springs were near the lake shore, some even within the lake so that at the Fishing Cone only the depositions separate the hot from the cold water. Here one can catch a trout in the lake while standing on the edge of the spring and cook them immediately in the hot water without moving from the place — a joke that is often practised as the many fishbones and skeletons lying around proved.

In the lunch tent where we were presented with a barely edible breakfast fitting for the end of the season we found a group of Germans who were on their way to a four-week hunting expedition to the South of the park and were drivelling  about the great quantities of game there. The careful park cavalry command had sealed the rifles of these followers of Nimrod for the duration of their journey through the park.

On the small steamboat „Zillah“ that was not owned by the park company but a private company that took us to the other shore of the lake, the captain was acting also as pilot, cashier and steward to safe money. The main treasure of the boat formed capital wapiti antlers that were affixed below the star-spangled banner — a widespread custom in this region. I even once saw a locomotive that had an antler on its funnel. Idyllic calm lay over the area of the mountain lake which was splendidly by mighty mountains among them Mount Sheridan, Mount Cathedral, Grizzly, Eagle Peak and Mount Table. From the shore to the mountains unfathomable woods reach up to the limit of vegetation which also forms the main place for the local buffaloes. Only a little time ago a group of travellers passing by is said to have seen these giants of the animal world from the ship. Numerous ducks and geese populated the lake and were mingling extremely close to our vehicle. At some distance we saw swans and pelicans and on a small sand bank sat a sea eagle with a snow-white head and tail.

The Yellowstone Lake Hotel, another tasteless building, stands on a small hill above the lake and is to me due to its view the most sympathetic among the hotels in the park of those that I have been to.

As the owner of the steamer had made me the proposition to go salmon fishing before dawn we drove in two small boats to the place where the Yellowstone river flows out of the sea to try our luck. I fished with a trolling rod and a lure but there was not much chance for success as only the months of July and August were favorable for fishing and the fish showed little inclination for biting due to the cold. In the gorgeous clear water of the river where one could everywhere see the ground even at considerable depth were numerous fishes but even the most tempting lures were without much force of attraction until finally two salmon trouts gave in to our temptation and became the catch of Imhof who sat with me in the boat. These salmonids distinguished themselves by their especially beautiful coloring as their gold-yellow and rose red skin was covered with numerous dark spots.

A German who had been fishing at the same time and whom we met by chance assured me that the fish had bitten a little bit better in the morning but the present hour is certainly unfavorable so that we decided to retreat while a  gorgeous beautiful setting of the sun, an alpenglow and the concurrent rise of the moon over the quiet mountain lake was more than sufficient compensation for the not much satisfying fishing.

For later in the evening the appearance of a bear was promised that, as was said in the hotel, used to pay a visit to the muck heap near the house with its numerous dumped tins at dusk. The day before a group had surprised it during its meal. It then climbed a tree and was bombarded by the people present with pieces of wood. Despite a long wait we saw nothing but found a horse carcass that had already been fretted by a bear.

An older Hebe with glasses and a low-cut dress who made an extremely comical expression was serving us at supper. During the night we had to endure a severe cold in the damp rooms without a stove.


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