Wild West of America

As America celebrates her 234th birthday today, I take this 4th of July to reflect of my many fond recollections of what makes our nation magical.

I recall my childhood travels with my grandparents to two of our countries most magnificent National Parks. The memories of that grandfather (who would of been 110 July 3rd) and his long-tales as an locomotive engineer for the Great Northern Railway. Time spent during those long car rides were his perfect opportunity to share his stories of the rail. We kids were trapped with no where to go & (thank god) forced to listen and learn.

What the wilderness must of been like in his early days sitting at the engineers seat of that massive locomotive; smoke billowing, the rails grinding against the wheels of the train as it wound it's way through the Rocky Mountain range, skirting the edge of Glacier National Park.

I remember well his being the engineer for the the original Empire Builder which was inaugurated by the Great Northern on June 11, 1929 & he operated until he retired in 1976.

The schedule of the Empire Builders route was optimized to allow riders views of the passing Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountain landscapes of Glacier National Park, a park that was established through the decisive lobbying efforts of the Great Northern. After it was re-equipped in the 1950s passengers viewed the route through its three dome coaches and one full-length "Great Dome" car for first class passengers.

The memories are vivid of sitting in those domed cars, reading my Veronica & Betty comic books or drawing with my Etch A Sketch. It would be many times my grandfather was to be in that engineers seat as I made the journey from Seattle to Havre, Montana where he & grandmother lived and where I was born.

The small but sturdy-built man who wore blue & white stripped overalls with a conductors hat to match, and a red bandanna tied around his neck. He would walk through the door after being gone on a run for several days with his brown worn satchel in hand. I'd run to greet him and he would offer a huge hug and several pieces of Black Jack gum or a few chewy nougats of Bit of Honey.

I was a happy child and life was theater filled with wonderful characters and props. My imagination was as wide as the Blue Sky country of Montana.

Glacier National Park is located in the U.S. state of Montana, bordering the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. The park encompasses over 1,000,000 acres, and includes parts of two mountain ranges (sub-ranges of the Rocky Mountains), over 130 named lakes, more than 1,000 different species of plants and hundreds of species of animals.

Marias Pass in the Montana Rockies

The region that became Glacier National Park was first inhabited by Native Americans and upon the arrival of European explorers, was dominated by the Blackfeet in the east and the Flathead in the western regions. Soon after the establishment of the park on May 11, 1910, a number of hotels and chalets were constructed by the Great Northern Railway. These historic hotels and chalets are listed as National Historic Landmarks, and a total of 350 locations are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Calf Robe 1927
All native American images photographed by T.J. Hillman

According to archeological evidence, Native Americans first arrived in the Glacier area some 10,000 years ago. The earliest occupants with lineage to current tribes were the Salish, Flathead, Shoshone and Cheyenne. The Blackfeet arrived around the beginning of the 18th century and soon dominated the eastern slopes of what later became the park, as well as the Great Plains immediately to the east.

Mad Feathers 1927

Princess 1927

Chief Mountain

St. Mary Lake

was built in 1913 by the Glacier Park Company, a subsidiary of the Great Northern Railway.

Glacier Park Lodge has 60 Douglas Fir columns 40 feet (12 m) tall and between 36 and 42 inches (91 to 106 cm) in diameter, many of which frame the central atrium. Each column was brought in by rail from the Pacific Northwest because trees in Montana rarely grow as big as this.

Arrow Top 1927

Yellowstone National Park, established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872 is a national park located primarily in the U.S. state of Wyoming, though it also extends into Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone was the first national park in the world, and is known for its wildlife and its many geothermal features, especially Old Faithful Geyser, one of the most popular features in the park.

Yellowstone National Park spans an area of 3,468 square miles (8,980 km2), comprising lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges. Yellowstone Lake is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in North America and is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest supervolcano on the continent.

Native Americans have lived in the Yellowstone region for at least 11,000 years. The region was bypassed during the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the early 1800s. Aside from visits by mountain men during the early to mid-1800s, organized exploration did not begin until the late 1860s.

The park is located at the headwaters of the Yellowstone River, from which it takes its historical name.

By the time white explorers first entered the region during the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805, they encountered the Nez Perce, Crow and Shoshone tribes.

Weasel Tail 1927

Two Guns White Calf 1935

Old Faithful Geyser
The most famous geyser in the park & perhaps the world. The great geyser erupts aprox. every 91 minutes.

There are 300 geysers in Yellowstone and a total of at least 10,000 geothermal features altogether. Half the geothermal features and two-thirds of the world's geysers are concentrated in Yellowstone.

Wooden walkways allow visitors to closely approach the

The inn's architect was 29-year-old Robert Reamer, an architect for the Great Northern Railway.

"I built it in keeping with the place where it stands. Nobody could improve upon that. To be at discord with the landscape would be almost a crime. To try to improve upon it would be an impertinence."
Spoken by Robert Reamer

With its spectacular log and limb lobby and massive (500-ton, 85-foot) stone fireplace, the inn is a prime example of the "Golden Age" of rustic resort architecture, a style which is also known as National Park Service Rustic. It is also unique in that it is one of the few log hotels still standing in the United States.

Initial construction was carried out over the winter of 1903-1904, largely using locally-obtained materials including lodgepole pine (the bark was later removed in 1940) and rhyolite stone. When the Old Faithful Inn first opened in the spring of 1904, it boasted electric lights and steam heat.

The structure is the largest log hotel in the world; possibly even the largest log building in the world. In 2007 the American Institute of Architects conducted a survey to determine the 150 favorite buildings in America; the Old Faithful Inn ranked 36. The Inn, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987, is itself part of the Old Faithful Historic District.

Thanks for allowing me to travel down
memory-lane via a train of course!
Happy 4th to all my fellow Americans
and a lovely Sunday to all x

{go forth & live responsibly}
our nation of beauty & history

history & photo credits; wikipedia.org, westyellowstonecarrental.com, asset-cache.net, wildnatureimages.com, tdcompanion.com, blankenship-web.com, destination360.com, colostate.edu, jacksonholewy.com, glenbow.org, webhoster.ag, glacierparkinc.com, ggpht.com, mountiestmountains.com, glaciermt.com, sover.net, glacier-national-park-travel-guide.com, regentsearth.com, covebear.com, glaciernationalparkus.com, about.com, yellowstone-notebook.com, wildnatureimages.com, virtualtourist.com,


James said...

A marvelous post. Such beautiful images and a foundation (geyser?) of information. Plus a warm smile at the Betty and Veronica comics and Etch A Sketch memories. Thank you.

James said...

Good Lord I meant a "fountain of " Sorry!

Anonymous said...

great post, really interesting.



Janet said...

Wonderful post, beautiful pictures, loved the railroad story. We are a railroad family. My husband worked for Union Pacific and now works for Metrolink, which is our LA commuter railroad. I love railroad memorbilia. Happy 4th Deb, to you and your family. ;)

Lisa Porter said...

Oh my goodness...did you stumble across one of your U.S. history research papers?
You really did your homework on this post. Job well done!
Thank you for, once again, describing all the little details of my childhood travels that I had temporarily forgotten about. I say temporarily because I am certain that once these hot flashes go away, I WILL remember EVERYTHING! Watch out kids! In the mean time, I will continue to visit and enjoy everything that you have to say.
One more thing... I have stayed at Glacier Park Lodge and it was magical.
xo Lisa

Marsi @ The Cottage Cheese said...

I didn't want this post to end! I have never seen the great parks of the west, but I hope to see all of them at some point in my life. (If I win the lottery, I plan to visit every single national park in the U.S.).

Your grandfather was a fascinating man - what a special way to spend a life's work. That train is beautiful! That could be the most scenic train route in this country :)

I hope you had a wonderful weekend Deb! XO, Marsi

Kelly Frances Dunn said...

You take the cake for most intellectual Happy Birthday America posts! I really enjoyed it :) Esp the train pics...a great reminder of how "far" our transportation has come in such a short time!

ticklishfromadistance said...

Gorgeous post! Thank you!

Barbara said...

What a perfect post for the 4th of July, Deb! So full of information and happy childhood memories! You were so fortunate.
I learned so much from my grandfather too...he was a darling man.

Someone sent me a link recently comparing things now to as they were many, many years ago. It was amazing. We have such a talented, inventive population.
My granddaughter could not imagine living without her cellphone and computer. And yet we did. With no trouble at all.
I hope you had a lovely 4th, Deborah!

Bumpkin on a Swing said...

Another place I have not visited, but now know I must due to your post.
Montana, my Mamma always wanted to visit Montana.
I love these posts, it gives me little peeks inside the unknown.
My travel agents says she loves you!
Hope you had a Happy 4th, and are enjoying the extra day as well!

French Basketeer.com said...

Fabulous fabulous post! That was surely the golden age of train travel, I can't imagine those dome windows and the mountain views....

We did the National Parks tours in the summers; load up the station wagon with the 5 kids and off we went. Mom is from Calgary so Glacier was a "natural" stop along the way. I remember it very well. Now though I'd love to go back and see those hotels; Disney did the new Grand Californian hotel I think modeled after the Ahwahnee in Yosemite, but Yellowstone and Glacier lodges to me are much more impressive in photos. It's so wonderful too that you have such great memories of your Grandfather; I hope kids today can make those kinds of memories.

Thanks for taking the time to compile such a detailed post; I am going to show this to my Mom. Love the Indian photos as well; how about that Mohawk? If you get a chance, chase down the photography book Photographing Montana if you don't already know it; you will LOVE it.

La Dolfina said...

Such an amazing post Deb!
You are so good! I have some wonderful memories of staying at The Ahwahnee in Yosemite when I was young. Nothing like those childhood memories that become more and more precious over the years! My Mom found an amazing painting of Glacier National Park done by a resident park artist at a garage sale years ago and gave it to my brother. I should take a photo of it and send it to you. It's beautiful and I think you would really appreciate it:)
By the way I wanted to let you know that you are the winner of My First Giveaway at Il Tuo Tesoro!!! Please email me your shipping info and I'll get out to you asap :)
Have a wonderful week my friend...
Much love,

Haute World said...

Love this history lesson! Never been to Glacier National Park, but I've been to Yellowstone and have fond memories of my time spent there. I hope to make it to some of the other lovely national parks in the US one day. Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Privet and Holly said...

Gorgeous post and so packed full of wonderful information! We took our little family to the Grand Canyon National Park for the first time last April. I was just enchanted by the lodges and outbuildings....aside from the Canyon itself, which was, of course, amazing!!! I would love to visit the others that you have mentioned, as they are such gems. I have taken the train a few places but would LOVE to take it to Lake Louise and Banff in Canada. So much beauty to see, right here in North America! Thank you for this really lovely post. xx Suzanne

Haven and Home said...

Wow Wow Wow, I am speechless by such an informative and well written post. Thank you Deb for sharing!

DolceDreams said...

Incredible post filled with memories...you are lucky to have such a great Grandfather and the memories to boot. I tell you, you are a first class Blogger my dear, so on top of it and informative, if you had a magazine I would buy it!
Wishing you a wonderful week,

AJ at OFLBlog said...

You have provided us with such an incredible "virtual" trip across your beautiful, remarkable country and not just now, but back, into the past as well! Thank you very much for that! I, too, have very fond childhood memories, of travelling by train and by car, looong trips which afforded me the seemingly endless opportunities to stare out the window - one of my favourite pastimes! Happy Birthday, America! ox

Anonymous said...

man, you should be getting stipends from the tourism bureaus. you pretty much sold me on where i want our next vacations to be.
hope your fourth was relaxing and joyful!
much love,

My Dog-Eared Pages said...

Deb... this is so wonderful! A great post all about an area of our beautiful country that I regret to say, I have never seen. Your post is a great reminder to me of all I must see... Chief Mountain, here I come! Thanks for your wonderful tour of our dramatic National Parks! ox

Anonymous said...

It is my mission to take the dude 'round the country, so he will remember experiences like this!

Mise said...

To distant me, Montana is 'A River Runs Through It', now augmented by the beauty of your images. You have a lot to celebrate. Will Scotland suffice...?

Sanity Fair said...

WHAT an amazing family history! The Empire Builder is phenomenal. Can't believe he had that amazing job. The West is truly a special place. I've stayed in the Old Faithful Inn so many times, but each time is as exciting as the first. It is such a beauty - every year I hope the forest fires don't get it!

Renée Finberg said...

you have outdone yourself on this post.
it is fabulous.
you are so FABULOUS!!

btw.....as a kid i used to read 'archie' comic books too.
....they may explain a lot.

The Townhouselady said...

God I missed your posts. This one is beyond!! I devoured every bit of it.

Listen, I know I haven't been around in a while but make sure you stop by and enter my giveaway. It's a real goodie. A $70.00 gift certificate to use at ANY of the over 200 CSN stores!

The Townhouselady
A Townhouselady's Life

24 Corners said...

Oh...your wonderful post made me long for days where families traveled together and visited the amazingly beautiful places this nation has to offer. Where nature was the star, relationships were built and memories were made. I know that still happens today but it doesn't seem to be in as "simple" a fashion.
Nature, a train ride (or car) and stunning architecture to stay in (not much for camping)...summer vacation perfection!

We were supposed to go to Mt. St. Helens last Friday but the weather didn't permit it. The sun is here now though so I'm hopeful that we'll get to enjoy some local National Parks soon. xo J~

Elizabeth Brown said...

What a delightful post. Thank you.
Road trips across the country as a kid were the best. Besides, the Etch a Sketch and Archie comics(I can't believe he married Veronica!), don't forget the Silly Putty!

Francine Gardner said...

how wonderful to have experienced such advantures with your grandfather. I love travelling by train and would always choose that moden tof transport over planes when possible. Your photographs are so stunning. I have wanted to visit Glacier for many years, ever since I fell in love with Montana.

pve design said...

Why, have you ever thought of giving tours?
I would want you as my guide.

FEDERICA said...

Today there's an amazing contest on my blog! For all creatives people!

bunny, The Paris House said...

This was a wonderful tour and a lot of great information. I love trains, I love traveling out West. We did some of that a few years ago and it was a blast.

SpryOnTheWall said...

WOW! Loving this post - so informative and well written. I've never been to Yellowstone and I would love to go - I remember when I found out (by reading National Geographic) that it's a supervolcano. YIKES! I had no idea about it being home to 1/2 the geothermal features and 2/3 of the geysers in the world - that blows my mind. I must visit! Another amazing post Deb!!! xoxo

Kellie Collis said...

Such great images and history! You are wonderful writer! Hope you are having a delightful weekend! x

Pinecone Camp said...

What a fantastic post and history lesson. I love all the vintage pics you've shown us. Would love to travel under that "great dome". What a way to see the country.
Hope you had a fab 4th of July!

mimi charmante said...

we so want to do a road trip through this part of our gorgeous country with all of our boys - so 1970s!

Dovecote Decor said...

James's comment made me feel better. I loved the tour, but the Betty and Veronica, Etch A Sketch comment sent me back to a wonderful time and place in life. I think we should have an Etch A Sketch contest! I used to be a master!!

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