Still Faithful

The sprawling inn that is the heart and soul of Yellowstone National Park has just achieved its hundredth birthday—thanks in large part to a few dedicated employees and specialists determined to keep it safe

ON SEPTEMBER 7, 1988, the area around old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park looked like Hell. The North Fork Fire, which had been burning since July and would ultimately torch a half-million acres, had arrived at the park’s most famous landmark. On most late-summer days, tourists would be milling around, waiting for the geyser’s next eruption. Now the remaining visitors and park employees were under fiery siege, as was the 84-year-old Old Faithful Inn. Would the famous hotel survive the onrushing inferno?

 
 
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The Adventure Craze

MORE AND MORE AMERICANS ARE PAYING A LOT OF MONEY TO PUT THEMSELVES IN MORTAL DANGER. WHY? AND WHY NOW?

At 14,411 feet Mount Rainier with its 26 glaciers stands a magnificent mile above the mountains that surround it. I first saw it some 30 years ago, when I was making a tour of the far West with my family. We drove north from California specifically to visit it and stay in Paradise Inn, which sits high up on the slopes next to the vast alpine Paradise Meadow. It was July, and we knew the meadows would be in flower.

 
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How The Wilderness Was Won

Skirmishing about environmentalism may well continue forever, but the major war is over. It lasted far longer than most people realize.

One of this century’s profound cultural transformations began in the 1960s, when ecological thought took hold and fostered a new seriousness toward earth stewardship. But what happened then was really a transition. Present-day environmentalism represents an elaboration of core ideas developed far earlier by American conservationists, especially the seminal concepts and plans of the two Presidents Roosevelt and their allies.Read more »

The Last Rebel Ground

From Richmond to Appomattox Court House, roads unchanged for 140 years tell the story of the final days, the final hours of the Confederacy

It’s hardly more than the size of your bedroom, half of it living quarters, the rest the office. “What about a bathroom?” I ask National Parks Ranger Tracy Chernault.

 

It’s hardly more than the size of your bedroom, half of it living quarters, the rest the office. “What about a bathroom?” I ask National Parks Ranger Tracy Chernault. Read more »

Yellowstone Through The Back Door

Hidden in the park’s southwest corner,the lightly visited Bechler district offers a two-hundred-square-mile wilderness of meadows, hot springs, fantastic rock formations, and an unparalleled abundance of waterfalls

When William Gregg, a manufacturer and national parks enthusiast from Hackensack, New Jersey, visited Yellowstone National Park in 1920, his initial impressions were much like those many visitors take away today. “The tourist automobiles are now so thick on the park road that the superintendent has to establish one-way-street traffic regulations,” he reported in an article for The Saturday Evening Post . “And the designated camping grounds are so inadequate that often the auto canipevs find themselves huddled uncomfortably. Read more »

If Lewis And Clark Came Back Today

AFTER THREE TIMES traveling the trail they blazed, the author imagines what the two captains of Jefferson’s Corps of Discovery would make of the civilization we have built on the tremendous promise they offered

 

In the Spring of 1804, in a heavily loaded keelboat and two oversize canoes, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and nearly four dozen men crossed the Mississippi River and started up the Missouri, fighting its muddy, insistent current. Sent by President Thomas Jefferson, they were embarkins on the United States’s first official exploration into unknown territory, launching a legacy that reaches all the way to the modern space program. Read more »

Offerings At The Wall

FOR MORE THAN A DECADE NOW, TENS OF THOUSANDS OF AMERICANS HAVE BEEN LEAVING LETTERS AND SNAPSHOTS, CIGARETTES AND CLOTHING AND BEER FOR THEIR FRIENDS, LOVERS, AND PARENTS WHO NEVER MADE IT BACK FROM VIETNAM

The faces of the American Dead in Vietnam” was Life magazine’s cover story on June 27, 1969. Photographs and brief biographies of the 242 Americans killed in action during one week, from May 28 to June 3, marched on for pages. When the issue appeared, American troop strength in Vietnam was at an all-time high; President Richard M. Nixon had begun the secret bombing of Cambodia in March, and just days before press time he had announced plans to withdraw twenty-five thousand troops from Southeast Asia. Read more »

The Selling Of Libby Prison

This isn’t the first time a Virginia governor has found himself embroiled in controversy about the commercialization of a Civil War site

WHEN THE CIVIL War ended, a second fierce and divisive conflict began, fought on the same battlefields but over a different issue: not political secession but the commercial development of the battlefields themselves. The Civil War took four years to come to a conclusion that was nothing if not decisive; its successor has raged for more than a century, and the controversy that erupted earlier this year over the proposed Disney’s America theme park in Virginia suggests that its Appomattox is nowhere in sight.Read more »

Tales Of A Gettysburg Guide

Alone among all American battlefields, the scene of the Civil War’s costliest encounter is patrolled by government-licensed historians who keep alive for visitors the memory of what happened there

Like his father, his grandfather, and his great-grandfather before him, Dave was a Michigan farmer. His great-grandfather had emigrated from Poland in 1X61, briefly worked in the Detroit area, then enlisted in the 24th Michigan. Months later, at the Battle of Gettysburg, Dave’s great-grandfather saw his regiment shot to pieces. On McPhcrson Ridge the black-hatted men of the 24th fought the 26th North Carolina Regiment to a standstill, but at dusk only ninety-nine of the nearly five hundred men of the 24th remained.Read more »

The Double Life Of Hot Springs

Its waters were so precious it was made a federal preserve in 1832. Ever since, it has been both a lavish spa for the robust and an infirmary for the frail.

The fifty-five-mile drive south and west from Little Rock on U.S. 70 leads into oak-and hickory-covered hills known as the Zig Zag Mountains. Road cuts reveal the great folds of sandstone and novaculite underlying this terrain, ancient seabeds, compacted and pushed upward in tightly arching swales, then eroded down to these steep ridges of the most resistant rock.Read more »