So, sure, I’m doing it. I’ve got this hero western artist and a rough and tough cowgirl who thinks he’s an idiot, sweet though, and gorgeous and for some reason she keeps turning to him…
Anyway, so I’m in love with the idea and I set out to write the book, as I often do, and began researching as I went along.
Well, I read and read and wrote and wrote and about a week ago, when my book hit the halfway point, I finally found the definitive book on Yellowstone.
The Yellowstone Story: A History of our First National Park. Volumes One and Two.
Yes, volumes one and two.
It goes through alllllllllllllllllll the details.
What was really fascinating, beyond just the details was how precise it all was.
I mean this guy followed every thread, hunted through every old newspaper archive, like back to the Lewis and Clark expedition, very intensive, exacting work.
Some interesting things I found. Lewis and Clark didn’t go into Yellowstone, they missed it by about one hundred miles. But a member of their party, John Colter, who went back east as far as the Mandan Village in North Dakota, turned around with another group and went back west. He must have liked it in the wild.
In mid-August 1806, Colter was granted an early discharge from the Corps to become a fur trapper. Lewis and Clark agreed to let Colter leave the party as long as the other Corps members agreed to continue to St. Louis to be discharged. The men agreed, and Colter respectfully parted from the Corps.
Colter is credited with being the first white man to enter what is now Yellowstone National Park. In describing the geysers and other geothermal phenomena, it became known as “Colter’s Hell.” He eventually became a heroic figure among the trappers, traders, and mountain men who settled the American West.
And here’s what’s REALLY interesting about his tales of geysers and boiling mud and steaming hot springs…no one believed him. True. People considered Yellowstone to be a fable for decades.
Another early traveler to Yellowstone is Jim Bridger. Jim Bridger came out of his western wandering with stories of about the geysers. Unfortunately he also talked about a “peetrified forest” in which there were “peetrified birds” singing “peetrified songs” He was so famous for his tall tales that guess what? When he talked about a geyser that shot off every hour on the hour…no one believed him.
There were several more explorations planned but the Civil War came along and stopped it. Try to imagine this. Colter came out of that place around the turn of the century. 1809 or so. Now it’s almost sixty years later and still no one has managed to get into this place. It was cold, people joked that there was one month of summer. The passes snow shut. They still do, even with Caterpiller snow plows. Yellowstone is closed most of the year, though I found snow mobile trips you can take. But back then, to be trapped inside Yellowstone in the winter…was to die.
It snowed up there, often even in August and the nights got dangerously cold many times in the summer.
Finally, with the Civil War over, there was a very well organized expedition to Yellowstone in 1869 called the Folsom/Cook expedition. Once he returned from his journey, Folsom refused to relate the experiences publically because he thought nobody would believe him. That’s right, he talked of it privately but not publicly, for fear he’d be labeled a liar.
However, those who knew Folsom well, believed him and credited him with the inspiration needed to organize the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition in 1870.
And finally a group went in and came out with enough proof to be believed. They took a photographer and a painter along. An interesting side note, the photographer lived in Chicago and he went home to get his pictures in order…and they all burned up in the Chicago fire, with a very few exceptions. So the photographic evidence was lost.
So, here’s where my story gets tricky. It’s part of a series, which means I’m pretty well bound by the dates my story can happen. It has to be around 1880.
So I’m 50,000 words into my 100,000 word story when I realize that in 1880 the Northern Pacific Railroad built a depot near the entrance to Yellowstone Park and guess what? My remote, treacherous, beautiful park…had five thousand visitors…and a tent city right next to Old Faithful.
So, fine. Now I’ve got an artist…what? Just hangin’ around in the mountains? If I put him in Yellowstone, I’m going to have to rewrite the whole thing to account for the crowd. If I move him out of Yellowstone I can still use most of what I’ve written but why would he be hanging around the mountains? Why would she just happen upon him?
Don’t worry. I thought of a reason. Trust me. And after all this research they might just wander down to have a look around Yellowstone, too.
So has anyone been there? I haven’t, which made this all harder because I have zero personal information. What was it like?
I found out last week that my romantic comedy with cowboys, Calico Canyon is a finalist for a Christy Award, the premier (I promise that’s what they said) award for Christian Fiction. I’m pretty excited about it.
And, I’m going to be in Grand Rapids, Michigan doing a book signing at several area book stores. Details here. If you’re from the area come on by.
Click on the book cover to purchase