On certain portions of our globe Almighty God has set a special imprint of divinity. The Alps, the Pyrenees, the Mexican volcanoes, the solemn grandeur of Norwegian fjords, the sacred Mountain of Japan, and the sublimity of India's Himalayas—at different epochs in a life of travel — have filled my soul with awe and admiration. But now there ranks with these forever-more in my remembrance the country of the Yellow-stone. Two thirds across this continent, hidden away in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, eight thousand feet above the level of the sea, there lies a marvelous section' of our earth, about one-half as large as the State of Connecticut. On three sides this is guarded by lofty, well-nigh inaccessible mountains, as though the Infinite Himself would not allow mankind to rashly enter its sublime enclosure.
In this respect our Government has wisely imitated the Creator. It has pro-claimed to all the world the sanctity of this peculiar area. It has received it as a gift from God and, as His trustee, holds it for the welfare of humanity. We, then, as citizens of the United States, are its possessors and its guardians. It is our National Park. Yet, although easy of access, most of us let the years go by without exploring it! How little we realize what a treasure we possess is proven by the fact that, until recently, the majority of tourists here were foreigners ! I thought my previous store of memories was rich, but to have added to it the recollections of the Yellowstone will give a greater happiness to life while life shall last. Day after day, yes, hour after hour, within the girdle of its snow-capped peaks I looked upon a constant series of stupendous sights — a blending of the beautiful and terrible, the strange and the sublime—which were, moreover, so peculiar that they stand out distinct and different from those of every other portion of our earth.
To call our National Park the "Switzerland of America" would be absurd. It is not Switzerland ; it is not Iceland; it is not Norway; it is unique; and the unique cannot be coin-pared. If I were asked to describe it in a dozen lines, I should call it the arena of an enormous amphitheatre. It's architect was Nature ; the gladiators that contended in it were volcanoes. During unnumbered ages those gladiators struggled to surpass one another in destruction by pouring forth great floods of molten lava. Even now the force which animated them still shows itself in other forms, but harmlessly, much as a captive serpent hisses though its fangs are drawn. But the volcanoes give no sign of life. They are dead actors in a fearful tragedy performed here countless centuries before the advent of mankind, with this entire region for a stage, and for their only audience the sun and stars.
I shall never forget our entrance into this theatre of sub-lime phenomena. The Pullman car, in which we had taken our places at St. Paul, had carried us in safety more than a thousand miles and had left us at the gateway of the park. Before us was a portion of the road, eight miles in length, which leads the tourist to the Mammoth Springs Hotel. On one side an impetuous river shouted a welcome as we rode along. Above us rose gray, desolate cliffs. They are volcanic in their origin. The brand of fire is on them all. They are symbolic, therefore, of the entire park; for fire and water are the two great forces here which have, for ages, struggled for supremacy.
No human being dwells upon those dreary crags, but at one point, as I looked up at them, I saw — poised statue-like above a mighty pinnacle of rock — a solitary eagle. Pausing, with outstretched wings above its nest, it seemed to look disdainfully upon us human pygmies crawling far below. Living at such a height, in voluntary isolation, that king of birds appeared the very embodiment of strength and majesty. Call it a touch of superstition, if you will, yet I confess it thrilled me to the heart to find that here, above the very entrance to the Wonderland of our Republic, there should be stationed midway between earth and heaven, like a watchful sentinel our national bird, — the bird of freedom!