Posts Tagged ‘Indian dances’

Covered Wagon Journal 4

February 22nd, 2010

Covered Wagon Journal 4

From the Summer 1955 Journal of Travels Through Western National Parks

By Philip Hyde

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 3” For an introduction to what the Covered Wagon is see “Covered Wagon Journal 1“)

(See photograph full screen: Click Here.)

Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana, 1955, by Philip Hyde, made on the summer ’55 ‘covered wagon’ trip.

August 7. After dinner and preparations at the roadhead for the High Trip that begins tomorrow we drive back to the Indian Village to see the dances we missed last night. In front of us, as we are seated, is the dance platform. Behind the platform is a semi-circle of white tepees. Beyond, in the distance, the peaks of the Tetons stand silhouetted against the twilight sky. Mr. Laubin begins the program, performing symbolic dedication ceremonies as a medicine man, lighting the small campfires around the edges of the platform. During the next hour, we watch a procession of beautifully done dances, ranging from the stately Dance of the Chiefs, to the amusing Prairie Chicken Dance, and the exceptional virtuosity of the Hoop Dance. Some of the dances are solos by Mr. Laubin. Often he is joined by Mrs. Laubin and several of their Indian Troupe.

August 8. A 4:30 a.m. rising began this first day of the Teton High Trip. Our walk has taken us through meadows filled with wildflowers and through occasional woods of the bright-barked, shimmering-leaved aspens. Beneath the aspens is an almost continuous sea of blueberry bushes,  whose ripening berries slow us down. Our trail enters Death Canyon and follows the course of a stream, ending in a scramble to a limestone bench that commands a fine view of the Tetons.

August 12. Crossing over the high limestone ridge separating Alaska Basin from upper Cascade Canyon, we gained a spectacular view of the high peaks. The great fault-block from of the central Teton massif is readily distinguished from this vantage point. Descending to our next camp near the head of the canyon, we passed through an amazing variety of rocks, culminating in the vicinity of camp in the gneiss of the central Teton block, fantastically twisted and contorted. In the upper basin, we crossed a definite dividing line between the gray and rust-colored sedimentary and highly crystalline metamorphic rocks. This was probably the fault line, but is so weathered here it doesn’t look like a fault.

August 13. The mist has gone up from the face of the ground this morning, wreathing the Grand Teton in a translucent veil of mystery dispelled and returning in cycles. I am poised on the brink of the high ledge near our camp, recording on film the canyon below, as the mist rises and recedes, like a tide in an arm of the ocean, in ever new phases of undulation. Finally, the warmth of the rising sun dispels the mist and sends me back to camp for breakfast.

August 19. We climbed to the top of Mt. Helen, a slight eminence on the high slate ridge above our camp in Big Horn Basin. If it is an inferior peak, it commands a superior view of this part of Glacier National Park. The horizon, through 360 degrees, is filled with a profusion of peaks, many of them sheltering the frozen white forms of ice for which this park is named. Stepping up on the pile of rocks marking the summit, we surprised three ptarmigans, their white underbodies unmistakable in this typical ptarmigan habitat.

August 20. Climbing to Dawson Pass on our way to our next camp at Pitamikin Lake, the wind was cold and brisk. As we gained the exposed saddle of the pass, it took a maximum effort to stay on our feet. The sky to our west was an angry gray, with the wind tearing away pieces of cloud and hurling them at us. As we advanced around the rocky shoulder of Flinsch Peak, a beacon-like mass of broken, flat-sided pieces of sandstone and shale, the pieces of cloud were getting larger. At one point where the trail turned into a rocky gully, we halted to turn our faces out of the freezing wind and the sharp, wind-driven missiles of hail and sleet. For about four miles, the trail, grown faint with disuse, traverses high on the shoulders of Flinsch and Mt. Moran, offering superb views over a wide expanse of eastern Glacier National Park.

August 22. Leaving our last camp at Pitamakin Lake, we coasted down the canyon to its junction with Atlantic Creek Canyon, where we turned up for the ascent to Triple Divide Pass. Shortly after starting up the canyon, we realized we were no longer on a trail, but on a junior grade road. Apparently built by a small tractor, it must have been laid out by an engineer who had never walked on a trail, for it set a constant grade and maintained it for about three miles, studiously avoiding watering places. Aside from walking on a paved highway, I can imagine no more monotonous experience. And, as if to further demoralize us, we discovered half way up that there was an alternative, not shown on the hillside, we discovered that the other trail continued up the floor of the canyon, skirted the edge of a beautiful lake far below us, then made the switchback climb up the head of the canyon to the pass, weaving back and forth across the course of the small stream that cascaded down from the snowfields above the pass. When some of the park officials we met later spoke of a disappointing decrease in trail use in the park, I could not help wondering how much experience on that trail had contributed to the decrease. I hoped too, that the tendency, evidenced in many parks we visited during the summer, to place engineering and administrative efficiency over esthetic appreciation, would somehow be checked.

August 28. The light of the rising sun is just striking the great curve of Citadel Mountain that sweeps up from the shore of St. Mary Lake, as we turn our “covered wagon” westward, for the first time this summer, over Going-to-the-Sun Highway and on to Olympic National Park.

(CONTINUED IN BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 5“)

Covered Wagon Journal 3

February 16th, 2010

Covered Wagon Journal 3

Extracts from the Summer 1955 Journal of Travels Through the Western National Parks and Monuments. (Partly on freelance assignment from the Sierra Club)

By Philip Hyde

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 2” For an introduction to what the Covered Wagon is see “Covered Wagon Journal 1“)

Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 1983, by Philip Hyde. The Yellowstone River, a tributary to the Missouri River, is the longest undammed river in the lower 48 states.

July 16. At Hell’s Half Mile the water is so low that the beginning of the rapid is a waterfall of about six feet. Our party is scattered on the stream-side rocks to watch what proved to be the first successful folbot run of Hell’s Half Mile. The victors, Ray Simpson and Dave Allen, were properly feted when we reached camp, and each was presented a special medal of tin-can top with bread-wrapper laurel wreaths.

July 23. We have headed east into the Rocky Mountains from Dinosaur National Monument and are based for a few days at Georgetown, Colorado. Today, we have been up into the alpine country above Georgetown, winding through the Engelmann spruce forest on a dirt road that emerges above timberline onto a meadow whose upper limits are defined by the weathered wood walls of houses and stores. Mixed freely with the fields of blooming wildflowers are the blights of other years: abandoned mine buildings and random spaced mounds of tawny tailings. Beholding such a scene, I cannot help thinking how much of this I’ve seen in the Rockies. And, I cannot help but reflect on the good fortune of Sierrans, that an accident of geography kept our high country clean. A benevolent providence placed our gold-bearing ores on the flanks of the foothills rather than on the crest, so we may enjoy both the color of the old mines and the inspiration of high-country wilderness left intact.

July 25. The air is perfectly still as we watch the sun change the hues of the distant wall of the Wind River Range. Our camp is just north of the celebrated old South Pass by which so many emigrants crossed the Continental Divide in their covered wagons. As we crawl into our bunks in our own rubber-tired covered wagon, we can imagine we see a faint line of dust rising on the horizon.

July 26. Yellowstone-bound, we stop to watch two trumpeter swans with three young in a slough of the marsh in Jackson Hole Wildlife Refuge. Beyond them in the distance, looking at first like sticks, are a pair of sandhill cranes.

July 27. After evading at least a half dozen tourist traps the mother bears have set up along the south-entrance highway. Continuing beyond them, we arrived at Old Faithful, just in time for a playing of the geyser. We had come to Yellowstone National Park almost reluctantly, not expecting to enjoy it much because of the usual summer crowds. But something happened to the mood of the place while we were waiting for Old Faithful to play. It began as we looked around at the eager, expectant faces and built up as we began to hear a naturalist giving his introductory talk: even the public-address system became a benign presence, as we realized that we were hearing the pure gospel of conservation preached to this multitude. By the time the geyser had reached its full height, we were transformed by its sermon. Even in a crowd, its radiance glowed undimmed, and, through some kind of magic, that experience set the tone for the rest of our stay in Yellowstone.

July 29. At the suggestion of a naturalist at Mammoth Hot Springs, we took the old road part of the way to Tower Junction from Mammoth, Wyoming. Traffic had been heavy when we turned off the highway, but we met no cars during the hour and a half we spent driving leisurely down this dirt-road entrance to the Yellowstone wilderness. Even the six pronghorn antelope we came upon seemed a bit surprised to see us.

Though there are so many complaints of overcrowding in Yellowstone National Park, the wilderness is still just beyond the highway, as few visitors go far from the parking lots. The loop highway has become a slow-motion race track, with many visitors making the 160-mile circuit in one day. Many of them refuse to walk even a few yards from their cars to see a geyser or the Terraces.

July 31. A mile away from the parking lot the Black Dragon’s Cauldron bubbles and hisses, and sends its “eruptions” of charcoal-gray mud 30 to 50 feet into the air. It is the more interesting when you learn that it suddenly appeared in the middle of the forest, in 1948. Since then, it has gradually killed the forest around it, encasing living trees in the dark mud until they are suffocated.

August 6. We have been sitting around a fire, quite comfortable, in a tepee of Teton Indian Village, near Jackson, Wyoming. The rain which beats on the canvas slopes of the tepee forced cancellation of the Indian dance tonight. Mr. and Mrs. Reginald Laubin, well-known interpreters of Indian dance, and long-time students of Indian life and culture, are sitting opposite us, telling us about some of the authentic Indian objects with which the tepee is furnished. They have introduced us to some of their Indian friends who dance with them. Red Robin, a Zuni artist now living in New York, is seated next to Mr. Old Man, a large man, whose twinkling eyes betray his good nature. Next to him is his wife; then Mr. Good Friday and his wife. The Old Mans and the Good Fridays are Arapaho Indians. There is continuing good-natured banter as we begin to play the old Indian hand game. We are divided into two groups, each group appointing a “guesser” and a “hider.” One side takes the ring, and the “hider” will conceal it in one of his hands. The other side’s “guesser” will try to determine which hand has the ring, and Mr. Old Man beats accompaniment with a small hand drum. In the lulls after a guess, the Indians tell jokes, usually making the white man the butt of them. When we leave, after Mr. Old an has sung us several songs in Arapaho, we remember that we didn’t get to see the dances.

August 7. After dinner and preparations at the roadhead for the High Trip that begins tomorrow we drive back to the Indian Village to see the dances we missed last night…

(CONTINUED IN BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 4“)