Presently we heard it beyond us on the other side of the creek, which was pretty good proof that the creature had wings. So off we started across a small, open, snow-streaked plain, toward the woods beyond it. We soon decided that the bird was on the top of one of a group of tall spruces. After much skipping about over logs and rocks, and much craning of our necks, we made him out on the peak of a spruce. I imitated his call, when he turned his head down toward us, but we could not make out what he was.
So off he went like a boy, and was very soon back with the glasses. We quickly made out that it was indeed an owl,—the pigmy owl, as it turned out,—not much larger than a bluebird. I think the President was as pleased as if we had bagged some big game. He had never seen the bird before. One of the reasons you need to read the full PDF is this story. The heart of it is that Mr. Burroughs and Mr. Roosevelt while on their camping trip once tired out a group of about Elk.
At the brow of the hill he stopped, and I soon joined him. There on the top, not fifty yards away, stood the elk in a mass, their heads toward us and their tongues hanging out. They could run no farther. The President laughed like a boy. The spectacle meant much more to him than it did to me. I had never seen a wild elk till on this trip, but they had been among the notable game that he had hunted. Now here stood scores of them, with lolling tongues, begging for mercy.
Not only did the two men experience the marvelous wonders of the wildlife, they also got to experience first hand the miraculous power of nature. Water, Wind, these are two awesome sources of life and energy. They can also be a massively destructive and geographically altering force as well. Burroughs describes their beauty and their force as exact as anybody has ever said.
Camping with President Theodore Roosevelt
At the Falls there were two or three of these columns, like the picket-pins of the elder gods. There was no National Geographic or Discovery Channel back in those days to show what nature was like. One side of his face was half shaved, and the other side lathered. So on he came, accoutred as he was,—coatless, hatless, but not latherless, nor towelless. I think the President was the most pleased of us all; he laughed with the delight of it, and quite forgot his need of a hat and coat till I sent for them.
That was just the kind of man Theodore Roosevelt was though. You would of had a better chance trying to rope a Mountain Lion than to keep him on a leash.
Burroughs tells the story of one night towards the end of their journey while they were back at Fort Yellowstone of the president sleeping with open windows and no security on guard. The night was cold, but neither of us suffered from the abundance of fresh air. The caretaker of the building was a big Swede called Andy. One of the more mind blowing stories of this whole piece is the story Mr.
Old Yellowstone: President Theodore Roosevelt's Trip - Yellowstone Insider
Burroughs recounts of an experience while on their camping trips when one of the horsemen suddenly died from a heart attack. Did this stop them, no. After all, what could they really do about it but carry on. To President Roosevelt and his camping party though, it was a minor side-note to the greater adventure. It was a great shock to us all.
A Grand Tour
I never saw a better man with a team than he was. I had ridden on the seat beside him all the day previous. As I did so, I saw the President, accompanied by one of the teamsters, walking hurriedly toward the barn to pay his last respects to the body of Marvin. After we had returned to Mammoth Hot Springs, he made inquiries for the young woman to whom he had been told that Marvin was engaged to be married.
He looked her up, and sat a long time with her in her home, offering his sympathy, and speaking words of consolation. The act shows the depth and breadth of his humanity.
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Camping With President Roosevelt is truly a insight into how people of that time lived. They were adventurers, explorers, true pioneers of their times. It is mind boggling to think of how far removed we are from the people of these times.
The modern day luxuries of our time has undoubtedly softened our souls and made us weaker and our world smaller. This great country we live in was founded by men and women like this. In the woods there were mountain chickadees and pygmy nuthatches, together with an occasional woodpecker. The President wanted all the freedom and solitude possible while in the Park, so all newspaper men and other strangers were excluded.
Even the secret service men and his physician and private secretaries were left at Gardiner. He craved once more to be alone with nature; he was evidently hungry for the wild and the aboriginal,—a hunger that seems to come upon him regularly at least once a year, and drives him forth on his hunting trip for big game in the West. In the midst of the trip, one rumor circulated that Roosevelt had shot a mountain lion while in the Park—a rumor that made it into The New York Times. The paper later published a clarification. The President needs a new press agent.
Roosevelt did kill in the Park though: while riding toward Fountain Hotel, Roosevelt reportedly jumped from a stagecoach and scooped up a field mouse—giddy that it might be a new species. Alas, while the specimen Microtus nanus was new to the Park, it was not new to the taxonomic record. It was a hugely important time, one year before reelection, after a shocking assassination ushered him into the Presidency.
It was politically useful for Roosevelt to be making the rounds and firmly establishing a platform through practice something he was long accustomed to but, as Burroughs notes, the Park also offered him he rather needed: respite. Although there was respite, there was no rest. Roosevelt and company had a jam-packed schedule, camping throughout the Park, traveling the geyser basins by sleigh, as the snow was rather thick.
In front of the hotel were some low hills separated by gentle valleys. We had only to stand up straight, and let gravity do the rest. As we were going swiftly down the side of one of the hills, I saw out of the corner of my eye the President was taking a header into the snow.
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The snow had given way beneath him, and nothing could save him from taking the plunge. I kept straight on, and very soon the laugh was on me, for the treacherous snow sank beneath me, and I took a header, too.