On my last evening in the pine tree camp I left my tent and walked alone to the edge of the Grand Canon. The night was white with the splendor of the moon. A shimmering lake of silvery vapor rolled its noiseless tide against the mountains, and laved the terraces of the Hindu shrines. The lunar radiance, falling into such profundity, was powerless to reveal the plexus of subordinate canons, and even the temples glimmered through the upper air like wraiths of the huge forms which they reveal by day. Advancing cautiously to an isolated point upon the brink, I lay upon my face, and peered down into the spectral void. No voice of man, nor cry of bird, nor roar of beast resounded through those awful corridors of silence. Even thought had no existence in that sunken realm of chaos. I felt as if I were the sole survivor of the deluge. Only the melancholy murmur of the wind ascended from that sepulchre of centuries. It seemed the requiem for a vanished world.
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—had filled my soul with awe and admiration. But, since the summer of 1896, there has been ranked with these in my remembrance the country of the Yellowstone. 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 proclaimed 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.