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Transcribed by Judy Gibson, of Descanso, California, USA,
from a book in the collection of the San Diego Natural History Museum,
used by the courtesy of the San Diego Society of Natural History.

Steep Trails

California-Utah-Nevada-Washington-Oregon-The Grand Canyon


John Muir


The papers brought together in this volume have, in a general way,
been arranged in chronological sequence. They span a period of
twenty-nine years of Muir's life, during which they appeared as
letters and articles, for the most part in publications of limited and
local circulation. The Utah and Nevada sketches, and the two San
Gabriel papers, were contributed, in the form of letters, to the San
Francisco Evening Bulletin toward the end of the seventies. Written
in the field, they preserve the freshness of the author's first
impressions of those regions. Much of the material in the chapters on
Mount Shasta first took similar shape in 1874. Subsequently it was
rewritten and much expanded for inclusion in Picturesque California,
and the Region West of the Rocky Mountains, which Muir began to edit
in 1888. In the same work appeared the description of Washington and
Oregon. The charming little essay "Wild Wool" was written for the
Overland Monthly in 1875. "A Geologist's Winter Walk" is an extract
from a letter to a friend, who, appreciating its fine literary
quality, took the responsibility of sending it to the Overland Monthly
without the author's knowledge. The concluding chapter on "The Grand
Canyon of the Colorado" was published in the Century Magazine in 1902,
and exhibits Muir's powers of description at their maturity.

Some of these papers were revised by the author during the later years
of his life, and these revisions are a part of the form in which they
now appear. The chapters on Mount Shasta, Oregon, and Washington will
be found to contain occasional sentences and a few paragraphs that
were included, more or less verbatim, in The Mountains of California
and Our National Parks. Being an important part of their present
context, these paragraphs could not be omitted without impairing the
unity of the author's descriptions.

The editor feels confident that this volume will meet, in every way,
the high expectations of Muir's readers. The recital of his
experiences during a stormy night on the summit of Mount Shasta will
take rank among the most thrilling of his records of adventure. His
observations on the dead towns of Nevada, and on the Indians gathering
their harvest of pine nuts, recall a phase of Western life that has
left few traces in American literature. Many, too, will read with
pensive interest the author's glowing description of what was one time
called the New Northwest. Almost inconceivably great have been the
changes wrought in that region during the past generation. Henceforth
the landscapes that Muir saw there will live in good part only in his
writings, for fire, axe, plough, and gunpowder have made away with the
supposedly boundless forest wildernesses and their teeming life.

William Frederic Bade

Berkeley, California

May, 1918



I. Wild Wool
II. A Geologist's Winter Walk
III. Summer Days at Mount Shasta
IV. A Perilous Night on Shasta's Summit
V. Shasta Rambles and Modoc Memories
VI. The City of the Saints
VII. A Great Storm in Utah
VIII. Bathing in Salt Lake
IX. Mormon Lilies
X. The San Gabriel Valley
XI. The San Gabriel Mountains
XII. Nevada Farms
XIII. Nevada Forests
XIV. Nevada's Timber Belt
XV. Glacial Phenomena in Nevada
XVI. Nevada's Dead Towns
XVII. Puget Sound
XVIII. The Forests of Washington
XIX. People and Towns of Puget Sound
XX. An Ascent of Mount Rainier
XXI. The Physical and Climatic Characteristics of Oregon
XXII. The Forests of Oregon and Their Inhabitants
XXIII. The Rivers of Oregon
XXIV. The Grand Canyon of the Colorado


The Crest of the Wahsatch Range
From a point about four miles north of Salt Lake City, Utah.
From a photograph by Herbert W. Gleason

At Shasta Soda Springs
A view of Mossbrae Falls, where a subterranean stream coming
down from the glaciers of Mt. Shasta breaks through the
vegetation and flows into the Sacramento River.
From a photograph by Herbert W. Gleason

Mount Shasta after a Snowstorm
A view from the west, near Sisson.
From a photograph by Pillsbury's Pictures, Inc.

Mormon Lilies
The plant is known in Utah as the Sego Lily, and in California
and elsewhere as the Mariposa Tulip (Calochortus Nuttallii).
From a photograph by Herbert W. Gleason

Along the Oregon Sea Bluffs
A view near the town of Ecola, Oregon.
From a photograph by Herbert W. Gleason

O'Neill's Point
A favorite point of observation overlooking the Grand Canyon
Of Arizona. Now called by the Indian name, Yavapai Point.
From a photograph by Herbert W. Gleason



Moral improvers have calls to preach. I have a friend who has a call
to plough, and woe to the daisy sod or azalea thicket that falls under
the savage redemption of his keen steel shares. Not content with the
so-called subjugation of every terrestrial bog, rock, and moorland, he
would fain discover some method of reclamation applicable to the ocean
and the sky, that in due calendar time they might be brought to bud
and blossom as the rose. Our efforts are of no avail when we seek to
turn his attention to wild roses, or to the fact that both ocean and
sky are already about as rosy as possible--the one with stars, the
other with dulse, and foam, and wild light. The practical
developments of his culture are orchards and clover-fields wearing a
smiling, benevolent aspect, truly excellent in their way, though a
near view discloses something barbarous in them all. Wildness charms
not my friend, charm it never so wisely: and whatsoever may be the
character of his heaven, his earth seems only a chaos of agricultural
possibilities calling for grubbing-hoes and manures.

Sometimes I venture to approach him with a plea for wildness, when he
good-naturedly shakes a big mellow apple in my face, reiterating his
favorite aphorism, "Culture is an orchard apples; Nature is a crab."
Not all culture, however, is equally destructive and inappreciative.
Azure skies and crystal waters find loving recognition, and few there
be who would welcome the axe among mountain pines, or would care to
apply any correction to the tones and costumes of mountain waterfalls.
Nevertheless, the barbarous notion is almost universally entertained
by civilized man, that there is in all the manufactures of Nature
something essentially coarse which can and must be eradicated by human
culture. I was, therefore, delighted in finding that the wild wool
growing upon mountain sheep in the neighborhood of Mount Shasta was
much finer than the average grades of cultivated wool. This FINE
discovery was made some three months ago[1], while hunting among the
Shasta sheep between Shasta and Lower Klamath Lake. Three fleeces
were obtained--one that belonged to a large ram about four years old,
another to a ewe about the same age, and another to a yearling lamb.
After parting their beautiful wool on the side and many places along
the back, shoulders, and hips, and examining it closely with my lens,
I shouted: "Well done for wildness! Wild wool is finer than tame!"

My companions stooped down and examined the fleeces for themselves,
pulling out tufts and ringlets, spinning them between their fingers,
and measuring the length of the staple, each in turn paying tribute to
wildness. It WAS finer, and no mistake; finer than Spanish Merino.
Wild wool IS finer than tame.

"Here," said I, "is an argument for fine wildness that needs no
explanation. Not that such arguments are by any means rare, for all
wildness is finer than tameness, but because fine wool is appreciable
by everybody alike--from the most speculative president of national
wool-growers' associations all the way down to the gude-wife spinning
by her ingleside."

Nature is a good mother, and sees well to the clothing of her many
bairns--birds with smoothly imbricated feathers, beetles with shining
jackets, and bears with shaggy furs. In the tropical south, where the
sun warms like a fire, they are allowed to go thinly clad; but in the
snowy northland she takes care to clothe warmly. The squirrel has
socks and mittens, and a tail broad enough for a blanket; the grouse
is densely feathered down to the ends of his toes; and the wild sheep,
besides his undergarment of fine wool, has a thick overcoat of hair
that sheds off both the snow and the rain. Other provisions and
adaptations in the dresses of animals, relating less to climate than
to the more mechanical circumstances of life, are made with the same
consummate skill that characterizes all the love work of Nature.
Land, water, and air, jagged rocks, muddy ground, sand beds, forests,
underbrush, grassy plains, etc., are considered in all their possible
combinations while the clothing of her beautiful wildlings is
preparing. No matter what the circumstances of their lives may be,
she never allows them to go dirty or ragged. The mole, living always
in the dark and in the dirt, is yet as clean as the otter or the wave-washed seal; and our wild sheep, wading in snow, roaming through
bushes, and leaping among jagged storm-beaten cliffs, wears a dress so
exquisitely adapted to its mountain life that it is always found as
unruffled and stainless as a bird.

On leaving the Shasta hunting grounds I selected a few specimen tufts,
and brought them away with a view to making more leisurely
examinations; but, owing to the imperfectness of the instruments at my
command, the results thus far obtained must be regarded only as rough

As already stated, the clothing of our wild sheep is composed of fine
wool and coarse hair. The hairs are from about two to four inches
long, mostly of a dull bluish-gray color, though varying somewhat with
the seasons. In general characteristics they are closely related to
the hairs of the deer and antelope, being light, spongy, and elastic,
with a highly polished surface, and though somewhat ridged and
spiraled, like wool, they do not manifest the slightest tendency to
felt or become taggy. A hair two and a half inches long, which is
perhaps near the average length, will stretch about one fourth of an
inch before breaking. The diameter decreases rapidly both at the top
and bottom, but is maintained throughout the greater portion of the
length with a fair degree of regularity. The slender tapering point
in which the hairs terminate is nearly black: but, owing to its
fineness as compared with the main trunk, the quantity of blackness is
not sufficient to affect greatly the general color. The number of
hairs growing upon a square inch is about ten thousand; the number of
wool fibers is about twenty-five thousand, or two and a half times
that of the hairs. The wool fibers are white and glossy, and
beautifully spired into ringlets. The average length of the staple is
about an inch and a half. A fiber of this length, when growing
undisturbed down among the hairs, measures about an inch; hence the
degree of curliness may easily be inferred. I regret exceedingly that
my instruments do not enable me to measure the diameter of the fibers,
in order that their degrees of fineness might be definitely compared
with each other and with the finest of the domestic breeds; but that
the three wild fleeces under consideration are considerably finer than
the average grades of Merino shipped from San Francisco is, I think,

When the fleece is parted and looked into with a good lens, the skin
appears of a beautiful pale-yellow color, and the delicate wool fibers
are seen growing up among the strong hairs, like grass among stalks of
corn, every individual fiber being protected about as specially and
effectively as if inclosed in a separate husk. Wild wool is too fine
to stand by itself, the fibers being about as frail and invisible as
the floating threads of spiders, while the hairs against which they
lean stand erect like hazel wands; but, notwithstanding their great
dissimilarity in size and appearance, the wool and hair are forms of
the same thing, modified in just that way and to just that degree that
renders them most perfectly subservient to the well-being of the
sheep. Furthermore, it will be observed that these wild modifications
are entirely distinct from those which are brought chancingly into
existence through the accidents and caprices of culture; the former
being inventions of God for the attainment of definite ends. Like the
modifications of limbs--the fin for swimming, the wing for flying, the
foot for walking--so the fine wool for warmth, the hair for additional
warmth and to protect the wool, and both together for a fabric to wear
well in mountain roughness and wash well in mountain storms.

The effects of human culture upon wild wool are analogous to those
produced upon wild roses. In the one case there is an abnormal
development of petals at the expense of the stamens, in the other an
abnormal development of wool at the expense of the hair. Garden roses
frequently exhibit stamens in which the transmutation to petals may be
observed in various stages of accomplishment, and analogously the
fleeces of tame sheep occasionally contain a few wild hairs that are
undergoing transmutation to wool. Even wild wool presents here and
there a fiber that appears to be in a state of change. In the course
of my examinations of the wild fleeces mentioned above, three fibers
were found that were wool at one end and hair at the other. This,
however, does not necessarily imply imperfection, or any process of
change similar to that caused by human culture. Water lilies contain
parts variously developed into stamens at one end, petals at the
other, as the constant and normal condition. These half wool, half
hair fibers may therefore subserve some fixed requirement essential to
the perfection of the whole, or they may simply be the fine boundary-lines where and exact balance between the wool and the hair is

I have been offering samples of mountain wool to my friends, demanding
in return that the fineness of wildness be fairly recognized and
confessed, but the returns are deplorably tame. The first question
asked, is, "Now truly, wild sheep, wild sheep, have you any wool?"
while they peer curiously down among the hairs through lenses and
spectacles. "Yes, wild sheep, you HAVE wool; but Mary's lamb had
more. In the name of use, how many wild sheep, think you, would be
required to furnish wool sufficient for a pair of socks?" I endeavor
to point out the irrelevancy of the latter question, arguing that wild
wool was not made for man but for sheep, and that, however deficient
as clothing for other animals, it is just the thing for the brave
mountain-dweller that wears it. Plain, however, as all this appears,
the quantity question rises again and again in all its commonplace
tameness. For in my experience it seems well-nigh impossible to
obtain a hearing on behalf of Nature from any other standpoint than
that of human use. Domestic flocks yield more flannel per sheep than
the wild, therefore it is claimed that culture has improves upon
wildness; and so it has as far as flannel is concerned, but all to the
contrary as far as a sheep's dress is concerned. If every wild sheep
inhabiting the Sierra were to put on tame wool, probably only a few
would survive the dangers of a single season. With their fine limbs
muffled and buried beneath a tangle of hairless wool, they would
become short-winded, and fall an easy prey to the strong mountain
wolves. In descending precipices they would be thrown out of balance
and killed, by their taggy wool catching upon sharp points of rocks.
Disease would also be brought on by the dirt which always finds a
lodgment in tame wool, and by the draggled and water-soaked condition
into which it falls during stormy weather.

No dogma taught by the present civilization seems to form so
insuperable an obstacle in the way of a right understanding of the
relations which culture sustains to wildness as that which regards the
world as made especially for the uses of man. Every animal, plant,
and crystal controverts it in the plainest terms. Yet it is taught
from century to century as something ever new and precious, and in the
resulting darkness the enormous conceit is allowed to go unchallenged.

I have never yet happened upon a trace of evidence that seemed to show
that any one animal was ever made for another as much as it was made
for itself. Not that Nature manifests any such thing as selfish
isolation. In the making of every animal the presence of every other
animal has been recognized. Indeed, every atom in creation may be
said to be acquainted with and married to every other, but with
universal union there is a division sufficient in degree for the
purposes of the most intense individuality; no matter, therefore, what
may be the note which any creature forms in the song of existence, it
is made first for itself, then more and more remotely for all the
world and worlds.

Were it not for the exercise of individualizing cares on the part of
Nature, the universe would be felted together like a fleece of tame
wool. But we are governed more than we know, and most when we are
wildest. Plants, animals, and stars are all kept in place, bridled
along appointed ways, WITH one another, and THROUGH THE MIDST of one
another--killing and being killed, eating and being eaten, in
harmonious proportions and quantities. And it is right that we should
thus reciprocally make use of one another, rob, cook, and consume, to
the utmost of our healthy abilities and desires. Stars attract one
another as they are able, and harmony results. Wild lambs eat as many
wild flowers as they can find or desire, and men and wolves eat the
lambs to just the same extent.

This consumption of one another in its various modifications is a kind
of culture varying with the degree of directness with which it is
carried out, but we should be careful not to ascribe to such culture
any improving qualities upon those on whom it is brought to bear. The
water-ousel plucks moss from the riverbank to build its nest, but is
does not improve the moss by plucking it. We pluck feathers from
birds, and less directly wool from wild sheep, for the manufacture of
clothing and cradle-nests, without improving the wool for the sheep,
or the feathers for the bird that wore them. When a hawk pounces upon
a linnet and proceeds to pull out its feathers, preparatory to making
a meal, the hawk may be said to be cultivating the linnet, and he
certainly does effect an improvement as far as hawk-food is concerned;
but what of the songster? He ceases to be a linnet as soon as he is
snatched from the woodland choir; and when, hawklike, we snatch the
wild sheep from its native rock, and, instead of eating and wearing it
at once, carry it home, and breed the hair out of its wool and the
bones out of its body, it ceases to be a sheep.

These breeding and plucking processes are similarly improving as
regards the secondary uses aimed at; and, although the one requires
but a few minutes for its accomplishment, the other many years or
centuries, they are essentially alike. We eat wild oysters alive with
great directness, waiting for no cultivation, and leaving scarce a
second of distance between the shell and the lip; but we take wild
sheep home and subject them to the many extended processes of
husbandry, and finish by boiling them in a pot--a process which
completes all sheep improvements as far as man is concerned. It will
be seen, therefore, that wild wool and tame wool--wild sheep and tame
sheep--are terms not properly comparable, nor are they in any correct
sense to be considered as bearing any antagonism toward each other;
they are different things. Planned and accomplished for wholly
different purposes.

Illustrative examples bearing upon this interesting subject may be
multiplied indefinitely, for they abound everywhere in the plant and
animal kingdoms wherever culture has reached. Recurring for a moment
to apples. The beauty and completeness of a wild apple tree living
its own life in the woods is heartily acknowledged by all those who
have been so happy as to form its acquaintance. The fine wild
piquancy of its fruit is unrivaled, but in the great question of
quantity as human food wild apples are found wanting. Man, therefore,
takes the tree from the woods, manures and prunes and grafts, plans
and guesses, adds a little of this and that, selects and rejects,
until apples of every conceivable size and softness are produced, like
nut galls in response to the irritating punctures of insects. Orchard
apples are to me the most eloquent words that culture has ever spoken,
but they reflect no imperfection upon Nature's spicy crab. Every
cultivated apple is a crab, not improved, BUT COOKED, variously
softened and swelled out in the process, mellowed, sweetened, spiced,
and rendered pulpy and foodful, but as utterly unfit for the uses of
nature as a meadowlark killed and plucked and roasted. Give to Nature
every cultured apple--codling, pippin, russet--and every sheep so
laboriously compounded--muffled Southdowns, hairy Cotswolds, wrinkled
Merinos--and she would throw the one to her caterpillars, the other to
her wolves.

It is now some thirty-six hundred years since Jacob kissed his mother
and set out across the plains of Padan-aram to begin his experiments
upon the flocks of his uncle, Laban; and, notwithstanding the high
degree of excellence he attained as a wool-grower, and the innumerable
painstaking efforts subsequently made by individuals and associations
in all kinds of pastures and climates, we still seem to be as far from
definite and satisfactory results as we ever were. In one breed the
wool is apt to wither and crinkle like hay on a sun-beaten hillside.
In another, it is lodged and matted together like the lush tangled
grass of a manured meadow. In one the staple is deficient in length,
in another in fineness; while in all there is a constant tendency
toward disease, rendering various washings and dippings indispensable
to prevent its falling out. The problem of the quality and quantity
of the carcass seems to be as doubtful and as far removed from a
satisfactory solution as that of the wool. Desirable breeds blundered
upon by long series of groping experiments are often found to be
unstable and subject to disease--bots, foot rot, blind staggers, etc.
--causing infinite trouble, both among breeders and manufacturers.
Would it not be well, therefore, for some one to go back as far as
possible and take a fresh start?

The source or sources whence the various breeds were derived is not
positively known, but there can be hardly any doubt of their being
descendants of the four or five wild species so generally distributed
throughout the mountainous portions of the globe, the marked
differences between the wild and domestic species being readily
accounted for by the known variability of the animal, and by the long
series of painstaking selection to which all its characteristics have
been subjected. No other animal seems to yield so submissively to the
manipulations of culture. Jacob controlled the color of his flocks
merely by causing them to stare at objects of the desired hue; and
possibly Merinos may have caught their wrinkles from the perplexed
brows of their breeders. The California species (Ovis montana)[2] is a
noble animal, weighing when full-grown some three hundred and fifty
pounds, and is well worthy the attention of wool-growers as a point
from which to make a new departure, for pure wildness is the one great
want, both of men and of sheep.


A Geologist's Winter Walk[3]

After reaching Turlock, I sped afoot over the stubble fields and
through miles of brown hemizonia and purple erigeron, to Hopeton,
conscious of little more than that the town was behind and beneath me,
and the mountains above and before me; on through the oaks and
chaparral of the foothills to Coulterville; and then ascended the
first great mountain step upon which grows the sugar pine. Here I
slackened pace, for I drank the spicy, resiny wind, and beneath the
arms of this noble tree I felt that I was safely home. Never did pine
trees seem so dear. How sweet was their breath and their song, and
how grandly they winnowed the sky! I tingled my fingers among their
tassels, and rustled my feet among their brown needles and burrs, and
was exhilarated and joyful beyond all I can write.

When I reached Yosemite, all the rocks seemed talkative, and more
telling and lovable than ever. They are dear friends, and seemed to
have warm blood gushing through their granite flesh; and I love them
with a love intensified by long and close companionship. After I had
bathed in the bright river, sauntered over the meadows, conversed with
the domes, and played with the pines, I still felt blurred and weary,
as if tainted in some way with the sky of your streets. I determined,
therefore, to run out for a while to say my prayers in the higher
mountain temples. "The days are sunful," I said, "and, though now
winter, no great danger need be encountered, and no sudden storm will
block my return, if I am watchful."

The morning after this decision, I started up the canyon of Tenaya,
caring little about the quantity of bread I carried; for, I thought, a
fast and a storm and a difficult canyon were just the medicine I
needed. When I passed Mirror Lake, I scarcely noticed it, for I was
absorbed in the great Tissiack--her crown a mile away in the hushed
azure; her purple granite drapery flowing in soft and graceful folds
down to my feet, embroidered gloriously around with deep, shadowy
forest. I have gazed on Tissiack a thousand times--in days of solemn
storms, and when her form shone divine with the jewelry of winter, or
was veiled in living clouds; and I have heard her voice of winds, and
snowy, tuneful waters when floods were falling; yet never did her soul
reveal itself more impressively than now. I hung about her skirts,
lingering timidly, until the higher mountains and glaciers compelled
me to push up the canyon.

This canyon is accessible only to mountaineers, and I was anxious to
carry my barometer and clinometer through it, to obtain sections and
altitudes, so I chose it as the most attractive highway. After I had
passed the tall groves that stretch a mile above Mirror Lake, and
scrambled around the Tenaya Fall, which is just at the head of the
lake groves, I crept through the dense and spiny chaparral that
plushes the roots of the mountains here for miles in warm green, and
was ascending a precipitous rock front, smoothed by glacial action,
when I suddenly fell--for the first time since I touched foot to
Sierra rocks. After several somersaults, I became insensible from the
shock, and when consciousness returned I found myself wedged among
short, stiff bushes, trembling as if cold, not injured in the

Judging by the sun, I could not have been insensible very long;
probably not a minute, possibly an hour; and I could not remember what
made me fall, or where I had fallen from; but I saw that if I had
rolled a little further, my mountain climbing would have been
finished, for just beyond the bushes the canyon wall steepened and I
might have fallen to the bottom. "There," said I, addressing my feet,
to whose separate skill I had learned to trust night and day on any
mountain, "that is what you get by intercourse with stupid town
stairs, and dead pavements." I felt degraded and worthless. I had
not yet reached the most difficult portion of the canyon, but I
determined to guide my humbled body over the most nerve-trying places
I could find; for I was now awake, and felt confident that the last of
the town fog had been shaken from both head and feet.

I camped at the mouth of a narrow gorge which is cut into the bottom
of the main canyon, determined to take earnest exercise next day. No
plushy boughs did my ill-behaved bones enjoy that night, nor did my
bumped head get a spicy cedar plume pillow mixed with flowers. I
slept on a naked boulder, and when I awoke all my nervous trembling
was gone.

The gorged portion of the canyon, in which I spent all the next day,
is about a mile and a half in length; and I passed the time in tracing
the action of the forces that determined this peculiar bottom gorge,
which is an abrupt, ragged-walled, narrow-throated canyon, formed in
the bottom of the wide-mouthed, smooth, and beveled main canyon. I
will not stop now to tell you more; some day you may see it, like a
shadowy line, from Cloud's Rest. In high water, the stream occupies
all the bottom of the gorge, surging and chafing in glorious power
from wall to wall. But the sound of the grinding was low as I entered
the gorge, scarcely hoping to be able to pass through its entire
length. By cool efforts, along glassy, ice-worn slopes, I reached the
upper end in a little over a day, but was compelled to pass the second
night in the gorge, and in the moonlight I wrote you this short
pencil-letter in my notebook:--

The moon is looking down into the canyon, and how marvelously the
great rocks kindle to her light! Every dome, and brow, and
swelling boss touched by her white rays, glows as if lighted with
snow. I am now only a mile from last night's camp; and have been
climbing and sketching all day in this difficult but instructive
gorge. It is formed in the bottom of the main canyon, among the
roots of Cloud's Rest. It begins at the filled-up lake basin where
I camped last night, and ends a few hundred yards above, in another
basin of the same kind. The walls everywhere are craggy and
vertical, and in some places they overlean. It is only from twenty
to sixty feet wide, and not, though black and broken enough, the
thin, crooked mouth of some mysterious abyss; but it was eroded,
for in many places I saw its solid, seamless floor.

I am sitting on a big stone, against which the stream divides, and
goes brawling by in rapids on both sides; half of my rock is white
in the light, half in shadow. As I look from the opening jaws of
this shadowy gorge, South Dome is immediately in front--high in the
stars, her face turned from the moon, with the rest of her body
gloriously muffled in waved folds of granite. On the left,
sculptured from the main Cloud's Rest ridge, are three magnificent
rocks, sisters of the great South Dome. On the right is the
massive, moonlit front of Mount Watkins, and between, low down in
the furthest distance, is Sentinel Dome, girdled and darkened with
forest. In the near foreground Tenaya Creek is singing against
boulders that are white with snow and moonbeams. Now look back
twenty yards, and you will see a waterfall fair as a spirit; the
moonlight just touches it, bringing it into relief against a dark
background of shadow. A little to the left, and a dozen steps this
side of the fall, a flickering light marks my camp--and a precious
camp it is. A huge, glacier-polished slab, falling from the
smooth, glossy flank of Cloud's Rest, happened to settle on edge
against the wall of the gorge. I did not know that this slab was
glacier-polished until I lighted my fire. Judge of my delight. I
think it was sent here by an earthquake. It is about twelve feet
square. I wish I could take it home[4] for a hearthstone.
Beneath this slab is the only place in this torrent-swept gorge
where I could find sand sufficient for a bed.

I expected to sleep on the boulders, for I spent most of the
afternoon on the slippery wall of the canyon, endeavoring to get
around this difficult part of the gorge, and was compelled to
hasten down here for water before dark. I shall sleep soundly on
this sand; half of it is mica. Here, wonderful to behold, are a
few green stems of prickly rubus, and a tiny grass. They are here
to meet us. Ay, even here in this darksome gorge, "frightened and
tormented" with raging torrents and choking avalanches of snow.
Can it be? As if rubus and the grass leaf were not enough of God's
tender prattle words of love, which we so much need in these mighty
temples of power, yonder in the "benmost bore" are two blessed
adiantums. Listen to them! How wholly infused with God is this
one big word of love that we call the world! Good-night. Do you
see the fire-glow on my ice-smoothed slab, and on my two ferns and
the rubus and grass panicles? And do you hear how sweet a sleep-
song the fall and cascades are singing?

The water-ground chips and knots that I found fastened between the
rocks kept my fire alive all through the night. Next morning I rose
nerved and ready for another day of sketching and noting, and any form
of climbing. I escaped from the gorge about noon, after accomplishing
some of the most delicate feats of mountaineering I ever attempted;
and here the canyon is all broadly open again--the floor luxuriantly
forested with pine, and spruce, and silver fir, and brown-trunked
libocedrus. The walls rise in Yosemite forms, and Tenaya Creek comes
down seven hundred feet in a white brush of foam. This is a little
Yosemite valley. It is about two thousand feet above the level of the
main Yosemite, and about twenty-four hundred below Lake Tenaya.

I found the lake frozen, and the ice was so clear and unruffled that
the surrounding mountains and the groves that look down upon it were
reflected almost as perfectly as I ever beheld them in the calm
evening mirrors of summer. At a little distance, it was difficult to
believe the lake frozen at all; and when I walked out on it,
cautiously stamping at short intervals to test the strength of the
ice, I seemed to walk mysteriously, without adequate faith, on the
surface of the water. The ice was so transparent that I could see
through it the beautifully wave-rippled, sandy bottom, and the scales
of mica glinting back the down-pouring light. When I knelt down with
my face close to the ice, through which the sunbeams were pouring, I
was delighted to discover myriads of Tyndall's six-rayed water
flowers, magnificently colored.

A grand old mountain mansion is this Tenaya region! In the glacier
period it was a mer de glace, far grander than the mer de glace of
Switzerland, which is only about half a mile broad. The Tenaya mer de
glace was not less than two miles broad, late in the glacier epoch,
when all the principal dividing crests were bare; and its depth was
not less than fifteen hundred feet. Ice streams from Mounts Lyell and
Dana, and all the mountains between, and from the nearer Cathedral
Peak, flowed hither, welded into one, and worked together. After
eroding this Tanaya Lake basin, and all the splendidly sculptured
rocks and mountains that surround and adorn it, and the great Tenaya
Canyon, with its wealth of all that makes mountains sublime, they were
welded with the vast South, Lyell, and Illilouette glaciers on one
side, and with those of Hoffman on the other--thus forming a portion
of a yet grander mer de glace in Yosemite Valley.

I reached the Tenaya Canyon, on my way home, by coming in from the
northeast, rambling down over the shoulders of Mount Watkins, touching
bottom a mile above Mirror Lake. From thence home was but a saunter
in the moonlight.

After resting one day, and the weather continuing calm, I ran up over
the left shoulder of South Dome and down in front of its grand split
face to make some measurements, completed my work, climbed to the
right shoulder, struck off along the ridge for Cloud's Rest, and
reached the topmost heave of her sunny wave in ample time to see the

Cloud's Rest is a thousand feet higher than Tissiack. It is a
wavelike crest upon a ridge, which begins at Yosemite with Tissiack,
and runs continuously eastward to the thicket of peaks and crests
around Lake Tenaya. This lofty granite wall is bent this way and that
by the restless and weariless action of glaciers just as if it had
been made of dough. But the grand circumference of mountains and
forests are coming from far and near, densing into one close
assemblage; for the sun, their god and father, with love ineffable, is
glowing a sunset farewell. Not one of all the assembled rocks or
trees seemed remote. How impressively their faces shone with
responsive love!

I ran home in the moonlight with firm strides; for the sun-love made
me strong. Down through the junipers; down through the firs; now in
jet shadows, now in white light; over sandy moraines and bare,
clanking rocks; past the huge ghost of South Dome rising weird through
the firs; past the glorious fall of Nevada, the groves of Illilouette;
through the pines of the valley; beneath the bright crystal sky
blazing with stars. All of this mountain wealth in one day!--one of
the rich ripe days that enlarge one's life; so much of the sun upon
one side of it, so much of the moon and stars on the other.


Summer Days at Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta rises in solitary grandeur from the edge of a
comparatively low and lightly sculptured lava plain near the northern
extremity of the Sierra, and maintains a far more impressive and
commanding individuality than any other mountain within the limits of
California. Go where you may, within a radius of from fifty to a
hundred miles or more, there stands before you the colossal cone of
Shasta, clad in ice and snow, the one grand unmistakable landmark--the
pole star of the landscape. Far to the southward Mount Whitney lifts
its granite summit four or five hundred feet higher than Shasta, but
it is nearly snowless during the late summer, and is so feebly
individualized that the traveler may search for it in vain among the
many rival peaks crowded along the axis of the range to north and
south of it, which all alike are crumbling residual masses brought
into relief in the degradation of the general mass of the range. The
highest point on Mount Shasta, as determined by the State Geological
Survey, is 14,440 feet above mean tide. That of Whitney, computed
from fewer observations, is about 14,900 feet. But inasmuch as the
average elevation of the plain out of which Shasta rises is only about
four thousand feet above the sea, while the actual base of the peak of
Mount Whitney lies at an elevation of eleven thousand feet, the
individual height of the former is about two and a half times as great
as that of the latter.

Approaching Shasta from the south, one obtains glimpses of its snowy
cone here and there through the trees from the tops of hills and
ridges; but it is not until Strawberry Valley is reached, where there
is a grand out-opening of the forests, that Shasta is seen in all its
glory. From base to crown clearly revealed with its wealth of woods
and waters and fountain snow, rejoicing in the bright mountain sky,
and radiating beauty on all the subject landscape like a sun.
Standing in a fringing thicket of purple spiraea in the immediate
foreground is a smooth expanse of green meadow with its meandering
stream, one of the smaller affluents of the Sacramento; then a zone of
dark, close forest, its countless spires of pine and fir rising above
one another on the swelling base of the mountain in glorious array;
and, over all, the great white cone sweeping far into the thin, keen
sky--meadow, forest, and grand icy summit harmoniously blending and
making one sublime picture evenly balanced.

The main lines of the landscape are immensely bold and simple, and so
regular that it needs all its shaggy wealth of woods and chaparral and
its finely tinted ice and snow and brown jutting crags to keep it from
looking conventional. In general views of the mountain three distinct
zones may be readily defined. The first, which may be called the
Chaparral Zone, extends around the base in a magnificent sweep nearly
a hundred miles in length on its lower edge, and with a breadth of
about seven miles. It is a dense growth of chaparral from three to
six or eight feet high, composed chiefly of manzanita, cherry,
chincapin, and several species of ceanothus, called deerbrush by the
hunters, forming, when in full bloom, one of the most glorious
flowerbeds conceivable. The continuity of this flowery zone is
interrupted here and there, especially on the south side of the
mountain, by wide swaths of coniferous trees, chiefly the sugar and
yellow pines, Douglas spruce, silver fir, and incense cedar, many
specimens of which are two hundred feet high and five to seven feet in
diameter. Goldenrods, asters, gilias, lilies, and lupines, with many
other less conspicuous plants, occur in warm sheltered openings in
these lower woods, making charming gardens of wildness where bees and
butterflies are at home and many a shy bird and squirrel.

The next higher is the Fir Zone, made up almost exclusively of two
species of silver fir. It is from two to three miles wide, has an
average elevation above the sea of some six thousand feet on its lower
edge and eight thousand on its upper, and is the most regular and best
defined of the three.

The Alpine Zone has a rugged, straggling growth of storm-beaten dwarf
pines (Pinus albicaulis), which forms the upper edge of the
timberline. This species reaches an elevation of about nine thousand
feet, but at this height the tops of the trees rise only a few feet
into the thin frosty air, and are closely pressed and shorn by wind
and snow; yet they hold on bravely and put forth an abundance of
beautiful purple flowers and produce cones and seeds. Down towards
the edge of the fir belt they stand erect, forming small, well-formed
trunks, and are associated with the taller two-leafed and mountain
pines and the beautiful Williamson spruce. Bryanthus, a beautiful
flowering heathwort, flourishes a few hundred feet above the
timberline, accompanied with kalmia and spiraea. Lichens enliven the
faces of the cliffs with their bright colors, and in some of the
warmer nooks of the rocks, up to a height of eleven thousand feet,
there are a few tufts of dwarf daisies, wallflowers, and penstemons;
but, notwithstanding these bloom freely, they make no appreciable show
at a distance, and the stretches of rough brown lava beyond the storm-beaten trees seem as bare of vegetation as the great snow fields and
glaciers of the summit.

Shasta is a fire-mountain, an old volcano gradually accumulated and
built up into the blue deep of the sky by successive eruptions of
ashes and molten lava which, shot high in the air and falling in
darkening showers, and flowing from chasms and craters, grew outward
and upward like the trunk of a knotty, bulging tree. Not in one grand
convulsion was Shasta given birth, nor in any one special period of
volcanic storm and stress, though mountains more than a thousand feet
in height have been cast up like molehills in a night--quick
contributions to the wealth of the landscapes, and most emphatic
statements, on the part of Nature, of the gigantic character of the
power that dwells beneath the dull, dead-looking surface of the earth.
But sections cut by the glaciers, displaying some of the internal
framework of Shasta, show that comparatively long periods of
quiescence intervened between many distinct eruptions, during which
the cooling lavas ceased to flow, and took their places as permanent
additions to the bulk of the growing mountain. Thus with alternate
haste and deliberation eruption succeeded eruption, until Mount Shasta
surpassed even its present sublime height.

Then followed a strange contrast. The glacial winter came on. The
sky that so often had been darkened with storms of cinders and ashes
and lighted by the glare of volcanic fires was filled with crystal
snow-flowers, which, loading the cooling mountain, gave birth to
glaciers that, uniting edge to edge, at length formed one grand
conical glacier--a down-crawling mantle of ice upon a fountain of
smouldering fire, crushing and grinding its brown, flinty lavas, and
thus degrading and remodeling the entire mountain from summit to base.
How much denudation and degradation has been effected we have no means
of determining, the porous, crumbling rocks being ill adapted for the
reception and preservation of glacial inscriptions.

The summit is now a mass of ruins, and all the finer striations have
been effaced from the flanks by post-glacial weathering, while the
irregularity of its lavas as regards susceptibility to erosion, and
the disturbance caused by inter- and post-glacial eruptions, have
obscured or obliterated those heavier characters of the glacial record
found so clearly inscribed upon the granite pages of the high Sierra
between latitude 36 degrees 30 minutes and 39 degrees. This much,
however, is plain: that the summit of the mountain was considerably
lowered, and the sides were deeply grooved and fluted while it was a
center of dispersal for the glaciers of the circumjacent region. And
when at length the glacial period began to draw near its close, the
ice mantle was gradually melted off around the base of the mountain,
and in receding and breaking up into its present fragmentary condition
the irregular heaps and rings of moraine matter were stored upon its
flanks on which the forests are growing. The glacial erosion of most
of the Shasta lavas gives rise to detritus composed of rough
subangular boulders of moderate size and porous gravel and sand, which
yields freely to the transporting power of running water. Several
centuries ago immense quantities of this lighter material were washed
down from the higher slopes by a flood of extraordinary magnitude,
caused probably by the sudden melting of the ice and snow during an
eruption, giving rise to the deposition of conspicuous delta-like beds
around the base. And it is upon these flood-beds of moraine soil,
thus suddenly and simultaneously laid down and joined edge to edge,
that the flowery chaparral is growing.

Thus, by forces seemingly antagonistic and destructive, Nature
accomplishes her beneficent designs--now a flood of fire, now a flood
of ice, now a flood of water; and again in the fullness of time an
outburst of organic life--forest and garden, with all their wealth of
fruit and flowers, the air stirred into one universal hum with
rejoicing insects, a milky way of wings and petals, girdling the
newborn mountain like a cloud, as if the vivifying sunbeams beating
against its sides had broken into a foam of plant-bloom and bees.

But with such grand displays as Nature is making here, how grand are
her reservations, bestowed only upon those who devotedly seek them!
Beneath the smooth and snowy surface the fountain fires are still
aglow, to blaze forth afresh at their appointed times. The glaciers,
looking so still and small at a distance, represented by the artist
with a patch of white paint laid on by a single stroke of his brush,
are still flowing onward, unhalting, with deep crystal currents,
sculpturing the mountain with stern, resistless energy. How many
caves and fountains that no eye has yet seen lie with all their fine
furniture deep down in the darkness, and how many shy wild creatures
are at home beneath the grateful lights and shadows of the woods,
rejoicing in their fullness of perfect life!

Standing on the edge of the Strawberry Meadows in the sun-days of
summer, not a foot or feather or leaf seems to stir; and the grand,
towering mountain with all its inhabitants appears in rest, calm as a
star. Yet how profound is the energy ever in action, and how great is
the multitude of claws and teeth, wings and eyes, wide awake and at
work and shining! Going into the blessed wilderness, the blood of the
plants throbbing beneath the life-giving sunshine seems to be heard
and felt; plant growth goes on before our eyes, and every tree and
bush and flower is seen as a hive of restless industry. The deeps of
the sky are mottled with singing wings of every color and tone--clouds
of brilliant chrysididae dancing and swirling in joyous rhythm,
golden-barred vespidae, butterflies, grating cicadas and jolly
rattling grasshoppers--fairly enameling the light, and shaking all the
air into music. Happy fellows they are, every one of them, blowing
tiny pipe and trumpet, plodding and prancing, at work or at play.

Though winter holds the summit, Shasta in summer is mostly a massy,
bossy mound of flowers colored like the alpenglow that flushes the
snow. There are miles of wild roses, pink bells of huckleberry and
sweet manzanita, every bell a honey-cup, plants that tell of the north
and of the south; tall nodding lilies, the crimson sarcodes,
rhododendron, cassiope, and blessed linnaea; phlox, calycanthus, plum,
cherry, crataegus, spiraea, mints, and clovers in endless variety;
ivesia, larkspur, and columbine; golden aplopappus, linosyris[5],
bahia, wyethia, arnica, brodiaea, etc.,--making sheets and beds of
light edgings of bloom in lavish abundance for the myriads of the air
dependent on their bounty.

The common honeybees, gone wild in this sweet wilderness, gather tons
of honey into the hollows of the trees and rocks, clambering eagerly
through bramble and hucklebloom, shaking the clustered bells of the
generous manzanita, now humming aloft among polleny willows and firs,
now down on the ashy ground among small gilias and buttercups, and
anon plunging into banks of snowy cherry and buckthorn. They consider
the lilies and roll into them, pushing their blunt polleny faces
against them like babies on their mother's bosom; and fondly, too,
with eternal love does Mother Nature clasp her small bee-babies and
suckle them, multitudes at once, on her warm Shasta breast. Besides
the common honeybee there are many others here, fine, burly, mossy
fellows, such as were nourished on the mountains many a flowery
century before the advent of the domestic species--bumblebees, mason-bees, carpenter-bees, and leaf-cutters. Butterflies, too, and moths
of every size and pattern; some wide-winged like bats, flapping slowly
and sailing in easy curves; others like small flying violets shaking
about loosely in short zigzag flights close to the flowers, feasting
in plenty night and day.

Deer in great abundance come to Shasta from the warmer foothills every
spring to feed in the rich, cool pastures, and bring forth their young
in the ceanothus tangles of the chaparral zone, retiring again before
the snowstorms of winter, mostly to the southward and westward of the
mountain. In like manner the wild sheep of the adjacent region seek
the lofty inaccessible crags of the summit as the snow melts, and are
driven down to the lower spurs and ridges where there is but little
snow, to the north and east of Shasta.

Bears, too, roam this foodful wilderness, feeding on grass, clover,
berries, nuts, ant eggs, fish, flesh, or fowl,--whatever comes in
their way,--with but little troublesome discrimination. Sugar and
honey they seem to like best of all, and they seek far to find the
sweets; but when hard pushed by hunger they make out to gnaw a living
from the bark of trees and rotten logs, and might almost live on clean
lava alone.

Notwithstanding the California bears have had as yet but little
experience with honeybees, they sometimes succeed in reaching the
bountiful stores of these industrious gatherers and enjoy the feast
with majestic relish. But most honeybees in search of a home are wise
enough to make choice of a hollow in a living tree far from the
ground, whenever such can be found. There they are pretty secure, for
though the smaller brown and black bears climb well, they are unable
to gnaw their way into strong hives, while compelled to exert
themselves to keep from falling and at the same time endure the stings
of the bees about the nose and eyes, without having their paws free to
brush them off. But woe to the unfortunates who dwell in some
prostrate trunk, and to the black bumblebees discovered in their
mossy, mouselike nests in the ground. With powerful teeth and claws
these are speedily laid bare, and almost before time is given for a
general buzz the bees, old and young, larvae, honey, stings, nest, and
all, are devoured in one ravishing revel.

The antelope may still be found in considerable numbers to the
northeastward of Shasta, but the elk, once abundant, have almost
entirely gone from the region. The smaller animals, such as the wolf,
the various foxes, wildcats, coon, squirrels, and the curious wood rat
that builds large brush huts, abound in all the wilder places; and the
beaver, otter, mink, etc., may still be found along the sources of the
rivers. The blue grouse and mountain quail are plentiful in the woods
and the sage-hen on the plains about the northern base of the
mountain, while innumerable smaller birds enliven and sweeten every
thicket and grove.

There are at least five classes of human inhabitants about the Shasta
region: the Indians, now scattered, few in numbers and miserably
demoralized, though still offering some rare specimens of savage
manhood; miners and prospectors, found mostly to the north and west of
the mountain, since the region about its base if overflowed with lava;
cattle-raisers, mostly on the open plains to the northeastward and
around the Klamath Lakes; hunters and trappers, where the woods and
waters are wildest; and farmers, in Shasta Valley on the north side of
the mountain, wheat, apples, melons, berries, all the best production
of farm and garden growing and ripening there at the foot of the great
white cone, which seems at times during changing storms ready to fall
upon them--the most sublime farm scenery imaginable.

The Indians of the McCloud River that have come under my observation
differ considerably in habits and features from the Diggers and other
tribes of the foothills and plains, and also from the Pah Utes and
Modocs. They live chiefly on salmon. They seem to be closely related
to the Tlingits of Alaska, Washington, and Oregon, and may readily
have found their way here by passing from stream to stream in which
salmon abound. They have much better features than the Indians of the
plains, and are rather wide awake, speculative and ambitious in their
way, and garrulous, like the natives of the northern coast.

Before the Modoc War they lived in dread of the Modocs, a tribe living
about the Klamath Lake and the Lava Beds, who were in the habit of
crossing the low Sierra divide past the base of Shasta on freebooting
excursions, stealing wives, fish, and weapons from the Pitts and
McClouds. Mothers would hush their children by telling them that the
Modocs would catch them.

During my stay at the Government fish-hatching station on the McCloud
I was accompanied in my walks along the riverbank by a McCloud boy
about ten years of age, a bright, inquisitive fellow, who gave me the
Indian names of the birds and plants that we met. The water-ousel he
knew well and he seemed to like the sweet singer, which he called
"Sussinny." He showed me how strips of the stems of the beautiful
maidenhair fern were used to adorn baskets with handsome brown bands,
and pointed out several plants good to eat, particularly the large
saxifrage growing abundantly along the river margin. Once I rushed
suddenly upon him to see if he would be frightened; but he
unflinchingly held his ground, struck a grand heroic attitude, and
shouted, "Me no fraid; me Modoc!"

Mount Shasta, so far as I have seen, has never been the home of
Indians, not even their hunting ground to any great extent, above the
lower slopes of the base. They are said to be afraid of fire-mountains and geyser basins as being the dwelling places of
dangerously powerful and unmanageable gods. However, it is food and
their relations to other tribes that mainly control the movements of
Indians; and here their food was mostly on the lower slopes, with
nothing except the wild sheep to tempt them higher. Even these were
brought within reach without excessive climbing during the storms of

On the north side of Shasta, near Sheep Rock, there is a long cavern,
sloping to the northward, nearly a mile in length, thirty or forty
feet wide, and fifty feet or more in height, regular in form and
direction like a railroad tunnel, and probably formed by the flowing
away of a current of lava after the hardening of the surface. At the
mouth of this cave, where the light and shelter is good, I found many
of the heads and horns of the wild sheep, and the remains of
campfires, no doubt those of Indian hunters who in stormy weather had
camped there and feasted after the fatigues of the chase. A wild
picture that must have formed on a dark night--the glow of the fire,
the circle of crouching savages around it seen through the smoke, the
dead game, and the weird darkness and half-darkness of the walls of
the cavern, a picture of cave-dwellers at home in the stone age!

Interest in hunting is almost universal, so deeply is it rooted as an
inherited instinct ever ready to rise and make itself know. Fine
scenery may not stir a fiber of mind or body, but how quick and how
true is the excitement of the pursuit of game! Then up flames the
slumbering volcano of ancient wildness, all that has been done by
church and school through centuries of cultivation is for the moment
destroyed, and the decent gentleman or devout saint becomes a howling,
bloodthirsty, demented savage. It is not long since we all were
cavemen and followed game for food as truly as wildcat or wolf, and
the long repression of civilization seems to make the rebound to
savage love of blood all the more violent. This frenzy, fortunately,
does not last long in its most exaggerated form, and after a season of
wildness refined gentlemen from cities are not more cruel than hunters
and trappers who kill for a living.

Dwelling apart in the depths of the woods are the various kinds of
mountaineers,--hunters, prospectors, and the like,--rare men, "queer
characters," and well worth knowing. Their cabins are located with
reference to game and the ledges to be examined, and are constructed
almost as simply as those of the wood rats made of sticks laid across
each other without compass or square. But they afford good shelter
from storms, and so are "square" with the need of their builders.
These men as a class are singularly fine in manners, though their
faces may be scarred and rough like the bark of trees. On entering
their cabins you will promptly be placed on you good behavior, and,
your wants being perceived with quick insight, complete hospitality
will be offered for body and mind to the extent of the larder.

These men know the mountains far and near, and their thousand voices,
like the leaves of a book. They can tell where the deer may be found
at any time of year or day, and what they are doing; and so of all the
other furred and feathered people they meet in their walks; and they
can send a thought to its mark as well as a bullet. The aims of such
people are not always the highest, yet how brave and manly and clean
are their lives compared with too many in crowded towns mildewed and
dwarfed in disease and crime! How fine a chance is here to begin life
anew in the free fountains and skylands of Shasta, where it is so easy
to live and to die! The future of the hunter is likely to be a good
one; no abrupt change about it, only a passing from wilderness to
wilderness, from one high place to another.

Now that the railroad has been built up the Sacramento, everybody with
money may go to Mount Shasta, the weak as well as the strong, fine-grained, succulent people, whose legs have never ripened, as well as
sinewy mountaineers seasoned long in the weather. This, surely, is
not the best way of going to the mountains, yet it is better than
staying below. Many still small voices will not be heard in the noisy
rush and din, suggestive of going to the sky in a chariot of fire or a
whirlwind, as one is shot to the Shasta mark in a booming palace-car
cartridge; up the rocky canyon, skimming the foaming river, above the
level reaches, above the dashing spray--fine exhilarating translation,
yet a pity to go so fast in a blur, where so much might be seen and

The mountains are fountains not only of rivers and fertile soil, but
of men. Therefore we are all, in some sense, mountaineers, and going
to the mountains is going home. Yet how many are doomed to toil in
town shadows while the white mountains beckon all along the horizon!
Up the canyon to Shasta would be a cure for all care. But many on
arrival seem at a loss to know what to do with themselves, and seek
shelter in the hotel, as if that were the Shasta they had come for.
Others never leave the rail, content with the window views, and cling
to the comforts of the sleeping car like blind mice to their mothers.
Many are sick and have been dragged to the healing wilderness
unwillingly for body-good alone. Were the parts of the human machine
detachable like Yankee inventions, how strange would be the gatherings
on the mountains of pieces of people out of repair!

How sadly unlike the whole-hearted ongoing of the seeker after gold is
this partial, compulsory mountaineering!--as if the mountain
treasuries contained nothing better than gold! Up the mountains they
go, high-heeled and high-hatted, laden like Christian with
mortifications and mortgages of divers sorts and degrees, some
suffering from the sting of bad bargains, others exulting in good
ones; hunters and fishermen with gun and rod and leggins; blythe and
jolly troubadours to whom all Shasta is romance; poets singing their
prayers; the weak and the strong, unable or unwilling to bear mental
taxation. But, whatever the motive, all will be in some measure
benefited. None may wholly escape the good of Nature, however
imperfectly exposed to her blessings. The minister will not preach a
perfectly flat and sedimentary sermon after climbing a snowy peak; and
the fair play and tremendous impartiality of Nature, so tellingly
displayed, will surely affect the after pleadings of the lawyer.
Fresh air at least will get into everybody, and the cares of mere
business will be quenched like the fires of a sinking ship.

Possibly a branch railroad may some time be built to the summit of
Mount Shasta like the road on Mount Washington. In the mean time
tourists are dropped at Sisson's, about twelve miles from the summit,
whence as headquarters they radiate in every direction to the so-called "points of interest"; sauntering about the flowery fringes of
the Strawberry Meadows, bathing in the balm of the woods, scrambling,
fishing, hunting; riding about Castle Lake, the McCloud River, Soda
Springs, Big Spring, deer pastures, and elsewhere. Some demand bears,
and make excited inquiries concerning their haunts, how many there
might be altogether on the mountain, and whether they are grizzly,
brown, or black. Others shout, "Excelsior," and make off at once for
the upper snow fields. Most, however, are content with comparatively
level ground and moderate distances, gathering at the hotel every
evening laden with trophies--great sheaves of flowers, cones of
various trees, cedar and fir branches covered with yellow lichens, and
possibly a fish or two, or quail, or grouse.

But the heads of deer, antelope, wild sheep, and bears are
conspicuously rare or altogether wanting in tourist collections in the
"paradise of hunters." There is a grand comparing of notes and
adventures. Most are exhilarated and happy, though complaints may
occasionally be heard--"The mountain does not look so very high after
all, nor so very white; the snow is in patches like rags spread out to
dry," reminding one of Sydney Smith's joke against Jeffrey, "D--n the
Solar System; bad light, planets too indistinct." But far the greater
number are in good spirits, showing the influence of holiday enjoyment
and mountain air. Fresh roses come to cheeks that long have been
pale, and sentiment often begins to blossom under the new inspiration.

The Shasta region may be reserved as a national park, with special
reference to the preservation of its fine forests and game. This
should by all means be done; but, as far as game is concerned, it is
in little danger from tourists, notwithstanding many of them carry
guns, and are in some sense hunters. Going in noisy groups, and with
guns so shining, they are oftentimes confronted by inquisitive Douglas
squirrels, and are thus give opportunities for shooting; but the
larger animals retire at their approach and seldom are seen. Other
gun people, too wise or too lifeless to make much noise, move slowly
along the trails and about the open spots of the woods, like benumbed
beetles in a snowdrift. Such hunters are themselves hunted by the
animals, which in perfect safety follow them out of curiosity.

During the bright days of midsummer the ascent of Shasta is only a
long, safe saunter, without fright or nerve strain, or even serious
fatigue, to those in sound health. Setting out from Sisson's on
horseback, accompanied by a guide leading a pack animal with
provision, blankets, and other necessaries, you follow a trail that
leads up to the edge of the timberline, where you camp for the night,
eight or ten miles from the hotel, at an elevation of about ten
thousand feet. The next day, rising early, you may push on to the
summit and return to Sisson's. But it is better to spend more time in
the enjoyment of the grand scenery on the summit and about the head of
the Whitney Glacier, pass the second night in camp, and return to
Sisson's on the third day. Passing around the margin of the meadows
and on through the zones of the forest, you will have good
opportunities to get ever-changing views of the mountain and its
wealth of creatures that bloom and breathe.

The woods differ but little from those that clothe the mountains to
the southward, the trees being slightly closer together and generally
not quite so large, marking the incipient change from the open sunny
forests of the Sierra to the dense damp forests of the northern coast,
where a squirrel may travel in the branches of the thick-set trees
hundreds of miles without touching the ground. Around the upper belt
of the forest you may see gaps where the ground has been cleared by
avalanches of snow, thousands of tons in weight, which, descending
with grand rush and roar, brush the trees from their paths like so
many fragile shrubs or grasses.

At first the ascent is very gradual. The mountain begins to leave the
plain in slopes scarcely perceptible, measuring from two to three
degrees. These are continued by easy gradations mile after mile all
the way to the truncated, crumbling summit, where they attain a
steepness of twenty to twenty-five degrees. The grand simplicity of
these lines is partially interrupted on the north subordinate cone
that rises from the side of the main cone about three thousand feet
from the summit. This side cone, past which your way to the summit
lies, was active after the breaking-up of the main ice-cap of the
glacial period, as shown by the comparatively unwasted crater in which
it terminates and by streams of fresh-looking, unglaciated lava that
radiate from it as a center.

The main summit is about a mile and a half in diameter from southwest
to northeast, and is nearly covered with snow and neve, bounded by
crumbling peaks and ridges, among which we look in vain for any sure
plan of an ancient crater. The extreme summit is situated on the
southern end of a narrow ridge that bounds the general summit on the
east. Viewed from the north, it appears as an irregular blunt point
about ten feet high, and is fast disappearing before the stormy
atmospheric action to which it is subjected.

At the base of the eastern ridge, just below the extreme summit, hot
sulphurous gases and vapor escape with a hissing, bubbling noise from
a fissure in the lava. Some of the many small vents cast up a spray
of clear hot water, which falls back repeatedly until wasted in vapor.
The steam and spray seem to be produced simply by melting snow coming
in the way of the escaping gases, while the gases are evidently
derived from the heated interior of the mountain, and may be regarded
as the last feeble expression of the mighty power that lifted the
entire mass of the mountain from the volcanic depths far below the
surface of the plain.

The view from the summit in clear weather extends to an immense
distance in every direction. Southeastward, the low volcanic portion
of the Sierra is seen like a map, both flanks as well as the crater-dotted axis, as far as Lassen's Butte[6], a prominent landmark and an
old volcano like Shasta, between ten and eleven thousand feet high,
and distant about sixty miles. Some of the higher summit peaks near
Independence Lake, one hundred and eighty miles away, are at times
distinctly visible. Far to the north, in Oregon, the snowy volcanic
cones of Mounts Pitt, Jefferson, and the Three Sisters rise in clear
relief, like majestic monuments, above the dim dark sea of the
northern woods. To the northeast lie the Rhett and Klamath Lakes, the
Lava Beds, and a grand display of hill and mountain and gray rocky
plains. The Scott, Siskiyou, and Trinity Mountains rise in long,
compact waves to the west and southwest, and the valley of the
Sacramento and the coast mountains, with their marvelous wealth of
woods and waters, are seen; while close around the base of the
mountain lie the beautiful Shasta Valley, Strawberry Valley,
Huckleberry Valley, and many others, with the headwaters of the
Shasta, Sacramento, and McCloud Rivers. Some observers claim to have
seen the ocean from the summit of Shasta, but I have not yet been so

The Cinder Cone near Lassen's Butte is remarkable as being the scene
of the most recent volcanic eruption in the range. It is a
symmetrical truncated cone covered with gray cinders and ashes, with a
regular crater in which a few pines an inch or two in diameter are
growing. It stands between two small lakes which previous to the last
eruption, when the cone was built, formed one lake. From near the
base of the cone a flood of extremely rough black vesicular lava
extends across what was once a portion of the bottom of the lake into
the forest of yellow pine.

This lava flow seems to have been poured out during the same eruption
that gave birth to the cone, cutting the lake in two, flowing a little
way into the woods and overwhelming the trees in its way, the ends of
some of the charred trunks still being visible, projecting from
beneath the advanced snout of the flow where it came to rest; while
the floor of the forest for miles around is so thickly strewn with
loose cinders that walking is very fatiguing. The Pitt River Indians
tell of a fearful time of darkness, probably due to this eruption,
when the sky was filled with falling cinders which, as they thought,
threatened every living creature with destruction, and say that when
at length the sun appeared through the gloom it was red like blood.

Less recent craters in great numbers dot the adjacent region, some
with lakes in their throats, some overgrown with trees, others nearly
bare--telling monuments of Nature's mountain fires so often lighted
throughout the northern Sierra. And, standing on the top of icy
Shasta, the mightiest fire-monument of them all, we can hardly fail to
look forward to the blare and glare of its next eruption and wonder
whether it is nigh. Elsewhere men have planted gardens and vineyards
in the craters of volcanoes quiescent for ages, and almost without
warning have been hurled into the sky. More than a thousand years of
profound calm have been known to intervene between two violent
eruptions. Seventeen centuries intervened between two consecutive
eruptions on the island of Ischia. Few volcanoes continue permanently
in eruption. Like gigantic geysers, spouting hot stone instead of hot
water, they work and sleep, and we have no sure means of knowing
whether they are only sleeping or dead.


A Perilous Night on Shasta's Summit

Toward the end of summer, after a light, open winter, one may reach
the summit of Mount Shasta without passing over much snow, by keeping
on the crest of a long narrow ridge, mostly bare, that extends from
near the camp-ground at the timberline. But on my first excursion to
the summit the whole mountain, down to its low swelling base, was
smoothly laden with loose fresh snow, presenting a most glorious mass
of winter mountain scenery, in the midst of which I scrambled and
reveled or lay snugly snowbound, enjoying the fertile clouds and the
snow-bloom in all their growing, drifting grandeur.

I had walked from Redding, sauntering leisurely from station to
station along the old Oregon stage road, the better to see the rocks
and plants, birds and people, by the way, tracing the rushing
Sacramento to its fountains around icy Shasta. The first rains had
fallen on the lowlands, and the first snows on the mountains, and
everything was fresh and bracing, while an abundance of balmy sunshine
filled all the noonday hours. It was the calm afterglow that usually
succeeds the first storm of the winter. I met many of the birds that
had reared their young and spent their summer in the Shasta woods and
chaparral. They were then on their way south to their winter homes,
leading their young full-fledged and about as large and strong as the
parents. Squirrels, dry and elastic after the storms, were busy about
their stores of pine nuts, and the latest goldenrods were still in
bloom, though it was now past the middle of October. The grand color
glow--the autumnal jubilee of ripe leaves--was past prime, but,
freshened by the rain, was still making a fine show along the banks of
the river and in the ravines and the dells of the smaller streams.

At the salmon-hatching establishment on the McCloud River I halted a
week to examine the limestone belt, grandly developed there, to learn
what I could of the inhabitants of the river and its banks, and to
give time for the fresh snow that I knew had fallen on the mountain to
settle somewhat, with a view to making the ascent. A pedestrian on
these mountain roads, especially so late in the year, is sure to
excite curiosity, and many were the interrogations concerning my
ramble. When I said that I was simply taking a walk, and that icy
Shasta was my mark, I was invariably admonished that I had come on a
dangerous quest. The time was far too late, the snow was too loose
and deep to climb, and I should be lost in drifts and slides. When I
hinted that new snow was beautiful and storms not so bad as they were
called, my advisers shook their heads in token of superior knowledge
and declared the ascent of "Shasta Butte" through loose snow
impossible. Nevertheless, before noon of the second of November I was
in the frosty azure of the utmost summit.

When I arrived at Sisson's everything was quiet. The last of the
summer visitors had flitted long before, and the deer and bears also
were beginning to seek their winter homes. My barometer and the
sighing winds and filmy half-transparent clouds that dimmed the
sunshine gave notice of the approach of another storm, and I was in
haste to be off and get myself established somewhere in the midst of
it, whether the summit was to be attained or not. Sisson, who is a
mountaineer, speedily fitted my out for storm or calm as only a
mountaineer could, with warm blankets and a week's provisions so
generous in quantity and kind that they easily might have been made to
last a month in case of my being closely snowbound. Well I knew the
weariness of snow-climbing, and the frosts, and the dangers of
mountaineering so late in the year; therefore I could not ask a guide
to go with me, even had one been willing. All I wanted was to have
blankets and provisions deposited as far up in the timber as the snow
would permit a pack animal to go. There I could build a storm nest
and lie warm, and make raids up and around the mountain in accordance
with the weather.

Setting out on the afternoon of November first, with Jerome Fay,
mountaineer and guide, in charge of the animals, I was soon plodding
wearily upward through the muffled winter woods, the snow of course
growing steadily deeper and looser, so that we had to break a trail.
The animals began to get discouraged, and after night and darkness
came on they became entangled in a bed of rough lava, where, breaking
through four or five feet of mealy snow, their feet were caught
between angular boulders. Here they were in danger of being lost, but
after we had removed packs and saddles and assisted their efforts with
ropes, they all escaped to the side of a ridge about a thousand feet
below the timberline.

To go farther was out of the question, so we were compelled to camp as
best we could. A pitch pine fire speedily changed the temperature and
shed a blaze of light on the wild lava-slope and the straggling storm-bent pines around us. Melted snow answered for coffee, and we had
plenty of venison to roast. Toward midnight I rolled myself in my
blankets, slept an hour and a half, arose and ate more venison, tied
two days' provisions to my belt, and set out for the summit, hoping to
reach it ere the coming storm should fall. Jerome accompanied me a
little distance above camp and indicated the way as well as he could
in the darkness. He seemed loath to leave me, but, being reassured
that I was at home and required no care, he bade me good-bye and
returned to camp, ready to lead his animals down the mountain at

After I was above the dwarf pines, it was fine practice pushing up the
broad unbroken slopes of snow, alone in the solemn silence of the
night. Half the sky was clouded; in the other half the stars sparkled
icily in the keen, frosty air; while everywhere the glorious wealth of
snow fell away from the summit of the cone in flowing folds, more
extensive and continuous than any I had ever seen before. When day
dawned the clouds were crawling slowly and becoming more massive, but
gave no intimation of immediate danger, and I pushed on faithfully,
though holding myself well in hand, ready to return to the timber; for
it was easy to see that the storm was not far off. The mountain rises
ten thousand feet above the general level of the country, in blank
exposure to the deep upper currents of the sky, and no labyrinth of
peaks and canyons I had ever been in seemed to me so dangerous as
these immense slopes, bare against the sky.

The frost was intense, and drifting snow dust made breathing at times
rather difficult. The snow was as dry as meal, and the finer
particles drifted freely, rising high in the air, while the larger
portions of the crystals rolled like sand. I frequently sank to my
armpits between buried blocks of loose lava, but generally only to my
knees. When tired with walking I still wallowed slowly upward on all
fours. The steepness of the slope--thirty-five degrees in some
places--made any kind of progress fatiguing, while small avalanches
were being constantly set in motion in the steepest places. But the
bracing air and the sublime beauty of the snowy expanse thrilled every
nerve and made absolute exhaustion impossible. I seemed to be walking
and wallowing in a cloud; but, holding steadily onward, by half-past
ten o'clock I had gained the highest summit.

I held my commanding foothold in the sky for two hours, gazing on the
glorious landscapes spread maplike around the immense horizon, and
tracing the outlines of the ancient lava-streams extending far into
the surrounding plains, and the pathways of vanished glaciers of which
Shasta had been the center. But, as I had left my coat in camp for
the sake of having my limbs free in climbing, I soon was cold. The
wind increased in violence, raising the snow in magnificent drifts
that were drawn out in the form of wavering banners blowing in the
sun. Toward the end of my stay a succession of small clouds struck
against the summit rocks like drifting icebergs, darkening the air as
they passed, and producing a chill as definite and sudden as if ice-water had been dashed in my face. This is the kind of cloud in which
snow-flowers grow, and I turned and fled.

Finding that I was not closely pursued, I ventured to take time on the
way down for a visit to the head of the Whitney Glacier and the
"Crater Butte." After I had reached the end of the main summit ridge
the descent was but little more than one continuous soft, mealy,
muffled slide, most luxurious and rapid, though the hissing, swishing
speed attained was obscured in great part by flying snow dust--a
marked contrast to the boring seal-wallowing upward struggle. I
reached camp about an hour before dusk, hollowed a strip of loose
ground in the lee of a large block of red lava, where firewood was
abundant, rolled myself in my blankets, and went to sleep.

Next morning, having slept little the night before the ascent and
being weary with climbing after the excitement was over, I slept late.
Then, awaking suddenly, my eyes opened on one of the most beautiful
and sublime scenes I ever enjoyed. A boundless wilderness of storm
clouds of different degrees of ripeness were congregated over all the
lower landscape for thousands of square miles, colored gray, and
purple, and pearl, and deep-glowing white, amid which I seemed to be
floating; while the great white cone of the mountain above was all
aglow in the free, blazing sunshine. It seemed not so much an ocean
as a land of clouds--undulating hill and dale, smooth purple plains,
and silvery mountains of cumuli, range over range, diversified with
peak and dome and hollow fully brought out in light and shade.

I gazed enchanted, but cold gray masses, drifting like dust on a wind-swept plain, began to shut out the light, forerunners of the coming
storm I had been so anxiously watching. I made haste to gather as
much wood as possible, snugging it as a shelter around my bed. The
storm side of my blankets was fastened down with stakes to reduce as
much as possible the sifting-in of drift and the danger of being blown
away. The precious bread sack was placed safely as a pillow, and when
at length the first flakes fell I was exultingly ready to welcome
them. Most of my firewood was more than half rosin and would blaze in
the face of the fiercest drifting; the winds could not demolish my
bed, and my bread could be made to last indefinitely; while in case of
need I had the means of making snowshoes and could retreat or hold my
ground as I pleased.

Presently the storm broke forth into full snowy bloom, and the
thronging crystals darkened the air. The wind swept past in hissing
floods, grinding the snow into meal and sweeping down into the hollows
in enormous drifts all the heavier particles, while the finer dust was
sifted through the sky, increasing the icy gloom. But my fire glowed
bravely as if in glad defiance of the drift to quench it, and,
notwithstanding but little trace of my nest could be seen after the
snow had leveled and buried it, I was snug and warm, and the
passionate uproar produced a glad excitement.

Day after day the storm continued, piling snow on snow in weariless
abundance. There were short periods of quiet, when the sun would seem
to look eagerly down through rents in the clouds, as if to know how
the work was advancing. During these calm intervals I replenished my
fire--sometimes without leaving the nest, for fire and woodpile were
so near this could easily be done--or busied myself with my notebook,
watching the gestures of the trees in taking the snow, examining
separate crystals under a lens, and learning the methods of their
deposition as an enduring fountain for the streams. Several times,
when the storm ceased for a few minutes, a Douglas squirrel came
frisking from the foot of a clump of dwarf pines, moving in sudden
interrupted spurts over the bossy snow; then, without any apparent
guidance, he would dig rapidly into the drift where were buried some
grains of barley that the horses had left. The Douglas squirrel does
not strictly belong to these upper woods, and I was surprised to see
him out in such weather. The mountain sheep also, quite a large flock
of them, came to my camp and took shelter beside a clump of matted
dwarf pines a little above my nest.

The storm lasted about a week, but before it was ended Sisson became
alarmed and sent up the guide with animals to see what had become of
me and recover the camp outfit. The news spread that "there was a man
on the mountain," and he must surely have perished, and Sisson was
blamed for allowing any one to attempt climbing in such weather; while
I was as safe as anybody in the lowlands, lying like a squirrel in a
warm, fluffy nest, busied about my own affairs and wishing only to be
let alone. Later, however, a trail could not have been broken for a
horse, and some of the camp furniture would have had to be abandoned.
On the fifth day I returned to Sisson's, and from that comfortable
base made excursions, as the weather permitted, to the Black Butte, to
the foot of the Whitney Glacier, around the base of the mountain, to
Rhett and Klamath Lakes, to the Modoc region and elsewhere, developing
many interesting scenes and experiences.

But the next spring, on the other side of this eventful winter, I saw
and felt still more of the Shasta snow. For then it was my fortune to
get into the very heart of a storm, and to be held in it for a long

On the 28th of April [1875] I led a party up the mountain for the
purpose of making a survey of the summit with reference to the
location of the Geodetic monument. On the 30th, accompanied by Jerome
Fay, I made another ascent to make some barometrical observations, the
day intervening between the two ascents being devoted to establishing
a camp on the extreme edge of the timberline. Here, on our red
trachyte bed, we obtained two hours of shallow sleep broken for
occasional glimpses of the keen, starry night. At two o'clock we
rose, breakfasted on a warmed tin-cupful of coffee and a piece of
frozen venison broiled on the coals, and started for the summit. Up
to this time there was nothing in sight that betokened the approach of
a storm; but on gaining the summit, we saw toward Lassen's Butte
hundreds of square miles of white cumuli boiling dreamily in the
sunshine far beneath us, and causing no alarm.

The slight weariness of the ascent was soon rested away, and our
glorious morning in the sky promised nothing but enjoyment. At 9 a.m.
the dry thermometer stood at 34 degrees in the shade and rose steadily
until at 1 p.m. it stood at 50 degrees, probably influenced somewhat
by radiation from the sun-warmed cliffs. A common bumblebee, not at
all benumbed, zigzagged vigorously about our heads for a few moments,
as if unconscious of the fact that the nearest honey flower was a mile
beneath him.

In the mean time clouds were growing down in Shasta Valley--massive
swelling cumuli, displaying delicious tones of purple and gray in the
hollows of their sun-beaten bosses. Extending gradually southward
around on both sides of Shasta, these at length united with the older
field towards Lassen's Butte, thus encircling Mount Shasta in one
continuous cloud zone. Rhett and Klamath Lakes were eclipsed beneath
clouds scarcely less brilliant than their own silvery disks. The
Modoc Lava Beds, many a snow-laden peak far north in Oregon, the Scott
and Trinity and Siskiyou Mountains, the peaks of the Sierra, the blue
Coast Range, Shasta Valley, the dark forests filling the valley of the
Sacramento, all in turn were obscured or buried, leaving the lofty
cone on which we stood solitary in the sunshine between two skies--a
sky of spotless blue above, a sky of glittering cloud beneath. The
creative sun shone glorious on the vast expanse of cloudland; hill and
dale, mountain and valley springing into existence responsive to his
rays and steadily developing in beauty and individuality. One huge
mountain-cone of cloud, corresponding to Mount Shasta in these newborn
cloud ranges, rose close alongside with a visible motion, its firm,
polished bosses seeming so near and substantial that we almost fancied
that we might leap down upon them from where we stood and make our way
to the lowlands. No hint was given, by anything in their appearance,
of the fleeting character of these most sublime and beautiful cloud
mountains. On the contrary they impressed one as being lasting
additions to the landscape.

The weather of the springtime and summer, throughout the Sierra in
general, is usually varied by slight local rains and dustings of snow,
most of which are obviously far too joyous and life-giving to be
regarded as storms--single clouds growing in the sunny sky, ripening
in an hour, showering the heated landscape, and passing away like a
thought, leaving no visible bodily remains to stain the sky.
Snowstorms of the same gentle kind abound among the high peaks, but in
spring they not unfrequently attain larger proportions, assuming a
violence and energy of expression scarcely surpassed by those bred in
the depths of winter. Such was the storm now gathering about us.

It began to declare itself shortly after noon, suggesting to us the
idea of at once seeking our safe camp in the timber and abandoning the
purpose of making an observation of the barometer at 3 p.m.,--two
having already been made, at 9 a.m., and 12 m., while simultaneous
observations were made at Strawberry Valley. Jerome peered at short
intervals over the ridge, contemplating the rising clouds with anxious
gestures in the rough wind, and at length declared that if we did not
make a speedy escape we should be compelled to pass the rest of the
day and night on the summit. But anxiety to complete my observations
stifled my own instinctive promptings to retreat, and held me to my
work. No inexperienced person was depending on me, and I told Jerome
that we two mountaineers should be able to make our way down through
any storm likely to fall.

Presently thin, fibrous films of cloud began to blow directly over the
summit from north to south, drawn out in long fairy webs like carded
wool, forming and dissolving as if by magic. The wind twisted them
into ringlets and whirled them in a succession of graceful
convolutions like the outside sprays of Yosemite Falls in flood time;
then, sailing out into the thin azure over the precipitous brink of
the ridge they were drifted together like wreaths of foam on a river.
These higher and finer cloud fabrics were evidently produced by the
chilling of the air from its own expansion caused by the upward
deflection of the wind against the slopes of the mountain. They
steadily increased on the north rim of the cone, forming at length a
thick, opaque, ill-defined embankment from the icy meshes of which
snow-flowers began to fall, alternating with hail. The sky speedily
darkened, and just as I had completed my last observation and boxed my
instruments ready for the descent, the storm began in serious earnest.
At first the cliffs were beaten with hail, every stone of which, as
far as I could see, was regular in form, six-sided pyramids with
rounded base, rich and sumptuous-looking, and fashioned with loving
care, yet seemingly thrown away on those desolate crags down which
they went rolling, falling, sliding in a network of curious streams.

After we had forced our way down the ridge and past the group of
hissing fumaroles, the storm became inconceivably violent. The
thermometer fell 22 degrees in a few minutes, and soon dropped below
zero. The hail gave place to snow, and darkness came on like night.
The wind, rising to the highest pitch of violence, boomed and surged
amid the desolate crags; lightning flashes in quick succession cut the
gloomy darkness; and the thunders, the most tremendously loud and
appalling I ever heard, made an almost continuous roar, stroke
following stroke in quick, passionate succession, as though the
mountain were being rent to its foundations and the fires of the old
volcano were breaking forth again.

Could we at once have begun to descend the snow slopes leading to the
timber, we might have made good our escape, however dark and wild the
storm. As it was, we had first to make our way along a dangerous
ridge nearly a mile and a half long, flanked in many places by steep
ice-slopes at the head of the Whitney Glacier on one side and by
shattered precipices on the other. Apprehensive of this coming
darkness, I had taken the precaution, when the storm began, to make
the most dangerous points clear to my mind, and to mark their
relations with reference to the direction of the wind. When,
therefore, the darkness came on, and the bewildering drift, I felt
confident that we could force our way through it with no other
guidance. After passing the "Hot Springs" I halted in the lee of a
lava-block to let Jerome, who had fallen a little behind, come up.
Here he opened a council in which, under circumstances sufficiently
exciting but without evincing any bewilderment, he maintained, in
opposition to my views, that it was impossible to proceed. He firmly
refused to make the venture to find the camp, while I, aware of the
dangers that would necessarily attend our efforts, and conscious of
being the cause of his present peril, decided not to leave him.

Our discussions ended, Jerome made a dash from the shelter of the
lava-block and began forcing his way back against the wind to the "Hot
Springs," wavering and struggling to resist being carried away, as if
he were fording a rapid stream. After waiting and watching in vain
for some flaw in the storm that might be urged as a new argument in
favor of attempting the descent, I was compelled to follow. "Here,"
said Jerome, as we shivered in the midst of the hissing, sputtering
fumaroles, "we shall be safe from frost." "Yes," said I, "we can lie
in this mud and steam and sludge, warm at least on one side; but how
can we protect our lungs from the acid gases, and how, after our
clothing is saturated, shall we be able to reach camp without
freezing, even after the storm is over? We shall have to wait for
sunshine, and when will it come?"

The tempered area to which we had committed ourselves extended over
about one fourth of an acre; but it was only about an eighth of an
inch in thickness, for the scalding gas jets were shorn off close to
the ground by the oversweeping flood of frosty wind. And how lavishly
the snow fell only mountaineers may know. The crisp crystal flowers
seemed to touch one another and fairly to thicken the tremendous blast
that carried them. This was the bloom-time, the summer of the cloud,
and never before have I seen even a mountain cloud flowering so

When the bloom of the Shasta chaparral is falling, the ground is
sometimes covered for hundreds of square miles to a depth of half an
inch. But the bloom of this fertile snow cloud grew and matured and
fell to a depth of two feet in a few hours. Some crystals landed with
their rays almost perfect, but most of them were worn and broken by
striking against one another, or by rolling on the ground. The touch
of these snow-flowers in calm weather is infinitely gentle--glinting,
swaying, settling silently in the dry mountain air, or massed in
flakes soft and downy. To lie out alone in the mountains of a still
night and be touched by the first of these small silent messengers
from the sky is a memorable experience, and the fineness of that touch
none will forget. But the storm-blast laden with crisp, sharp snow
seems to crush and bruise and stupefy with its multitude of stings,
and compels the bravest to turn and flee.

The snow fell without abatement until an hour or two after what seemed
to be the natural darkness of the night. Up to the time the storm
first broke on the summit its development was remarkably gentle.
There was a deliberate growth of clouds, a weaving of translucent
tissue above, then the roar of the wind and the thunder, and the
darkening flight of snow. Its subsidence was not less sudden. The
clouds broke and vanished, not a crystal was left in the sky, and the
stars shone out with pure and tranquil radiance.

During the storm we lay on our backs so as to present as little
surface as possible to the wind, and to let the drift pass over us.
The mealy snow sifted into the folds of our clothing and in many
places reached the skin. We were glad at first to see the snow
packing about us, hoping it would deaden the force of the wind, but it
soon froze into a stiff, crusty heap as the temperature fell, rather
augmenting our novel misery.

When the heat became unendurable, on some spot where steam was
escaping through the sludge, we tried to stop it with snow and mud, or
shifted a little at a time by shoving with our heels; for to stand in
blank exposure to the fearful wind in our frozen-and-broiled condition
seemed certain death. The acrid incrustations sublimed from the
escaping gases frequently gave way, opening new vents to scald us;
and, fearing that if at any time the wind should fall, carbonic acid,
which often formed a considerable portion of the gaseous exhalations
of volcanoes, might collect in sufficient quantities to cause sleep
and death, I warned Jerome against forgetting himself for a single
moment, even should his sufferings admit of such a thing.

Accordingly, when during the long, dreary watches of the night we
roused from a state of half-consciousness, we called each other by
name in a frightened, startled way, each fearing the other might be
benumbed or dead. The ordinary sensations of cold give but a faint
conception of that which comes on after hard climbing with want of
food and sleep in such exposure as this. Life is then seen to be a
fire, that now smoulders, now brightens, and may be easily quenched.
The weary hours wore away like dim half-forgotten years, so long and
eventful they seemed, though we did nothing but suffer. Still the
pain was not always of that bitter, intense kind that precludes
thought and takes away all capacity for enjoyment. A sort of dreamy
stupor came on at times in which we fancied we saw dry, resinous logs
suitable for campfires, just as after going days without food men
fancy they see bread.

Frozen, blistered, famished, benumbed, our bodies seemed lost to us at
times--all dead but the eyes. For the duller and fainter we became
the clearer was our vision, though only in momentary glimpses. Then,
after the sky cleared, we gazed at the stars, blessed immortals of
light, shining with marvelous brightness with long lance rays, near-looking and new-looking, as if never seen before. Again they would
look familiar and remind us of stargazing at home. Oftentimes
imagination coming into play would present charming pictures of the
warm zone below, mingled with others near and far. Then the bitter
wind and the drift would break the blissful vision and dreary pains
cover us like clouds. "Are you suffering much? Jerome would inquire
with pitiful faintness. "Yes," I would say, striving to keep my voice
brave, "frozen and burned; but never mind, Jerome, the night will wear
away at last, and tomorrow we go a-Maying, and what campfires we will
make, and what sunbaths we will take!"

The frost grew more and more intense, and we became icy and covered
over with a crust of frozen snow, as if we had lain cast away in the
drift all winter. In about thirteen hours--every hour like a year--day began to dawn, but it was long ere the summit's rocks were touched
by the sun. No clouds were visible from where we lay, yet the morning
was dull and blue, and bitterly frosty; and hour after hour passed by
while we eagerly watched the pale light stealing down the ridge to the
hollow where we lay. But there was not a trace of that warm, flushing
sunrise splendor we so long had hoped for.

As the time drew near to make an effort to reach camp, we became
concerned to know what strength was left us, and whether or no we
could walk; for we had lain flat all this time without once rising to
our feet. Mountaineers, however, always find in themselves a reserve
of power after great exhaustion. It is a kind of second life,
available only in emergencies like this; and, having proved its
existence, I had no great fear that either of us would fail, though
one of my arms was already benumbed and hung powerless.

At length, after the temperature was somewhat mitigated on this
memorable first of May, we arose and began to struggle homeward. Our
frozen trousers could scarcely be made to bend at the knee, and we
waded the snow with difficulty. The summit ridge was fortunately
wind-swept and nearly bare, so we were not compelled to lift our feet
high, and on reaching the long home slopes laden with loose snow we
made rapid progress, sliding and shuffling and pitching headlong, our
feebleness accelerating rather than diminishing our speed. When we
had descended some three thousand feet the sunshine warmed our backs
and we began to revive. At 10 a.m. we reached the timber and were

Half an hour later we heard Sisson shouting down among the firs,
coming with horses to take us to the hotel. After breaking a trail
through the snow as far as possible he had tied his animals and walked
up. We had been so long without food that we cared but little about
eating, but we eagerly drank the coffee he prepared for us. Our feet
were frozen, and thawing them was painful, and had to be done very
slowly by keeping them buried in soft snow for several hours, which
avoided permanent damage. Five thousand feet below the summit we
found only three inches of new snow, and at the base of the mountain
only a slight shower of rain had fallen, showing how local our storm
had been, notwithstanding its terrific fury. Our feet were wrapped in
sacking, and we were soon mounted and on our way down into the thick
sunshine--"God's Country," as Sisson calls the Chaparral Zone. In two
hours' ride the last snowbank was left behind. Violets appeared along
the edges of the trail, and the chaparral was coming into bloom, with
young lilies and larkspurs about the open places in rich profusion.
How beautiful seemed the golden sunbeams streaming through the woods
between the warm brown boles of the cedars and pines! All my friends
among the birds and plants seemed like OLD friends, and we felt like
speaking to every one of them as we passed, as if we had been a long
time away in some far, strange country.

In the afternoon we reached Strawberry Valley and fell asleep. Next
morning we seemed to have risen from the dead. My bedroom was flooded
with sunshine, and from the window I saw the great white Shasta cone
clad in forests and clouds and bearing them loftily in the sky.
Everything seemed full and radiant with the freshness and beauty and
enthusiasm of youth. Sisson's children came in with flowers and
covered my bed, and the storm on the mountaintop banished like a


Shasta Rambles and Modoc Memories

Arctic beauty and desolation, with their blessings and dangers, all
may be found here, to test the endurance and skill of adventurous
climbers; but far better than climbing the mountain is going around
its warm, fertile base, enjoying its bounties like a bee circling
around a bank of flowers. The distance is about a hundred miles, and
will take some of the time we hear so much about--a week or two--but
the benefits will compensate for any number of weeks. Perhaps the
profession of doing good may be full, but every body should be kind at
least to himself. Take a course of good water and air, and in the
eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no
harm will befall you. Some have strange, morbid fears as soon as they
find themselves with Nature, even in the kindest and wildest of her
solitudes, like very sick children afraid of their mother--as if God
were dead and the devil were king.

One may make the trip on horseback, or in a carriage, even; for a good
level road may be found all the way round, by Shasta Valley, Sheep
Rock, Elk Flat, Huckleberry Valley, Squaw Valley, following for a
considerable portion of the way the old Emigrant Road, which lies
along the east disk of the mountain, and is deeply worn by the wagons
of the early gold-seekers, many of whom chose this northern route as
perhaps being safer and easier, the pass here being only about six
thousand feet above sea level. But it is far better to go afoot.
Then you are free to make wide waverings and zigzags away from the
roads to visit the great fountain streams of the rivers, the glaciers
also, and the wildest retreats in the primeval forests, where the best
plants and animals dwell, and where many a flower-bell will ring
against your knees, and friendly trees will reach out their fronded
branches and touch you as you pass. One blanket will be enough to
carry, or you may forego the pleasure and burden altogether, as wood
for fires is everywhere abundant. Only a little food will be
required. Berries and plums abound in season, and quail and grouse
and deer--the magnificent shaggy mule deer as well as the common

As you sweep around so grand a center, the mountain itself seems to
turn, displaying its riches like the revolving pyramids in jewelers'
windows. One glacier after another comes into view, and the outlines
of the mountain are ever changing, though all the way around, from
whatever point of view, the form is maintained of a grand, simple cone
with a gently sloping base and rugged, crumbling ridges separating the
glaciers and the snowfields more or less completely. The play of
colors, from the first touches of the morning sun on the summit, down
the snowfields and the ice and lava until the forests are aglow, is a
never-ending delight, the rosy lava and the fine flushings of the snow
being ineffably lovely. Thus one saunters on and on in the glorious
radiance in utter peace and forgetfulness of time.

Yet, strange to say, there are days even here somewhat dull-looking,
when the mountain seem uncommunicative, sending out no appreciable
invitation, as if not at home. At such time its height seems much
less, as if, crouching and weary, it were taking rest. But Shasta is
always at home to those who love her, and is ever in a thrill of
enthusiastic activity--burning fires within, grinding glaciers
without, and fountains ever flowing. Every crystal dances responsive
to the touches of the sun, and currents of sap in the growing cells of
all the vegetation are ever in a vital whirl and rush, and though many
feet and wings are folded, how many are astir! And the wandering
winds, how busy they are, and what a breadth of sound and motion they
make, glinting and bubbling about the crags of the summit, sifting
through the woods, feeling their way from grove to grove, ruffling the
loose hair on the shoulders of the bears, fanning and rocking young
birds in their cradles, making a trumpet of every corolla, and
carrying their fragrance around the world.

In unsettled weather, when storms are growing, the mountain looms
immensely higher, and its miles of height become apparent to all,
especially in the gloom of the gathering clouds, or when the storm is
done and they are rolling away, torn on the edges and melting while in
the sunshine. Slight rainstorms are likely to be encountered in a
trip round the mountain, but one may easily find shelter beneath well-thatched trees that shed the rain like a roof. Then the shining of
the wet leaves is delightful, and the steamy fragrance, and the burst
of bird song from a multitude of thrushes and finches and warblers
that have nests in the chaparral.

The nights, too, are delightful, watching with Shasta beneath the
great starry done. A thousand thousand voices are heard, but so
finely blended they seem a part of the night itself, and make a deeper
silence. And how grandly do the great logs and branches of your
campfire give forth the heat and light that during their long century-lives they have so slowly gathered from the sun, storing it away in
beautiful dotted cells and beads of amber gum! The neighboring trees
look into the charmed circle as if the noon of another day had come,
familiar flowers and grasses that chance to be near seem far more
beautiful and impressive than by day, and as the dead trees give forth
their light all the other riches of their lives seem to be set free
and with the rejoicing flames rise again to the sky. In setting out
from Strawberry Valley, by bearing off to the northwestward a few
miles you may see

"...beneath dim aisles, in odorous beds,
The slight Linnaea hang its twin-born heads,
And [bless] the monument of the man of flowers,
Which breathes his sweet fame through the northern bowers."

This is one of the few places in California where the charming linnaea
is found, though it is common to the northward through Oregon and
Washington. Here, too, you may find the curious but unlovable
darlingtonia, a carnivorous plant that devours bumblebees,
grasshoppers, ants, moths, and other insects, with insatiable
appetite. In approaching it, its suspicious-looking yellow-spotted
hood and watchful attitude will be likely to make you go cautiously
through the bog where it stands, as if you were approaching a
dangerous snake. It also occurs in a bog near Sothern's Station on
the stage road, where I first saw it, and in other similar bogs
throughout the mountains hereabouts.

The "Big Spring" of the Sacramento is about a mile and a half above
Sisson's, issuing from the base of a drift-covered hill. It is lined
with emerald algae and mosses, and shaded with alder, willow, and
thorn bushes, which give it a fine setting. Its waters, apparently
unaffected by flood or drouth, heat or cold, fall at once into white
rapids with a rush and dash, as if glad to escape from the darkness to
begin their wild course down the canyon to the plain.

Muir's Peak, a few miles to the north of the spring, rises about three
thousand feet above the plain on which it stands, and is easily
climbed. The view is very fine and well repays the slight walk to its
summit, from which much of your way about the mountain may be studied
and chosen. The view obtained of the Whitney Glacier should tempt you
to visit it, since it is the largest of the Shasta glaciers and its
lower portion abounds in beautiful and interesting cascades and
crevasses. It is three or four miles long and terminates at an
elevation of about nine thousand five hundred feet above sea level, in
moraine-sprinkled ice cliffs sixty feet high. The long gray slopes
leading up to the glacier seem remarkably smooth and unbroken. They
are much interrupted, nevertheless, with abrupt, jagged precipitous
gorges, which though offering instructive sections of the lavas for
examination, would better be shunned by most people. This may be done
by keeping well down on the base until fronting the glacier before
beginning the ascent.

The gorge through which the glacier is drained is raw-looking, deep
and narrow, and indescribably jagged. The walls in many places
overhang; in others they are beveled, loose, and shifting where the
channel has been eroded by cinders, ashes, strata of firm lavas, and
glacial drift, telling of many a change from frost to fire and their
attendant floods of mud and water. Most of the drainage of the
glacier vanishes at once in the porous rocks to reappear in springs in
the distant valley, and it is only in time of flood that the channel
carries much water; then there are several fine falls in the gorge,
six hundred feet or more in height. Snow lies in it the year round at
an elevation of eight thousand five hundred feet, and in sheltered
spots a thousand feet lower. Tracing this wild changing channel-gorge, gully, or canyon, the sections will show Mount Shasta as a huge
palimpsest, containing the records, layer upon layer, of strangely
contrasted events in its fiery-icy history. But look well to your
footing, for the way will test the skill of the most cautious

Regaining the low ground at the base of the mountain and holding on in
your grand orbit, you pass through a belt of juniper woods, called
"The Cedars," to Sheep Rock at the foot of the Shasta Pass. Here you
strike the old emigrant road, which leads over the low divide to the
eastern slopes of the mountain. In a north-northwesterly direction
from the foot of the pass you may chance to find Pluto's Cave, already
mentioned; but it is not easily found, since its several mouths are on
a level with the general surface of the ground, and have been made
simply by the falling-in of portions of the roof. Far the most
beautiful and richly furnished of the mountain caves of California
occur in a thick belt of metamorphic limestone that is pretty
generally developed along the western flank of the Sierra from the
McCloud River to the Kaweah, a distance of nearly four hundred miles.
These volcanic caves are not wanting in interest, and it is well to
light a pitch pine torch and take a walk in these dark ways of the
underworld whenever opportunity offers, if for no other reason to see
with new appreciation on returning to the sunshine the beauties that
lie so thick about us.

Sheep Rock is about twenty miles from Sisson's, and is one of the
principal winter pasture grounds of the wild sheep, from which it
takes its name. It is a mass of lava presenting to the gray sage
plain of Shasta Valley a bold craggy front two thousand feet high.
Its summit lies at an elevation of five thousand five hundred feet
above the sea, and has several square miles of comparatively level
surface, where bunchgrass grows and the snow does not lie deep, thus
allowing the hardy sheep to pick up a living through the winter months
when deep snows have driven them down from the lofty ridges of Shasta.

From here it might be well to leave the immediate base of the mountain
for a few days and visit the Lava Beds made famous by the Modoc War.
They lie about forty miles to the northeastward, on the south shore of
Rhett or Tule[7] Lake, at an elevation above sea level of about forty-five hundred feet. They are a portion of a flow of dense black
vesicular lava, dipping northeastward at a low angle, but little
changed as yet by the weather, and about as destitute of soil as a
glacial pavement. The surface, though smooth in a general way as seen
from a distance, is dotted with hillocks and rough crater-like pits,
and traversed by a network of yawning fissures, forming a combination
of topographical conditions of very striking character. The way lies
by Mount Bremer, over stretches of gray sage plains, interrupted by
rough lava slopes timbered with juniper and yellow pine, and with here
and there a green meadow and a stream.

This is a famous game region, and you will be likely to meet small
bands of antelope, mule deer, and wild sheep. Mount Bremer is the
most noted stronghold of the sheep in the whole Shasta region. Large
flocks dwell here from year to year, winter and summer, descending
occasionally into the adjacent sage plains and lava beds to feed, but
ever ready to take refuge in the jagged crags of their mountain at
every alarm. While traveling with a company of hunters I saw about
fifty in one flock.

The Van Bremer brothers, after whom the mountain is named, told me
that they once climbed the mountain with their rifles and hounds on a
grand hunt; but, after keeping up the pursuit for a week, their boots
and clothing gave way, and the hounds were lamed and worn out without
having run down a single sheep, notwithstanding they ran night and
day. On smooth spots, level or ascending, the hounds gained on the
sheep, but on descending ground, and over rough masses of angular
rocks they fell hopelessly behind. Only half a dozen sheep were shot
as they passed the hunters stationed near their paths circling round
the rugged summit. The full-grown bucks weigh nearly three hundred
and fifty pounds.

The mule deer are nearly as heavy. Their long, massive ears give them
a very striking appearance. One large buck that I measured stood
three feet and seven inches high at the shoulders, and when the ears
were extended horizontally the distance across from tip to tip was two
feet and one inch.

From the Van Bremer ranch the way to the Lava Beds leads down the
Bremer Meadows past many a smooth grassy knoll and jutting cliff,

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