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Steep Trails, by John Muir

Part 2 out of 4

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along the shore of Lower Klamath Lake, and thence across a few miles
of sage plain to the brow of the wall-like bluff of lava four hundred
and fifty feet above Tule Lake. Here you are looking southeastward,
and the Modoc landscape, which at once takes possession of you, lies
revealed in front. It is composed of three principal parts; on your
left lies the bright expanse of Tule Lake, on your right an evergreen
forest, and between the two are the black Lava Beds.

When I first stood there, one bright day before sundown, the lake was
fairly blooming in purple light, and was so responsive to the sky in
both calmness and color it seemed itself a sky. No mountain shore
hides its loveliness. It lies wide open for many a mile, veiled in no
mystery but the mystery of light. The forest also was flooded with
sun-purple, not a spire moving, and Mount Shasta was seen towering
above it rejoicing in the ineffable beauty of the alpenglow. But
neither the glorified woods on the one hand, nor the lake on the
other, could at first hold the eye. That dark mysterious lava plain
between them compelled attention. Here you trace yawning fissures,
there clusters of somber pits; now you mark where the lava is bent and
corrugated in swelling ridges and domes, again where it breaks into a
rough mass of loose blocks. Tufts of grass grow far apart here and
there and small bushes of hardy sage, but they have a singed
appearance and can do little to hide the blackness. Deserts are
charming to those who know how to see them--all kinds of bogs,
barrens, and heathy moors; but the Modoc Lava Beds have for me an
uncanny look. As I gazed the purple deepened over all the landscape.
Then fell the gloaming, making everything still more forbidding and
mysterious. Then, darkness like death.

Next morning the crisp, sunshiny air made even the Modoc landscape
less hopeless, and we ventured down the bluff to the edge of the Lava
Beds. Just at the foot of the bluff we came to a square enclosed by a
stone wall. This is a graveyard where lie buried thirty soldiers,
most of whom met their fate out in the Lava Beds, as we learn by the
boards marking the graves--a gloomy place to die in, and deadly-looking even without Modocs. The poor fellows that lie here deserve
far more pity than they have ever received. Picking our way over the
strange ridges and hollows of the beds, we soon came to a circular
flat about twenty yards in diameter, on the shore of the lake, where
the comparative smoothness of the lava and a few handfuls of soil have
caused the grass tufts to grow taller. This is where General Canby
was slain while seeking to make peace with the treacherous Modocs.

Two or three miles farther on is the main stronghold of the Modocs,
held by them so long and defiantly against all the soldiers that could
be brought to the attack. Indians usually choose to hide in tall
grass and bush and behind trees, where they can crouch and glide like
panthers, without casting up defenses that would betray their
positions; but the Modoc castle is in the rock. When the Yosemite
Indians made raids on the settlers of the lower Merced, they withdrew
with their spoils into Yosemite Valley; and the Modocs boasted that in
case of war they had a stone house into which no white man could come
as long as they cared to defend it. Yosemite was not held for a
single day against the pursuing troops; but the Modocs held their fort
for months, until, weary of being hemmed in, they chose to withdraw.

It consists of numerous redoubts formed by the unequal subsidence of
portions of the lava flow, and a complicated network of redans
abundantly supplied with salient and re-entering angles, being united
each to the other and to the redoubts by a labyrinth of open and
covered corridors, some of which expand at intervals into spacious
caverns, forming as a whole the most complete natural Gibraltar I ever
saw. Other castles scarcely less strong are connected with this by
subterranean passages known only to the Indians, while the unnatural
blackness of the rock out of which Nature has constructed these
defenses, and the weird, inhuman physiognomy of the whole region are
well calculated to inspire terror.

Deadly was the task of storming such a place. The breech-loading
rifles of the Indians thrust through chinks between the rocks were
ready to pick off every soldier who showed himself for a moment, while
the Indians lay utterly invisible. They were familiar with byways
both over and under ground, and could at any time sink suddenly out of
sight like squirrels among the loose boulders. Our bewildered
soldiers heard them shooting, now before, now behind them, as they
glided from place to place through fissures and subterranean passes,
all the while as invisible as Gyges wearing his magic ring. To judge
from the few I have seen, Modocs are not very amiable-looking people
at best. When, therefore, they were crawling stealthily in the gloomy
caverns, unkempt and begrimed and with the glare of war in their eyes,
they must have seemed very demons of the volcanic pit.

Captain Jack's cave is one of the many somber cells of the castle. It
measures twenty-five or thirty feet in diameter at the entrance, and
extends but a short distance in a horizontal direction. The floor is
littered with the bones of the animals slaughtered for food during the
war. Some eager archaeologist may hereafter discover this cabin and
startle his world by announcing another of the Stone Age caves. The
sun shines freely into its mouth, and graceful bunches of grass and
eriogonums and sage grow about it, doing what they can toward its
redemption from degrading associations and making it beautiful.

Where the lava meets the lake there are some fine curving bays,
beautifully embroidered with rushes and polygonums, a favorite resort
of waterfowl. On our return, keeping close along shore, we caused a
noisy plashing and beating of wings among cranes and geese. The
ducks, less wary, kept their places, merely swimming in and out
through openings in the rushes, rippling the glassy water, and raising
spangles in their wake. The countenance of the lava beds became less
and less forbidding. Tufts of pale grasses, relieved on the jet
rocks, looked like ornaments on a mantel, thick-furred mats of emerald
mosses appeared in damp spots next the shore, and I noticed one tuft
of small ferns. From year to year in the kindly weather the beds are
thus gathering beauty--beauty for ashes.

Returning to Sheep Rock and following the old emigrant road, one is
soon back again beneath the snows and shadows of Shasta, and the Ash
Creek and McCloud Glaciers come into view on the east side of the
mountain. They are broad, rugged, crevassed cloudlike masses of down-grinding ice, pouring forth streams of muddy water as measures of the
work they are doing in sculpturing the rocks beneath them; very unlike
the long, majestic glaciers of Alaska that riverlike go winding down
the valleys through the forests to the sea. These, with a few others
as yet nameless, are lingering remnants of once great glaciers that
occupied the canyons now taken by the rivers, and in a few centuries
will, under present conditions, vanish altogether.

The rivers of the granite south half of the Sierra are outspread on
the peaks in a shining network of small branches, that divide again
and again into small dribbling, purling, oozing threads drawing their
sources from the snow and ice of the surface. They seldom sink out of
sight, save here and there in the moraines or glaciers, or, early in
the season, beneath the banks and bridges of snow, soon to issue
again. But in the north half, laden with rent and porous lava, small
tributary streams are rare, and the rivers, flowing for a time beneath
the sky of rock, at length burst forth into the light in generous
volume from seams and caverns, filtered, cool, and sparkling, as if
their bondage in darkness, safe from the vicissitudes of the weather
in their youth, were only a blessing.

Only a very small portion of the water derived from the melting ice
and snow of Shasta flows down its flanks on the surface. Probably
ninety-nine per cent of it is at once absorbed and drained away
beneath the porous lava-folds of the mountain to gush forth, filtered
and pure, in the form of immense springs, so large, some of them, that
they give birth to rivers that start on their journey beneath the sun,
full-grown and perfect without any childhood. Thus the Shasta River
issues from a large lake-like spring in Shasta Valley, and about two
thirds of the volume of the McCloud gushes forth in a grand spring on
the east side of the mountain, a few miles back from its immediate

To find the big spring of the McCloud, or "Mud Glacier," which you
will know by its size (it being the largest on the east side), you
make your way through sunny, parklike woods of yellow pine, and a
shaggy growth of chaparral, and come in a few hours to the river
flowing in a gorge of moderate depth, cut abruptly down into the lava
plain. Should the volume of the stream where you strike it seem
small, then you will know that you are above the spring; if large,
nearly equal to its volume at its confluence with the Pitt River, then
you are below it; and in either case have only to follow the river up
or down until you come to it.

Under certain conditions you may hear the roar of the water rushing
from the rock at a distance of half a mile, or even more; or you may
not hear it until within a few rods. It comes in a grand, eager gush
from a horizontal seam in the face of the wall of the river gorge in
the form of a partially interrupted sheet nearly seventy-five yards in
width, and at a height above the riverbed of about forty feet, as
nearly as I could make out without the means of exact measurement.
For about fifty yards this flat current is in one unbroken sheet, and
flows in a lacework of plashing, upleaping spray over boulders that
are clad in green silky algae and water mosses to meet the smaller
part of the river, which takes its rise farther up. Joining the river
at right angles to its course, it at once swells its volume to three
times its size above the spring.

The vivid green of the boulders beneath the water is very striking,
and colors the entire stream with the exception of the portions broken
into foam. The color is chiefly due to a species of algae which seems
common in springs of this sort. That any kind of plant can hold on
and grow beneath the wear of so boisterous a current seems truly
wonderful, even after taking into consideration the freedom of the
water from cutting drift, and the constance of its volume and
temperature throughout the year. The temperature is about 45 degrees,
and the height of the river above the sea is here about three thousand
feet. Asplenium, epilobium, heuchera, hazel, dogwood, and alder make
a luxurious fringe and setting; and the forests of Douglas spruce
along the banks are the finest I have ever seen in the Sierra.

From the spring you may go with the river--a fine traveling companion--down to the sportsman's fishing station, where, if you are getting
hungry, you may replenish your stores; or, bearing off around the
mountain by Huckleberry Valley, complete your circuit without
interruption, emerging at length from beneath the outspread arms of
the sugar pine at Strawberry Valley, with all the new wealth and
health gathered in your walk; not tired in the least, and only eager
to repeat the round.

Tracing rivers to their fountains makes the most charming of travels.
As the life-blood of the landscapes, the best of the wilderness comes
to their banks, and not one dull passage is found in all their
eventful histories. Tracing the McCloud to its highest springs, and
over the divide to the fountains of Fall River, near Fort Crook,
thence down that river to its confluence with the Pitt, on from there
to the volcanic region about Lassen's Butte, through the Big Meadows
among the sources of the Feather River, and down through forests of
sugar pine to the fertile plains of Chico--this is a glorious saunter
and imposes no hardship. Food may be had at moderate intervals, and
the whole circuit forms one ever-deepening, broadening stream of

Fall River is a very remarkable stream. It is only about ten miles
long, and is composed of springs, rapids, and falls--springs
beautifully shaded at one end of it, a showy fall one hundred and
eighty feet high at the other, and a rush of crystal rapids between.
The banks are fringed with rubus, rose, plum cherry, spiraea, azalea,
honeysuckle, hawthorn, ash, alder, elder, aster, goldenrod, beautiful
grasses, sedges, rushes, mosses, and ferns with fronds as large as the
leaves of palms--all in the midst of a richly forested landscape.
Nowhere within the limits of California are the forests of yellow pine
so extensive and exclusive as on the headwaters of the Pitt. They
cover the mountains and all the lower slopes that border the wide,
open valleys which abound there, pressing forward in imposing ranks,
seemingly the hardiest and most firmly established of all the northern

The volcanic region about Lassen's Butte I have already in part
described. Miles of its flanks are dotted with hot springs, many of
them so sulphurous and boisterous and noisy in their boiling that they
seem inclined to become geysers like those of the Yellowstone.

The ascent of Lassen's Butte is an easy walk, and the views from the
summit are extremely telling. Innumerable lakes and craters surround
the base; forests of the charming Williamson spruce fringe lake and
crater alike; the sunbeaten plains to east and west make a striking
show, and the wilderness of peaks and ridges stretch indefinitely away
on either hand. The lofty, icy Shasta, towering high above all, seems
but an hour's walk from you, though the distance in an air-line is
about sixty miles.

The "Big Meadows" lie near the foot of Lassen's Butte, a beautiful
spacious basin set in the heart of the richly forested mountains,
scarcely surpassed in the grandeur of its surroundings by Tahoe.
During the Glacial Period it was a mer de glace, then a lake, and now
a level meadow shining with bountiful springs and streams. In the
number and size of its big spring fountains it excels even Shasta.
One of the largest that I measured forms a lakelet nearly a hundred
yards in diameter, and, in the generous flood it sends forth offers
one of the most telling symbols of Nature's affluence to be found in
the mountains.

The great wilds of our country, once held to be boundless and
inexhaustible, are being rapidly invaded and overrun in every
direction, and everything destructible in them is being destroyed.
How far destruction may go it is not easy to guess. Every landscape,
low and high, seems doomed to be trampled and harried. Even the sky
is not safe from scath--blurred and blackened whole summers together
with the smoke of fires that devour the woods.

The Shasta region is still a fresh unspoiled wilderness, accessible
and available for travelers of every kind and degree. Would it not
then be a fine thing to set it apart like the Yellowstone and Yosemite
as a National Park for the welfare and benefit of all mankind,
preserving its fountains and forests and all its glad life in primeval
beauty? Very little of the region can ever be more valuable for any
other use--certainly not for gold nor for grain. No private right or
interest need suffer, and thousands yet unborn would come from far and
near and bless the country for its wise and benevolent forethought.


The City of the Saints[8]

The mountains rise grandly round about this curious city, the Zion of
the new Saints, so grandly that the city itself is hardly visible.
The Wahsatch Range, snow-laden and adorned with glacier-sculpted
peaks, stretches continuously along the eastern horizon, forming the
boundary of the Great Salt Lake Basin; while across the valley of the
Jordan southwestward from here, you behold the Oquirrh Range, about as
snowy and lofty as the Wahsatch. To the northwest your eye skims the
blue levels of the great lake, out of the midst of which rise island
mountains, and beyond, at a distance of fifty miles, is seen the
picturesque wall of the lakeside mountains blending with the lake and
the sky.

The glacial developments of these superb ranges are sharply sculptured
peaks and crests, with ample wombs between them where the ancient
snows of the glacial period were collected and transformed into ice,
and ranks of profound shadowy canyons, while moraines commensurate
with the lofty fountains extend into the valleys, forming far the
grandest series of glacial monuments I have yet seen this side of the

In beginning this letter I meant to describe the city, but in the
company of these noble old mountains, it is not easy to bend one's
attention upon anything else. Salt Lake cannot be called a very
beautiful town, neither is there anything ugly or repulsive about it.
From the slopes of the Wahsatch foothills, or old lake benches, toward
Fort Douglas it is seen to occupy the sloping gravelly delta of City
Creek, a fine, hearty stream that comes pouring from the snows of the
mountains through a majestic glacial canyon; and it is just where this
stream comes forth into the light on the edge of the valley of the
Jordan that the Mormons have built their new Jerusalem.

At first sight there is nothing very marked in the external appearance
of the town excepting its leafiness. Most of the houses are veiled
with trees, as if set down in the midst of one grand orchard; and seen
at a little distance they appear like a field of glacier boulders
overgrown with aspens, such as one often meets in the upper valleys of
the California Sierra, for only the angular roofs are clearly visible.

Perhaps nineteen twentieths of the houses are built of bluish-gray
adobe bricks, and are only one or two stories high, forming fine
cottage homes which promise simple comfort within. They are set well
back from the street, leaving room for a flower garden, while almost
every one has a thrifty orchard at the sides and around the back. The
gardens are laid out with great simplicity, indicating love for
flowers by people comparatively poor, rather than deliberate efforts
of the rich for showy artistic effects. They are like the pet gardens
of children, about as artless and humble, and harmonize with the low
dwellings to which they belong. In almost every one you find daisies,
and mint, and lilac bushes, and rows of plain English tulips. Lilacs
and tulips are the most characteristic flowers, and nowhere have I
seen them in greater perfection. As Oakland is pre-eminently a city
of roses, so is this Mormon Saints' Rest a city of lilacs and tulips.
The flowers, at least, are saintly, and they are surely loved. Scarce
a home, however obscure, is without them, and the simple,
unostentatious manner in which they are planted and gathered in pots
and boxes about the windows shows how truly they are prized.

The surrounding commons, the marshy levels of the Jordan, and dry,
gravelly lake benches on the slopes of the Wahsatch foothills are now
gay with wild flowers, chief among which are a species of phlox, with
an abundance of rich pink corollas, growing among sagebrush in showy
tufts, and a beautiful papilionaceous plant, with silky leaves and
large clusters of purple flowers, banner, wings, and keel exquisitely
shaded, a mertensia, hydrophyllum, white boragewort, orthocarpus,
several species of violets, and a tall scarlet gilia. It is
delightful to see how eagerly all these are sought after by the
children, both boys and girls. Every day that I have gone botanizing
I have met groups of little Latter-Days with their precious bouquets,
and at such times it was hard to believe the dark, bloody passages of
Mormon history.

But to return to the city. As soon as City Creek approaches its upper
limit its waters are drawn off right and left, and distributed in
brisk rills, one on each side of every street, the regular slopes of
the delta upon which the city is built being admirable adapted to this
system of street irrigation. These streams are all pure and sparkling
in the upper streets, but, as they are used to some extent as sewers,
they soon manifest the consequence of contact with civilization,
though the speed of their flow prevents their becoming offensive, and
little Saints not over particular may be seen drinking from them

The streets are remarkably wide and the buildings low, making them
appear yet wider than they really are. Trees are planted along the
sidewalks--elms, poplars, maples, and a few catalpas and hawthorns;
yet they are mostly small and irregular, and nowhere form avenues half
so leafy and imposing as one would be led to expect. Even in the
business streets there is but little regularity in the buildings--now
a row of plain adobe structures, half store, half dwelling, then a
high mercantile block of red brick or sandstone, and again a row of
adobe cottages nestled back among apple trees. There is one immense
store with its sign upon the roof, in letters big enough to be read
miles away, "Z.C.M.I." (Zion's Co-operative Mercantile Institution),
while many a small, codfishy corner grocery bears the legend "Holiness
to the Lord, Z.C.M.I." But little evidence will you find in this
Zion, with its fifteen thousand souls, of great wealth, though many a
Saint is seeking it as keenly as any Yankee Gentile. But on the other
had, searching throughout all the city, you will not find any trace of
squalor or extreme poverty.

Most of the women I have chanced to meet, especially those from the
country, have a weary, repressed look, as if for the sake of their
religion they were patiently carrying burdens heavier than they were
well able to bear. But, strange as it must seem to Gentiles, the many
wives of one man, instead of being repelled from one another by
jealousy, appear to be drawn all the closer together, as if the real
marriage existed between the wives only. Groups of half a dozen or so
may frequently be seen on the streets in close conversation, looking
as innocent and unspeculative as a lot of heifers, while the masculine
Saints pass them by as if they belonged to a distinct species. In the
Tabernacle last Sunday, one of the elders of the church, in
discoursing upon the good things of life, the possessions of Latter-Day Saints, enumerated fruitful fields, horses, cows, wives, and
implements, the wives being placed as above, between the cows and
implements, without receiving any superior emphasis.

Polygamy, as far as I have observed, exerts a more degrading influence
upon husbands that upon wives. The love of the latter finds
expression in flowers and children, while the former seem to be
rendered incapable of pure love of anything. The spirit of Mormonism
is intensely exclusive and un-American. A more withdrawn, compact,
sealed-up body of people could hardly be found on the face of the
earth than is gathered here, notwithstanding railroads, telegraphs,
and the penetrating lights that go sifting through society everywhere
in this revolutionary, question-asking century. Most of the Mormons I
have met seem to be in a state of perpetual apology, which can hardly
be fully accounted for by Gentile attacks. At any rate it is
unspeakable offensive to any free man.

"We Saints," they are continually saying, "are not as bad as we are
called. We don't murder those who differ with us, but rather treat
them with all charity. You may go through our town night or day and
no harm shall befall you. Go into our houses and you will be well
used. We are as glad as you are that Lee was punished," etc. While
taking a saunter the other evening we were overtaken by a
characteristic Mormon, "an umble man," who made us a very deferential
salute and then walked on with us about half a mile. We discussed
whatsoever of Mormon doctrines came to mind with American freedom,
which he defended as best he could, speaking in an excited but
deprecating tone. When hard pressed he would say: "I don't understand
these deep things, but the elders do. I'm only an umble tradesman."
In taking leave he thanked us for the pleasure of our querulous
conversation, removed his hat, and bowed lowly in a sort of Uriah Heep
manner, and then went to his humble home. How many humble wives it
contained, we did not learn.

Fine specimens of manhood are by no means wanting, but the number of
people one meets here who have some physical defect or who attract
one's attention by some mental peculiarity that manifests itself
through the eyes, is astonishingly great in so small a city. It would
evidently be unfair to attribute these defects to Mormonism, though
Mormonism has undoubtedly been the magnet that elected and drew these
strange people together from all parts of the world.

But however "the peculiar doctrines" and "peculiar practices" of
Mormonism have affected the bodies and the minds of the old Saints,
the little Latter-Day boys and girls are as happy and natural as
possible, running wild, with plenty of good hearty parental
indulgence, playing, fighting, gathering flowers in delightful
innocence; and when we consider that most of the parents have been
drawn from the thickly settled portion of the Old World, where they
have long suffered the repression of hunger and hard toil, the Mormon
children, "Utah's best crop," seem remarkably bright and promising.

From children one passes naturally into the blooming wilderness, to
the pure religion of sunshine and snow, where all the good and the
evil of this strange people lifts and vanishes from the mind like mist
from the mountains.


A Great Storm in Utah[9]

Utah has just been blessed with one of the grandest storms I have ever
beheld this side of the Sierra. The mountains are laden with fresh
snow; wild streams are swelling and booming adown the canyons, and out
in the valley of the Jordan a thousand rain-pools are gleaming in the

With reference to the development of fertile storms bearing snow and
rain, the greater portion of the calendar springtime of Utah has been
winter. In all the upper canyons of the mountains the snow is now
from five to ten feet deep or more, and most of it has fallen since
March. Almost every other day during the last three weeks small local
storms have been falling on the Wahsatch and Oquirrh Mountains, while
the Jordan Valley remained dry and sun-filled. But on the afternoon
of Thursday, the 17th ultimo, wind, rain, and snow filled the whole
basin, driving wildly over valley and plain from range to range,
bestowing their benefactions in most cordial and harmonious storm-measures. The oldest Saints say they have never witnessed a more
violent storm of this kind since the first settlement of Zion, and
while the gale from the northwest, with which the storm began, was
rocking their adobe walls, uprooting trees and darkening the streets
with billows of dust and sand, some of them seemed inclined to guess
that the terrible phenomenon was one of the signs of the times of
which their preachers are so constantly reminding them, the beginning
of the outpouring of the treasured wrath of the Lord upon the Gentiles
for the killing of Joseph Smith. To me it seemed a cordial outpouring
of Nature's love; but it is easy to differ with salt Latter-Days in
everything--storms, wives, politics, and religion.

About an hour before the storm reached the city I was so fortunate as
to be out with a friend on the banks of the Jordan enjoying the
scenery. Clouds, with peculiarly restless and self-conscious
gestures, were marshaling themselves along the mountain-tops, and
sending out long, overlapping wings across the valley; and even where
no cloud was visible, an obscuring film absorbed the sunlight, giving
rise to a cold, bluish darkness. Nevertheless, distant objects along
the boundaries of the landscape were revealed with wonderful
distinctness in this weird, subdued, cloud-sifted light. The
mountains, in particular, with the forests on their flanks, their mazy
lacelike canyons, the wombs of the ancient glaciers, and their
marvelous profusion of ornate sculpture, were most impressively
manifest. One would fancy that a man might be clearly seen walking on
the snow at a distance of twenty or thirty miles.

While we were reveling in this rare, ungarish grandeur, turning from
range to range, studying the darkening sky and listening to the still
small voices of the flowers at our feet, some of the denser clouds
came down, crowning and wreathing the highest peaks and dropping long
gray fringes whose smooth linear structure showed that snow was
beginning to fall. Of these partial storms there were soon ten or
twelve, arranged in two rows, while the main Jordan Valley between
them lay as yet in profound calm. At 4:30 p.m. a dark brownish cloud
appeared close down on the plain towards the lake, extending from the
northern extremity of the Oquirrh Range in a northeasterly direction
as far as the eye could reach. Its peculiar color and structure
excited our attention without enabling us to decide certainly as to
its character, but we were not left long in doubt, for in a few
minutes it came sweeping over the valley in a wild uproar, a torrent
of wind thick with sand and dust, advancing with a most majestic
front, rolling and overcombing like a gigantic sea-wave. Scarcely was
it in plain sight ere it was upon us, racing across the Jordan, over
the city, and up the slopes of the Wahsatch, eclipsing all the
landscapes in its course--the bending trees, the dust streamers, and
the wild onrush of everything movable giving it an appreciable
visibility that rendered it grand and inspiring.

This gale portion of the storm lasted over an hour, then down came the
blessed rain and the snow all through the night and the next day, the
snow and rain alternating and blending in the valley. It is long
since I have seen snow coming into a city. The crystal flakes falling
in the foul streets was a pitiful sight.

Notwithstanding the vaunted refining influences of towns, purity of
all kinds--pure hearts, pure streams, pure snow--must here be exposed
to terrible trials. City Creek, coming from its high glacial
fountains, enters the streets of this Mormon Zion pure as an angel,
but how does it leave it? Even roses and lilies in gardens most loved
are tainted with a thousand impurities as soon as they unfold. I
heard Brigham Young in the Tabernacle the other day warning his people
that if they did not mend their manners angels would not come into
their houses, though perchance they might be sauntering by with little
else to do than chat with them. Possibly there may be Salt Lake
families sufficiently pure for angel society, but I was not pleased
with the reception they gave the small snow angels that God sent among
them the other might. Only the children hailed them with delight.
The old Latter-Days seemed to shun them. I should like to see how Mr.
Young, the Lake Prophet, would meet such messengers.

But to return to the storm. Toward the evening of the 18th it began
to wither. The snowy skirts of the Wahsatch Mountains appeared
beneath the lifting fringes of the clouds, and the sun shone out
through colored windows, producing one of the most glorious after-storm effects I ever witnessed. Looking across the Jordan, the gray
sagey slopes from the base of the Oquirrh Mountains were covered with
a thick, plushy cloth of gold, soft and ethereal as a cloud, not
merely tinted and gilded like a rock with autumn sunshine, but deeply
muffled beyond recognition. Surely nothing in heaven, nor any mansion
of the Lord in all his worlds, could be more gloriously carpeted.
Other portions of the plain were flushed with red and purple, and all
the mountains and the clouds above them were painted in corresponding
loveliness. Earth and sky, round and round the entire landscape, was
one ravishing revelation of color, infinitely varied and interblended.

I have seen many a glorious sunset beneath lifting storm clouds on the
mountains, but nothing comparable with this. I felt as if new-arrived
in some other far-off world. The mountains, the plains, the sky, all
seemed new. Other experiences seemed but to have prepared me for
this, as souls are prepared for heaven. To describe the colors on a
single mountain would, if it were possible at all, require many a
volume--purples, and yellows, and delicious pearly grays divinely
toned and interblended, and so richly put on one seemed to be looking
down through the ground as through a sky. The disbanding clouds
lingered lovingly about the mountains, filling the canyons like tinted
wool, rising and drooping around the topmost peaks, fondling their
rugged bases, or, sailing alongside, trailed their lustrous fringes
through the pines as if taking a last view of their accomplished work.
Then came darkness, and the glorious day was done.

This afternoon the Utah mountains and valleys seem to belong to our
own very world again. They are covered with common sunshine. Down
here on the banks of the Jordan, larks and redwings are swinging on
the rushes; the balmy air is instinct with immortal life; the wild
flowers, the grass, and the farmers' grain are fresh as if, like the
snow, they had come out of heaven, and the last of the angel clouds
are fleeing from the mountains.


Bathing in Salt Lake[10]

When the north wind blows, bathing in Salt Lake is a glorious baptism,
for then it is all wildly awake with waves, blooming like a prairie in
snowy crystal foam. Plunging confidently into the midst of the grand
uproar you are hugged and welcomed, and swim without effort, rocking
and heaving up and down, in delightful rhythm, while the winds sing in
chorus and the cool, fragrant brine searches every fiber of your body;
and at length you are tossed ashore with a glad Godspeed, braced and
salted and clean as a saint.

The nearest point on the shoreline is distant about ten miles from
Salt Lake City, and is almost inaccessible on account of the boggy
character of the ground, but, by taking the Western Utah Railroad, at
a distance of twenty miles you reach what is called Lake Point, where
the shore is gravelly and wholesome and abounds in fine retreating
bays that seem to have been made on purpose for bathing. Here the
northern peaks of the Oquirrh Range plant their feet in the clear blue
brine, with fine curbing insteps, leaving no space for muddy levels.
The crystal brightness of the water, the wild flowers, and the lovely
mountain scenery make this a favorite summer resort fro pleasure and
health seekers. Numerous excursion trains are run from the city, and
parties, some of them numbering upwards of a thousand, come to bathe,
and dance, and roam the flowery hillsides together.

But at the time of my first visit in May, I fortunately found myself
alone. The hotel and bathhouse, which form the chief improvements of
the place, were sleeping in winter silence, notwithstanding the year
was in full bloom. It was one of those genial sun-days when flowers
and flies come thronging to the light, and birds sing their best. The
mountain ranges, stretching majestically north and south, were piled
with pearly cumuli, the sky overhead was pure azure, and the wind-swept lake was all aroll and aroar with whitecaps.

I sauntered along the shore until I came to a sequestered cove, where
buttercups and wild peas were blooming close down to the limit reached
by the waves. Here, I thought, is just the place for a bath; but the
breakers seemed terribly boisterous and forbidding as they came
rolling up the beach, or dashed white against the rocks that bounded
the cove on the east. The outer ranks, ever broken, ever builded,
formed a magnificent rampart, sculptured and corniced like the hanging
wall of a bergschrund, and appeared hopelessly insurmountable, however
easily one might ride the swelling waves beyond. I feasted awhile on
their beauty, watching their coming in from afar like faithful
messengers, to tell their stories one by one; then I turned
reluctantly away, to botanize and wait a calm. But the calm did not
come that day, nor did I wait long. In an hour or two I was back
again to the same little cove. The waves still sang the old storm
song, and rose in high crystal walls, seemingly hard enough to be cut
in sections, like ice.

Without any definite determination I found myself undressed, as if
some one else had taken me in hand; and while one of the largest waves
was ringing out its message and spending itself on the beach, I ran
out with open arms to the next, ducked beneath its breaking top, and
got myself into right lusty relationship with the brave old lake.
Away I sped in free, glad motion, as if, like a fish, I had been
afloat all my life, now low out of sight in the smooth, glassy
valleys, now bounding aloft on firm combing crests, while the crystal
foam beat against my breast with keen, crisp clashing, as if composed
of pure salt. I bowed to every wave, and each lifted me right royally
to its shoulders, almost setting me erect on my feet, while they all
went speeding by like living creatures, blooming and rejoicing in the
brightness of the day, and chanting the history of their grand
mountain home.

A good deal of nonsense has been written concerning the difficulty of
swimming in this heavy water. "One's head would go down, and heels
come up, and the acrid brine would burn like fire." I was conscious
only of a joyous exhilaration, my limbs seemingly heeding their own
business, without any discomfort or confusion; so much so, that
without previous knowledge my experience on this occasion would not
have led me to detect anything peculiar. In calm weather, however,
the sustaining power of the water might probably be more marked. This
was by far the most exciting and effective wave excursion I ever made
this side of the Rocky Mountains; and when at its close I was heaved
ashore among the sunny grasses and flowers, I found myself a new
creature indeed, and went bounding along the beach with blood all
aglow, reinforced by the best salts of the mountains, and ready for
any race.

Since the completion of the transcontinental and Utah railways, this
magnificent lake in the heart of the continent has become as
accessible as any watering-place on either coast; and I am sure that
thousands of travelers, sick and well, would throng its shores every
summer were its merits but half known. Lake Point is only an hour or
two from the city, and has hotel accommodations and a steamboat for
excursions; and then, besides the bracing waters, the climates is
delightful. The mountains rise into the cool sky furrowed with
canyons almost yosemitic in grandeur, and filled with a glorious
profusion of flowers and trees. Lovers of science, lovers of
wildness, lovers of pure rest will find here more than they may hope

As for the Mormons one meets, however their doctrines be regarded,
they will be found as rich in human kindness as any people in all our
broad land, while the dark memories that cloud their earlier history
will vanish from the mind as completely as when we bathe in the
fountain azure of the Sierra.


Mormon Lilies[11]

Lilies are rare in Utah; so also are their companions the ferns and
orchids, chiefly on account of the fiery saltness of the soil and
climate. You may walk the deserts of the Great Basin in the bloom
time of the year, all the way across from the snowy Sierra to the
snowy Wahsatch, and your eyes will be filled with many a gay malva,
and poppy, and abronia, and cactus, but you may not see a single true
lily, and only a very few liliaceous plants of any kind. Not even in
the cool, fresh glens of the mountains will you find these favorite
flowers, though some of these desert ranges almost rival the Sierra in
height. Nevertheless, in the building and planting of this grand
Territory the lilies were not forgotten. Far back in the dim geologic
ages, when the sediments of the old seas were being gathered and
outspread in smooth sheets like leaves of a book, and when these
sediments became dry land, and were baked and crumbled into the sky as
mountain ranges; when the lava-floods of the Fire Period were being
lavishly poured forth from innumerable rifts and craters; when the ice
of the Glacial Period was laid like a mantle over every mountain and
valley--throughout all these immensely protracted periods, in the
throng of these majestic operations, Nature kept her flower children
in mind. She considered the lilies, and, while planting the plains
with sage and the hills with cedar, she has covered at least one
mountain with golden erythroniums and fritillarias as its crowning
glory, as if willing to show what she could do in the lily line even

Looking southward from the south end of Salt Lake, the two northmost
peaks of the Oquirrh Range are seen swelling calmly into the cool sky
without any marked character, excepting only their snow crowns, and a
few weedy-looking patches of spruce and fir, the simplicity of their
slopes preventing their real loftiness from being appreciated. Gray,
sagey plains circle around their bases, and up to a height of a
thousand feet or more their sides are tinged with purple, which I
afterwards found is produced by a close growth of dwarf oak just
coming into leaf. Higher you may detect faint tintings of green on a
gray ground, from young grasses and sedges; then come the dark pine
woods filling glacial hollows, and over all the smooth crown of snow.

While standing at their feet, the other day, shortly after my
memorable excursion among the salt waves of the lake, I said: "Now I
shall have another baptism. I will bathe in the high sky, among cool
wind-waves from the snow." From the more southerly of the two peaks a
long ridge comes down, bent like a bow, one end in the hot plains, the
other in the snow of the summit. After carefully scanning the jagged
towers and battlements with which it is roughened, I determined to
make it my way, though it presented but a feeble advertisement of its
floral wealth. This apparent barrenness, however, made no great
objection just then, for I was scarce hoping for flowers, old or new,
or even for fine scenery. I wanted in particular to learn what the
Oquirrh rocks were made of, what trees composed the curious patches of
forest; and, perhaps more than all, I was animated by a mountaineer's
eagerness to get my feet into the snow once more, and my head into the
clear sky, after lying dormant all winter at the level of the sea.

But in every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks. I
had not gone more than a mile from Lake Point ere I found the way
profusely decked with flowers, mostly compositae and purple
leguminosae, a hundred corollas or more to the square yard, with a
corresponding abundance of winged blossoms above them, moths and
butterflies, the leguminosae of the insect kingdom. This floweriness
is maintained with delightful variety all the way up through rocks and
bushes to the snow--violets, lilies, gilias, oenotheras, wallflowers,
ivesias, saxifrages, smilax, and miles of blooming bushes, chiefly
azalea, honeysuckle, brier rose, buckthorn, and eriogonum, all meeting
and blending in divine accord.

Two liliaceous plants in particular, Erythronium grandiflorum and
Fritillaria pudica, are marvelously beautiful and abundant. Never
before, in all my walks, have I met so glorious a throng of these fine
showy liliaceous plants. The whole mountainside was aglow with them,
from a height of fifty-five hundred feet to the very edge of the snow.
Although remarkably fragile, both in form and in substance, they are
endowed with plenty of deep-seated vitality, enabling them to grow in
all kinds of places--down in leafy glens, in the lee of wind-beaten
ledges, and beneath the brushy tangles of azalea, and oak, and prickly
roses--everywhere forming the crowning glory of the flowers. If the
neighboring mountains are as rich in lilies, then this may well be
called the Lily Range.

After climbing about a thousand feet above the plain I came to a
picturesque mass of rock, cropping up through the underbrush on one of
the steepest slopes of the mountain. After examining some tufts of
grass and saxifrage that were growing in its fissured surface, I was
going to pass it by on the upper side, where the bushes were more
open, but a company composed of the two lilies I have mentioned were
blooming on the lower side, and though they were as yet out of sight,
I suddenly changed my mind and went down to meet them, as if attracted
by the ringing of their bells. They were growing in a small, nestlike
opening between the rock and the bushes, and both the erythronium and
the fritillaria were in full flower. These were the first of the
species I had seen, and I need not try to tell the joy they made.
They are both lowly plants,--lowly as violets,--the tallest seldom
exceeding six inches in height, so that the most searching winds that
sweep the mountains scarce reach low enough to shake their bells.

The fritillaria has five or six linear, obtuse leaves, put on
irregularly near the bottom of the stem, which is usually terminated
by one large bell-shaped flower; but its more beautiful companion, the
erythronium, has two radical leaves only, which are large and oval,
and shine like glass. They extend horizontally in opposite
directions, and form a beautiful glossy ground, over which the one
large down-looking flower is swung from a simple stem, the petals
being strongly recurved, like those of Lilium superbum. Occasionally a
specimen is met which has from two to five flowers hung in a loose
panicle. People oftentimes travel far to see curious plants like the
carnivorous darlingtonia, the fly-catcher, the walking fern, etc. I
hardly know how the little bells I have been describing would be
regarded by seekers of this class, but every true flower-lover who
comes to consider these Utah lilies will surely be well rewarded,
however long the way.

Pushing on up the rugged slopes, I found many delightful seclusions--moist nooks at the foot of cliffs, and lilies in every one of them,
not growing close together like daisies, but well apart, with plenty
of room for their bells to swing free and ring. I found hundreds of
them in full bloom within two feet of the snow. In winter only the
bulbs are alive, sleeping deep beneath the ground, like field mice in
their nests; then the snow-flowers fall above them, lilies over
lilies, until the spring winds blow, and these winter lilies wither in
turn; then the hiding erythroniums and fritillarias rise again,
responsive to the first touches of the sun.

I noticed the tracks of deer in many places among the lily gardens,
and at the height of about seven thousand feet I came upon the fresh
trail of a flock of wild sheep, showing that these fine mountaineers
still flourish here above the range of Mormon rifles. In the planting
of her wild gardens, Nature takes the feet and teeth of her flocks
into account, and makes use of them to trim and cultivate, and keep
them in order, as the bark and buds of the tree are tended by
woodpeckers and linnets.

The evergreen woods consist, as far as I observed, of two species, a
spruce and a fir, standing close together, erect and arrowy in a
thrifty, compact growth; but they are quite small, say from six to
twelve or fourteen inches in diameter, and bout forty feet in height.
Among their giant relatives of the Sierra the very largest would seem
mere saplings. A considerable portion of the south side of the
mountain is planted with a species of aspen, called "quaking asp" by
the wood-choppers. It seems to be quite abundant on many of the
eastern mountains of the basin, and forms a marked feature of their
upper forests.

Wading up the curves of the summit was rather toilsome, for the snow,
which was softened by the blazing sun, was from ten to twenty feet
deep, but the view was one of the most impressively sublime I ever
beheld. Snowy, ice-sculptured ranges bounded the horizon all around,
while the great lake, eighty miles long and fifty miles wide, lay
fully revealed beneath a lily sky. The shorelines, marked by a ribbon
of white sand, were seen sweeping around many a bay and promontory in
elegant curves, and picturesque islands rising to mountain heights,
and some of them capped with pearly cumuli. And the wide prairie of
water glowing in the gold and purple of evening presented all the
colors that tint the lips of shells and the petals of lilies--the most
beautiful lake this side of the Rocky Mountains. Utah Lake, lying
thirty-five miles to the south, was in full sight also, and the river
Jordan, which links the two together, may be traced in silvery gleams
throughout its whole course.

Descending the mountain, I followed the windings of the main central
glen on the north, gathering specimens of the cones and sprays of the
evergreens, and most of the other new plants I had met; but the lilies
formed the crowning glory of my bouquet--the grandest I had carried in
many a day. I reached the hotel on the lake about dusk with all my
fresh riches, and my first mountain ramble in Utah was accomplished.
On my way back to the city, the next day, I met a grave old Mormon
with whom I had previously held some Latter-Day discussions. I shook
my big handful of lilies in his face and shouted, "Here are the true
saints, ancient and Latter-Day, enduring forever!" After he had
recovered from his astonishment he said, "They are nice."

The other liliaceous plants I have met in Utah are two species of
zigadenas, Fritillaria atropurpurea, Calochortus Nuttallii, and three
or four handsome alliums. One of these lilies, the calochortus,
several species of which are well known in California as the "Mariposa
tulips," has received great consideration at the hands of the Mormons,
for to it hundreds of them owe their lives. During the famine years
between 1853 and 1858, great destitution prevailed, especially in the
southern settlements, on account of drouth and grasshoppers, and
throughout one hunger winter in particular, thousands of the people
subsisted chiefly on the bulbs of the tulips, called "sego" by the
Indians, who taught them its use.

Liliaceous women and girls are rare among the Mormons. They have seen
too much hard, repressive toil to admit of the development of lily
beauty either in form or color. In general they are thickset, with
large feet and hands, and with sun-browned faces, often curiously
freckled like the petals of Fritillaria atropurpurea. They are fruit
rather than flower--good brown bread. But down in the San Pitch
Valley at Gunnison, I discovered a genuine lily, happily named Lily
Young. She is a granddaughter of Brigham Young, slender and graceful,
with lily-white cheeks tinted with clear rose, She was brought up in
the old Salt Lake Zion House, but by some strange chance has been
transplanted to this wilderness, where she blooms alone, the "Lily of
San Pitch." Pitch is an old Indian, who, I suppose, pitched into the
settlers and thus acquired fame enough to give name to the valley.
Here I feel uneasy about the name of this lily, for the compositors
have a perverse trick of making me say all kinds of absurd things
wholly unwarranted by plain copy, and I fear that the "Lily of San
Pitch" will appear in print as the widow of Sam Patch. But, however
this may be, among my memories of this strange land, that Oquirrh
mountain, with its golden lilies, will ever rise in clear relief, and
associated with them will always be the Mormon lily of San Pitch.


The San Gabriel Valley[12]

The sun valley of San Gabriel is one of the brightest spots to be
found in all our bright land, and most of its brightness is wildness--wild south sunshine in a basin rimmed about with mountains and hills.
Cultivation is not wholly wanting, for here are the choices of all the
Los Angeles orange groves, but its glorious abundance of ripe sun and
soil is only beginning to be coined into fruit. The drowsy bits of
cultivation accomplished by the old missionaries and the more recent
efforts of restless Americans are scarce as yet visible, and when
comprehended in general views form nothing more than mere freckles on
the smooth brown bosom of the Valley.

I entered the sunny south half a month ago, coming down along the cool
sea, and landing at Santa Monica. An hour's ride over stretches of
bare, brown plain, and through cornfields and orange groves, brought
me to the handsome, conceited little town of Los Angeles, where one
finds Spanish adobes and Yankee shingles meeting and overlapping in
very curious antagonism. I believe there are some fifteen thousand
people here, and some of their buildings are rather fine, but the
gardens and the sky interested me more. A palm is seen here and there
poising its royal crown in the rich light, and the banana, with its
magnificent ribbon leaves, producing a marked tropical effect--not
semi-tropical, as they are so fond of saying here, while speaking of
their fruits. Nothing I have noticed strikes me as semi, save the
brusque little bits of civilization with which the wilderness is
checkered. These are semi-barbarous or less; everything else in the
region has a most exuberant pronounced wholeness. The city held me
but a short time, for the San Gabriel Mountains were in sight,
advertising themselves grandly along the northern sky, and I was eager
to make my way into their midst.

At Pasadena I had the rare good fortune to meet my old friend Doctor
Congar, with whom I had studied chemistry and mathematics fifteen
years ago. He exalted San Gabriel above all other inhabitable
valleys, old and new, on the face of the globe. "I have rambled,"
said he, "ever since we left college, tasting innumerable climates,
and trying the advantages offered by nearly every new State and
Territory. Here I have made my home, and here I shall stay while I
live. The geographical position is exactly right, soil and climate
perfect, and everything that heart can wish comes to our efforts--flowers, fruits, milk and honey, and plenty of money. And there," he
continued, pointing just beyond his own precious possessions, "is a
block of land that is for sale; buy it and be my neighbor; plant five
acres with orange trees, and by the time your last mountain is climbed
their fruit will be your fortune." He then led my down the valley,
through the few famous old groves in full bearing, and on the estate
of Mr. Wilson showed me a ten-acre grove eighteen years old, the last
year's crop from which was sold for twenty thousand dollars. "There,"
said he, with triumphant enthusiasm, "what do you think of that? Two
thousand dollars per acre per annum for land worth only one hundred

The number of orange trees planted to the acre is usually from forty-nine to sixty-nine; they then stand from twenty-five to thirty feet
apart each way, and, thus planted, thrive and continue fruitful to a
comparatively great age. J. DeBarth Shorb, an enthusiastic believer
in Los Angeles and oranges, says, "We have trees on our property fully
forty years old, and eighteen inches in diameter, that are still
vigorous and yielding immense crops of fruit, although they are only
twenty feet apart." Seedlings are said to begin to bear remunerative
crops in their tenth year, but by superior cultivation this long
unproductive period my be somewhat lessened, while trees from three to
five years old may be purchased from the nurserymen, so that the
newcomer who sets out an orchard may begin to gather fruit by the
fifth or sixth year. When first set out, and for some years
afterward, the trees are irrigated by making rings of earth around
them, which are connected with small ditches, through which the water
is distributed to each tree. Or, where the ground is nearly level,
the whole surface is flooded from time to time as required. From 309
trees, twelve years old from the seed, DeBarth Shorb says that in the
season of 1874 he obtained an average of $20.50 per tree, or $1435 per
acre, over and above the cost of transportation to San Francisco,
commission on sales, etc. He considers $1000 per acre a fair average
at present prices, after the trees have reached the age of twelve
years. The average price throughout the county for the last five
years has been about $20 or $25 per thousand; and, inasmuch as the
area adapted to orange culture is limited, it is hoped that this price
may not greatly fall for many years.

The lemon and lime are also cultivated here to some extent, and
considerable attention is now being given to the Florida banana, and
the olive, almond, and English walnut. But the orange interest
heavily overshadows every other, while vines have of late years been
so unremunerative they are seldom mentioned.

This is pre-eminently a fruit land, but the fame of its productions
has in some way far outrun the results that have as yet been attained.
Experiments have been tried, and good beginnings made, but the number
of really valuable, well-established groves is scarce as one to fifty,
compared with the newly planted. Many causes, however, have combined
of late to give the business a wonderful impetus, and new orchards are
being made every day, while the few old groves, aglow with golden
fruit, are the burning and shining lights that direct and energize the
sanguine newcomers.

After witnessing the bad effect of homelessness, developed to so
destructive an extent in California, it would reassure every lover of
his race to see the hearty home-building going on here and the blessed
contentment that naturally follows it. Travel-worn pioneers, who have
been tossed about like boulders in flood time, are thronging hither as
to a kind of a terrestrial heaven, resolved to rest. They build, and
plant, and settle, and so come under natural influences. When a man
plants a tree he plants himself. Every root is an anchor, over which
he rests with grateful interest, and becomes sufficiently calm to feel
the joy of living. He necessarily makes the acquaintance of the sun
and the sky. Favorite trees fill his mind, and, while tending them
like children, and accepting the benefits they bring, he becomes
himself a benefactor. He sees down through the brown common ground
teeming with colored fruits, as if it were transparent, and learns to
bring them to the surface, What he wills he can raise by true
enchantment. With slips and rootlets, his magic wands, they appear at
his bidding. These, and the seeds he plants, are his prayers, and by
them brought into right relations with God, he works grander miracles
every day than ever were written.

The Pasadena Colony, located on the southwest corner of the well-known
San Pasqual Rancho, is scarce three years old, but it is growing
rapidly, like a pet tree, and already forms one of the best
contributions to culture yet accomplished in the county. It now
numbers about sixty families, mostly drawn from the better class of
vagabond pioneers, who, during their rolling-stone days have managed
to gather sufficient gold moss to purchase from ten to forty acres of
land. They are perfectly hilarious in their newly found life, work
like ants in a sunny noonday, and, looking far into the future,
hopefully count their orange chicks ten years or more before they are
hatched; supporting themselves in the meantime on the produce of a few
acres of alfalfa, together with garden vegetables and the quick-growing fruits, such as figs, grapes, apples, etc., the whole
reinforced by the remaining dollars of their land purchase money.
There is nothing more remarkable in the character of the colony than
the literary and scientific taste displayed. The conversation of most
I have met here is seasoned with a smack of mental ozone, Attic salt,
which struck me as being rare among the tillers of California soil.
People of taste and money in search of a home would do well to
prospect the resources of this aristocratic little colony.

If we look now at these southern valleys in general, it will appear at
once that with all their advantages they lie beyond the reach of poor
settlers, not only on account of the high price of irrigable land--one
hundred dollars per acre and upwards--but because of the scarcity of
labor. A settler with three or four thousand dollars would be
penniless after paying for twenty acres of orange land and building
ever so plain a house, while many years would go by ere his trees
yielded an income adequate to the maintenance of his family.

Nor is there anything sufficiently reviving in the fine climate to
form a reliable inducement for very sick people. Most of this class,
from all I can learn, come here only to die, and surely it is better
to die comfortably at home, avoiding the thousand discomforts of
travel, at a time when they are so heard to bear. It is indeed
pitiful to see so many invalids, already on the verge of the grave,
making a painful way to quack climates, hoping to change age to youth,
and the darkening twilight of their day to morning. No such health-fountain has been found, and this climate, fine as it is, seems, like
most others, to be adapted for well people only. From all I could
find out regarding its influence upon patients suffering from
pulmonary difficulties, it is seldom beneficial to any great extent in
advanced cases. The cold sea winds are less fatal to this class of
sufferers than the corresponding winds further north, but,
notwithstanding they are tempered on their passage inland over warm,
dry ground, they are still more or less injurious.

The summer climate of the fir and pine woods of the Sierra Nevada
would, I think, be found infinitely more reviving; but because these
woods have not been advertised like patent medicines, few seem to
think of the spicy, vivifying influences that pervade their fountain
freshness and beauty.


The San Gabriel Mountains[13]

After saying so much for human culture in my last, perhaps I may now
be allowed a word for wildness--the wildness of this southland, pure
and untamable as the sea.

In the mountains of San Gabriel, overlooking the lowland vines and
fruit groves, Mother Nature is most ruggedly, thornily savage. Not
even in the Sierra have I ever made the acquaintance of mountains more
rigidly inaccessible. The slopes are exceptionally steep and insecure
to the foot of the explorer, however great his strength or skill may
be, but thorny chaparral constitutes their chief defense. With the
exception of little park and garden spots not visible in comprehensive
views, the entire surface is covered with it, from the highest peaks
to the plain. It swoops into every hollow and swells over every
ridge, gracefully complying with the varied topography, in shaggy,
ungovernable exuberance, fairly dwarfing the utmost efforts of human
culture out of sight and mind.

But in the very heart of this thorny wilderness, down in the dells,
you may find gardens filled with the fairest flowers, that any child
would love, and unapproachable linns lined with lilies and ferns,
where the ousel builds its mossy hut and sings in chorus with the
white falling water. Bears, also, and panthers, wolves, wildcats;
wood rats, squirrels, foxes, snakes, and innumerable birds, all find
grateful homes here, adding wildness to wildness in glorious profusion
and variety.

Where the coast ranges and the Sierra Nevada come together we find a
very complicated system of short ranges, the geology and topography of
which is yet hidden, and many years of laborious study must be given
for anything like a complete interpretation of them. The San Gabriel
is one or more of these ranges, forty or fifty miles long, and half as
broad, extending from the Cajon Pass on the east, to the Santa Monica
and Santa Susanna ranges on the west. San Antonio, the dominating
peak, rises towards the eastern extremity of the range to a height of
about six thousand feet, forming a sure landmark throughout the valley
and all the way down to the coast, without, however, possessing much
striking individuality. The whole range, seen from the plain, with
the hot sun beating upon its southern slopes, wears a terribly
forbidding aspect. There is nothing of the grandeur of snow, or
glaciers, or deep forests, to excite curiosity or adventure; no trace
of gardens or waterfalls. From base to summit all seems gray, barren,
silent--dead, bleached bones of mountains, overgrown with scrubby
bushes, like gray moss. But all mountains are full of hidden beauty,
and the next day after my arrival at Pasadena I supplied myself with
bread and eagerly set out to give myself to their keeping.

On the first day of my excursion I went only as far as the mouth of
Eaton Canyon, because the heat was oppressive, and a pair of new shoes
were chafing my feet to such an extent that walking began to be
painful. While looking for a camping ground among the boulder beds of
the canyon, I came upon a strange, dark man of doubtful parentage. He
kindly invited me to camp with him, and led me to his little hut. All
my conjectures as to his nationality failed, and no wonder, since his
father was Irish and mother Spanish, a mixture not often met even in
California. He happened to be out of candles, so we sat in the dark
while he gave me a sketch of his life, which was exceedingly
picturesque. Then he showed me his plans for the future. He was
going to settle among these canyon boulders, and make money, and marry
a Spanish woman. People mine for irrigating water along the foothills
as for gold. He is now driving a prospecting tunnel into a spur of
the mountains back of his cabin. "My prospect is good," he said, "and
if I strike a strong flow, I shall soon be worth five or ten thousand
dollars. That flat out there, " he continued, referring to a small,
irregular patch of gravelly detritus that had been sorted out and
deposited by Eaton Creek during some flood season, "is large enough
for a nice orange grove, and, after watering my own trees, I can sell
water down the valley; and then the hillside back of the cabin will do
for vines, and I can keep bees, for the white sage and black sage up
the mountains is full of honey. You see, I've got a good thing." All
this prospective affluence in the sunken, boulder-choked flood-bed of
Eaton Creek! Most home-seekers would as soon think of settling on the
summit of San Antonio.

Half an hour's easy rambling up the canyon brought me to the foot of
"The Fall," famous throughout the valley settlements as the finest yet
discovered in the range. It is a charming little thing, with a voice
sweet as a songbird's, leaping some thirty-five or forty feet into a
round, mirror pool. The cliff back of it and on both sides is
completely covered with thick, furry mosses, and the white fall shines
against the green like a silver instrument in a velvet case. Here
come the Gabriel lads and lassies from the commonplace orange groves,
to make love and gather ferns and dabble away their hot holidays in
the cool pool. They are fortunate in finding so fresh a retreat so
near their homes. It is the Yosemite of San Gabriel. The walls,
though not of the true Yosemite type either in form or sculpture, rise
to a height of nearly two thousand feet. Ferns are abundant on all
the rocks within reach of the spray, and picturesque maples and
sycamores spread a grateful shade over a rich profusion of wild
flowers that grow among the boulders, from the edge of the pool a mile
or more down the dell-like bottom of the valley, the whole forming a
charming little poem of wildness--the vestibule of these shaggy
mountain temples.

The foot of the fall is about a thousand feet above the level of the
sea, and here climbing begins. I made my way out of the valley on the
west side, followed the ridge that forms the western rim of the Eaton
Basin to the summit of one of the principal peaks, thence crossed the
middle of the basin, forcing a way over its many subordinate ridges,
and out over the eastern rim, and from first to last during three days
spent in this excursion, I had to contend with the richest, most self-possessed and uncompromising chaparral I have every enjoyed since
first my mountaineering began.

For a hundred feet or so the ascent was practicable only by means of
bosses of the club moss that clings to the rock. Above this the ridge
is weathered away to a slender knife-edge for a distance of two or
three hundred yards, and thence to the summit it is a bristly mane of
chaparral. Here and there small openings occur, commanding grand
views of the valley and beyond to the ocean. These are favorite
outlooks and resting places for bears, wolves, and wildcats. In the
densest places I came upon woodrat villages whose huts were from four
to eight feet high, built in the same style of architecture as those
of the muskrats.

The day was nearly done. I reached the summit and I had time to make
only a hasty survey of the topography of the wild basin now outspread
maplike beneath, and to drink in the rare loveliness of the sunlight
before hastening down in search of water. Pushing through another
mile of chaparral, I emerged into one of the most beautiful parklike
groves of live oak I ever saw. The ground beneath was planted only
with aspidiums and brier roses. At the foot of the grove I came to
the dry channel of one of the tributary streams, but, following it
down a short distance, I descried a few specimens of the scarlet
mimulus; and I was assured that water was near. I found about a
bucketful in a granite bowl, but it was full of leaves and beetles,
making a sort of brown coffee that could be rendered available only by
filtering it through sand and charcoal. This I resolved to do in case
the night came on before I found better. Following the channel a mile
farther down to its confluence with another, larger tributary, I found
a lot of boulder pools, clear as crystal, and brimming full, linked
together by little glistening currents just strong enough to sing.
Flowers in full bloom adorned the banks, lilies ten feet high, and
luxuriant ferns arching over one another in lavish abundance, while a
noble old live oak spread its rugged boughs over all, forming one of
the most perfect and most secluded of Nature's gardens. Here I
camped, making my bed on smooth cobblestones.

Next morning, pushing up the channel of a tributary that takes its
rise on Mount San Antonio, I passed many lovely gardens watered by
oozing currentlets, every one of which had lilies in them in the full
pomp of bloom, and a rich growth of ferns, chiefly woodwardias and
aspidiums and maidenhairs; but toward the base of the mountain the
channel was dry, and the chaparral closed over from bank to bank, so
that I was compelled to creep more than a mile on hands and knees.

In one spot I found an opening in the thorny sky where I could stand
erect, and on the further side of the opening discovered a small pool.
"Now, HERE," I said, "I must be careful in creeping, for the birds of
the neighborhood come here to drink, and the rattlesnakes come here to
catch them." I then began to cast my eye along the channel, perhaps
instinctively feeling a snaky atmosphere, and finally discovered one
rattler between my feet. But there was a bashful look in his eye, and
a withdrawing, deprecating kink in his neck that showed plainly as
words could tell that he would not strike, and only wished to be let
alone. I therefore passed on, lifting my foot a little higher than
usual, and left him to enjoy his life in this his own home.

My next camp was near the heart of the basin, at the head of a grand
system of cascades from ten to two hundred feet high, one following
the other in close succession and making a total descent of nearly
seventeen hundred feet. The rocks above me leaned over in a
threatening way and were full of seams, making the camp a very unsafe
one during an earthquake.

Next day the chaparral, in ascending the eastern rim of the basin,
was, if possible, denser and more stubbornly bayoneted than ever. I
followed bear trails, where in some places I found tufts of their hair
that had been pulled out in squeezing a way through; but there was
much of a very interesting character that far overpaid all my pains.
Most of the plants are identical with those of the Sierra, but there
are quite a number of Mexican species. One coniferous tree was all I
found. This is a spruce of a species new to me, Douglasii

My last camp was down at the narrow, notched bottom of a dry channel,
the only open way for the life in the neighborhood. I therefore lay
between two fires, built to fence out snakes and wolves.

From the summit of the eastern rim I had a glorious view of the valley
out to the ocean, which would require a whole book for its
description. My bread gave out a day before reaching the settlements,
but I felt all the fresher and clearer for the fast.


Nevada Farms[15]

To the farmer who comes to this thirsty land from beneath rainy skies,
Nevada seems one vast desert, all sage and sand, hopelessly
irredeemable now and forever. And this, under present conditions, is
severely true. For notwithstanding it has gardens, grainfields, and
hayfields generously productive, these compared with the arid
stretches of valley and plain, as beheld in general views from the
mountain tops, are mere specks lying inconspicuously here and there,
in out-of-the-way places, often thirty or forty miles apart.

In leafy regions, blessed with copious rains, we learn to measure the
productive capacity of the soil by its natural vegetation. But this
rule is almost wholly inapplicable here, for, notwithstanding its
savage nakedness, scarce at all veiled by a sparse growth of sage and
linosyris[16], the desert soil of the Great Basin is as rich in the
elements that in rainy regions rise and ripen into food as that of any
other State in the Union. The rocks of its numerous mountain ranges
have been thoroughly crushed and ground by glaciers, thrashed and
vitalized by the sun, and sifted and outspread in lake basins by
powerful torrents that attended the breaking-up of the glacial period,
as if in every way Nature had been making haste to prepare the land
for the husbandman. Soil, climate, topographical conditions, all that
the most exacting could demand, are present, but one thing, water, is
wanting. The present rainfall would be wholly inadequate for
agriculture, even if it were advantageously distributed over the
lowlands, while in fact the greater portion is poured out on the
heights in sudden and violent thundershowers called "cloud-bursts,"
the waters of which are fruitlessly swallowed up in sandy gulches and
deltas a few minutes after their first boisterous appearance. The
principal mountain chains, trending nearly north and south, parallel
with the Sierra and the Wahsatch, receive a good deal of snow during
winter, but no great masses are stored up as fountains for large
perennial streams capable of irrigating considerable areas. Most of
it is melted before the end of May and absorbed by moraines and
gravelly taluses, which send forth small rills that slip quietly down
the upper canyons through narrow strips of flowery verdure, most of
them sinking and vanishing before they reach the base of their
fountain ranges. Perhaps not one in ten of the whole number flow out
into the open plains, not a single drop reaches the sea, and only a
few are large enough to irrigate more than one farm of moderate size.

It is upon these small outflowing rills that most of the Nevada
ranches are located, lying countersunk beneath the general level, just
where the mountains meet the plains, at an average elevation of five
thousand feet above sea level. All the cereals and garden vegetables
thrive here, and yield bountiful crops. Fruit, however, has been, as
yet, grown successfully in only a few specially favored spots.

Another distinct class of ranches are found sparsely distributed along
the lowest portions of the plains, where the ground is kept moist by
springs, or by narrow threads of moving water called rivers, fed by
some one or more of the most vigorous of the mountain rills that have
succeeded in making their escape from the mountains. These are mostly
devoted to the growth of wild hay, though in some the natural meadow
grasses and sedges have been supplemented by timothy and alfalfa; and
where the soil is not too strongly impregnated with salts, some grain
is raised. Reese River Valley, Big Smoky Valley, and White River
Valley offer fair illustrations of this class. As compared with the
foothill ranches, they are larger and less inconspicuous, as they lie
in the wide, unshadowed levels of the plains--wavy-edged flecks of
green in a wilderness of gray.

Still another class equally well defined, both as to distribution and
as to products, is restricted to that portion of western Nevada and
the eastern border of California which lies within the redeeming
influences of California waters. Three of the Sierra rivers descend
from their icy fountains into the desert like angels of mercy to bless
Nevada. These are the Walker, Carson, and Truckee; and in the valleys
through which they flow are found by far the most extensive hay and
grain fields within the bounds of the State. Irrigating streams are
led off right and left through innumerable channels, and the sleeping
ground, starting at once into action, pours forth its wealth without

But notwithstanding the many porous fields thus fertilized,
considerable portions of the waters of all these rivers continue to
reach their old deathbeds in the desert, indicating that in these salt
valleys there still is room for coming farmers. In middle and eastern
Nevada, however, every rill that I have seen in a ride of three
thousand miles, at all available for irrigation, has been claimed and
put to use.

It appears, therefore, that under present conditions the limit of
agricultural development in the dry basin between the Sierra and the
Wahsatch has been already approached, a result caused not alone by
natural restrictions as to the area capable of development, but by the
extraordinary stimulus furnished by the mines to agricultural effort.
The gathering of gold and silver, hay and barley, have gone on
together. Most of the mid-valley bogs and meadows, and foothill rills
capable of irrigating from ten to fifty acres, were claimed more than
twenty years ago.

A majority of these pioneer settlers are plodding Dutchmen, living
content in the back lanes and valleys of Nature; but the high price of
all kinds of farm products tempted many of even the keen Yankee
prospectors, made wise in California, to bind themselves down to this
sure kind of mining. The wildest of wild hay, made chiefly of carices
and rushes, was sold at from two to three hundred dollars per ton on
ranches. The same kind of hay is still worth from fifteen to forty
dollars per ton, according to the distance from mines and comparative
security from competition. Barley and oats are from forty to one
hundred dollars a ton, while all sorts of garden products find ready
sale at high prices.

With rich mine markets and salubrious climate, the Nevada farmer can
make more money by loose, ragged methods than the same class of
farmers in any other State I have yet seen, while the almost savage
isolation in which they live seems grateful to them. Even in those
cases where the advent of neighbors brings no disputes concerning
water rights and ranges, they seem to prefer solitude, most of them
having been elected from adventurers from California--the pioneers of
pioneers. The passing stranger, however, is always welcomed and
supplied with the best the home affords, and around the fireside,
while he smokes his pipe, very little encouragement is required to
bring forth the story of the farmer's life--hunting, mining, fighting,
in the early Indian times, et. Only the few who are married hope to
return to California to educate their children, and the ease with
which money is made renders the fulfillment of these hopes
comparatively sure.

After dwelling thus long on the farms of this dry wonderland, my
readers may be led to fancy them of more importance as compared with
the unbroken fields of Nature than they really are. Making your way
along any of the wide gray valleys that stretch from north to south,
seldom will your eye be interrupted by a single mark of cultivation.
The smooth lake-like ground sweeps on indefinitely, growing more and
more dim in the glowing sunshine, while a mountain range from eight to
ten thousand feet high bounds the view on either hand. No singing
water, no green sod, no moist nook to rest in--mountain and valley
alike naked and shadowless in the sun-glare; and though, perhaps,
traveling a well-worn road to a gold or silver mine, and supplied with
repeated instructions, you can scarce hope to find any human
habitation from day to day, so vast and impressive is the hot, dusty,
alkaline wildness.

But after riding some thirty or forty miles, and while the sun may be
sinking behind the mountains, you come suddenly upon signs of
cultivation. Clumps of willows indicate water, and water indicates a
farm. Approaching more nearly, you discover what may be a patch of
barley spread out unevenly along the bottom of a flood bed, broken
perhaps, and rendered less distinct by boulder piles and the fringing
willows of a stream. Speedily you can confidently say that the grain
patch is surely such; its ragged bounds become clear; a sand-roofed
cabin comes to view littered with sun-cracked implements and with an
outer girdle of potato, cabbage, and alfalfa patches.

The immense expanse of mountain-girt valleys, on the edges of which
these hidden ranches lie, make even the largest fields seem comic in
size. The smallest, however, are by no means insignificant in a
pecuniary view. On the east side of the Toyabe Range I discovered a
jolly Irishman who informed me that his income from fifty acres,
reinforced by a sheep range on the adjacent hills, was from seven to
nine thousand dollars per annum. His irrigating brook is about four
feet wide and eight inches deep, flowing about two miles per hour.

On Duckwater Creek, Nye County, Mr. Irwin has reclaimed a tule swamp
several hundred acres in extent, which is now chiefly devoted to
alfalfa. On twenty-five acres he claims to have raised this year
thirty-seven tons of barley. Indeed, I have not yet noticed a meager
crop of any kind in the State. Fruit alone is conspicuously absent.

On the California side of the Sierra grain will not ripen at much
greater elevation than four thousand feet above sea level. The
valleys of Nevada lie at a height of from four to six thousand feet,
and both wheat and barley ripen, wherever water may be had, up to
seven thousand feet. The harvest, of course, is later as the
elevation increases. In the valleys of the Carson and Walker Rivers,
four thousand feet above the sea, the grain harvest is about a month
later than in California. In Reese River Valley, six thousand feet,
it begins near the end of August. Winter grain ripens somewhat
earlier, while occasionally one meets a patch of barley in some cool,
high-lying canyon that will not mature before the middle of September.

Unlike California, Nevada will probably be always richer in gold and
silver than in grain. Utah farmers hope to change the climate of the
east side of the basin by prayer, and point to the recent rise in the
waters of the Great Salt Lake as a beginning of moister times. But
Nevada's only hope, in the way of any considerable increase in
agriculture, is from artesian wells. The experiment has been tried on
a small scale with encouraging success. But what is now wanted seems
to be the boring of a few specimen wells of a large size out in the
main valleys. The encouragement that successful experiments of this
kind would give to emigration seeking farms forms an object well
worthy the attention of the Government. But all that California
farmers in the grand central valley require is the preservation of the
forests and the wise distribution of the glorious abundance of water
from the snow stored on the west flank of the Sierra.

Whether any considerable area of these sage plains well ever thus be
made to blossom in grass and wheat, experience will show. But in the
mean time Nevada is beautiful in her wildness, and if tillers of the
soil can thus be brought to see that possibly Nature may have other
uses even for RICH soils besides the feeding of human beings, then
will these foodless "deserts" have taught a fine lesson.


Nevada Forests[17]

When the traveler from California has crossed the Sierra and gone a
little way down the eastern flank, the woods come to an end about as
suddenly and completely as if, going westward, he had reached the
ocean. From the very noblest forests in the world he emerges into
free sunshine and dead alkaline lake-levels. Mountains are seen
beyond, rising in bewildering abundance, range beyond range. But
however closely we have been accustomed to associate forests and
mountains, these always present a singularly barren aspect, appearing
gray and forbidding and shadeless, like heaps of ashes dumped from the
blazing sky.

But wheresoever we may venture to go in all this good world, nature is
ever found richer and more beautiful than she seems, and nowhere may
you meet with more varied and delightful surprises than in the byways
and recesses of this sublime wilderness--lovely asters and abronias on
the dusty plains, rose-gardens around the mountain wells, and resiny
woods, where all seemed so desolate, adorning the hot foothills as
well as the cool summits, fed by cordial and benevolent storms of rain
and hail and snow; all of these scant and rare as compared with the
immeasurable exuberance of California, but still amply sufficient
throughout the barest deserts for a clear manifestation of God's love.

Though Nevada is situated in what is called the "Great Basin," no less
than sixty-five groups and chains of mountains rise within the bounds
of the State to a height of about from eight thousand to thirteen
thousand feet above the level of the sea, and as far as I have
observed, every one of these is planted, to some extent, with
coniferous trees, though it is only upon the highest that we find
anything that may fairly be called a forest. The lower ranges and the
foothills and slopes of the higher are roughened with small scrubby
junipers and nut pines, while the dominating peaks, together with the
ridges that swing in grand curves between them, are covered with a
closer and more erect growth of pine, spruce, and fir, resembling the
forests of the Eastern States both as to size and general botanical
characteristics. Here is found what is called the heavy timber, but
the tallest and most fully developed sections of the forests, growing
down in sheltered hollows on moist moraines, would be regarded in
California only as groves of saplings, and so, relatively, they are,
for by careful calculation we find that more than a thousand of these
trees would be required to furnish as much timber as may be obtained
from a single specimen of our Sierra giants.

The height of the timberline in eastern Nevada, near the middle of the
Great Basin, is about eleven thousand feet above sea level;
consequently the forests, in a dwarfed, storm-beaten condition, pass
over the summits of nearly every range in the State, broken here and
there only by mechanical conditions of the surface rocks. Only three
mountains in the State have as yet come under my observation whose
summits rise distinctly above the treeline. These are Wheeler's Peak,
twelve thousand three hundred feet high, Mount Moriah, about twelve
thousand feet, and Granite Mountain, about the same height, all of
which are situated near the boundary line between Nevada and Utah

In a rambling mountaineering journey of eighteen hundred miles across
the state, I have met nine species of coniferous trees,--four pines,
two spruces, two junipers, and one fir,--about one third the number
found in California. By far the most abundant and interesting of
these is the Pinus Fremontiana,[18] or nut pine. In the number of
individual trees and extent of range this curious little conifer
surpasses all the others combined. Nearly every mountain in the State
is planted with it from near the base to a height of from eight
thousand to nine thousand feet above the sea. Some are covered from
base to summit by this one species, with only a sparse growth of
juniper on the lower slopes to break the continuity of these curious
woods, which, though dark-looking at a little distance, are yet almost
shadeless, and without any hint of the dark glens and hollows so
characteristic of other pine woods. Tens of thousands of acres occur
in one continuous belt. Indeed, viewed comprehensively, the entire
State seems to be pretty evenly divided into mountain ranges covered
with nut pines and plains covered with sage--now a swath of pines
stretching from north to south, now a swath of sage; the one black,
the other gray; one severely level, the other sweeping on complacently
over ridge and valley and lofty crowning dome.

The real character of a forest of this sort would never be guessed by
the inexperienced observer. Traveling across the sage levels in the
dazzling sunlight, you gaze with shaded eyes at the mountains rising
along their edges, perhaps twenty miles away, but no invitation that
is at all likely to be understood is discernible. Every mountain,
however high it swells into the sky, seem utterly barren. Approaching
nearer, a low brushy growth is seen, strangely black in aspect, as
though it had been burned. This is a nut pine forest, the bountiful
orchard of the red man. When you ascend into its midst you find the
ground beneath the trees, and in the openings also, nearly naked, and
mostly rough on the surface--a succession of crumbling ledges of lava,
limestones, slate, and quartzite, coarsely strewn with soil weathered
from the. Here and there occurs a bunch of sage or linosyris, or a
purple aster, or a tuft of dry bunch-grass.

The harshest mountainsides, hot and waterless, seem best adapted to
the nut pine's development. No slope is too steep, none too dry;
every situation seems to be gratefully chosen, if only it be
sufficiently rocky and firm to afford secure anchorage for the tough,
grasping roots. It is a sturdy, thickset little tree, usually about
fifteen feet high when full grown, and about as broad as high, holding
its knotty branches well out in every direction in stiff zigzags, but
turning them gracefully upward at the ends in rounded bosses. Though
making so dark a mass in the distance, the foliage is a pale grayish
green, in stiff, awl-shaped fascicles. When examined closely these
round needles seem inclined to be two-leaved, but they are mostly held
firmly together, as if to guard against evaporation. The bark on the
older sections is nearly black, so that the boles and branches are
clearly traced against the prevailing gray of the mountains on which
they delight to dwell.

The value of this species to Nevada is not easily overestimated. It
furnishes fuel, charcoal, and timber for the mines, and, together with
the enduring juniper, so generally associated with it, supplies the
ranches with abundance of firewood and rough fencing. Many a square
mile has already been denuded in supplying these demands, but, so
great is the area covered by it, no appreciable loss has as yet been
sustained. It is pretty generally known that this tree yields edible
nuts, but their importance and excellence as human food is infinitely
greater than is supposed. In fruitful seasons like this one, the pine
nut crop of Nevada is, perhaps, greater than the entire wheat crop of
California, concerning which so much is said and felt throughout the
food markets of the world.

The Indians alone appreciate this portion of Nature's bounty and
celebrate the harvest home with dancing and feasting. The cones,
which are a bright grass-green in color and about two inches long by
one and a half in diameter, are beaten off with poles just before the
scales open, gathered in heaps of several bushels, and lightly
scorched by burning a thin covering of brushwood over them. The
resin, with which the cones are bedraggled, is thus burned off, the
nuts slightly roasted, and the scales made to open. Then they are
allowed to dry in the sun, after which the nuts are easily thrashed
out and are ready to be stored away. They are about half an inch long
by a quarter of an inch in diameter, pointed at the upper end, rounded
at the base, light brown in general color, and handsomely dotted with
purple, like birds' eggs. The shells are thin, and may be crushed
between the thumb and finger. The kernels are white and waxy-looking,
becoming brown by roasting, sweet and delicious to every palate, and
are eaten by birds, squirrels, dogs, horses, and man. When the crop
is abundant the Indians bring in large quantities for sale; they are
eaten around every fireside in the State, and oftentimes fed to horses
instead of barley.

Looking over the whole continent, none of Nature's bounties seems to
me so great as this in the way of food, none so little appreciated.
Fortunately for the Indians and wild animals that gather around
Nature's board, this crop is not easily harvested in a monopolizing
way. If it could be gathered like wheat the whole would be carried
away and dissipated in towns, leaving the brave inhabitants of these
wilds to starve.

Long before the harvest time, which is in September and October, the
Indians examine the trees with keen discernment, and inasmuch as the
cones require two years to mature from the first appearance of the
little red rosettes of the fertile flowers, the scarcity or abundance
of the crop may be predicted more than a year in advance. Squirrels,
and worms, and Clarke crows, make haste to begin the harvest. When
the crop is ripe the Indians make ready their long beating-poles;
baskets, bags, rags, mats, are gotten together. The squaws out among
the settlers at service, washing and drudging, assemble at the family
huts; the men leave their ranch work; all, old and young, are mounted
on ponies, and set off in great glee to the nut lands, forming
cavalcades curiously picturesque. Flaming scarfs and calico skirts
stream loosely over the knotty ponies, usually two squaws astride of
each, with the small baby midgets bandaged in baskets slung on their
backs, or balanced upon the saddle-bow, while the nut baskets and
water jars project from either side, and the long beating-poles, like
old-fashioned lances, angle out in every direction.

Arrived at some central point already fixed upon, where water and
grass is found, the squaws with baskets, the men with poles, ascend
the ridges to the laden trees, followed by the children; beating
begins with loud noise and chatter; the burs fly right and left,
lodging against stones and sagebrush; the squaws and children gather
them with fine natural gladness; smoke columns speedily mark the
joyful scene of their labors as the roasting fires are kindled; and,
at night, assembled in circles, garrulous as jays, the first grand nut
feast begins. Sufficient quantities are thus obtained in a few weeks
to last all winter.

The Indians also gather several species of berries and dry them to
vary their stores, and a few deer and grouse are killed on the
mountains, besides immense numbers of rabbits and hares; but the pine-nuts are their main dependence--their staff of life, their bread.

Insects also, scarce noticed by man, come in for their share of this
fine bounty. Eggs are deposited, and the baby grubs, happy fellows,
find themselves in a sweet world of plenty, feeding their way through
the heart of the cone from one nut chamber to another, secure from
rain and wind and heat, until their wings are grown and they are ready
to launch out into the free ocean of air and light.


Nevada's Timber Belt[19]

The pine woods on the tops of the Nevada mountains are already shining
and blooming in winter snow, making a most blessedly refreshing
appearance to the weary traveler down on the gray plains. During the
fiery days of summer the whole of this vast region seems so perfectly
possessed by the sun that the very memories of pine trees and snow are
in danger of being burned away, leaving one but little more than dust
and metal. But since these first winter blessings have come, the
wealth and beauty of the landscapes have come fairly into view, and
one is rendered capable of looking and seeing.

The grand nut harvest is over, as far as the Indians are concerned,
though perhaps less than one bushel in a thousand of the whole crop
has been gathered. But the squirrels and birds are still busily
engaged, and by the time that Nature's ends are accomplished, every
nut will doubtless have been put to use.

All of the nine Nevada conifers mentioned in my last letter are also
found in California, excepting only the Rocky Mountain spruce, which I
have not observed westward of the Snake Range. So greatly, however,
have they been made to vary by differences of soil and climate, that
most of them appear as distinct species. Without seeming in any way
dwarfed or repressed in habit, they nowhere develop to anything like
California dimensions. A height of fifty feet and diameter of twelve
or fourteen inches would probably be found to be above the average
size of those cut for lumber. On the margin of the Carson and
Humboldt Sink the larger sage bushes are called "heavy timber"; and to
the settlers here any tree seems large enough for saw-logs.

Mills have been built in the most accessible canyons of the higher
ranges, and sufficient lumber of an inferior kind is made to supply
most of the local demand. The principal lumber trees of Nevada are
the white pine (Pinus flexilis), foxtail pine, and Douglas spruce, or
"red pine," as it is called here. Of these the first named is most
generally distributed, being found on all the higher ranges throughout
the State. In botanical characters it is nearly allied to the
Weymouth, or white, pine of the Eastern States, and to the sugar and
mountain pines of the Sierra. In open situations it branches near the
ground and tosses out long down-curving limbs all around, often
gaining in this way a very strikingly picturesque habit. It is seldom
found lower than nine thousand feet above the level of the sea, but
from this height it pushes upward over the roughest ledges to the
extreme limit of tree growth--about eleven thousand feet.

On the Hot Creek, White Pine, and Golden Gate ranges we find a still
hardier and more picturesque species, called the foxtail pine, from
its long dense leaf-tassels. About a foot or eighteen inches of the
ends of the branches are densely packed with stiff outstanding
needles, which radiate all around like an electric fox- or squirrel-tail. The needles are about an inch and a half long, slightly curved,
elastic, and glossily polished, so that the sunshine sifting through
them makes them burn with a fine silvery luster, while their number
and elastic temper tell delightfully in the singing winds.

This tree is pre-eminently picturesque, far surpassing not only its
companion species of the mountains in this respect, but also the most
noted of the lowland oaks and elms. Some stand firmly erect,
feathered with radiant tail tassels down to the ground, forming
slender, tapering towers of shining verdure; others with two or three
specialized branches pushed out at right angles to the trunk and
densely clad with the tasseled sprays, take the form of beautiful
ornamental crosses. Again, in the same woods you find trees that are
made up of several boles united near the ground, and spreading in easy
curves at the sides in a plane parallel to the axis of the mountain,
with the elegant tassels hung in charming order between them the whole
making a perfect harp, ranged across the main wind-lines just where
they may be most effective in the grand storm harmonies. And then
there is an infinite variety of arching forms, standing free or in
groups, leaning away from or toward each other in curious
architectural structures,--innumerable tassels drooping under the
arches and radiating above them, the outside glowing in the light,
masses of deep shade beneath, giving rise to effects marvelously
beautiful,--while on the roughest ledges of crumbling limestone are
lowly old giants, five or six feet in diameter, that have braved the
storms of more than a thousand years. But, whether old or young,
sheltered or exposed to the wildest gales, this tree is ever found to
be irrepressibly and extravagantly picturesque, offering a richer and
more varied series of forms to the artist than any other species I
have yet seen.

One of the most interesting mountain excursions I have made in the
State was up through a thick spicy forest of these trees to the top of
the highest summit of the Troy Range, about ninety miles to the south
of Hamilton. The day was full of perfect Indian-summer sunshine, calm
and bracing. Jays and Clarke crows made a pleasant stir in the
foothill pines and junipers; grasshoppers danced in the hazy light,
and rattled on the wing in pure glee, reviving suddenly from the
torpor of a frosty October night to exuberant summer joy. The
squirrels were working industriously among the falling nuts; ripe
willows and aspens made gorgeous masses of color on the russet
hillsides and along the edges of the small streams that threaded the
higher ravines; and on the smooth sloping uplands, beneath the foxtail
pines and firs, the ground was covered with brown grasses, enriched
with sunflowers, columbines, and larkspurs and patches of linosyris,
mostly frost-nipped and gone to seed, yet making fine bits of yellow
and purple in the general brown.

At a height of about ninety-five hundred feet we passed through a
magnificent grove of aspens, about a hundred acres in extent, through
which the mellow sunshine sifted in ravishing splendor, showing every
leaf to be as beautiful in color as the wing of a butterfly, and
making them tell gloriously against the evergreens. These extensive
groves of aspen are a marked feature of the Nevada woods. Some of the
lower mountains are covered with them, giving rise to remarkably
beautiful masses of pale, translucent green in spring and summer,
yellow and orange in autumn, while in winter, after every leaf has
fallen, the white bark of the boles and branches seen in mass seems
like a cloud of mist that has settled close down on the mountain,
conforming to all its hollows and ridges like a mantle, yet roughened
on the surface with innumerable ascending spires.

Just above the aspens we entered a fine, close growth of foxtail pine,
the tallest and most evenly planted I had yet seen. It extended along
a waving ridge tending north and south and down both sides with but
little interruption for a distance of about five miles. The trees
were mostly straight in the bole, and their shade covered the ground
in the densest places, leaving only small openings to the sun. A few
of the tallest specimens measured over eighty feet, with a diameter of
eighteen inches; but many of the younger trees, growing in tufts, were
nearly fifty feet high, with a diameter of only five or six inches,
while their slender shafts were hidden from top to bottom by a close,
fringy growth of tasseled branchlets. A few white pines and balsam
firs occur here and there, mostly around the edges of sunny openings,
where they enrich the air with their rosiny fragrance, and bring out
the peculiar beauties of the predominating foxtails by contrast.

Birds find grateful homes here--grouse, chickadees, and linnets, of
which we saw large flocks that had a delightfully enlivening effect.
But the woodpeckers are remarkably rare. Thus far I have noticed only
one species, the golden-winged; and but few of the streams are large
enough or long enough to attract the blessed ousel, so common in the

On Wheeler's Peak, the dominating summit of the Snake Mountains, I
found all the conifers I had seen on the other ranges of the State,
excepting the foxtail pine, which I have not observed further east
than the White Pine range, but in its stead the beautiful Rocky
Mountain spruce. First, as in the other ranges, we find the juniper
and nut pine; then, higher, the white pine and balsam fir; then the
Douglas spruce and this new Rocky Mountain spruce, which is common
eastward from here, though this range is, as far as I have observed,
its western limit. It is one of the largest and most important of
Nevada conifers, attaining a height of from sixty to eighty feet and a
diameter of nearly two feet, while now and then an exceptional
specimen may be found in shady dells a hundred feet high or more.

The foliage is bright yellowish and bluish green, according to
exposure and age, growing all around the branchlets, though inclined
to turn upward from the undersides, like that of the plushy firs of
California, making remarkably handsome fernlike plumes. While yet
only mere saplings five or six inches thick at the ground, they
measure fifty or sixty feet in height and are beautifully clothed with
broad, level, fronded plumes down to the base, preserving a strict
arrowy outline, though a few of the larger branches shoot out in free
exuberance, relieving the spire from any unpicturesque stiffness of
aspect, while the conical summit is crowded with thousands of rich
brown cones to complete its beauty.

We made the ascent of the peak just after the first storm had whitened
its summit and brightened the atmosphere. The foot-slopes are like
those of the Troy range, only more evenly clad with grasses. After
tracing a long, rugged ridge of exceedingly hard quartzite, said to be
veined here and there with gold, we came to the North Dome, a noble
summit rising about a thousand feet above the timberline, its slopes
heavily tree-clad all around, but most perfectly on the north. Here
the Rocky Mountain spruce forms the bulk of the forest. The cones
were ripe; most of them had shed their winged seeds, and the shell-like scales were conspicuously spread, making rich masses of brown
from the tops of the fertile trees down halfway to the ground, cone
touching cone in lavish clusters. A single branch that might be
carried in the hand would be found to bear a hundred or more.

Some portions of the wood were almost impenetrable, but in general we
found no difficulty in mazing comfortably on over fallen logs and
under the spreading boughs, while here and there we came to an opening
sufficiently spacious for standpoints, where the trees around their
margins might be seen from top to bottom. The winter sunshine
streamed through the clustered spires, glinting and breaking into a
fine dust of spangles on the spiky leaves and beads of amber gum, and
bringing out the reds and grays and yellows of the lichened boles
which had been freshened by the late storm; while the tip of every
spire looking up through the shadows was dipped in deepest blue.

The ground was strewn with burs and needles and fallen trees; and,
down in the dells, on the north side of the dome, where strips of
aspen are imbedded in the spruces, every breeze sent the ripe leaves
flying, some lodging in the spruce boughs, making them bloom again,
while the fresh snow beneath looked like a fine painting.

Around the dome and well up toward the summit of the main peak, the
snow-shed was well marked with tracks of the mule deer and the pretty
stitching and embroidery of field mice, squirrels, and grouse; and on
the way back to camp I came across a strange track, somewhat like that
of a small bear, but more spreading at the toes. It proved to be that
of a wolverine. In my conversations with hunters, both Indians and
white men assure me that there are no bears in Nevada, notwithstanding
the abundance of pine-nuts, of which they are so fond, and the
accessibility of these basin ranges from their favorite haunts in the
Sierra Nevada and Wahsatch Mountains. The mule deer, antelope, wild
sheep, wolverine, and two species of wolves are all of the larger
animals that I have seen or heard of in the State.


Glacial Phenomena in Nevada[20]

The monuments of the Ice Age in the Great Basin have been greatly
obscured and broken, many of the more ancient of them having perished
altogether, leaving scarce a mark, however faint, of their existence--a condition of things due not alone to the long-continued action of
post-glacial agents, but also in great part to the perishable
character of the rocks of which they were made. The bottoms of the
main valleys, once grooved and planished like the glacier pavements of
the Sierra, lie buried beneath sediments and detritus derived from the
adjacent mountains, and now form the arid sage plains; characteristic
U-shaped canyons have become V-shaped by the deepening of their
bottoms and straightening of their sides, and decaying glacier
headlands have been undermined and thrown down in loose taluses, while
most of the moraines and striae and scratches have been blurred or
weathered away. Nevertheless, enough remains of the more recent and
the more enduring phenomena to cast a good light well back upon the
conditions of the ancient ice sheet that covered this interesting
region, and upon the system of distinct glaciers that loaded the tops
of the mountains and filled the canyons long after the ice sheet had
been broken up.

The first glacial traces that I noticed in the basin are on the
Wassuck, Augusta, and Toyabe ranges, consisting of ridges and canyons,
whose trends, contours, and general sculpture are in great part
specifically glacial, though deeply blurred by subsequent denudation.
These discoveries were made during the summer of 1876-77. And again,
on the 17th of last August, while making the ascent of Mount
Jefferson, the dominating mountain of the Toquima range, I discovered
an exceedingly interesting group of moraines, canyons with V-shaped
cross sections, wide neve amphitheatres, moutoneed rocks, glacier
meadows, and one glacier lake, all as fresh and telling as if the
glaciers to which they belonged had scarcely vanished.

The best preserved and most regular of the moraines are two laterals
about two hundred feet in height and two miles long, extending from
the foot of a magnificent canyon valley on the north side of the
mountain and trending first in a northerly direction, then curving
around to the west, while a well-characterized terminal moraine,
formed by the glacier towards the close of its existence, unites them
near their lower extremities at a height of eighty-five hundred feet.
Another pair of older lateral moraines, belonging to a glacier of
which the one just mentioned was a tributary, extend in a general
northwesterly direction nearly to the level of Big Smoky Valley, about
fifty-five hundred feet above sea level.

Four other canyons, extending down the eastern slopes of this grand
old mountain into Monito Valley, are hardly less rich in glacial
records, while the effects of the mountain shadows in controlling and
directing the movements of the residual glaciers to which all these
phenomena belonged are everywhere delightfully apparent in the trends
of the canyons and ridges, and in the massive sculpture of the neve
wombs at their heads. This is a very marked and imposing mountain,
attracting the eye from a great distance. It presents a smooth and
gently curved outline against the sky, as observed from the plains,
and is whitened with patches of enduring snow. The summit is made up
of irregular volcanic tables, the most extensive of which is about two
and a half miles long, and like the smaller ones is broken abruptly
down on the edges by the action of the ice. Its height is
approximately eleven thousand three hundred feet above the sea.

A few days after making these interesting discoveries, I found other
well-preserved glacial traces on Arc Dome, the culminating summit of
the Toyabe Range. On its northeastern slopes there are two small
glacier lakes, and the basins of two others which have recently been
filled with down-washed detritus. One small residual glacier lingered
until quite recently beneath the coolest shadows of the dome, the
moraines and neve-fountains of which are still as fresh and unwasted
as many of those lying at the same elevation on the Sierra--ten
thousand feet--while older and more wasted specimens may be traced on
all the adjacent mountains. The sculpture, too, of all the ridges and
summits of this section of the range is recognized at once as glacial,
some of the larger characters being still easily readable from the
plains at a distance of fifteen or twenty miles.

The Hot Creek Mountains, lying to the east of the Toquima and Monito
ranges, reach the culminating point on a deeply serrate ridge at a
height of ten thousand feet above the sea. This ridge is found to be
made up of a series of imposing towers and pinnacles which have been
eroded from the solid mass of the mountain by a group of small
residual glaciers that lingered in their shadows long after the larger
ice rivers had vanished. On its western declivities are found a group
of well-characterized moraines, canyons, and roches moutonnees, all of
which are unmistakably fresh and telling. The moraines in particular
could hardly fail to attract the eye of any observer. Some of the
short laterals of the glaciers that drew their fountain snows from the
jagged recesses of the summit are from one to two hundred feet in
height, and scarce at all wasted as yet, notwithstanding the countless
storms that have fallen upon them, while cool rills flow between them,
watering charming gardens of arctic plants--saxifrages, larkspurs,
dwarf birch, ribes, and parnassia, etc.--beautiful memories of the Ice
Age, representing a once greatly extended flora.

In the course of explorations made to the eastward of here, between
the 38th and 40th parallels, I observed glacial phenomena equally
fresh and demonstrative on all the higher mountains of the White Pine,
Golden Gate, and Snake ranges, varying from those already described
only as determined by differences of elevation, relations to the snow-bearing winds, and the physical characteristics of the rock

On the Jeff Davis group of the Snake Range, the dominating summit of
which is nearly thirteen thousand feet in elevation, and the highest
ground in the basin, every marked feature is a glacier monument--peaks, valleys, ridges, meadows, and lakes. And because here the
snow-fountains lay at a greater height, while the rock, an exceedingly
hard quartzite, offered superior resistance to post-glacial agents,
the ice-characters are on a larger scale, and are more sharply defined
than any we have noticed elsewhere, and it is probably here that the
last lingering glacier of the basin was located. The summits and
connecting ridges are mere blades and points, ground sharp by the
glaciers that descended on both sides to the main valleys. From one
standpoint I counted nine of these glacial channels with their
moraines sweeping grandly out to the plains to deep sheer-walled neve-fountains at their heads, making a most vivid picture of the last days
of the Ice Period.

I have thus far directed attention only to the most recent and
appreciable of the phenomena; but it must be borne in mind that less
recent and less obvious traces of glacial action abound on ALL the
ranges throughout the entire basin, where the fine striae and grooves
have been obliterated, and most of the moraines have been washed away,
or so modified as to be no longer recognizable, and even the lakes and
meadows, so characteristic of glacial regions, have almost entirely
vanished. For there are other monuments, far more enduring than
these, remaining tens of thousands of years after the more perishable
records are lost. Such are the canyons, ridges, and peaks themselves,
the glacial peculiarities of whose trends and contours cannot be hid
from the eye of the skilled observer until changes have been wrought
upon them far more destructive than those to which these basin ranges
have yet been subjected.

It appears, therefore, that the last of the basin glaciers have but
recently vanished, and that the almost innumerable ranges trending
north and south between the Sierra and the Wahsatch Mountains were
loaded with glaciers that descended to the adjacent valleys during the
last glacial period, and that it is to this mighty host of ice streams
that all the more characteristic of the present features of these
mountain ranges are due.

But grand as is this vision delineated in these old records, this is
not all; for there is not wanting evidence of a still grander
glaciation extending over all the valleys now forming the sage plains
as well as the mountains. The basins of the main valleys alternating
with the mountain ranges, and which contained lakes during at least
the closing portion of the Ice Period, were eroded wholly, or in part,
from a general elevated tableland, by immense glaciers that flowed
north and south to the ocean. The mountains as well as the valleys
present abundant evidence of this grand origin.

The flanks of all the interior ranges are seen to have been heavily
abraded and ground away by the ice acting in a direction parallel with
their axes. This action is most strikingly shown upon projecting
portions where the pressure has been greatest. These are shorn off in
smooth planes and bossy outswelling curves, like the outstanding
portions of canyon walls. Moreover, the extremities of the ranges
taper out like those of dividing ridges which have been ground away by
dividing and confluent glaciers. Furthermore, the horizontal sections
of separate mountains, standing isolated in the great valleys, are
lens-shaped like those of mere rocks that rise in the channels of
ordinary canyon glaciers, and which have been overflowed or
pastflowed, while in many of the smaller valleys roches moutonnees
occur in great abundance.

Again, the mineralogical and physical characters of the two ranges

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