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A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella L. Bird

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the bleak hill side, leaving her husband with five children under
six years old, and Dr. H. is a prosperous man on one of the
sunniest islands of the Pacific, with the devoted Swiss friend as
his second wife.

One of the most painful things in the Western States and
Territories is the extinction of childhood. I have never seen
any children, only debased imitations of men and women, cankered
by greed and selfishness, and asserting and gaining complete
independence of their parents at ten years old. The atmosphere
in which they are brought up is one of greed, godlessness, and
frequently of profanity. Consequently these sweet things seem
like flowers in a desert.

Except for love, which here as everywhere raises life into the
ideal, this is a wretched existence. The poor crops have been
destroyed by grasshoppers over and over again, and that talent
deified here under the name of "smartness" has taken advantage of
Dr. H. in all bargains, leaving him with little except food for
his children. Experience has been dearly bought in all ways, and
this instance of failure might be a useful warning to
professional men without agricultural experience not to come and
try to make a living by farming in Colorado.

My time here has passed very delightfully in spite of my regret
and anxiety for this interesting family. I should like to stay
longer, were it not that they have given up to me their straw
bed, and Mrs. H. and her baby, a wizened, fretful child, sleep on
the floor in my room, and Dr. H. on the floor downstairs, and the
nights are frosty and chill. Work is the order of their day, and
of mine, and at night, when the children are in bed, we three
ladies patch the clothes and make shirts, and Dr. H. reads
Tennyson's poems, or we speak tenderly of that world of culture
and noble deeds which seems here "the land very far off," or Mrs.
H. lays aside her work for a few minutes and reads some favorite
passage of prose or poetry, as I have seldom heard either read
before, with a voice of large compass and exquisite tone, quick
to interpret every shade of the author's meaning, and soft,
speaking eyes, moist with feeling and sympathy. These are our
halcyon hours, when we forget the needs of the morrow, and that
men still buy, sell, cheat, and strive for gold, and that we are
in the Rocky Mountains, and that it is near midnight. But
morning comes hot and tiresome, and the never-ending work is
oppressive, and Dr. H. comes in from the field two or three times
in the day, dizzy and faint, and they condole with each other,
and I feel that the Colorado settler needs to be made of sterner
stuff and to possess more adaptability.

To-day has been a very pleasant day for me, though I have only
once sat down since 9 A.M., and it is now 5 P.M. I plotted that
the devoted Swiss girl should go to the nearest settlement with
two of the children for the day in a neighbor's wagon, and that
Dr. and Mrs. H. should get an afternoon of rest and sleep
upstairs, while I undertook to do the work and make something of
a cleaning. I had a large "wash" of my own, having been hindered
last week by my bad arm, but a clothes wringer which screws on to
the side of the tub is a great assistance, and by folding the
clothes before passing them through it, I make it serve instead
of mangle and iron. After baking the bread and thoroughly
cleaning the churn and pails, I began upon the tins and pans, the
cleaning of which had fallen into arrears, and was hard at work,
very greasy and grimy, when a man came in to know where to ford
the river with his ox team, and as I was showing him he looked
pityingly at me, saying, "Be you the new hired girl? Bless me,
you're awful small!"

Yesterday we saved three cwt. of tomatoes for winter use, and
about two tons of squash and pumpkin for the cattle, two of the
former weighing 140 lbs. I pulled nearly a quarter of an acre of
maize, but it was a scanty crop, and the husks were poorly
filled. I much prefer field work to the scouring of greasy pans
and to the wash tub, and both to either sewing or writing.

This is not Arcadia. "Smartness," which consists in
over-reaching your neighbor in every fashion which is not
illegal, is the quality which is held in the greatest repute, and
Mammon is the divinity. From a generation brought up to worship
the one and admire the other little can be hoped. In districts
distant as this is from "Church Ordinances," there are three ways
in which Sunday is spent: one, to make it a day for visiting,
hunting, and fishing; another, to spend it in sleeping and
abstinence from work; and the third, to continue all the usual
occupations, consequently harvesting and felling and hauling
timber are to be seen in progress.

Last Sunday a man came here and put up a door, and said he didn't
believe in the Bible or in a God, and he wasn't going to
sacrifice his children's bread to old-fashioned prejudices.
There is a manifest indifference to the higher obligations of the
law, "judgment, mercy and faith"; but in the main the settlers
are steady, there are few flagrant breaches of morals, industry
is the rule, life and property are far safer than in England or
Scotland, and the law of universal respect to women is still in
full force.

The days are now brilliant and the nights sharply frosty. People
are preparing for the winter. The tourists from the East are
trooping into Denver, and the surveying parties are coming down
from the mountains. Snow has fallen on the higher ranges, and my
hopes of getting to Estes Park are down at zero.

LONGMOUNT, September 25.

Yesterday was perfect. The sun was brilliant and the air cool
and bracing. I felt better, and after a hard day's work and an
evening stroll with my friends in the glorious afterglow, I went
to bed cheerful and hopeful as to the climate and its effect on
my health. This morning I awoke with a sensation of extreme
lassitude, and on going out, instead of the delicious atmosphere
of yesterday, I found intolerable suffocating heat, a BLAZING
(not BRILLIANT) sun, and a sirocco like a Victorian hot wind.
Neuralgia, inflamed eyes, and a sense of extreme prostration
followed, and my acclimatized hosts were somewhat similarly
affected. The sparkle, the crystalline atmosphere, and the glory
of color of yesterday, had all vanished. We had borrowed a
wagon, but Dr. H.'s strong but lazy horse and a feeble hired one
made a poor span; and though the distance here is only twenty-two
miles over level prairie, our tired animal, and losing the way
three times, have kept us eight and a half hours in the broiling
sun. All notions of locality fail me on the prairie, and Dr. H.
was not much better. We took wrong tracks, got entangled among
fences, plunged through the deep mud of irrigation ditches, and
were despondent. It was a miserable drive, sitting on a heap of
fodder under the angry sun. Half-way here we camped at a river,
now only a series of mud holes, and I fell asleep under the
imperfect shade of a cotton-wood tree, dreading the thought of
waking and jolting painfully along over the dusty prairie in the
dust-laden, fierce sirocco, under the ferocious sun. We never
saw man or beast the whole day.

This is the "Chicago Colony," and it is said to be prospering,
after some preliminary land swindles. It is as uninviting as
Fort Collins. We first came upon dust-colored frame houses set
down at intervals on the dusty buff plain, each with its dusty
wheat or barley field adjacent, the crop, not the product of the
rains of heaven, but of the muddy overflow of "Irrigating Ditch
No.2." Then comes a road made up of many converging wagon
tracks, which stiffen into a wide straggling street, in which
glaring frame houses and a few shops stand opposite to each
other. A two-storey house, one of the whitest and most glaring,
and without a veranda like all the others, is the "St. Vrain
Hotel," called after the St. Vrain River, out of which the ditch
is taken which enables Longmount to exist. Everything was
broiling in the heat of the slanting sun, which all day long had
been beating on the unshaded wooden rooms. The heat within was
more sickening than outside, and black flies covered everything,
one's face included. We all sat fighting the flies in my
bedroom, which was cooler than elsewhere, till a glorious sunset
over the Rocky Range, some ten miles off, compelled us to go out
and enjoy it. Then followed supper, Western fashion, without
table-cloths, and all the "unattached" men of Longmount came in
and fed silently and rapidly. It was a great treat to have tea
to drink, as I had not tasted any for a fortnight. The landlord
is a jovial, kindly man. I told him how my plans had faded, and
how I was reluctantly going on to-morrow to Denver and New York,
being unable to get to Estes Park, and he said there might yet be
a chance of some one coming in to-night who would be going up.
He soon came to my room and asked definitely what I could do--if
I feared cold, if I could "rough it," if I could "ride horseback
and lope." Estes Park and its surroundings are, he says, "the
most beautiful scenery in Colorado," and "it's a real shame," he
added, "for you not to see it." We had hardly sat down to tea
when he came, saying "You're in luck this time; two young men
have just come in and are going up to-morrow morning." I am
rather pleased, and have hired a horse for three days; but I am
not very hopeful, for I am almost ill of the smothering heat, and
still suffer from my fall, and not having been on horseback
since, thirty miles will be a long ride. Then I fear that the
accommodation is as rough as Chalmers's, and that solitude will
be impossible. We have been strolling in the street every since
it grew dark to get the little air which is moving.

ESTES PARK!!! September 28.

I wish I could let those three notes of admiration go to you
instead of a letter. They mean everything that is rapturous and
delightful--grandeur, cheerfulness, health, enjoyment, novelty,
freedom, etc., etc. I have just dropped into the very place I
have been seeking, but in everything it exceeds all my dreams.
There is health in every breath of air; I am much better already,
and get up to a seven o'clock breakfast without difficulty. It
is quite comfortable--in the fashion that I like. I have a log
cabin, raised on six posts, all to myself, with a skunk's lair
underneath it, and a small lake close to it. There is a frost
every night, and all day it is cool enough for a roaring fire.
The ranchman, who is half-hunter, half-stockman, and his wife are
jovial, hearty Welsh people from Llanberis, who laugh with loud,
cheery British laughs, sing in parts down to the youngest child,
are free hearted and hospitable, and pile the pitch-pine logs
half-way up the great rude chimney. There has been fresh meat
each day since I came, delicious bread baked daily, excellent
potatoes, tea and coffee, and an abundant supply of milk like
cream. I have a clean hay bed with six blankets, and there are
neither bugs nor fleas. The scenery is the most glorious I have
ever seen, and is above us, around us, at the very door. Most
people have advized me to go to Colorado Springs, and only one
mentioned this place, and till I reached Longmount I never saw
any one who had been here, but I saw from the lie of the country
that it must be most superbly situated. People said, however,
that it was most difficult of access, and that the season for it
was over. In traveling there is nothing like dissecting people's
statements, which are usually colored by their estimate of the
powers or likings of the person spoken to, making all reasonable
inquiries, and then pertinaciously but quietly carrying out one's
own plans. This is perfection, and all the requisites for health
are present, including plenty of horses and grass to ride on.

It is not easy to sit down to write after ten hours of hard
riding, especially in a cabin full of people, and wholesome
fatigue may make my letter flat when it ought to be enthusiastic.
I was awake all night at Longmount owing to the stifling heat,
and got up nervous and miserable, ready to give up the thought of
coming here, but the sunrise over the Plains, and the wonderful
red of the Rocky Mountains, as they reflected the eastern sky,
put spirit into me. The landlord had got a horse, but could not
give any satisfactory assurances of his being quiet, and being
much shaken by my fall at Canyon, I earnestly wished that the
Greeley Tribune had not given me a reputation for horsemanship,
which had preceded me here. The young men who were to escort me
"seemed very innocent," he said, but I have not arrived at his
meaning yet. When the horse appeared in the street at 8:30, I
saw, to my dismay, a high-bred, beautiful creature, stable kept,
with arched neck, quivering nostrils, and restless ears and eyes.
My pack, as on Hawaii, was strapped behind the Mexican saddle,
and my canvas bag hung on the horn, but the horse did not look
fit to carry "gear," and seemed to require two men to hold and
coax him. There were many loafers about, and I shrank from going
out and mounting in my old Hawaiian riding dress, though Dr. and
Mrs. H. assured me that I looked quite "insignificant and
unnoticeable." We got away at nine with repeated injunctions
from the landlord in the words, "Oh, you should be heroic!"

The sky was cloudless, and a deep brilliant blue, and though the
sun was hot the air was fresh and bracing. The ride for glory
and delight I shall label along with one to Hanalei, and another
to Mauna Kea, Hawaii. I felt better quite soon; the horse in
gait and temper turned out perfection--all spring and spirit,
elastic in his motion, walking fast and easily, and cantering
with a light, graceful swing as soon as one pressed the reins on
his neck, a blithe, joyous animal, to whom a day among the
mountains seemed a pleasant frolic. So gentle he was, that when
I got off and walked he followed me without being led, and
without needing any one to hold him he allowed me to mount on
either side. In addition to the charm of his movements he has
the catlike sure-footedness of a Hawaiian horse, and fords rapid
and rough-bottomed rivers, and gallops among stones and stumps,
and down steep hills, with equal security. I could have ridden
him a hundred miles as easily as thirty. We have only been
together two days, yet we are firm friends, and thoroughly
understand each other. I should not require another companion on
a long mountain tour. All his ways are those of an animal
brought up without curb, whip, or spur, trained by the voice, and
used only to kindness, as is happily the case with the majority
of horses in the Western States. Consequently, unless they are
broncos, they exercise their intelligence for your advantage, and
do their work rather as friends than as machines.

I soon began not only to feel better, but to be exhilarated with
the delightful motion. The sun was behind us, and puffs of a
cool elastic air came down from the glorious mountains in front.
We cantered across six miles of prairie, and then reached the
beautiful canyon of the St. Vrain, which, towards its mouth, is a
narrow, fertile, wooded valley, through which a bright rapid
river, which we forded many times, hurries along, with twists and
windings innumerable. Ah, how brightly its ripples danced in the
glittering sunshine, and how musically its waters murmured like
the streams of windward Hawaii! We lost our way over and over
again, though the "innocent" young men had been there before;
indeed, it would require some talent to master the intricacies of
that devious trail, but settlers making hay always appeared in
the nick of time to put us on the right track. Very fair it was,
after the brown and burning plains, and the variety was endless.
Cotton-wood trees were green and bright, aspens shivered in gold
tremulousness, wild grape-vines trailed their lemon-colored
foliage along the ground, and the Virginia creeper hung its
crimson sprays here and there, lightening up green and gold into
glory. Sometimes from under the cool and bowery shade of the
colored tangle we passed into the cool St. Vrain, and then were
wedged between its margin and lofty cliffs and terraces of
incredibly staring, fantastic rocks, lined, patched, and splashed
with carmine, vermilion, greens of all tints, blue, yellow,
orange, violet, deep crimson, coloring that no artist would dare
to represent, and of which, in sober prose, I scarcely dare tell.
Long's wonderful peaks, which hitherto had gleamed above the
green, now disappeared, to be seen no more for twenty miles. We
entered on an ascending valley, where the gorgeous hues of the
rocks were intensified by the blue gloom of the pitch pines, and
then taking a track to the north-west, we left the softer world
behind, and all traces of man and his works, and plunged into
the Rocky Mountains.

There were wonderful ascents then up which I led my horse; wild
fantastic views opening up continually, a recurrence of
surprises; the air keener and purer with every mile, the
sensation of loneliness more singular. A tremendous ascent among
rocks and pines to a height of 9,000 feet brought us to a passage
seven feet wide through a wall of rock, with an abrupt descent of
2,000 feet, and a yet higher ascent beyond. I never saw anything
so strange as looking back. It was a single gigantic ridge which
we had passed through, standing up knifelike, built up entirely
of great brick-shaped masses of bright red rock, some of them as
large as the Royal Institution, Edinburgh, piled one on another
by Titans. Pitch pines grew out of their crevices, but there
was not a vestige of soil. Beyond, wall beyond wall of similar
construction, and range above range, rose into the blue sky.
Fifteen miles more over great ridges, along passes dark with
shadow, and so narrow that we had to ride in the beds of the
streams which had excavated them, round the bases of colossal
pyramids of rock crested with pines, up into fair upland "parks,"
scarlet in patches with the poison oak, parks so beautifully
arranged by nature that I momentarily expected to come upon some
stately mansion, but that afternoon crested blue jays and
chipmunks had them all to themselves. Here, in the early
morning, deer, bighorn, and the stately elk, come down to feed,
and there, in the night, prowl and growl the Rocky Mountain lion,
the grizzly bear, and the cowardly wolf. There were chasms of
immense depth, dark with the indigo gloom of pines, and mountains
with snow gleaming on their splintered crests, loveliness to
bewilder and grandeur to awe, and still streams and shady pools,
and cool depths of shadow; mountains again, dense with pines,
among which patches of aspen gleamed like gold; valleys
where the yellow cotton-wood mingled with the crimson oak, and
so, on and on through the lengthening shadows, till the trail,
which in places had been hardly legible, became well defined, and
we entered a long gulch with broad swellings of grass belted with

A very pretty mare, hobbled, was feeding; a collie dog barked at
us, and among the scrub, not far from the track, there was a
rude, black log cabin, as rough as it could be to be a shelter at
all, with smoke coming out of the roof and window. We diverged
towards it; it mattered not that it was the home, or rather den,
of a notorious "ruffian" and "desperado." One of my companions
had disappeared hours before, the remaining one was a town-bred
youth. I longed to speak to some one who loved the mountains. I
called the hut a DEN--it looked like the den of a wild beast.
The big dog lay outside it in a threatening attitude and growled.
The mud roof was covered with lynx, beaver, and other furs laid
out to dry, beaver paws were pinned out on the logs, a part of
the carcass of a deer hung at one end of the cabin, a skinned
beaver lay in front of a heap of peltry just within the door, and
antlers of deer, old horseshoes, and offal of many animals, lay
about the den.

Roused by the growling of the dog, his owner came out, a broad,
thickset man, about the middle height, with an old cap on his
head, and wearing a grey hunting suit much the worse for wear
(almost falling to pieces, in fact), a digger's scarf knotted
round his waist, a knife in his belt, and "a bosom friend," a
revolver, sticking out of the breast pocket of his coat; his
feet, which were very small, were bare, except for some
dilapidated moccasins made of horse hide. The marvel was how his
clothes hung together, and on him. The scarf round his waist
must have had something to do with it. His face was remarkable.
He is a man about forty-five, and must have been strikingly
handsome. He has large grey-blue eyes, deeply set, with
well-marked eyebrows, a handsome aquiline nose, and a very
handsome mouth. His face was smooth shaven except for a dense
mustache and imperial. Tawny hair, in thin uncared-for curls,
fell from under his hunter's cap and over his collar. One eye
was entirely gone, and the loss made one side of the face
repulsive, while the other might have been modeled in marble.
"Desperado" was written in large letters all over him. I almost
repented of having sought his acquaintance. His first impulse
was to swear at the dog, but on seeing a lady he contented
himself with kicking him, and coming to me he raised his cap,
showing as he did so a magnificently-formed brow and head, and in
a cultured tone of voice asked if there were anything he could do
for me? I asked for some water, and he brought some in a
battered tin, gracefully apologizing for not having anything more
presentable. We entered into conversation, and as he spoke I
forgot both his reputation and appearance, for his manner was
that of a chivalrous gentleman, his accent refined, and his
language easy and elegant. I inquired about some beavers' paws
which were drying, and in a moment they hung on the horn of my
saddle. Apropos of the wild animals of the region, he told me
that the loss of his eye was owing to a recent encounter with a
grizzly bear, which, after giving him a death hug, tearing him
all over, breaking his arm and scratching out his eye, had left
him for dead. As we rode away, for the sun was sinking, he said,
courteously, "You are not an American. I know from your voice
that you are a countrywoman of mine. I hope you will allow me
the pleasure of calling on you."[12]

[12] Of this unhappy man, who was shot nine months later within
two miles of his cabin, I write in the subsequent letters only as
he appeared to me. His life, without doubt, was deeply stained
with crimes and vices, and his reputation for ruffianism was a
deserved one. But in my intercourse with him I saw more of his
nobler instincts than of the darker parts of his character,
which, unfortunately for himself and others, showed itself in its
worst colors at the time of his tragic end. It was not until
after I left Colorado, not indeed until after his death, that I
heard of the worst points of his character.

This man, known through the Territories and beyond them as "Rocky
Mountain Jim," or, more briefly, as "Mountain Jim," is one of the
famous scouts of the Plains, and is the original of some daring
portraits in fiction concerning Indian Frontier warfare. So far
as I have at present heard, he is a man for whom there is now no
room, for the time for blows and blood in this part of Colorado
is past, and the fame of many daring exploits is sullied by
crimes which are not easily forgiven here. He now has a
"squatter's claim," but makes his living as a trapper, and is a
complete child of the mountains. Of his genius and chivalry to
women there does not appear to be any doubt; but he is a
desperate character, and is subject to "ugly fits," when people
think it best to avoid him. It is here regarded as an evil that
he has located himself at the mouth of the only entrance to the
park, for he is dangerous with his pistols, and it would be safer
if he were not here. His besetting sin is indicated in the
verdict pronounced on him by my host: "When he's sober Jim's a
perfect gentleman; but when he's had liquor he's the most awful
ruffian in Colorado."

From the ridge on which this gulch terminates, at a height of
9,000 feet, we saw at last Estes Park, lying 1,500 feet below in
the glory of the setting sun, an irregular basin, lighted up by
the bright waters of the rushing Thompson, guarded by sentinel
mountains of fantastic shape and monstrous size, with Long's Peak
rising above them all in unapproachable grandeur, while the Snowy
Range, with its outlying spurs heavily timbered, come down upon
the park slashed by stupendous canyons lying deep in purple
gloom. The rushing river was blood red, Long's Peak was aflame,
the glory of the glowing heaven was given back from earth.
Never, nowhere, have I seen anything to equal the view into Estes
Park. The mountains "of the land which is very far off" are very
near now, but the near is more glorious than the far, and reality
than dreamland. The mountain fever seized me, and, giving my
tireless horse one encouraging word, he dashed at full gallop
over a mile of smooth sward at delirious speed.

But I was hungry, and the air was frosty, and I was wondering
what the prospects of food and shelter were in this enchanted
region, when we came suddenly upon a small lake, close to which
was a very trim-looking log cabin, with a flat mud roof, with
four smaller ones; picturesquely dotted about near it, two
corrals,[13] a long shed, in front of which a steer was being
killed, a log dairy with a water wheel, some hay piles, and
various evidences of comfort; and two men, on serviceable horses,
were just bringing in some tolerable cows to be milked. A short,
pleasant-looking man ran up to me and shook hands gleefully,
which surprised me; but he has since told me that in the evening
light he thought I was "Mountain Jim, dressed up as a woman!" I
recognized in him a countryman, and he introduced himself as
Griffith Evans, a Welshman from the slate quarries near
Llanberis. When the cabin door was opened I saw a good-sized log
room, unchinked, however, with windows of infamous glass, looking
two ways; a rough stone fireplace, in which pine logs, half as
large as I am, were burning; a boarded floor, a round table, two
rocking chairs, a carpet-covered backwoods couch; and skins,
Indian bows and arrows, wampum belts, and antlers, fitly
decorated the rough walls, and equally fitly, rifles were stuck
up in the corners. Seven men, smoking, were lying about on the
floor, a sick man lay on the couch, and a middle-aged lady sat at
the table writing. I went out again and asked Evans if he could
take me in, expecting nothing better than a shakedown; but, to my
joy, he told me he could give me a cabin to myself, two minutes'
walk from his own. So in this glorious upper world, with the
mountain pines behind and the clear lake in front, in the "blue
hollow at the foot of Long's Peak," at a height of 7,500 feet,
where the hoar frost crisps the grass every night of the year, I
have found far more than I ever dared to hope for.

[13] A corral is a fenced enclosure for cattle. This word, with
bronco, ranch, and a few others, are adaptations from the
Spanish, and are used as extensively throughout California and
the Territories as is the Spanish or Mexican saddle.
I. L. B.

Letter VII

Personality of Long's Peak--"Mountain Jim"--Lake of the Lilies--A
silent forest--The camping ground--"Ring"--A lady's bower--Dawn
and sunrise--A glorious view--Links of diamonds--The ascent of
the Peak--The "Dog's Lift"--Suffering from thirst--The
descent--The bivouac.


As this account of the ascent of Long's Peak could not
be written at the time, I am much disinclined to write it,
especially as no sort of description within my powers could
enable another to realize the glorious sublimity, the majestic
solitude, and the unspeakable awfulness and fascination of the
scenes in which I spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Long's Peak, 14,700 feet high, blocks up one end of Estes Park,
and dwarfs all the surrounding mountains. From it on this side
rise, snow-born, the bright St. Vrain, and the Big and Little
Thompson. By sunlight or moonlight its splintered grey crest is
the one object which, in spite of wapiti and bighorn, skunk and
grizzly, unfailingly arrests the eyes. From it come all
storms of snow and wind, and the forked lightnings play round its
head like a glory. It is one of the noblest of mountains, but in
one's imagination it grows to be much more than a mountain. It
becomes invested with a personality. In its caverns and abysses
one comes to fancy that it generates and chains the strong winds,
to let them loose in its fury. The thunder becomes its voice,
and the lightnings do it homage. Other summits blush under the
morning kiss of the sun, and turn pale the next moment; but it
detains the first sunlight and holds it round its head for an
hour at least, till it pleases to change from rosy red to deep
blue; and the sunset, as if spell-bound, lingers latest on its
crest. The soft winds which hardly rustle the pine needles down
here are raging rudely up there round its motionless summit. The
mark of fire is upon it; and though it has passed into a grim
repose, it tells of fire and upheaval as truly, though not as
eloquently, as the living volcanoes of Hawaii. Here under its
shadow one learns how naturally nature worship, and the
propitiation of the forces of nature, arose in minds which had no
better light.

Long's Peak, "the American Matterhorn," as some call it, was
ascended five years ago for the first time. I thought I should
like to attempt it, but up to Monday, when Evans left for Denver,
cold water was thrown upon the project. It was too late in the
season, the winds were likely to be strong, etc.; but just before
leaving, Evans said that the weather was looking more settled,
and if I did not get farther than the timber line it would be
worth going. Soon after he left, "Mountain Jim" came in, and
said he would go up as guide, and the two youths who rode here
with me from Longmount and I caught at the proposal. Mrs.
Edwards at once baked bread for three days, steaks were cut from
the steer which hangs up conveniently, and tea, sugar, and butter
were benevolently added. Our picnic was not to be a luxurious or
"well-found" one, for, in order to avoid the expense of a pack
mule, we limited our luggage to what our saddle horses could
carry. Behind my saddle I carried three pair of camping blankets
and a quilt, which reached to my shoulders. My own boots were so
much worn that it was painful to walk, even about the park, in
them, so Evans had lent me a pair of his hunting boots, which
hung to the horn of my saddle. The horses of the two young men
were equally loaded, for we had to prepare for many degrees of
frost. "Jim" was a shocking figure; he had on an old pair of
high boots, with a baggy pair of old trousers made of deer hide,
held on by an old scarf tucked into them; a leather shirt, with
three or four ragged unbuttoned waistcoats over it; an old
smashed wideawake, from under which his tawny, neglected ringlets
hung; and with his one eye, his one long spur, his knife in his
belt, his revolver in his waistcoat pocket, his saddle covered
with an old beaver skin, from which the paws hung down; his
camping blankets behind him, his rifle laid across the saddle in
front of him, and his axe, canteen, and other gear hanging to the
horn, he was as awful-looking a ruffian as one could see. By way
of contrast he rode a small Arab mare, of exquisite beauty,
skittish, high spirited, gentle, but altogether too light for
him, and he fretted her incessantly to make her display herself.

Heavily loaded as all our horses were, "Jim" started over the
half-mile of level grass at a hard gallop, and then throwing his
mare on her haunches, pulled up alongside of me, and with a grace
of manner which soon made me forget his appearance, entered into
a conversation which lasted for more than three hours, in spite
of the manifold checks of fording streams, single file, abrupt
ascents and descents, and other incidents of mountain travel.
The ride was one series of glories and surprises, of "park" and
glade, of lake and stream, of mountains on mountains, culminating
in the rent pinnacles of Long's Peak, which looked yet grander
and ghastlier as we crossed an attendant mountain 11,000 feet
high. The slanting sun added fresh beauty every hour. There
were dark pines against a lemon sky, grey peaks reddening and
etherealizing, gorges of deep and infinite blue, floods of golden
glory pouring through canyons of enormous depth, an atmosphere of
absolute purity, an occasional foreground of cottonwood and aspen
flaunting in red and gold to intensify the blue gloom of the
pines, the trickle and murmur of streams fringed with icicles,
the strange sough of gusts moving among the pine tops--sights and
sounds not of the lower earth, but of the solitary,
beast-haunted, frozen upper altitudes. From the dry, buff grass
of Estes Park we turned off up a trail on the side of a pine-hung
gorge, up a steep pine-clothed hill, down to a small valley, rich
in fine, sun-cured hay about eighteen inches high, and enclosed
by high mountains whose deepest hollow contains a lily-covered
lake, fitly named "The Lake of the Lilies." Ah, how magical its
beauty was, as it slept in silence, while THERE the dark pines
were mirrored motionless in its pale gold, and HERE the great
white lily cups and dark green leaves rested on amethyst-colored

From this we ascended into the purple gloom of great pine forests
which clothe the skirts of the mountains up to a height of about
11,000 feet, and from their chill and solitary depths we had
glimpses of golden atmosphere and rose-lit summits, not of "the
land very far off," but of the land nearer now in all its
grandeur, gaining in sublimity by nearness--glimpses, too,
through a broken vista of purple gorges, of the illimitable
Plains lying idealized in the late sunlight, their baked, brown
expanse transfigured into the likeness of a sunset sea rolling
infinitely in waves of misty gold.

We rode upwards through the gloom on a steep trail blazed through
the forest, all my intellect concentrated on avoiding being
dragged off my horse by impending branches, or having the
blankets badly torn, as those of my companions were, by sharp
dead limbs, between which there was hardly room to pass--the
horses breathless, and requiring to stop every few yards, though
their riders, except myself, were afoot. The gloom of the dense,
ancient, silent forest is to me awe inspiring. On such an
evening it is soundless, except for the branches creaking in the
soft wind, the frequent snap of decayed timber, and a murmur in
the pine tops as of a not distant waterfall, all tending to
produce EERINESS and a sadness "hardly akin to pain." There no
lumberer's axe has ever rung. The trees die when they have
attained their prime, and stand there, dead and bare, till the
fierce mountain winds lay them prostrate. The pines grew smaller
and more sparse as we ascended, and the last stragglers wore a
tortured, warring look. The timber line was passed, but yet a
little higher a slope of mountain meadow dipped to the south-west
towards a bright stream trickling under ice and icicles, and
there a grove of the beautiful silver spruce marked our camping
ground. The trees were in miniature, but so exquisitely arranged
that one might well ask what artist's hand had planted them,
scattering them here, clumping them there, and training their
slim spires towards heaven. Hereafter, when I call up memories
of the glorious, the view from this camping ground will come up.
Looking east, gorges opened to the distant Plains, then fading
into purple grey. Mountains with pine-clothed skirts rose in
ranges, or, solitary, uplifted their grey summits, while close
behind, but nearly 3,000 feet above us, towered the bald white
crest of Long's Peak, its huge precipices red with the light of a
sun long lost to our eyes. Close to us, in the caverned side of
the Peak, was snow that, owing to its position, is eternal. Soon
the afterglow came on, and before it faded a big half-moon hung
out of the heavens, shining through the silver blue foliage of
the pines on the frigid background of snow, and turning the
whole into fairyland. The "photo" which accompanies this letter
is by a courageous Denver artist who attempted the ascent just
before I arrived, but, after camping out at the timber line for a
week, was foiled by the perpetual storms, and was driven down
again, leaving some very valuable apparatus about 3,000 feet
from the summit.

Unsaddling and picketing the horses securely, making the beds of
pine shoots, and dragging up logs for fuel, warmed us all. "Jim"
built up a great fire, and before long we were all sitting around
it at supper. It didn't matter much that we had to drink our tea
out of the battered meat tins in which it was boiled, and eat
strips of beef reeking with pine smoke without plates or forks.

"Treat Jim as a gentleman and you'll find him one," I had been
told; and though his manner was certainly bolder and freer than
that of gentlemen generally, no imaginary fault could be found.
He was very agreeable as a man of culture as well as a child of
nature; the desperado was altogether out of sight. He was very
courteous and even kind to me, which was fortunate, as the young
men had little idea of showing even ordinary civilities. That
night I made the acquaintance of his dog "Ring," said to be the
best hunting dog in Colorado, with the body and legs of a collie,
but a head approaching that of a mastiff, a noble face with a
wistful human expression, and the most truthful eyes I ever saw
in an animal. His master loves him if he loves anything, but in
his savage moods ill-treats him. "Ring's" devotion never
swerves, and his truthful eyes are rarely taken off his master's
face. He is almost human in his intelligence, and, unless he is
told to do so, he never takes notice of any one but "Jim." In a
tone as if speaking to a human being, his master, pointing to me,
said, "Ring, go to that lady, and don't leave her again
to-night." "Ring" at once came to me, looked into my face, laid
his head on my shoulder, and then lay down beside me with his
head on my lap, but never taking his eyes from "Jim's" face.

The long shadows of the pines lay upon the frosted grass, an
aurora leaped fitfully, and the moonlight, though intensely
bright, was pale beside the red, leaping flames of our pine logs
and their red glow on our gear, ourselves, and Ring's truthful
face. One of the young men sang a Latin student's song and two
Negro melodies; the other "Sweet Spirit, hear my Prayer." "Jim"
sang one of Moore's melodies in a singular falsetto, and all
together sang, "The Star-spangled Banner" and "The Red, White,
and Blue." Then "Jim" recited a very clever poem of his own
composition, and told some fearful Indian stories. A group of
small silver spruces away from the fire was my sleeping place.
The artist who had been up there had so woven and interlaced
their lower branches as to form a bower, affording at once
shelter from the wind and a most agreeable privacy. It was
thickly strewn with young pine shoots, and these, when covered
with a blanket, with an inverted saddle for a pillow, made a
luxurious bed. The mercury at 9 P.M. was 12 degrees below the
freezing point. "Jim," after a last look at the horses, made a
huge fire, and stretched himself out beside it, but "Ring" lay at
my back to keep me warm. I could not sleep, but the night passed
rapidly. I was anxious about the ascent, for gusts of ominous
sound swept through the pines at intervals. Then wild animals
howled, and "Ring" was perturbed in spirit about them. Then it
was strange to see the notorious desperado, a red-handed man,
sleeping as quietly as innocence sleeps. But, above all, it was
exciting to lie there, with no better shelter than a bower of
pines, on a mountain 11,000 feet high, in the very heart of the
Rocky Range, under twelve degrees of frost, hearing sounds of
wolves, with shivering stars looking through the fragrant canopy,
with arrowy pines for bed-posts, and for a night lamp the red
flames of a camp-fire.

Day dawned long before the sun rose, pure and lemon colored. The
rest were looking after the horses, when one of the students came
running to tell me that I must come farther down the slope, for
"Jim" said he had never seen such a sunrise. From the chill,
grey Peak above, from the everlasting snows, from the silvered
pines, down through mountain ranges with their depths of Tyrian
purple, we looked to where the Plains lay cold, in blue-grey,
like a morning sea against a far horizon. Suddenly, as a
dazzling streak at first, but enlarging rapidly into a dazzling
sphere, the sun wheeled above the grey line, a light and glory as
when it was first created. "Jim" involuntarily and reverently
uncovered his head, and exclaimed, "I believe there is a God!" I
felt as if, Parsee-like, I must worship. The grey of the Plains
changed to purple, the sky was all one rose-red flush, on which
vermilion cloud-streaks rested; the ghastly peaks gleamed like
rubies, the earth and heavens were new created. Surely "the Most
High dwelleth not in temples made with hands!" For a full hour
those Plains simulated the ocean, down to whose limitless expanse
of purple, cliff, rocks, and promontories swept down.

By seven we had finished breakfast, and passed into the ghastlier
solitudes above, I riding as far as what, rightly, or wrongly,
are called the "Lava Beds," an expanse of large and small
boulders, with snow in their crevices. It was very cold; some
water which we crossed was frozen hard enough to bear the horse.
"Jim" had advised me against taking any wraps, and my thin
Hawaiian riding dress, only fit for the tropics, was penetrated
by the keen air The rarefied atmosphere soon began to oppress our
breathing, and I found that Evans's boots were so large that I
had no foothold. Fortunately, before the real difficulty of the
ascent began, we found, under a rock, a pair of small overshoes,
probably left by the Hayden exploring expedition, which just
lasted for the day. As we were leaping from rock to rock, "Jim"
said, "I was thinking in the night about your traveling alone,
and wondering where you carried your Derringer, for I could see
no signs of it." On my telling him that I traveled unarmed, he
could hardly believe it, and adjured me to get a revolver at

On arriving at the "Notch" (a literal gate of rock), we found
ourselves absolutely on the knifelike ridge or backbone of Long's
Peak, only a few feet wide, covered with colossal boulders and
fragments, and on the other side shelving in one precipitous,
snow-patched sweep of 3,000 feet to a picturesque hollow,
containing a lake of pure green water. Other lakes, hidden among
dense pine woods, were farther off, while close above us rose the
Peak, which, for about 500 feet, is a smooth, gaunt,
inaccessible-looking pile of granite. Passing through the
"Notch," we looked along the nearly inaccessible side of the
Peak, composed of boulders and debris of all shapes and sizes,
through which appeared broad, smooth ribs of reddish-colored
granite, looking as if they upheld the towering rock mass above.
I usually dislike bird's-eye and panoramic views, but, though
from a mountain, this was not one. Serrated ridges, not much
lower than that on which we stood, rose, one beyond another, far
as that pure atmosphere could carry the vision, broken into awful
chasms deep with ice and snow, rising into pinnacles piercing the
heavenly blue with their cold, barren grey, on, on for ever, till
the most distant range upbore unsullied snow alone. There were
fair lakes mirroring the dark pine woods, canyons dark and
blue-black with unbroken expanses of pines, snow-slashed
pinnacles, wintry heights frowning upon lovely parks, watered and
wooded, lying in the lap of summer; North Park floating off into
the blue distance, Middle Park closed till another season, the
sunny slopes of Estes Park, and winding down among the mountains
the snowy ridge of the Divide, whose bright waters seek both the
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. There, far below, links of diamonds
showed where the Grand River takes its rise to seek the
mysterious Colorado, with its still unsolved enigma, and lose
itself in the waters of the Pacific; and nearer the snow-born
Thompson bursts forth from the ice to begin its journey to the
Gulf of Mexico. Nature, rioting in her grandest mood, exclaimed
with voices of grandeur, solitude, sublimity, beauty, and
infinity, "Lord, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or
the son of man, that Thou visitest him?" Never-to-be-forgotten
glories they were, burnt in upon my memory by six succeeding
hours of terror.

You know I have no head and no ankles, and never ought to dream
of mountaineering; and had I known that the ascent was a real
mountaineering feat I should not have felt the slightest ambition
to perform it. As it is, I am only humiliated by my success, for
"Jim" dragged me up, like a bale of goods, by sheer force of
muscle. At the "Notch" the real business of the ascent began.
Two thousand feet of solid rock towered above us, four thousand
feet of broken rock shelved precipitously below; smooth granite
ribs, with barely foothold, stood out here and there; melted snow
refrozen several times, presented a more serious obstacle; many
of the rocks were loose, and tumbled down when touched. To
me it was a time of extreme terror. I was roped to "Jim," but it
was of no use; my feet were paralyzed and slipped on the bare
rock, and he said it was useless to try to go that way, and we
retraced our steps. I wanted to return to the "Notch," knowing
that my incompetence would detain the party, and one of the
young men said almost plainly that a woman was a dangerous
encumbrance, but the trapper replied shortly that if it were not
to take a lady up he would not go up at all. He went on to
explore, and reported that further progress on the correct line
of ascent was blocked by ice; and then for two hours we
descended, lowering ourselves by our hands from rock to rock
along a boulder-strewn sweep of 4,000 feet, patched with ice and
snow, and perilous from rolling stones. My fatigue, giddiness,
and pain from bruised ankles, and arms half pulled out of their
sockets, were so great that I should never have gone halfway had
not "Jim," nolens volens, dragged me along with a patience and
skill, and withal a determination that I should ascend the Peak,
which never failed. After descending about 2,000 feet to avoid
the ice, we got into a deep ravine with inaccessible sides,
partly filled with ice and snow and partly with large and small
fragments of rock, which were constantly giving away, rendering
the footing very insecure. That part to me was two hours of
painful and unwilling submission to the inevitable; of trembling,
slipping, straining, of smooth ice appearing when it was least
expected, and of weak entreaties to be left behind while the
others went on. "Jim" always said that there was no danger, that
there was only a short bad bit ahead, and that I should go up
even if he carried me!

Slipping, faltering, gasping from the exhausting toil in the
rarefied air, with throbbing hearts and panting lungs, we reached
the top of the gorge and squeezed ourselves between two gigantic
fragments of rock by a passage called the "Dog's Lift," when I
climbed on the shoulders of one man and then was hauled up. This
introduced us by an abrupt turn round the south-west angle of the
Peak to a narrow shelf of considerable length, rugged, uneven,
and so overhung by the cliff in some places that it is necessary
to crouch to pass at all. Above, the Peak looks nearly vertical
for 400 feet; and below, the most tremendous precipice I have
ever seen descends in one unbroken fall. This is usually
considered the most dangerous part of the ascent, but it does not
seem so to me, for such foothold as there is is secure, and one
fancies that it is possible to hold on with the hands. But
there, and on the final, and, to my thinking, the worst part of
the climb, one slip, and a breathing, thinking, human being would
lie 3,000 feet below, a shapeless, bloody heap! "Ring" refused
to traverse the Ledge, and remained at the "Lift" howling

From thence the view is more magnificent even than that from the
"Notch." At the foot of the precipice below us lay a lovely
lake, wood embosomed, from or near which the bright St. Vrain and
other streams take their rise. I thought how their clear cold
waters, growing turbid in the affluent flats, would heat under
the tropic sun, and eventually form part of that great ocean
river which renders our far-off islands habitable by impinging on
their shores. Snowy ranges, one behind the other, extended to
the distant horizon, folding in their wintry embrace the beauties
of Middle Park. Pike's Peak, more than one hundred miles off,
lifted that vast but shapeless summit which is the landmark of
southern Colorado. There were snow patches, snow slashes,
snow abysses, snow forlorn and soiled looking, snow pure and
dazzling, snow glistening above the purple robe of pine worn by
all the mountains; while away to the east, in limitless breadth,
stretched the green-grey of the endless Plains. Giants
everywhere reared their splintered crests. From thence, with a
single sweep, the eye takes in a distance of 300 miles--that
distance to the west, north, and south being made up of mountains
ten, eleven, twelve, and thirteen thousand feet in height,
dominated by Long's Peak, Gray's Peak, and Pike's Peak, all
nearly the height of Mont Blanc! On the Plains we traced the
rivers by their fringe of cottonwoods to the distant Platte, and
between us and them lay glories of mountain, canyon, and lake,
sleeping in depths of blue and purple most ravishing to the eye.

As we crept from the ledge round a horn of rock I beheld what
made me perfectly sick and dizzy to look at--the terminal Peak
itself--a smooth, cracked face or wall of pink granite, as nearly
perpendicular as anything could well be up which it was possible
to climb, well deserving the name of the "American

[14] Let no practical mountaineer be allured by my description
into the ascent of Long's Peak. Truly terrible as it was to me,
to a member of the Alpine Club it would not be a feat worth

SCALING, not climbing, is the correct term for this last ascent.
It took one hour to accomplish 500 feet, pausing for breath every
minute or two. The only foothold was in narrow cracks or on
minute projections on the granite. To get a toe in these cracks,
or here and there on a scarcely obvious projection, while
crawling on hands and knees, all the while tortured with thirst
and gasping and struggling for breath, this was the climb; but at
last the Peak was won. A grand, well-defined mountain top it is,
a nearly level acre of boulders, with precipitous sides all
round, the one we came up being the only accessible one.

It was not possible to remain long. One of the young men was
seriously alarmed by bleeding from the lungs, and the intense
dryness of the day and the rarefication of the air, at a height
of nearly 15,000 feet, made respiration very painful. There is
always water on the Peak, but it was frozen as hard as a rock,
and the sucking of ice and snow increases thirst. We all
suffered severely from the want of water, and the gasping for
breath made our mouths and tongues so dry that articulation was
difficult, and the speech of all unnatural.

From the summit were seen in unrivalled combination all the views
which had rejoiced our eyes during the ascent. It was something
at last to stand upon the storm-rent crown of this lonely
sentinel of the Rocky Range, on one of the mightiest of the
vertebrae of the backbone of the North American continent, and
to see the waters start for both oceans. Uplifted above love and
hate and storms of passion, calm amidst the eternal silences,
fanned by zephyrs and bathed in living blue, peace rested for
that one bright day on the Peak, as if it were some region

Where falls not rain, or hail, or any snow,
Or ever wind blows loudly.

We placed our names, with the date of ascent, in a tin within a
crevice, and descended to the Ledge, sitting on the smooth
granite, getting our feet into cracks and against projections,
and letting ourselves down by our hands, "Jim" going before me,
so that I might steady my feet against his powerful shoulders. I
was no longer giddy, and faced the precipice of 3,500 feet
without a shiver. Repassing the Ledge and Lift, we accomplished
the descent through 1,500 feet of ice and snow, with many falls
and bruises, but no worse mishap, and there separated, the young
men taking the steepest but most direct way to the "Notch," with
the intention of getting ready for the march home, and "Jim" and
I taking what he thought the safer route for me--a descent over
boulders for 2,000 feet, and then a tremendous ascent to the
"Notch." I had various falls, and once hung by my frock, which
caught on a rock, and "Jim" severed it with his hunting knife,
upon which I fell into a crevice full of soft snow. We were
driven lower down the mountains than he had intended by
impassable tracts of ice, and the ascent was tremendous. For the
last 200 feet the boulders were of enormous size, and the
steepness fearful. Sometimes I drew myself up on hands and
knees, sometimes crawled; sometimes "Jim" pulled me up by my arms
or a lariat, and sometimes I stood on his shoulders, or he made
steps for me of his feet and hands, but at six we stood on the
"Notch" in the splendor of the sinking sun, all color deepening,
all peaks glorifying, all shadows purpling, all peril past.

"Jim" had parted with his brusquerie when we parted from the
students, and was gentle and considerate beyond anything, though
I knew that he must be grievously disappointed, both in my
courage and strength. Water was an object of earnest desire. My
tongue rattled in my mouth, and I could hardly articulate. It is
good for one's sympathies to have for once a severe experience of
thirst. Truly, there was

Water, water, everywhere,
But not a drop to drink.

Three times its apparent gleam deceived even the mountaineer's
practiced eye, but we found only a foot of "glare ice." At last,
in a deep hole, he succeeded in breaking the ice, and by putting
one's arm far down one could scoop up a little water in one's
hand, but it was tormentingly insufficient. With great
difficulty and much assistance I recrossed the "Lava Beds," was
carried to the horse and lifted upon him, and when we reached the
camping ground I was lifted off him, and laid on the ground
wrapped up in blankets, a humiliating termination of a great
exploit. The horses were saddled, and the young men were all
ready to start, but "Jim" quietly said, "Now, gentlemen, I want a
good night's rest, and we shan't stir from here to-night." I
believe they were really glad to have it so, as one of them was
quite "finished." I retired to my arbor, wrapped myself in a
roll of blankets, and was soon asleep.

When I woke, the moon was high shining through the silvery
branches, whitening the bald Peak above, and glittering on the
great abyss of snow behind, and pine logs were blazing like a
bonfire in the cold still air. My feet were so icy cold that I
could not sleep again, and getting some blankets to sit in, and
making a roll of them for my back, I sat for two hours by the
camp-fire. It was weird and gloriously beautiful. The students
were asleep not far off in their blankets with their feet towards
the fire. "Ring" lay on one side of me with his fine head on my
arm, and his master sat smoking, with the fire lighting up the
handsome side of his face, and except for the tones of our
voices, and an occasional crackle and splutter as a pine knot
blazed up, there was no sound on the mountain side. The beloved
stars of my far-off home were overhead, the Plough and Pole Star,
with their steady light; the glittering Pleiades, looking larger
than I ever saw them, and "Orion's studded belt" shining
gloriously. Once only some wild animals prowled near the camp,
when "Ring," with one bound, disappeared from my side; and the
horses, which were picketed by the stream, broke their lariats,
stampeded, and came rushing wildly towards the fire, and it was
fully half an hour before they were caught and quiet was
restored. "Jim," or Mr. Nugent, as I always scrupulously called
him, told stories of his early youth, and of a great sorrow which
had led him to embark on a lawless and desperate life. His voice
trembled, and tears rolled down his cheek. Was it semi-conscious
acting, I wondered, or was his dark soul really stirred to its
depths by the silence, the beauty, and the memories of youth?

We reached Estes Park at noon of the following day. A more
successful ascent of the Peak was never made, and I would not now
exchange my memories of its perfect beauty and extraordinary
sublimity for any other experience of mountaineering in any part
of the world. Yesterday snow fell on the summit, and it will be
inaccessible for eight months to come.
I. L. B.

Letter VIII

Estes Park--Big game--"Parks" in Colorado--Magnificent
scenery--Flowers and pines--An awful road--Our log
cabin--Griffith Evans--A miniature world--Our topics--A
night alarm--A skunk--Morning glories--Daily routine--The
panic--"Wait for the wagon"--A musical evening.


How time has slipped by I do not know. This is a glorious
region, and the air and life are intoxicating. I live mainly out
of doors and on horseback, wear my half-threadbare Hawaiian
dress, sleep sometimes under the stars on a bed of pine boughs,
ride on a Mexican saddle, and hear once more the low music of my
Mexican spurs. "There's a stranger! Heave arf a brick at him!"
is said by many travelers to express the feeling of the new
settlers in these Territories. This is not my experience in my
cheery mountain home. How the rafters ring as I write with songs
and mirth, while the pitch-pine logs blaze and crackle in the
chimney, and the fine snow dust drives in through the chinks and
forms mimic snow wreaths on the floor, and the wind raves and
howls and plays among the creaking pine branches and snaps them
short off, and the lightning plays round the blasted top of
Long's Peak, and the hardy hunters divert themselves with the
thought that when I go to bed I must turn out and face the storm!

You will ask, "What is Estes Park?" This name, with the quiet
Midland Countries' sound, suggests "park palings" well lichened,
a lodge with a curtseying woman, fallow deer, and a Queen Anne
mansion. Such as it is, Estes Park is mine. It is unsurveyed,
"no man's land," and mine by right of love, appropriation, and
appreciation; by the seizure of its peerless sunrises and
sunsets, its glorious afterglow, its blazing noons, its
hurricanes sharp and furious, its wild auroras, its glories of
mountain and forest, of canyon, lake, and river, and the
stereotyping them all in my memory. Mine, too, in a better than
the sportsman's sense, are its majestic wapiti, which play and
fight under the pines in the early morning, as securely as fallow
deer under our English oaks; its graceful "black-tails," swift of
foot; its superb bighorns, whose noble leader is to be seen now
and then with his classic head against the blue sky on the top of
a colossal rock; its sneaking mountain lion with his hideous
nocturnal caterwaulings, the great "grizzly," the beautiful
skunk, the wary beaver, who is always making lakes, damming and
turning streams, cutting down young cotton-woods, and setting an
example of thrift and industry; the wolf, greedy and cowardly;
the coyote and the lynx, and all the lesser fry of mink, marten,
cat, hare, fox, squirrel, and chipmunk, as well as things that
fly, from the eagle down to the crested blue-jay. May their
number never be less, in spite of the hunter who kills for food
and gain, and the sportsman who kills and marauds for

But still I have not answered the natural question,[15] "What is
Estes Park?" Among the striking peculiarities of these mountains
are hundreds of high-lying valleys, large and small, at heights
varying from 6,000 to 11,000 feet. The most important are North
Park, held by hostile Indians; Middle Park, famous for hot
springs and trout; South Park is 10,000 feet high, a great
rolling prairie seventy miles long, well grassed and watered, but
nearly closed by snow in winter. But parks innumerable are
scattered throughout the mountains, most of them unnamed, and
others nicknamed by the hunters or trappers who have made them
their temporary resorts. They always lie far within the flaming
Foot Hills, their exquisite stretches of flowery pastures dotted
artistically with clumps of trees sloping lawnlike to bright
swift streams full of red-waist-coated trout, or running up in
soft glades into the dark forest, above which the snow peaks rise
in their infinite majesty. Some are bits of meadow a mile long
and very narrow, with a small stream, a beaver dam, and a pond
made by beaver industry. Hundreds of these can only be reached
by riding in the bed of a stream, or by scrambling up some narrow
canyon till it debouches on the fairy-like stretch above. These
parks are the feeding grounds of innumerable wild animals, and
some, like one three miles off, seem chosen for the process of
antler-casting, the grass being covered for at least a square
mile with the magnificent branching horns of the elk.

[15] Nor should I at this time, had not Henry Kingsley, Lord
Dunraven, and "The Field," divulged the charms and whereabouts of
these "happy hunting grounds," with the certain result of
directing a stream of tourists into the solitary, beast-haunted

Estes Park combines the beauties of all. Dismiss all thoughts of
the Midland Counties. For park palings there are mountains,
forest skirted, 9,000, 11,000, 14,000 feet high; for a lodge, two
sentinel peaks of granite guarding the only feasible entrance;
and for a Queen Anne mansion an unchinked log cabin with a vault
of sunny blue overhead. The park is most irregularly shaped, and
contains hardly any level grass. It is an aggregate of lawns,
slopes, and glades, about eighteen miles in length, but never
more than two miles in width. The Big Thompson, a bright, rapid
trout stream, snow born on Long's Peak a few miles higher, takes
all sorts of magical twists, vanishing and reappearing
unexpectedly, glancing among lawns, rushing through romantic
ravines, everywhere making music through the still, long nights.
Here and there the lawns are so smooth, the trees so artistically
grouped, a lake makes such an artistic foreground, or a waterfall
comes tumbling down with such an apparent feeling for the
picturesque, that I am almost angry with Nature for her close
imitation of art. But in another hundred yards Nature, glorious,
unapproachable, inimitable, is herself again, raising one's
thoughts reverently upwards to her Creator and ours. Grandeur
and sublimity, not softness, are the features of Estes Park. The
glades which begin so softly are soon lost in the dark primaeval
forests, with their peaks of rosy granite, and their stretches of
granite blocks piled and poised by nature in some mood of fury.
The streams are lost in canyons nearly or quite inaccessible,
awful in their blackness and darkness; every valley ends in
mystery; seven mountain ranges raise their frowning barriers
between us and the Plains, and at the south end of the park
Long's Peak rises to a height of 14,700 feet, with his bare,
scathed head slashed with eternal snow. The lowest part of the
Park is 7,500 feet high; and though the sun is hot during the
day, the mercury hovers near the freezing point every night of
the summer. An immense quantity of snow falls, but partly owing
to the tremendous winds which drift it into the deep valleys,
and partly to the bright warm sun of the winter months, the park
is never snowed up, and a number of cattle and horses are
wintered out of doors on its sun-cured saccharine grasses, of
which the gramma grass is the most valuable.

The soil here, as elsewhere in the neighborhood, is nearly
everywhere coarse, grey, granitic dust, produced probably by the
disintegration of the surrounding mountains. It does not hold
water, and is never wet in any weather. There are no thaws here
The snow mysteriously disappears by rapid evaporation. Oats
grow, but do not ripen, and, when well advanced, are cut and
stacked for winter fodder. Potatoes yield abundantly, and,
though not very large, are of the best quality, mealy throughout.
Evans has not attempted anything else, and probably the more
succulent vegetables would require irrigation. The wild flowers
are gorgeous and innumerable, though their beauty, which
culminates in July and August, was over before I arrived, and the
recent snow flurries have finished them. The time between winter
and winter is very short, and the flowery growth and blossom of a
whole year are compressed into two months. Here are dandelions,
buttercups, larkspurs, harebells, violets, roses, blue gentian,
columbine, painter's brush, and fifty others, blue and yellow
predominating; and though their blossoms are stiffened by the
cold every morning, they are starring the grass and drooping over
the brook long before noon, making the most of their brief lives
in the sunshine. Of ferns, after many a long hunt, I have only
found the Cystopteris fragilis and the Blechnum spicant, but
I hear that the Pteris aquilina is also found. Snakes and
mosquitoes do not appear to be known here. Coming almost direct
from the tropics, one is dissatisfied with the uniformity of the
foliage; indeed, foliage can hardly be written of, as the trees
properly so called at this height are exclusively Coniferae, and
bear needles instead of leaves. In places there are patches of
spindly aspens, which have turned a lemon yellow, and along the
streams bear cherries, vines, and roses lighten the gulches with
their variegated crimson leaves. The pines are not imposing,
either from their girth or height. Their coloring is blackish
green, and though they are effective singly or in groups, they
are somber and almost funereal when densely massed, as here,
along the mountain sides. The timber line is at a height of
about 11,000 feet, and is singularly well defined. The most
attractive tree I have seen is the silver spruce, Abies
Englemanii, near of kin to what is often called the balsam fir.
Its shape and color are both beautiful. My heart warms towards
it, and I frequent all the places where I can find it. It looks
as if a soft, blue, silver powder had fallen on its deep-green
needles, or as if a bluish hoar-frost, which must melt at noon,
were resting upon it. Anyhow, one can hardly believe that the
beauty is permanent, and survives the summer heat and the winter
cold. The universal tree here is the Pinus ponderosa, but it
never attains any very considerable size, and there is nothing to
compare with the red-woods of the Sierra Nevada, far less with
the sequoias of California.

As I have written before, Estes Park is thirty miles from
Longmount, the nearest settlement, and it can be reached on
horseback only by the steep and devious track by which I came,
passing through a narrow rift in the top of a precipitous ridge,
9,000 feet high, called the Devil's Gate. Evans takes a lumber
wagon with four horses over the mountains, and a Colorado
engineer would have no difficulty in making a wagon road. In
several of the gulches over which the track hangs there are the
remains of wagons which have come to grief in the attempt to
emulate Evans's feat, which without evidence, I should have
supposed to be impossible. It is an awful road. The only
settlers in the park are Griffith Evans, and a married man a mile
higher up. "Mountain Jim's" cabin is in the entrance gulch, four
miles off, and there is not another cabin for eighteen miles
toward the Plains. The park is unsurveyed, and the huge tract of
mountainous country beyond is almost altogether unexplored. Elk
hunters occasionally come up and camp out here; but the two
settlers, who, however, are only squatters, for various reasons
are not disposed to encourage such visitors. When Evans, who is
a very successful hunter, came here, he came on foot, and for
some time after settling here he carried the flour and
necessaries required by his family on his back over the

As I intend to make Estes Park my headquarters until the winter
sets in, I must make you acquainted with my surroundings and mode
of living. The "Queen Anne mansion" is represented by a log
cabin made of big hewn logs. The chinks should be filled with
mud and lime, but these are wanting. The roof is formed of
barked young spruce, then a layer of hay, and an outer coating of
mud, all nearly flat. The floors are roughly boarded. The
"living room" is about sixteen feet square, and has a rough stone
chimney in which pine logs are always burning. At one end there
is a door into a small bedroom, and at the other a door into a
small eating room, at the table of which we feed in relays. This
opens into a very small kitchen with a great American
cooking-stove, and there are two "bed closets" besides. Although
rude, it is comfortable, except for the draughts. The fine snow
drives in through the chinks and covers the floors, but sweeping
it out at intervals is both fun and exercise. There are no heaps
or rubbish places outside. Near it, on the slope under the
pines, is a pretty two-roomed cabin, and beyond that, near the
lake, is my cabin, a very rough one. My door opens into a little
room with a stone chimney, and that again into a small room with
a hay bed, a chair with a tin basin on it, a shelf and some pegs.
A small window looks on the lake, and the glories of the sunrises
which I see from it are indescribable. Neither of my doors has a
lock, and, to say the truth, neither will shut, as the wood has
swelled. Below the house, on the stream which issues from the
lake, there is a beautiful log dairy, with a water wheel outside,
used for churning. Besides this, there are a corral, a shed for
the wagon, a room for the hired man, and shelters for horses and
weakly calves. All these things are necessaries at this height.

The ranchmen are two Welshmen, Evans and Edwards, each with a
wife and family. The men are as diverse as they can be.
"Griff," as Evans is called, is short and small, and is
hospitable, careless, reckless, jolly, social, convivial,
peppery, good natured, "nobody's enemy but his own." He had the
wit and taste to find out Estes Park, where people have found him
out, and have induced him to give them food and lodging, and add
cabin to cabin to take them in. He is a splendid shot, an expert
and successful hunter, a bold mountaineer, a good rider, a
capital cook, and a generally "jolly fellow." His cheery laugh
rings through the cabin from the early morning, and is
contagious, and when the rafters ring at night with such songs as
"D'ye ken John Peel?" "Auld Lang Syne," and "John Brown," what
would the chorus be without poor "Griff's" voice? What would
Estes Park be without him, indeed? When he went to Denver lately
we missed him as we should have missed the sunshine, and perhaps
more. In the early morning, when Long's Peak is red, and the
grass crackles with the hoar-frost, he arouses me with a cheery
thump on my door. "We're going cattle-hunting, will you come?"
or, "Will you help to drive in the cattle? You can take your
pick of the horses. I want another hand." Free-hearted, lavish,
popular, poor "Griff" loves liquor too well for his prosperity,
and is always tormented by debt. He makes lots of money, but
puts it into "a bag with holes." He has fifty horses and 1,000
head of cattle, many of which are his own, wintering up here, and
makes no end of money by taking in people at eight dollars a
week, yet it all goes somehow. He has a most industrious wife, a
girl of seventeen, and four younger children, all musical, but
the wife has to work like a slave; and though he is a kind
husband, her lot, as compared with her lord's, is like that of a
squaw. Edwards, his partner, is his exact opposite, tall, thin,
and condemnatory looking, keen, industrious, saving, grave, a
teetotaler, grieved for all reasons at Evans's follies, and
rather grudging; as naturally unpopular as Evans is popular; a
"decent man," who, with his industrious wife, will certainly make
money as fast as Evans loses it.

I pay eight dollars a week, which includes the unlimited use of a
horse, when one can be found and caught. We breakfast at seven
on beef, potatoes, tea, coffee, new bread, and butter. Two
pitchers of cream and two of milk are replenished as fast as they
are exhausted. Dinner at twelve is a repetition of the
breakfast, but with the coffee omitted and a gigantic pudding
added. Tea at six is a repetition of breakfast. "Eat whenever
you are hungry, you can always get milk and bread in the
kitchen," Evans says--"eat as much as you can, it'll do you
good"--and we all eat like hunters. There is no change of food.
The steer which was being killed on my arrival is now being eaten
through from head to tail, the meat being hacked off quite
promiscuously, without any regard to joints. In this dry,
rarefied air, the outside of the flesh blackens and hardens, and
though the weather may be hot, the carcass keeps sweet for two or
three months. The bread is super excellent, but the poor wives
seem to be making and baking it all day.

The regular household living and eating together at this time
consists of a very intelligent and high-minded American couple,
Mr. and Mrs. Dewy, people whose character, culture, and society I
should value anywhere; a young Englishman, brother of a
celebrated African traveler, who, because he rides on an English
saddle, and clings to some other insular peculiarities, is called
"The Earl"; a miner prospecting for silver; a young man, the type
of intelligent, practical "Young America," whose health showed
consumptive tendencies when he was in business, and who is living
a hunter's life here; a grown-up niece of Evans; and a
melancholy-looking hired man. A mile off there is an industrious
married settler, and four miles off, in the gulch leading to the
park, "Mountain Jim," otherwise Mr. Nugent, is posted. His
business as a trapper takes him daily up to the beaver dams in
Black Canyon to look after his traps, and he generally spends
some time in or about our cabin, not, I can see, to Evans's
satisfaction. For, in truth, this blue hollow, lying solitary
at the foot of Long's Peak, is a miniature world of great
interest, in which love, jealousy, hatred, envy, pride,
unselfishness, greed, selfishness, and self-sacrifice can be
studied hourly, and there is always the unpleasantly exciting
risk of an open quarrel with the neighboring desperado, whose
"I'll shoot you!" has more than once been heard in the cabin.

The party, however, has often been increased by "campers," either
elk hunters or "prospectors" for silver or locations, who feed
with us and join us in the evening. They get little help from
Evans, either as to elk or locations, and go away disgusted and
unsuccessful. Two Englishmen of refinement and culture camped
out here prospecting a few weeks ago, and then, contrary to
advice, crossed the mountains into North Park, where gold is said
to abound, and it is believed that they have fallen victims to
the bloodthirsty Indians of the region. Of course, we never get
letters or newspapers unless some one rides to Longmount for
them. Two or three novels and a copy of Our New West are our
literature. Our latest newspaper is seventeen days old. Somehow
the park seems to become the natural limit of our interests so
far as they appear in conversation at table. The last grand
aurora, the prospect of a snow-storm, track and sign of elk and
grizzly, rumors of a bighorn herd near the lake, the canyons in
which the Texan cattle were last seen, the merits of different
rifles, the progress of two obvious love affairs, the probability
of some one coming up from the Plains with letters, "Mountain
Jim's" latest mood or escapade, and the merits of his dog "Ring"
as compared with those of Evans's dog "Plunk," are among the
topics which are never abandoned as exhausted.

On Sunday work is nominally laid aside, but most of the men go
out hunting or fishing till the evening, when we have the
harmonium and much sacred music and singing in parts. To be
alone in the park from the afternoon till the last glory of the
afterglow has faded, with no books but a Bible and Prayer-book,
is truly delightful. No worthier temple for a "Te Deum" or
"Gloria in Excelsis" could be found than this "temple not made
with hands," in which one may worship without being distracted by
the sight of bonnets of endless form, and curiously intricate
"back hair," and countless oddities of changing fashion.

I shall not soon forget my first night here.

Somewhat dazed by the rarefied air, entranced by the glorious
beauty, slightly puzzled by the motley company, whose faces
loomed not always quite distinctly through the cloud of smoke
produced by eleven pipes, I went to my solitary cabin at nine,
attended by Evans. It was very dark, and it seemed a long way
off. Something howled--Evans said it was a wolf--and owls
apparently innumerable hooted incessantly. The pole-star,
exactly opposite my cabin door, burned like a lamp. The frost
was sharp. Evans opened the door, lighted a candle, and left me,
and I was soon in my hay bed. I was frightened--that is, afraid
of being frightened, it was so eerie--but sleep soon got the
better of my fears. I was awoke by a heavy breathing, a noise
something like sawing under the floor, and a pushing and
upheaving, all very loud. My candle was all burned, and, in
truth, I dared not stir. The noise went on for an hour fully,
when, just as I thought the floor had been made sufficiently thin
for all purposes of ingress, the sounds abruptly ceased, and I
fell asleep again. My hair was not, as it ought to have been,
white in the morning!

I was dressed by seven, our breakfast hour, and when I reached
the great cabin and told my story, Evans laughed hilariously, and
Edwards contorted his face dismally. They told me that there was
a skunk's lair under my cabin, and that they dare not make any
attempt to dislodge him for fear of rendering the cabin
untenable. They have tried to trap him since, but without
success, and each night the noisy performance is repeated. I
think he is sharpening his claws on the under side of my floor,
as the grizzlies sharpen theirs upon the trees. The odor with
which this creature, truly named Mephitis, can overpower its
assailants is truly AWFUL. We were driven out of the cabin for
some hours merely by the passage of one across the corral. The
bravest man is a coward in its neighborhood. Dogs rub their
noses on the ground till they bleed when they have touched the
fluid, and even die of the vomiting produced by the effluvia.
The odor can be smelt a mile off. If clothes are touched by the
fluid they must be destroyed. At present its fur is very
valuable. Several have been killed since I came. A shot well
aimed at the spine secures one safely, and an experienced dog
can kill one by leaping upon it suddenly without being
exposed to danger. It is a beautiful beast, about the size and
length of a fox, with long thick black or dark-brown fur, and two
white streaks from the head to the long bushy tail. The claws of
its fore-feet are long and polished. Yesterday one was seen
rushing from the dairy and was shot. "Plunk," the big dog,
touched it and has to be driven into exile. The body was
valiantly removed by a man with a long fork, and carried to a
running stream, but we are nearly choked with the odor from the
spot where it fell. I hope that my skunk will enjoy a quiet
spirit so long as we are near neighbors.

October 3.

This is surely one of the most entrancing spots on earth. Oh,
that I could paint with pen or brush! From my bed I look on
Mirror Lake, and with the very earliest dawn, when objects are
not discernible, it lies there absolutely still, a purplish lead
color. Then suddenly into its mirror flash inverted peaks, at
first a dawn darker all round. This is a new sight, each morning
new. Then the peaks fade, and when morning is no longer "spread
upon the mountains," the pines are mirrored in my lake almost as
solid objects, and the glory steals downwards, and a red flush
warms the clear atmosphere of the park, and the hoar-frost
sparkles and the crested blue-jays step forth daintily on the
jewelled grass. The majesty and beauty grow on me daily. As
I crossed from my cabin just now, and the long mountain shadows
lay on the grass, and form and color gained new meanings, I was
almost false to Hawaii; I couldn't go on writing for the glory of
the sunset, but went out and sat on a rock to see the deepening
blue in the dark canyons, and the peaks becoming rose color one
by one, then fading into sudden ghastliness, the awe-inspiring
heights of Long's Peak fading last. Then came the glories of the
afterglow, when the orange and lemon of the east faded into gray,
and then gradually the gray for some distance above the horizon
brightened into a cold blue, and above the blue into a broad band
of rich, warm red, with an upper band of rose color; above it
hung a big cold moon. This is the "daily miracle" of evening, as
the blazing peaks in the darkness of Mirror Lake are the miracle
of morning. Perhaps this scenery is not lovable, but, as if it
were a strong stormy character, it has an intense fascination.

The routine of my day is breakfast at seven, then I go back and
"do" my cabin and draw water from the lake, read a little, loaf a
little, return to the big cabin and sweep it alternately with
Mrs. Dewy, after which she reads aloud till dinner at twelve.
Then I ride with Mr. Dewy, or by myself, or with Mrs. Dewy, who
is learning to ride cavalier fashion in order to accompany her
invalid husband, or go after cattle till supper at six. After
that we all sit in the living room, and I settle down to write to
you, or mend my clothes, which are dropping to pieces. Some sit
round the table playing at eucre, the strange hunters and
prospectors lie on the floor smoking, and rifles are cleaned,
bullets cast, fishing flies made, fishing tackle repaired, boots
are waterproofed, part-songs are sung, and about half-past eight
I cross the crisp grass to my cabin, always expecting to find
something in it. We all wash our own clothes, and as my stock is
so small, some part of every day has to be spent at the wash tub.
Politeness and propriety always prevail in our mixed company, and
though various grades of society are represented, true democratic
equality prevails, not its counterfeit, and there is neither
forwardness on one side nor condescension on the other.

Evans left for Denver ten days ago, taking his wife and family to
the Plains for the winter, and the mirth of our party departed
with him. Edwards is somber, except when he lies on the floor in
the evening, and tells stories of his march through Georgia with
Sherman. I gave Evans a 100-dollar note to change, and asked him
to buy me a horse for my tour, and for three days we have
expected him. The mail depends on him. I have had no letters
from you for five weeks, and can hardly curb my impatience. I
ride or walk three or four miles out on the Longmount trail two
or three times a day to look for him. Others, for different
reasons, are nearly equally anxious. After dark we start at
every sound, and every time the dogs bark all the able-bodied of
us turn out en masse. "Wait for the wagon" has become a nearly
maddening joke.

October 9.

The letter and newspaper fever has seized on every one. We have
sent at last to Longmount. The evening I rode out on the
Longmount trail towards dusk, escorted by "Mountain Jim," and in
the distance we saw a wagon with four horses and a saddle horse
behind, and the driver waved a handkerchief, the concerted signal
if I were the possessor of a horse. We turned back, galloping
down the long hill as fast as two good horses could carry us, and
gave the joyful news. It was an hour before the wagon arrived,
bringing not Evans but two "campers" of suspicious aspect, who
have pitched their camp close to my cabin! You cannot imagine
what it is to be locked in by these mountain walls, and not to
know where your letters are lying. Later on, Mr. Buchan, one of
our usual inmates, returned from Denver with papers, letters for
every one but me, and much exciting news. The financial panic
has spread out West, gathering strength on its way. The Denver
banks have all suspended business. They refuse to cash their own
checks, or to allow their customers to draw a dollar, and would
not even give green-backs for my English gold! Neither Mr.
Buchan nor Evans could get a cent. Business is suspended, and
everybody, however rich, is for the time being poor. The Indians
have taken to the "war path," and are burning ranches and killing
cattle. There is a regular "scare" among the settlers, and wagon
loads of fugitives are arriving in Colorado Springs. The Indians
say, "The white man has killed the buffalo and left them to rot
on the plains. We will be revenged." Evans had reached
Longmount, and will be here tonight.

October 10.

"Wait for the wagon" still! We had a hurricane of wind and hail
last night; it was eleven before I could go to my cabin, and I
only reached it with the help of two men. The moon was not up,
and the sky overhead was black with clouds, when suddenly Long's
Peak, which had been invisible, gleamed above the dark mountains,
all glistening with new-fallen snow, on which the moon, as yet
uprisen here, was shining. The evening before, after sunset, I
saw another novel effect. My lake turned a brilliant orange in
the twilight, and in its still mirror the mountains were
reflected a deep rich blue. It is a world of wonders. To-day we
had a great storm with flurries of fine snow; and when the clouds
rolled up at noon, the Snowy Range and all the higher mountains
were pure white. I have been hard at work all day to drown my
anxieties, which are heightened by a rumor that Evans has gone
buffalo-hunting on the Platte!

This evening, quite unexpectedly, Evans arrived with a heavy mail
in a box. I sorted it, but there was nothing for me and Evans
said he was afraid that he had left my letters, which were
separate from the others, behind at Denver, but he had written
from Longmount for them. A few hours later they were found in a
box of groceries!

All the hilarity of the house has returned with Evans, and he has
brought a kindred spirit with him, a young man who plays and
sings splendidly, has an inexhaustible repertoire, and produces
sonatas, funeral marches, anthems, reels, strathspeys, and all
else, out of his wonderful memory. Never, surely was a chamber
organ compelled to such service. A little cask of suspicious
appearance was smuggled into the cabin from the wagon, and
heightens the hilarity a little, I fear. No churlishness could
resist Evans's unutterable jollity or the contagion of his hearty
laugh. He claps people on the back, shouts at them, will do
anything for them, and makes a perpetual breeze. "My kingdom for
a horse!" He has not got one for me, and a shadow crossed his
face when I spoke of the subject. Eventually he asked for a
private conference, when he told me, with some confusion, that he
had found himself "very hard up" in Denver, and had been obliged
to appropriate my 100-dollar note. He said he would give me, as
interest for it up to November 25th, a good horse, saddle, and
bridle for my proposed journey of 600 miles. I was somewhat
dismayed, but there was no other course, as the money was gone.

[16]] I tried a horse, mended my clothes, reduced my pack to a
weight of twelve pounds, and was all ready for an early start,
when before daylight I was wakened by Evans's cheery voice at my
door. "I say, Miss B., we've got to drive wild cattle to-day; I
wish you'd lend a hand, there's not enough of us; I'll give you a
good horse; one day won't make much difference." So we've been
driving cattle all day, riding about twenty miles, and fording
the Big Thompson about as many times. Evans flatters me by
saying that I am "as much use as another man"; more than one of
our party, I hope, who always avoided the "ugly" cows.

[16] In justice to Evans, I must mention here that every cent of
the money was ultimately paid, that the horse was perfection, and
that the arrangement turned out a most advantageous one for me.

October 12.

I am still here, helping in the kitchen, driving cattle, and
riding four or five times a day. Evans detains me each morning
by saying, "Here's lots of horses for you to try," and after
trying five or six a day, I do not find one to my liking. Today,
as I was cantering a tall well-bred one round the lake, he threw
the bridle off by a toss of his head, leaving me with the reins
in my hands; one bucked, and two have tender feet, and tumbled
down. Such are some of our little varieties. Still I hope to
get off on my tour in a day or two, so at least as to be able to
compare Estes Park with some of the better-known parts of

You would be amused if you could see our cabin just now. There
are nine men in the room and three women. For want of seats most
of the men are lying on the floor; all are smoking, and the
blithe young French Canadian who plays so beautifully, and
catches about fifty speckled trout for each meal, is playing the
harmonium with a pipe in his mouth. Three men who have camped in
Black Canyon for a week are lying like dogs on the floor. They
are all over six feet high, immovably solemn, neither smiling at
the general hilarity, nor at the absurd changes which are being
rung on the harmonium. They may be described as clothed only in
boots, for their clothes are torn to rags. They stare vacantly.
They have neither seen a woman nor slept under a roof for six
months. Negro songs are being sung, and before that "Yankee
Doodle" was played immediately after "Rule Britannia," and it
made every one but the strangers laugh, it sounded so foolish
and mean. The colder weather is bringing the beasts down from
the heights. I heard both wolves and the mountain lion as I
crossed to my cabin last night.
I. L. B.


"Please Ma'ams"--A desperado--A cattle hunt--The muster--A mad
cow--A snowstorm--Snowed up--Birdie--The Plains--A prairie
schooner--Denver--A find--Plum Creek--"Being
agreeable"--Snowbound--The grey mare.


This afternoon, as I was reading in my cabin, little Sam Edwards
ran in, saying, "Mountain Jim wants to speak to you." This
brought to my mind images of infinite worry, gauche servants,
"please Ma'am," contretemps, and the habit growing out of our
elaborate and uselessly conventional life of magnifying the
importance of similar trifles. Then "things" came up, with
the tyranny they exercise. I REALLY need nothing more than this
log cabin offers. But elsewhere one must have a house and
servants, and burdens and worries--not that one may be hospitable
and comfortable, but for the "thick clay" in the shape of
"things" which one has accumulated. My log house takes me about
five minutes to "do," and you could eat off the floor, and
it needs no lock, as it contains nothing worth stealing.

But "Mountain Jim" was waiting while I made these reflections to
ask us to take a ride; and he, Mr. and Mrs. Dewy, and I, had a
delightful stroll through colored foliage, and then, when they
were fatigued, I changed my horse for his beautiful mare, and we
galloped and raced in the beautiful twilight, in the intoxicating
frosty air. Mrs. Dewy wishes you could have seen us as we
galloped down the pass, the fearful-looking ruffian on my heavy
wagon horse, and I on his bare wooden saddle, from which beaver,
mink, and marten tails, and pieces of skin, were hanging
raggedly, with one spur, and feet not in the stirrups, the mare
looking so aristocratic and I so beggarly! Mr. Nugent is what is
called "splendid company." With a sort of breezy mountain
recklessness in everything, he passes remarkably acute judgments
on men and events; on women also. He has pathos, poetry, and
humor, an intense love of nature, strong vanity in certain
directions, an obvious desire to act and speak in character, and
sustain his reputation as a desperado, a considerable
acquaintance with literature, a wonderful verbal memory, opinions
on every person and subject, a chivalrous respect for women in
his manner, which makes it all the more amusing when he suddenly
turns round upon one with some graceful raillery, a great power
of fascination, and a singular love of children. The children of
this house run to him, and when he sits down they climb on his
broad shoulders and play with his curls. They say in the house
that "no one who has been here thinks any one worth speaking to
after Jim," but I think that this is probably an opinion which
time would alter. Somehow, he is kept always before the public
of Colorado, for one can hardly take up a newspaper without
finding a paragraph about him, a contribution by him, or a
fragment of his biography. Ruffian as he looks, the first word
he speaks--to a lady, at least--places him on a level with
educated gentlemen, and his conversation is brilliant, and full
of the light and fitfulness of genius. Yet, on the whole, he is
a most painful spectacle. His magnificent head shows so plainly
the better possibilities which might have been his. His life, in
spite of a certain dazzle which belongs to it, is a ruined and
wasted one, and one asks what of good can the future have in
store for one who has for so long chosen evil?[17]

[17] September of the next year answered the question by laying
him down in a dishonored grave, with a rifle bullet in his brain.

Shall I ever get away? We were to have had a grand cattle hunt
yesterday, beginning at 6:30, but the horses were all lost.
Often out of fifty horses all that are worth anything are
marauding, and a day is lost in hunting for them in the canyons.
However, before daylight this morning Evans called through my
door, "Miss Bird, I say we've got to drive cattle fifteen miles,
I wish you'd lend a hand; there's not enough of us; I'll give you
a good horse."

The scene of the drive is at a height of 7,500 feet, watered by
two rapid rivers. On all sides mountains rise to an altitude of
from 11,000 to 15,000 feet, their skirts shaggy with pitch-pine
forests, and scarred by deep canyons, wooded and boulder strewn,
opening upon the mountain pasture previously mentioned. Two
thousand head of half-wild Texan cattle are scattered in herds
throughout the canyons, living on more or less suspicious terms
with grizzly and brown bears, mountain lions, elk, mountain
sheep, spotted deer, wolves, lynxes, wild cats, beavers, minks,
skunks, chipmunks, eagles, rattlesnakes, and all the other
two-legged, four-legged, vertebrate, and invertebrate inhabitants
of this lonely and romantic region. On the whole, they show a
tendency rather to the habits of wild than of domestic cattle.
They march to water in Indian file, with the bulls leading, and
when threatened, take strategic advantage of ridgy ground,
slinking warily along in the hollows, the bulls acting as
sentinels, and bringing up the rear in case of an attack from
dogs. Cows have to be regularly broken in for milking, being as
wild as buffaloes in their unbroken state; but, owing to the
comparative dryness of the grasses, and the system of allowing
the calf to have the milk during the daytime, a dairy of 200 cows
does not produce as much butter as a Devonshire dairy of fifty.
Some "necessary" cruelty is involved in the stockman's business,
however humane he may be. The system is one of terrorism, and
from the time that the calf is bullied into the branding pen, and
the hot iron burns into his shrinking flesh, to the day when the
fatted ox is driven down from his boundless pastures to be
slaughtered in Chicago, "the fear and dread of man" are upon him.

The herds are apt to penetrate the savage canyons which come down
from the Snowy Range, when they incur a risk of being snowed up
and starved, and it is necessary now and then to hunt them out
and drive them down to the "park." On this occasion, the whole
were driven down for a muster, and for the purpose of branding
the calves.

After a 6:30 breakfast this morning, we started, the party being
composed of my host, a hunter from the Snowy Range, two stockmen
from the Plains, one of whom rode a violent buck-jumper, and was
said by his comrade to be the "best rider in North Americay,"
and myself. We were all mounted on Mexican saddles, rode, as the
custom is, with light snaffle bridles, leather guards over our
feet, and broad wooden stirrups, and each carried his lunch in a
pouch slung on the lassoing horn of his saddle. Four big,
badly-trained dogs accompanied us. It was a ride of nearly
thirty miles, and of many hours, one of the most splendid I ever
took. We never got off our horses except to tighten the girths,
we ate our lunch with our bridles knotted over saddle horns,
started over the level at full gallops, leapt over trunks of
trees, dashed madly down hillsides rugged with rocks or strewn
with great stones, forded deep, rapid streams, saw lovely lakes
and views of surpassing magnificence, startled a herd of elk with
uncouth heads and in the chase, which for some time was
unsuccessful, rode to the very base of Long's Peak, over 14,000
feet high, where the bright waters of one of the affluents of the
Platte burst from the eternal snows through a canyon of
indescribable majesty. The sun was hot, but at a height of over
8,000 feet the air was crisp and frosty, and the enjoyment of
riding a good horse under such exhilarating circumstances was
extreme. In one wild part of the ride we had to come down a
steep hill, thickly wooded with pitch pines, to leap over the
fallen timber, and steer between the dead and living trees to
avoid being "snagged," or bringing down a heavy dead branch by an
unwary touch.

Emerging from this, we caught sight of a thousand Texan cattle
feeding in a valley below. The leaders scented us, and, taking
fright, began to move off in the direction of the open "park,"
while we were about a mile from and above them. "Head them off,
boys!" our leader shouted; "all aboard; hark away!" and with
something of the "High, tally-ho in the morning!" away we all
went at a hard gallop down-hill. I could not hold my excited
animal; down-hill, up-hill, leaping over rocks and timber, faster
every moment the pace grew, and still the leader shouted, "Go it,
boys!" and the horses dashed on at racing speed, passing and
repassing each other, till my small but beautiful bay was keeping
pace with the immense strides of the great buck-jumper ridden by
"the finest rider in North Americay," and I was dizzied and
breathless by the pace at which we were going. A shorter time
than it takes to tell it brought us close to and abreast of the
surge of cattle. The bovine waves were a grand sight: huge
bulls, shaped like buffaloes, bellowed and roared, and with great
oxen and cows with yearling calves, galloped like racers, and we
galloped alongside of them, and shortly headed them and in no
time were placed as sentinels across the mouth of the valley. It
seemed like infantry awaiting the shock of cavalry as we stood
as still as our excited horses would allow. I almost quailed as
the surge came on, but when it got close to us my comrades hooted
fearfully, and we dashed forward with the dogs, and, with
bellowing, roaring, and thunder of hoofs, the wave receded as it
came. I rode up to our leader, who received me with much
laughter. He said I was "a good cattleman," and that he had
forgotten that a lady was of the party till he saw me "come
leaping over the timber, and driving with the others."

It was not for two hours after this that the real business of
driving began, and I was obliged to change my thoroughbred for a
well-trained cattle horse--a bronco, which could double like a
hare, and go over any ground. I had not expected to work like a
vachero, but so it was, and my Hawaiian experience was very
useful. We hunted the various canyons and known "camps," driving
the herds out of them; and, until we had secured 850 head in the
corral some hours afterwards, we scarcely saw each other to speak
to. Our first difficulty was with a herd which got into some
swampy ground, when a cow, which afterwards gave me an infinity
of trouble, remained at bay for nearly an hour, tossing the dog
three times, and resisting all efforts to dislodge her. She had
a large yearling calf with her, and Evans told me that the
attachment of a cow to her first calf is sometimes so great that
she will kill her second that the first may have the milk.
I got a herd of over a hundred out of a canyon by myself, and
drove them down to the river with the aid of one badly-broken
dog, which gave me more trouble than the cattle. The getting
over was most troublesome; a few took to the water readily and
went across, but others smelt it, and then, doubling back, ran in
various directions; while some attacked the dog as he was
swimming, and others, after crossing, headed back in search of
some favorite companions which had been left behind, and one
specially vicious cow attacked my horse over and over again. It
took an hour and a half of time and much patience to gather them
all on the other side.

It was getting late in the day, and a snowstorm was impending,
before I was joined by the other drivers and herds, and as the
former had diminished to three, with only three dogs, it was very
difficult to keep the cattle together. You drive them as gently
as possible, so as not to frighten or excite them,[18] riding
first on one side, then on the other, to guide them; and if they
deliberately go in a wrong direction, you gallop in front and
head them off. The great excitement is when one breaks away from
the herd and gallops madly up and down-hill, and you gallop after
him anywhere, over and among rocks and trees, doubling when he
doubles, and heading him till you get him back again. The bulls
were quite easily managed, but the cows with calves, old or
young, were most troublesome. By accident I rode between one cow
and her calf in a narrow place, and the cow rushed at me and was
just getting her big horns under the horse, when he reared, and
spun dexterously aside. This kind of thing happened continually.
There was one very handsome red cow which became quite mad. She
had a calf with her nearly her own size, and thought every one
its enemy, and though its horns were well developed, and it was
quite able to take care of itself, she insisted on protecting it
from all fancied dangers. One of the dogs, a young, foolish
thing, seeing that the cow was excited, took a foolish pleasure
in barking at her, and she was eventually quite infuriated. She
turned to bay forty times at least; tore up the ground with her
horns, tossed and killed the calves of two other cows, and
finally became so dangerous to the rest of the herd that, just as
the drive was ending, Evans drew his revolver and shot her, and
the calf for which she had fought so blindly lamented her
piteously. She rushed at me several times mad with rage, but
these trained cattle horses keep perfectly cool, and, nearly
without will on my part, mine jumped aside at the right moment,
and foiled the assailant. Just at dusk we reached the corral--an
acre of grass enclosed by stout post-and-rail fences seven feet
high--and by much patience and some subtlety lodged the whole
herd within its shelter, without a blow, a shout, or even a crack
of a whip, wild as the cattle were. It was fearfully cold. We
galloped the last mile and a half in four and a half minutes,
reached the cabin just as the snow began to fall, and found
strong, hot tea ready.

[18] In several visits to America I have observed that the
Americans are far in advance of us and our colonial kinsmen in
their treatment of horses and other animals. This was very
apparent with regard to this Texan herd. There were no stock
whips, no needless worrying of the animals in the excitement of
sport. Any dog seizing a bullock by his tail or heels would have
been called off and punished, and quietness and gentleness were
the rule. The horses were ridden without whips, and with spurs
so blunt that they could not hurt even a human skin, and were
ruled by the voice and a slight pressure on the light snaffle
bridle. This is the usual plan, even where, as in Colorado, the
horses are bronchos, and inherit ineradicable vice. I never yet
saw a horse BULLIED into submission in the United States.

October 18.

Snow-bound for three days! I could not write yesterday, it was
so awful. People gave up all occupation, and talked of nothing
but the storm. The hunters all kept by the great fire in the
living room, only going out to bring in logs and clear the snow
from the door and windows. I never spent a more fearful night
than two nights ago, alone in my cabin in the storm, with the
roof lifting, the mud cracking and coming off, and the fine snow
hissing through the chinks between the logs, while splittings and
breaking of dead branches, wind wrung and snow laden, went on
incessantly, with screechings, howlings, thunder and lightning,
and many unfamiliar sounds besides. After snowing fiercely all
day, another foot of it fell in the early night, and, after
drifting against my door, blocked me effectually in. About
midnight the mercury fell to zero, and soon after a gale rose,
which lasted for ten hours. My window frame is swelled, and
shuts, apparently, hermetically; and my bed is six feet from it.
I had gone to sleep with six blankets on, and a heavy sheet over
my face. Between two and three I was awoke by the cabin being
shifted from underneath by the wind, and the sheet was frozen to
my lips. I put out my hands, and the bed was thickly covered
with fine snow. Getting up to investigate matters, I found the
floor some inches deep in parts in fine snow, and a gust of fine,
needle-like snow stung my face. The bucket of water was solid
ice. I lay in bed freezing till sunrise, when some of the men
came to see if I "was alive," and to dig me out. They brought a
can of hot water, which turned to ice before I could use it. I
dressed standing in snow, and my brushes, boots, and etceteras
were covered with snow. When I ran to the house, not a mountain
or anything else could be seen, and the snow on one side was
drifted higher than the roof. The air, as high as one could see,
was one white, stinging smoke of snowdrift--a terrific sight. In
the living room, the snow was driving through the chinks, and
Mrs. Dewy was shoveling it from the floor. Mr. D.'s beard was
hoary with frost in a room with a fire all night. Evans was
lying ill, with his bed covered with snow. Returning from my
cabin after breakfast, loaded with occupations for the day, I was
lifted off my feet, and deposited in a drift, and all my things,
writing book and letter included, were carried in different
directions. Some, including a valuable photograph, were
irrecoverable. The writing book was found, some hours
afterwards, under three feet of snow.

There are tracks of bears and deer close to the house, but no one
can hunt in this gale, and the drift is blinding. We have been
slightly overcrowded in our one room. Chess, music, and whist
have been resorted to. One hunter, for very ennui, has devoted
himself to keeping my ink from freezing. We all sat in great
cloaks and coats, and kept up an enormous fire, with the pitch
running out of the logs. The isolation is extreme, for we are
literally snowed up, and the other settler in the Park and
"Mountain Jim" are both at Denver. Late in the evening the storm
ceased. In some places the ground is bare of snow, while in
others all irregularities are leveled, and the drifts are forty
feet deep. Nature is grand under this new aspect. The cold is
awful; the high wind with the mercury at zero would skin any part
exposed to it.

October 19.

Evans offers me six dollars a week if I will stay into the winter
and do the cooking after Mrs. Edwards leaves! I think I should
like playing at being a "hired girl" if it were not for the
bread-making! But it would suit me better to ride after cattle.
The men don't like "baching," as it is called in the wilds--i.e.
"doing for themselves." They washed and ironed their clothes
yesterday, and there was an incongruity about the last
performance. I really think (though for the fifteenth time) that
I shall leave to-morrow. The cold has moderated, the sky is
bluer than ever, the snow is evaporating, and a hunter who has
joined us to-day says that there are no drifts on the trail which
one cannot get through.


"The Island Valley of Avillon" is left, but how shall I finally
tear myself from its freedom and enchantments? I see Long's
snowy peak rising into the night sky, and know and long after the
magnificence of the blue hollow at its base. We were to have
left at 8 but the horses were lost, so it was 9:30 before we
started, the WE being the musical young French Canadian and
myself. I have a bay Indian pony, "Birdie," a little beauty,
with legs of iron, fast, enduring, gentle, and wise; and with
luggage for some weeks, including a black silk dress, behind my
saddle, I am tolerably independent. It was a most glorious ride.
We passed through the gates of rock, through gorges where the
unsunned snow lay deep under the lemon-colored aspens; caught
glimpses of far-off, snow-clad giants rising into a sky of deep
sad blue; lunched above the Foot Hills at a cabin where two
brothers and a "hired man" were "keeping bach," where everything
was so trim, clean, and ornamental that one did not miss a woman;
crossed a deep backwater on a narrow beaver dam, because the log
bridge was broken down, and emerged from the brilliantly-colored
canyon of the St. Vrain just at dusk upon the featureless
prairies, when we had some trouble in finding Longmount in the
dark. A hospitable welcome awaited me at this inn, and an
English friend came in and spent the evening with me.


My letters on this tour will, I fear, be very dull, for after
riding all day, looking after my pony, getting supper, hearing
about various routes, and the pastoral, agricultural, mining, and
hunting gossip of the neighborhood, I am so sleepy and
wholesomely tired that I can hardly write. I left Longmount
pretty early on Tuesday morning, the day being sad, with the
blink of an impending snow-storm in the air. The evening before
I was introduced to a man who had been a colonel in the rebel
army, who made a most unfavorable impression upon me, and it was
a great annoyance to me when he presented himself on horse-back
to guide me "over the most intricate part of the journey."
Solitude is infinitely preferable to uncongeniality, and is bliss
when compared with repulsiveness, so I was thoroughly glad when I
got rid of my escort and set out upon the prairie alone. It is a
dreary ride of thirty miles over the low brown plains to Denver,
very little settled, and with trails going in all directions.
My sailing orders were "steer south, and keep to the best beaten
track," and it seemed like embarking on the ocean without a
compass. The rolling brown waves on which you see a horse a mile
and a half off impress one strangely, and at noon the sky
darkened up for another storm, the mountains swept down in
blackness to the Plains, and the higher peaks took on a ghastly
grimness horrid to behold. It was first very cold, then very
hot, and finally settled down to a fierce east-windy cold,
difficult to endure. It was free and breezy, however, and my
horse was companionable. Sometimes herds of cattle were browsing
on the sun-cured grass, then herds of horses. Occasionally I met
a horseman with a rifle lying across his saddle, or a wagon of
the ordinary sort, but oftener I saw a wagon with a white tilt,
of the kind known as a "Prairie Schooner," laboring across the
grass, or a train of them, accompanied by herds, mules, and
horsemen, bearing emigrants and their household goods in dreary
exodus from the Western States to the much-vaunted prairies of

The host and hostess of one of these wagons invited me to join
their mid-day meal, I providing tea (which they had not tasted
for four weeks) and they hominy. They had been three months on
the journey from Illinois, and their oxen were so lean and weak
that they expected to be another month in reaching Wet Mountain
Valley. They had buried a child en route, had lost several oxen,
and were rather out of heart. Owing to their long isolation and
the monotony of the march they had lost count of events, and
seemed like people of another planet. They wanted me to join
them, but their rate of travel was too slow, so we parted with
mutual expressions of good will, and as their white tilt went
"hull down" in the distance on the lonely prairie sea, I felt
sadder than I often feel on taking leave of old acquaintances.
That night they must have been nearly frozen, camping out in the
deep snow in the fierce wind. I met afterwards 2,000 lean Texan
cattle, herded by three wild-looking men on horseback, followed
by two wagons containing women, children, and rifles. They had
traveled 1,000 miles. Then I saw two prairie wolves, like
jackals, with gray fur, cowardly creatures, which fled from me
with long leaps.

The windy cold became intense, and for the next eleven miles I

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