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

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rode a race with the coming storm. At the top of every prairie
roll I expected to see Denver, but it was not till nearly five
that from a considerable height I looked down upon the great
"City of the Plains," the metropolis of the Territories. There
the great braggart city lay spread out, brown and treeless, upon
the brown and treeless plain, which seemed to nourish nothing but
wormwood and the Spanish bayonet. The shallow Platte, shriveled
into a narrow stream with a shingly bed six times too large for
it, and fringed by shriveled cotton-wood, wound along by Denver,
and two miles up its course I saw a great sandstorm, which in a
few minutes covered the city, blotting it out with a dense brown
cloud. Then with gusts of wind the snowstorm began, and I had
to trust entirely to Birdie's sagacity for finding Evans's
shanty. She had been there once before only, but carried me
direct to it over rough ground and trenches. Gleefully Mrs.
Evans and the children ran out to welcome the pet pony, and I was
received most hospitably, and made warm and comfortable, though
the house consists only of a kitchen and two bed closets. My
budget of news from "the park" had to be brought out constantly,
and I wondered how much I had to tell. It was past eleven when
we breakfasted the next morning. It was cloudless with an
intense frost, and six inches of snow on the ground, and
everybody thought it too cold to get up and light the fire. I
had intended to leave Birdie at Denver, but Governor Hunt and Mr.
Byers of the Rocky Mountain News both advised me to travel on
horseback rather than by train and stage telling me that I should
be quite safe, and Governor Hunt drew out a route for me and gave
me a circular letter to the settlers along it.

Denver is no longer the Denver of Hepworth Dixon. A shooting
affray in the street is as rare as in Liverpool, and one no
longer sees men dangling to the lamp-posts when one looks out in
the morning! It is a busy place, the entrepot and distributing
point for an immense district, with good shops, some factories,
fair hotels, and the usual deformities and refinements of
civilization. Peltry shops abound, and sportsman, hunter, miner,
teamster, emigrant, can be completely rigged out at fifty
different stores. At Denver, people who come from the East to
try the "camp cure" now so fashionable, get their outfit of
wagon, driver, horses, tent, bedding, and stove, and start for
the mountains. Asthmatic people are there in such numbers as to
warrant the holding of an "asthmatic convention" of patients
cured and benefited. Numbers of invalids who cannot bear the
rough life of the mountains fill its hotels and boarding-houses,
and others who have been partially restored by a summer of
camping out, go into the city in the winter to complete the cure.
It stands at a height of 5,000 feet, on an enormous plain, and
has a most glorious view of the Rocky Range. I should hate even
to spend a week there. The sight of those glories so near and
yet out of reach would make me nearly crazy. Denver is at
present the terminus of the Kansas Pacific Railroad. It has a
line connecting it with the Union Pacific Railroad at Cheyenne,
and by means of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, open for
about 200 miles, it is expecting to reach into Mexico. It has
also had the enterprise, by means of another narrow-gauge
railroad, to push its way right up into the mining districts near
Gray's Peak. The number of "saloons" in the streets impresses
one, and everywhere one meets the characteristic loafers of a
frontier town, who find it hard even for a few days or hours to
submit to the restraints of civilization, as hard as I did to
ride sidewise to Governor Hunt's office. To Denver men go to
spend the savings of months of hard work in the maddest
dissipation, and there such characters as "Comanche Bill,"
"Buffalo Bill," "Wild Bill," and "Mountain Jim," go on the spree,
and find the kind of notoriety they seek.

A large number of Indians added to the harlequin appearance of
the Denver streets the day I was there. They belonged to the Ute
tribe, through which I had to pass, and Governor Hunt introduced
me to a fine-looking young chief, very well dressed in beaded
hide, and bespoke his courtesy for me if I needed it. The Indian
stores and fur stores and fur depots interested me most. The
crowds in the streets, perhaps owing to the snow on the ground,
were almost solely masculine. I only saw five women the whole
day. There were men in every rig: hunters and trappers in
buckskin clothing; men of the Plains with belts and revolvers, in
great blue cloaks, relics of the war; teamsters in leathern
suits; horsemen in fur coats and caps and buffalo-hide boots with
the hair outside, and camping blankets behind their huge Mexican
saddles; Broadway dandies in light kid gloves; rich English
sporting tourists, clean, comely, and supercilious looking; and
hundreds of Indians on their small ponies, the men wearing
buckskin suits sewn with beads, and red blankets, with faces
painted vermilion and hair hanging lank and straight, and squaws
much bundled up, riding astride with furs over their saddles.

Town tired and confused me, and in spite of Mrs. Evans's kind
hospitality, I was glad when a man brought Birdie at nine
yesterday morning. He said she was a little demon, she had done
nothing but buck, and had bucked him off on the bridge! I found
that he had put a curb on her, and whenever she dislikes anything
she resents it by bucking. I rode sidewise till I was well
through the town, long enough to produce a severe pain in my
spine, which was not relieved for some time even after I had
changed my position. It was a lovely Indian summer day, so warm
that the snow on the ground looked an incongruity. I rode over
the Plains for some time, then gradually reached the rolling
country along the base of the mountains, and a stream with
cottonwoods along it, and settlers' houses about every halfmile.
I passed and met wagons frequently, and picked up a muff
containing a purse with 500 dollars in it, which I afterwards had
the great pleasure of restoring to the owner. Several times I
crossed the narrow track of the quaint little Rio Grande
Railroad, so that it was a very cheerful ride.

RANCH, PLUM CREEK, October 24.

You must understand that in Colorado travel, unless on the main
road and in the larger settlements, there are neither hotels nor
taverns, and that it is the custom for the settlers to receive
travelers, charging them at the usual hotel rate for
accommodation. It is a very satisfactory arrangement. However,
at Ranch, my first halting place, the host was unwilling to
receive people in this way, I afterwards found, or I certainly
should not have presented my credentials at the door of a large
frame house, with large barns and a generally prosperous look.
The host, who opened the door, looked repellent, but his wife, a
very agreeable, lady-like-looking woman, said they could give me
a bed on a sofa. The house was the most pretentious I have yet
seen, being papered and carpeted, and there were two "hired
girls." There was a lady there from Laramie, who kindly offered
to receive me into her room, a very tall, elegant person,
remarkable as being the first woman who had settled in the Rocky
Mountains. She had been trying the "camp cure" for three months,
and was then on her way home. She had a wagon with beds, tent,
tent floor, cooking-stove, and every camp luxury, a light buggy,
a man to manage everything, and a most superior "hired girl."
She was consumptive and frail in strength, but a very attractive
person, and her stories of the perils and limitation of her early
life at Fort Laramie were very interesting. Still I "wearied,"
as I had arrived early in the afternoon, and could not out of
politeness retire and write to you. At meals the three "hired
men" and two "hired girls" eat with the family. I soon found
that there was a screw loose in the house, and was glad to leave
early the next morning, although it was obvious that a storm
was coming on.

I saw the toy car of the Rio Grande Railroad whirl past, all
cushioned and warm, and rather wished I were in it, and not out
among the snow on the bleak hill side. I only got on four miles
when the storm came on so badly that I got into a kitchen where
eleven wretched travelers were taking shelter, with the snow
melting on them and dripping on the floor. I had learned the art
of "being agreeable" so well at the Chalmers's, and practiced it
so successfully during the two hours I was there, by paring
potatoes and making scones, that when I left, though the hosts
kept "an accommodation house for travelers," they would take
nothing for my entertainment, because they said I was such "good
company"! The storm moderated a little, and at one I saddled
Birdie, and rode four more miles, crossing a frozen creek, the
ice of which broke and let the pony through, to her great alarm.
I cannot describe my feelings on this ride, produced by the utter
loneliness, the silence and dumbness of all things, the snow
falling quietly without wind, the obliterated mountains, the
darkness, the intense cold, and the unusual and appalling aspect
of nature. All life was in a shroud, all work and travel
suspended. There was not a foot-mark or wheel-mark. There was
nothing to be afraid of; and though I can't exactly say that I
enjoyed the ride, yet there was the pleasant feeling of gaining
health every hour.

When the snow darkness began to deepen towards evening, the track
became quite illegible, and when I found myself at this
romantically situated cabin, I was thankful to find that they
could give me shelter. The scene was a solemn one, and reminded
me of a description in Whittier's Snow-Bound. All the stock came
round the cabin with mute appeals for shelter. Sheep dogs got
in, and would not be kicked out. Men went out muffled up, and
came back shivering and shaking the snow from their feet. The
churn was put by the stove. Later on, a most pleasant settler,
on his way to Denver, came in his wagon having been snow blocked
two miles off, where he had been obliged to leave it and bring
his horses on here. The "Grey Mare" had a stentorian voice,
smoked a clay pipe which she passed to her children, raged at
English people, derided the courtesy of English manners, and
considered that "Please," "Thank you," and the like, were "all
bosh" when life was so short and busy. And still the snow fell
softly, and the air and earth were silent.

Letter X

A white world--Bad traveling--A millionaire's home--Pleasant
Park--Perry's Park--Stock-raising--A cattle king--The
Arkansas Divide--Birdie's sagacity--Luxury--Monument
Park--Deference to prejudice--A death scene--The Manitou--A loose
shoe--The Ute Pass--Bergens Park--A settler's home--Hayden's
Divide--Sharp criticism--Speaking the truth.


It is difficult to make this anything of a letter. I have
been riding for a whole week, seeing wonders and greatly enjoying
the singular adventurousness and novelty of my tour, but ten
hours or more daily spent in the saddle in this rarefied,
intoxicating air, disposes one to sleep rather than to write in
the evening, and is far from conducive to mental brilliancy. The
observing faculties are developed, and the reflective lie

That night on which I last wrote was the coldest I have yet felt.
I pulled the rag carpet from the floor and covered myself with
it, but could not get warm. The sun rose gloriously on a
shrouded earth. Barns, road, shrubs, fences, river, lake, all
lay under the glittering snow. It was light and powdery, and
sparkled like diamonds. Not a breath of wind stirred, there was
not a sound. I had to wait till a passing horseman had broken
the track, but soon after I set off into the new, shining world.
I soon lost the horseman's foot-marks, but kept on near the road
by means of the innumerable foot-prints of birds and ground
squirrels, which all went in one direction. After riding for an
hour I was obliged to get off and walk for another, for the snow
balled in Birdie's feet to such an extent that she could hardly
keep up even without my weight on her, and my pick was not strong
enough to remove it. Turning off the road to ask for a chisel, I
came upon the cabin of the people whose muff I had picked up a
few days before, and they received me very warmly, gave me a
tumbler of cream, and made some strong coffee. They were "old
Country folk," and I stayed too long with them. After leaving
them I rode twelve miles, but it was "bad traveling," from the
balling of the snow and the difficulty of finding the track.
There was a fearful loneliness about it. The track was
untrodden, and I saw neither man nor beast. The sky became
densely clouded, and the outlook was awful. The great Divide of
the Arkansas was in front, looming vaguely through a heavy snow
cloud, and snow began to fall, not in powder, but in heavy
flakes. Finding that there would be risk in trying to ride till
nightfall, in the early afternoon I left the road and went two
miles into the hills by an untrodden path, where there were gates
to open, and a rapid steep-sided creek to cross; and at the en-
trance to a most fantastic gorge I came upon an elegant frame
house belonging to Mr. Perry, a millionaire, to whom I had an
introduction which I did not hesitate to present, as it was
weather in which a traveler might almost ask for shelter without

Mr. Perry was away, but his daughter, a very bright-looking,
elegantly-dressed girl, invited me to dine and remain. They had
stewed venison and various luxuries on the table, which was
tasteful and refined, and an adroit, colored table-maid waited,
one of five attached Negro servants who had been their slaves
before the war. After dinner, though snow was slowly falling, a
gentleman cousin took me a ride to show me the beauties of
Pleasant Park, which takes rank among the finest scenery of
Colorado, and in good weather is very easy of access. It did
look very grand as we entered it by a narrow pass guarded by two
buttes, or isolated upright masses of rock, bright red, and about
300 feet in height. The pines were very large, and the narrow
canyons which came down on the park gloomily magnificent. It is
remarkable also from a quantity of "monumental" rocks, from 50 to
300 feet in height, bright vermilion, green, buff, orange, and
sometimes all combined, their gay tinting a contrast to the
disastrous-looking snow and the somber pines. Bear Canyon, a
gorge of singular majesty, comes down on the park, and we crossed
the Bear Creek at the foot of this on the ice, which gave way,
and both our horses broke through into pretty deep and very cold
water, and shortly afterwards Birdie put her foot into a prairie
dog's hole which was concealed by the snow, and on recovering
herself fell three times on her nose. I thought of Bishop
Wilberforce's fatal accident from a smaller stumble, and felt
sure that he would have kept his seat had he been mounted, as I
was, on a Mexican saddle. It was too threatening for a long
ride, and on returning I passed into a region of vivacious
descriptions of Egypt, Palestine, Asia Minor, Turkey, Russia, and
other countries, in which Miss Perry had traveled with her family
for three years.

Perry's Park is one of the great cattle-raising ranches in
Colorado. This, the youngest State in the Union, a Territory
until quite recently, has an area of about 68,000,000 acres, a
great portion of which, though rich in mineral wealth, is
worthless either for stock or arable farming, and the other or
eastern part is so dry that crops can only be grown profitably
where irrigation is possible. This region is watered by the
South Fork of the Platte and its affluents, and, though subject
to the grasshopper pest, it produces wheat of the finest quality,
the yield varying according to the mode of cultivation from
eighteen to thirty bushels per acre. The necessity for
irrigation, however, will always bar the way to an indefinite
extension of the area of arable farms. The prospects of
cattle-raising seem at present practically unlimited. In 1876
Colorado had 390,728, valued at L2:13s. per head, about half of
which were imported as young beasts from Texas. The climate is
so fine and the pasturage so ample that shelter and hand-feeding
are never resorted to except in the case of imported breeding
stock from the Eastern States, which sometimes in severe winters
need to be fed in sheds for a short time. Mr. Perry devotes
himself mainly to the breeding of graded shorthorn bulls, which
he sells when young for L6 per head.

The cattle run at large upon the prairies; each animal being
branded, they need no herding, and are usually only mustered,
counted, and the increase branded in the summer. In the fall,
when three or four years old, they are sold lean or in tolerable
condition to dealers who take them by rail to Chicago, or
elsewhere, where the fattest lots are slaughtered for tinning or
for consumption in the Eastern cities, while the leaner are sold
to farmers for feeding up during the winter. Some of the
wealthier stockmen take their best lots to Chicago themselves.
The Colorado cattle are either pure Texan or Spanish, or crosses
between the Texan and graded shorthorns. They are nearly all
very inferior animals, being bony and ragged. The herds mix on
the vast plains at will; along the Arkansas valley 80,000 roam
about with the freedom of buffaloes, and of this number about
16,000 are exported every fall. Where cattle are killed for use
in the mining districts their average price is three cents per
lb. In the summer thousands of yearlings are driven up from
Texas, branded, and turned loose on the prairies, and are not
molested again till they are sent east at three or four years
old. These pure Texans, the old Spanish breed, weigh from 900 to
1,000 pounds, and the crossed Colorado cattle from 1,000 to 1,200

The "Cattle King" of the State is Mr. Iliff, of South Platte, who
owns nine ranches, with runs of 15,000 acres, and 35,000 cattle.
He is improving his stock; and, indeed, the opening of the
dead-meat trade with this country is giving a great impetus to
the improvement of the breed of cattle among all the larger and
richer stock-owners. For this enormous herd 40 men are employed
in summer, about 12 in winter, and 200 horses. In the rare case
of a severe and protracted snowstorm the cattle get a little hay.
Owners of 6,000, 8,000 and 10,000 head of cattle are quite common
in Colorado. Sheep are now raised in the State to the extent of
half a million, and a chronic feud prevails between the "sheep
men" and the "cattle men." Sheep-raising is said to be a very
profitable business, but its risks and losses are greater, owing
to storms, while the outlay for labor, dipping materials, etc.,
is considerably larger, and owing to the comparative inability of
sheep to scratch away the snow from the grass, hay has to be
provided to meet the emergency of very severe snow-storms. The
flocks are made up mostly of pure and graded Mexicans; but though
some flocks which have been graded carefully for some years show
considerable merit, the average sheep is a leggy, ragged beast.
Wether mutton, four and five years old, is sold when there is any
demand for it; but except at Charpiot's, in Denver, I never saw
mutton on any table, public or private, and wool is the great
source of profit, the old ewes being allowed to die off. The
best flocks yield an average of seven pounds. The shearing
season, which begins in early June, lasts about six weeks.
Shearers get six and a half cents a head for inferior sheep, and
seven and a half cents for the better quality, and a good hand
shears from sixty to eighty in a day. It is not likely that
sheep-raising will attain anything of the prominence which
cattle-raising is likely to assume. The potato beetle "scare" is
not of much account in the country of the potato beetle. The
farmers seem much depressed by the magnitude and persistency of
the grasshopper pest which finds their fields in the morning "as
the garden of Eden," and leaves them at night "a desolate

It was so odd and novel to have a beautiful bed room, hot water,
and other luxuries. The snow began to fall in good earnest at
six in the evening, and fell all night, accompanied by intense
frost, so that in the morning there were eight inches of it
glittering in the sun. Miss P. gave me a pair of men's socks to
draw on over my boots, and I set out tolerably early, and broke
my own way for two miles. Then a single wagon had passed, making
a legible track for thirty miles, otherwise the snow was
pathless. The sky was absolutely cloudless, and as I made the
long ascent of the Arkansas Divide, the mountains, gashed by deep
canyons, came sweeping down to the valley on my right, and on my
left the Foot Hills were crowned with colored fantastic rocks
like castles. Everything was buried under a glittering shroud of
snow. The babble of the streams was bound by fetters of ice. No
branches creaked in the still air. No birds sang. No one passed
or met me. There were no cabins near or far. The only sound was
the crunch of the snow under Birdie's feet. We came to a river
over which some logs were laid with some young trees across them.
Birdie put one foot on this, then drew it back and put another
on, then smelt the bridge noisily. Persuasions were useless; she
only smelt, snorted, held back, and turned her cunning head and
looked at me. It was useless to argue the point with so
sagacious a beast. To the right of the bridge the ice was much
broken, and we forded the river there; but as it was deep enough
to come up to her body, and was icy cold to my feet, I wondered
at her preference. Afterwards I heard that the bridge was
dangerous. She is the queen of ponies, and is very gentle,
though she has not only wild horse blood, but is herself the wild
horse. She is always cheerful and hungry, never tired, looks
intelligently at everything, and her legs are like rocks. Her
one trick is that when the saddle is put on she swells herself to
a very large size, so that if any one not accustomed to her
saddles her I soon find the girth three or four inches too large.
When I saddle her a gentle slap on her side, or any slight start
which makes her cease to hold her breath, puts it all right. She
is quite a companion, and bathing her back, sponging her
nostrils, and seeing her fed after my day's ride, is always my
first care.

At last I reached a log cabin where I got a feed for us both and
further directions. The rest of the day's ride was awful enough.
The snow was thirteen inches deep, and grew deeper as I ascended
in silence and loneliness, but just as the sun sank behind a
snowy peak I reached the top of the Divide, 7,975 feet above the
sea level. There, in unspeakable solitude, lay a frozen lake.
Owls hooted among the pines, the trail was obscure, the country
was not settled, the mercury was 9 degrees below zero, my feet
had lost all sensation, and one of them was frozen to the wooden
stirrup. I found that owing to the depth of the snow I had only
ridden fifteen miles in eight and a half hours, and must look
about for a place to sleep in. The eastern sky was unlike
anything I ever saw before. It had been chrysoprase, then it
turned to aquamarine, and that to the bright full green of an
emerald. Unless I am color-blind, this is true. Then suddenly
the whole changed, and flushed with the pure, bright, rose color
of the afterglow. Birdie was sliding at every step, and I was
nearly paralyzed with the cold when I reached a cabin which had
been mentioned to me, but they said that seventeen snow-bound men
were lying on the floor, and they advised me to ride half a mile
farther, which I did, and reached the house of a German from
Eisenau, with a sweet young wife and a venerable mother-in-law.
Though the house was very poor, it was made attractive by
ornaments, and the simple, loving, German ways gave it a sweet
home atmosphere. My room was reached by a ladder, but I had it
to myself and had the luxury of a basin to wash in. Under the
kindly treatment of the two women my feet came to themselves, but
with an amount of pain that almost deserved the name of torture.

The next morning was gray and sour, but brightened and warmed as
the day went on. After riding twelve miles I got bread and milk
for myself and a feed for Birdie at a large house where there
were eight boarders, each one looking nearer the grave than the
other, and on remounting was directed to leave the main road and
diverge through Monument Park, a ride of twelve miles among
fantastic rocks, but I lost my way, and came to an end of all
tracks in a wild canyon. Returning about six miles, I took
another track, and rode about eight miles without seeing a
creature. I then came to strange gorges with wonderful upright
rocks of all shapes and colors, and turning through a gate of
rock, came upon what I knew must be Glen Eyrie, as wild and
romantic a glen as imagination ever pictured. The track then
passed down a valley close under some ghastly peaks, wild, cold,
awe-inspiring scenery. After fording a creek several times, I
came upon a decayed-looking cluster of houses bearing the
arrogant name of Colorado City, and two miles farther on, from
the top of one of the Foot Hill ridges, I saw the bleak-looking
scattered houses of the ambitious watering place of Colorado
Springs, the goal of my journey of 150 miles. I got off, put on
a long skirt, and rode sidewise, though the settlement scarcely
looked like a place where any deference to prejudices was
necessary. A queer embryo-looking place it is, out on the bare
Plains, yet it is rising and likely to rise, and has some big
hotels much resorted to. It has a fine view of the mountains,
specially of Pike's Peak, but the celebrated springs are at
Manitou, three miles off, in really fine scenery. To me no place
could be more unattractive than Colorado Springs, from its utter

I found the -----s living in a small room which served for
parlor, bedroom, and kitchen, and combined the comforts of all.
It is inhabited also by two prairie dogs, a kitten, and a
deerhound. It was truly homelike. Mrs. ----- walked with me to
the boarding-house where I slept, and we sat some time in the
parlor talking with the landlady. Opposite to me there was a
door wide open into a bed room, and on a bed opposite to the door
a very sick-looking young man was half-lying, half-sitting, fully
dressed, supported by another, and a very sick-looking young man
much resembling him passed in and out occasionally, or leaned on
the chimney piece in an attitude of extreme dejection. Soon the
door was half-closed, and some one came to it, saying rapidly,
"Shields, quick, a candle!" and then there were movings about in
the room. All this time the seven or eight people in the room in
which I was were talking, laughing, and playing backgammon, and
none laughed louder than the landlady, who was sitting where she
saw that mysterious door as plainly as I did. All this time, and
during the movings in the room, I saw two large white feet
sticking up at the end of the bed. I watched and watched, hoping
those feet would move, but they did not; and somehow, to my
thinking, they grew stiffer and whiter, and then my horrible
suspicion deepened, and while we were sitting there a human
spirit untended and desolate had passed forth into the night.
Then a man came out with a bundle of clothes, and then the sick
young man, groaning and sobbing, and then a third, who said to
me, with some feeling, that the man who had just died was the
sick young man's only brother. And still the landlady laughed
and talked, and afterwards said to me, "It turns the house upside
down when they just come here and die; we shall be half the night
laying him out." I could not sleep for the bitter cold and the
sound of the sobs and groans of the bereaved brother. The next
day the landlady, in a fashionably-made black dress, was bustling
about, proud of the prospective arrival of a handsome coffin. I
went into the parlor to get a needle, and the door of THAT room
was open, and children were running in and out, and the landlady,
who was sweeping there, called cheerily to me to come in for the
needle, and there, to my horror, not even covered with a face
cloth, and with the sun blazing in through the unblinded window,
lay that thing of terror, a corpse, on some chairs which were not
even placed straight. It was buried in the afternoon, and from
the looks of the brother, who continued to sob and moan, his end
cannot be far off.

The -----s say that many go to the Springs in the last stage of
consumption, thinking that the Colorado climate will cure them,
without money enough to pay for even the coarsest board. We
talked most of that day, and I equipped myself with arctics and
warm gloves for the mountain tour which has been planned for me,
and I gave Birdie the Sabbath she was entitled to on Tuesday, for
I found, on arriving at the Springs, that the day I crossed the
Arkansas Divide was Sunday, though I did not know it. Several
friends of Miss Kingsley called on me; she is much remembered and
beloved. This is not an expensive tour; we cost about ten
shillings a day, and the five days which I have spent en route
from Denver have cost something less than the fare for the few
hours' journey by the cars. There are no real difficulties. It
is a splendid life for health and enjoyment. All my luggage
being in a pack, and my conveyance being a horse, we can go
anywhere where we can get food and shelter.


This is a highly picturesque place, with several springs, still
and effervescing, the virtues of which were well known to the
Indians. Near it are places, the names of which are familiar to
every one--the Garden of the Gods, Glen Eyrie, Pike's Peak,
Monument Park, and the Ute Pass. It has two or three immense
hotels, and a few houses picturesquely situated. It is thronged
by thousands of people in the summer who come to drink the
waters, try the camp cure, and make mountain excursions; but it
is all quiet now, and there are only a few lingerers in this
immense hotel. There is a rushing torrent in a valley, with
mountains, covered with snow and rising to a height of nearly
15,000 feet, overhanging it. It is grand and awful, and has a
strange, solemn beauty like death. And the Snowy Mountains are
pierced by the torrent which has excavated the Ute Pass, by
which, to-morrow, I hope to go into the higher regions. But all
may be "lost for want of a horseshoe nail." One of Birdie's
shoes is loose, and not a nail is to be got here, or can be got
till I have ridden for ten miles up the Pass. Birdie amuses
every one with her funny ways. She always follows me closely,
and to-day got quite into a house and pushed the parlor door
open. She walks after me with her head laid on my shoulder,
licking my face and teasing me for sugar, and sometimes, when any
one else takes hold of her, she rears and kicks, and the vicious
bronco soul comes into her eyes. Her face is cunning and pretty,
and she makes a funny, blarneying noise when I go up to her. The
men at all the stables make a fuss with her, and call her "Pet."
She gallops up and down hill, and never stumbles even on the
roughest ground, or requires even a touch with a whip.

The weather is again perfect, with a cloudless sky and a hot sun,
and the snow is all off the plains and lower valleys. After
lunch, the -----s in a buggy, and I on Birdie, left Colorado
Springs, crossing the Mesa, a high hill with a table top, with a
view of extraordinary laminated rocks, LEAVES of rock a bright
vermilion color, against a background of snowy mountains,
surmounted by Pike's Peak. Then we plunged into cavernous Glen
Eyrie, with its fantastic needles of colored rock, and were
entertained at General Palmer's "baronial mansion," a perfect
eyrie, the fine hall filled with buffalo, elk, and deer heads,
skins of wild animals, stuffed birds, bear robes, and numerous
Indian and other weapons and trophies. Then through a gate of
huge red rocks, we passed into the valley, called fantastically,
Garden of the Gods, in which, were I a divinity, I certainly
would not choose to dwell. Many places in this neighborhood are
also vulgarized by grotesque names. From this we passed into a
ravine, down which the Fountain River rushed, and there I left my
friends with regret, and rode into this chill and solemn gorge,
from which the mountains, reddening in the sunset, are only seen
afar off. I put Birdie up at a stable, and as there was no place
to put myself up but this huge hotel, I came here to have a last
taste of luxury. They charge six dollars a day in the season,
but it is now half-price; and instead of four hundred fashionable
guests there are only fifteen, most of whom are speaking in the
weak, rapid accents of consumption, and are coughing their hearts
out. There are seven medicinal springs. It is strange to have
the luxuries of life in my room. It will be only the fourth
night in Colorado that I have slept on anything better than hay
or straw. I am glad that there are so few inns. As it is, I get
a good deal of insight into the homes and modes of living of the

BERGENS PARK, October 31.

This cabin was so dark, and I so sleepy last night, that I could
not write; but the frost during the night has been very severe,
and I am detained until the bright, hot sun melts the ice and
renders traveling safe. I left the great Manitou at ten
yesterday. Birdie, who was loose in the stable, came trotting
down the middle of it when she saw me for her sugar and biscuits.
No nails could be got, and her shoe was hanging by two, which
doomed me to a foot's pace and the dismal clink of a loose shoe
for three hours. There was not a cloud on the bright blue sky
the whole day, and though it froze hard in the shade, it was
summer heat in the sun. The mineral fountains were sparkling in
their basins and sending up their full perennial jets but the
snow-clad, pine-skirted mountains frowned and darkened over the
Ute Pass as I entered it to ascend it for twenty miles. A narrow
pass it is, with barely room for the torrent and the wagon road
which has been blasted out of its steep sides. All the time I
was in sight of the Fountain River, brighter than any stream,
because it tumbles over rose-red granite, rocky or disintegrated,
a truly fair stream, cutting and forcing its way through hard
rocks, under arches of alabaster ice, through fringes of
crystalline ice, thumping with a hollow sound in cavernous
recesses cold and dark, or leaping in foam from heights with rush
and swish; always bright and riotous, never pausing in still
pools to rest, dashing through gates of rock, pine hung, pine
bridged, pine buried; twinkling and laughing in the sunshine,
or frowning in "dowie dens" in the blue pine gloom. And there,
for a mile or two in a sheltered spot, owing to the more southern
latitude, the everlasting northern pine met the trees of other
climates. There were dwarf oaks, willows, hazel, and spruce; the
white cedar and the trailing juniper jostled each other for a
precarious foothold; the majestic redwood tree of the Pacific met
the exquisite balsam pine of the Atlantic slopes, and among them
all the pale gold foliage of the large aspen trembled (as the
legend goes) in endless remorse. And above them towered the
toothy peaks of the glittering mountains, rising in pure white
against the sunny blue. Grand! glorious! sublime! but not
lovable. I would give all for the luxurious redundance of one
Hilo gulch, or for one day of those soft dreamy "skies whose
very tears are balm."

Bergens Park

Up ever! the road being blasted out of the red rock which often
overhung it, the canyon only from fifteen to twenty feet wide,
the thunder of the Fountain, which is crossed eight times, nearly
deafening. Sometimes the sun struck the road, and then it was
absolutely hot; then one entered unsunned gorges where the snow
lay deep, and the crowded pines made dark twilight, and the river
roared under ice bridges fringed by icicles. At last the Pass
opened out upon a sunlit upland park, where there was a forge,
and with Birdie's shoe put on, and some shoe nails in my purse, I
rode on cheerfully, getting food for us both at a ranch belonging
to some very pleasant people, who, like all Western folk, when
they are not taciturn, asked a legion of questions. There I met
a Colonel Kittridge, who said that he believed his valley, twelve
miles off the track, to be the loveliest valley in Colorado, and
invited me to his house. Leaving the road, I went up a long
ascent deep in snow, but as it did not seem to be the way, I tied
up the pony, and walked on to a cabin at some distance, which I
had hardly reached when I found her trotting like a dog by my
side, pulling my sleeve and laying her soft gray nose on my
shoulder. Does it all mean sugar? We had eight miles farther to
go--most of the way through a forest, which I always dislike when
alone, from the fear of being frightened by something which may
appear from behind a tree. I saw a beautiful white fox, several
skunks, some chipmunks and gray squirrels, owls, crows, and
crested blue-jays. As the sun was getting low I reached Bergens
Park, which was to put me out of conceit with Estes Park. Never!
It is long and featureless, and its immediate surroundings are
mean. It reminded me in itself of some dismal Highland
strath--Glenshee, possibly. I looked at it with special
interest, as it was the place at which Miss Kingsley had
suggested that I might remain. The evening was glorious, and the
distant views were very fine. A stream fringed with cotton-wood
runs through the park; low ranges come down upon it. The south
end is completely closed up, but at a considerable distance, by
the great mass of Pike's Peak, while far beyond the other end are
peaks and towers, wonderful in blue and violet in the lovely
evening, and beyond these, sharply defined against the clear
green sky, was the serrated ridge of the Snowy Range, said to be
200 miles away. Bergens Park had been bought by Dr. Bell, of
London, but its present occupant is Mr. Thornton, an English
gentleman, who has a worthy married Englishman as his manager.
Mr. Thornton is building a good house, and purposes to build
other cabins, with the intention of making the park a resort for
strangers. I thought of the blue hollow lying solitary at the
foot of Long's Peak, and rejoiced that I had "happened into it."

The cabin is long, low, mud roofed, and very dark. The middle
place is full of raw meat, fowls, and gear. One end, almost
dark, contains the cooking-stove, milk, crockery, a long deal
table, two benches, and some wooden stools; the other end houses
the English manager or partner, his wife, and three children,
another cooking-stove, gear of all kinds, and sacks of beans and
flour. They put up a sheet for a partition, and made me a
shake-down on the gravel floor of this room. Ten hired men sat
down to meals with us. It was all very rough, dark, and
comfortless, but Mr. T., who is not only a gentleman by birth,
but an M.A. of Cambridge, seems to like it. Much in this way (a
little smoother if a lady is in the case) every man must begin
life here. Seven large dogs--three of them with cats upon their
backs--are usually warming themselves at the fire.


I did not leave Mr. Thornton's till ten, because of the
slipperiness. I rode four miles along a back trail, and then was
so tired that I stayed for two hours at a ranch, where I heard,
to my dismay, that I must ride twenty-four miles farther before I
could find any place to sleep at. I did not enjoy yesterday's
ride. I was both tired and rheumatic, and Birdie was not so
sprightly as usual. After starting again I came on a hideous
place, of which I had not heard before, Hayden's Divide, one of
the great back-bones of the region, a weary expanse of deep snow
eleven miles across, and fearfully lonely. I saw nothing the
whole way but a mule lately dead lying by the road. I was very
nervous somehow, and towards evening believed that I had lost the
road, for I came upon wild pine forests, with huge masses of rock
from 100 to 700 feet high, cast here and there among them; beyond
these pine-sprinkled grass hills; these, in their turn, were
bounded by interminable ranges, ghastly in the lurid evening,
with the Spanish Peaks quite clear, and the colossal summit of
Mount Lincoln, the King of the Rocky Mountains, distinctly
visible, though seventy miles away. It seemed awful to be alone
on that ghastly ridge, surrounded by interminable mountains, in
the deep snow, knowing that a party of thirty had been lost here
a month ago. Just at nightfall the descent of a steep hill took
me out of the forest and upon a clean log cabin, where, finding
that the proper halting place was two miles farther on, I
remained. A truly pleasing, superior-looking woman placed me in
a rocking chair; would not let me help her otherwise than by
rocking the cradle, and made me "feel at home." The room, though
it serves them and their two children for kitchen, parlor, and
bed room, is the pattern of brightness, cleanliness, and comfort.
At supper there were canned raspberries, rolls, butter, tea,
venison, and fried rabbit, and at seven I went to bed in a
carpeted log room, with a thick feather bed on a mattress,
sheets, ruffled pillow slips, and a pile of warm white blankets!
I slept for eleven hours. They discourage me much about the
route which Governor Hunt has projected for me. They think that
it is impassable, owing to snow, and that another storm is

HALL'S GULCH, November 6.

I have ridden 150 miles since I wrote last. On leaving Twin Rock
on Saturday I had a short day's ride to Colonel Kittridge's cabin
at Oil Creek, where I spent a quiet Sunday with agreeable people.
The ride was all through parks and gorges, and among pine-clothed
hills, about 9,000 feet high, with Pike's Peak always in sight.
I have developed much sagacity in finding a trail, or I should
not be able to make use of such directions as these: "Keep along
a gulch four or five miles till you get Pike's Peak on your left,
then follow some wheel-marks till you get to some timber, and
keep to the north till you come to a creek, where you'll find a
great many elk tracks; then go to your right and cross the creek
three times, then you'll see a red rock to your left," etc., etc.
The K's cabin was very small and lonely, and the life seemed a
hard grind for an educated and refined woman. There were snow
flurries after I arrived, but the first Sunday of November was as
bright and warm as June, and the atmosphere had resumed its
exquisite purity. Three peaks of Pike's Peak are seen from Oil
Creek, above the nearer hills, and by them they tell the time.
We had been in the evening shadows for half an hour before those
peaks ceased to be transparent gold.

On leaving Colonel Kittridge's hospitable cabin I dismounted, as
I had often done before, to lower a bar, and, on looking round,
Birdie was gone! I spent an hour in trying to catch her, but she
had taken an "ugly fit," and would not let me go near her; and I
was getting tired and vexed, when two passing trappers, on mules,
circumvented and caught her. I rode the twelve miles back to
Twin Rock, and then went on, a kindly teamster, who was going in
the same direction, taking my pack. I must explain that every
mile I have traveled since leaving Colorado Springs has taken me
farther and higher into the mountains. That afternoon I rode
through lawnlike upland parks, with the great snow mass of Pike's
Peak behind, and in front mountains bathed in rich atmospheric
coloring of blue and violet, all very fine, but threatening to
become monotonous, when the wagon road turned abruptly to the
left, and crossed a broad, swift, mountain river, the head-
waters of the Platte. There I found the ranch to which I had
been recommended, the quarters of a great hunter named Link,
which much resembled a good country inn. There was a pleasant,
friendly woman, but the men were all away, a thing I always
regret, as it gives me half an hour's work at the horse before I
can write to you. I had hardly come in when a very pleasant
German lady, whom I met at Manitou, with three gentlemen,
arrived, and we were as sociable as people could be. We had a
splendid though rude supper. While Mrs. Link was serving us, and
urging her good things upon us, she was orating on the greediness
of English people, saying that "you would think they traveled
through the country only to gratify their palates"; and addressed
me, asking me if I had not observed it! I am nearly always taken
for a Dane or a Swede, never for an Englishwoman, so I often hear
a good deal of outspoken criticism.

In the evening Mr. Link returned, and there was a most vehement
discussion between him, an old hunter, a miner, and the teamster
who brought my pack, as to the route by which I should ride
through the mountains for the next three or four days--because at
that point I was to leave the wagon road--and it was renewed
with increased violence the next morning, so that if my nerves
had not been of steel I should have been appalled. The old
hunter acrimoniously said he "must speak the truth," the miner
was directing me over a track where for twenty-five miles there
was not a house, and where, if snow came on, I should never be
heard of again. The miner said he "must speak the truth," the
hunter was directing me over a pass where there were five feet of
snow, and no trail. The teamster said that the only road
possible for a horse was so-and-so, and advised me to take the
wagon road into South Park, which I was determined not to do.
Mr. Link said he was the oldest hunter and settler in the
district, and he could not cross any of the trails in snow. And
so they went on. At last they partially agreed on a route--"the
worst road in the Rocky Mountains," the old hunter said, with two
feet of snow upon it, but a hunter had hauled an elk over part of
it, at any rate. The upshot of the whole you shall have in my
next letter.
I. L. B.

Letter XI

Tarryall Creek--The Red Range--Excelsior--Importunate
pedlars--Snow and heat--A bison calf--Deep drifts--South
Park--The Great Divide--Comanche Bill--Difficulties--Hall's
Gulch--A Lord Dundreary--Ridiculous fears.


It was another cloudless morning, one of the many here on which
one awakes early, refreshed, and ready to enjoy the fatigues of
another day. In our sunless, misty climate you do not know the
influence which persistent fine weather exercises on the spirits.
I have been ten months in almost perpetual sunshine, and now a
single cloudy day makes me feel quite depressed. I did not leave
till 9:30, because of the slipperiness, and shortly after
starting turned off into the wilderness on a very dim trail.
Soon seeing a man riding a mile ahead, I rode on and overtook
him, and we rode eight miles together, which was convenient to
me, as without him I should several times have lost the trail
altogether. Then his fine American horse, on which he had only
ridden two days, broke down, while my "mad, bad bronco," on which
I had been traveling for a fortnight, cantered lightly over the
snow. He was the only traveler I saw in a day of nearly twelve
hours. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of that ride. I
concentrated all my faculties of admiration and of locality, for
truly the track was a difficult one. I sometimes thought it
deserved the bad name given to it at Link's. For the most part
it keeps in sight of Tarryall Creek, one of the large affluents
of the Platte, and is walled in on both sides by mountains, which
are sometimes so close together as to leave only the narrowest
canyon between them, at others breaking wide apart, till, after
winding and climbing up and down for twenty-five miles, it
lands one on a barren rock-girdled park, watered by a rapid
fordable stream as broad as the Ouse at Huntingdon, snow fed and
ice fringed, the park bordered by fantastic rocky hills, snow
covered and brightened only by a dwarf growth of the beautiful
silver spruce. I have not seen anything hitherto so thoroughly
wild and unlike the rest of these parts.

I rode up one great ascent where hills were tumbled about
confusedly; and suddenly across the broad ravine, rising above
the sunny grass and the deep green pines, rose in glowing and
shaded red against the glittering blue heaven a magnificent and
unearthly range of mountains, as shapely as could be seen, rising
into colossal points, cleft by deep blue ravines, broken up into
sharks' teeth, with gigantic knobs and pinnacles rising from
their inaccessible sides, very fair to look upon--a glowing,
heavenly, unforgettable sight, and only four miles off.
Mountains they looked not of this earth, but such as one sees in
dreams alone, the blessed ranges of "the land which is very far
off." They were more brilliant than those incredible colors in
which painters array the fiery hills of Moab and the Desert, and
one could not believe them for ever uninhabited, for on them
rose, as in the East, the similitude of stately fortresses, not
the gray castellated towers of feudal Europe, but gay, massive,
Saracenic architecture, the outgrowth of the solid rock. They
were vast ranges, apparently of enormous height, their color
indescribable, deepest and reddest near the pine-draped bases,
then gradually softening into wonderful tenderness, till the
highest summits rose all flushed, and with an illusion of
transparency, so that one might believe that they were taking on
the hue of sunset. Below them lay broken ravines of fantastic
rocks, cleft and canyoned by the river, with a tender unearthly
light over all, the apparent warmth of a glowing clime, while I
on the north side was in the shadow among the pure unsullied

With us the damp, the chill, the gloom;
With them the sunset's rosy bloom.

The dimness of earth with me, the light of heaven with them.
Here, again, worship seemed the only attitude for a human spirit,
and the question was ever present, "Lord, what is man, that Thou
art mindful of him; or the son of man, that Thou visitest him?"
I rode up and down hills laboriously in snow-drifts, getting off
often to ease my faithful Birdie by walking down ice-clad slopes,
stopping constantly to feast my eyes upon that changeless glory,
always seeing some new ravine, with its depths of color or
miraculous brilliancy of red, or phantasy of form. Then below,
where the trail was locked into a deep canyon where there was
scarcely room for it and the river, there was a beauty of an-
other kind in solemn gloom. There the stream curved and twisted
marvellously, widening into shallows, narrowing into deep boiling
eddies, with pyramidal firs and the beautiful silver spruce
fringing its banks, and often falling across it in artistic
grace, the gloom chill and deep, with only now and then a light
trickling through the pines upon the cold snow, when suddenly
turning round I saw behind, as if in the glory of an eternal
sunset, those flaming and fantastic peaks. The effect of the
combination of winter and summer was singular. The trail ran on
the north side the whole time, and the snow lay deep and pure
white, while not a wreath of it lay on the south side, where
abundant lawns basked in the warm sun.

The pitch pine, with its monotonous and somewhat rigid form, had
disappeared; the white pine became scarce, both being displayed
by the slim spires and silvery green of the miniature silver
spruce. Valley and canyon were passed, the flaming ranges were
left behind, the upper altitudes became grim and mysterious. I
crossed a lake on the ice, and then came on a park surrounded by
barren contorted hills, overtopped by snow mountains. There, in
some brushwood, we crossed a deepish stream on the ice, which
gave way, and the fearful cold of the water stiffened my limbs
for the rest of the ride. All these streams become bigger as you
draw nearer to their source, and shortly the trail disappeared
in a broad rapid river, which we forded twice. The trail was
very difficult to recover. It ascended ever in frost and snow,
amidst scanty timber dwarfed by cold and twisted by storms,
amidst solitudes such as one reads of in the High Alps; there
were no sounds to be heard but the crackle of ice and snow, the
pitiful howling of wolves, and the hoot of owls. The sun to me
had long set; the peaks which had blushed were pale and sad; the
twilight deepened into green; but still "Excelsior!" There were
no happy homes with light of household fires; above, the spectral
mountains lifted their cold summits. As darkness came on I began
to fear that I had confused the cabin to which I had been
directed with the rocks. To confess the truth, I was cold, for
my boots and stockings had frozen on my feet, and I was hungry
too, having eaten nothing but raisins for fourteen hours. After
riding thirty miles I saw a light a little way from the track,
and found it to be the cabin of the daughter of the pleasant
people with whom I had spent the previous night. Her husband had
gone to the Plains, yet she, with two infant children, was living
there in perfect security. Two pedlars, who were peddling their
way down from the mines, came in for a night's shelter soon after
I arrived--ill-looking fellows enough. They admired Birdie in a
suspicious fashion, and offered to "swop" their pack horse for
her. I went out the last thing at night and the first thing in
the morning to see that "the powny" was safe, for they were very
importunate on the subject of the "swop." I had before been
offered 150 dollars for her. I was obliged to sleep with the
mother and children, and the pedlars occupied a room within ours.
It was hot and airless. The cabin was papered with the
Phrenological Journal, and in the morning I opened my eyes on the
very best portrait of Dr. Candlish I ever saw, and grieved truly
that I should never see that massive brow and fantastic face

Mrs. Link was an educated and very intelligent young woman. The
pedlars were Irish Yankees, and the way in which they "traded"
was as amusing as "Sam Slick." They not only wanted to "swop" my
pony, but to "trade" my watch. They trade their souls, I know.
They displayed their wares for an hour with much dexterous
flattery and persuasiveness, but Mrs. Link was untemptable, and I
was only tempted into buying a handkerchief to keep the sun off.
There was another dispute about my route. It was the most
critical day of my journey. If a snowstorm came on, I might be
detained in the mountains for many weeks; but if I got through
the snow and reached the Denver wagon road, no detention would
signify much. The pedlars insisted that I could not get through,
for the road was not broken. Mrs. L. thought I could, and
advised me to try, so I saddled Birdie and rode away.

More than half of the day was far from enjoyable. The morning
was magnificent, but the light too dazzling, the sun too fierce.
As soon as I got out I felt as if I should drop off the horse.
My large handkerchief kept the sun from my neck, but the fierce
heat caused soul and sense, brain and eye, to reel. I never saw
or felt the like of it. I was at a height of 12,000 feet, where,
of course, the air was highly rarefied, and the snow was so pure
and dazzling that I was obliged to keep my eyes shut as much as
possible to avoid snow blindness. The sky was a different and
terribly fierce color; and when I caught a glimpse of the sun, he
was white and unwinking like a lime-ball light, yet threw off
wicked scintillations. I suffered so from nausea, exhaustion,
and pains from head to foot, that I felt as if I must lie down in
the snow. It may have been partly the early stage of soroche, or
mountain sickness. We plodded on for four hours, snow all round,
and nothing else to be seen but an ocean of glistening peaks
against that sky of infuriated blue. How I found my way I shall
never know, for the only marks on the snow were occasional
footprints of a man, and I had no means of knowing whether they
led in the direction I ought to take. Earlier, before the snow
became so deep, I passed the last great haunt of the magnificent
mountain bison, but, unfortunately, saw nothing but horns and
bones. Two months ago Mr. Link succeeded in separating a calf
from the herd, and has partially domesticated it. It is a very
ugly thing at seven months old, with a thick beard, and a short,
thick, dark mane on its heavy shoulders. It makes a loud grunt
like a pig. It can outrun their fastest horse, and it sometimes
leaps over the high fence of the corral, and takes all the milk
of five cows.

The snow grew seriously deep. Birdie fell thirty times, I am
sure. She seemed unable to keep up at all, so I was obliged to
get off and stumble along in her footmarks. By that time my
spirit for overcoming difficulties had somewhat returned, for I
saw a lie of country which I knew must contain South Park, and we
had got under cover of a hill which kept off the sun. The trail
had ceased; it was only one of those hunter's tracks which
continually mislead one. The getting through the snow was awful
work. I think we accomplished a mile in something over two
hours. The snow was two feet eight inches deep, and once we went
down in a drift the surface of which was rippled like sea sand,
Birdie up to her back, and I up to my shoulders!

At last we got through, and I beheld, with some sadness, the goal
of my journey, "The Great Divide," the Snowy Range, and between
me and it South Park, a rolling prairie seventy-five miles long
and over 10,000 feet high, treeless, bounded by mountains, and so
rich in sun-cured hay that one might fancy that all the herds
of Colorado could find pasture there. Its chief center is the
rough mining town of Fairplay, but there are rumors of great
mineral wealth in various quarters. The region has been
"rushed," and mining camps have risen at Alma and elsewhere, so
lawless and brutal that vigilance committees are forming as a
matter of necessity. South Park is closed, or nearly so, by snow
during an ordinary winter; and just now the great freight wagons
are carrying up the last supplies of the season, and taking down
women and other temporary inhabitants. A great many people come
up here in the summer. The rarefied air produces great
oppression on the lungs, accompanied with bleeding. It is said
that you can tell a new arrival by seeing him go about holding a
blood-stained handkerchief to his mouth. But I came down upon it
from regions of ice and snow; and as the snow which had fallen on
it had all disappeared by evaporation and drifting, it looked to
me quite lowland and livable, though lonely and indescribably
mournful, "a silent sea," suggestive of "the muffled oar." I
cantered across the narrow end of it, delighted to have got
through the snow; and when I struck the "Denver stage road" I
supposed that all the difficulties of mountain travel were at an
end, but this has not turned out to be exactly the case.

A horseman shortly joined me and rode with me, got me a fresh
horse, and accompanied me for ten miles. He was a picturesque
figure and rode a very good horse. He wore a big slouch hat,
from under which a number of fair curls hung nearly to his waist.
His beard was fair, his eyes blue, and his complexion ruddy.
There was nothing sinister in his expression, and his manner was
respectful and frank. He was dressed in a hunter's buckskin suit
ornamented with beads, and wore a pair of exceptionally big brass
spurs. His saddle was very highly ornamented. What was unusual
was the number of weapons he carried. Besides a rifle laid
across his saddle and a pair of pistols in the holsters, he
carried two revolvers and a knife in his belt, and a carbine
slung behind him. I found him what is termed "good company." He
told me a great deal about the country and its wild animals, with
some hunting adventures, and a great deal about Indians and their
cruelty and treachery. All this time, having crossed South Park,
we were ascending the Continental Divide by what I think is
termed the Breckenridge Pass, on a fairly good wagon road. We
stopped at a cabin, where the woman seemed to know my companion,
and, in addition to bread and milk, produced some venison steaks.
We rode on again, and reached the crest of the Divide (see
engraving), and saw snow-born streams starting within a quarter
of a mile from each other, one for the Colorado and the Pacific,
the other for the Platte and the Atlantic. Here I wished the
hunter good-bye, and reluctantly turned north-east. It was not
wise to go up the Divide at all, and it was necessary to do it in
haste. On my way down I spoke to the woman at whose cabin I had
dined, and she said, "I am sure you found Comanche Bill a real
gentleman"; and I then knew that, if she gave me correct
information, my intelligent, courteous companion was one of the
most notorious desperadoes of the Rocky Mountains, and the
greatest Indian exterminator on the frontier--a man whose father
and family fell in a massacre at Spirit Lake by the hands of
Indians, who carried away his sister, then a child of eleven.
His life has since been mainly devoted to a search for this
child, and to killing Indians wherever he can find them.

After riding twenty miles, which made the distance for that day
fifty, I remounted Birdie to ride six miles farther, to a house
which had been mentioned to me as a stopping place. The road
ascended to a height of 11,000 feet, and from thence I looked my
last at the lonely, uplifted prairie sea. "Denver stage road!"
The worst, rudest, dismallest, darkest road I have yet traveled
on, nothing but a winding ravine, the Platte canyon, pine crowded
and pine darkened, walled in on both sides for six miles by
pine-skirted mountains 12,000 feet high! Along this abyss for
fifty miles there are said to be only five houses, and were it
not for miners going down, and freight wagons going up, the
solitude would be awful. As it was, I did not see a creature.
It was four when I left South Park, and between those mountain
walls and under the pines it soon became quite dark, a darkness
which could be felt. The snow which had melted in the sun had
re-frozen, and was one sheet of smooth ice. Birdie slipped so
alarmingly that I got off and walked, but then neither of us
could keep our feet, and in the darkness she seemed so likely to
fall upon me, that I took out of my pack the man's socks which
had been given me at Perry's Park, and drew them on over her
fore-feet--an expedient which for a time succeeded admirably, and
which I commend to all travelers similarly circumstanced. It was
unutterably dark, and all these operations had to be performed by
the sense of touch only. I remounted, allowed her to take her
own way, as I could not see even her ears, and though her hind
legs slipped badly, we contrived to get along through the
narrowest part of the canyon, with a tumbling river close to the
road. The pines were very dense, and sighed and creaked
mournfully in the severe frost, and there were other EERIE noises
not easy to explain. At last, when the socks were nearly worn
out, I saw the blaze of a camp-fire, with two hunters sitting by
it, on the hill side, and at the mouth of a gulch something which
looked like buildings. We got across the river partly on ice and
partly by fording, and I found that this was the place where, in
spite of its somewhat dubious reputation, I had been told that I
could put up.

A man came out in the sapient and good-natured stage of
intoxication, and, the door being opened, I was confronted by a
rough bar and a smoking, blazing kerosene lamp without a chimney.
This is the worst place I have put up at as to food, lodging, and
general character; an old and very dirty log cabin, not chinked,
with one dingy room used for cooking and feeding, in which a
miner was lying very ill of fever; then a large roofless shed
with a canvas side, which is to be an addition, and then the bar.
They accounted for the disorder by the building operations. They
asked me if I were the English lady written of in the Denver
News, and for once I was glad that my fame had preceded me, as it
seemed to secure me against being quietly "put out of the way."
A horrible meal was served--dirty, greasy, disgusting. A
celebrated hunter, Bob Craik, came in to supper with a young man
in tow, whom, in spite of his rough hunter's or miner's dress, I
at once recognized as an English gentleman. It was their
camp-fire which I had seen on the hill side. This gentleman was
lording it in true caricature fashion, with a Lord Dundreary
drawl and a general execration of everything; while I sat in the
chimney corner, speculating on the reason why many of the upper
class of my countrymen--"High Toners," as they are called out
here--make themselves so ludicrously absurd. They neither know
how to hold their tongues or to carry their personal pretensions.
An American is nationally assumptive, an Englishman personally
so. He took no notice of me till something passed which showed
him I was English, when his manner at once changed into courtesy,
and his drawl was shortened by a half. He took pains to let me
know that he was an officer in the Guards, of good family, on
four months' leave, which he was spending in slaying buffalo and
elk, and also that he had a profound contempt for everything
American. I cannot think why Englishmen put on these broad,
mouthing tones, and give so many personal details. They retired
to their camp, and the landlord having passed into the sodden,
sleepy stage of drunkenness, his wife asked if I should be afraid
to sleep in the large canvas-sided, unceiled, doorless shed, as
they could not move the sick miner. So, I slept there on a
shake-down, with the stars winking overhead through the roof, and
the mercury showing 30 degrees of frost.

I never told you that I once gave an unwary promise that I would
not travel alone in Colorado unarmed, and that in consequence I
left Estes Park with a Sharp's revolver loaded with ball
cartridge in my pocket, which has been the plague of my life.
Its bright ominous barrel peeped out in quiet Denver shops,
children pulled it out to play with, or when my riding dress hung
up with it in the pocket, pulled the whole from the peg to the
floor; and I cannot conceive of any circumstances in which I
could feel it right to make any use of it, or in which it could
do me any possible good. Last night, however, I took it out,
cleaned and oiled it, and laid it under my pillow, resolving to
keep awake all night. I slept as soon as I lay down, and never
woke till the bright morning sun shone through the roof, making
me ridicule my own fears and abjure pistols for ever.
I. L. B.

Letter XII

Deer Valley--Lynch law--Vigilance committees--The silver
spruce--Taste and abstinence--The whisky fiend--Smartness--
Turkey creek Canyon--The Indian problem--Public
rascality--Friendly meetings--The way to the Golden City--A
rising settlement--Clear Creek Canyon--Staging--Swearing--A
mountain town.

DEER VALLEY, November.

To-night I am in a beautiful place like a Dutch farm--large,
warm, bright, clean, with abundance of clean food, and a clean,
cold little bedroom to myself. But it is very hard to write, for
two free-tongued, noisy Irish women, who keep a miners'
boarding-house in South Park, and are going to winter quarters in
a freight wagon, are telling the most fearful stories of
violence, vigilance committees, Lynch law, and "stringing," that
I ever heard. It turns one's blood cold only to think that where
I travel in perfect security, only a short time ago men were
being shot like skunks. At the mining towns up above this nobody
is thought anything of who has not killed a man--i.e. in a
certain set. These women had a boarder, only fifteen, who
thought he could not be anything till he had shot somebody, and
they gave an absurd account of the lad dodging about with a
revolver, and not getting up courage enough to insult any one,
till at last he hid himself in the stable and shot the first
Chinaman who entered. Things up there are just in that initial
state which desperadoes love. A man accidentally shoves another
in a saloon, or says a rough word at meals, and the challenge,
"first finger on the trigger," warrants either in shooting the
other at any subsequent time without the formality of a duel.
Nearly all the shooting affrays arise from the most trivial
causes in saloons and bar-rooms. The deeper quarrels, arising
from jealousy or revenge, are few, and are usually about some
woman not worth fighting for. At Alma and Fairplay vigilance
committees have been lately formed, and when men act outrageously
and make themselves generally obnoxious they receive a letter
with a drawing of a tree, a man hanging from it, and a coffin
below, on which is written "Forewarned." They "git" in a few

When I said I spent last night at Hall's Gulch there was quite a
chorus of exclamations. My host there, they all said, would be
"strung" before long. Did I know that a man was "strung" there
yesterday? Had I not seen him hanging? He was on the big tree
by the house, they said. Certainly, had I known what a ghastly
burden that tree bore, I would have encountered the ice and gloom
of the gulch rather than have slept there. They then told me a
horrid tale of crime and violence. This man had even shocked the
morals of the Alma crowd, and had a notice served on him by the
vigilants, which had the desired effect, and he migrated to
Hall's Gulch. As the tale runs, the Hall's Gulch miners were
resolved either not to have a groggery or to limit the number of
such places, and when this ruffian set one up he was
"forewarned." It seems, however, to have been merely a pretext
for getting rid of him, for it was hardly a crime of which even
Lynch law could take cognizance. He was overpowered by numbers,
and, with circumstances of great horror, was tried and strung on
that tree within an hour.[19]

[19] Public opinion approved this execution, regarding it
as a fitting retribution for a series of crimes.

I left the place this morning at ten, and have had a very
pleasant day, for the hills shut out the hot sun. I only rode
twenty-two miles, for the difficulty of riding on ice was great,
and there is no blacksmith within thirty-five miles of Hall's
Gulch. I met two freighters just after I left, who gave me the
unwelcome news that there were thirty-miles of ice between that
and Denver. "You'll have a tough trip," they said. The road
runs up and down hill, walled in along with a rushing river by
high mountains. The scenery is very grand, but I hate being shut
into these deep gorges, and always expect to see some startling
object moving among the trees. I met no one the whole day after
passing the teams except two men with a "pack-jack," Birdie hates
jacks, and rears and shies as soon as she sees one. It was a bad
road, one shelving sheet of ice, and awfully lonely, and between
the peril of the mare breaking her leg on the ice and that of
being crushed by windfalls of timber, I had to look out all day.
Towards sunset I came to a cabin where they "keep travelers," but
the woman looked so vinegar faced that I preferred to ride four
miles farther, up a beautiful road winding along a sunny gulch
filled with silver spruce, bluer and more silvery than any I have
yet seen, and then crossed a divide, from which the view in all
the ecstasy of sunset color was perfectly glorious. It was
enjoyment also in itself to get out of the deep chasm in which I
had been immured all day. There is a train of twelve freight
wagons here, each wagon with six horses, but the teamsters carry
their own camping blankets and sleep either in their wagons or
on the floor, so the house is not crowded.

It is a pleasant two-story log house, not only chinked but lined
with planed timber. Each room has a great open chimney with logs
burning in it; there are pretty engravings on the walls, and
baskets full of creepers hanging from the ceiling. This is the
first settler's house I have been in in which the ornamental has
had any place. There is a door to each room, the oak chairs
are bright with rubbing, and the floor, though unplaned, is so
clean that one might eat off it. The table is clean and
abundant, and the mother and daughter, though they do all the
work, look as trim as if they did none, and actually laugh
heartily. The ranchman neither allows drink to be brought into
the house nor to be drunk outside, and on this condition only he
"keeps travelers." The freighters come in to supper quite well
washed, and though twelve of them slept in the kitchen, by nine
o'clock there was not a sound. This freighting business is most
profitable. I think that the charge is three cents per pound
from Denver to South Park, and there much of the freight is
transferred to "pack-jacks" and carried up to the mines. A
railroad, however, is contemplated. I breakfasted with the
family after the freight train left, and instead of sitting down
to gobble up the remains of a meal, they had a fresh table-cloth
and hot food. The buckets are all polished oak, with polished
brass bands; the kitchen utensils are bright as rubbing can make
them; and, more wonderful still, the girls black their boots.
Blacking usually is an unused luxury, and frequently is not kept
in houses. My boots have only been blacked once during the last
two months.

DENVER, November 9.

I could not make out whether the superiority of the Deer Valley
settlers extended beyond material things, but a teamster I met in
the evening said it "made him more of a man to spend a night in
such a house." In Colorado whisky is significant of all evil and
violence and is the cause of most of the shooting affrays in the
mining camps. There are few moderate drinkers; it is seldom
taken except to excess. The great local question in the
Territory, and just now the great electoral issue, is drink or no
drink, and some of the papers are openly advocating a prohibitive
liquor law. Some of the districts, such as Greeley, in which
liquor is prohibited, are without crime, and in several of the
stock-raising and agricultural regions through which I have
traveled where it is practically excluded the doors are never
locked, and the miners leave their silver bricks in their wagons
unprotected at night. People say that on coming from the Eastern
States they hardly realize at first the security in which they
live. There is no danger and no fear. But the truth of the
proverbial saying, "There is no God west of the Missouri" is
everywhere manifest. The "almighty dollar" is the true divinity,
and its worship is universal. "Smartness" is the quality thought
most of. The boy who "gets on" by cheating at his lessons is
praised for being a "smart boy," and his satisfied parents
foretell that he will make a "smart man." A man who overreaches
his neighbor, but who does it so cleverly that the law cannot
take hold of him, wins an envied reputation as a "smart man," and
stories of this species of smartness are told admiringly round
every stove. Smartness is but the initial stage of swindling,
and the clever swindler who evades or defines the weak and often
corruptly administered laws of the States excites unmeasured
admiration among the masses.[20]

[20] May, 1878.--I am copying this letter in the city of San
Francisco, and regretfully add a strong emphasis to what I have
written above. The best and most thoughtful among Americans
would endorse these remarks with shame and pain.--I. L. B.

I left Deer Valley at ten the next morning on a glorious day,
with rich atmospheric coloring, had to spend three hours sitting
on a barrel in a forge after I had ridden twelve miles, waiting
while twenty-four oxen were shod, and then rode on twenty-three
miles through streams and canyons of great beauty till I reached
a grocery store, where I had to share a room with a large family
and three teamsters; and being almost suffocated by the curtain
partition, got up at four, before any one was stirring, saddled
Birdie, and rode away in the darkness, leaving my money on the
table! It was a short eighteen miles' ride to Denver down the
Turkey Creek Canyon, which contains some magnificent scenery, and
then the road ascends and hangs on the ledge of a precipice 600
feet in depth, such a narrow road that on meeting a wagon I had
to dismount for fear of hurting my feet with the wheels. From
thence there was a wonderful view through the rolling Foot Hills
and over the gray-brown plains to Denver. Not a tree or shrub
was to be seen, everything was rioting in summer heat and
drought, while behind lay the last grand canyon of the mountains,
dark with pines and cool with snow. I left the track and took a
short cut over the prairie to Denver, passing through an
encampment of the Ute Indians about 500 strong, a disorderly and
dirty huddle of lodges, ponies, men, squaws, children, skins,
bones, and raw meat.

The Americans will never solve the Indian problem till the Indian
is extinct. They have treated them after a fashion which has
intensified their treachery and "devilry" as enemies, and as
friends reduces them to a degraded pauperism, devoid of the very
first elements of civilization. The only difference between the
savage and the civilized Indian is that the latter carries
firearms and gets drunk on whisky. The Indian Agency has been a
sink of fraud and corruption; it is said that barely thirty per
cent of the allowance ever reaches those for whom it is voted;
and the complaints of shoddy blankets, damaged flour, and
worthless firearms are universal. "To get rid of the Injuns" is
the phrase used everywhere. Even their "reservations" do not
escape seizure practically; for if gold "breaks out" on them they
are "rushed," and their possessors are either compelled to accept
land farther west or are shot off and driven off. One of the
surest agents in their destruction is vitriolized whisky. An
attempt has recently been made to cleanse the Augean stable of
the Indian Department, but it has met with signal failure, the
usual result in America of every effort to purify the official
atmosphere. Americans specially love superlatives. The phrases
"biggest in the world," "finest in the world," are on all lips.
Unless President Hayes is a strong man they will soon come to
boast that their government is composed of the "biggest
scoundrels" in the world.

As I rode into Denver and away from the mountains the view became
glorious, as range above range crowned with snow came into sight.
I was sure that three glistening peaks seventy miles north were
the peerless shapeliness of Long's Peak, the king of the Rocky
Mountains, and the "mountain fever" returned so severely that I
grudged every hour spent on the dry, hot plains. The Range
looked lovelier and sublimer than when I first saw it from
Greeley, all spiritualized in the wonderful atmosphere. I went
direct to Evans's house, where I found a hearty welcome, as they
had been anxious about my safety, and Evans almost at once
arrived from Estes Park with three elk, one grizzly, and one
bighorn in his wagon. Regarding a place and life one likes (in
spite of all lessons) one is sure to think, "To-morrow shall be
as this day, and much more abundant"; and all through my tour I
had thought of returning to Estes Park and finding everything
just as it was. Evans brought the unwelcome news that the goodly
fellowship was broken up. The Dewys and Mr. Waller were in
Denver, and the house was dismantled, Mr. and Mrs. Edwards alone
remaining, who were, however, expecting me back. Saturday,
though like a blazing summer day, was wonderful in its beauty,
and after sunset the afterglow was richer and redder than I have
ever seen it, but the heavy crimson betokened severe heat, which
came on yesterday, and was hardly bearable.

I attended service twice at the Episcopal church, where the
service was beautifully read and sung; but in a city in which men
preponderate the congregation was mainly composed of women, who
fluttered their fans in a truly distracting way. Except for the
church-going there were few perceptible signs of Sunday in
Denver, which was full of rowdies from the mountain mining camps.
You can hardly imagine the delight of joining in those grand old
prayers after so long a deprivation. The "Te Deum" sounded
heavenly in its magnificence; but the heat was so tremendous that
it was hard to "warstle" through the day. They say that they
have similar outbreaks of solar fury all through the winter.

GOLDEN CITY, November 13.

Pleasant as Denver was, with the Dewys and so many kind friends
there, it was too much of the "wearying world" either for my
health or taste, and I left for my sixteen miles' ride to this
place at four on Monday afternoon with the sun still hot.
Passing by a bare, desolate-looking cemetery, I asked a
sad-looking woman who was leaning on the gate if she could direct
me to Golden City. I repeated the question twice before I got an
answer, and then, though easily to be accounted for, it was wide
of the mark. In most doleful tones she said, "Oh, go to the
minister; I might tell you, may be, but it's too great a
responsibility; go to the ministers, they can tell you!" And she
returned to her tears for some one whose spirit she was doubtless
thinking of as in the Golden City of our hopes. That sixteen
miles seemed like one mile, after sunset, in the rapturous
freshness of the Colorado air, and Birdie, after her two days'
rest and with a lightened load, galloped across the prairie as if
she enjoyed it. I did not reach this gorge till late, and it was
an hour after dark before I groped my way into this dark,
unlighted mining town, where, however, we were most fortunate
both as to stable and accommodation for myself.

BOULDER, November 16.

I fear you will grow tired of the details of these journal
letters. To a person sitting quietly at home, Rocky Mountain
traveling, like Rocky Mountain scenery, must seem very
monotonous; but not so to me, to whom the pure, dry mountain air
is the elixir of life. At Golden City I parted for a time from
my faithful pony, as Clear Creek Canyon, which leads from it to
Idaho, is entirely monopolized by a narrow-gauge railroad, and is
inaccessible for horses or mules. To be without a horse in these
mountains is to be reduced to complete helplessness. My great
wish was to see Green Lake, situated near the timber line above
Georgetown (said to be the highest town in the United States), at
a height of 9,000 feet. A single day took me from the heat of
summer into the intense cold of winter.

Golden City by daylight showed its meanness and belied its name.
It is ungraded, with here and there a piece of wooden sidewalk,
supported on posts, up to which you ascend by planks. Brick,
pine, and log houses are huddled together, every other house is a
saloon, and hardly a woman is to be seen. My landlady apologized
for the very exquisite little bedroom which she gave me by saying
"it was not quite as she would like it, but she had never had a
lady in her house before." The young "lady" who waited at
breakfast said, "I've been thinking about you, and I'm certain
sure you're an authoress." The day, as usual, was glorious.
Think of November half through and scarcely even a cloud in the
sky, except the vermilion cloudlets which accompany the sun at
his rising and setting! They say that winter never "sets in"
there in the Foot Hills, but that there are spells of cold,
alternating with bright, hot weather, and that the snow never
lies on the ground so as to interfere with the feed of cattle.
Golden City rang with oaths and curses, especially at the depot.
Americans are given over to the most atrocious swearing, and the
blasphemous use of our Savior's name is peculiarly revolting.

Golden City stands at the mouth of Toughcuss, otherwise Clear
Creek Canyon, which many people think the grandest scenery in the
mountains, as it twists and turns marvellously, and its
stupendous sides are nearly perpendicular, while farther progress
is to all appearance continually blocked by great masses of rock
and piles of snow-covered mountains. Unfortunately, its sides
have been almost entirely denuded of timber, mining operations
consuming any quantity of it. The narrow-gauge, steel-grade
railroad, which runs up the canyon for the convenience of the
rich mining districts of Georgetown, Black Hawk, and Central
City, is a curiosity of engineering. The track has partly been
blasted out of the sides of the canyon, and has partly been
"built" by making a bed of stones in the creek itself, and laying
the track across them. I have never seen such churlishness and
incivility as in the officials of that railroad and the state
lines which connect with it, or met with such preposterous
charges. They have handsome little cars on the route, but though
the passengers paid full fare, they put us into a baggage car
because the season was over, and in order to see anything I was
obliged to sit on the floor at the door. The singular grandeur
cannot be described. It is a mere gash cut by the torrent,
twisted, walled, chasmed, weather stained with the most brilliant
coloring, generally dark with shadow, but its utter desolation
occasionally revealed by a beam of intense sunshine. A few
stunted pines and cedars, spared because of their inaccessiblity,
hung here and there out of the rifts. Sometimes the walls of the
abyss seemed to meet overhead, and then widening out, the rocks
assumed fantastic forms, all grandeur, sublimity, and almost
terror. After two hours of this, the track came to an end, and
the canyon widened sufficiently for a road, all stones, holes,
and sidings. There a great "Concord coach" waited for us,
intended for twenty passengers, and a mountain of luggage in
addition, and the four passengers without any luggage sat on the
seat behind the driver, so that the huge thing bounced and swung
upon the straps on which it was hung so as to recall the worst
horrors of New Zealand staging. The driver never spoke without
an oath, and though two ladies were passengers, cursed his
splendid horses the whole time. Formerly, even the most profane
men intermitted their profanity in the presence of women, but
they "have changed all that." Every one I saw up there seemed in
a bad temper. I suspect that all their "smart tricks" in mining
shares had gone wrong.

The road pursued the canyon to Idaho Springs, a fashionable
mountain resort in the summer, but deserted now, where we took a
superb team of six horses, with which we attained a height of
10,000 feet, and then a descent of 1,000 took us into Georgetown,
crowded into as remarkable a gorge as was ever selected for the
site of a town, the canyon beyond APPARENTLY terminating in
precipitous and inaccessible mountains, sprinkled with pines up
to the timber line, and thinly covered with snow. The area on
which it is possible to build is so circumcised and steep, and
the unpainted gable-ended houses are so perched here and there,
and the water rushes so impetuously among them, that it reminded
me slightly of a Swiss town. All the smaller houses are shored
up with young pines on one side, to prevent them from being blown
away by the fierce gusts which sweep the canyon. It is the only
town I have seen in America to which the epithet picturesque
could be applied. But truly, seated in that deep hollow in the
cold and darkness, it is in a terrible situation, with the alpine
heights towering round it. I arrived at three, but its sun had
set, and it lay in deep shadow. In fact, twilight seemed coming
on, and as I had been unable to get my circular notes cashed at
Denver, I had no money to stay over the next day, and much feared
that I should lose Green Lake, the goal of my journey. We drove
through the narrow, piled-up, irregular street, crowded with
miners standing in groups, or drinking and gaming under the
verandas, to a good hotel declivitously situated, where I at once
inquired if I could get to Green Lake. The landlord said he
thought not; the snow was very deep, and no one had been up for
five weeks, but for my satisfaction he would send to a stable and
inquire. The amusing answer came back, "If it's the English lady
traveling in the mountains, she can have a horse, but not any one

Letter XIII

The blight of mining--Green Lake--Golden
City--Benighted--Vertigo--Boulder Canyon--Financial straits--A
hard ride--The last cent--A bachelor's home--"Mountain Jim"--A
surprise--A night arrival--Making the best of it--Scanty fare.

BOULDER, November.

The answer regarding a horse (at the end of my former letter) was
given to the landlord outside the hotel, and presently he came in
and asked my name and if I were the lady who had crossed from
Link's to South Park by Tarryall Creek; so news travels fast. In
five minutes the horse was at the door, with a clumsy two-horned
side-saddle, and I started at once for the upper regions. It was
an exciting ride, much spiced with apprehension. The evening
shadows had darkened over Georgetown, and I had 2,000 feet to
climb, or give up Green Lake. I shall forget many things, but
never the awfulness and hugeness of the scenery. I went up a
steep track by Clear Creek, then a succession of frozen
waterfalls in a widened and then narrowed valley, whose frozen
sides looked 5,000 feet high. That is the region of enormous
mineral wealth in silver. There are the "Terrible" and other
mines whose shares you can see quoted daily in the share lists in
the Times, sometimes at cent per cent premium, and then down to
25 discount.

These mines, with their prolonged subterranean workings, their
stamping and crushing mills, and the smelting works which have
been established near them, fill the district with noise, hubbub,
and smoke by night and day; but I had turned altogether aside
from them into a still region, where each miner in solitude was
grubbing for himself, and confiding to none his finds or
disappointments. Agriculture restores and beautifies, mining
destroys and devastates, turning the earth inside out, making it
hideous, and blighting every green thing, as it usually blights
man's heart and soul. There was mining everywhere along that
grand road, with all its destruction and devastation, its
digging, burrowing, gulching, and sluicing; and up all along the
seemingly inaccessible heights were holes with their roofs log
supported, in which solitary and patient men were selling their
lives for treasure. Down by the stream, all among the icicles,
men were sluicing and washing, and everywhere along the heights
were the scars of hardly-passable trails, too steep even for
pack-jacks, leading to the holes, and down which the miner packs
the ore on his back. Many a heart has been broken for the few
finds which have been made along those hill sides. All the
ledges are covered with charred stumps, a picture of desolation,
where nature had made everything grand and fair. But even from
all this I turned. The last miner I saw gave me explicit
directions, and I left the track and struck upwards into the icy
solitudes--sheets of ice at first, then snow, over a foot deep,
pure and powdery, then a very difficult ascent through a pine
forest, where it was nearly dark, the horse tumbling about in
deep snowdrifts. But the goal was reached, and none too soon.

At a height of nearly 12,000 feet I halted on a steep declivity,
and below me, completely girdled by dense forests of pines, with
mountains red and glorified in the sunset rising above them, was
Green Lake, looking like water, but in reality a sheet of ice two
feet thick. From the gloom and chill below I had come up into
the pure air and sunset light, and the glory of the unprofaned
works of God. It brought to my mind the verse, "The darkness is
past, and the true light now shineth"; and, as if in commentary
upon it, were the hundreds and thousands of men delving in dark
holes in the gloom of the twilight below.

O earth, so full of dreary noises!
O men, with wailing in your voices,
O delved gold, the wailer's heap,
God strikes a silence through you all,
He giveth His beloved sleep.

It was something to reach that height and see the far off glory
of the sunset, and by it to be reminded that neither God nor His
sun had yet deserted the world. But the sun was fast going down,
and even as I gazed upon the wonderful vision the glory vanished,
and the peaks became sad and grey. It was strange to be the only
human being at that glacial altitude, and to descend again
through a foot of untrodden snow and over sloping sheets of ice
into the darkness, and to see the hill sides like a firmament of
stars, each showing the place where a solitary man in his hole
was delving for silver. The view, as long as I could see it, was
quite awful. It looked as if one could not reach Georgetown
without tumbling down a precipice. Precipices there were in
plenty along the road, skirted with ice to their verge. It was
the only ride which required nerve that I have taken in Colorado,
and it was long after dark when I returned from my exploit.

I left Georgetown at eight the next morning on the Idaho stage,
in glorious cold. In this dry air it is quite warm if there are
only a few degrees of frost. The sun does not rise in Georgetown
till eleven now; I doubt if it rises there at all in the winter!
After four hours' fearful bouncing, the baggage car again
received us, but this time the conductor, remarking that he
supposed I was just traveling to see the country, gave me his
chair and put it on the platform, so that I had an excellent view
of that truly sublime canyon. For economy I dined in a
restaurant in Golden City, and at three remounted my trusty
Birdie, intending to arrive here that night. The adventure I met
with is almost too silly to tell.

When I left Golden City it was a brilliant summer afternoon, and
not too hot. They could not give any directions at the stable,
and told me to go out on the Denver track till I met some one who
could direct me, which started me off wrong from the first.
After riding about two miles I met a man who told me I was all
wrong, and directed me across the prairie till I met another, who
gave me so many directions that I forgot them, and was
irretrievably lost. The afterglow, seen to perfection on the
open plain, was wonderful. Just as it grew dark I rode after a
teamster who said I was then four miles farther from Boulder than
when I left Golden, and directed me to a house seven miles off.
I suppose he thought I should know, for he told me to cross the
prairie till I came to a place where three tracks are seen, and
there to take the best-traveled one, steering all the time by the
north star. His directions did bring me to tracks, but it was
then so dark that I could see nothing, and soon became so dark
that I could not even see Birdie's ears, and was lost and
benighted. I rode on, hour after hour, in the darkness and
solitude, the prairie all round and a firmament of frosty stars
overhead. The prairie wolf howled now and then, and occasionally
the lowing of cattle gave me hope of human proximity. But there
was nothing but the lone wild plain. You can hardly imagine the
longing to see a light, to hear a voice, the intensely eerie
feeling of being alone in that vast solitude. It was freezing
very sharply and was very cold, and I was making up my mind to
steer all night for the pole-star, much fearing that I should be
brought up by one of the affluents of the Platte, or that Birdie
would tire, when I heard the undertoned bellowing of a bull,
which, from the snorting rooting up of earth, seemed to be
disputing the right of way, and the pony was afraid to pass.
While she was scuffling about, I heard a dog bark and a man
swear; then I saw a light, and in another minute found myself at
a large house, where I knew the people, only eleven miles from
Denver! It was nearly midnight, and light, warmth, and a good
bed were truly welcome.

You can form no idea of what the glory on the Plains is just
before sunrise. Like the afterglow, for a great height above the
horizon there is a shaded band of the most intense and glowing
orange, while the mountains which reflect the yet unrisen sun
have the purple light of amethysts. I left early, but soon lost
the track and was lost; but knowing that a sublime gash in the
mountains was Bear Canyon, quite near Boulder, I struck across
the prairie for it, and then found the Boulder track. "The
best-laid schemes of men and mice gang aft agley," and my
exploits came to an untimely end to-day. On arriving here,
instead of going into the mountains, I was obliged to go to bed
in consequence of vertigo, headache, and faintness, produced by
the intense heat of the sun. In all that weary land there was no
"shadow of a great rock" under which to rest. The gravelly,
baked soil reflected the fiery sun, and it was nearly maddening
to look up at the cool blue of the mountains, with their
stretches of pines and their deep indigo shadows. Boulder is a
hideous collection of frame
houses on the burning plain, but it aspires to be a "city" in
virtue of being a "distributing point" for the settlements up the
Boulder Canyon, and of the discovery of a coal seam.

LONGMOUNT, November.

I got up very early this morning, and on a hired horse went nine
miles up the Boulder Canyon, which is much extolled, but I was
greatly disappointed with everything except its superb wagon
road, and much disgusted with the laziness of the horse. A ride
of fifteen miles across the prairie brought me here early in the
afternoon, but of the budget of letters which I expected there is
not one. Birdie looks in such capital condition that my host
here can hardly believe that she has traveled over 500 miles. I
am feeling "the pinch of poverty" rather severely. When I have
paid my bill here I shall have exactly twenty-six cents left.
Evans was quite unable to pay the hundred dollars which he owed
me, and, to save themselves, the Denver banks, though they remain
open, have suspended payment, and would not
cash my circular notes. The financial straits are very serious,
and the unreasoning panic which has set in makes them worse. The
present state of matters is--nobody has any money, so nothing is
worth anything. The result to me is that, nolens volens, I must
go up to Estes Park, where I can live without ready money, and
remain there till things change for the better. It does not seem
a very hard fate! Long's Peak rises in purple gloom, and I long
for the cool air and unfettered life of the solitary blue hollow
at its base.

ESTES PARK, November 20.

Would that three notes of admiration were all I need give to my
grand, solitary, uplifted, sublime, remote, beast-haunted lair,
which seems more indescribable than ever; but you will wish to
know how I have sped, and I wish you to know my present singular
circumstances. I left Longmount at eight on Saturday morning,
rather heavily loaded, for in addition to my own luggage I was
asked to carry the mail-bag, which was heavy with newspapers.
Edwards, with his wife and family, were still believed to be
here. A heavy snow-storm was expected, and all the sky--that
vast dome which spans the Plains--was overcast; but over the
mountains it was a deep, still, sad blue, into which snowy peaks
rose sunlighted. It was a lonely, mournful-looking morning, but
when I reached the beautiful canyon of the St. Vrain, the sad
blue became brilliant, and the sun warm and scintillating. Ah,
how beautiful and incomparable the ride up here is, infinitely
more beautiful than the much-vaunted parts I have seen elsewhere.

There is, first, this beautiful hill-girdled valley of fair
savannas, through which the bright St. Vrain curves in and out
amidst a tangle of cotton-wood and withered clematis and Virginia
creeper, which two months ago made the valley gay with their
scarlet and gold. Then the canyon, with its
fantastically-stained walls; then the long ascent through
sweeping foot hills to the gates of rock at a height of 9,000
feet; then the wildest and most wonderful scenery for twenty
miles, in which you cross thirteen ranges from 9,000 to 11,000
feet high, pass through countless canyons and gulches, cross
thirteen dark fords, and finally descend, through M'Ginn's Gulch,
upon this, the gem of the Rocky Mountains. It was a weird ride.
I got on very slowly. The road is a hard one for any horse,
specially for a heavily-loaded one, and at the end of several
weeks of severe travel. When I had ridden fifteen miles I
stopped at the ranch where people usually get food, but it was
empty, and the next was also deserted. So I was compelled to go
to the last house, where two young men are "baching."

There I had to decide between getting a meal for myself or a feed
for the pony; but the young man, on hearing of my sore poverty,
trusted me "till next time." His house, for order and neatness,
and a sort of sprightliness of cleanliness--the comfort of
cleanliness without its severity--is a pattern to all women,
while the clear eyes and manly self-respect which the habit of
total abstinence gives in this country are a pattern to all men.
He cooked me a splendid dinner, with good tea. After dinner I
opened the mail-bag, and was delighted to find an accumulation of
letters from you; but I sat much too long there, forgetting that
I had twenty miles to ride, which could hardly be done in less
than six hours. It was then brilliant. I had not realized the
magnificence of that ride when I took it before, but the pony was
tired, and I could not hurry her, and the distance seemed
interminable, as after every range I crossed another range. Then
came a region of deep, dark, densely-wooded gulches, only a few
feet wide, and many fords, and from their cold depths I saw the
last sunlight fade from the brows of precipices 4,000 feet high.
It was eerie, as darkness came on, to wind in and out in the
pine-shadowed gloom, sometimes on ice, sometimes in snow, at the
bottom of these tremendous chasms. Wolves howled in all
directions. This is said to denote the approach of a storm.
During this twenty-mile ride I met a hunter with an elk packed on
his horse, and he told me not only that the Edwardses were at the
cabin yesterday, but that they were going to remain for two
weeks longer, no matter how uncongenial. The ride did seem
endless after darkness came on. Finally the last huge range was
conquered, the last deep chasm passed, and with an eeriness which
craved for human companionship, I rode up to "Mountain Jim's"
den, but no light shone through the chinks, and all was silent.
So I rode tediously down M'Ginn's Gulch, which was full of
crackings and other strange mountain noises, and was pitch dark,
though the stars were bright overhead.

Soon I heard the welcome sound of a barking dog. I supposed it
to denote strange hunters, but calling "Ring" at a venture, the
noble dog's large paws and grand head were in a moment on my
saddle, and he greeted me with all those inarticulate but
perfectly comprehensible noises with which dogs welcome their
human friends. Of the two men on horses who accompanied him, one
was his master, as I knew by the musical voice and grace of
manner, but it was too dark to see anyone, though he struck a
light to show me the valuable furs with which one of the horses
was loaded. The desperado was heartily glad to see me, and
sending the man and fur-laden horse on to his cabin, he turned
with me to Evans's; and as the cold was very severe, and Birdie
was very tired, we dismounted and walked the remaining three
miles. All my visions of a comfortable reception and good meal
after my long ride vanished with his first words. The Edwardses
had left for the winter on the previous morning, but had not
passed through Longmount; the cabin was dismantled, the stores
were low, and two young men, Mr. Kavan, a miner, and Mr. Buchan,
whom I was slightly acquainted with before, were "baching" there
to look after the stock until Evans, who was daily expected,
returned. The other settler and his wife had left the park, so
there was not a woman within twenty-five miles. A fierce wind
had arisen, and the cold was awful, which seemed to make matters
darker. I did not care in the least about myself. I could rough
it, and enjoy doing so, but I was very sorry for the young men,
who, I knew, would be much embarrassed by the sudden appearance
of a lady for an indefinite time. But the difficulty had to be
faced, and I walked in and took them by surprise as they were
sitting smoking by the fire in the living room, which was
dismantled, unswept, and wretched looking.

The young men did not show any annoyance, but exerted themselves
to prepare a meal, and courteously made Jim share it. After he
had gone, I boldly confessed my impecunious circumstances, and
told them that I must stay there till things changed, that I
hoped not to inconvenience them in any way, and that by dividing
the work among us they would be free to be out hunting. So we
agreed to make the best of it. (Our arrangements, which we
supposed would last only two or three days, extended over nearly
a month. Nothing could exceed the courtesy and good feeling
which these young men showed. It was a very pleasant time on the
whole and when we separated they told me that though they were
much "taken aback" at first, they felt at last that we could get
on in the same way for a year, in which I cordially agreed.)
Sundry practical difficulties had to be faced and overcome.
There was one of the common spring mattresses of the country in
the little room which opened from the living room, but nothing
upon it. This was remedied by making a large bag and filling it
with hay. Then there were neither sheets, towels, nor
table-clothes. This was irremediable, and I never missed the
first or last. Candles were another loss, and we had only one
paraffin lamp. I slept all night in spite of a gale which blew
all Sunday and into Monday afternoon, threatening to lift the
cabin from the ground, and actually removing part of the roof
from the little room between the kitchen and living room, in
which we used to dine. Sunday was brilliant, but nearly a
hurricane, and I dared not stir outside the cabin. The parlor
was two inches deep in the mud from the roof. We nominally
divide the cooking. Mr. Kavan makes the best bread I ever ate;
they bring in wood and water, and wash the supper things, and I
"do" my room and the parlor, wash the breakfast things, and
number of etceteras. My room is easily "done," but the parlor
is a never-ending business. I have swept shovelfuls of mud out
of it three times to-day. There is nothing to dust it with but a
buffalo's tail, and every now and then a gust descends the open
chimney and drives the wood ashes all over the room. However, I
have found an old shawl which answers for a table-cloth, and have
made our "parlor" look a little more habitable. Jim came in
yesterday in a silent mood, and sat looking vacantly into the
fire. The young men said that this mood was the usual precursor
of an "ugly fit."

Food is a great difficulty. Of thirty milch cows only one is
left, and she does not give milk enough for us to drink. The
only meat is some pickled pork, very salt and hard, which I
cannot eat, and the hens lay less than one egg a day. Yesterday
morning I made some rolls, and made the last bread into a
bread-and-butter pudding, which we all enjoyed. To-day I found
part of a leg of beef hanging in the wagon shed, and we were
elated with the prospect of fresh meat, but on cutting into it we
found it green and uneatable. Had it not been for some tea which
was bestowed upon me at the inn at Longmount we should have had
none. In this superb air and physically active life I can eat
everything but pickled pork. We breakfast about nine, dine at
two, and have supper at seven, but our MENU never varies.

To-day I have been all alone in the park, as the men left to hunt
elk after breakfast, after bringing in wood and water. The sky
is brilliant and the light intense, or else the solitude would be
oppressive. I keep two horses in the corral so as to be able to
explore, but except Birdie, who is turned out, none of the
animals are worth much now from want of shoes, and tender feet.

Letter XIV

A dismal ride--A desperado's tale--"Lost! Lost! Lost!"--Winter
glories--Solitude--Hard times--Intense cold--A pack of
wolves--The beaver dams--Ghastly scenes--Venison steaks--Our


I must attempt to put down the trifling events of each day just
as they occur. The second time that I was left alone Mr. Nugent
came in looking very black, and asked me to ride with him to see
the beaver dams on the Black Canyon. No more whistling or
singing, or talking to his beautiful mare, or sparkling repartee.

His mood was as dark as the sky overhead, which was black with
an impending snowstorm. He was quite silent, struck his horse
often, started off on a furious gallop, and then throwing his
mare on her haunches close to me, said, "You're the first man or
woman who's treated me like a human being for many a year." So
he said in this dark mood, but Mr. and Mrs. Dewy, who took a very
deep interest in his welfare, always treated him as a rational,
intelligent gentleman, and in his better moments he spoke of them
with the warmest appreciation. "If you want to know," he
continued, "how nearly a man can become a devil, I'll tell you
now." There was no choice, and we rode up the canyon, and I
listened to one of the darkest tales of ruin I have ever heard or

Its early features were very simple. His father was a British
officer quartered at Montreal, of a good old Irish family. From
his account he was an ungovernable boy, imperfectly educated, and
tyrannizing over a loving but weak mother. When seventeen years
old he saw a young girl at church whose appearance he described
as being of angelic beauty, and fell in love with her with all
the intensity of an uncontrolled nature. He saw her three times,
but scarcely spoke to her. On his mother opposing his wish and
treating it as a boyish folly, he took to drink "to spite her,"
and almost as soon as he was eighteen, maddened by the girl's
death, he ran away from home, entered the service of the Hudson's
Bay Company, and remained in it for several years, only leaving
it because he found even that lawless life too strict for him.
Then, being as I suppose about twenty-seven, he entered the
service of the United States Government, and became one of the
famous Indian scouts of the Plains, distinguishing himself by
some of the most daring deeds on record, and some of the
bloodiest crimes. Some of these tales I have heard before, but
never so terribly told. Years must have passed in that service,
till he became a character known through all the West, and much
dreaded for his readiness to take offence, and his equal
readiness with his revolver. Vain, even in his dark mood, he
told me that he was idolized by women, and that in his worst
hours he was always chivalrous to good women. He described
himself as riding through camps in his scout's dress with a red
scarf round his waist, and sixteen golden curls, eighteen inches
long, hanging over his shoulders. The handsome, even superbly
handsome, side of his face was towards me as he spoke. As a
scout and as an armed escort of emigrant parties he was evidently
implicated in all the blood and broil of a lawless region and
period, and went from bad to worse, varying his life by drunken
sprees, which brought nothing but violence and loss.

The narrative seemed to lack some link, for I next found him on a
homestead in Missouri, from whence he came to Colorado a few
years ago. There, again, something was dropped out, but I
suspect, and not without reason, that he joined one or more of
those gangs of "border ruffians" which for so long raided through
Kansas, perpetrating such massacres and outrages as that of the
Marais du Cygne. His fame for violence and ruffianism preceded
him into Colorado, where his knowledge of and love of the
mountains have earned him the sobriquet he now bears. He has a
squatter's claim and forty head of cattle, and is a successful
trapper besides, but envy and vindictiveness are raging within
him. He gets money, goes to Denver, and spends large sums in the
maddest dissipation, making himself a terror, and going beyond
even such desperadoes as "Texas Jack" and "Wild Bill"; and when
the money is done returns to his mountain den, full of hatred and
self-scorn, till the next time. Of course I cannot give details.

The story took three hours to tell, and was crowded with terrific
illustrations of a desperado's career, told with a rush of wild
eloquence that was truly thrilling.

When the snow, which for some time had been falling, compelled
him to break off and guide me to a sheltered place from which I
could make my own way back again, he stopped his horse and said,
"Now you see a man who has made a devil of himself! Lost! Lost!
Lost! I believe in God. I've given Him no choice but to put me
with 'the devil and his angel.' I'm afraid to die. You've
stirred the better nature in me too late. I can't change. If
ever a man were a slave, I am. Don't speak to me of repentance
and reformation. I can't reform. Your voice reminded me of
-----." Then in feverish tones, "How dare you ride with me? You
won't speak to me again, will you?" He made me promise to keep
one or two things secret whether he were living or dead, and I
promised, for I had no choice; but they come between me and the
sunshine sometimes, and I wake at night to think of them. I wish
I had been spared the regret and excitement of that afternoon. A
less ungovernable nature would never have spoken as he did, nor
told me what he did; but his proud, fierce soul all poured itself
out then, with hatred and self-loathing, blood on his hands and
murder in his heart, though even then he could not be altogether
other than a gentleman, or altogether divest himself of
fascination, even when so tempestuously revealing the darkest
points of his character. My soul dissolved in pity for his dark,
lost, self-ruined life, as he left me and turned away in the
blinding storm to the Snowy Range, where he said he was going to
camp out for a fortnight; a man of great abilities, real genius,

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