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The Lake of the Sky by George Wharton James

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Cascade Lake and Emerald Bay glaciers run down to the margin
of Lake Tahoe. An examination of this portion of the Lake
shore shows that _they run far into the Lake_--that
the Lake has been filled in, two or three miles, by glacial
debris. On the eastern margin of Lake Tahoe, the water, close
along the shore, is comparatively shallow, the shore rocky,
and along the shore-line, above and below the water, are
scattered great bowlders, probably dropped by the main
glacier. But on the west margin of the Lake the shoreline is
composed wholly of moraine matter, the water very deep close
to shore, and the bottom composed of precisely similar moraine
matter. In rowing along the shore, I found that the exquisite
ultramarine blue of the deep water extends to within 100 to
150 feet of the shore-line. At this distance, the bottom could
barely be seen. Judging from the experiments of my brother,
Professor John Le Conte, according to which a white object
could be seen at a depth of 115 feet, I suppose the depth along
the line of junction of the ultramarine blue and the emerald
green water is at least 100 feet. The slope of the bottom is,
therefore, nearly, or quite, 45 degrees. It seems, in fact, a
direct continuation beneath the water of the moraine slope. The
materials, also, which may be examined with ease through the
wonderfully transparent water, are exactly the same as that
composing the moraine, viz: earth, pebbles, and bowlders
of all sizes, some of them of enormous dimensions. It seems
almost certain that _the margin of the great Lake Valley
glacier, and of the Lake itself when this glacier had melted
and the tributaries first began to run into the Lake, was the
series of rocky points at the head of the three little lakes,
about three or four miles back from the present margin of the
main Lake; and that all lakeward from these points has been
filled in and made land by the action of the three glaciers
described_. At that time Rubicon Point was a rocky
promontory, projecting far into the Lake, beyond which was
another wide bay, which has been similarly filled in by
debris brought down by glaciers north of this point. The long
moraines of these glaciers are plainly visible from the Lake
surface; but I have not examined them. Thus, all the land, for
three or four miles back from the Lake-margin, both north and
south of Rubicon Point, is composed of _confluent glacial
deltas_, and on these deltas the moraine ridges are the
_natural levees_ of these ice-streams.

_e. Parallel Moraines_. The moraines described above are
peculiar and almost unique. Nowhere, except about Lake Tahoe
and near Lake Mono, have I seen moraines in the form of
_parallel ridges_ lying on a level plain and terminating
abruptly _without any signs of transverse connection
(terminal moraine) at the lower end_. Nor have I been
able to find any description of similar moraines in other
countries. They are not terminal moraines, for the glacial
pathway is open below. They are not lateral moraines, for
these are borne on the glacier itself, or else stranded on the
deep canyon sides. Neither do I think moraines of this kind
would be formed by a glacier emerging from a steep
narrow canyon and running out on a level plain; for in such
cases, as soon as the confinement of the bounding walls is
removed, the ice stream spreads out into an _ice lake_.
It does so as naturally and necessarily as does water under
similar circumstances. The deposit would be nearly transverse
to the direction of the motion, and, therefore, more or less
crescentic. There must be something peculiar in the conditions
under which these parallel ridges were formed. I believe the
conditions were as described below.

We have already given reason to think that the original margin
of the Lake, in glacial times, was three or four miles back
from the present margin, along the series of rocky points
against which the ridges abut; and that all the flat plain
thence to the present margin is made land. If so, then it is
evident that at that time the three glaciers described ran
far out into the Lake, until reaching deep water, where they
formed icebergs. Under these conditions, it is plain that the
pressure on this, the subaqueous portion of the glacial bed,
would be small, and become less and less until it becomes
nothing at the point where the icebergs float away. The
pressure on the bed being small, not enough to overcome the
cohesion of ice, there would be no spreading. _A glacier
running down a steep narrow canyon and out into the deep
water, and forming icebergs at its point, would maintain its
slender, tongue-like form, and drop its debris on each side,
forming parallel ridges, and would not form a terminal moraine
because the materials not dropped previously would be carried
off by icebergs_. In the subsequent retreat of such a
glacier, imperfect terminal moraines might be formed higher
up, where the water is not deep enough to form icebergs. It
is probable, too, that since the melting of the great "mer de
glace" and the formation of the Lake, the level of the water
has gone down considerably, by the deepening of the Truckee
Canyon outlet by means of erosion. Thus not only did the
glaciers retreat from the Lake, but also the Lake from the

As already stated, similar parallel moraine ridges are formed
by the glaciers which ran down the steep eastern slope of the
Sierras, and out on the level plains of Mono. By far the most
remarkable are those formed by Bloody
most Canyon Glacier, described by me in a former paper. These
moraines are six or seven miles long, 300 to 400 feet high,
and the parallel crests not more than a mile asunder. There,
also, as at Lake Tahoe, we find them terminating abruptly in
the plain without any sign of terminal moraine. But higher up
there are small, imperfect, transverse moraines, made during
the subsequent retreat, behind which water has collected,
forming lakes and marshes. But observe: these moraines are
also _in the vicinity of a great lake_; and we have
abundant evidence, in very distinct terraces described by
Whitney[4] and observed by myself, that in glacial times the
_water stood at least six hundred feet above the present
level_. In fact, there can be no doubt that at that time
the waters of Mono Lake (or a much greater body of water
of which Mono is the remnant) washed against the bold rocky
points from which the debris ridges start. _The glaciers in
this vicinity, therefore, must have_ run out into the water
six or seven miles, and doubtless formed icebergs at their
point, and, therefore, formed there no terminal moraine.

[Footnote 4: _Geological Survey of California_, Vol. I, 451.]

That the glaciers described about Lake Tahoe and Lake Mono ran
out far into the water and formed icebergs I think is
quite certain, and that parallel moraines open below are
characteristic signs of such conditions I also think nearly

_f. Glacial Erosion_. My observations on glacial pathways
in the High Sierra, and especially about Lake Tahoe, have
greatly modified my views as to the nature of glacial erosion.
Writers on this subject seem to regard glacial erosion as
mostly, if not wholly, a _grinding_ and _scoring_;
the debris of this erosion as rock-meal; the great bowlders,
which are found in such immense quantities in the terminal
deposit, as derived wholly from the crumbling cliffs above the
glacial surface; the _rounded_ bowlders, which are often
the most numerous, as derived in precisely the same way, only
they have been engulfed by crevasses, or between the sides of
the glacier and the bounding wall, and thus carried between
the moving ice and its rocky bed, as between
the upper and nether millstone. In a word, all bowlders,
whether angular or rounded, are supposed to owe their
_origin_ or _separation_ and _shaping_ to
glacial agency.

Now, if such be the true view of glacial erosion, evidently
its effect in mountain sculpture must be small indeed.
_Roches moutonnees_ are recognized by all as the most
universal and characteristic sign of a glacial bed. Sometimes
these beds are only imperfect _moutonnees_, i.e., they
are composed of _broken angular surface with only the points
and edges planed off_. Now, _moutonnees_ surfaces
always, and especially angular surfaces with only points and
edges beveled, show that the erosion by grinding has been only
very superficial. They show that if the usual view of glacial
erosion be correct, the great canyons, so far from being
_formed_, were only very _slightly modified_
by glacial agency. But I am quite satisfied from my
own observations, that this is not the only _nor the
principal_ mode of glacial erosion. I am convinced that
a glacier, by its enormous pressure and resistless onward
movement, is _constantly breaking off large blocks_ from
its bed and bounding walls. Its erosion is not only a grinding
and scoring, but also a _crushing and breaking_. It
makes by its erosion not only rock-meal, but also large
_rock-chips_. Thus, a glacier is constantly breaking off
blocks and making angular surfaces, and then grinding off the
angles both of the fragments and the bed, and thus forming
rounded bowlders and _moutonnees_ surfaces. Its erosion
is a constant process of alternate _rough hewing and
planing_. If the rock be full of fissures, and the glacier
deep and heavy, the rough hewing so predominates that the
plane has only time to touch the corners a little before the
rock is again broken and new angles formed. This is the case
high up on the _canyon walls_, at the head of Cascade
Lake and Emerald Bay, but also in the _canyon beds wherever
the slate is approached_. If, on the other hand, the rock
is very hard and solid, and the glacier be not very deep and
heavy, the planing will predominate over the rough hewing, and
a smooth, gentle billowy surface is the result. This is the
case in the hard granite forming the beds of all the canyons
high up, but especially high up the canyon of Fallen Leaf Lake
(Glen Alpine Basin), where the canyon spreads out and extensive
but comparatively thin snow sheets have been at work. In some
cases _on the cliffs_, subsequent disintegration of a
glacier-polished surface may have given the appearance of
angular surfaces with beveled corners; but, in other cases,
in the _bed of the canyon_, and on elevated level places,
where large loosened blocks could not be removed by water nor
by gravity, I observed the same appearances, under conditions
which forbid this explanation. Mr. Muir, also, in his
_Studies in the Sierra_, gives many examples of undoubted
rock-breaking by ancient glaciers.

_Angular_ blocks are mostly, therefore, the ruins of
crumbling cliffs, borne on the surface of the glacier and
deposited at its foot. Many _rounded_ bowlders also have
a similar origin, having found their way to the bed of the
glacier through crevasses, or along the sides of the glacier.
But _most of the rounded bowlders_ in the terminal
deposit of _great glaciers_ are fragments _torn off by
the glacier itself_. The proportion of rounded bowlders--of
upper or air-formed--to nether or glacier-formed fragments,
depends on the depth and extent of the ice-current. In the
case of the universal ice-sheet (ice-flood) there are, of
course, no upper formed or angular blocks at all--there is
nothing borne on the surface. The moraine, therefore, consists
wholly of nether-formed and nether-borne severely triturated
materials (_moraine profunde_). The bowlders are, of
course, all rounded. This is one extreme. In the case of the
thin moving ice-fields, the _glacierets_ which still
linger among the highest peaks and shadiest hollows of the
Sierra, on the other hand, the moraines are composed _wholly
of angular blocks_. This is the character of the terminal
moraine of Mount Lyell glacier. These glacierets are too thin
and feeble and torpid to break off fragments--they can
only _bear_ away what falls on them. This is the
other extreme. But in the case of ordinary
glaciers--ice-streams--the bowlders of the terminal deposit
are mixed; the angular or upper-formed predominating in the
small existing glaciers of temperate climates, but the rounded
or nether-formed greatly predominating in the grand old
glaciers of which we have been
speaking. In the terminal deposits of these, especially in the
materials pushed into the Lake, it is somewhat difficult
to find a bowlder which has not been subjected to severe



This is not to be a description of the scores of Glacial Lakes found
in the Tahoe region, but an answer to the questions so often
asked about practically all of these lakes, as to their origin and

Rich as our Sierras are in treasures none are more precious than
these. They give one pleasing surprises, often when least expected.
For while the tree-clusters, the mountain-peaks, and the glowing
snow-banks throw themselves into our view by their elevated positions,
the retiring lakes, secluded, modest, hide their beauty from us until
we happen to climb up to, or above, them.

From the higher summits how wonderfully they appear. Let the eye
follow a fruitful branch of an apple, pear or peach. How the leaves,
the stem, the fruit occur, in sure but irregular order. It is just
so with the glacial lakes of the Sierras. They are the fruit of the
streams that flow from the glacial fountains. They lie on rude and
unexpected granite shelves,--as Le Conte Lake; under the shadow of
towering peaks,--as Gilmore Lake; on bald glacier-gouged and polished
tables,--as those of Desolation Valley; embosomed in deep woods,--as
Fallen Leaf, Heather and Cascade; in the rocky recesses of sloping
canyons,--as Susie, Lucile and the Angoras; hidden in secret recesses
of giant granite walls,--as Eagle; or sprawling in the open,--as Loon,
Spider, etc.

What a variety of sizes, shapes and characteristics they present.
There are no two alike, yet they are nearly all one in their
attractive beauty, in the purity of their waters, and in the glory,
majesty, sublimity and beauty mirrored on their placid faces.

In poetic fashion, yet with scientific accuracy, John Muir thus
describes their origin in his _Mountains of California_, a book
every Tahoe lover should possess:

When a mountain lake is born,--when, like a young eye, it
first opens to the light,--it is an irregular, expressionless
crescent, inclosed in banks of rock and ice,--bare, glaciated
rock on the lower side, the rugged snout of a glacier on the
upper. In this condition it remains for many a year, until at
length, toward the end of some auspicious cluster of seasons,
the glacier recedes beyond the upper margin of the basin,
leaving it open from shore to shore for the first time,
thousands of years after its conception beneath the glacier
that excavated its basin. The landscape, cold and bare, is
reflected in its pure depths; the winds ruffle its glassy
surface, and the sun thrills it with throbbing spangles,
while its waves begin to lap and murmur around its leafless
shores,--sun-spangles during the day and reflected stars
at night its only flowers, the winds and the snow its only
visitors. Meanwhile, the glacier continues to recede, and
numerous rills, still younger than the lake itself, bring
down glacier-mud, sand-grains, and pebbles, giving rise to
margin-rings and plats of soil. To these fresh soil-beds come
many a waiting plant. First, a hardy carex with arching
leaves and a spike of brown flowers; then, as the seasons grow
warmer, and the soil-beds deeper and wider, other sedges take
their appointed places, and these are joined by blue gentians,
daisies, dodecatheons, violets, honey-worts, and many a lowly
moss. Shrubs also hasten in time to the new gardens,--kalmia
with its glossy leaves and purple flowers, the arctic willow,
making soft woven carpets, together with the healthy bryanthus
and cassiope, the fairest and dearest of them all. Insects
now enrich the air, frogs pipe cheerily in the shallows, soon
followed by the ouzel, which is the first bird to visit a
glacier lake, as the sedge is the first of plants.
So the young lake grows in beauty, becoming more and more
humanly lovable from century to century. Groves of aspen
spring up, and hardy pines, and the hemlock spruce, until it
is richly overshadowed and embowered. But while its shores
are becoming enriched, the soil-beds creep out with incessant
growth, contracting its area, while the lighter mud-particles
deposited on the bottom cause it to grow shallower, until at
length the last remnant of the lake vanishes,--closed forever
in ripe and natural old age. And now its feeding-stream goes
winding on without halting through the new gardens and groves
that have taken its place.

The length of the life of any lake depends ordinarily upon the
capacity of its basin, as compared with the carrying power of
the streams that flow into it, the character of the rocks over
which these streams flow, and the relative position of the
lake toward other lakes. In a series whose basins lie in the
same canyon, and are fed by one and the same main stream,
the uppermost will, of course, vanish first unless some other
lake-filling agent comes in to modify the result; because at
first it receives nearly all of the sediments that the stream
brings down, only the finest of the mud-particles being
carried through the highest of the series to the next below.
Then the next higher, and the next would be successively
filled, and the lowest would be the last to vanish. But this
simplicity as to duration is broken in upon in various ways,
chiefly through the action of side-streams that enter the
lower lakes direct. For, notwithstanding many of these side
tributaries are quite short, and, during late summer, feeble,
they all become powerful torrents in spring-time when the
snow is melting, and carry not only sand and pine-needles, but
large trunks and bowlders tons in weight, sweeping them down
their steeply inclined channels and into the lake basins with
astounding energy. Many of these side affluents also have
the advantage of access to the main lateral moraines of the
vanished glacier that occupied the canyon, and upon these they
draw for lake-filling material, while the main trunk stream
flows mostly over clean glacier pavements, where but little
moraine matter is ever left for them to carry. Thus a small
rapid stream with abundance of loose transportable material
within its reach may fill up an extensive basin in a few centuries,
while a large perennial trunk stream, flowing over clean,
enduring pavements, though ordinarily a hundred times larger,
may not fill a smaller basin in thousands of years.

[Illustration: Tamarack and Echo Lakes]

[Illustration: Cascade Lake, Near the Automobile Bouldvard, Lake Tahoe]

[Illustration: Memorial Cross at Donner Lake]

Many striking examples of these successive processes may be seen in
the Tahoe region, as, for instance, Squaw Valley, which lies between
the spurs of Squaw Peak and Granite Chief. This was undoubtedly
scooped out by a glacier that came down from Squaw Peak and Granite
Chief. The course of the ice-sheet was down to the Truckee River.
When the glacier began to shrink it left its terminal moraine as a
dam between the basin above and the river below. In due time, as the
glacier finally receded to a mere bank of half-glacierized snow on the
upper portions of the two peaks, the basin filled up with water and
thus formed a lake. Slowly the sand and rocky debris from the peaks
filled up the lake, and in the course of time a break was made in
the moraine, so that the creek flowed over or through it and the lake
ceased to exist, while the meadow came into existence.



Closely allied to Lake Tahoe by its near proximity, its situation on
the Emigrant Gap automobile road from Sacramento to Tahoe, and that
it is seen from Mt. Rose, Mt. Watson, and many Tahoe peaks, is Dormer
Lake,--lake of tragic memories in the early day pioneer history of
this region.

It was in 1846 that James T. Reed, of Springfield, Ill., determined to
move to California. This land of promise was then a Mexican province,
but Reed carefully and thoroughly had considered the question and
had decided that, for his family's good, it was well to emigrate. He
induced two other Illinois families to accompany him, those of George
and Jacob Donner. Thursday, April 15th, 1846, the party started, full
of high hopes for the future. The story of how they met with others
bound for California or Oregon, at Independence, Mo., journeyed
together over the plains and prairies to Fort Hall, where Lansford W.
Hastings, either in person or by his "Open Letter," led part of the
band to take his new road, which ultimated in dire tragedy, is well

The Oregon division of the divided party took the right-hand trail,
while the other took the left-hand to Fort Bridger. It is the
experiences of this latter party with which we are concerned.
Misfortune came to them thick and fast from this time on. The wagons
were stalled in Weber Canyon and had to be hauled bodily up the steep
cliffs to the plateau above; some of their stock ran away, after
heartbreaking struggles over the Salt Lake desert; mirages intensified
their burning thirst by their disappointing lure; Indians threatened
them, and finally, to add despair to their wretchedness, a quarrel
arose in which Mr. Reed, in self-defence, killed one of the drivers,
named Snyder. Reed was banished from the party under circumstances of
unjustifiable severity which amounted to inhuman cruelty, and his wife
and helpless children, the oldest of them, Virginia, only twelve years
of age, had to take the rest of the journey without the presence of
their natural protector. Food supplies began to give out, the snow
fell earlier than usual and added to their difficulties, and before
they reached the region of the Truckee River they were compelled to
go on short rations. Then, under suspicious circumstances one of the
party, Wolfinger, was lost, and though his wife was informed that he
had been murdered by Indians, there was always a doubt in the minds of
some as to whether that explanation were the true one. On the 19th
of October, an advance guard that had gone on to California for food,
returned, bringing seven mules ladened with flour and jerked beef. The
story of this trip I have recounted more fully in the book _Heroes
of California_. Without this additional food the party never could
have survived. On the 22nd they crossed the Truckee River for the
forty-ninth time.

Heavy snow now began to intercept their weary way. They were finally
compelled to take refuge in an abandoned cabin near the shore of what
is now known as Donner Lake, and there, under circumstances of horror
and terror that can never fully be comprehended and appreciated, the
devoted men, women and children were imprisoned in the snow until the
first relief party reached them, February 19th, with scant provisions,
brought in at life's peril on snowshoes. A "Forlorn Hope" had tried to
force its passage over the snowy heights. Fifteen brave men and women
determined to see if they could not win their way over and send
back help. Out of the fifteen seven only survived and reached the
Sacramento Valley, and they were compelled to sustain life by eating
the flesh of those who had perished.

The second relief party was organized by Mr. Reed,--the banished
leader--and thirty-one of the party were still in camp at Donner Lake
when he arrived, with nine stalwart men to help, on March 1st. On the
3rd nine of them left, with seventeen of the starving emigrants, but
they were caught in a fearful snow-storm as they crossed the summit,
and ten miles below were compelled to go into camp. Their provisions
gave out, Mrs. Graves died, leaving an emaciated babe in arms and
three other children, one a five-year-old, who died the next day.
Isaac Donner died the third night. Reed and Greenwood, carrying Reed's
two children, Mattie and James Jr., with one of the survivors who
could walk, now struggled down the mountain in the hope that they
could reach help to go back and finish the rescue work. These met
Mr. Woodworth who organized the third relief party, of seven men, who
returned to "Starved Camp," to find the survivors begging piteously
for something to eat. This relief party divided into two parts--one to
go over the summit to give help to the needy there, the other to get
the "Starved Camp" remnant to safety. The first section succeeded in
their mission of mercy and a few days later caught up with the other
section from Starved Camp.

Mr. C.F. McGlashan, formerly editor of the _Truckee Republican_,
has written a graphic account, with great care and desire for
accuracy, of the complete expedition, which gives the heart-rending
story with completeness, and I expect to publish ere long the personal
story of Virginia Reed Murphy, who is still alive, one of the few
survivors of the ill-fated party.

[Illustration: The Steamer at the Wharf, Tahoe Tavern, Lake Tahoe]

[Illustration: Donner Lake, on the Automobile Highway from Sacramento
to Truckee and Lake Tahoe]

[Illustration: The Canyon of the Truckee River in Winter]

[Illustration: Automobiling along the Picturesque Truckee River,
on the way to Lake Tahoe]

Through privations and hardships untold the survivors were ultimately
enabled to reach Sutter's Fort, only to find the most vile and fearful
stories set in circulation about them. Four separate relief parties
were sent from California, and their adventures were almost as tragic
as those of the sufferers they sought to help. Bret Harte, in his
_Gabriel Conroy_, has told much--though in the exaggerated and
unjust form the stories were first circulated--of the Donner tragedy,
and it has been made the subject of much newspaper and other writing
and discussion.

An unusual trip that can be taken from Tahoe Tavern is down to the
foot of Donner Lake and then, turning to the left, follow the old
emigrant and stage-road. It has not been used for fifty years, but it
is full of interest. There are many objects that remain to tell of its
fascinating history. Over it came many who afterwards became pioneers
in hewing out this new land from the raw material of which lasting
commonwealths are made. Turning south to Cold Stream, it passes by
Summit Valley on to Starved Camp. The stumps of the trees cut down by
the unfortunate pioneers are still standing.

It was always a difficult road to negotiate, the divide between Mt.
Lincoln and Anderson Peak being over 7500 feet high. But those heroes
of 1848-49 made it, triumphing over every barrier and winning for
themselves what Joaquin Miller so poetically has accorded them,
where he declares that "the snow-clad Sierras are their everlasting

This road is now, in places, almost obliterated. One section for three
miles is grown up. Trees and chaparral cover it and hide it from the
face of any but the most studiously observant. When the road that
takes to the north of Donner Lake was built in 1861-62 and goes
directly and on an easier grade by Emigrant Gap to Dutch Flat, this
road by Cold Stream was totally abandoned. For years the county road
officials have ignored its existence, and now it is as if it never had
been, save for its memories and the fragments of wagons, broken and
abandoned in the fierce conflict with stern Nature, and suggesting
the heart-break and struggle the effort to reach California caused in
those early days.



As is well known, the Truckee River is the only outlet to Lake Tahoe.
This outlet is on the northwest side of the Lake, between Tahoe City
and Tahoe Tavern, and is now entirely controlled by the concrete dam
and head-gates referred to in the chapter on "Public uses of the Water
of Lake Tahoe."

When Fremont came down from Oregon in 1844, he named the river
_Salmon Trout River_, from the excellent fish found therein, but
the same year, according to Angel, in his _History of Nevada_, a
party of twenty-three men, enthused by the glowing accounts they had
heard of California, left Council Bluffs, May 20th, crossed the plains
in safety, and reached the Humboldt River. Here an Indian, named
Truckee, presented himself to them and offered to become their
guide. After questioning him closely, they engaged him, and as they
progressed, found that all his statements were verified. He soon
became a great favorite among them, and when they reached the lower
crossing of the river (now Wadsworth), they were so pleased by the
pure water and the abundance of the fish to which he directed them,
that they named the stream "Truckee" in his honor.

This Capt. Truckee was the chief of the Paiutis, and the father of
Winnemucca (sometimes known as Poito), and the grandfather of Sarah
Winnemucca Hopkins, long known in Boston and other eastern cities,
where she lectured under the patronage of Mrs. Horace Mann, Mrs. Ole
Bull, Miss Longfellow, and other prominent women, as the Princess
Sallie. When I first went to Nevada, over thirty-three years ago,
I soon got to know her and her father, Winnemucca, and met them

Sarah always claimed that Truckee and Fremont were great friends and
that it was the Pathfinder who named the river after her grandfather,
but nowhere in his _Report_ of the 1843-44 Expedition does he
mention Truckee, and he called the river the "Salmon Trout River";
and this name he retained both in the report and map published in his
_Memoirs of My Life_, Vol. I only of which was issued by Belford,
Clarke and Company, of Chicago, in 1887.

Hence Sallie is undoubtedly mistaken in this regard. But on several
points she is correct, and too great emphasis cannot be laid upon
these facts. They are, I, that Truckee guided several emigrant
parties, even as far as Sutter's Fort, California (where Sacramento,
the Capital of the State, now stands); II, that he was always
friendly, true and honest in his dealings with the whites; III, that
had the emigrants and settlers in Nevada treated him as honestly as he
did them there would never have been any conflicts between the Paiutis
and the whites; IV, that when the latter first came to the country he
called councils of his people and bade them welcome the newcomers with
open arms.

He died just as the wrongs inflicted upon the Paiutis were making them
desperate and resolved on war. Though his son, Winnemucca, is well
known never openly to have waged war against the whites, it was
thoroughly understood that secretly he favored it. But had his father
lived and retained his health and power there is little doubt but that
the open conflict would have been averted, and many precious human
lives on both sides saved.

The Truckee River has its rise in Lake Tahoe, flows northward and
breaks through the Mount Pluto ridge in a narrow canyon, one thousand
to two thousand feet in depth. While the canyon is narrow and its
slopes, especially on the east, are rocky and steep, it is not exactly
gorge-like, except for the space of a mile or so, a short distance
below Tahoe. For twelve miles the river follows a northerly course,
and it is then joined by Donner Creek flowing from Donner Lake.
The united streams then turn eastward and take a course across the
northern end of the gravelly flat of Martis Valley, in a channel two
hundred to two-hundred-fifty feet below the level of the plain. At
Boca it cuts through the eastern range with a canyon one thousand to
three thousand five hundred feet in depth and emerges on the plains
of Nevada between Verdi and Reno. It returns again to the north below
Wadsworth, having run sixty-nine miles from Donner Creek, and then,
flowing sixteen more miles, it discharges into Pyramid Lake. At Tahoe
the river begins at an elevation of 6,225 feet above sea level; at
Pyramid the level is 4,890 feet, thus giving the river a fall of 1,335
feet in ninety-seven miles.

The Truckee River receives a number of large tributaries; the
principal ones being Little Truckee River and Prosser Creek, the
former heading in Webber Lake, the latter in the main range of the
Sierras, most of its sources lying in small lakes held in hollows and
basins excavated by glaciers.

Until it was contaminated by the refuse of civilization its waters
were pure and healthful, but legal enactments have been necessary to
protect the stream from sawdust and other pollutions.

As elsewhere explained the Truckee River being the only outlet of Lake
Tahoe, and therefore its natural outflow channel, together with the
facts that its origin is in California and it then flows into Nevada,
and that part of Lake Tahoe is in each state, has helped complicate
the solution of the question as to who is entitled to the surplus
waters of the Lake. This is discussed somewhat in a later chapter
devoted to the subject.

It may be interesting to recall that in 1900 Mr. A.W. Von Schmidt,
President of the _Lake Tahoe and San Francisco Water Works_,
offered to sell to the City of San Francisco certain rights to the
water of Lake Tahoe, the dam at the outlet, contract for a deed to two
and a half acres of land on which the outlet dam was constructed, a
diverting dam in the Truckee River, a patent to the land (forty acres)
on which this land stood, and the maps and surveys for a complete line
conveying the water of Lake Tahoe to the city of the Golden Gate. He
offered to construct this line, including a tunnel through the Sierra
Nevadas, and deliver thirty million gallons of water daily, for
$17,960,000. If a double line, or a hundred millions of gallons daily,
were required, the price was to be correspondingly increased.

This proposition aroused the people of Nevada, and R.L. Fulton, of
Reno, Manager of the State Board of Trade, wrote to the San Francisco
supervisors, calling attention to the facts that there was no surplus
water from Tahoe during the irrigation season, for the water had
been diverted by the farmers living along the Truckee River to their
fields; that flouring-mills, smelting and reduction works, electric
light plant and water-works at Reno, immense saw-mills, a furniture
factory, box factory, water and electric-light works, railroad
water-tanks, etc., at Truckee, half a dozen ice-ponds, producing over
200,000 tons of ice annually, sawmills and marble-working mills at
Essex; planing-mills at Verdi, paper-mill at Floristan, and other
similar plants, were totally dependent for their water supply upon the
Truckee River.

He also claimed (what was the well-known fact) that the Von Schmidt
dam was burned out many years ago, and that Nevada would put up a
tremendously stiff fight to prevent any such diversion of Tahoe water
as was contemplated. Needless to say the plan fell through.



Lake Tahoe is fifteen miles from Truckee, which is one of the mountain
stations on the main line of the Southern Pacific Railway (Central
Route), two hundred and eight miles from San Francisco, thirty-five
miles from Reno, Nevada, and five hundred and seventy-four miles
from Ogden, Utah. By the San Joaquin Valley route via Sacramento, the
distance to Los Angeles is five hundred and eighty miles, or by San
Francisco and the Coast Line six hundred and ninety-two miles.

During the summer season trains run frequently through, making Tahoe
easily accessible.

From the east the traveler comes over what is practically the long
known and historic overland stage-road, over which so many thousands
of gold-seekers and emigrants came in the days of California's gold
excitement. Every mile has some story of pioneer bravery or heroism,
of hairbreadth escape from hostile Indians or fortuitous deliverance
from storm or disaster. It was over this route the pilgrims came who
sought in Utah a land of freedom where they might follow their
own peculiar conceptions of religion and duty, untrammeled and
uninterfered with by hostile onlookers and disbelievers. Here came the
home-seekers of the earlier day, when California was still a province
of Mexico; those who had been lured by the glowing stories of the Land
of the Sun Down Sea, where orange and lemon, vine and fig flourished
and indicated the semi-tropic luxuriance and fruitfulness of the land.

[Illustration: Truckee, Calif., Where Travelers Take Trains for
Lake Tahoe]

[Illustration: Crossing the Truckee River Near Deer Park Station]

[Illustration: Placerville, El Dorado Co., California]

[Illustration: Vineyard on the Automotive Highway between Placerville
and Lake Tahoe]

From the west the railroad traverses, in the main, the continuation
of this old overland road. After leaving the fertile valley of the
Sacramento and rising into the glorious foot-hills of the Sierras,
every roll of the billows of the mountains and canyons wedged in
between is redolent of memories of the argonauts and emigrants. Yonder
are Yuba, Dutch Flat, the North Fork, the South Fork (of the American
River), Colfax, Gold Run, Midas, Blue Canyon, Emigrant Gap, Grass
Valley, Michigan Bluff, Grizzly Gulch, Alpha, Omega, Eagle Bird, Red
Dog, Chips Flat, Quaker Hill and You Bet. Can you not see these camps,
alive with rough-handed, full-bearded, sun-browned, stalwart men,
and hear the clang of hammer upon drill, the shock of the blast, the
wheeling away and crash of waste rock as it is thrown over the dump

And then, as we look up and forward into the sea of mountain-waves
into the heart of which we ride, who but Joaquin Miller can describe
the scene?

Here lifts the land of clouds! Fierce mountain forms,
Made white with everlasting snows, look down
Through mists of many canyons, mighty storms
That stretch from Autumn's purple drench and drown
The yellow hem of Spring. Tall cedars frown
Dark-brow'd, through banner'd clouds that stretch and stream
Above the sea from snowy mountain crown.
The heavens roll, and all things drift or seem
To drift about and drive like some majestic dream.

And it is in the very bosom of this majestic scenery that Lake Tahoe
lies enshrined. Its entrancing beauty is such that we do not wonder
that these triumphant monarchs of the "upper seas" cluster around it
as if in reverent adoration, and that they wear their vestal virgin
robes of purest white in token of the purity of their worship.

Thoughts like these flood our hearts and minds as we reach Truckee,
the point where we leave the Southern Pacific cars and change to those
of the narrow-gauge Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company.
After a brief wait, long enough to allow transfer of baggage, we
leave, from the same station, for the fifteen miles' ride to Tahoe
Tavern on the very edge of the Lake.

This ride is itself romantic and beautiful. On the day trains
observation cars are provided, and the hour is one of delightful,
restful and enchanting scenes. The Truckee River is never out of sight
and again and again it reminds one in its foaming speed of Joaquin
Miller's expressive phrase:

See where the cool white river runs.

Before 1900 this ride used to be taken by stage, the railway having
been built in that year. It is interesting here to note that the
rails, the locomotives, the passenger and freight cars were all
transported bodily across the Lake from Glenbrook, on the Nevada side.
There they were in use for many years mainly for hauling logs and
lumber to and from the mills on the summit, whence it was "flumed" to
Carson City.

In those days logging was carried on in the Truckee River Canyon and
the visitor would often have the pleasure of seeing logs "shoot the
chutes" into the river, by which they were floated to the mills at
Truckee. Here is a picture:

Tree, bush, and flower grow and blossom upon either side; and
a little bird, with a throat like a thrush, warbles a canticle
of exquisite musical modulations, so to speak. But the most
stirring sight of all is the system of logging carried on by
the mill companies. "Look! Quick!" ejaculates the driver; and
your gaze is directed to a monster log that comes furiously
dashing from the summit down a chute a thousand feet in length
with twice the ordinary speed of a locomotive. So rapid is
its descent that it leaves a trail of smoke behind it, and
sometimes kindles a fire among the slivers along its way.
Ah! it strikes the water! In an instant there is an inverted
Niagara in the air, resplendent with prismatic and transparent
veils of spray[1].

[Footnote 1: John Vance Cheney in _Lippincott's_.]

The main portion of the canyon is walled in by abrupt acclivities,
upon which majestic trees used to grow, but where now only the growth
of the past twenty-five to fifty years is found, doing its best to
hide the scars and wounds of the logging days.

The river, issuing from the Lake above, dashes down its wild way in
resistless freedom. It is a rapid, all but savage stream, widening
occasionally into sheltered pools exceedingly dark and deep. The
bowlders in its channel, and those crowding down into it from its
farther bank, cause it to eddy and foam with fierce but becoming

A few miles from the Tavern we pass the scene of the Squaw Valley
mining excitement where the two towns of Knoxville and Claraville
arose as if by magic, tent cities of thousands of inhabitants, lured
hither by a dream of gold, too soon to fade away, leaving nothing but
distress behind.

Deer Park station suggests the leaving point for that charmingly
picturesque resort, snuggling in the heart of Bear Canyon. Now we
pass the masses of tuffaceous breccia that "Pap" Church, the old
stage-driver used to call the Devil's Pulpit, and the devil's this and
that or the other, until many a traveler would wish they were all with
the devil.

This is a remnant of the vast mass of volcanic rock that in long ago
prehistoric times was poured out in molten sheets over the region,
and that formed the range we shall shortly see at the north end of the
Lake--the Mount Pluto range. At some later period either earthquake
convulsion started the break which ultimately eroded and disintegrated
into the great gorge through which the railway has brought us, or
grinding glacier cut the pathway for us.

Here, on the right, is a tiny swinging foot-bridge over the river.
This is the beginning, the suggestion, for the vast suspension bridges
that have allowed the world to cross the great North River from New
York to Brooklyn, and that span great rivers and gorges elsewhere in
the world. Nay! scarcely the beginning. That you find further up and
deeper down in the High Sierras and their shaded and wooded canyons,
where wild vines throw their clinging tendrils across from one shore
to another of foaming creeks, and gradually grow in girth and strength
until they form bridges, over which chipmunks, squirrels, porcupines,
'coons, coyotes, and finally mountain lions, bears, and even men cross
with safety. There is the _real origin_ of the suspension bridge.
But this is a miniature, a model, a suggestion of the big bridges.
It affords ready access to the house on the other side. In winter,
however, the boards are taken up, as the heavy snows that fall and
accumulate might wreck it.

It is hard to realize that, a few months from now, when winter begins,
this railroad must perforce cease its operations. Snow falls, here,
where the sun is now smiling so beneficently upon laughing meadows,
dotted here and there with dainty flowers, to a depth of ten and even
twenty feet. The mail--necessarily much reduced in winter--is first of
all carried in sleighs, then, as the snows deepen, on snow-shoes,
so that those who stay to preserve the "summer hotels" from winter's
ravages may not feel entirely shut out from the living world beyond.

But there is nothing that suggests snow now. We are enjoying the
delights of a summer day or evening, and know that we are near our
journey's end. Suddenly there is a long call of the whistle, a short
curve, and if in the daytime, the Lake suddenly appears, or, if at
night, the lights of the Tavern, and our rail journey is done. We are
deposited in Fairyland, for whether it be day or evening, the Lake
or the Tavern, our senses are thrilled and charmed by everything that



This is the name given to the 260-mile automobile route to and from
Lake Tahoe, going in from Sacramento over the world-famed Emigrant
Gap and Donner Lake road, around the western shore of Lake Tahoe,
from Tahoe Tavern to Tallac, and thence back to Sacramento over the
historic and picturesque Placerville road. While both of the two main
arms of the "wishbone" carry the traveler over the Sierras, the roads
are wonderfully different. On the Emigrant Gap arm the road seems to
have been engineered somewhat after the Indian fashion, viz., to allow
the wildest and most expansive outlooks, while the Placerville route
is largely confined to the picturesque and beautiful canyon of the
South Fork of the American River. Both have honored histories and both
are fascinating from the scenic standpoint and the difference in the
two routes merely accentuates the charm of the trip, when compared
with the new portion of the road, the connecting link that binds
them together and now makes possible the ride around the lake shore.
Experience has demonstrated, however, that it is better to make the
circuit as herein outlined.

A brief sketch of the history of the building of the Emigrant Gap
portion of this road cannot fail to be of interest.

It was practically followed by a host of the emigrants who sought
California during the great gold excitement of 1848-9. It was also one
of the earliest routes used between Sacramento and the mines of the
High Sierras. In 1849 it was established from Sacramento to Auburn,
Grass Valley and Nevada City and to-day there is practically little
deviation from the original route. In 1850 the mines on the Forest
Hill Divide were discovered and a branch road from Auburn was built to
that section. At Illinoistown (now Colfax) the road branched, one arm
crossing the North Fork of the American River to Iowa Hill and other
camps on that divide, while the main road continued up the Sierras to
Gold Run, Dutch Flat and other points higher up.

Until the Central Pacific Railway was built in the 'sixties
Illinoistown was the junction for the different Camps in Nevada County
and the Bear River and Iowa Hill Divides. The population of these
regions in those early days was much greater than at the present time,
yet the demands of the modern automobile have so improved the roads
that they are much superior to what the large population of those days

In 1862 the California legislature authorized the supervisors of
certain counties to call special elections to vote upon the question
as to whether those counties should subscribe towards the building of
the Central Pacific Railway, and to authorize them to issue bonds for
the amounts they decided to expend. San Francisco county subscribed
$1,000,000, Sacramento county $300,000 and Placer county $250,000.

In 1863 the Railroad Company began its work of grading the road bed at
Sacramento, and yet, in 1865 it was only completed to Alta, a distance
of 68 miles. At the same time it was making strenuous efforts to
divert passenger and freight traffic for Virginia City and other
Nevada points from the Placerville route. This had become possible
because of the fact that when the railway line was actually built as
far as Newcastle the engineers realized that before they could build
the rest of their railroad they would need to construct a highway of
easy grade, which would enable them to haul the necessary supplies for
constructing the tunnels, cuts and bridges. Accordingly a survey was
made up to Truckee, over the Nevada line into Reno and Virginia City,
securing the best possible grade for a wagon road, and this was rushed
to a hasty completion.

Naturally, they were anxious to gain all the paying traffic possible,
and especially under the adverse conditions under which they were
laboring. But, needless to say, this caused the fiercest hostility
on the part of their competitors, laid them open to serious charges,
which, later, were made, and that for a time threatened desperate
consequences, as I will now proceed to relate.

In the late fall of 1864 the Sacramento Valley Railroad (the rival of
the Central Pacific) arranged to make a record trip from Freeport
to Virginia City by the Placerville route. Though the officials
endeavored to keep the matter secret, it leaked out and immediately
the Central Pacific planned to circumvent their aim. They stationed
relays along their own line to compete, and Nature and Fate seemed to
come to their aid. A fierce storm arose the day before the start was
to be made, and it fell heavier on the Placerville than on the other
route. Though the drivers of each line did their utmost, feeling their
own personal honor, as well as that of their company at stake, the
heavy rains at Strawberry arrested the Placerville stage and made
further progress impossible, while the other route was enabled
to complete its trip on record time. Mr. L.L. Robinson, the
Superintendent of the Sacramento Valley Railroad, who himself
accompanied the stage, wired from Strawberry, "Heavy rains, heavy
roads, slow time"--reluctant to own a possible defeat. But the
Sacramento _Union_, the organ of the Central Pacific, came out
the next morning with glowing accounts of the successful run of
the stages over the Emigrant Gap route and ridiculed Mr. Robinson's
telegram, ironically comparing it with Caesar's classic message to the
Roman Senate: "Veni, Vidi, Vici."

It was such struggles for local business as this that led the San
Francisco _Alta California_, a paper bitterly opposed to the
Central Pacific, to denounce the railway, in 1866, as the "Dutch Flat
Swindle." It claimed that the railway would never be built further
than Alta and that it was built so far only for the purpose of
controlling passenger and freight traffic over their wagon road to
Virginia City and other Nevada points. Other San Francisco papers
joined in the fight and so energetically was it conducted, and so
powerful became the opposition that they actually prevailed upon the
people of San Francisco to repudiate their contract to purchase a
million dollars' worth of Central Pacific stock and compromise by
practically making the railroad company a present of $600,000 (which
had already been expended) provided they would release the City and
County from their pledge to raise the remaining $400,000.

The folly of this action is now so apparent that it is hard to
conceive how even political and civic jealousy or hatred could have
been so blinded to self-interest. The Central Pacific engineers had
undertaken one of the most difficult pieces of railway engineering in
the world, and the financiers of the company were having an equally
desperate struggle. During the Civil War the finances of the nation
were at a low ebb and money was exceedingly difficult to secure. Yet
in spite of all obstacles the company had gone ahead in perfect good
faith, and at that very time were hauling rails and track material
from Alta, and soon from Cisco, to Truckee (then called Coburn Station
on the old Emigrant Gap road), and had actually built the
railroad from Truckee down into Nevada and as far east as Wadsworth,
or a little beyond, before the tunnel at Summit was completed.

[Illustration: Automobiling along the Truckee River]

[Illustration: On the Automobile Boulevard Around Lake Tahoe]

[Illustration: Atlantic to Pacific Automobile Party, Premier Tour,
1911, Stopping at Tahoe Tavern]

[Illustration: Copyright 1910, by Harold A. Parker. Cascade Lake
and Mt. Tallac]

Thus in storm and stress was this road born, and in the winter time
of our day it is still a road of storm and stress, as are all of the
roads over the High Sierras. It must be remembered that while the
elevation at Sacramento is but thirty feet above sea level, at Summit
it is 7018 feet, and even at Truckee, where the turn is made for
Tahoe, it is 5819 feet. Naturally such high altitudes receive
considerable snow, which render the roads impassable during the winter
season. In 1914 I went from Truckee to the Summit on the 10th of June,
and save for two or three patches of snow which were rapidly melting,
there were no serious obstacles that any good motor could not


From Sacramento the grade is easy and the country fairly open until
Auburn is reached (35-1/2 miles.) The roads are excellent, the
disintegrated granite affording local material close at hand for
perfect road building. The Sierras stretch away to the east in gently
ascending billows, covered over with richest verdure of native trees
of every variety, and of the thousands of orchard trees that are
making this region as famous for its fruits as it used to be for its
mines. For from 1849 until the hydraulic mines were closed down by
the anti-debris decision in the U.S. Supreme Court, this section and
beyond was one of the richest gold mining regions of California, and
historically, one of the greatest importance to the State. Such places
as Auburn, Illinoistown (Colfax), Gold Run and Dutch Flat, were rich
producing camps and branch roads reached to Yankee Jim, Todd's Valley,
Forest Hill, Michigan Bluffs, Bath, and other towns on what is known
as the Forest Hill Divide, a divide being a local term, to signify the
rocky, mountainous mass,--nearly always having a level grade on its
summit,--that separates two forks of the same stream, or two different
streams. From Colfax another road led to Grass Valley, Nevada City,
and North Bloomfield in Nevada County, and Iowa Hill, Wisconsin Hill,
Monona Flat, and Damascus on the Iowa Hill Divide. All these were
centers of rich mining districts which were scenes of the greatest
activity in the days of their productivity. Now, however, most of them
are abandoned, except Auburn, Colfax, and Nevada City which have other
resources, and Grass Valley, which maintains its high standing owing
to its rich quartz mines. Forest Hill, Iowa Hill, and Michigan Bluff
have drift mines which maintain small and meager populations compared
with those of the early and prosperous days. In the 'fifties Yankee
Jim and its tributary mines had a population of 3000, while to-day it
is entirely deserted. Todd's Valley, which was also a flourishing camp
has suffered the same fate.

_Auburn to Colfax 16 Miles, Colfax to Emigrant Gap, 30-1/2
Miles_. Leaving Auburn the road ascends more rapidly until Colfax
(16 miles) is reached (elevation 2422 feet). Then ten miles further
one is in the heart of the most extensive hydraulic mining operations
of California. Thousands of acres are passed which yet bear the scars
of the "washing down" for the precious mineral hid away during the
centuries until the Argonauts of '49 and later unearthed it by their
gigantic hydraulic nozzles. Millions of dollars were extracted from
these placers, but now the villages are deserted and all mining
operations have ceased. The time is not far distant when automobile
parties will arrange to stop over in one of these little places, and
with a competent guide, go over the deserted placers. It is hard to
realize that by the mere power of water mountains were washed away,
leaving the denuded country on the one hand, a land of mounds and
hummocks, like the Bad Lands in miniature, and on the other hand of
masses of debris, too heavy to be washed away into the streams.

The wildest portions of the Sierras are revealed in ascending from
Dutch Flat to the Summit. The snowsheds of the Southern Pacific
Railway come into sight, perched like peculiar long black boxes, with
peep-holes, along an impossible ledge of the massive granite cliffs,
and the Sierran trees tower upright from every possible vantage ground
in the granite beneath.

At Towle, three miles beyond Dutch Flat, the shipping point is reached
from which much of the material was hauled for the building of Lake
Spaulding dam. Hundreds of teams were employed in this work, and the
road showed an almost unbroken procession for months. This was in
1912-13. A side trip to this remarkable dam, impounding the waters of
the High Sierras for the generation of electric power to be used not
only in the Sacramento Valley but in far away San Francisco, cannot
fail to be of interest. The area of the Lake, with the dam at its
present elevation, is such as to justify the assertion that it is next
to if not the largest artificial lake in the world.

_Emigrant Gap to Cisco, 14 Miles_.--Fourteen miles from Towle,
after enjoying the rich blue haze of Blue Canyon, the road passes
through the natural Sierran pass at Emigrant Gap which gives its name
to the route. Here one who has not been over the road before must not
fail to note the following: As he passes through the Gap the massive
granite wall towers in dominant power to the right and leads one to
feel that miles of rugged peaks are there. _Yet not more than a
hundred yards farther on_, the wall fades away, and if he stops
here, and turns off the road slightly to the right, he will glimpse
a vision of glory and sublimity that will take away his breath. Here,
from a thousand or two thousand feet almost sheer above it, one gazes
down to where in peaceful repose lies Bear Valley, a rich emerald
green meadow, on the right side of which flows the South Fork of the
Yuba River, and on the left heads Bear Creek, which empties into the
Sacramento at Marysville. Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes are alway
spent here by those who know of this delectable surprise, yet many
come over the road unheeding and are never aware of what they have

Eight miles beyond Emigrant Gap, at Cisco, one sees a branch road
which leads to the old Meadow Lake Mining District, which in the
'sixties had a population of several thousands. A large town was built
there, which is now totally abandoned.

_Cisco to Summit, 13 Miles_. At Summit a marvelous view is had in
both directions, east and west. Westward the fall of the Sierras into
the Sacramento Valley is apparently so gentle and easy as to lead one
to wonder that he has risen so high, but eastward the descent is
much more steep and abrupt. The rude granite in many places is almost
barren though Sierran trees abound. The grade is easy, and the new
grade and tunnel under the Southern Pacific tracks makes an added
improvement. Almost immediately on emerging from this tunnel the full
glory of the eastern view is forced upon the attention. At one's feet,
apparently, lies the placid surface of Donner Lake, its pure blue
giving one a premonitory foretaste of the richer blues that await him
at Tahoe, while beyond are the mountains that overlook the Great Basin
of Nevada.

_Summit to Truckee, 11 Miles_. Rapidly the road descends, well
engineered and easy to negotiate to any responsible driver, and before
one is aware he is bowling along on the level Donner Boulevard, which
is as perfect a piece of country road as can be found anywhere on
earth. The Monument (not yet completed) erected by the Native Sons
to the memory of the Donner Lake pioneers, and the Memorial Cross,
erected on the spot where the unhappy party camped, are passed and
in a few minutes Truckee is reached. This was once the scene of great
lumber activities but now much reduced, although it is the shipping
point for Hobarts Mills, which is one of the largest lumber camps of
the West.

Here the road to Tahoe turns sharply to the south, and the fifteen
miles run to the Tavern is made in the picturesque canyon of the
Truckee River fully described in another chapter.

The elevations are Sacramento, 32 feet; Auburn, 1360; Colfax, 2422;
Emigrant Gap, 5225; Cisco, 5940; Summit, 7018; Truckee, 5819; Tahoe
Tavern, 6240.


On Tuesday, June 9, 1914, I had the pleasure of making the first trip
of the season over the new Tahoe Boulevard from Tahoe to Tallac. Let
me here quote the account written at the time:

It was a fine morning, clear and just cool enough to be pleasant,
no wind, sun shining through the trees, the Lake glistening in its
richest morning glory, the air like wine, birds singing everywhere,
chipmunks chattering as they ran up and down the trees, and we as full
of life as they, when we made the start. Our machine was a Chalmers
20, a first-class chauffeur at the wheel, with instructions to go
slow, let us see all there was, and to run no risks if the winter's
snows and storms had interfered with the safety of the road. We didn't
even wear overcoats, though all the peaks were covered with snow.

The first mile or two from the Tavern is through avenues of second
growth timber just tall enough to be delightful. In turn we passed
many of the choice residences that are making Tahoe growingly popular
as a summer home, and then crossed Ward Creek and Blackwood Creek.
This latter is one of the principal trout spawning streams of Tahoe,
and to prevent fishermen from catching the fish that seek the stream
at the spawning season the Fish Commissioners have placed a buoy out
in the Lake, some twenty-five hundred feet away, within which bound it
is illegal to catch fish.

While many trees have been logged from this region there are still
enough to make it forest-like, and as the road winds and turns it
affords glimpses and full views, sometimes for only a moment or two,
and again for a minute or more, of the placid-faced blue Lake on the
left, or the snowy mountain summits straight ahead or on the right.
What rich contrasts of color, what revelations of majesty and
sublimity each new turn affords!

The first eight miles is fairly level road and close to the Lake, but
eight miles out, just before reaching McKinney's, the new portion of
the State Highway begins, and it has been engineered to give scenic
and romantic effect all along the way. In road building no longer is
it necessary to consider the cheapest and nearest way. "Give us the
most scenic," cry the motorists, "we'll pay the bills and our machines
will speedily eat up any extra distance we may be required to travel
to obtain the best scenery of the country." From now on the whole trip
is one of carefully engineered surprises and revelations. Colwell's
Moana Villa, and Pomin's new and beautiful place are passed and then
we ascend, and suddenly Meek's Bay is revealed to us, a glorious
symphony in blues, deepening and richening into pure amethyst, with
lines, patches and borders of emerald and lapis lazuli. Beyond rise
hill-studded slopes leading the eye higher and higher until, anchored
in a sky as blue as is the Lake below, are the snowy-white crowns of
the Rubicon Peaks, with here and there a craggy mass protruding as
though it were a Franciscan's scalp surrounded by pure white hair.
Up and down we glide, the soft purring of the motor as we run on the
level changing to the chug-chugging of the up-pulls, or the grip
of the brake as we descend. Every few feet new vistas of beauty are
projected before us. The moving pictures are all exquisite. Indeed,
after many studies of this incomparable Lake Tahoe I verily believe
there is no more beautiful spot on it than Meek's Bay seen from this

To get its full charm we stop the machine for a while. Looking back we
discover that the curve where we rest is a marvelous outlook point. We
have ascended to a good height and look down upon the Lake. There
are light blue, emerald green, deep blue in patches and in long
irregularly shaped points. Here are Como, Maggiore, Lugano and
Windermere all in one, though as yet free from the houses and
artificial gardens on the slopes. But Nature such as this needs none
of man's adornment to make it perfect.

Starting the engine again we circle around the point and come
immediately into another charming circlet of views. Between Meek's Bay
and Rubicon Point is another little recess in the lakeshore,
Grecian Bay, a good second to the one I have just described. Here we
particularly notice the effect of the many varieties of trees, their
dark trunks, branches and foliage set out almost in silhouette against
the pure color of the Lake below. These elevated stretches of road are
a constant joy and delight. They afford us glad surprises every few
moments in such views of the Lake as we could not otherwise obtain.

Crossing Lonely Gulch, watched over by the serene pure loveliness of
the snowy peaks above, a good climb up a steep stretch of road brings
us to the shoulder of Rubicon Point. Winding in and out, twining and
twisting around and around, we reach Rubicon Park, from which place we
get a perfect view of the whole Lake from one end to the other.

To-day there are a score or more of fishermen out in their little
boats, and strange to say, all of them near enough to be seen, are
fishing in a patch of deep blue. The water there must be deeper than
elsewhere, for there is where they invariably get their best catches.

In marked contrast to the blue is a great finger of emerald thrust out
from a nearby point, as if in warning not to dare pass its mysterious

Now we come to the wild and rugged scenery. We are hemmed in on the
right by towering crags and walls of massive gray rock. Shattered and
seamed, scarred and disintegrated, they look as though earthquake and
lightning shock and the storms of a thousand years had battled with
them. They give a new touch of grandeur and almost awesome sublimity
to the scene.

For a mile or two we play at hide and seek with the Lake. It seems
as though we were in the hands of a wizard. "Now you see it, now you
don't." Query: "Where is the Lake?" Mountains, snowbanks, granite
walls, trees galore, creeks flashing their white crests dashing down
their stony courses toward the Lake, but only now and then do we catch
fleeting glimpses of it. All at once it bursts full and clear again
upon our enraptured vision, but only to give us a full taste of its
supernal beauty before we are whirled around a curve where the eye
rests upon nothing but the rugged majesty of the Sierras. Change and
contrast, the picturesque, beautiful, delicate and exquisite in close
touch and harmonious relationship with the majestic and the sublime.
Travel the whole world over and nothing surpassing this can be found.

Now we curve around high up above Emerald Bay, that small glacial
Lake, the eastern terminal moraine of which was unfortunately torn
through, so that the _lake_ disappeared and became a _bay_
of the great Lake itself. Every moment of this portion of the ride is
a delight. The senses are kept keenly alert, for not only have we the
Lake, the bay and the mountains, but part of the way we have flowers
and shrubs by the thousands, bees and butterflies flit to and fro, and
singing streams come foaming white from the snowbanks above, eager to
reach the Lake. As our car-wheels dash across these streamlets they
splash up the water on each side into sparkling diamonds and on every
hand come up the sweet scents of growing, living things. Now Mt.
Tallac, in all his serene majesty, looms ahead. Snow a hundred or
more feet deep in places covers his rocky sides. Here we can see where
glaciers were born in the early days when Tallac was several thousand
feet higher than it now is.

Below us is the emerald-ringed bay, with its romantic little island
at the west end, and nearby the joyously-shouting Eagle Creek as it
plunges over the precipice and makes the foam-flecked Eagle Falls. Our
road here was blasted through some fiercely solid and hostile rock.
One boulder alone that stood in the way weighed (it was estimated by
the engineers) from 800 to 1000 tons. Fifty cases of highly explosive
powder were suitably placed all around it. Excursion steamers took
hundreds of people from all parts of the Lake to see the explosion,
and at the proper moment, while everybody held his breath, the fuses
were fired, the blasts took effect, the rock flew down to the level
beneath, shattered into four great masses. A new El Capitan now rises
above us, though it lacks the smooth unbroken dignity of the great
Yosemite cliff, yet it is sublime in its sudden rise and vast height.
Nestling at its feet is Eagle Lake, and beyond are the Velmas and a
score of other glacial jewels calling for visitors to rhapsodize over
their beauty. Maggie's Peaks are to our right, Eagle Falls to our
left, with Emerald Bay, the Island, the Point and the Lake beyond all
calling upon us to enjoy them to the full.

We decide to stay here for lunch, and under the shelter of a giant
sugar pine a thousand years old, listening to the eternally buoyant
song of Eagle Falls, we refresh ourselves with the good lunch put up
for us at the Tavern.

Again we push ahead and soon have our first adventure: The road
gang was at work, and we did not expect to go much farther, but they
assured us that, save for a few rough places here and there, which
they would speedily correct, we need have no fear but that we could
get through with ease. In a score of places, since we left the Tavern,
we had crossed little streams of snow-water that had come tumbling
down from the banks above. Suddenly we came to one with a larger
volume than most of the others, and the road bed a little softer,
so it had cut quite a deep little passage for itself. Easily our
chauffeur dropped the front wheels into the cut, and to his surprise
he found they stuck there. It did not take us long to jack up the
wheels and put rocks underneath them, and we were about ready to get
out when the road gang came along with a wagon and a pair of sturdy
mules. As quickly as it takes me to tell it the mules were attached to
our back axle and we were pulled out. A few more rocks and a couple
of planks placed over the cut and we were honking on our way with

Half a mile farther we came upon the ridge that separates Emerald Bay
from Cascade Lake. Both are in clear View at the same time, while to
the west we can hear the joyous song of Cascade Falls in its grand
leap down from the foot of the snow-banks of Mt. Tallac into the
tree-clad stream-course below.

Now the road brings us almost directly above the Lake, with a rapid
slope down, covered with dainty trees and shrubs of recent growth.
From here we gain a fine view of the south end of the lakeshore.
Tallac, the Grove, Bijou, Al Tahoe and clear across to Lakeside, with
the deep green of the meadows above, and the snowy crowns of Freel's,
Job's, and Job's sister, with Monument Peak combine to give the proper
setting to the Lake.

Soon we are racing across the level to the Fish Hatchery, between
avenues of quaking aspens and young tamaracks and pines. Suddenly
we come upon a mired car, the driver of which had just crossed the
Sierras from Placerville, with little or no difficulty, but coming to
a soft piece of road here when going a trifle faster than he should,
and the side of the road having caught a lot of snow-water, he had
bogged and was working like a beaver to extricate himself. We had a
stout rope along and it was the work of two or three minutes to get
him out and we again pushed forward, gratified and smiling at the
warmly expressed thanks of himself and his three happy women-folks
who were enjoying their first trip into the Tahoe country, and already
confessing their complete subjection to its thrall.

Passing the Hatchery we were only a few more minutes in reaching
Tallac House, the first to complete the auto-trip this season.
Except for a few short stretches of scarcely completed road it is in
excellent condition, and the road gang now at work will have all the
rough portions smoothed down in a few days.

It should here be noted that side trips may be made in automobiles to
Glen Alpine Springs and Fallen Leaf Lodge. Both resorts use their own
automobile stages daily during the season, hence keep the roads in
good condition.

We made the return trip from Tallac House to the Tavern in two hours
exactly. The distance is 26 miles. The road gang had already put a
bridge over the place that had delayed us on coming out, and the road
throughout was easy and safe. Naturally it is not as easy to negotiate
as a San Francisco boulevard, but with the wheel in the hands of a
careful chauffeur there is perfect safety and a trip that need give
not a moment's fear to the most timorous.


This is practically the first historic route into California, for, as
I have shown in the chapter on Fremont's Explorations, it was the one
the Pathfinder practically followed on his memorable trip that led to
the discovery of Lake Tahoe.

Hence, when the gold excitement attracted its thousands to California,
many of the argonauts took this road, following the Humboldt River and
turning south at the Humboldt "Sink," crossing to the Carson "Sink"
and then ascending to the headwaters of the Carson River, over into
Hope Valley and thence down to Strawberry Valley and on to the mines.
This was the origin of the road, and it was in steady and continuous
use until the startling news of the discovery of the Comstock Lode in
Virginia City aroused the mining world. From every camp in California
rude and stalwart men eagerly set forth to reach the new Camp. It was
a genuine stampede. The chief question was: "Will the new Camp make
good?" It answered this question by transcending the expectations
of the most sanguine. Silver and gold were taken out in fabulous
quantities. Chunks of almost pure native silver, weighing scores of
pounds, were hewed out of the chambers where they were found, and
men went wild with excitement. Houses sprang up over-night. A vast
population soon clung to the slopes of Mt. Davidson. Mining and
milling machinery was needed, and demanded with tremendous urgency, to
reap the richer harvest. There was no railroad, and the old Emigrant
Road was not in condition to meet the needs. Few people can realize
the wild excitement that reigned and the string of teams, men riding
on horseback, or afoot, stage-coaches, freight wagons, that poured in
endless procession over the road. Nothing like it has been seen since,
except during the Klondike rush. As soon, however, as it was possible
to secure the proper authority newer and easier grades were surveyed
and private individuals undertook to build certain sections of the
road under the condition that they were to be granted the right to
collect toll for so many years. These rights have long since lapsed,
and the road is now a part of the excellent system of El Dorado
County, which, though a mountain county, boasts some of the best roads
in California.

_Tallac to Echo, 11-1/2 Miles_. Leaving Tallac, an easy and
pleasant eight-mile run on almost level roads through Tallac Meadows
brings one to Celios, once Myers' Station (6500 feet). Now begins the
upgrade, winding its way up the mountain side to the crest from which
Starr King wrote his exquisite description, elsewhere quoted. This
is one of the superb outlook-points where the full sweep of Lake and
encircling mountains is in full and complete view.

After a few minutes for gazing the journey is resumed, soon crossing
a bridge, near which stand the remnants of the old toll-house. On the
right a foot-trail or bridle-path leads to Glen Alpine. A few miles
of fairly rapid descent and Echo is reached, 49-1/2 miles from

The stream here, during the snow-melting season must be a dashing,
roaring, sparkling mass of foam, for it is a bowlder-strewn rocky way,
suggesting the wild stream it becomes when the snows melt and spring's
freshets come.

_Echo to Strawberry, 7 Miles_. The next mile and a half is a
rapid descent, for elevation declines five hundred feet, ere we reach
Phillips, near which, in Audrian Lake, is the chief source of the
South Fork of the American River.

The Water Company that controls the flow has here tampered with
primitive physiography, in that it has cut a tunnel or channel from
the Echo Lakes, tapping their water supply and conveying it to Audrian
Lake. Hence strictly speaking the Echo Lakes are now the headwaters of
the South Fork.

Soon we pass Hay Press Meadows, so called from the fact that hay was
cut here in the old stage-coach days, baled with an old-fashioned
press, and sold for $90 to $100 per ton, after being hauled to
Virginia City.

Down we go into Strawberry Valley, where 42-1/2 miles from
Placerville, we reach Strawberry, at 5700 feet elevation. This used to
be a noted stopping-place in the olden days, sometimes the whole flat
area being covered with loaded wagons bound for the mines.

There is a rugged majesty about this Valley that has always made its
impression on men. To the right is the southern end of the Crystal
Range, and to the left the Yosemite-like cliff known as Lover's Leap,
6985 feet elevation. As the station at Strawberry is 5700 feet, this
cliff is 1285 feet in sheer ascent. Leading up it are strange columnar
towers and structures of Egyptian appearance that remind us of those
lines of Joaquin Miller's:

Great massive rocks that near us lay,
Deep nestled in the grass untrod
By aught save wild beasts of the wood--
Great, massive, squared, and chisel'd stone,
Like columns that had toppled down
From temple dome or tower crown,
Along some drifted, silent way
Of desolate and desert town
Built by the children of the Sun.

We pass under the great cliff, and past a glacially-polished dome on
the left. The cliff is all cross-hatched and seamed with infiltrations
of quartz. Ahead of us to the right is a canyon that is the southern
extension of Desolation Valley.

_Strawberry to Kyburgs, 10 Miles_. A few miles below Strawberry
we pass Georgetown Junction (where the road from Georgetown enters the
main road), and ten miles brings us to Kyburgs, 4000 feet elevation,
the canyon narrowing as we descend. On the right we pass Sugar Loaf
(6500 feet).

At Kyburgs the water is taken out for the domestic and irrigation
water-supply of Placerville--8000 inches of water. The station is
located at a break in the mountains where a cone-shaped rock, covered
with trees, is a striking feature.

_Kyburgs, Through Riverton, to Pacific House, 14 Miles_. Passing
the South Fork of the American on the left, nine and a half miles
brings us to Riverton, a charming river resort where many visitors
stop during the season for a day or a week, as this is a noted center
for fishing and hunting. Here we cross over an excellent bridge,
surrounded by a mountain amphitheater lined with trees, and our road
follows the course of the bowlder-strewn river-bed. Yonder is the
scene of a noted "hold-up" in the old mining days.

If we cared to go over the files of the newspapers of the days when
bullion was being shipped daily by stage to Placerville, how many
accounts might we not find of "hold-ups" by daring "road-agents." And
it does not take much imagination to picture in this secluded spot or
that, the sudden appearance of a masked bandit, gun in hand, and to
hear the sharp quick commands, "Halt! and Hands up!" and to hear the
"squeesch" of the brake on the wheel, to see the hands of driver,
express-messenger, and passengers go up in helpless anger and furious

Then the "Stand down here!" or "Come off of that quick, and line up
alongside!" and the immediate obedience of all concerned, and the
sharp "keep _them_ hands up, gentlemen, or somebody'll be gettin'
hurt," or perhaps a fierce imprecation, if the bandit was less of the
"Gentleman George" type than has so often been described.

And what a scene it would make for an artist--the most indignant
passenger of them all made to hold the hat and collect the "swag," as
the alert-eyed bandit stands by, gun in hand, ready to shoot down the
first person who makes any show of resistance!

Then the permission given to get aboard, accompanied by the rude
order: "Throw out that express-box, and drive on, and don't look this
way or some one'll have a hole blown through the top of his head!"
and the mixture of dejection and relief shown in the faces of driver,
messenger and passengers as the coach rolled on again.

What a panorama of quickly acted scenes it must have been, and how
often it occurred on this road! Not even history has recorded a half
of the times it happened.

Soon, almost hidden in the dense foliage of the tree-lined slopes, we
pass Esmeralda Fall, whose waters dash in foam over 60 feet, to unite
with the river far beneath.

As we near Pacific House, 4-1/2 miles further on, we come to where the
new road diverges a little from the old one. It used to descend to the
river, but we preserve a fairly even grade, solidly built, wide and
well kept.

_Pacific House to Placerville, 18-1/2 Miles_. Then for a mile or
so the road hangs over the yawning chasm of the river. It is wide and
in fine condition so we dash along to where, on the up trip, the first
glimpse is gained of the Crystal Range, its two chief peaks, Pyramid
and Agassiz, dominating the landscape from this side as they do from
Desolation Valley on the eastern side of the range.

[Illustration: Casino at Tahoe Tavern, From Pier]

[Illustration: Pier, Steamer Tahoe, and Lake Tahoe from Casino]

In nine more miles Camino is reached, through clusters of pines,
with perfectly level stretches for speeding and--dreaming. One's mind
unconsciously goes back to the old days and he sees as in a
moving-picture film the "days of '49." For this road is a road of
memories. One shuts his eyes and muses, and immediately there troops
before him a rushing, bustling, hurrying throng. These were the modern
argonauts, the seekers for the Golden Fleece:

Great horny-handed men and tall;
Men blown from many a barren land
Beyond the sea; men red of hand,
And men in love, and men in debt,
Like David's men in battle set--
And every man somehow a man.
They push'd the mailed wood aside,
They toss'd the forest like a toy,
That grand forgotten race of men--
The boldest band that yet has been
Together since the Siege of Troy.

Some carried packs on their backs, with pick and shovel, drill and
pan. Others rode, leading their burden-bearing burros or mules. Wagon
after wagon creaked along, laden to the full with supplies, food, or

As we push along and come to the river, Joaquin Miller's words make
the memory pictures for us:

I look along each gaping gorge,
I hear a thousand sounding strokes
Like giants rending giant oaks,
Or brawny Vulcan at his forge;
I see pickaxes flash and shine;
Hear great wheels whirling in a mine.
Here winds a thick and yellow thread,
A moss'd and silver stream instead;
And trout that leap'd its riffled tide
Have turn'd upon their sides and died.

Below Camino we pass near to Pino Grande, where the great cable
railway carries loaded cars of logs across the deep canyon of the
American River.

Rapidly we reach Smith's Flat, 4 miles, a famous mining-camp in the
days gone by, but now consisting of a general store, a few houses, and
a gnarled old log fashioned into a glorious water-trough fit for the

Three more miles and Placerville is reached, the quaint old reminder
of "the days of '49, the days of old, the days of gold," when men
flocked to California from all parts of the earth eager with the lust
for gold. In those memorable days it was called "Hangtown," a name
some of its present-day citizens would fain forget, oblivious, in
their own small-mindedness that they are neither responsible for its
history nor its nomenclature.

Built primarily in the somewhat shut-in walls of a small canyon, it
winds and curves around in a happy-go-lucky fashion, and when the
canyon widens out, spills over into irregular streets and up and down
hills that were once clad with pines, firs, spruces and junipers. That
wealth and prosperity have smiled upon it in late years is evidenced
by its comfortable lawn-girdled homes, its thriving orchards, its
active business streets, and its truly beautiful, because simple,
chaste and dignified, county court-house.

_Placerville to Sacramento, 47 Miles_. This is a well-known road,
via Diamond Springs, 2-1/2 miles; El Dorado, 6 miles; Shingle Springs,
11 miles, and Folsom, 25 miles.

The elevation at Tallac is 6225 feet; at Echo, 7500 feet; Strawberry,
5700 feet; Kyburgs, 4000 feet; Riverton, 3300 feet; Pacific House,
3400 feet; Sportsman's Hall, 3600 feet; Camino, 3000 feet; Smith's
Flat, 2250 feet; Placerville, 1830 feet; El Dorado, 1610 feet; Folsom,
198 feet, and Sacramento, 32 feet.

A well equipped auto stage is run daily between Tallac House and
Placerville. Experienced and careful drivers and first class cars
only are used. They are owned by the Richardson Garage, of Pasadena,
Calif., long known to the exacting population of that city as a
thoroughly reliable, prompt and efficient house.



Swinging around to the south from the course of the Truckee River
on to the Lake, the railway deposits the traveler at Tahoe Tavern,
preeminently the chief resort for those who demand luxurious comfort
in all its varied manifestations. Yet at the outset let it be clearly
understood that it is not a fashionable resort, in the sense that
every one, men and women alike, must dress in fashionable garb to be
welcomed and made at home. It is a place of common sense and rational
freedom. If one comes in from a hunting or fishing trip at dinner
time, he is expected to enter the dining room as he is. If one has
taken a walk in his white flannels he is as welcome to a dance in the
Casino, the dining-room, or the social-hall as if he wore the most
conventional evening dress. Indeed, visitors are urged to bring their
old clothes that they may indulge to the full their _penchants_
for mountain-climbing, riding, rowing, fishing, horse-back-riding,
botanizing in the woods, or any other out-of-door occupation where old
clothes are the only suitable ones.

The building itself is completely embowered in pine, cedar, spruce
and firs of differing ages, sizes and qualities of color. Though far
enough from the Lake to allow of a large untrimmed grass-plot where
innumerable swing seats, reclining chairs, "lazy rests," etc., invite
to lounging and loafing, the trees have been so trimmed out as to give
exquisite glimpses of the dazzling blue of the water from every hand.

The Tavern is especially appropriate to its surroundings. It is three
full stories high, with many gables relieving the regularity of the
roof, which is steep-pitched, to throw off the winter's snows. The
whole structure is covered with shingles, stained or oiled to a dark
brown, and as climbing and clinging vines have wreathed themselves
about every corner, and up many posts of the veranda, and there is a
wealth of cultivated wild flowers banked up in beds around it, nothing
could be more pleasing and harmonious. Roads, walks and trails radiate
from the Tavern in all directions, except directly across the Lake,
and numerous boats and launches make this as accessible as any other
direction. Near enough to be interesting is the wharf, with its daily
bustle of the arrival and departure of trains, launches and steamers.

For all the indoor sports a Casino has been erected, far enough away
so that the music, dancing, the sharp clangor of bowling, the singing
of extemporized glee-clubs, and the enthusiasm of audiences at amateur
theatricals and the like do not disturb the peaceful slumbers of those
who retire early. While Tahoe Tavern itself is _sui generis_ in
that it is the most wonderful combination of primitive simplicity
with twentieth century luxury, the Casino is even more remarkable.
Its interior finish is the work of a nature artist. Its porches
immediately overlook the Lake, and when one has wearied of dancing
there is a witchery as rare and subtle as it is delightful to sit
in the subdued light overlooking the ripples of the moonlit water,
sipping some liquid refreshment, eating an ice or chatting with a
suitable partner.

Here a fine orchestra discourses sweet music, moving pictures are
regularly shown, lectures and concerts occasionally provided, besides
all the conveniences for private card-parties and other pleasures that
fashionable visitors expect for their entertainment.

[Illustration: Ballroom in the Casino, Tahoe Tavern]

[Illustration: Tahoe Tavern from Lake Tahoe]

[Illustration: Path in the Woods by Lake Tahoe, Tahoe Tavern]

[Illustration: Morning Service at the _Chapel of the
Transfiguration_, Tahoe Tavern]

Ruskin has somewhere brought out the idea in his finest phraseology
that nowhere can man so readily worship God as in the presence of the
most beautiful of His works in Nature. This is readily apparent at
Tahoe, hence the summer visitors and others of religious trend will
delight to learn that churches for both Catholic and Episcopal
worshipers have been erected not far from the Tavern. The Catholic
Church was dedicated Sept. 10, 1911. It has a seating capacity of a
hundred and seventy-five. Its location was chosen with an eye to the
beautiful, being on Tahoe Heights, and is less than fifteen minutes'
walk from the Tavern.

The Episcopal "Church of the Transfiguration" is unique in that it
is an open air building, the altar only being roofed. Towering pines
stand as aisles and the vaulted ceiling is the clear blue dome of
heaven. Rustic and simple, it harmonizes exquisitely with its
surroundings, and strangely insensible must that worshiper be who, as
he kneels in this Nature shrine, and the organ peals forth its solemn
notes, with a wonderful accompaniment of hundreds of singing birds,
and the ascending incense of a thousand flowers, does not feel his own
soul lifted into a higher and more spiritual mental frame.

One of the chief troubles about a hotel like Tahoe Tavern is that it
is _too_ tempting, _too_ luxurious, _too_ seductive to the senses. The
cool, delicious breezes from the Lake make the nights heavenly for
sleep. With Sancho Panza we cry aloud: "Blessed be the man that
invented sleep," and we add: "Blessed be the man that invented cool
nights to sleep in." And I have no fault to find with the full
indulgence in sleep. It is good for the weary man or woman. It is well
to make up arrears, to pay oneself the accumulated debts of insomnia
and tossing and restlessness with an abundance of calm, dreamless,
restful sleep. Nay, not only would I have men claim their arrearage,
but lay in a surplus stock against future emergencies, future drafts
upon their bank account of "restorer."

Nor would I find any fault with the allurements of the Lake, either
for swimming, boating, "launching," canoeing or fishing. Indulge them
all to your heart's desire and you will not only be none the worse,
but immeasurably better for every hour of yielding. A plunge every
morning is stimulating, invigorating and jolly. It clears the brain,
sets the blood racing up and down one's spine, arms, fingers, legs and
toes, and sweeps the cobwebs out of the brain. A row is equally good.
It pulls on the muscles of the lower back, as well as the arms, chest
and shoulders. It drives away Bright's disease and banishes asthma and
lung trouble. It makes one breathe deep and long and strong, and
when inbreathing, one can take in power from Tahoe's waters, forests,
mountains and snow-fields. It means a purifying of the blood, a
clearing of the brain, a sending of a fuller supply of gastric juices
to the stomach, of digestive sauces to the palate, and a corresponding
stimulus to the whole body, which now responds with vim, energy,
buoyancy and exuberance to all calls made upon it by the spirit.

So with walking through the woods, by the Lake, along the River Trail,
up the mountains. The results are the same until the man who hates and
despises the poets shouts out with glee and exclaims: "_Them's_
my sentiments!" when you throw out with fervor such lines as:

Oh! the wild joys of living! the leaping from rock up to rock,
The strong rending of boughs from the fir-tree, the cool silver shock
Of the plunge in a pool's living water...
How good is man's life, the mere living! how fit to employ
All the heart and the soul and the senses forever in joy!

While all the conventional amusements are provided at Tahoe Tavern a
large number of the guests, like myself, find much pleasure in feeding
and making friends with the chipmunks, which have been so fostered
and befriended that there are _scores_ of them, most of them so
fearless as to climb into the laps, eat from the hands, run over the
shoulders, and even explore the pockets of those who bring nuts
and other dainties for their delectation. Children and adults,
even gray-haired grandpas and grandmas, love these tiny morsels
of animation, with their quick, active, nervous movements, their
simulations of fear and their sudden bursts of half-timorous
confidence. With big black eyes, how they squat and watch, or stand,
immovable on their hind legs, their little forepaws held as if in
petition, solemnly, seriously, steadily watch, watch, watching,
until they are satisfied either that you are all right, or are to be
shunned. For, with a whisk of the tail, they either dart towards
you, or run in the other direction and hide in the brush, climb with
amazing speed up a tree, or rush into their holes in the ground.

Some of them are such babies that they cannot be many months old, and
they feel the friendly atmosphere into which they have been born. And
it is an interesting sight to see a keen, stern, active business man
from "the city" saunter with his wife after lunch or dinner, sit down
on the steps leading down to the water's edge, or on a tree stump,
or squat down on his haunches anywhere on the walk, the lawn, or the
veranda, fish some nuts out of his pocket and begin to squeak with his
lips to attract the chipmunks. Sometimes it is a learned advocate of
the law, or a banker, or a wine-merchant, or the manager of a large
commission-house. It seems to make no difference. The "chips" catch
them all, and every one delights in making friends with them.

Here is a tiny little chap, watching me as I loll on the stairs. His
black, twinkling eye fixes itself on me. He is making sure. Suddenly
he darts toward my outstretched fingers where a peanut is securely
held. He seizes it with his sharp teeth, but I hold on. Then with his
little paws he presses and pushes, while he hangs on to the nut with a
grip that will not be denied. If he doesn't get it all, he succeeds in
snapping off a piece and then, either darting off, with a quick whisk
of his tail, to enjoy it in his chosen seclusion, or, squatting down
on his hind legs, he holds the delicious morsel between his fore-paws
and chews away with a rapidity as astonishing as it is interesting and

Now a fat old fellow--he looks like a grandpa in age--comes up. He
is equally suspicious at first, takes his preliminary reconnaissance,
darts forward and just about reaches you, when he darts away again.
Only for a moment however. On he comes, seizes the nut, and eats it
then and there, or darts off with inconceivable rapidity, up the tree
trunk to a branch twenty, forty feet up, and then sits in most cunning
and _cute_ posture, but in just as big a hurry and in equally
excitable fashion to eat his lunch as if he were within reach.

Sometimes half a dozen or more of them, big and little, will surround
you. One leaps upon your knee, another comes into your lap, while
another runs all over your back and shoulders. Now and again two
aim at the same time for the same nut, and then, look out. They are
selfish little beggars and there is an immense amount of human nature
in such tiny creatures. The bigger one wants the morsel and chases
the smaller one away, and he is so mad about it and gets so in earnest
that sometimes he chases the other fellow so far that he forgets
what it was all about. He loses the nut himself, but, anyhow, he has
prevented the other fellow from getting it. How truly human!

Then the younger one, or the smaller one, or the older one, will whisk
himself up a tree, perch on a branch and begin to scold, or he climbs
to the top of a stump, or a rock, or merely stands upright without
any foreign aid, and how he can "Chip, chip, chip, chip!" His piercing
little shriek makes many a stranger to his voice and ways wonder
what little bird it is that has so harsh a cry, and he keeps at it so
persistently that again you say, How human! and you wonder whether it
is husband scolding wife, or wife husband, or--any of the thousand
and one persons who, because they have the power, use it as a right to
scold the other thousand and one poor creatures who have to submit, or
think they have (which is pretty much the same thing).

These proceedings at Tahoe Tavern are diversified by the presence of
a friendly bluejay. He is one of the smartest birds in the world. Some
relation, no doubt, to the bird told of by Mark Twain in his _Tramp
Abroad_. This bluejay has watched the visitors and the chipmunks
until he has become extra wise. He has noticed that the latter toil
not neither do they spin and yet neither Solomon Levi nor Kelly feed
more sumptuously or more often than do they, simply because they have
succeeded in beguiling the hearts of the guests who are so bored
with each other that association with the "lower" animals is a great
relief. So he has started the "friendly chipmunk" role. He stifles
his raucous cry, he puts on a shy, timid and yet friendly demeanor.
He flies conveniently near, and gives forth a gentle note, asking,
_please_, your kind and favorable attention to the fact that he
is a bluejay. As soon as he sees your eye upon him, he hops a little
nearer; not too near, however, either to mislead you or to put himself
in your hands, but just near enough to tempt you to try to tempt him.
You hold out a nut, and then, with a quick dart and a sharp peck with
a bill trained to certain and sure work, your thumb and finger lose
that which they held, and Mr. Bluejay is eating it in perfect security
well beyond your reach. Oh, he is a fascinating creature is this
bunch of beautiful blue feathers decorating the harshest voice of all
birddom in the region of Lake Tahoe.

But birds, squirrels, flowers, scenery, sports, worship, fine
music, the best kind of food, "air the angel's breathe," and sleep
recuperative enough to revivify the old and decrepit, fishing, rowing,
swimming and the like are not all that need fill one's days at Tahoe

_Hike_[1] out, afoot or horseback. Take the trails. Get Bob
Watson, or one of his under-studies, to pilot you to Watson Peak and
lake, go to Ellis, Squaw or a score of other peaks, visit the various
Sierran lakes, or take a camping out or hunting trip to Hell Hole, the
Yosemite, or any one of the scenic spots, one, two, five, or ten days
away. Then, my word for it, you will return home "a new man," life
will put on a new meaning, and sensations long since lost will
come back with unthought-of force, for you will have "regained your
youth"--that dream of the old of all the ages.

[Footnote 1: This word, slang or not, is finely expressive, and is
already fully established in the accepted nomenclature of mountain

There are a number of interesting walks, drives and automobile trips
which may be taken from the Tavern, besides the lakeshore walks which
are always interesting. Indian Camp is half a mile away; Tahoe City,
a little further, and here the interesting Fremont howitzer, to whose
history I have devoted a separate chapter, may be seen; Tavern Spring,
a beautiful walk through the woods, one and a quarter miles; the Fish
Hatchery, a mile away, where all the processes of hatching various
kinds of trout before they are distributed to the different lakes and
streams may be witnessed.

To those who prefer longer walks, or horseback rides,
there are the Logging Camp, three and a third miles;
Idlewyld, four miles; Stanford Rock, five miles; Ward Peak, six miles;
Blackwood Creek Dairy, six miles; Carnelian Bay, six miles; and Twin
Peaks, seven miles. Several of these interesting places can be reached
also by automobile.

An especially delightful walk or horseback ride is by the Truckee
River Trail to Deer Park Inn, six and a half miles, and thence two
miles farther to Five Lakes, near which the waters divide, one stream
flowing into the Rubicon, thence into the Sacramento and out by the
Golden Gate into the Pacific Ocean; the other by Bear Creek into the
Truckee River, thence into Pyramid Lake in the heart of the Nevada

Automobile trips from the Tavern are numerous, depending entirely upon
the length of time one can give to them. Chief of all is the Tahoe
Boulevard trip around the Lake to Tallac, and thence on by Lakeside
and by Cave Rock to Glenbrook, a distance of fifty miles. Hobart
Lumber Mills, twenty-two miles, are well worth a visit to those who
have never seen modern methods of making lumber; Independence Lake,
thirty miles, is easily reached in two hours, and it is one of the
charming spots of the High Sierras; Webber Lake, forty-three miles,
is another exquisite beauty spot, where there is an excellent Country
Club House. Reno is reached by three routes, all of them interesting,
and each well worth traveling over. An excellent trip is to leave the
Tavern after breakfast, ride on the Tahoe Boulevard to Glenbrook for
lunch, then over to Carson City, where a brief visit can be made
at the Capital of the State of Nevada, the Indian School and the
prehistoric foot-prints, that for years have been the wonder of the
scientists of the world. Then on to Reno, where at the Riverside
Hotel, mine host Gosse, one of the noted figures of the hotel world of
the West, will accord a hearty welcome. Next morning Pyramid Lake can
be visited and the return to the Tavern made by way of Truckee.

For those who enjoy motor-boating on the Lake excellent provision is
made. The Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company own several
steam and gasoline launches, with varied capacities,--from six to two
hundred and fifty passengers--full particulars of which can always be

Fishing boats in large numbers are to be had either with or without
oarsmen, together with full equipment for fishing or hunting trips.

The Tavern stables are prepared to supply all reasonable demands for
saddle-horses, driving-teams, and pack-animals for hunting trips, and
arrangements can be made for equipment and guides for mountain trips,
of any duration, from a couple of days to three months or more. There
is also a garage with first class cars and experienced chauffeurs for

[Illustration: Ladies' Lounging Room, the Casino, Tahoe Tavern]

[Illustration: The Front of Tahoe Tavern from a Table in the

[Illustration: The Launch _Catalini_, Lake Tahoe]

[Illustration: Bathing in Lake Tahoe, Near Tahoe Tavern]



To nature-lovers, more or less active, the trails all around and about
Lake Tahoe are a source of perpetual surprise and delight. I know of
no region in California that possesses such a wealth of trails--not
even the Yosemite or Mt. Shasta regions. The Lake is an ever-present
friend. From ridges, peaks, summits and passes, near at hand or scores
of miles away, it never fails to satisfy the eye. Again and again,
when one is least expecting it, a turn in the trail, or a few steps
forward or backward on a summit ridge brings it into sight, and its
pure blue surface, now seen smooth and glossy as a mirror, again
shining in pearly brilliancy in the sun, or gently rippled by a calm
morning or evening zephyr, or tossed into white caps by a rising
wind-storm, pelted with fierce rain or hail, or glimpsed only through
sudden openings in a snowstorm, at sunrise or sunset, each with its
own dazzling brilliancies--it always gives one a thrill and warming
sensation at the heart.

Then, too, the number of peaks to the summits of which trails have
been cut, so that the walker, or the horseback rider may have easy
access, are many and varied. In all there are not less than forty
peaks, each of which is well worth a trip, each presenting some
feature of its own that renders its personality worth cultivating.

In this and other chapters, I present my own experiences as
illustrative to give the general reader an idea of what may be
expected if he (or she) is induced to try one of the chief delights of
a sojourn in this scenic region.


Leaving Tahoe Tavern, crossing the bridge to Tahoe City, the trail
leaves the main road on the left about a mile and a half further on,
passing the horse pasture on the right. Near Tahoe City is the Free
Camping Ground owned by the Transportation Company. This has a mile
frontage overlooking the Lake, and scores of people habitually avail
themselves of the privilege, bringing their own outfits with them, as,
at present, there are no arrangements made for renting tents and the
needed furnishings to outsiders.

The slope up which the trail now ascends with gradual rise is covered
with variegated chaparral, making a beautiful mountain carpet and
cushion _for the eye_. To the foot and body it is entangling
and annoying, placing an effectual barrier before any but the most
strenuous, athletic and determined of men.

Now the white firs, with their white bark, and the red-barked yellow
pines begin to appear. They accompany us all the rest of the way to
the peak and lake.

Soon we cross Burton Creek, a mere creek except during the
snow-melting or rain-falling time. It empties into Carnelian Bay.
Burton was one of the old-timers who owned the Island ranch near the
Lake shore, and who came to the Tahoe region at the time of the Squaw
Valley mining excitement. When the "bottom fell out" of that he did
a variety of things to earn a living, one of which was to cut bunch
grass from Lake Valley and bring it on mules over the pass that bears
his name, boat it across to Lakeside at the south end of the Lake, on
the Placerville and Virginia City stage-road, and there sell it to the
stage station. Hay thus gathered was worth in those days from $80 to
$100 per ton.

About two and a half miles from the Tavern we come to a wood road,
which is followed for half a mile. Years ago all these slopes were
denuded of their valuable timber, which was "chuted" down to the Lake
and then towed across to the sawmills at Glenbrook. The remnants
are now being gathered up and used as fuel for the hotel and the

Here and there are charming little nurseries of tiny and growing
yellow pines and white fir. How sweet, fresh and beautiful they
look,--the Christmas trees of the fairies. And how glad they make the
heart of the real lover of his country, to whom "conservation" is not
a fad, but an imperative necessity for the future--an obligation felt
towards the generations yet to come.

Of entirely different associations, and arousing a less agreeable
chain of memories, are the ruined log-cabins of the wood-cutter's and
logger's days. Several of these are passed.

As we re-enter the trail, Watson's Peak, 8500 feet high, with its
basaltic crown, looms before us. At our feet is a big bed of wild
sunflowers, their flaring yellow and gold richly coloring the more
somber slopes. Here I once saw a band of upwards of 2000 sheep, herded
by a Basque, one of that strange European people who seem especially
adapted by centuries of such life to be natural shepherds. Few of them
speak much American, but they all know enough, when you ask them how
many sheep they have, to answer, "About sixteen hundred." The limit
allowed on any government reserve in any one band is, I think,
1750, and though a passing ranger may be sure there are more, he is
nonplussed when, on his making question, the owner or the shepherd

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