The Nebraska arrived at San Francisco, March 27th, and Muir lost no time there after he set foot on land. To his friends he was accustomed to relate, touches of humor, how he met on the street, the morning after debarkation, a man with a kit of carpenter’s tools on his shoulders. When he inquired of him “the nearest way out of town to the wild part of the State,” the man set down his tools in evident astonishment and asked, “where do you wish to go?” “Anywhere that’s wild” was Muir’s reply, and he was directed to the Oakland Ferry with the remark that that would be as good a way out of town as any.
On shipboard Muir had made the acquaintanceship of a young Englishman by the name of Chilwell, “a most amusing and faithful companion,” who eagerly embraced the opportunity to visit Yosemite Valley with him. In those days the usual route to Yosemite was by river steamer to Stockton, thence by stage to Coulterville or Mariposa, and the remainder of way over the mountains on horseback. But Muir disdained this “orthodox route,” for “we had plenty of time,” he said, “and proposed drifting leisurely mountain ward by the Santa Clara Valley, Pacheco Pass, and the San Joaquin Valley, and thence to Yosemite by any road that we chanced to find; enjoying the flowers and light; camping out in our blankets wherever overtaken by night and paying very little compliance to roads or times.”
In his autobiographical manuscript Muir passes in a few sentences over the first part of this trip, intending according to his penciled directions to fill in from a description already written. This must refer to the detailed narrative published in Old and New in 1872, from which we excerpt the paragraphs descriptive of his walk as far as the top of the Pacheco Pass.
We crossed the bay by the Oakland Ferry and proceeded up the Santa Clara valley to San Jose. This is one of the most fertile of the many small valleys of the coast; its rich bottoms are filled with wheat-fields, and orchards, and vineyards, and alfalfa meadows.
It was now spring-time, and the weather was the best we ever enjoyed. Larks and streams sang everywhere; the sky was cloudless, and the whole valley was a lake of light. The atmosphere was spicy and exhilarating, my companion acknowledging over his national prejudices that it was the best he ever breathed—more deliciously fragrant than that which streamed over the hawthorn hedges of England. This San Jose sky was not simply pure and bright, and mixed with plenty of well-tempered sunshine, but it possessed a positive flavor, a taste that thrilled throughout every tissue of the body. Every inspiration yielded a well-defined piece of pleasure that awakened thousands of new palates everywhere. Both my companion and myself had lived on common air for nearly thirty years, and never before this discovered that our bodies contained such multitudes of palates, or that this mortal flesh, so little valued by philosophers and teachers, was possessed of so vast a capacity for happiness.
We were new creatures, born again; and truly not until this time were we fairly conscious that we were born at all. Never more, thought I as we strode forward at faster speed, never more shall I sentimentalize about getting free from the flesh, for it is steeped like a sponge in immortal pleasure.
The foothills of the valley are in near view all the way to Gilroy, those of the Monte Diablo range on our left, those of Santa Cruz on our right; they are smooth and flowing, and come down to the bottom levels in curves of most surpassing beauty. They are covered with flowers growing close together in cloud-shaped companies, acres and hillsides in size, white, purple, and yellow, separate, yet blending like the hills upon which they grow. . . .
The Pacheco Pass was scarcely less enchanting than the valley. It resounded with crystal waters, and the loud shouts of thousands of quails. The California quail is a little larger than the Bob White; not quite so plump in form. The male has a tall, slender crest, wider at top than bottom, which he can hold straight up, or droop backward on his neck, or forward over his bill, at pleasure; and, instead of “Bob White,” he shouts “pe-check-a,” bearing down with a stiff, obstinate emphasis on check.” Through a considerable portion of the pass the road bends and mazes along the groves of a stream, or down in its pebbly bed, leading one now deep in the shadows of dogwoods and alders, then out in the light, through dry chaparral, over green carex meadow banked with violets and ferns, and dry, plantless flood-beds of gravel and sand.
We found ferns in abundance in the pass. . . Also in this rich garden pass we gathered many fine grasses and carices, and brilliant penstemons, azure and scarlet, and mints and lilies, and scores of others, strangers to us, but beautiful and pure as ever enjoyed the sun or shade of a mountain home.
At this point Muir’s unpublished memoirs resume the thread of the narrative as follows:
At the top of the Pass I obtained my first view of the San Joaquin plain and the glorious Sierra Nevada. Looking down from a height of fifteen hundred feet, there, extending north and south as far as I could see lay a vast level flower garden, smooch and level like a lake of gold—the floweriest part of the world I had yet seen. From the eastern margin of the golden plain arose the white Sierra. At the base ran a belt of gently sloping purplish foothills lightly dotted with oaks, above that a broad dark zone of coniferous forests and above is forest zone arose the lofty mountain peaks, clad in snow. The atmosphere was so clear that the nearest of the mountain peaks on the axis of range were at a distance of more than one hundred and fifty miles, they seemed to be at just the right distance to be seen broadly in their relations to one another, marshaled in glorious ranks and groups, their snowy robes smooch and bright that it seemed impossible for a man to walk across the open folds without being seen, even at this distance. Perhaps more than three hundred miles of the range was comprehended in this one view.
Descending the pass and wading out into the bed of golden compost five hundred miles long by forty or fifty wide, I found that the average depth of the vegetation was over knee deep, and the flowers were so crowded together that in walking through the midst of them and over them more than a hundred were pressed down beneath the foot at every step. The yellow these compositae, both of the ray and disc flowers, is extremely deep a rich and bossy, and exceeds the purple of all the others in superficial quantity forty or fifty times their whole amount. But to an observer who first looks downward, then takes a wider and wider view, the yellow gradually fade and purple predominates, because nearly all of the purple flowers are taller, In depth, the purple stratum is about ten or twelve inches, the yellow seven or eight, and down in the shade, out of sight, is another stratum of purple, one inch in depth, for the ground forests of mosses are there, with purple stems, and purple cups. The color beauty of these mosses, at least in mass, was not made for human eyes, nor for the wild horses that inhabit these plains, nor the antelopes, but perhaps the little creatures enjoy their own beauty, and perhaps the insects that dwell in these forests and climb their shining columns enjoy it. But we know that however faint, and however shaded’ no part of it is lost, for all color is received into the eyes of God.
Crossing this greatest of flower gardens and the San Joaquin River at Hill’s Ferry, we followed the Merced River, which I knew drained Yosemite Valley, and ascended the foothills from Snelling by way of Coulterville. We had several accidents and adventures. At the little mining town of Coulterville we bought flour and tea and made inquiries about roads and trails, and the forests we would have to pass through. The storekeeper, an Italian, took kindly pains to tell the pair of wandering wayfarers, new arrived in California, that the winter had been very severe, that in some places the Yosemite trail was still buried in snow eight or ten feet deep, and therefore we would have to wait at least a month before we could possibly get into the great valley, for we would surely get lost should we attempt to go on. As to the forests, the trees, he said, were very large; some of the pines eight or ten feet in diameter.
In reply I told him that it would be delightful to see snow ten feet deep and trees ten feet thick, even if lost, but I never got lost in wild woods. “Well,” said he, “go, if you must, but I have warned you; and anyhow you must have a gun, for there are bears in the mountains, but you must not shoot at them unless they come for you and are very, very close up.” So at last, at Mr. Chilwell’s anxious suggestion, we bought an old army musket, with a few pounds of quail shot and large buckshot, good, as the merchant assured us, for either birds or bears.
Our bill of fare in camps was simple—tea and cakes, the latter made from flour without leaven and toasted on the coals—and of course we shunned hotels in the valley, seldom indulging even in crackers, as being too expensive. Chilwell, being an Englishman, loudly lamented being compelled to live on so light a diet, flour and water, as he expressed it, and hungered for flesh; therefore he made desperate efforts to shoot something to eat, particularly quails and grouse, but he was invariably unsuccessful and declared the gun was worthless. I told him I thought that it was good enough if properly loaded and aimed, though perhaps sighted too high, and promised to show him at the first opportunity how to load and shoot.
Many of the herbaceous plants of the flowing foothills were the same as those of the plain and had already gone to seed and withered. But at a height of one thousand feet or so we found many of the lily family blooming in all their glory, the Calochortus especially, a charming genus like European tulips, but finer, and many species of two new shrubs—especially, Ceanothus and Adenostoma. The oaks, beautiful trees with blue foliage and white bark, forming open groves, gave a fine park effect. Higher, we met the first of the pines, with long gray foliage, large stout cones, and wide-spreading heads like palms. Then yellow pines, growing gradually more abundant as we ascended. At Bower Cave on the north fork of the Merced the streams were fringed with willows and azalea, ferns, flowering dogwood, etc. Here, too, we enjoyed the strange beauty of the Cave in a limestone hill.
At Deer Flat the wagon-road ended in a trail which we traced up the side of the dividing ridge parallel to the Merced and Tuolumne to Crane Flat, lying at a height of six thousand feet, where we found a noble forest of sugar pine, silver fir, libocedrus, Douglas spruce, the first of the noble Sierra forests, the noblest coniferous forests in the world, towering in all their unspoiled beauty and grandeur around a sunny, gently sloping meadow. Here, too, we got into the heavy winter snow—a fine change from the burning foothills and plains.
Some mountaineer had tried to establish a claim to the Flat by building a little cabin of sugar pine shakes, and though we had arrived early in the afternoon I decided to camp here for the night as the trail was buried in the snow which was about six feet deep, and I wanted to examine the topography and plan our course. Chilwell cleared away the snow from the door and floor of the cabin, and made a bed in it of boughs of fernlike silver fir, though I urged the same sort of bed made under the trees on the snow. But he had the house habit.
After camp arrangements were made he reminded me of my promise about the gun, hoping eagerly for improvement of our bill of fare, however slight. Accordingly I loaded the gun, paced off thirty yards from the cabin, or shanty, and told Mr. Chilwell to pin a piece of paper on the wall and see if I could not put shot into it and prove the gun’s worth. So he pinned a piece on the shanty wall and vanished around the corner, calling out, “Fire away.”
I supposed that he had gone some distance back of the cabin, but instead he went inside of it and stood up against the mark that he had himself placed on the wall, and as the shake wall of soft sugar pine was only about half an inch thick, the shot passed through it and into his chowder. He came rushing: out, with his hand on his chowder, crying in great concern, “You’ve shot me, you’ve shot me, Scottie.” The weather being cold, he fortunately had on three coats and as many shirts. One of the coats was a heavy English overcoat. I discovered that the shot had passed through all this clothing and into his shoulder, and the embedded pellets had to be picked out with the point of a penknife. I asked him how he could be so foolish as to stand opposite the mark. “Because,” he replied, “I never imagined the blank gun would shoot through the side of the ‘ouse.”
We found our way easily enough over the deep snow, guided by the topography, and discovered the trail on the brow of the valley just as the Bridal Veil came in sight. I didn’t know that it was one of the famous falls I had read about, and calling Chilwell’s attention to it I said, “See that dainty little fall over there. I should like to camp at the foot of it to see the ferns and lilies that may be there. It looks small from here, only about fifteen or twenty feet, but it may be sixty or seventy.” So little did we then know of Yosemite magnitudes!
After spending eight or ten days in visiting the falls and the high points of view around the walls, making sketches, collecting flowers and ferns, etc., we decided to make the return trip by way of Wawona, then owned by Galen Clark, the Yosemite pioneer. The night before the start was made on the return trip we camped near the Bridal Veil Meadows, where, as we lay eating our suppers by the light of the camp-fire, we were visited by a brown bear. We heard him approaching by the heavy crackling of twigs. Chilwell, in alarm, after listening a while, said, “I see it! I see it! It’s a bear, a grizzly! Where is the gun? You take the gun and shoot him—you can shoot best.” But the gun had only a charge of birdshot in it; therefore, while the bear stood on the opposite side of the fire, at a distance of probably twenty-five or thirty feet, I hastily loaded in a lot of buckshot. The buckshot was too large to chamber and therefore it made a zigzag charge on top of the birdshot charge, the two charges occupying about half of the barrel. Thus armed, the gun held at rest pointed at the bear, we sat hushed and motionless, according to instructions from the man who sold the gun, solemnly waiting and watching, as full of fear as the musket of shot. Finally, after sniffing and whining for his supper what seemed to us a long time, the young inexperienced beast walked off. We were much afraid of his return to attack us. We did not then know that bears never attack sleeping campers, and dreading another visit we kept awake on guard most of the night.
Like the Coulterville trail all the high-lying part of the Mariposa trail was deeply snow-buried, but we found our way without the slightest trouble, steering by the topography in a general way along the brow of the canyon of the south fork of the Merced River, and in a day or two reached Wawona. Here we replenished our little flour sack and Mr. Clark gave us a piece of bear meat.
We then pushed eagerly on up the Wawona ridge through a magnificent sugar pine forest and into the far-famed Mariposa Sequoia Grove. The sun was down when we entered the Grove, but we soon had a good fire and at supper that night we tasted bear meat for the first time. My flesh-hungry companion ate it eagerly, though to me it seemed so rank and oily that I was unable to swallow a single morsel
After supper we replenished the fire and gazed enchanted at the vividly illumined brown boles of the giants towering about us, while the stars sparkled in wonderful beauty above their huge domed heads. We camped here long uncounted days, wandering about from tree to tree, taking no note of time. The longer we gazed the more we admired not only their colossal size, but their majestic beauty and dignity. Greatest of trees, greatest of living things, their noble domes poised in unchanging repose seemed to belong to the sky, while the great firs and pines about them looked like mere latter-day saplings.
While we camped in the Mariposa Grove, the abundance of bear tracks caused Mr. Chilwell no little alarm, and he proposed that we load the gun properly with buckshot and without any useless birdshot; but there was no means of drawing the charge—it had to be shot off. The recoil was so great that it bruised his shoulder and sent him spinning like a top. Casting down the miserable, kicking, bad luck musket among the Sequoia cones and branches that littered the ground, he stripped and examined his unfortunate shoulder and, in painful indignation and wrath, found it black and blue and more seriously hurt by the bruising recoil blow than it was by the shot at Crane Flat.
When we got down to the hot San Joaquin plain at Snelling the grain fields were nearly ready for the reaper, and we began to inquire for a job to replenish our remaining stock of money which was now very small, though we had not spent much; the grand royal trip of more than a month in the Yosemite region having cost us only about three dollars each. At our last camp, in a bed of cobble-stones on the Merced River bottom, Mr. Chilwell was more and more eagerly hungering for meat. He tried to shoot one of the jack-rabbits cantering around us, but was unable to hit any of them. I told him, when he begged me to take the gun, that I would shoot one for him if he would drive it up to the camp. He ran and shooed and threw cobble-stones without getting any of them up within shooting distance as I took good care to warn the poor beasts by making myself and the gun conspicuous. At last discovering the humor of the thing he shouted: “I say, Scottie, this makes me think of a picture I once saw in Punch—game-keepers driving partridges to be shot by a simpleton Cockney.”
Then one of those curious burrowing owls alighted on the top of a fencepost beside us, and I said, “If you are so hungry for flesh why don’t you shoot one of those owls?” “Howls,” he said in disgust, “are only vermin.” I argued that that was mere prejudice and custom, and that if stewed in a pot it would make good soup, and the flesh, too, that he hungered for, might also be found to be fairly good, but that if he didn’t care for it, I didn’t.
I finally pictured the flavor of the soup so temptingly that with watering lips he consented to try it, and the poor owl was shot. When he came to dress it the pitiful little red carcass seemed so worthless a morsel that he was tempted to throw it away, but I said, “No; now that you have it ready for the pot, boil it and at least enjoy the soup.” So it was boiled in the teapot and bravely devoured, though he insisted that he did not like the flavor of either the soup or the meat. He charged me, saying: “Now, Scottie, if you go to England with me to see my folks, after our fortunes are made, don’t you tell them as ‘ow we ‘ad a howl for supper.” He was always trying to persuade me to go to England with him.
Next day we got a job in a harvest field at Hopeton and were seated at a table once more. Mr. Chilwell never tired of describing the meanness and misery of so pure a vegetable diet as was ours on the Yosemite trip. “Just think of it,” said he, “we lived a whole month on flour and water!” He ate so many hot biscuits at that table, and so much beans and boiled pork, that he was sick for three or four days afterwards, a trick the despised Yosemite diet never played him.
This Yosemite trip only made me hungry for another far longer and farther reaching, and I determined to set out again as soon as I had earned little money to get near views of the mountains in all their snowy grandeur, and study the wonderful forests, the noblest of their kind I had ever seen—sugar pines eight and nine feet in diameter, with cones nearly two feet long, silver furs more than two hundred feet in height, Douglas spruce and libocedrus, and the kingly Sequoias.
After the harvest was over Mr. Chilwell left me, but I remained with Mr. Egleston several months to break mustang horses; then ran a ferry boat Merced Falls for travel between Stockton and Mariposa. That same fall made a lot of money sheep-shearing, and after the shearing was over one the sheep-men of the neighborhood, Mr. John Cannel, nicknamed Smoky Jack, begged me to take care of one of his bands of sheep, because the then present shepherd was about to quit. He offered thirty dollars a month a board and assured me that it would be a “foin aisy job.”
I said that I didn’t know anything about sheep, except the shearing them, didn’t know the range, and that his flock would probably be scatter over the plains and lost; but he said he would risk me, that “the sheep would show me the range, and all would go smooth and aisy.” At length, considering that, being out every day, a fine opportunity would be offered to watch the growth of the flowery vegetation, and to study the birds and beasts, insects, weather, etc., I dared the job, and sure enough, as my employer said, the sheep soon showed me their range, leading me a wild chase in their search for grass over the dry sunbeaten plains.
Smoky Jack was known far and wide, and I soon learned that he was queer character. Unmarried, living alone, playing the game of money making, he had already become sheep-rich—the owner of three or four bands as the flocks are called. He had commenced his career as a sheep-man when he was poor, with only a score or two of coarse-woofed ewes, which he herded himself and faithfully followed and improved until they had multiplied in thousands.
He lived mostly on beans. In the morning after his bean breakfast he filled his pockets from the pot with dripping beans for luncheon, which he ate in handfuls as he followed the flock. His overalls and boots soon, of course, became thoroughly saturated, and instead of wearing thin, wore thicker and stouter, and by sitting down to rest from time to time, parts of all the vegetation, leaves, petals, etc., were embedded in them, together with wool fibers, butterfly wings, mica crystals, fragments of nearly everything that part of the world contained rubbed in, embedded and coarsely stratified, so that these wonderful garments grew to have a rich geological and biological significance, like chose of Mr. Delaney’s shepherd.
Replying to my inquiry where the sheep were, he directed me to follow the road between French Bar and Snelling four or five miles, and “when you see a cabin on a little hill, that’s the place.” I found the place, and a queer place it proved to be. The shepherd whom I was to relieve hailed me with delight and within a few minutes of my arrival set off, exulting in his freedom. I begged him to stay until morning and show me the range, but this he refused, saying that it was unnecessary for him to show me the range; all I had to do was simply to let down the corral bars and the starving sheep would soon explain and explore the range.
Left alone, I examined the dismal little hut with dismay. A Dutch oven frying-pan, and a few tin cups lay on the floor; a rickety stool and a bedstead, with a tick made of a wool sack, stuffed with straw and cast-off overalls left by shearers, constituted the furniture. I went outside, looking for a piece of clean ground to lie down on, but no such ground was to be found. Every yard of it was strewn with some sort of sheep camp detritus, bits of shriveled woolly skin, bacon rinds, bones, horns and skulls mixed with all sorts of mysterious compound unclean rubbish! I therefore had to go back into the shanty and spread my blankets on the dirt floor as the least dangerous part of the establishment.
Next morning, by the time I had fried some pancakes and made a cup of tea, the sunbeams were streaming through the wide vertical seams of the shanty wall, and I made haste to open the corral. The sheep were crowding around the gate, and as soon as it was opened, poured forth like a boisterous uncontrollable flood, and soon the whole flock was so widely outspread and scattered over the plain, it seemed impossible that the mad starving creatures could ever be got together again. I ran around from side to side, headed the leaders off again and again, and did my best to confine the size of the flock to an area of a square mile or so.
About noon, to my delight and surprise, they lay down to rest and allowed me to do the same for an hour or so. Then they again scattered, but not so far nor so wildly, and I was still more surprised about half an hour before sundown, while I was wondering how I could ever get them driven back into the corral, to see them gather of their own accord into long parallel files, cross Dry Creek on the bank of which the corral stood, and pour back into the corral and quietly lie down. This ended my first day of sheep-herding.
After the winter rains had set in, and the grass had grown to a height of three or four inches, herding became easy, for they quietly filled themselves; but at this time, just before the rain, when not a green leaf is to be seen, when the dead summer vegetation is parched and crumpled into dust and fragments of stems, the sheep are always hungry and unmanageable; but when full of green grass the entire flock moves as one mild, bland, contented animal. This year the winter rains did not set in until the middle of December, Then Dry Creek became a full, deep, stately flowing river; every hollow in the hills was flooded, every channel so long dry carried a rushing, gurgling, happy stream.
Being out every day I had the advantage of watching the coming of every species of plant. Mosses and liverworts, no trace of which could be seen when dry and crumpled, now suddenly covered the entire plain with a soft velvet robe of living green. Then, at first one by one, the different species of flowering plants appeared, pushing up with marvelous rapidity and bursting into bloom, until all the ground was covered with golden compositae, interrupted and enriched here and there with charming beds of violets, mints, clover, mariposa tulips, etc.
It was very interesting, too, to watch the awakening and coming to light and life of the many species of ants and other insects after their deathlike sleep during the cold rainy season; and the ground squirrels coming out of their burrows to sun themselves and feed on the fresh vegetation; and to watch the nesting birds and hear them sing—especially the meadow-larks which were in great abundance and sang as if every note was transformed sunshine. Plovers in great numbers and of several species came to feed with snipes and geese and swans.
It was interesting, too, to watch the long-eared hares, or jack-rabbits as they are called, as they cantered over the flowery plain, or confidingly mingled with the flock. Several times I saw inquisitive sheep interviewing the rabbits as they sat erect, even touching noses and indulging apparently in interesting gossip. My dog was fond of chasing the hares, but they bounded along carelessly, and never were so closely pressed as to be compelled to dive into a burrow. They apparently trusted entirely to their speed of foot; but as soon as a golden eagle came in sight they made for the nearest burrow in terrified haste. Then, feeling safe, they would turn around and look out the door to watch the movements of their enemy.
Occasionally I have seen an eagle alight within a yard or two of the door of a burrow into which a hare had been chased, and observed their gestures while the hare and eagle looked each other in the face for an hour at a time, the eagle apparently hoping that the hare might venture forth. When, however, a hare was surprised at any considerable distance from a burrow, the eagle, in swift pursuit, rapidly overtakes it and strikes it down with his elbow, then wheels around, picks it up and carries it to some bare hilltop to feast at leisure.
By the end of May nearly all of the marvelous vegetation of the plains has gone to seed and is so scorched and sun-dried, it crumbles under foot as though it had literally been cast into an oven. Then most of the flocks are driven into the green pastures of the Sierra. A camp is made on the first favorable spot commanding a considerable range, and when it is eaten out the camp is moved to higher and higher pastures in succession, following the upward sweep of grassy, flowery summer towards the summit of the Range.
Ever since I had visited Yosemite the previous year I had longed to get back into the Sierra. When the heavy snows were melting in the spring sunshine, opening the way to the summits of the Range, and I was trying to plan a summer’s excursion into their midst, wondering how I could possibly carry food to last a whole summer, Mr. Delaney, a neighbor of Smoky Jack’s, noticing my love of plants and seeing some of the drawings I had made in my note-books, urged me to go to the mountains with his flock—not to herd the sheep, for the regular shepherd was to take care of them, but simply to see that the shepherd did his duties. He offered to carry my plant press and blankets, allow me to make his mountain camps my headquarters while I was studying the adjacent mountains, and perfect freedom to pursue my studies, and offering to pay me besides, simply to see that the shepherd did not neglect his flock.
Mr. Delaney was an Irishman who was educated at Maynooth College for a Catholic priest, a striking contrast to his so-called “Smoky” neighbor. He was lean and tall, and I naturally nicknamed him Don Quixote. I told him that I did not think I could be of any practical use to him because I did not know the mountains, knew nothing about the habits of sheep in the mountains, and that I feared that in pushing through brush, fording torrents, and in attacks of bears and wolves, the sheep would be scattered and not half of them ever see the plains again. But he encouraged me by saying that he himself would go to the mountains with the flock, to the first camp, and visit each camp in succession from time to time, bringing letters and fresh provisions, and seeing for himself how his flock was prospering; that the shepherd would do all the herding and that I would be just as free to pursue my studies as if there were no sheep in the question, to sketch and collect plants, and observe the wild animals; but as he could not depend upon his shepherd his fear was that the flock might be neglected, and scattered by bears, and that my services would only be required in cases of accidents of that sort.
I therefore concluded to accept his generous offer. The sheep were counted, the morning the start for the mountains was made, as they passed out of the corral one by one. They numbered two thousand and fifty, and were headed for the mountains. The leaders of the flock had not gone a mile from the home camp before they seemed to understand that they were on their way up to the high green pastures where they had been the year before, and eagerly ran ahead, while Don Quixote, with a rifle on his shoulder, led two pack animals, and the shepherd and an Indian and Chinaman to assist in driving through the foothills, and myself, marched in the rear.
Our first camp after crossing the dusty, brushy foothills, which were Scarcely less sunburned than the plains, was made on a tributary of the North Fork of the Merced River at an elevation of about three thousand feet above the sea. Here there were no extensive grassy meadows, but the hills and hollows and recesses of the mountain divide between the Merced and the Tuolumne waters were richly clothed with grass and lupines, while clover of different species and ceanothus bushes furnished pasture in fair abundance for several weeks, while the many waterfalls on the upper branches of the river, the charming lily gardens at the foot of them, and many new plants and animals to sketch and study, afforded endless work according to my own heart.
The sheep were kept here too long; the pasture within two or three miles of the camp was eaten bare, while we waited day after day, more and more anxiously, for the coming of the Don with provisions, and to assist and direct the moving of the camp to higher fresh pasturage. Our own pasturage was also exhausted. We got out of flour, and strange to say, although we had abundance of mutton and tea and sugar, we began to suffer. After going without bread for about a week it was difficult to swallow mutton, and our stomachs became more and more restless. The shepherd tried to calm his rebellious stomach by chewing great quantities of tobacco and swallowing most of the juice, and by making his tea very strong, using a handful for each cup. Strange that in so fertile a wilderness we should suffer distress for the want of a cracker, or a slice of bread, while the Indians of the neighborhood sustained their merry, free lives on clover, pine bark, lupines, fern roots, etc., with only now and then a squirrel.
At length the Don came down the long glen, and all our bread woes were ended. He brought with him not only an abundance of provisions, but two men to assist in driving the flock higher. One of these men was an Indian, and I was interested in watching his behavior while eating, driving, and choosing a place to sleep at night. He kept a separate camp, and how quick] his eye was to notice a straggling sheep, and how much better he seemed to understand the intentions and motives of the flock than any of the other assistants.
Our next camp was made on the north side of Yosemite Valley, about a mile back from the top of the wall. Here for six weeks I reveled in the grandeur of Yosemite scenery, sketching from the crown of North Dome, visiting the head of the great Yosemite Fall and making excursions to the eastward to the top of Mount Hoffmann and to Lake Tenaya, enjoying the new plants. The greatest charm of our first camp were the lily gardens, Lilium pardalinum, with corollas large enough for babies’ bonnets. The species around our Yosemite camp was the mountain lily, L. parvum, with from one or two to forty or fifty flowers, the magnificent panicles rising to the height of six or seven feet, or even higher.
The principal tree of the forests at an elevation of eight thousand feet is the magnificent silver fir. The tallest that I measured near camp was no less than two hundred and forty feet in height, while with this grandeur and majesty is combined exquisite beauty of foliage and flower and fruit; the branches like sumptuous fern fronds, arranged in regular whorls round the stem like the leaves of lilies. From this camp I made the acquaintance on the top of Mount Hoffmann of trees I had not seen before—the beautiful mountain hemlock (Tsuga Mertensiana) and most graceful in form of all the California conifers, and the curious dwarf pine (Pinus albicaulis) that forms the timberline. To tell the glories of this magnificent camp-ground would require many a volume.
Here, for the first time, the sheep were attacked by bears in the night and scattered. The morning light showed a heap of dead sheep in the corral, killed by suffocation in piling on top of each other and pressing against the wall of the corral, while only two were carried out of the corral and half of the carcasses eaten. The second day after this attack the corral was again visited, another lot of sheep smothered and one carried off and half devoured. Just after we had succeeded in gathering the scattered flock into one again the Don arrived, and immediately ordered the camp moved, saying that the first robber bear and perhaps others, would visit the camp every night, and that no noisy watching, shooting, or building of fires would be of any avail to stop them. Accordingly, next morning the flock was headed toward the high grassy forests north of the Tuolumne meadows which we reached a few days later, where abundance of the best pasturage was found. Here we stayed until the approach of winter warned the Don to turn the flock toward the lowlands. At this camp I had a glorious time climbing, studying, sketching, pressing new plants, etc. But far from satisfied I determined to return next year and as many other years as opportunities offered or were made.
When we arrived at the home ranch the flock was corralled and counted and strange to say, every sheep of the two thousand and fifty was accounted for. A few had been killed for mutton, one was killed by the bite of a rattlesnake, one broke its leg jumping over a rock and had to be killed, one or two were sold to settlers on the way down to the foothills, and so forth, besides those lost by bears. This was a summer of greatest enjoyment of all that I liked best. I climbed the surrounding mountains; made the acquaintance of many new trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants, the main forest zones, glacier meadows, gardens and endless falls and cascades. There, too, I made the acquaintance of some of the Mono Indians, who visited our camp while on their annual deer hunt. The whole summer was crowded with the noblest pictures and sculptures and monuments of nature’s handiwork. I explored the magnificent group of mountains at the head of the Tuolumne River crossed the range by the Mono Pass, visited Mono Lake and the range of volcanic cones extending from its southern shore, making excursions from camp into all the surrounding region, sketching, writing notes, pressing plants, tracing the works and ways of the ancient glaciers, and reveling in the glorious life and beauty of the unspoiled new-born wilderness. And when at last the snow drove me out of it I determined to return to it again and again as I was able.
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