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The Atlantic to the Pacific: What to See and How to See it (1873), by John Erastus Lester


HETCH-HETCHY VALLEY.

For the benefit of those tourists who desire to extend their journey, and behold more of the beautiful scenery of the Sierras, I will mention Hetch-Hetchy Valley. It is reached by a good mountain-trail from Hardin’s Ranch, which is situated on the route to the Yo-Semite by way of Big-Oak Flat. A visit to this valley will amply repay the time and fatigue, and show that, out of the usual routes of travel, there is scenery grand and imposing—another valley which is almost another Yo-Semite.

Mr. John Muir thus describes it, as seen in his visit there in November last:—

‘This valley is situated on the Main Tuolumne River, just as Yo-Semite is on the Merced. It is about three miles in length, with a width varying from an eighth to half a mile. Most of its surface is level as a lake, and lies at an elevation of 3,800 feet above the sea. Its course is mostly from East to West; but it is bent northward in the middle, like Yo-Semite. At the end of the valley, the river enters a narrow caņon, which cannot devour the spring floods sufficiently fast to prevent the lower half of the valley from becoming a lake. Beginning at the west end of the valley, where Hardin trail comes in, the first conspicuous rocks on the right are a group like the Cathedral Rocks in Yo-Semite, and occupying the same relative position to the valley. The lowest member of the group; which stands out well isolated above, exactly like the corresponding rock of the Yo-Semite group, is, according to State Geological Survey, about 2,270 feet in height. The two highest members are not so separate as those of Yo-Semite. They are best seen from the top of the wall, a mile or two further east. On the north side of the valley there is a vast perpendicular rock-fron 1,800 feet high, which resembles El Capitan of Yo-Semite. In spring a large stream pours over its brow, with a clear fall of at least 1,000 feet. East of this, on the same side, is the Hetch-Hetchy Fall, occupying a position relative to the valley like that of Yo-Semite Fall. It is about 1,700 feet in height, but not in one unbroken fall. . . . The wall of the valley above this fall has two benches fringed with live-oak, which correspond with astonishing minuteness to the benches of the same relative portion of the Yo-Semite wall. . . . The surface of Hetch-Hetchy is diversified with groves and meadows in the same manner as Yo-Semite; and the trees are identical in species. . . . We have no room here to discuss the formation of this valley: we will only state as our opinion that it is an inseparable portion of the great Glacier Caņon of the Tuolumne, and that its level bottom is one of a chain of lake-basins extending through-out the caņon, which have been, no great time ago, filled up with glacial drift. The Yo-Semite is a caņon of exactly the same origin.’



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