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Bears and Other Game—Sickness of Captain Boling—Convalescence and Determination—A Guess at Heights—A Tired Doctor and a Used-up Captain—Surprising an Indian—Know-nothingness, or Native Americanism—A Clue and Discovery—A Short-cut to Camp, but an Unpopular Route.
Considerable hilarty has been exhibited by modern visitors when told that the Yosemite and its environs were once the favorite resort of the grizzly bear. After these visitors have returned to New York or Boston, they tell the public not to be afraid of bears, as they were quite harmless; rather inclined to become domestic, etc. That is well enough now, perhaps, although grizzlies may yet be found; but at the date of the discovery; their trails were as large and numerous, almost, as cow-paths in a western settlement. Several bears were seen by us, and one was killed. The Yo-sem-i-tes used to capture these monsters by lying in wait for them on some rock or in some tree that commanded their thoroughfare, and after the bear had been wounded, all the dogs in the village were turned loose upon him. After being brought to bay, he was dispatched with arrows or the spear. A medium sized terrier or two will so annoy a large grizzly, keeping out of his way in the meantime, that he is apt to become stubborn and stand his ground.
In such cases, there is less danger to the hunter. I have known of two being killed in this way at short range. The approach of the hunter was disregarded by the bear. Their hams had been so bitten by the dogs that they dared not run, for fear of a fresh attack. I killed a large one as he came out of the Merced river, a little above where the town of Merced has since been built, and the same day, being in a whale-boat, I had to back from an old she-bear and her two cubs, encountered in a short turn of the river. I tried to kill these also, but my rifle had got soaked in the rain that was pouring at the time; as for the pistol shots, fired by some of the oarsmen, they only seemed to increase her speed, and that of her cubs, as they reached the shore and plunged through the willows. I had, previous to the killing of the grizzly, killed a large black bear with a rifle of small calibre, and gaining confidence, I attacked the grizzly, and was fortunate in cutting a renal-artery, from which the bear soon bled to death; but upon viewing the huge monster, I fully realized the folly of an open attack upon this kind of game, and ever afterwards, so far as I could, when alone, avoided their noted haunts. With all my caution and dread of an unexpected encounter with them, I met several face to face during mountain explorations; but invariably, they seemed as anxious to get away from me as I was that they should do so. Once while maneuvering to get a shot at a deer, a grizzly came out in full view but a few yards in advance of me. I was tempted to give him a shot, but as I had no refuge of dog or tree, if I made a poor shot, and knowing that I was not seen by the bear, I did not molest him, but felt relieved as he entered a chinquepin thicket, and if there had been fifty of them, no doubt they might have all gone without my saying a word.
I have seen a good deal of nonsense in print about bears, but will venture to give these incidents. Joel H. Brooks and John Kenzie, ex-members of “The Battalion,” were the least susceptible to fear of them, of any persons I ever knew. Their skill as marksmen, was something wonder-derful. They used to go through a drill on foot, firing at some imaginary grizzly, then with a representative shot, the bear was wounded, and pursuing them; they would turn and flee, loading their rifles as they ran, and then turn and fire with deliberation at the imaginary bear in pursuit.
This theory of bear hunting, they determined to put into practice, and after the close of the Indian war, and the disbanding of the battalion, they established themselves in a camp near the Tehon Pass, a locality even more famous for bears than the Yosemite. They were successful, killed a number, and were daily acquiring more confidence in the practicability of their theory and plans of attack; when one day, while Kenzie was out hunting by himself, he unexpectedly met a huge grizzly face to face; both were for a moment startled.
Contrary to the usual, and almost invariable, habit of the bear when surprised or about to attack, he did not rise upon his hind feet; but instead of affording Kenzie the advantage of the usual opportunity to aim at the small, light-colored spot on his neck, which, if centered, is instant death to the animal, the bear made a direct dash for the hunter. Seeing his peril, Kenzie at once fired with all the deliberation the urgency of the occasion would permit. The shot proved a fatal one, but before Kenzie could avoid the furious charge of the animal, he was fatally injured by blows from the terrible monster. His bowels were literally torn out; he was unfortunate in being tripped by the tangled brush, or he might have escaped, as the bear fell dead with his first charge, Kenzie succeeded in dragging himself to their camp. He described the locality of the adventure, and requested Brooks to go and bring in the liver of the bear. He said it would afford him some consolation to eat more of the bear than the bear had been able to eat of him. Brooks brought in and cooked some of the liver, fully gratifying Kenzie’s whim; but it was the hunter’s last poor triumph—he died soon after. Brooks swore off from this method of hunting, at least for a season, and accepted a position offered him at the Indian Agency.
Another member of our battalion killed a grizzly that for a time made him quite famous as a bear-fighter. As this man was an Indian, an attempt has been made to weave the incident into a legend, giving the honor of the combat to one of the Yosemites. The truth is, that a full-blooded Cherokee, known as “Cherokee Bob,” or Robert Brown, wounded a grizzly, and to keep the bear from entering a thicket, set his dog on the game. While “Bob” was reloading his rifle, and before he could get the cap on, the bear, disregarding the dog, charged upon Bob, and bore him to the ground. The dog instantly attacked the bear, biting his hams most furiously. The grizzly turned from Brown and caught the dog with his paw, holding him as a cat would hold a mouse. By this means Bob was released, and but slightly bruised. In an instant he drew his hunting knife and plunged it to the heart of the bear, and ended the contest. The dog was seriously injured, but Bob carried him in his arms to camp, and attended his wounds as he would a comrade’s or as he might have done his own. As “Cherokee Bob’” bear fight was a reality known to his comrades, I have noticed it here.
The various routes to the Yosemite are now so constantly traveled that bears will rarely be seen. They possess a very keen scent, and will avoid all thoroughfares traveled by man, unless very hungry; they are compelled to search for food. Strange as it may appear to some, the ferocious grizzly can be more reliably tamed and domesticated than the black bear. A tame grizzly at Monterey, in 1849, was allowed the freedom of the city. Capt. Chas. M. Webber, the original proprietor of the site of Stockton, had two that were kept chained. They became very tame. One of these, especially tame, would get loose from time to time and roam at will over the city. The new inhabitants of Stockton seemed not to be inspired by that faith in his docility and uprightness of character that possessed the owner, for they found him ravenously devouring a barrel of sugar that belonged to one of the merchants, and refused to give up any portion of it. This offended the grocer, and he sent word to Mr. Webber to come and remove his truant thief. The Captain came, paid for the damaged sugar, and giving him, like a spoiled child, some of the sweets he had confiscated to induce him to follow, led the bear home. But bruin remembered his successful foray, and breaking his chain again and again, and always returning to the merchant’s premises for sugar, Mr. Webber rid himself and the community of the annoyance by disposing of his grizzlies.
During a hunt in company with Col. Byron Cole, Messrs. Kent, Long and McBrien of San Francisco, I caught a good sized cub, and Mr. Long, with a terrier dog, caught another; the mother of which was killed by the unerring aim of McBrien. These cubs were taken by Cole and McBrien to San Francisco on their return, and sent to New York. I was told that they became very tame. I hope they did, for the comfort and security of their keepers; for in my first efforts to tame a grizzly, I became somewhat prejudiced against bear training as an occupation. Not long after my experience, I heard of poor Lola Montez being bitten by one she was training at Grass Valley for exhibition in Europe; and I now lost all faith in their reported docility and domestic inclinations. The California lion, like the wolf, is a coward, and deserves but little notice. Among the visitors to the Yosemite, some will probably be interested in knowing where to find the game: fish, birds and animals, that may yet remain to gratify the sportsmen’s love of the rod and the chase. Most of the game has been killed or driven off by the approach of civilization. Deer and occasionally a grizzly, cinnamon or black bear may be found on the slopes of the Tuolumne, Merced, Fresno and San Joaquin, and on all the rivers and mountains south of these streams. The cinnamon bear of California is much larger than the common brown bear of the Rocky Mountains.
The blue black-tailed deer of California are distinct from the black tuft-tailed deer of the eastern ranges; a very marked difference will be observed in their horns and ears. This distinction has been noticed by naturalists; but the species are often confounded in newspaper correspondence. The habits of the California deer are more goat-like; they are wilder, and more easily startled than the “mule-eared” deer of the Rockies, and when alarmed, they move with the celerity of the white-tailed Virginia deer. The bare, tuft-tailed and big-eared Rocky Mountain deer, seem but little alarmed by the report of a gun; and their curiosity is nearly equal to that of the antelope.
The California deer are still abundant upon the spurs of the Sierras during their migrations to and from the foothills. These migrations occur during the Autumn and Spring. As the rainy season sets in, they leave the higher mountains for the foot-hills and plains, keeping near the snow line, and as the Spring advances, they follow back the receding snow to the high Sierras and the Eastern Slope, but seldom or never descend to the plain below. On account of these migratory habits, they will most likely endure the assaults of the sportsmen. The haunts of the grizzly are the same as those of the deer, for they alike prefer the bushy coverts to the more open ground, except when feeding. The deer prefer as food the foliage of shrubs and weeds to the richest grasses, and the bear prefers clover, roots, ants and reptiles; but both fatten principally on acorns, wild rye and wild oats.
California grouse are found in the vicinity of the Yosemite. During the months of July and August they were formerly found quite numerous concealed in the grass and sedges of the valley and the little Yosemite; but as they are much wilder than the prairie chicken, they shun the haunts of man, and are now only found numerous in mid-summer upon or bordering on the mountain meadows and in the timber, among the pine forests, where they feed upon the pine seeds and mistletoe, which also afford them ample concealment. Their ventriloquial powers are such that while gobbling their discordant notes, they are likely to deceive the most experience ear. It is almost impossible to feel quite sure as to which particular tree the grouse is in without seeing it. He seems to throw his voice about, now to this tree and now to that, concealing himself the while until the inexperienced hunter is deluded into the belief that the trees are full of grouse, when probably there is but one making all the noise. His attention having been diverted, the hunter is left in doubt from sheer conflicting sounds as to which particular tree he saw a bird alight in. It is generally pretty sure to “fetch the bird,” if you shoot into the bunch of mistletoe into which you supposed you saw the grouse alight.
Beside the mountain grouse and mountain quail, among the most beautiful of birds, that afford the sportsman a diversity of sport, an occasional flock of pigeons, of much larger size than those of the Atlantic States, will attract attention; though I have never seen them in very large flocks. In most of the mountain streams, and their branches, brook trout are quite abundant. They are not, however, so ravenously accommodating, as to bite just when they are wanted. I learned from the Indians that they would bite best in foaming water, when they were unable to see the angler, or the bait distinctly; their curiosity stimulating their appetites. It is important that the trout do not see the angler, and when very wary, the rod even should not be conspicuous. Below the cañon of the Yosemite, young salmon were once abundant. The Indians used to catch fish in weirs made of brush and stones; but during the extensive mining operations on the Merced and other rivers, the salmon seemed to have almost abandoned their favorite haunts, for the mud covered spawn would not hatch. Large salmon were speared by the Indians in all the rivers, with a curious bone spear of but one tine, while the smaller fry were caught in their weirs. In the Tulare lakes and in the San Joaquin, King’, Kern and other rivers, fish, frogs and turtle are abundant, and water fowl literally swarm during the winter months in many parts of California.
Among the foot-hills of the Sierra Nevada, as well as in all the lesser mountain ranges, may be found the common California blue quail, and a very curious brush or chapparel cock, known to the Spanish residents of California and Mexico as “El Paisano” (The Countryman), and as the “Correo Camino” (Road-runner), and to ornithologists as the Geo-coc cyx Californicus.* [*Known as the Mexican Pheasant, though not very good to eat.] They have received the name of “countryman” because of their inclination to run like country children at the sight of strangers, and that of “road-runner” from the habit of frequenting roads and trails, for the purpose of wallowing in the dust, and when alarmed darting off along the road with the speed of an ostrich or wild turkey. The object they have in wallowing in the dust is like that of the ruffled grouse, which indulge in the same practice—they sun themselves and at the same time are rid of vermin. Trusting to their legs to escape when alarmed, they take the open ground—the road—until outrunning pursuit they hide in the chapparel, and thus acquire the name of “road-runner” or “chapparel cock”
I have never seen any ruffled grouse in the Sierra Nevada, but a species of these fine birds, are quite abundant in Oregon and Washington territory. I have been able to solve a question regarding them, upon which naturalists have disagreed, that is, as to how they drum. Whether the sound is produced by the wings in concussive blows upon their bodies, the air, logs or rocks? I am able to say from personal and careful observation, that the sound of “drumming,” is made, like the sound of the “night jar,” exclusively by a peculiar motion of the wings in the air. It is true, the American “pheasant” or American “partridge,” commonly stands upon a log while drumming, but I have watched them while perched upon a dry small branch or twig, drum for hours most sonorously, calling upon their rivals to encounter them, and their mistresses to come and witness their gallantry. Darwin has aptly said: “The season of love, is that of battle.” Notwithstanding the acuteness of observation of Mr. Darwin, he has been led into error in his statement that wild horses “do not make any danger signals.” They snort and paw the earth with impatience, when they cannot discover the cause of their alarm, and almost invariably circle to the leeward of the object that disturbes them. A mule is the best of sentinels to alarm a camp on the approach of danger. Deer and elk whistle and strike the earth perpendicularly with their feet when jumping up to discover the cause of alarm. Deer and antelope are both so inquisitive, that if the hunter has not been seen, or has been but imperfectly seen, by dropping into the grass or brush, and raising some object to view and suddenly withdrawing it, the deer or antelope will frequently come up within a few feet of the object. Antelope are especially curious to know what disturbs them.
The coyotes, or small wolves, and the grey or tree climbing foxes of California, make a kind of barking noise, more like the bark of a small dog than the howl of a wolf, and therefore barking is not so much of “an acquired” art as has been supposed, though the “laughter” of dogs is more or less acquired.
The whistle of the elk is as complete a call to his mistress, and is as well understood, as though the female had said, “Whistle and I’ll come to you.” Elk and antelope are still to be found in California, as well as wild horses, but they are now quite timid, and resort to unfrequented ranges. The best hunting now to be found in California, except for water-fowl, is in the region of Kern River. Near its source big-horn or mountain sheep may be killed, and from along the base of the eastern slope, antelope range into the desert. Deer and bear may be found on either slope of the range, and among the broken hills south of the head of Tulare valley.
Wolves, foxes, badgers, coons, and other fur-clothed animals, are also quite numerous. I have dared to question some of Mr. Darwin’s facts, and as I expect this to be my last literary effort (oh, ye reviewers!), I wish to remind the publishers of Webster’s Dictionary that a beaver is not an “amphibious” animal, neither is a muscalonge “an over-grown pickerel.”
A few days after we had moved camp to the south side of the Merced, Captain Boling was prostrated with an attack of pneumonia. From frequent wettings received while crossing the ice-cold torrents, and a too free use of this snow-water, which did not agree with many, he had for some days complained of slight illness, but after this attack he was compelled to acknowledge himself sick. Although the severe symptoms continued but a few days, his recovery was lingering, and confined him to camp; consequently he knew but little of his rocky surroundings. Although regular reports were made to him by the scouting parties, he had but an imperfect conception of the labors performed by them in clambering over the rocks of the cañons and mountains. He would smile at the reports the more enthusiastic gave of the wonders discovered; patiently listen to the complaints of the more practical at their want of success in, what they termed, their futile explorations; and finally concluded to suspend operations until the fast-melting snow had so disappeared from the high mountain passes as to permit our taking a supply-train, in order to make our search thorough. The winter had been an unusually dry and cold one—so said the Indians—and, as a consequence, the accumulations of snow in the passes and lake basins had remained almost intact. A succession of mountain storms added to the drifts, so that when the snow finally began to melt, the volume of water coming from the “High Sierras” was simply prodigious—out of all proportion to the quantity that had fallen upon the plains below.
Sandino persisted in trying to make the Captain believe that most of the Yosemites had already gone through the Mono Pass, and that those remaining hidden, were but the members of Ten-ie-ya’s family. This theory was not accepted by Capt. Boling, and occasional scouting parties would still be sent out. A few of us continued to make short excursions, more for adventure and to gratify curiosity, than with the expectation of discovering the hiding places of the Indians; although we kept up the form of a search. We thus became familiar with most of the objects of interest.
The more practical of our command could not remain quiet in camp during this suspension of business. Beside the ordinary routine of camp duties, they engaged in athletic sports and horse-racing. A very fair race track was cleared and put in condition, and some of the owners of fast horses were very much surprised, to see their favorites trailing behind some of the fleet-footed mules. A maltese Kentucky blooded mule, known as the “Vining Mule,” distanced all but one horse in the command, and so pleased was Capt. Boling with its gracefully supple movements, that he paid Vining for it a thousand dollars in gold.
For a change of amusement, the members of our “Jockey Club” would mount their animals and take a look at such points of interest as had been designated in our camp-fire conversations as most remarkable. The scenery in the Yosemite and vicinity, which is now familiar to so many, was at that time looked upon with varied degrees of individual curiosity and enjoyment, ranging from the enthusiastic, to almost a total indifference to the sublime grandeur presented. It is doubtful if any of us could have given a very graphic description of what we saw, as the impressions then received were so far below the reality. Distance, height, depth and dimensions were invariably under-estimated; notwithstanding this, our attempts at descriptions after our return to the settlements, were received as exaggerated “yarns.”
While in Mariposa, upon one occasion not very long after the discovery of Yosemite, I was solicited by Wm. T. Whitachre, a newspaper correspondent from San Francisco, to furnish him a written description of the Valley. This, of course, was beyond my ability to do; but I disinterestedly complied with his request as far as I could, by giving him some written details to work upon. On reading the paper over, he advised me to reduce my estimates of heights of cliffs and waterfalls, at least fifty per centum, or my judgment would be a subject of ridicule even to my personal friends. I had estimated El Capitan at from fifteen hundred to two thousand feet high; the Yosemite Fall at about fifteen hundred feet, and other prominent points of interest in about the same proportion.
To convince me of my error of judgment, he stated that he had interviewed Captain Boling and some others, and that none had estimated the highest cliffs above a thousand feet. He further said that he would not like to risk his own reputation as a correspondent, without considerable modification of my statements, etc. Feeling outraged at this imputation, I tore up the manuscript, and left the “newspaper man” to obtain where he could such data for his patrons as would please him. It remained for those who came after us to examine scientifically, and to correctly describe what we only observed as wonderful natural curiosities. With but few exceptions, curiosity was gratified by but superficial examination of the objects now so noted. We were aware that the valley was high up in the regions of the Sierra Nevada, but its altitude above the sea level was only guessed at. The heights of its immense granite walls was an uncertainty, and so little real appreciation was there in the battalion, that some never climbed above the Vernal Fall. They knew nothing of the beauties of the Nevada Fall, or the “Little Yosemite.” We, as a body of men, were aware that the mountains, cañons and waterfalls were on a grandly extensive scale, but of the proportions of that scale we had arrived at no very definite conclusions.
During our explorations of the Sierras, we noticed the effects of the huge avalanches of snow and ice that had in some age moved over the smooth granite rocks and plowed the deep cañons. The evidences of past glacial action were frequently visible; so common, in fact, as hardly to be objects of special interest to us. The fact that glaciers in motion existed in the vast piles of snow on the Sierras, was not dreamed of by us, or even surmised by others, until discovered, in 1870, by Mr. John Muir, a naturalist and most persistent mountain explorer, who by accurate tests verified the same, and gave his facts to the world. Mr. Muir has also brought into prominent notice, by publications in “Scribner’s Monthly Illustrated Magazine,” some of the beautiful lakes of the Sierras, having discovered many unknown before. Mr. Muir’s descriptions combine the most delightful imagery with the accuracy of a true lover of nature. His article upon the water-auszel, “The humming-bird of the California waterfalls,” in the same magazine, proves him a most accomplished observer.
All of the smaller streams that pour their tribute into the valley during the melting of the snow, become later in the season but dry ravines or mere rivulets, but the principal tributaries, running up, as they do, into the lake and snow reservoirs, continue throughout the dry season to pour their ample supply. After returning from my mountain explorations, I freely questioned Ten-ie-ya of the places we had visited. The old chief had gradually assumed his customary manner of sociability, and if convinced by outline maps in the sand that we were familiar with a locality, he would become quite communicative, and give the names of the places described in distinct words. Our English alphabet utterly fails to express the sounds of many of them, for they were as unpronounceable as Apache. This difficulty is owing more or less to the guttural termination given by the Indians.
Another important fact which causes a confusion of these names is, that owing to the poverty of their language, they use the same word, or what seems to be the same, for several objects, which by accent, comparison and allusion, or by gestures, are readily understood by them, but which it is difficult for one not familiar with the dialect to comprehend, and still more difficult to illustrate or remember. This I shall endeavor to demonstrate in giving the names applied to different localities in the valley and vicinity.
While I was endeavoring to ascertain the names of localities from Ten-ie-ya, he was allowed some privileges in camp, but was not permitted to leave his guard. The cunning old fellow watched his opportunity, and again made an attempt to escape by swimming the river; but he was again foiled, and captured by the watchfulness and surprising strength of Sergeant Cameron.
From this time Ten-ie-ya was secured by a rope which was fastened around his waist. The only liberty allowed was the extent of the rope with which he was fastened. He was a hearty feeder, and was liberally supplied. From a lack of sufficient exercise, his appetite cloyed, and he suffered from indigestion. He made application to Captain Boling for permission to go out from camp to the place where the grass was growing, saying the food he had been supplied with was too strong; that if he did not have grass he should die. He said the grass looked good to him, and there was plenty of it. Why then should he not have it, when dogs were allowed to eat it?
The Captain was amused at the application, with its irony, but surmised that he was meditating another attempt to leave us; however, he good humoredly said: “He can have a ton of fodder if he desires it, but I do not think it advisable to turn him loose to graze.” The Captain consented to the Sergeant’s kindly arrangements to tether him, and he was led out to graze upon the young clover, sorrel, bulbous roots and fresh growth of ferns which were then springing up in the valley, one species of which we found a good salad. All of these he devoured with the relish of a hungry ox. Occasionally truffles or wood-mushrooms were brought him by Sandino and our allies, as if in kindly sympathy for him, or in acknowledgment of his rank. Such presents and a slight deference to his standing as a chief, were always received with grunts of satisfaction. He was easily flattered by any extra attentions to his pleasure. At such times he was singularly amiable and conversational. Like many white men, it was evident that his more liberal feelings could be the easiest aroused through his stomach.
Our supplies not being deemed sufficient for the expedition over the Sierras, and as those verdureless mountains would provide no forage for our animals, nor game to lengthen out our rations unless we descended to the lower levels, Capt. Boling sent a pack train to the Fresno for barley and extra rations. All of our Indians except Sandino and Ten-ie-ya were allowed to go below with the detachment sent along as escort for the train. While waiting for these supplies, some of the command who had been exploring up Indian Cañon, reported fresh signs at the head of that ravine. Feeling somewhat recovered in strength, Captain Boling decided to undertake a trip out, and see for himself some of our surroundings. Accordingly, the next morning, he started with some thirty odd men up Indian Cañon. His design was to explore the Scho-look or Scho-tal-lo-wi branch (Yosemite Creek) to its source, or at least the Southern exposures of the divide as far east as we could go and return at night. Before starting, I advised the taking of our blankets, for a bivouac upon the ridge, as from experience I was aware of the difficult and laborious ascent, and intimated that the excursion would be a laborious one for an invalid, if the undertaking was accomplished. The Captain laughed as he said: “Are your distances equal to your heights? If they correspond, we shall have ample time!” Of course, I could make no reply, for between us, the subject of heights had already been exhausted, although the Captain had not yet been to the top of the inclosing walls.
Still, realizing the sensitive condition of his lungs, and his susceptibility to the influences of the cold and light mountain air, I knew it would not be prudent for him to camp at the snow-line; and yet I doubted his ability to return the same day; for this reason I felt it my duty to caution him. A few others, who had avoided climbing the cliffs, or if they had been upon any of the high ridges, their mules had taken them there, joined in against my suggestion of providing for the bivouac. I have before referred to the Texan’s devotion to the saddle. In it, like Camanche Indians, he will undergo incredible hardships; out of it, he is soon tired, and waddles laboriously like a sailor, until the unaccustomed muscles adapt themselves to the new service required of them; but the probabilities are against the new exercise being continued long enough to accomplish this result. Understanding this, I concluded in a spirit of jocularity to make light of the toil myself; the more so, because I knew that my good Captain had no just conception of the labor before him. By a rude process of measurement, and my practical experience in other mountains in climbing peaks whose heights had been established by measurements, I had approximately ascertained or concluded that my first estimate of from fifteen hundred to two thousand feet for the height of El Capitan, was much below the reality. I had so declared in discussing these matters. Captain Boling had finally estimated the height not to exceed one thousand feet. Doctor Black’s estimate was far below this. I therefore felt assured that a walk up the cañon, would practically improve their judgments of height and distance, and laughed within myself in anticipation of the fun in store. On starting, I was directed to take charge of Ten-ie-ya, whom we were to take with us, and to keep Sandino near me, to interpret anything required during the trip. As we entered Indian Cañon, the old chief told the Captain that the ravine was a bad one to ascend. To this the Captain replied, “No matter, we know this ravine leads out of the valley; Ten-ie-ya’s trail might lead us to a warmer locality.”
Climbing over the wet, mossy rocks, we reached a level where a halt was called for a rest. As Doctor Black came up from the rear, he pointed to a ridge above us, and exclaimed, “Thank God, we are in sight of the top at last.” “Yes, Doctor,” said I, “that is one of the first tops.” “How so?” he inquired; “Is not that the summit of this ravine?” To this I cheerfully replied, “You will find quite a number of such tops before you emerge from this cañon.” Noticing his absence before reaching the summit, I learned he took the trail back, and safely found his weary way to camp. Captain Boling had over-estimated his strength and endurance. He was barely able to reach the table land at the head of the ravine, where, after resting and lunching, he visited the Falls, as he afterwards informed me. By his order I took command of nine picked men and the two Indians. With these I continued the exploration, while the party with the Captain explored the vicinity of the High Fall, viewed the distant mountains, and awaited my return from above.
With my energetic little squad, I led the way, old Ten-ie ya in front, Sandino at his side, through forest openings and meadows, until we reached the open rocky ground on the ridge leading to what is now known as Mt. Hoffman. I directed our course towards that peak. We had not traveled very far, the distance does not now impress me, when as we descended toward a tributary of Yosemite creek, we came suddenly upon an Indian, who at the moment of discovery was lying down drinking from the brook. The babbling waters had prevented his hearing our approach. We hurried up to within fifty or sixty yards, hoping to capture him, but were discovered. Seeing his supposed danger, he bounded off, a fine specimen of youthful vigor. No racehorse or greyhound could have seemingly made better time than he towards a dense forest in the valley of the Scho-look. Several rifles were raised, but I gave the order “don’t shoot,” and compelled the old chief to call to him to stop. The young Indian did stop, but it was at a safe distance. When an attempt was made by two or three to move ahead and get close to him, he saw the purpose and again started; neither threatening rifles, nor the calls of Ten-ie-ya, could again stop his flight.
As we knew our strength, after such a climb, was not equal to the chase of the fleet youth, he was allowed to go unmolested. I could get no information from Ten-ie-ya concerning the object of the exploration; and as for Sandino, his memory seemed to have conveniently failed him. With this conclusion I decided to continue my course, and moved off rapidly. Ten-ie-ya complained of fatigue, and Sandino reminded me that I was traveling very fast. My reply to both cut short all attempts to lessen our speed; and when either were disposed to lag in their gait, I would cry out the Indian word, “We-teach,” meaning hurry up, with such emphasis as to put new life into their movements.
We soon struck an old trail that led east along the southern slope of the divide, and when I abandoned my purpose of going farther towards the Tuolumne, and turned to the right on the trail discovered, Ten-ie-ya once more found voice in an attempt to dissuade me from this purpose, saying that the trail led into the mountains where it was very cold, and where, without warm clothing at night, we would freeze. He was entirely too earnest, in view of his previous taciturnity; and I told him so.
The snow was still quite deep on the elevated portions of the ridge and in shaded localities, but upon the open ground, the trail was generally quite bare. As we reached a point still farther east, we perceived the trail had been recently used; the tracks had been made within a day or two. From the appearances, we concluded they were made by Ten-ie-ya’s scouts who had followed down the ridge and slope west of the North Dome to watch our movements. The tracks were made going and returning, thus showing a continued use of this locality. As the tracks diverged from the trail at this point, they led out of the direct line of any communication with the valley, and after some reflection, I was satisfied that we had struck a clue to their hiding place, and realizing that it was time to return if we expected to reach the valley before dark, we turned about and started at once on the down grade.
We found the Captain anxiously awaiting our return. He was pleased with our report, and agreed in the conclusion that the Indians were encamped not very far off. Captain Boling had suffered from fatigue and the chill air of the mountains. In speaking of a farther pursuit of our discoveries, he said: “I am not as strong as I supposed, and will have to await the return of the pack train before taking part in these expeditions.”
I told Captain Boling that upon the trip, Sandino had appeared willfully ignorant when questioned concerning the country we were exploring, and my belief that he stood in fear of Ten-ie-ya; that as a guide, no dependence could be placed upon him, and that his interpretations of Ten-ie-ya’s sayings were to be received with caution when given in the old chief’s presence, as Ten-ie-ya’s Spanish was about equal to his own. Captain Boling instructed me to tell Sandino, that in future, he need only act as interpreter. He seemed satisfied with this arrangement, and said that the country appeared different from what it was when he was a boy and had been accustomed to traverse it.
When we commenced our descent into the valley Ten-ie-ya wanted us to branch off to the left, saying he was very tired, and wanted to take the best trail. Said he, “There is a good trail through the arrow-wood rocks to the left of the cañon.” I reported this to the Captain, and expressed the opinion that the old chief was sincere for once; he had grumbled frequently while we were ascending the cañon in the morning, because we were compelled to climb over the moss covered bowlders, while crossing and re-crossing the stream, and he told Sandino that we should have taken the trail along the cliff above. Captain Boling replied: “Take it, or it will be long after dark before we reach camp.” Accordingly I let Ten-ie-ya lead the way, and told him to travel fast. He had more than once proved that he possessed an agility beyond his years. As his parole was at a discount, I secured a small cord about his chest and attached the other end to my left wrist to maintain telegraphic communication with him; but as the hidden trail narrowed and wound its crooked way around a jutting point of the cliff overlooking the valley and ravine, I slipped the loop from my wrist and ordered a halt.
Captain Boling and the men with him came up and took in the view before us. One asked if I thought a bird could go down there safely. Another wanted to know if I was aiding “Old Truthful” to commit suicide. The last question had an echo of suspicion in my own thoughts. I immediately surmised it possible the old sachem was leading us into another trap, where, by some preconcerted signal, an avalanche of rocks would precipitate us all to the bottom. I asked Ten-ie-ya if this trail was used by his people; he assured me it was, by women and children; that it was a favorite trail of his. Seeing some evidences of it having been recently used, and being assured by Sandino that it was somewhere below on this trail that Ten-ie-ya had descended to the valley when taken a prisoner, a few of us were shamed into a determination to make the attempt to go where the old chief could go.
Most of the party turned back. They expressed a willingness to fight Indians, but they had not, they said, the faith requisite to attempt to walk on water, much less air. They went down Indian Cañon, and some did not reach camp until after midnight, tired, bruised and footsore. We who had decided to take our chances, re-commenced our descent. I told Ten-ie-ya to lead on, and to stop at the word “halt,” or he would be shot. I then dispatched Sandino across the narrow foot-way, which, at this point was but a few inches in width, and which was all there was dividing us from Eternity as we passed over it. Telling them both to halt on a projecting bench in view, I crossed this yawning abyss, while Sandino, aided by a very dead shot above, held the old man as if petrified, until I was able once more to resume my charge of him.
This I found was the only really dangerous place, on what was facetiously called, by those who were leaving us, “a very good trail.” The last fifty or sixty feet of the descent was down the sloping side of an immense detached rock, and then down through the top of a black oak tree at the south-westerly base of the vast cliff or promontory known as the “Arrow-wood Cliff.” The “Royal Arches,” the “Washington Column,” and the “North Dome,” occupy positions east of this trail, but upon the same vast pile of granite.
I sometime afterward pointed out the trail to a few visitors that I happened to meet at its foot. They looked upon me with an incredulous leer, and tapped their foreheads significantly, muttering something about “Stockton Asylum.” Fearing to trust my amiability too far, I turned and left them. Since then I have remained cautiously silent. Now that the impetuosity of youth has given place to the more deliberative counsels of age, and all dangers to myself or others are past, I repeat, for the benefit of adventurous tourists, that on the southwesterly face of the cliff overlooking the valley and Indian Cañon, there is a trail hidden from view, that they may travel if they will, and experience all the sensations that could ever have been felt, while alive, by a Blondin or LaMountain.
This portion of the cliff we designated as Ten-ie-ya’s Trail, and it accords well with the scene in the Jungfrau Mountains, where Manfred, alone upon the cliffs, says:
“And you, ye craigs, upon whose extreme edge
I stand, and on the torrent’s brink beneath
Behold the tall pines dwindled as to shrubs,
In dizziness of distance; when a leap,
A stir, a motion, even a breath, would bring
My breast upon its rocky bosom’s bed
To rest forever—wherefore do I pause?
I feel the impulse—yet I do not plunge;
I see the peril—yet do not recede;
And my brain reels—and yet my foot is firm:
There is a power upon me which withholds,
And makes it my fatality to live.”
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