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A Journal of Ramblings Through the High Sierras

By Joseph LeConte

yosemite AUGUST 12

We had cooked bread yesterday for our breakfast and lunch to-day, in anticipation of our ascent of Mt. Dana We had this morning only to cook meat. This takes but little time. We made an early start, therefore.

Rode our horses up as far as the timber extends, staked them out in little green patches of rich grass, very abundant on the mountain slopes, and then commenced the real ascent on foot. I think we ascended about 3,000 feet after leaving our horses.

Saw a splendid buck—but alas! Cobb has left his rifle. Mt. Dana, as seen from this side, is of a very regular, conical form, entirely destitute of soil, and therefore of vegetation; in fact, from top to bottom, a mere loose mass of rock fragments—metamorphic sandstone and slates. The slope is, I think, forty degrees; the rock fragments, where small, give way under the foot, and roll downwards; if large, they are difficult to climb over.

The ascent is difficult and fatiguing in the extreme. The danger, too, to those below, from bowlders loosened by the feet of those above, is very great. A large fragment, at least one hundred pounds, thus loosened by Mr. Bolton, came thundering down upon me with fearful velocity, before I was aware. I had no time to get out of the way; in fact, my own footing was precarious. I opened my legs, it passed between, and bounded on its way down.

There being no trail, each man took his own way. The young men were evidently striving to see who could be up first. I took my steady, even way, resting a moment from time to time. My progress illustrated the fable of the hare and tortoise. I was the third man on the top. Mr. Muir and Pomroy alone had gotten there before me. I really expected to find the whole party there.

The view from the top is magnificent beyond description. To the southwest, the sharp, strangely picturesque peaks of the Cathedral group. To the south, in the distance, Mt. Lyell group, with broad patches of snow on their slopes; and near at hand, the bare gray mass of Mt. Gibbs. To the north, the fine outline of Castle Peak, rising above and dominating the surrounding summits; and to the east, almost at our feet, the whole interior valley, including Lake Mono, with its picturesque islands and volcanoes. Stretching away to the west, valleys with grassy meadows and lakes separated by low wooded ridges. I could count thirty to fifty of these lakes, and meadows without number. These meadows and lakes and ridges suggest glacier beds, with moraines, stretching westward down the Sierra slope.

As already stated, the whole mountain is superficially a mass of loose rock fragments. I saw the rock in situ only in one place, but this was a magnificent section. About two-thirds way up, the bed-rock appears as a perpendicular crag, nearly one hundred feet high. It is here a very distinctly and beautifully stratified sand-stone, and in a perfectly horizontal position.

The slope on the western and southwestern side is regular and about forty degrees, but when we arrived on the top we found that on the east and northeast the slope is very precipitous, forming an immense amphitheater, in which lay immense stores of snow, and in one place we found nestled a clear, deep blue lake, apparently formed by the melting snow. This great snow-field extends a little over the gentle slope by which we ascended.

For the last five hundred to one thousand feet we ascended the mountain over this snow. Mt. Dana is thirteen thousand two hundred and twenty-seven feet high. I did not observe any remarkable effect of diminished density of atmosphere upon respiration or circulation. The beating of the heart was a little troublesome. I had to stop frequently to allow it to become quiet; but this seemed to me as bad or worse near the beginning of the climb than near the top. It seemed only more difficult to get my "second wind," as it is called, than usual.

We took cold lunch on the top of the mountain, and commenced our descent, which was less fatiguing, but much more dangerous and trying than the ascent. The shoes of several of the party were completely destroyed. Mine still hold out. Came back to camp at 2 P. M., tired but not exhausted. Soon alter reaching camp, we again had thunder ad rain. We all huddled with our provisions and blankets again under our rock shed. There was but a sprinkle this time, however, though much threatening of wind and thunder.

After supper we again built up an immense camp-fire. Now, while I write, the strong light of the blazing campfire is thrown upon the tall tamarack trees, and upon the faces of the young men, engaged in various ways. I wish I could draw a picture of the scene now presented: the blazing fire of huge piled logs; the strongly illuminated figures of the party; the intense blackness of sky and forest. Supper is just over. Mr. Stone is squatting on the ground, engaged in washing up dishes. Mr. Linderman, who is cook to-day, is lying on his back, kicking up his heels, and regarding Mr. Stone with intense satisfaction. His work is over, while Stone’s is just begun.

Mr. Muir is earnestly engaged hollowing out a place under a huge pine-tree, which he intends to make his resting-place for the night. Captain is lying down flat on his back, with his clasped hands under his head and his eyes closed. Pomroy is sitting in the strong light of the fire, writing his journal; he is this moment scratching his cropped poll for an idea. Bolton, Phelps, and Perkins are sitting together near the fire, Bolton enjoying his cigarette, and Phelps and Perkins chatting. Cobb is just returning with another log for the fire. Hawkins has been looking after his horse, and is just returning. I am observing the scene, and jotting down these crude notes.

We will see Mono Lake to-morrow. Before going to bed, therefore, the party gathered about the fire, and by request I gave them the following lecture on the formation of salt and alkaline lakes.


Salt lakes may originate in two general ways: either by the isolation of a portion of sea-water, or else by the indefinite concentration of ordinary river water in a lake without an outlet. The great Salt Lake, and all the other salt lakes scattered over the desert on the other side of the Sierra, are possibly formed by the first method. It is probable that at a comparatively recent geological epoch the whole of the salt and alkaline region on the other side of the Sierra, which we will see to-morrow, was covered by an extension of the sea from the Gulf of California. When this was raised into land, portions of sea water were caught up and isolated in the hollows of the uneven surface.

The lakes thus formed have since greatly diminished by drying away, as is clearly shown by the terraces or old water levels far beyond and above the present limits; and their waters have become saturated solutions of the saline matters contained in sea-water. [Note in edition of 1900: More recent observations render it almost certain that Salt Lake and other lakes in the basin region were formed by the concentration of river water. Some of these lakes ( e.g., Pyramid Lake, Walker Lake, etc.) are much fresher than seawater.—(December, 1899.)]

The Dead Sea, and many other salt lakes and brine pools in the interior of Asia, have probably been formed in the same way. But the Caspian Sea is probably an example of the second method of formation, i. e., by concentration of river water. The reason for thinking so is, that old beach marks, or terraces, show a great drying away of the lake, and yet the water is still far less salt than sea water.

Alkaline lakes are formed, and can be formed, only by the second method, viz., by indefinite concentration of river water by evaporation in a lake without an outlet. Such concentration, therefore, may form either a salt or an alkaline lake. Whether the one or the other kind of lake results, depends wholly upon the composition of the river water. If chlorides predominate, the lake will be salt; but if alkaline carbonates predominate, it will be alkaline.

Perhaps some of you will be surprised that the pure flesh water of mountain streams can produce salt or alkaline lakes. I must therefore try to explain.

We speak of spring water as pure and fresh; it is so comparatively. Nevertheless, all spring water, and therefore all river water, contains small quantities of saline matters derived from the rocks and soils through which they percolate. Suppose, then, the drainage of any hydrographical basin to accumulate in a lake. Suppose, farther, that the supply of water by rivers be greater than the waste by evaporation from the lake surface. It is evident that the lake will rise, and if the same relation continues, it will continue to rise until it finds an outlet in the lowest part of the rim, and is discharged into the ocean or some other reservoir. Such a lake will be fresh, i. e., it will contain only an imperceptible quantity of saline matter.

But if on the other hand, at any times the waste by evaporation from the lake surface should be equal to the supply by rivers, the lake would not rise, and therefore would not find an outlet. Now the salting process will commence. The waters which flow in contain a little, be it ever so little, of saline matter. All this remains in the lake, since evaporation carries off only distilled water. Thus, age after age saline matters are leached from rocks and soils, and accumulated in the lake, which, therefore, must eventually become either salt or alkaline.

Thus, whether lakes are saline or fresh depends on the presence or absence of an outlet, and the presence or absence of an outlet depends on the relation of supply by rain to waste by evaporation, and this latter depends on the climate. Saline lakes cannot occur except in very dry climates, and these lakes are rare, because on most land surfaces the rainfall far exceeds the evaporation, the excess being carried to the sea by rivers. Only in wide plains, in the interior of continents, do we find the climatic conditions necessary to produce salt lakes.

I have shown the conditions necessary to the formation of a salt lake by concentration of river water. Now, the very same conditions control the existence of salt lakes, however they may have originated. Even in the case of a salt lake formed by the isolation of a portion of sea-water, whether it remain salt or become fresh will depend wholly on the conditions discussed above.

Suppose, for example, a portion of sea-water be isolated by an upheaval of the sea-bed; now, if the supply of water to this lake by rivers be greater than the waste by evaporation from the surface, the lake will rise, overflow, and discharge into the sea or other reservoir; the salt water will be slowly rinsed out, and the lake will become fresh. But it the evaporation should equal the supply, the lake will not find an outlet, and will remain salt, and will even increase in saltness until it begins to deposit.

Thus, if the Bay of San Francisco should be cut off from the sea at the Golden Gate, it would form a fresh lake, for the water running into it by the Sacramento River is far greater than the evaporation from the bay. So the Black Sea, and the Baltic Sea, as above shown by the comparative freshness of the waters, would form fresh lakes. But the Mediterranean, as shown by the great saltness of its waters, would certainly remain salt, and become increasingly salt.

We have the best reasons to believe that Lake Champlain, since the glacial epoch, was an arm of the sea. It has become fresh since it became separated. Saltness of the ocean.—Thus, then, we see that the one condition which determines the existence of salt and alkaline lakes is the absence of an outlet. Now, the ocean, of course, has no outlet; the ocean is the final reservoir of saline matters leached from the earth. Hence, although the saltness of the ocean is a somewhat different problem from that of salt lakes, yet it is almost certain that the saline matters of the ocean are the accumulated results of the leachings of the rocks and soils by circulating waters throughout all geological times.

During my travels through the Sierra I have made many observations on rocks and mountains. One or two of these I think worthy of mention. First, I have seen everywhere the strongest confirmation of the view that granite and granitic rocks may be but the final term of metamorphism of sedimentary rocks. In Yosemite I could trace every stage of gradation from granite into gneiss, and since leaving Yosemite, from gneiss into impure sandstones. On Mt. Dana sandstones are easily traced into gneiss, or even eurite, and slate into a crystalline rock, undistinguishable from diorite or other traps.

Second, No one who examines the forms of the peaks of the Sierra can come to any other conclusion than that all the mountain forms seen here are the result of erosion. Standing at Soda Springs and gazing upon the strange forms of Cathedral Group, the conviction is forced upon the mind that these were not upheaved, but simply left as more resisting fragments of an almost inconceivable erosion—fragments of a denuded plateau. The strange ruggedness of the forms, the inaccessible peaks and pinnacles, have been the result of the very decomposable nature of the granite. Mt. Dana, with its more regular form, consists of more resistant slates.

The evidence that Mt. Dana has been formed entirely by erosion is, I conceive, complete. As already stated, Mt. Dana is composed of undisturbed horizontal strata. The grand bulge of a great mountain chain is probably produced by the shrinkage of the earth; the foldings and tiltings of strata in mountain chains by the same cause; but the actual forms which constitute scenery are purely the result of aqueous erosion. Metamorphism is, I believe, always produced in deeply buried rocks by heat, water, and pressure. The universal metamorphism of the rocks in the Sierra is therefore additional evidence of the immensity of the erosion which brings these to the surface.

Since leaving Yosemite we have seen no houses; in fact, no human beings but a few shepherds. As the flocks require to be driven from one pasture to another, these men live only in hastily constructed sheds, covered with boughs. In this shepherd’s life there may be something pleasant when viewed through the imagination only; but in reality it is enough to produce either imbecility or insanity. The pleasant pictures drawn by the poets, of contemplative wisdom and harmless enjoyment, of affectionate care of the flock, of pensive music of pipes,—these possibly, probably, once did exist; but certainly they do not exist now, at least in California.


Cold last night. We had to sleep near the fire, and keep it up during the night. Considerable frost this morning, for we are in the midst of the snows. We got up early, feeling bright and joyous, and enjoyed our breakfast as only mountaineers can. Over Mono Pass, and down Bloody Cañon to-day. I really dread it, for my horse’s sake. Even well-shod horses get their feet and legs cut and bleeding in going down this cañon. My horse, since leaving Yosemite, has lost three shoes, and has already become very tender-footed. Got off by 6 A. M. Sorry, very sorry, to leave our delightful camp here. In commemoration of the delightful time we have spent here, we name it "Camp Dana."

The trail to the summit is a very gentle ascent, the whole way along the margin of a stream. Distance, three or four miles. Saw a deer, but Cobb was not on hand. 01 the very summit, ten thousand seven hundred feet high there is a marshy meadow, from which a stream runs each way: one east, into the Tuolumne, along which we hac ascended; the other west, down Bloody Cañon into Mono Lake, along which we expect to descend. Right on the Summit, and in Bloody Cañon, we found great masses of snow. The trail passes by their edges and over their surfaces.

The trail down Bloody Cañon is rough and precipitous beyond conception. It is the terror of all drovers and packers across the mountains. It descends four thousand feet in two or three miles, and is a mere mass of loose fragments of sharp slate. Our horses’ legs were all cut and bleeding before we got down. I really felt pity for my horse, with his tender feet. We all dismounted and led them down with the greatest care. In going down we met a large parry of Indians, some on horseback, and some on foot, coming up. We saluted them. In return they invariably whined, "Gie me towaca," "Gie me towaca." They were evidently incredulous when told that none of the party chewed.

The scenery of Bloody Cañon is really magnificent, and in a scientific point of view this is the most interesting locality I have yet seen. Conceive a narrow, winding gorge, with black, slaty precipices of every conceivable form, fifteen hundred to two thousand feet high on either side. As the gorge descends precipitously, and winds from side to side, we often look from above down into the most glorious amphitheater of cliffs, and from time to time beyond, upon the glistening surface of Lake Mono, and the boundless plains, studded with volcanic cones. About one-third way down, in the center of the grandest of these amphitheaters, see! a deep, splendidly clear, emerald-green lake, three or four times the size of Mirror Lake.

It looks like an artificial basin, for its shores are everywhere hard, smooth, polished rock; especially the rim at the lower side is highly polished and finely striated. There can be no doubt that this lake basin has been scooped out by a glacier which once descended this cañon. In fact, glacial action is seen on every side around this lake, and all the way down the cañon and far into the plains below. The cliffs on each side are scored and polished to the height of one thousand feet or more; projecting knobs in the bottom of the cañon are rounded and scored and polished in a similar manner.

After we had descended the steep slope, and had fairly escaped from the high, rocky walls of Bloody Cañon proper; after we had reached the level plain and had prepared ourselves for an extensive view, we found ourselves still confined between two huge parallel ridges of débris five hundred feet high and only half a mile apart, and extending five or six miles out on the plain.

These are the lateral moraines of a glacier which once descended far into the plain towards Mono Lake. A little below the commencement of these moraines, in descending, we found a large and beautiful lake filling the whole cañon. Below this lake the lateral moraines on either side send each a branch which meet each other, forming a crescentic cross-ridge through which the stream breaks. This is evidently a terminal moraine, and the lake has been formed by the damming up of the water of the stream by this moraine barrier.

Below this, or still farther on the plain, I observed several other terminal moraines, formed in a similar way, by curving branches from the lateral moraines. Behind these are no lakes, but only marshes and meadows. These meadows are evidently formed in the same way as the lake; in fact, were lakes subsequently filled up by deposit.

After getting from these lateral moraines fairly out on the plains, the most conspicuous objects which strike the eye are the extinct volcanoes. There are, I should think, at least twenty of them, with cones and craters as perfect as if they erupted yesterday. Even at this distance, I see that their snow-white, bare sides are composed of loose volcanic ashes and sand, above which projects a distinct rocky crater-rim, some of dark rock, but most of them of light-colored, probably, pumice rock. Magnificent views of these cones and of Mono Lake are gotten from time to time, while descending Bloody Cañon. The cones are of all heights, from two hundred to twenty-seven hundred feet above the plain, and the plain itself about five thousand feet above sea-level.

We stopped for lunch at a cabin and meadow—a cattle ranch—about five miles from the lake. While our horses grazed, we cooked our dinner as usual, and then proceeded three miles and camped in a fine meadow on the banks of a beautiful stream—Rush Creek.

In riding down to our camp, I observed the terraces of Lake Mono, former water-levels, very distinctly marked, four or five in number. The whole region about Lake Mono, on this side, is covered with volcanic ashes and sand. It is the only soil except in the meadows. Even these seem to have the same soil, only more damp, and therefore more fertile. Scattered about, larger masses of pumice and obsidian are visible. Except in the meadows and along streams, the only growth is the sagebrush.

Just before reaching camp, Mr. Muir and myself examined a fine section, made by Rush Creek, of lake and river deposit, beautifully stratified. It consists below of volcanic ashes, carried as sediment and deposited in the lake, and is, therefore, a true lake deposit, and beautifully stratified. Above this is a drift pebble deposit; the pebbles consisting of granite and slate from the Sierra. Above this again, are volcanic ashes and sand, unstratified probably blown ashes and sand, or else ejected since the drift. We have here therefore, certain evidence of eruptions before the drift, and possibly, also, after.

In the picture of the view from Mono Lake, I have yet said nothing about the Sierra. The general view of the range from this, the Mono, side is far finer than from the other side. The Sierra rises gradually on the western side for fifty or sixty miles. On the Mono, or eastern, side it is precipitous, the very summit of the range running close to the valley. From this side, therefore, the mountains present a sheer elevation of six or seven thousand feet above the plain.

The sunset view of the Sierra, from an eminence near our camp, this evening, was, it seems to me, by far the finest mountain view I have ever in my life seen. The immense height of the chain above the plain, the abruptness of the declivity, the infinitely diversified forms, and the wonderful sharpness and ruggedness of the peaks, such as I have seen nowhere but in the Sierra, and all this strongly relieved against the brilliant sunset sky, formed a picture of indescribable grandeur. As I turn around in the opposite direction, the regular forms of the v canoes, the placid surface of Lake Mono, with its picturesque islands, and far away in the distance the scarcely visible outlines of the White Mountains, pass in succession before the eye. I enjoyed this magnificent panoramic view until it faded away in the darkness.

From this feast I went immediately to another, consisting of excellent bread, and such delicious mutton chops! If any restaurant in San Francisco could furnish such, I am sure it would quickly make a fortune. Some sentimentalists seem to think that these two feasts are incompatible; that the enjoyment of the beautiful is inconsistent with voracious appetite for mutton. I do not find it so.

After supper I again went Out to enjoy the scene by night. As I gazed upon the abrupt slope of the Sierra, rising like a wall before me, I tried to picture to myself the condition of things during the glacial epoch. The long western slope of the Sierra is now occupied by long, complicated  valleys, broad and full of meadows, while the eastern slope is deeply graven with short, narrow, steep ravines. During glacial times, therefore, it is evident that the western slope was occupied by long, complicated glaciers, with comparatively sluggish current; while on the east, short, simple, parallel ice-streams ran down the steep slope, and far out on the level plain. On each side of these protruded icy tongues, the débris brought down from the rocky ravines was dropped as parallel moraines. Down the track of one of these glaciers, and between the outstretched moraine arms, our path lay this morning.


SUNDAY.—I have not before suffered so much from cold as last night; yet yesterday the sun was very hot. No grand forests to protect us from wind and furnish us with logs for camp-fire; only sagebrush on the plains, and small willows on the stream-banks. The winds blow furiously from the Sierra down the cañons, upon the plains. Got up at 4 A. M.; couldn’t sleep any more. After breakfast, went to visit the volcanic cones in the vicinity. [While on the way, had a very fine view, toward the east, of the terraces of Lake Mono. I think there must be five or six very perfect.] The one we visited was one of the most perfect, and at the same time one of the most accessible. It was not more than one hundred and fifty or two hundred feet above the level of the sandy plain on which it stands.

I was very greatly interested in this volcano. It seems to me that its structure clearly reveals some points of its history. It consists of two very perfect cones and craters, one within the other. The outer cone, which rises directly from the level plain to a height of two hundred feet, is composed wholly of volcanic sand, and is about one mile in diameter. From the bottom and center of its crater rises another and much smaller cone of lava to a little greater height. We rode up the outer sand cone, then around on the rim of its crater, then down its inner slope to the bottom; tied our horses to sagebrush at the base of the inner lava-cone, and scrambled on foot into its crater. Standing on the rim of this inner crater, the outer rises like a rampart on every side.

I believe we have here a beautiful example of cone-and-rampart structure, so common in volcanoes elsewhere; the rampart, or outer cone, being the result of an older and much greater eruption, within the wide, yawning crater, of which by subsequent lesser eruption the smaller cone was built. [I again in 1875 visited this region. My observations on several of the volcanoes confirmed my first impressions.]

Mr. Muir is disposed to explain it differently. He thinks that this was once a much higher single cone, lava at top and sand on the slopes, like most of the larger cones in this vicinity; and that after its last eruption it suffered engulfment; i. e., its upper ray portion has dropped down into its lower sandy portion. The lava of this volcano is mostly pumice and obsidian, sometimes approaching trachyte. It was of all shades of color, from black to white, sometimes beautifully veined, like slags of an iron furnace; and of all physical conditions sometimes vesicular, sometimes glassy, sometimes stony. Wrinkled fusion-surfaces were also abundant.

Again, I believe I can fix the date of the last eruption of this volcano. I found on the outer, or ash-cone, several unmistakable drift pebbles of granite. At first I thought they might he the result of accidental deposit; but I found, also, several within the lava crater. These were reddened and semi-fused by heat. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the last eruption of this volcano was since the drift; it broke through a layer of drift deposit, and threw out the drift pebbles. Some fell back into the crater.

Mr. Muir took leave of us within the crater of this volcano. He goes to-day to visit some of the loftier cones. I would gladly accompany him, but my burnt hand has to-day become inflamed, and is very painful; the climb of twenty-seven hundred feet, over loose, very loose sand, will be very fatiguing, and the sun is very hot. In spite of all this, I had determined to go, but the party are impatient of delays.

I was really sorry to lose Mr. Muir from our party. I have formed a very high opinion of, and even a strong attachment for him. He promises to write me if he observes any additional facts of importance.

We came back to camp about 12 M., and while dinner was preparing, took a delightful swim in the river which runs here by our camp into the lake. Several Indians visited us while at dinner. This is a favorite time for such visits. They know they will get something to eat. Two younger Indians were full of life and good-nature, but one old wrinkled fellow was very reticent, and stood much upon his dignity. He had a beautiful bow and several arrows. We put up some bread and the younger ones shot for it, but the old Indian would take no notice of it, and even seemed to treat the idea with contempt. He evidently belongs to the "Old Regime." He remembers the time when the noble red man had undisputed possession of this part of the country.

About 2 P. M. we started for Alliton’s, a small house on the west side of the lake, and about twelve miles distant. Here I hope to have my horse temporarily shod. In this hope I have picked up and preserved three horseshoes. If we can find nails at Alliton’s, Hawkins will shoe my horse. If not, I know not what I shall do, for my horse is so lame he can hardly get on at all to-day. Had it not been for the lameness of my horse, I would have enjoyed the evening ride greatly.

The trail runs close along the margin of the lake, sometimes in the very water, sometimes rising on the slopes of the steep mountains, which come down to the very water’s edge. From the sides of these mountains the view of the lake and mountains was very fine. The volcanic character of the islands in the lake was very evident, and their craters were quite distinct. It is said that evidences of feeble volcanic activity still exist in the form of steam-jets, hot springs, etc. I am anxious to visit these islands, and will do so if I can.

My horse was so lame that I made very slow progress, and lagged behind several miles. When I reached Alliton’s I found the house empty—Alliton not at home, and the party gone to a house about a mile or two farther on. Alas! what shall I do for my horse? Soon after leaving Alliton’s, however, I met Hawkins, riding Cobb’s pony bareback. He said he had found some shoe-nails at Alliton’s, and he would shoe my horse. We therefore exchanged horses; I went on, and he back to Alliton’s, and shod my horse very nicely.

On my way along the shores of the lake I observed thousands of birds; blackbirds, gulls, ducks, magpies, stilts, sandpipers. The sandpipers I never saw alight on the shore, but only on the water. They swam, rose in flocks, settled on the water exactly like true ducks. [Note in edition of 1900: These, I afterward learned, are not true sandpipers, but Phalaropes and are, indeed, partially web-footed.] Will not these in time undergo a Darwinian change into web-footers? These birds seem to collect in such numbers to feed upon the swarms of flies which frequent the shores. The numbers of these is incredible. I saw them in piles three or four inches thick on the water, and in equal piles thrown up dead on the shore. The air stank with them.

These flies come here to spawn. Their innumerable larvæ form, I understand, the principal food of the Indians during a portion of the year. [I have, since (1875), observed the gathering of the larvæ, or rather pupæ, of these flies About the 1st of July the pupæ are cast ashore in immense quantities. They are then gathered, dried, rubbed to break off the shell, and kept for us under the name of Ko-chah-bee.] All about the margin of the lake, and standing in the water near the shore, I observed irregular masses of rough, porous limestone, evidently deposited from the water of the lake, or else from old limestone springs.

Soon after camping we went in swimming in the lake. The water is very buoyant, but the bathing is not pleasant. The shores are flat and muddy, and swarm with flies. These do not trouble one, but their appearance is repulsive. The water contains large quantities of carbonate of soda, a little carbonate of lime, and probably some borax. It therefore is very cleansing, but makes the skin feel slimy, and lathers the head and beard like soap. The presence of volcanic rocks and volcanic sand all around, and also of soda granite in the Sierras, sufficiently explains why this lake is alkaline instead of salt.

We bought here a little butter, cheese, and corned beef and enjoyed them very much for supper. We have gotten out of the region of mutton. With the exception of patches of rich meadow, formed by the streams from the Sierra, everywhere is sage, sage, sage. The water, however, is delicious. The streams are formed by the melting snows of the Sierra, and these are so near by that the water is very abundant and ice-cold. Close by our camp there issues from a large, rough limestone rock a magnificent spring of ice-cold water, which runs off as a large brook.

Most of our party concluded to sleep here in a hay-loft. Hawkins and myself preferred a hay-cock. We put our blankets together, and had a deliciously soft, warm, and fragrant bed, under the starlit sky.

I desired very much to visit the islands from this point, but there was no boat. These islands, I understand, are the resort of millions of gulls, which deposit their eggs there in immense quantities. These eggs are an important article of food and of traffic for the Indians. Mono Lake is about fifteen miles long, and twelve miles across.


Got up at 4:30 A. M., greatly refreshed by a fine night’s rest. Got off about 7 A. M., in fine spirits. My horse is nearly well of his lameness this morning. Soon after leaving our camp this morning, we passed a rude Indian village, consisting of a few huts. The Indian huts in this region are nothing but a few poles, set up together in a conical form and covered with boughs. We bought from these Indians several quarts of pine-nuts. [Nut of the Pinus monophylia.] They are about the size and nearly the shape of ground-pea kernels. We found them very sweet and nice.

On leaving Mono, we struck out nearly northwest. We were therefore soon amongst the foothills of the Sierra again, and consequently in the mining regions. Saw many evidences of superficial mining. The débris of these washings by the whites are washed over by the Chinese. Passed quite a village of Chinese engaged in this way. The diminutive mud huts were strung along a little stream—Virginia Creek—in the bottom of a ravine, for a considerable distance. The whites call this Dog Town. I observed, even here, almost every hut had its little irrigated garden patch attached to it. I had an opportunity, also, of examining the process of hydraulic mining by the whites, and was much interested.

About 11 A. M. we met a fruit-wagon, loaded with fruit and other supplies, which had come over Sonora Pass, and was on its way to Mono. With a loud yell, the whole party made a simultaneous dash for the wagon. clambered up its sides, and swarmed over the boxes. Peaches, grapes, apples! Ah! how we enjoyed these delicious luxuries!

After making about twenty miles this morning, we camped for noon, about 12:30 P. M., at Big Meadows. This is a beautiful grassy plain, six or seven miles long and three or four miles wide, on which graze hundreds of cattle and horses. The view from this meadow is superb. Now as I sit here at our noon camp, I am surrounded on every side by mountains. Behind me, to the east, are the foothills we have just crossed; in front stretches the green meadow, and beyond rise the lofty Sierra.

The nearer mountains are immense, somewhat regular masses, smooth and green to the very summits, except where covered with patches of snow. Behind these, and seen through gaps, are the most magnificent group of singularly sharp and jagged peaks, tinged with blue by their distance, with great masses of snow in the deep hollows on their precipitous faces. The appearance of these great amphitheaters, with precipitous walls, suggested at once that these were the wombs from which once issued great glaciers. I wish my dear friends in Oakland could see us now; some eating, some washing up, some playing ball, some lolling about, and our saddles and packs grouped together where we unsaddled, our horses grazing quietly on the green meadow, and the whole surrounded by this really magnificent mountain scenery.

This afternoon we are wanting some supplies. Some of the party are sadly in want of shoes; some of the horses need shoeing. While three of the party, Captain, Pomroy, and Bolton, go to Bridgeport, a small town on Big Meadows,—distinctly visible from our camp, and but little out of our way,-the main body of the party went straight on, intending to choose camp and make fire before the rest came. Started about 4 P. M., intending to go only about seven miles and then camp in a cañon which we see emerging into Big Meadows, on the northwest—" Tamarack Cañon." As the sun went down behind the Sierra, the view became more and more splendid, and the coolness of the evening air increased our enjoyment of it. The delight of that evening ride, and the glory of that mountain view, I shall never forget.

About 6:30 found a place in the cañon where the grazing was very fine and water abundant—the grass and clover fresh, tall, and juicy, and a little stream gurgling close by. Here we camped, turned our horses loose to graze, with lariats trailing, intending to stake them securely before going to bed. In the mean time it became very dark, and our companions not yet arrived. We made a rousing fire, and waited, hungry and impatient. They had the pack and the supplies.

When at last they did arrive, which was about 9 P. M., they came shouting, and yelling, and hurrahing at the sight of the blazing fire. The noise stampeded our horses, and they ran affrighted and snorting up the steep sides of the cañon, over the mountains, and away into the impenetrable darkness of night. We could trace them only by their shrill snorting, and now and then by the flitting form of my old gray. After some fruitless attempts to recover them, which only increased their fright, the night being very dark, and the mountains very rough, we concluded to give it up until morning, and went to bed feeling much uneasiness.

We have been to-day on the first road we have seen since we left Clark’s.


At daybreak, two of the party, Hawkins and Linderman, went after the horses. By the time breakfast was ready they returned with them. They had tracked them over the mountains back to Big Meadows, where they found them quietly feasting, about three miles from camp. We started off about 8 A. M., and for eight or ten miles more traveled on the Sonora road, along the same narrow cañon in which we had camped. This cañon is not more than one hundred yards wide, flanked on each side by very steep hills and precipices, yet the bottom is quite level, and the road good. Passed immense masses of trap—ancient lava flows. In some places they are finely columnar. Mostly porphyritic lava and amygdaloid.

About ten miles from our camp, we reached Warm Springs. These are very fine and very large springs. A considerable brook runs directly from the principal spring. There are, moreover, several, having different properties. The waters seem to be violently boiling, but this is the result of escaping carbonic acid rather than steam. The temperature of the water seems to be about 1500 to 1600. Everything suitable for a watering-place is found here; hot baths, vapor baths, accommodations for visitors, etc., although in somewhat rude style. We have here still another evidence of the decay of the mines in this region.

This was once a flourishing watering-place, or at least expected to become so; but it is now entirely abandoned. Several parties are now stopping here to make use of the baths, and to hunt and fish in the vicinity. They bring, of course, their own provisions. Sage-hens are very abundant in the brush, and trout in the streams, in this region. I observe limestone now depositing from these carbonated springs. Also, near by, immense rough masses of the same, which have been similarly deposited at some previous epoch. The immense lava streams in this immediate vicinity, in fact all around, sufficiently account for the heat of these springs.

After examining the springs we rode on, leaving the Sonora road and taking a trail for Antelope Valley. Rain now coming on, we galloped on until we came to a good grazing meadow, about three miles from the Warm Springs. There was here a rude pole house—probably a shepherd’s lodge—which sufficiently protected us and our provisions from the rain. Here, therefore, we camped for noon. While here, a party of ladies and gentlemen rode by and camped a little beyond. They had a wagon for protection. The ladies seemed to be true Amazons—managed their horses with the utmost ease, dashed about in the most fearless manner, saddled and unsaddled, mounted and dismounted, without assistance. They were, in short, true cavaliers in petticoats.

This afternoon, the rain detained us here a little longer than we had intended. Started about 3:30 P. M. Delightful ride in the cool of the evening. All in high spirits. We reached a ridge overlooking Antelope Valley about sunset. Before us Antelope Valley lay spread out at our feet (but ah! how far below us we found to our cost that night), behind us the magnificent Sierra, and the sun setting behind it. We stopped and gazed first at one and then at the other.

"Antelope Valley is but a step; what is the use of hurrying?" "Nevertheless, we had better go on. Remember Laddsville and Chowchilla Mountain." On we rode. Presently a cañon, right across the way—and such a cañon! "Surely it is impossible to cross that!" A thousand feet deep, and less than a thousand feet wide at the top, and the sides seemingly perpendicular! But across it we must go. Already we see Hawkins and the advanced guard near the top on the other side. We speak to them across the yawning chasm. The trail wound backward and forward down one side. across the foaming stream, and then backward and forward up the other side. We followed the trail, though it led us on the dizzy edge of fearful precipices. We have become accustomed to this sort of thing, and so have our horses.

Onward we pushed; next across an inextricable tangle of sagebrush and trap bowlders; then down another cañon, and across another ridge; then down, down, down; then over another ridge, and darkness overtook us. Then down, down, down. We lost the trail; scattered about to find it. "Here it is!" found again; lost again; scatter; found again, and so on; but always still down, down, down. At last we reached the plain, after descending at least four thousand feet. In the valley at last! But alas! no meadow; nothing but sage, sage, sage. Very dark; neither moon nor stars.

Onward we push, guided only by lights we see in the valley. "Hello! where are you?" we hear from behind. "Here! come on!" we answered. We stop a while until laggers come up. Onward again we urge our tired horses, winding through the sagebrush. Onward, still onward, straining our eyes to peer through the thick darkness. Onward, still onward, five long miles, through the interminable sage desert, without trail, and guided only by the lights. One by one the lights disappear. "What shall we do?" "Can’t stop here. Push on." At last reached some Indian huts. "How far to white man’s house?" "Leetle ways." "How many miles?" "No savé." "One mile? two mile? half mile?" "No savé." Onward, still onward.

In despair we stopped to consult. At the Indian huts we had struck a road, but it was leading us away from the direction in which we had seen the lights. We again struck into the pathless sage. Hawkins is reconnoitering, a little in advance. "Here we are !" we heard him cry. Whoop! A barley-field!" It was without a fence. We determined to ride in, unsaddle, make our camp, allow our horses to eat their fill of standing barley, and make it good by paying in the morning. It was 10 P. M. Some of the party were so tired and sleepy that they preferred to go to bed supperless, and therefore immediately threw themselves on the ground and went to sleep.

Five of us, however, determined to build a fire and cook supper. Ah! what a glorious fire sagebrush makes! Ah! what a splendid supper we cooked that night! Ah! how we laughed in our sleeves at the mistake that the sleepers had made! Comforted and happy, and gazing complacently yet compassionately on the prostrate forms of our companions, moaning in their sleep with the pangs of hunger, we went to bed at 11:30 P. M., and slept sweetly the sleep of innocence. If we are trespassing, it is time enough to think of that in the morning.

We have ridden twenty-eight to thirty miles to-day, and about the same yesterday. To-day the trail has been very rough Our horses are quite tired.


Woke up much refreshed by a sound, dreamless sleep. This valley can’t be more than three to four thousand feet high. Last night was the warmest we have felt since we left Yosemite. I had just waked up. I was sitting on my blankets, putting on my shoes, and thinking repentantly of our trespass. The sun was just rising.

Yonder comes swift retribution in the shape of a tall, rough-looking mountaineer, with rifle on shoulder and pistol in belt, galloping straight towards us. As he comes nearer, he looks pale, and his lips are firmly compressed. He stops before me suddenly. "You seem to have had a good thing here last night?" "Why, yes, rather-but we intend, of course, to pay for it." "I am glad to hear it." He was evidently greatly provoked by our trespass, but after we had explained the circumstances, and had paid him four dollars, he seemed very well satisfied, bade us good-morning, put spurs to his horse, and rode off as rapidly as he had come.

We did not get off so early as usual this morning. The supperless ones slept heavily this morning and got up growling. Hawkins was up and out shooting by daybreak, and returned with a fine rabbit, which, with other camp delicacies, put all in good humor at breakfast.

Started about 8 o’clock. This valley being so deep, of course we had to climb very high to get out of it. The road is, however, tolerably good. We nooned about ten miles from Antelope Valley, at Silver King, a deserted mining town. This is a good example of many similar towns in the mining districts of California. They are rapidly built up—property rising to a fabulous price—then as rapidly decay. This one seems to have flashed up and   gone out more suddenly than usual.

There are several rather pretentious but unfinished buildings—hotels, stores, etc. The lots are all staked out. and a few years ago were held at high prices. Evidences of mining operations close by. I examined these, but saw no evidence of any special value. We took possession of the hotel used the barroom as our dining-room, and the bar-counter as our table. Made a hearty dinner; the young men all the while playing hotel life, laughing and calling "Waitaw! roast beef! Waitaw! bottle of champagne!" etc.

3 P. M.—Rode rapidly this evening, a good part of the way at an easy lope, and camped at a meadow in Bagsley’s Valley, about two miles from Monitor. Here we found, to our great delight, a flock of sheep. We bought one and enjoyed mutton chops for supper again. After supper we all gathered around the camp-fire, and I gave the party a talk on the subjects of Bloody Cañon and its glacier, the volcanoes of Mono, and the lava flows and warm carbonated springs we saw yesterday; but as the substance of what I then said is scattered about among these notes, I omit it here.

It being quite cool to-night, Hawkins and myself concluded to bunk together.


Last night was the coldest we have yet felt. Could not sleep very well for the cold. This morning, when I woke up, my blanket, hair, and beard were covered with a heavy frost. The meadow was white with the same. The water left over night in our tin canister was frozen. A blazing fire, and plenty of mutton chops, bread, and hot tea, soon thawed us, and by the time the sun was up an hour or so, it was quite warm again. One of the shoes put on my horse by Mr. Hawkins, at Alliton’s, being very thin at the point, has broken, and half of it come off.

I found, on leaving camp this morning, that my horse was painfully lame again. The sharp fragments of rock which cover the road here make him shrink and limp and groan at every step. Fortunately the town of Monitor is only two miles off I determined here to get him well shod all around. I stopped at Monitor for this purpose, while the rest of the party rode on to Markleeville, about eight miles farther, where they would stop, in order to get supplies for the party.

While he was shoeing my horse, I sat and talked much with the blacksmith. I delight in seeing any work well done. He was master of his trade. I also delight in seeing a fine physique. He was a well-made, strong, and really handsome man. He was also a man of few words and much good sense. I would like to meet that man again; I often think of him. I wonder if he has thought a second time of me? Probably not.

After shoeing, I hurried on and overtook the party at Markleeville. Here it was inconvenient to cook our own meal, so we all took dinner at the hotel. The dinner was really excellent, and we all enjoyed it greatly. Think of it! Besides the meats, which we could have had as good in camp, rice, in genuine Southern style (my heart warmed toward mine host), potatoes, beans, corn, pies, cakes, and sweetmeats. The variety tempted too much.

I received more letters from home at this place. Every one at home has been perfectly well since I left. I am light-hearted to-day. I shall be at home in a week or ten days. I wrote to that effect.

All along the road from Monitor to Markleeville, and in Markleeville itself, I have seen sad evidences of the effects of the speculative spirit—sad evidences of time and money and energies wasted. Deserted houses and deserted mines in every direction. The Indians, of whom there are a large number about Markleeville, occupy these deserted houses. Some of the mines which I saw seemed to have been undertaken on an expensive scale. They are mostly quartz mines.

By invitation of Mr. Hawkins, we went on this afternoon only three miles, and camped at a ranch belonging to his brother. Beautiful ranch, nice meadows for our horses, rich butter and milk for ourselves, baths, hot, cold, and warm, issuing from fine springs. The place has been rudely fitted up for bathing.

This is indeed a most delightful place, and the party seem to feel its effects upon their spirits. While the horses graze, and I sit in the shade and write this, the young men are playing ball on the smooth-shaven green. The meadow is surrounded by high, almost perpendicular, and apparently impassable mountains on every side except that by which we came. In such a secluded, beautiful dell, deep sunk in the mountain-top, might a Rasselas dream away his early life.

Over those apparently impassable cliffs must we climb to-morrow, if we would go on to Tahoe. Hawkins had intended leaving us here, as he lives in this vicinity, but he has kindly volunteered to lead us over the mountains into Hope Valley, from which the road onwards to Tahoe is very good.

I took here a hot bath, so hot I could hardly bear it, and immediately after an ice-cold shower. The effect was delightful. Most of the party slept here in a hay-loft. I preferred sleeping with Hawkins, in the open air, on a hay-stack.


Heavy frost again this morning. Water and milk left from supper last night frozen. Took again, early this morning, the hot bath and cold shower. Mr. Hawkins observed yesterday for the first time that his horse is badly foundered. He takes another horse here, and by preference a powerful young horse, upon which man never sat before. Think of going over the most terrible mountain trail on such a horse! But he is accounted, I find, the best rider and horse-tamer in the county. He mounted his horse just before we were ready to start, and in half an hour he had tamed him completely.

The trail from this place into Hope Valley is one of the steed we have yet attempted. It is a zigzag, up an almost perpendicular cliff. In many places there can be no doubt that a false step would have been certainly fatal to man and horse. In the steepest parts we dismounted and led the horses a great portion of the way up. In many places there was no detectable trail at all. When once up, however, the trail was very good. From the top of this ridge I saw many fine peaks of columnar basalt, evidently the remnants of old lava streams.

The descent into Hope Valley is much more gentle. This valley is a famous resort for fishing and hunting parties. As we entered the valley and were about to stop for noon, we met one of these—a large party of ladies and gentlemen. Of course, we straightened up, and dashed by in fine style, and immediately dismounted and camped on a grassy meadow on the banks of the creek. They seemed much amused and somewhat astonished at our wild appearance.

2 P. M.—After resting here two hours, we started on our way to Tahoe. Here Hawkins left us. Every one of the party was sincerely affected. He has been the soul of our party. I don’t believe we could have gotten along without him. So generous, so efficient, so thoroughly acquainted with camp and mountain life. He scents out a trail with the instinct of a bloodhound. As he turned, we all waved our hats and cried, "Three cheers for our noble Lieutenant! Hurrah! hurrah!! hurrah!!!" His face flushed and eyes filled. I know he was gratified with the heartiness of the salute.

We now proceeded by a good wagon-road, and therefore quite rapidly. About 5 P. M. rode in double file up to Yank’s and reined up. [Note in edition of 1900: Yank, some years after this, moved his hotel to the border of the lake.] The fat, bluff old fellow cries out, "Hello! where are you fellows from? Where are you going?" "Excursion party to Tahoe; where best to stop?" "You want to have a free. jolly time, don’t you?" "O, yes, certainly." "Well! you camp at this end of the lake, near Rowland’s." On we went. at a good round pace, and camped at 7 P. M. in a fine grove of tamaracks, on the very borders of the lake.

We have, I observed this evening, passed through the region of slate (mining region) and the region of lava flows, and are again in the region of granite. The granite about Tahoe, however, is finer-grained than that about Yosemite and Tuolumne Meadows, especially the latter.


I am cook to-day. I therefore got up at daybreak and prepared breakfast while the rest enjoyed their morning snooze. After breakfast we hired a sail-boat, partly to fish, but mainly to enjoy a sail on this beautiful lake.

Oh! the exquisite beauty of this lake—its clear waters, emerald-green, and the deepest ultramarine blue; its pure shores, rocky or cleanest gravel, so clean that the chafing of the waves does not stain in the least the bright clearness of the waters; the high granite mountains, with serried peaks, which stand close around its very shore to guard its crystal purity;—this lake, not among, but on, the mountains, lifted six thousand feet towards the deep-blue over-arching sky, whose image it reflects!

We tried to fish for trout, but partly because the speed of the sail-boat could not be controlled, and partly because we enjoyed the scene far more than the fishing, we were unsuccessful, and soon gave it up. We sailed some six or eight miles, and landed in a beautiful cove on the Nevada side. Shall we go in swimming?

Newspapers in San Francisco say there is something peculiar in the waters of this high mountain lake. It is so light, they say, that logs of timber sink immediately, and bodies of  drowned animals never rise; that it is impossible to swim in it; that, essaying to do so, many good swimmers have been drowns These facts are well attested by newspaper scientists, and therefore not doubted by newspaper readers. Since leaving Oakland, I have been often asked by the young men the scientific explanation of so singular a fact. I have uniformly answered, "We will try scientific experiments when we arrive there." That time had come.

"Now then, boys," I cried, "for the scientific experiment I promised you!" I immediately plunged in head foremost and struck out boldly. I then threw myself on my back, and lay on the surface with my limbs extended and motionless for ten minutes, breathing quietly the while. All the good swimmers quickly followed. It is as easy to swim and float in this as in any other water. Lightness from diminished atmospheric pressure! Nonsense! In an almost incompressible liquid like water, the diminished density produced by diminished pressure would be more than counterbalanced by increased density produced by cold.

After our swim, we again launched the boat, and sailed out into the very middle of the lake. The wind had become very high, and the waves quite formidable. We shipped wave after wave, so that those of us who were sitting in the bows got drenched. It was very exciting. The wind became still higher; several of the party got very sick, and two of them cascaded. I was not in the least affected, but, on the contrary, enjoyed the sail very much. About 2 P. M. we concluded it was time to return, and therefore tacked about for camp.

The wind was now dead ahead, and blowing very hard. The boat was a very bad sailer and so perhaps were we. We beat up against the wind a long time, and made but little headway. Finally, having concluded we would save time and patience by doing so, we ran ashore on the beach about a mile from camp and towed the boat home. The owner of the boat told us that he would not have risked the boat or his life in the middle of the lake on such a day. "Where ignorance is bliss," etc.

After a hearty supper we gathered around the fire, and the young men sang in chorus until bedtime. "Now then, boys," cried I," for a huge camp-fire, for it will be cold tonight!" We all scattered in the woods, and every man returned with a log, and soon the leaping blaze seemed to overtop the pines. We all lay around, with our feet to the fire, and soon sank into deep sleep.


SUNDAY.—Sunday at Tahoe! I wish I could spend it in perfect quiet. But my underclothes must be changed. Cleanliness is a Sunday duty. Some washing is necessary. Some of the party went fishing to-day. The rest of us remained in camp and mended or washed clothes.

At 12 M. I went out alone, and sat on the shore of the lake, with the waves breaking at my feet. How brightly emerald-green the waters near the shore, and how deeply and purely blue in the distance! The line of demarcation is very distinct, showing that the bottom drops off suddenly. How distinct the mountains and cliffs all around the lake; Only lightly tinged with blue on the farther side, though more than twenty miles distant!

How greatly is one’s sense of beauty affected by associations! Lake Mono is surrounded by much grander and more varied mountain scenery than this; its waters are also very clear, and it has the advantage of several picturesque islands; but the dead volcanoes, the wastes of volcanic sand and ashes covered only by interminable sagebrush, the bitter, alkaline, dead, slimy waters, in which nothing but worms live; the insects and flies which swarm on its surface, and which are thrown upon its shore in such quantities as to infect the air,—all these produce a sense of desolation and death which is painful; it destroys entirely the beauty of the lake itself; it unconsciously mingles with and alloys the pure enjoyment of the incomparable mountain scenery in its vicinity.

On the contrary, the deep-blue, pure waters of Lake Tahoe, rivaling in purity and blueness the sky itself; its clear, bright emerald shore waters, breaking snow-white on its clean rock and gravel shores; the lake basin not on a plain, with mountain scenery in the distance, but counter-sunk in the mountain’s top itself—these produce a never-ceasing and ever-increasing sense of joy, which naturally grows into love. There would seem to be no beauty except as associated with human life and connected with a sense of fitness for human happiness. Natural beauty is but the type of spiritual beauty.

Enjoyed a very refreshing swim in the lake this afternoon. The water is much less cold than that of Lake Tenaya or the Tuolumne River, or even the Nevada River.

The party which went out fishing returned with a very large trout. It was delicious.

I observe on the lake ducks, gulls, terns, etc., and about it many sandhill cranes—the white species. The clanging cry of these sounds pleasant to me by early association.

August 22

Nothing to do to-day. Would be glad to sail a the lake or fish, but too expensive hiring boats. Our funds are nearly exhausted. Would be glad to start for home, but one of our party—Pomroy—has gone to Carron City, and we must wait for him.

I went down alone to the lake, sat down on the shore id enjoyed the scene. Nothing to do, my thoughts to-day naturally went to the dear ones at home. Oh! how I wish they could be here and enjoy with me this lovely lake! I could dream away my life here with those I love. How delicious a dream! Of all the places I have yet seen, this  is the one which I could longest enjoy and love the most. Reclining thus in the shade, on the clean white sand, the waves rippling at my feet, with thoughts of Lake Tahoe and of my loved ones mingling in my mind, I fell into a delicious doze. After my doze I returned to camp, to dinner.

About 5 P. M. took another and last swim in the lake.

Pomroy, who went to Carson, returned 7 P. M. After supper, again singing in chorus, and then the glorious camp-fire.


We all got up very early this morning. We wish to make an early start. All in high spirits; for we start for home to-day. I wonder if any one is half so anxious and impatient as I am. We wish to make Sacramento in three days. The distance is 110 miles or more. We must start early and ride late, if necessary. After camping three days in the same place, however, there is always much to collect and to fix. In spite of our early rising, we did not get off until about 7 A. M. Our route lay over Johnson’s Pass and by Placerville. We rode rapidly, however, alternately walking and galloping, and made twenty miles by 12 o’clock.

About ten miles from Tahoe we reached the summit. We turned about here, and took our last look at the glorious lake, set like a gem in the mountains. From the summit we rode rapidly down the splendid cañon of the south fork of the American River, here but a small brook, and stopped for noon about two miles below Strawberry, on a little grassy patch on the hill-side, "close by a softly murmuring stream." Here we staked our horses, cooked and ate dinner, and "lolled and dreamed" for three hours, and then again saddled up and away.

Every pleasure has its pain, and every rose its thorn. We are in the region of good roads again,—but oh! the dust! It is awful! About 4 P. M. saw a wagon coming; our instincts told us that it was a fruit-wagon. With a yell, we rushed furiously upon the bewildered old wagoner. "I surrender! I surrender!" he cried, while, with a broad grin, he banded out fruit and filled our extended hats. "A-a-ah! Peaches! grapes! apples!" How delicious on this hot, dusty road! Rode this evening eleven or twelve miles, the cañon becoming finer as we advanced, until, at Sugarloaf Gorge, it reaches almost Yosemite grandeur.

Camped at 6 p. M. near an inn called "Sugarloaf" on account of a remarkable rock, several hundred feet high, close by. Our camp-fire was not far from the inn. At a window we saw two young ladies giggling and making merry at our cook—Mr. Linderman—mixing dough and baking bread. We sent them a piece, just to show them what we could do. No good ground to sleep on here. We don’t relish sleeping in the dusty road. We therefore took our blankets and slept in the hay-loft. Although we left the window open, we found it rather close. Alas! alas! no more grand forests, no more grassy meadows, no more huge, leaping camp-fires; only dusty roads, dirty villages, and stable lofts and stalls.

I have been observing the cañon down which we came to-day. Johnson’s Pass, like Mono Pass, was a glacial divide. One glacier went down on the Tahoe side, a tributary to the Tahoe Glacier, but a much larger glacier came down the American Cañon. Sugarloaf Rock has been enveloped and smoothed by it. This great glacier may be traced for twenty-five miles.


As we get into the region of civilization again, incidents are less numerous. I observed, both yesterday and to-day, very many deserted houses. This was the overland stage-road. Two years ago the amount of travel here was immense. I think I heard that there were twelve to fifteen stages a day. Now the travel is small, the railroad, of course, taking the travelers. The  road is, however, splendidly graded, but the toll is heavy. This morning the road ran all the way along the American River, sometimes near the water’s edge, but mostly high up the sides of the great precipitous cañon formed by the erosive power of the river.

The scenery all the way yesterday and to-day is fine, but especially along the American River it is really very fine If we had not already drank so deep of mountain glory, we would call it magnificent. Again, this morning, walking and galloping alternately, we made easily twenty miles by 12 o’clock. Stopped for noon at "Sportsman’s Hall," a roadside inn. Here, after dinner, we sold "Old Pack" for twenty dollars, exactly what we gave for him, left our cooking utensils (our supplies were just exhausted), and determined hereafter to take our meals at the inns on the roadsides or in the villages. Disencumbered of our pack we could ride more rapidly.

This afternoon we rode sixteen miles; thirteen to Placerville, then through Placerville and three miles beyond, to Diamond Springs. On approaching Placerville, I observed magnificent orchards, cultivated by irrigation. I never saw finer fruit. Saw everywhere about, and in Placerville, abundant evidences of placer mining. The streams are also extensively used for this purpose, and are therefore all of them very muddy.

Placerville is by far the largest and most thriving village I have seen since leaving Oakland. It probably contains two or three thousand inhabitants. The houses are stuck about along the streams and on the hill-sides in the most disorderly manner, their position being determined neither by regularity nor beauty nor picturesque effect, but chiefly by convenience in mining operations. The streets are very few, very long, very irregular, very narrow. Nevertheless, the general effect is somewhat picturesque.

As we rode into town, and passed in double file through the streets, Captain at the head, erect, and evidently feeling his dignity, the young men descried a   billiard-saloon, became suddenly demoralized, broke ranks, incontinently dismounted, frantically rushed in, and immediately the click of the billiard-balls was heard.

Greatly disgusted at such insubordination, the Captain rode on with me to the post-office. Here I mailed a letter to my wife, saying I would be at home probably on the night of the 26th. Onward then through the town for nearly a mile (it stretches so far along the stream), then up the hill, turned on the top and took a look at the town, pleasantly nestled below, among the hills; then over the toll-bridge and onwards until, about dark, we reached the little village of Diamond Springs, and put up our horses at Siesbuttel’s inn. Here we got as good a supper as any one could desire,—and such coffee!

That night, to any attentive listener there must have been much good music in the stable—nine horses, crunching, crunching, below, and nine sleepers, snoring, snoring, above

I was surprised to learn from our host that Placerville and vicinity is very sickly. Everybody suffering from chills and fevers. He himself is suffering from this disease. Cause seems to be the stirring up of the earth by mining, and especially the damming up of waters for irrigation.

Montgomery St., San Francisco
Montgomery St., San Francisco — Where Our Trip Ended
August 25

Early start this morning. Got fairly off by 6 A. M. Rode rapidly, and made twenty-one miles by 11:30 A. M. Stopped for noon at the Half-way House. Took a swim—our very last—in a pond near by, and our dinner at the inn. Slept an hour, lying on the floor of the piazza; rested our horses until 3 P. M., and then again onward for home.

In the afternoon we rode fourteen miles, to Patterson’s Tend House. We found this a delightful place. Mr. Patterson is really a very pleasant and courteous gentleman, and gave us a most excellent supper. This put us all in excellent humor. The young men got lively. One of them, Mr. Perkins, played on the piano, while the rest joined in a stag-dance. The clattering of heavy boots on the bare floor was not very harmonious, it is true, but then it was very enlivening. The host and all the guests in the house seemed to enjoy it hugely.

Two nights past we have been compelled to sleep in the stable loft, or else in the dusty streets. We are more fortunate to-night. There is a magnificent straw-bank in the open field on the other side of the road. "Once more under the starry canopy! Now for a good sleep! Our Father up there in the starry heavens, watch over us. Amen!"

We are again on the plains of Sacramento, but we no longer find the heat Oppressive. We have been all along the road mistaken for horse or cattle drovers, or for emigrants just across the plains. We were often greeted with, "Where’s your drove?" or "How long across the plains?" We have been in camp nearly six weeks, and ridden five or six hundred miles. Burned skin, dusty hair and clothes, flannel shirt, breeches torn, and coarse, heavy boots; the mistake is quite natural.


Home to-day! Hurrah! Wake up, all!" After an early breakfast, got off 6:30 A. M. We rode into Sacramento, 10 miles, in 1 1/2 hours, galloping nearly the whole way. We went at a good gallop in the regular order-double file-through the streets of Sacramento, the whole length of the city, down to the wharf and there tied our horses. Everybody crowded around, especially the little boys about the wharf curious to know "who and what were these in strange attire."

Having nothing to do until 12 M., when the boat leaves, Captain and myself strolled through town. The Captain, with flannel shirt, bare neck, shocking bad hat, stout brogans, long knife stuck in belt, and a certain erect, devil-may-care air, certainly looked like a somewhat dangerous character.

As we sauntered along the streets, a little sharp-looking Jew suddenly rushed out f from his store, crying: "Now, gentlemen, I know you are in want of clothes. Here we are,—the cheapest and finest in town. This way, gentlemen; this way!" "No; we don’t want any clothes; we have plenty at home." "Aren’t you the party who went galloping down the street just now?" "yes." "Where are you from?" "Only a pleasure party." "Why, I thought you were outlaws, or cattle-drovers, or horse-dealers, or emigrants over the plains, or something of that kind."

We then visited the State House. As we walked along the corridors towards t he well-dressed and courteous usher, the Captain looked very grand. The usher seemed instinctively to know that we were not exactly what we seemed. He treated us very courteously, and showed us the fine halls of Representative and Senate. We read, "Cum ore rotundo," the Latin inscriptions, and translated, to the great astonishment of the user.

We now went back to the wharf, and cut and ate cantaloupes; then to a restaurant and had a most delicious dinner, of which we partook very heartily; then on board of the boat for San Francisco, and tied our horses all in a row and gave them hay, then up into the cabin.

Everybody looked at us with interest and surprise. "Who are they?" Gradually it became known who we were, and we were treated with courtesy, and even became lions. Captain of the boat took some of us up to his room, and asked many questions. Dinner at 4 P. M. I went down, and again ate one of the heartiest dinners I ever ate in my life. I cannot get enough to-day. Out rough appearance gave rise to some amusing incidents. I was coming up-stairs, from deck to cabin. Superbly dressed mulatto at the landing. "Got a cabin check, sir?" showing me one. "No; I have not." "Can’t come up." "But I paid cabin fare." "Can’t come up." Here a white official, who knew me, interfered and apologized.

San Francisco at last! We all went in a body ashore. The cabmen thought here was a prize of greenhorn mountaineers. They came round us in swarms. "Lick House?" "American Exchange?" "Cosmopolitan?" "Who wants a hack?" was screamed into our ears. The young men screamed back, "What Cheer House! Russ House! Occidental! This way, gentlemen!" etc. They soon saw that they had better let us alone. We mounted, and dashed off to the Oakland wharf Not open yet; what shall we do? we will ride about town.

Pomroy and myself rode to the Lick House, where he wished to get a bundle, which he had left in Cobb’s room. He dismounted at the ladies’ entrance, and I sat on horseback and held his horse. As he opened the door the porter said, "What do you want?" "Never mind," and he ran up-stairs. Porter came out and said to me, "What does that man want?" "Mr. Cobb," said I. Door shuts. Presently out he comes again. "Who is that man?" I gave him no answer. Again: "Where did that man come from?" I took no notice of him. Door shuts again, and I could see through the glass that he went up-stairs to look after that man. After a little, Pomroy came and told me that the porter had finally recognized him, and apologized.

Our glorious party is, alas, dissolving. Three—Cobb, Bolton, and Linderman—left us here; the rest of us now rode down again to the wharf, and found the gate open. Went in and tied our horses. Went across the way and again took a cup of coffee, and ate heartily of doughnuts. Back to the waiting-room and dozed. At 11:30 got on board the boat for Oakland. Landed at the pier, we galloped alongside the swift-moving cart, the young men hurrahing. The race was kept up pretty evenly for a little while, but soon the old steam horse left us behind, and screamed back at us a note of defiance.

We went on, however, at a sweeping gallop, through the streets of Oakland, saluted only by barking dogs; dismounted at the stable, bid each other good-night, and then to our several homes; and our party, our joyous, glorious party, is no more. Alas, how transitory is all earthly joy! Our party is but a type of all earthly life; its elements gathered and organized for a brief space, full of enjoyment and adventure, but swiftly hastening to be again dissolved, and returned to the common fund from which it was drawn. But its memory still lives; its spirit is immortal.

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Source: Translated from SGML by Dan Anderson from the Library of Congress American Memory Collection, "The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920."

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