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ContentsPrevious: Lake Bigler

Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity in California (1862) by James M. Hutchings


ALABASTER CAVE, EL DORADO CO., CALIFORNIA.

THE PULPIT, IN THE EL DORADO COUNTY CAVE.
THE PULPIT, IN THE EL DORADO COUNTY CAVE.

CHAPTER XIII.

Whenever nature steps out of her usual course to make anything very beautiful or very wonderful, it is not unreasonable to expect that men and women, generally, will be gratefully willing to go out of their way to see it. It is true that many men love money more than they love nature, others love nature more than money, and yet often feel too poor, almost, to gratify that love; others have become so much habituated to the same stool in the counting-house, the same old chair in the office, and the same familiar standing-place in the store, and the same spot in the workshop, mine, or field, that nothing short of an earthquake, or revolution, could induce them to turn aside from the well-worn highways of business habit, to see any thing beyond themselves and their business routine. In their eyes it is the Alpha and Omega of life, the beginning and end of all things, yea, life itself. Unfortunately, habit unfits them for any thing beyond the man-machine. The blue sky, the bright sunshine, the flower-carpeted earth, the foilage-clothed trees, the moss-grown caverns, the mighty hills, or the forest-formed harps, touched by the fingers of the wind, and playing their grand old anthems of praise, have an inviting and suggestive voice, that “man was made for enjoyment as well as duty —for happiness as well as business;” and the probability is apparent, that the godlike faculties bestowed upon him, enabling him to hold communion with the beautiful and the ennobling, the sublime or wonderful, would not have been, if mail were not expected to be something loftier than a mere humdrum business machine.

Nature sometimes turns over some new and wonderful pages in her glorious old volume, and discovers to men such morsels as the groves of mammoth trees, the Yo-Semite Valley, the Geysers, the natural bridges, and caves; and, more recently, the Alabaster cave of El Dorado county. On such occasions there are many persons who will find time to open their sight-seeing eyes, and take a glimpse, if only to say that they have seen them, lest they should be deemed behind the age, or out of the fashion; but there are others again, and their name is legion, who adore, yea almost worship, the beautiful, the grand, the astonishing; from the handful of soil, that gives out so many varieties of rare and fragrant flowers and lucious fruits, to the vast cathedral-formed arches and intricate draperies of stone, produced by chemical agencies and mystical combinations, in one or more of nature’s great laboratories beneath the surface of the earth. With the latter class it is always a pleasure to be in company; as a pleasure shared is always doubled; besides, kindred spirits have a happy faculty of reproduction, denied to others.

THE DISCOVERY OF THE EL DORADO COUNTY CAVE.

A ledge of limestone rock, resembling marble in appearance, cropped out by the side of the El Dorado Valley turnpike road, which, after testing, was found to be capable of producing excellent lime. Early in the present year, Mr. William Gwynn employed a number of men to quarry this rock and build a kiln. To these works be gave the name of “Alabaster Lime Quarry and Kiln.” On the 18th of April, 1860, two workmen, George S. Halterman and John Harris, were quarrying limestone from this ledge, when, upon the removal of a piece of rock, a dark aperture was visible, that was sufficiently enlarged to enable them to enter. A flood of light pouring in through the opening made, they proceeded inward some fifty feet. Before venturing further, they threw a stone forward, which falling into water, determined them to procure lights before advancing further.

At this juncture Mr. Gwynn, the owner, came up; and upon being informed of the discovery, sent for candles, to enable them to further prosecute their explorations. The result of these, after several hours spent, cannot be better described than in Mr. Gwynn’s own language, in a letter dated April 19th, 1860, addressed to Mr. Holmes, a gentleman friend of his, residing in Sacramento City; and first published in the Sacramento Bee:

“Wonders will never cease. On yesterday, we, in quarrying rock, made an opening to the most beautiful cave you ever beheld. On our first entrance, we descended about fifteen feet, gradually, to the centre of the room, which is one hundred by thirty feet. At the north end there is a must magnificent pulpit, in the Episcopal church style, that man ever has seen. It seems that it is, and should be called, the ‘Holy of Holies.’ It is completed with the most beautiful drapery of alabaster sterites, of all colors, varying from white to pink-red, overhanging the beholder. Immediately under the pulpit there is a beautiful lake of water, extending to all unknown distance. We thought this all, but, to our great admiration, on arriving at the centre of the first room, we saw an entrance to an inner chamber, still more splendid, two hundred by one hundred feet, with the most beautiful alabaster overhanging, in every possible shape of drapery. Here stands magnitude, giving the instant impression of a power above man; grandeur that defies decay; antiquity that tells of ages unnumbered; beauty that the touch of time makes more beautiful; use exhaustless for the service of men; strength imperishable as the globe, the monument of eternity—the truest earthly emblem of that everlasting and unchangeable, irresistible Majesty, by whom, and for whom, all things were made.”

As soon as this interesting announcement was noised abroad, hundreds of people flocked to see the newly discovered wonder, from all the surrounding mining settlements, so that within the first six days, it was visited by upwards of four hundred persons; many of whom, we regret to say, possessed a larger organ of acquisitiveness than of veneration, and laid Vandal hands on some of the most beautiful portions within reach, near the entrance. This determined the proprietor to close it, until arrangements could be made for its protection and systematic illumination; the better to see, and not to touch the specimens.

At this time, Mr. Gwynn leased the cave to Messrs. Smith & Halterman, who immediately began to prepare it for the reception of the public, by erecting barricades, platforms, &c.; and placing a large number of lamps at favorable points, for the better illumination and inspection of the different chambers.

The discovery being made in the spring, considerable water was standing in some of the deepest of the cavities; but signs were already visible of its recession, at the rate of nearly six inches per day; and in a few a weeks it entirely disappeared, leaving the cave perfectly dry. This afforded opportunities for further explorations; when it was found that a more convenient entrance could be made, with but little labor, from an unimportant room within a few feet of the road. This was accordingly done, and this, in addition to its convenience, allows of the free circulation of pure air. Having thus given all historical sketch of the discovery, with other matters connected with its preservation and management, we shall now endeavor to take the reader with us, at least in imagination, while describing it and

SOME SCENES BY THE WAY.

As a majority of visitors will, most probably, be from San Francisco, it may not be amiss, with the reader’s permission, to present a brief outline of some of the most interesting sights to be witnessed, from the deck of the steamboat, on our way up the Sacramento. A large portion of the route, from that great mercantile metropolis of the Pacific to the month of the San Joaquin, has been already illustrated and described in the first chapter of this work, to which we would again refer his attention.

On page twenty-nine, we have described the course of the Stockton boat as to the right; while that bound for Sacramento City sails straight forward, toward the west end of a large, low tule flat, lying between the San Joaquin and Sacramento, named Sherman’s Island, and here we enter the Sacramento river. The Montezuma hills, seen on our right, and a few stunted trees on the left, are the only objects in the landscape to relieve the eye, by contrast with the low tule swamp, until we approach the new and flourishing little settlement of Rio Vista. “This town,” writes Dr. C. A. Kirkpatrick, the obliging postmaster, “is situated about forty-five

SCENE AT THE LOWER JUNCTION OF THE MAIN SACRAMENTO RIVER, AND STEAMBOAT SLOUGH.
SCENE AT THE LOWER JUNCTION OF THE MAIN SACRAMENTO RIVER, AND STEAMBOAT
SLOUGH.
miles below the city of Sacramento, and below the outlets of all the large sloughs, or at least two of the largest, Steamboat and Cache Creek sloughs—uniting with the main, or old Sacramento river, just above this place; making the stream here about one-third of a mile wide. The reader will see that, being upon the main river, so near its outlet into Suisun Bay, not over twenty
NIGHT SCENE OF THE MAIN BRANCH OF THE SACRAMENTO RIVER.
NIGHT SCENE OF THE MAIN BRANCH OF THE SACRAMENTO RIVER.
miles, and so far from the mining region, there is a clearer and larger body of water than can be found anywhere else on the river. It is to this place that the salmon-fish now resort. Before taking the final plunge, they seem here to have turned at bay, and are eagerly caught in the following manner:

THE SALMON FISHERY ON THE SACRAMENTO.

“Nets are constructed of stout shoe-thread, first made into skeins, then twisted into a cord about the size of common twine, after the fashion of making ropes. It is then, with a wooden needle, manufactured into a web of open network, from 780 to 1200 feet, or 130 to 200 fathoms long, and 15 feet wide. On both sides of the net are small ropes, to which it is fastened. On the rope designated for the Upper side, are placed, at intervals of five or six feet, pieces of cork or light wood, for the purpose of buoys; while on the other line bits of lead are fastened, to sink the net in the water. Now attach to one end of the upper line a small buoy, painted any dark color which can be easily distinguished, and at the other end make fast a line fifteen or twenty feet long, for the fisherman to hold, while his net floats, and the net is complete.

SALMON FISHING, PAYING OUT THE SEINE.
SALMON FISHING, PAYING OUT THE SEINE.

“Whitehall boats are those most generally used in this branch of state industry; they are from nineteen to twenty two feet in length of keel, and from four to five feet breadth of beam; this size and style being considered the best. Now, the next thing wanted, are two fearless men; one to manage the boat, and the other to cast the net. The net is then stowed in the after part of the boat, and every thing made ready for a haul.

“Being at what is called the bead of the drift, one of the men takes his place in the stem of the boat, and, while the rower pulls across the stream, the net is thrown over the stern. Thus is formed a barrier, or network, almost the entire width of the stream, and to the depth of fifteen or twenty feet. The drift is the distance on the river which is passed after casting the net, which floats with the tide until it is drawn into the boat. This passage, and the drawing in of the net, completes the process of catching the salmon.

“In coming in contact with the net, the head of the fish passes far enough through the meshes, or openings, to allow the strong threads of the net to fall back of and under the gill, and thus they are unable to escape, and are effectually caught in the net and drawn into the boat.

HAULING IN THE SEINE.
HAULING IN THE SEINE.

During the year 1852, there were probably as nearly fish found in that part of the Sacramento river before alluded to, as at any time previous, and more than at any time since—two men with one net and boat having caught as many as three hundred fish in the course of one night; the night being the beat time to take them, on account of their being unable to see and avoid the net.

GROUP OF SALMON ON THE BANKS OF THE SACRAMENTO RIVER.
GROUP OF SALMON ON THE BANKS OF THE SACRAMENTO RIVER.

“The fish which are caught in the spring him much larger and nicer than those caught during the summer months; the former being really a bright salmon-color, and the texture of the flesh firm and solid; while the latter, in appearance, might properly be called salmon-color faded, and the flesh soft and unpalatable. This difference is no doubt owing to the temperature and composition of the water in which the fish may be sojourning; the cold, salt sea water hardening and coloring the flesh, while the warm, fresh river water tends to soften and bleach.

“They seem to be gregarious in their nature, travelling in herds, or, as the fishermen call it, “schools.” They do not like a very cold climate, as is indicated by their not ascending the rivers on the northern coast, except in very limited numbers, until the month of July. In those streams where the current is very rapid, their rate of speed is supposed to be five or six miles an hour; but where the current is eddying and slow, not more than two miles an hour. It has also been ascertained that they will stop for two or three days in deep, still water; no doubt to rest and feed, as they choose places where food can be easily procured.

“There seems to be quite a difference in the size, flavor, and habits of the salmon found in the Sacramento, Columbia and Frazer rivers; those of the Sacramento being larger, more juicy, more oily, and brighter colored. They are, however, more abundant in the north, and about half the average weight—that of the the former being about fifteen pounds; although early in the spring some are caught in the north quite as large as any caught in the Sacramento, and weigh from fifty to sixty pounds.

“In the Gulf of Georgia and Bellingham Bay, and on the Columbia, Frazer and Lumna rivers, the salmon are taken by thousands; while we of the Sacramento only get them by hundreds. One boat, last season, on the Frazer river, in one month, caught 13,860. There is also one peculiarity with the fish of the north —every second or third year there are but few salmon in those waters, their places being taken by a fish called the hone, which come in great numbers, equal if not greater than the salmon. The two fish never come in any considerable numbers together.

“From facts obtained from the freight clerks of the C. S. N. Co.’s boats, we learn, that from the principal shipping port of the Sacramento river, Rio Vista, them is an average of 150 fish, or 2,250 pounds, sent each day to market, for five months of the year, making a total of 22,500 fish, or 337,500 pounds; the greater part of these are shipped, and used fresh in San Francisco, But this number forms but a small proportion of what are caught, the principal part being retained and salted, or smoked, or otherwise prepared for shipment to various parts of the world—many finding their way to Australia, and the islands of the Pacific, as well as to New York, and other domestic ports on the Atlantic seaboard.”

THE HOG’S BACK.

About six miles above Rio Vista is the far famed “Hog’s Back.” This is formed by the settling of the sediment which comes down from the rivers above, and is caused by a widening of the stream and a decrease in the fall of the river. It extends for about three hundred yards in length; and at the lowest stage of water is about five feet from the surface, and at the highest point eleven feet six inches. Being affected by the tides, and as they are exactly at the same point every two weeks, during the fall season of the year, for two or three days at each low tide, a detention of heavily freighted vessels, of from one to four hours, will then take place.

Persons when descending the river, as the steamboat generally leaves Sacramento City at two o’clock P. M., have an opportunity of knowing when they arrive at the “Hog’s Back” by seeing the mast of a vessel with the lower cross-trees upon it, and sometimes a portion of her bulwarks. This vessel was named the Charleston, and was freighted principally with quartz machinery, a portion of which being for the Gold Hill Quartz Co., at Grass Valley, she had discharged, but, the owners of another and larger portion of it not being found, she was returning with it to San Francisco in October, 1857, but having struck upon this sand-bank, at a very low stage of the water, careened over, and was swamped. Several attempts have since been made to take out the machinery, but as yet it has defied them all, all being filled with sand, it will be a very difficult task for any one ever to set her afloat again, and the reward be but poor, inasmuch as it cannot be in any other than a spoiled condition, from rust and other causes.

STEAMBOAT SLOUGH.

A short distance above the Hog’s Back we arrived at the junction of Sutter Slough with Steamboat Slough, and there enter the narrowest part of the stream. As this slough is deep and navigable, and moreover is about nine miles nearer for sailing through than by the main, or “old river,” nearly all vessels upward bound take this route; while those on the downward trip (excepting steamboats) generally take the main river, inasmuch as the wind is more favorable for their return to San Francisco.

SCENE AT THE UPPER MAIN JUNCTION OF SACRAMENTO AND STEAMBOAT SLOUGHS.
SCENE AT THE UPPER MAIN JUNCTION OF SACRAMENTO AND STEAMBOAT SLOUGHS.

As we pass through Steamboat Slough, we are impressed with the narrowness of the channel for such large vessels, the luxuriant foliage of the trees that adorn its banks, and the snug little cabins, nearly shut out from sight by wild vines and trees, that are seen at intervals on its margin. Indeed the scenery, as you steam up or down the river, is picturesque in no slight degree. Here and there, as you turn with the sudden windings of the stream, you room upon the little boats of fishermen, and sloops, with their sails furled like the folded wings of a sea-bird, waiting for the wind. The improvements of the husbandman are everywhere seen along the shore—cottages half hidden among the dropping branches of the sycamores, outhouses, haystacks, orchards, and gardens—with their product of squashes and cabbages piled in huge heaps; and here and there a school-house or church gives a cheerful domestic character to the scene. The landscape is diversified by the gnarled oaks, with vines clinging about them for support, and their branches covered with dark masses of mistletoe.

Sailing along, probably we may see a small stern-wheel steam-scow, puffing away like some odd-shaped and outlandish leviathan, named the “Gipsy.” She plies between the various ranches and gardens on the river and Sacramento City, taking vegetables, grain, flour, &c., up to the city, and returning with groceries, dry goods, papers, &c. By this means she has created quite a snug little business for herself, and become an indispensable visitor to the residents. In fact they could not conveniently get along without her.

Far away to the eastward, the snow-capped Sierras, with a black belt of pines at their base, and nearer, the mist-draped and purple Coast Range, rise on the view. Along the plains are here and there seen clumps of trees—a sure indication of water; and occasionally, the charred trunk of some burnt and blasted tree lifts its bare branches toward heaven in solitary grandeur. During the season when the immense tracts of tules which cover the low lands are on fire, the conflagration lends a wild and peculiar beauty to the view.

The levee at Sacramento City—with its scenes of bustling activity; its numerous steamboats, dilapidated and otherwise; its locomotive, puffing and snorting; and all the living tide of industry, riding, driving and walking in all directions—is at length in view,

THE LEVEE AT SACRAMENTO CITY, FROM WASHINGTON, YOLO COUNTY.
THE LEVEE AT SACRAMENTO CITY, FROM WASHINGTON, YOLO COUNTY.
but we have gossiped so much by the way, that we have not the space left to devote to a city like this, holding the second rank on the Pacific coast, and possessing a population of 14,000 souls, and about as many objects of interest as does the City of the Bay; so that we content ourselves by making the best of our way to the station, and prepare for

A RIDE ON THE SACRAMENTO VALLEY RAILROAD.

This great private enterprise and public convenience was commenced in March, 1855, and is the first passenger railroad built in California. On the 11th of August of the same year, the first car was placed upon it; and on the 3d of February, 1856, it was completed to Folsom, a distance of 22 3/4 miles.

Leaving the depôt, at the corner of K street and Levee, we continue along the eastern bank of the Sacramento river to R street, where a turning is made to the eastward; then, passing the beautiful gardens and cottages on the suburbs of the city, we emerge upon a broad oak-studded plain, where the handiwork of the agriculturist and richness of the soil are everywhere visible, in the luxuriant crops seen on every side. Herds of cattle and bands of horses start at our approach, as if to make us believe they are frightened at the shape and speed of the puffing fiery monster that is advancing. Here we see a cross-road; yonder a “station;” now we rumble over a viaduct; then, rattle through an excavation; amid farm-houses and mining settlements, gardens and orchards, until, after a ride of an hour and a quarter, we arrive at

FOLSOM.

This is a perfect stage-coach Babel; for, awaiting the train, we find conveyances to almost every section of the central mines. As our destination, now, is for the “Alabaster Cave,” let us be upon the look-out for a quiet-looking, open-faced (and hearted), middle-aged man, who is patiently sitting on the box of his stage, his good-natured countenance invitingly saying: “If there are any ladies and gentlemen who wish a pleasant ride to-day, to ‘Alabester Cave,’ let them come this way, and then it shall not be my fault if it is not one of the most agreeable they ever took.” That gentleman is Captain Nye. We ask, somewhat hastily, if his is the conveyance for the Cave, when a bluff and kindly response is, “Yes, sir; but don’t hurry yourself, I shall not start for a few minutes, and the day is before us.”

It may not be amiss here to remark, that the Alabaster Cave is located on Kidd’s ravine, about three-quarters of a mile from its debouchment in the north fork of the American River; twelve and a half miles from Folsom, by the “Whiskey Bar” road; and ten miles by the El Dorado Valley turnpike; but, let us give a table of distances from all the surrounding country.

Rattlesnake Bar,1 1/2miles.
Pilot Hill,4
Gold Hill, Placer Co.6
Mormon Island,6 1/2
Auburn,8
Negro Hill,6
Greenwood Valley,9
Lincoln,9
Folsom,10 and 12 1/2
Uniontown and Coloma,16
Georgetown,18miles.
Diamond Sp’s. & El Dorado City,20
Iowa Hill, Placer Co.20
Forest Hill,20
Placerville,23
Grass Valley,30
Sacramento,32 3/4
Nevada,34
Marysville,36

FROM FOLSOM TO “ALABASTER CAVE.”

As our coachman is ready, and has given the well-known signal “All aboard;” moreover, as he has way-passengers on the El Dorado turnpike route, and none on the former, we, of course, give it the preference.

From Folsom, then, our course lies over gently-rolling hills, with here and there an occasional bush or tree, to Mormon Island. Here, peach-orchards and well cultivated gardens present, grateful relief to the dry and somewhat dusty road.

Crossing the south fork of the American by a long, high, and well-built suspension-bridge, we ascend, on an easy grade, to a mining camp, named Negro Hill. Threading our way among mining claims, miners, and ditches, we pass through the town into the open country; where buckeye bushes—now perhaps scantily clad in dry brown leaves, that bespeak the approach of autumn—the nut pine, and the dark, rich foliage of white oaks, dot the landscape.

Presently we reach the foot of a long hill covered with a dense growth of chapparel, composed mostly of chemisal bushes. As we ascend, we feel the advantage of having an intelligent and agreeable coachman, who not only knows but kindly explains the localities visible from the road.

From the summit of Chapparel Hill, we have a glorious prospect of the country for many miles. There, is “Monte Diablo,” sleeping in the purple distance; yonder, “Sutter’s Buttes,” which bespeak at once their prominence and altitude; while the rich valley, and the bright silvery sheen of the Sacramento and its tributaries, are spread out in beauty before us. The descent to the cave on the other side of the hill is very picturesque and beautiful, from the shadowy grandeur of the groups of mountains seen in the distance.

Arriving about noon, a good appetite will most likely be suggestive of a substantial lunch, or dinner. This being quietly over, let us indulge in a good rest before presuming to look upon the marvels we have come to witness; and not be like too many, who do injustice to themselves and the sights to be seen, by attempting them hurriedly, or when the body is fatigued, and consequently the mind unfitted for the pleasing task.

ALABASTER LIME-KILN.

On leaving the hotel, it is but a short and pleasant walk to the cave. At our right hand, a few steps before reaching it, there is a lime-kiln—a perpetual lime-kiln—which, being interpreted, means one in which the article in question can be continually made, without the necessity of cooling off, as under the old method. Here a large portion of the lime consumed in San Francisco, is manufactured. It is hauled down to Folsom or Sacramento in wagons, as return freight, and from thence transported below. To see this kiln at night, in full blast, as we did, is a sight which alone would almost repay the trouble of a visit. The redhot doors at the base, with the light flashing on the faces of the men as they

THE ALABASTER LIME-KILN BY MOONLIGHT.
THE ALABASTER LIME-KILN BY MOONLIGHT.
stir the fire, or, “wood-up,” with the flames escaping out from the top; and when to this is added the deep ravine, darkened by tall, overhanging, and large-topped trees and shrubs; while high aloft sails the moon, throwing her silvery scintillations on every object around, from the foliage-draped hill, to the bright little rivulet that murmurs by—description is impossible.

At these works, there us forty barrels of lime manufactured every twenty-four hours. To produce these, three and a half cords of wood are consumed, costing, for cutting only, $1 75 per cord. To haul this to the works, requires a man and team constantly. Two men are employed to excavate the rock, and two more to attend to the burning—relieving each other at the furnace every twelve hours; from morn to midnight.

The rock, as will be seen in the engraving, is supplied from the top, and is drawn from the bottom every six hours, both day and night.

THE ENTRANCE.

When entering the cave from the road—as indicated in the engraving, by the group of figures opposite the two trees behind the lime-kiln—we descend some three or four steps to a board floor. Here is a door that is always carefully locked, when no visitors are within. Passing on, we reach a chamber about twenty-five feet in length by seventeen feet in width, and from five feet to twelve feet six inches in height. This is somewhat curious, although very plain and uneven at both roof and sides. Here also is a desk, on which is a book, inscribed, “Coral Cave Register.” This book was presented by some gentlemen of San Francisco who believed that “Coral Cave” would be the most appropriate name. The impression produced on our mind at the first walk through it, was that “Alabaster Cave” would be equally as good a name; but, upon examining it more thoroughly afterward we thought that a greater proportion of the ornaments at the foot of the stalactites being like beautifully frozen mosses or very fine coral, and the long icicle-looking pendants being more like alabaster— the former name was to be preferred. But, as the name of “Alabaster” had been given to the works by Mr. Gwynn, on account of the purity and whiteness of the limestone found, even before the cave was discovered, we cheerfully acquiesce in the nomenclature given. The register was opened April 24th, 1860, and on our visit, September 30th ensuing, 2,721 names had been entered. Some three or four hundred persons visited it before a register was thought of, and many more declined entering their names; so that the number of persons who entered this cave the year of its discovery, must have exceeded three thousand.

Advancing along another passage, or room, several notices attract our eye, such as, “Please not touch the specimens,” “No smoking allowed,” “Hands and feet off,” (with feet scratched out) —amputation of those members not intended! The low shelving roof, at the left and near the end of the passage, is covered with coral-like excrescences, resembling bunches of course rock-moss. This brings us to the entrance of

THE DUNGEON OF ENCHANTMENT.

Before us is a broad, oddly-shaped, and low-roofed chamber, about one hundred and twenty feet in length by seventy feet in breadth, and ranging from four to twenty feet in height.

Bright coral-like stalactites hang down in irregular rows, and in almost every variety of shape and shade, from milk-white to cream-color; standing in inviting relief to the dark arches above, and the frowning buttresses on either hand; while low-browed ridges, some almost black, others of a reddish-brown, stretch from either side, between which the space is ornamented with a peculiar coloring that resembles a grotesque kind of graining.

Descending toward the left, we approach one of the most beautiful stalactitic groups in this apartment. Some of these are fine pendants, no larger than pipe-stems, tubular, and from two to five feet in length. Three or four there were, over eight feet long; but the early admitted Vandals destroyed or carried them off. Others resemble the ears of white elephants (if such an animal could be known to natural history), while others, again, present the appearance of long and slender cones, inverted.

By examining this and other groups more closely we ascertain that at their base are numerous coral-like excrescences of great beauty; here, like petrified moss, brilliant, and almost transparent; there, a pretty fungus, tipped with diamonds; yonder, like minature pine-trees, which, to accommodate themselves to circumstances, have grown with their tops downward. In other places, are apparent fleeces of the finest Merino wool, or floss silk.

Leaving these, by turning to the right we can ascend a ladder, and see other combinations of such mysterious beauty as highly to gratify and repay us. Here is the loftiest part of this chamber.

Leaving this, yon arrive at a large stalagmite that resembles a tying-post for horses, and which has been dignified, or mystified, by such names as “Lot’s wife” (if so, she was a very dwarf of a woman, as its altitude is but four feet three inches, and its circumference, at the base, three feet one inch), “Hercules’ club,” “Brobdignag’s fore-finger,” &c.

Passing on, over a small rise of an apparently snow-congealed or petrified floor, we look down into an immense cavernous depth, whose roof is covered with icicles and coral, and whose sides are, draped with jet. In one of these awe-giving solitudes is suspended a heart, that, from its size, might be imagined to belong to one of a race of human giants.

On one side of this, is an elevated and nearly level natural floor, upon which a table and seats have been temporarily erected, for the convenience of choristers, or for public worship. It would have gratified us beyond measure to have heard these “vaulted hills” resound the symphonies of some grand anthem from Mozart, or Haydn, or Mendelssohn. Many of the pendant harps would have echoed them in delicious harmonies from chamber to chamber, and carried them around, from roof to wall, throughout the whole of these rock-formed vistas.

We must not linger here too long, but enter other little chambers, in whose roofs are formations that resemble streams of water that have been arrested in their flow, and turned to ice. In another, a perfectly formed beet, from one point of view; and from another, the front of a small elephant’s head. A beautiful bell-shaped hollow, near here, is called “Julia’s bower!”

Advancing along a narrow, low-roofed passage, we emerge into the most beautiful chamber of the whole suite, entitled

THE CRYSTAL CHAPEL.

It is impossible to find suitable language or comparisons with which to describe this magnificent spot. From the beginning, we have felt that we were almost presumptuous in attempting to portray these wonderful scenes; but, in the hope of inducing others to see, with their natural eyes, the sights that we have seen, and enjoy the pleasure that we have enjoyed, we entered upon the task, even though inadequately, of giving an outline—nothing more. Here, however, we confess ourselves entirely at a loss. Miss Maude Neeham, a young lady visitor from Yreka, has succeeded in giving an admirable idea of this sublime sight, in some excellent drawings, made upon the spot; two of which we have engraved, and herewith present to the reader.

The sublime grandeur of this imposing sight fills the soul with astonishment, that swells up from within as though its purpose was to make the beholder speechless—the language of silence being the most fitting and impressive, when puny man treads the great halls of nature, the more surely to lead him, humbly, from these, to the untold glory of the Infinite One, who devised the laws, and superintended the processes, that brought such wonders into being.

After the mind seems prepared to examine this gorgeous spectacle somewhat in detail, we look upon the ceiling, if we may so speak, which is entirely covered with myriads of the most beautiful of stone icicles, long, large, and brilliant; between these, are squares, or panels—the mullions or bars of which seem to be formed of diamonds; while the panels themselves resemble the frosting upon windows in the very depth of winter; and even these are of many colors—that most prevailing being of a light pinkish-cream. Moss, coral, floss, wool, trees, and many other forms, adorn the interstices between the larger of the stalactites. At the farther end is one vast mass of rock, resembling congealed water, apparently formed into many folds and little hillocks; in many instances connected by pillars with the roof above. Deep down, and underneath this, is the entrance by which we reached this chamber.

At our right stands a large stalagmite, dome-shaped at the top, and covered with beautifully undulating and wavy folds. Every imaginary gratefulness possible to the most curiously arranged drapery, is here visible, “carved in alabaster” by the Great Architect of the universe. This is named “The Pulpit.”

In order be examine this object with more minuteness, a temporary platform has been erected, which, although detractive of the

THE CRYSTAL CHAPEL, IN ALABASTER CAVE.
THE CRYSTAL CHAPEL, IN ALABASTER CAVE.
general effect, in our opinion, affords a nearer and better view of all these remarkable objects in detail.

This spectacle, as well as the others, being brilliantly illuminated, the scene is very imposing, and reminds one of those highly-wrought pictures of the imagination, painted in such charming, language, and with such good effect, in such works as the “Arabian Nights.”

Other apartments, known as the “Picture Gallery,” &c., might detain us longer; but, as they bear a striking resemblance, in many respects, to other scenes already described, we must take our leave, in the hope that we have said enough to enlist an increased attention in favor of this new California wonder.

The ride being agreeable, the fare cheap, the coachman obliging, the guides attentive, and the spectacle one of the most singular and imposing in the state, we say to every one, "Go and see it."


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