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“Chores”—Paso Del Robles—San Antonio River—Animal Life—Soledad—Guadalupe Ranch—Monterey—Pescadero Ranch—Mission of Carmelo—A Trip in the Monterey Hills—Finch’s Ranch.
Camp No. 28, Nacimiento River.
Saturday Afternoon, May 4, 1861.
It is a lovely afternoon, intensely hot in the sun, but a wind cools the air. A belt of trees skirts the river. I have retreated to a shady nook by the water, alike out of the sun and wind; a fine, clear, swift stream passes within a few rods of camp, a belt of timber a fourth of a mile wide skirts it—huge cottonwoods and sycamores, with an undergrowth of willows and other shrubs. We have been here three days.
I returned from a long walk at noon and concluded to devote the afternoon to writing and “chores.” First, dinner; next, put on clean clothes and wash my dirty ones. A few buttons sewn on, and rents repaired; then the garments lay in the water to soak while I wrote a letter of three sheets to headquarters, during which time a flock of sheep trod my shirts into the mud. Then the wash, that I so much abominate. But clothes must be cleansed, and there is no woman to do it. Were I to describe the abominable operation it would take a whole letter. I can’t do it—just some items only. First, I get a place on the bank and begin. A huge gust scatters sand over the wet clothes, which are in a pile on the bank. Stockings are washed—I congratulate myself on how well I have done it. An undershirt is begun—goes on swimmingly. Suddenly the sand close to the water where I squat gives way. I go in, half boot deep, and in the strife to get out, tread on the clean stockings and shove them three inches into the mud and sand. A stick is got and laid close to the water. On that I kneel, as do the Mexican and Indian washerwomen. This goes better, and the work goes bravely on. Next, the slippery soap glides out of my hands and into the deep water—here a long delay in poking it out with a long stick, during which performance it goes every way except toward shore. At last the final garment is washed. With a long breath I rise to leave, when I find the lowest of the clean pile is all dirty from the log I laid them on—the cleanest place I could find. But soon all difficulties are surmounted, and the clothes are now fluttering in the wind, suspended from one of the guy ropes of our tent. The picture is underdrawn rather than exaggerated—just try it by taking your clothes to the creek to wash the next time.
Monday morning, April 29, we left San Luis and took our way on—we had been there two weeks. We crossed the San Luis Pass of the Santa Lucia Mountains, a pass about 1,500 or 1,800 feet high, and entered the Santa Margarita Valley. North of the Santa Lucia chain, which trends off to the northwest and ends at Monterey, lies the valley of Salinas, a valley running northwest, widening toward its mouth, and at least a hundred and fifty miles long. This valley branches above. One branch, the west, is the Santa Margarita, into which we descended from the San Luis Pass. We followed down this valley to near its junction with the Salinas River and camped at the Atascadero Ranch, about twenty-two miles from San Luis Obispo and six from the Mission of Santa Margarita.1
On passing the Santa Lucia the entire aspect of the country changed. It was as if we had passed into another land and another clime. The Salinas Valley thus far is much less verdant than we anticipated. There are more trees but less grass. Imagine a plain ten to twenty miles wide, cut up by valleys into innumerable hills from two to four hundred feet high, their summits of nearly the same level, their sides rounded into gentle slopes. The soil is already dry and parched, the grass already as dry as hay, except along streams, the hills brown as a stubble field. But scattered over these hills and in these valleys are trees every few rods—great oaks, often of immense size, ten, twelve, eighteen, and more feet in circumference, but not high; their wide-spreading branches making heads often over a hundred feet in diameter—of the deepest green foliage—while from every branch hangs a trailing lichen, often several feet long and delicate as lace. In passing over this country, every hill and valley presents a new view of these trees—here a park, there a vista with the blue mountains ahead. I could never tire of watching some of these beautiful places of natural scenery. A few pines were seen for several miles, with a very open, airy habit, entirely unlike any pine I have ever seen before, even lighter and airier than the Italian pines common in southern France by the Mediterranean. They cast but little shade.
The Mission of Santa Margarita was in ruins. It is the seat of a fine ranch which was sold a few days ago for $45,000. The owner, Don Joaquin de Estrada, lives now at Atascadero Ranch, where we camped. This last ranch is all he now has left of all his estates. Five years ago he had sixteen leagues of land (each league over 4,400 acres, or over 70,000 acres of land), 12,000 head of cattle, 4,000 horses, etc. Dissipation is scattering it at the rate of thousands of dollars for a single spree. Thus the ranches are fast passing out of the hands of the native population.
Camp No. 29, Jolon Ranch, on San Antonio River.
I did not write last Sunday as there was an American ranch near our camp and we borrowed some magazines, rare luxuries for camp, and I read them all day. The American who has this ranch, keeps fifteen or sixteen thousand sheep. He is a very gentlemanly Virginian and was very kind to us. He says that the loss of sheep by wolves, bears, and rattlesnakes is quite an item. We are in a bear region. Three men have been killed within a year near our last camp by grizzlies.
Monday we came on here, about twenty-five miles. The day was intensely hot, and as we rode over the dry roads the sun was scorching. We crossed a ridge by a horrible road and came into the valley of the San Antonio, a small branch of the Salinas, and followed up it to this point, where we are camped on its bank. We passed but one ranch and house in the twenty-five miles. In one place, two bears had followed the road some distance the night before—their tracks were very plain in the dust.
We are now over sixty miles from San Luis Obispo. Here is a postoffice, the only one between the latter place and San Juan, a distance of about two hundred miles. We found the “office” at the ranch; not one person could speak a word of English, so we searched out our letters from a handful that lay on the mantel, the whole stock on hand.
The last two days we have been exploring the hills. Yesterday, with Averill, I climbed some hills. Today he had to go to a store a few miles distant for flour, so I took a long tramp of eighteen to twenty miles alone. We got an early breakfast, and I started in the cool of the morning, with a bag of lunch, compass, canteen of water, and knife, pistol, and hammer in belt. As one is so liable to find bears and lions here, it is not well to be without arms. I pushed back over the hills and through canyons about ten miles from camp to the chain of rugged mountains west of us. I was indeed alone in the solitudes. The way led up a canyon about four miles, with high steep hills on each side, then a ridge to be crossed, from which I had a fine view, then down again and among gentle hills about three miles farther to the base of the mountains. Here a stream was crossed by pulling off boots and wading, and then up a canyon into the mountains. This last I followed as far as I considered safe, for it was just the place for grizzlies, and I kept a sharp lookout.
Here I climbed a ridge to get a view behind. The slope was very steep, the soil hot, no wind, and the sun like a furnace. I got the view and information I desired. A very rugged landscape of mountains behind, steep, rocky, black with chaparral, 3,500 to 4,000 feet high. In front was the series of ridges I had crossed; beyond, the Salinas Valley, with blue mountains on the distant eastern horizon. Some very peculiar rocky pinnacles of brown rock rose like spires near me, several hundred feet high—naked rocks.
I started to return, and had reached the stream, when a crash in the brush near by startled me, and in a moment two fine fat deer, small but very beautiful, sprang out. I shot at one with my pistol, but only wounded him—so he got away. I have had the sight recently repaired, and I find to my disgust it is all wrong; had it been correct I certainly would have killed him, for it was a very fair shot, not over twenty-five or thirty yards. I shot twice more, but the deer were too far off, and my balls went still wider from the mark. I lunched in the cool shade of a fine oak.
The cattle here over the hills are very wild; they will run if they see a man on foot at the distance of forty or fifty rods off. Sometimes an old bull will boldly make an attack, so it is unsafe to go through a herd alone and on foot. The rancheros consider it desirable that their cattle be thus wild—they are less liable to be stolen or to be caught by wild animals. I passed near a herd. They first ran, but an old bull took for the offensive-defensive, and made for me. I did not dare trust to my pistol, so took “leg bail” and made for a tree, reached it, and then stood my ground, resolved to shoot him when he got near; but a club at last brought him to a stop, and finally he fled. On my way back I met Averill about two miles from camp, coming up the canyon to meet me with a mule.
While speaking of animals—the grizzly bear is much more dreaded than I had any idea of. A wounded grizzly is much more to be feared than even a lion; a tiger is not more ferocious. They will kill and eat sheep, oxen, and horses, are as swift as a horse, of immense strength, quick though clumsy, and very tenacious of life. A man stands a slight chance if he wounds a bear, but not mortally, and a shot must be well directed to kill. The universal advice by everybody is to let them alone if we see them, unless we are well prepared for battle and have experienced hunters along. They will generally let men alone, unless attacked, so I have no serious fears of them.
Less common than bear are the California lions, a sort of panther, about the color of a lion, and size of a small tiger, but with longer body. They are very savage, and I have heard of a number of cases of their killing men. But don’t be alarmed on my account—I don’t court adventures with any such strangers. Deer are quite common. Formerly there were many antelope, but they are very rapidly disappearing. We have seen none yet. Rabbits and hares abound; a dozen to fifty we often see in a single day, and during winter ate many of them.
There are many birds of great beauty. One finds the representatives of various lands and climes. Not only the crow, but also the raven is found, precisely like the European bird; there are turkey-buzzards, also a large vulture something like the condor—an immense bird.2 Owls are very plenty, and the cries of several kinds are often heard the same night. Hawks, of various sizes and kinds and very tame, live on the numerous squirrels and gophers. I see a great variety of birds with beautiful plumage, from humming birds up.
But it is in reptile and insect life that this country stands preëminent. There are snakes of many species and some of large size, generally harmless, but a few venomous. Several species of large lizards are very abundant. Salamanders and chameleons are dodging around every log and basking on every stone. Hundreds or thousands may be seen in a day, from three inches to a foot long. Some strange species are covered with horns like the horned frogs.
But insects are the most numerous. They swarm everywhere. House flies were as abundant in our tent in winter as at home in summer. Ticks and bugs get on us whenever we go in the woods. Just where we are now camped there are myriads of bugs in the ground, not poisonous, but annoying by their running over one. Last night I could scarcely sleep, and shook perhaps a hundred or two hundred out of my blankets this morning.
I shall sleep outdoors tonight—in fact all the rest are asleep but me, and only one is in the tent. We are under some cotton-wood trees which so swarm with ladybugs that Mike yesterday counted how many he brushed off of him in an hour. They amounted to 250—but he sat still under the tree. Scorpions occur farther south and are much dreaded. The equally dreaded tarantula abounds here. It is an enormous spider, larger than a large bumblebee, and has teeth as large as a rattlesnake’s. I killed one by our tent at Camp 27, and saved his teeth as a curiosity. Their holes in the ground are most ingenious.
Camp 31, Guadalupe Ranch.
We left San Antonio Thursday morning, May 9, and followed up the valley a few miles, then crossed a high steep ridge over one thousand feet high, which separates the San Antonio from the Salinas, and then descended and struck down the great Salinas plain. Dry as had been the region for the last sixty or seventy miles, it was nothing to this plain.
The Salinas Valley for a hundred or more miles from the sea, up to the San Antonio hills, is a great plain ten to thirty miles wide. Great stretches are almost perfectly level, or have a very slight slope from the mountains to the river which winds through it. The ground was dry and parched and the very scanty grass was entirely dry. One saw no signs of vegetation at the first glance—that is, no green thing on the plain—so a belt of timber by the stream, from twenty to a hundred rods wide, stood out as a band of the liveliest green in this waste. The mouth of this valley opens into Monterey Bay, like a funnel, and the northwest wind from the Pacific draws up through this heated flue with terrible force. Wherever we have found a valley opening to the northwest, we have found these winds, fierce in the afternoon. For over fifty miles we must face it on this plain. Sometimes it would nearly sweep us from our mules—it seemed as if nothing could stand its force. The air was filled with dry dust and sand, so that we could not see the hills at the sides, the fine sand stinging our faces like shot, the air as dry as if it had come from a furnace, but not so very hot—it is wonderfully parching. The poor feed and this parching wind reduced our mules in a few days as much as two weeks’ hard work would. Our lips cracked and bled, our eyes were bloodshot, and skins smarting.
We stopped for lunch at a point where the mules could descend to the river. A high terrace, or bluff, skirts the present river—that is, the plain lies from 75 to 150 feet above the present river. The mules picked some scanty herbage at the base of the bluff; we took our lunch in the hot sun and piercing wind, then drove on. We pulled off from the road a mile or so at night, and stopped beneath a bluff near the river. We had slept in the open air the previous night and did so again. It turns very cold during the clear nights, yet so dry was it that no dew fell those two nights, cold as it was! The mules found some picking where you would think that a sheep or a goat would starve.
Friday we pushed on all day, facing the wind. We met a train of seven wagons, with tents and beds—a party of twenty-five or thirty persons from San Jose going to the hot springs, some on horseback. Two-thirds were ladies. A curious way for a “fashionable trip to the springs,” you say, but the style here. They will camp there, and have a grand time, I will warrant. We kept the left bank of the river, through the Mission Soledad. Before reaching it we crossed the sandy bed of a dry creek, where the sand drifted like snow and piled up behind and among the bushes like snow banks.
The Mission Soledad is a sorry looking place, all ruins—a single house, or at most two, are inhabited. We saw the sign up, “Soledad Store,” and went in, got some crackers at twenty-five cents a pound, and went on. Quite extensive ruins surround the place, empty buildings, roofless walls of adobe, and piles of clay, once adobe walls. It looked very desolate. I do not know where they got their water in former times, but it is dry enough now. We came on seventeen miles farther. Here we find tolerable feed and a spring of poor water, so here is a ranch.
Sorry as has been this picture, it is not overdrawn, yet all this land is occupied as “ranches” under Spanish grants. Cattle are watered at the river and feed on the plains, and scanty as is the feed, thousands are kept on this space, which must be at least four to six thousand square miles, counting way back to the Santa Lucia Mountains. The ranches do not cover all this, but cover the water, which is the same thing. We could see a house by the river every fifteen to eighteen miles, and saw frequent herds of cattle. The season is unusually dry, and the plain seems much poorer than it really is. In the spring, two months ago, it was all green, and must have been of exceeding beauty. With water this would be finer than the Rhine Valley itself; as it is, it is half desert. As to the actual capability of the plain, with water, the Pacific Railroad Reports state that “At Mr. Hill’s farm near the town of Salinas, sixteen miles east of Monterey, sixty bushels of wheat have been raised off the acre, and occasionally eighty-five bushels. Barley, one hundred bushels, running up to one hundred and forty-nine bushels, and vegetables in proportion” (VII, Pt. II, 39).
We passed through a flock of sheep, the largest I have ever seen, even in this country of big flocks. It was attended by shepherds, and must have contained not less than 6,000 sheep, judging from the flocks of 2,000 and 1,500 we have seen often before. Some of our party thought there must have been 8,000. Sheep are generally kept in flocks of not over 1,800 head.
High mountains rise on the opposite side, in the northeast, and still nearer us on the left. These latter were very rugged—from 3,000 to 4,500 feet high, black, or very dark green, with chaparral—yet not abounding in streams as one would imagine, although now only early in May. The Nacimiento and San Antonio rivers are the only tributaries of the Santa Margarita and Salinas valleys on the west side, this side of Atascadero Ranch—that is, only these two streams for a distance of 120 miles. And, from leaving the San Antonio, sixty-one miles back, we have not crossed a single brook or seen a single spring until reaching this ranch, where there is a spring.
Yesterday I climbed the ridge southwest of camp. I ascended about 3,000 or 3,500 feet, a hard climb, and had a good view of over a hundred miles of the Salinas Valley from the Bay of Monterey to above where we last struck it, or over the extreme limits of about 130 to 150 miles, with the successive ridges beyond. Four thousand to seven thousand square miles must have been spread out before me. I have never been in a land before with so many extensive views—the wide valley, brown and dry, the green belt of timber winding through it, like a green ribbon, the mountains beyond, dried and gray at the base, and deep green with chaparral on their sides and summits, with ridge after ridge stretching away beyond in the blue distance. Then to the north, a landscape I had not seen before, with the whole Bay of Monterey in the northwest. To the west and south of me was the very rugged and forbidding chain of mountains that extends from Monterey along the coast to San Luis Obispo and there trends more easterly—the Sierra Santa Lucia.
I have found much of intense geological interest during the last two weeks. I had intended to spend at least two weeks more in this valley had we found water or feed as we expected. Not finding it, and having four weeks on our hands before the
IN CAMP NEAR MONTEREY, MAY 1861
From a photograph taken on leather (see page 104). The cracks appear to be due to
shrinkage of the coating material rather than to the leather backing
Today has been a windier day on the plain than any other day we were on it. I am glad enough we are sheltered here in camp. Clouds of gray dust, rising to the height of five or six thousand feet have shut out the view in the north all the afternoon, and even the hills opposite could not be seen at times, and all day they have been obscurely seen through this veil. If it is thus in May, what must it be here in July or August, as no rain will fall for at least four months yet! It was interesting yesterday, while on the peaks above, to watch the great current of air up the valley, increasing with the day until at last the valley seemed filled with gray smoke.
While speaking of the plain, I forgot to mention the mirage that we had. The sun on the hot waste produced precisely the effect of water in the distance; we would see a clear lake ahead, in which would be reflected the objects on the plain. This was most marked on the dry sands near Soledad—we could see the trees at the Mission mirrored in the clear surface—but it kept retreating as we advanced. The illusion was perfect. At times the atmospheric aberration would only cause objects to be distorted—wagons and cattle would appear much higher than they really were, as if seen through poor glass.
We arrived here on Wednesday. On Monday, May 13, we left Guadalupe Ranch and came about fourteen or fifteen miles and camped in a valley that turns off from the Salinas on the road to Monterey. We had hardly camped, and were eating dinner, when the stage came along. I went to the driver to get him to carry a letter to the next post office. He had to stop there to water his horses. A familiar face appeared in the stage, not at first recognized, but a mutual recognition soon took place—it was a good friend I had known on shipboard, a friend of Averill’s, a lawyer from New York, a Mr. Tompkins,3 one of the finest gentlemen and most entertaining that I have met for a long while. We were much together on shipboard. He had traded eastern property for a ranch near Monterey, on the coast, and had just been to it and was returning to San Francisco. He was the first acquaintance met since Los Angeles, or I should say, since we left San Francisco. The meeting was mutually pleasant. He tendered us the hospitality of his ranch, although he could not be with us there, but gave us a letter to his majordomo (head ranchero) to give us all attention, feed, board, horses to ride, etc. We shall go there next week. He had so improved that we did not at first know him—he was in ill health last fall, but hearty enough now. We, tanned by the sun, bronzed by exposure, without coats or vests, in buckskin pants, bowie and Colt at our belts—he said at first sight we fulfilled his beau ideal of buccaneers stopping the stage. We stopped there over Tuesday and the driver gave us a Monday’s paper from San Francisco, with the latest news. That was the fourteenth, and we had news up to May 3, by Pony Express, that is, only eleven days from New York to camp.
We have been quite lucky thus far for news, and it has been a great item in these times. I cannot write how heavily the national troubles bear upon my mind, they are in my mind by night and by day. God grant that we may yet save the United States, but I fear for the worst. Newspapers from home are always acceptable, but we get the great news by earlier means. On arriving here, by a “judicious” distribution of patronage to two leading stores, we got lots of papers for reading, a dozen or more.
This sheet finishes my letter paper of thin kind—the last scrap is here—and I must use such as I can get hereafter until I get to “Frisco.” Trusting that the mails will not be “seized” by pirates, it must go by next steamer. The last steamer went out fully armed, for it was currently believed that a party was going abroad as passengers to take her for the Southern Confederacy. The Union sentiment here is overwhelming.
Sunday, May 19.
It is a lovely evening—the moon shines brightly, the old pines and thick oaks by our camp cast dark shadows, and the quiet bay sparkles in the moonlight.
I have been to church today—attended Protestant service for the first time since last November, nearly six months ago. There is a Methodist mission station here. I heard there was to be service at 11 A.M. in the courthouse, so was on hand. The rest of the party went to Mass. I found two or three fellows loafing on the porch, and as the door was locked, a man started to find somebody who had the key. Meanwhile, a dozen collected on the porch. After much delay the key was found, and, half an hour after time, services opened. How unlike a Roman missionary—he would have had all ready and shown himself “diligent in business” as well as “fervent in spirit.” The congregation at last numbered some twenty or twenty-five persons, not counting the few children. The clergyman was a very doleful looking man, with very dull style and manner, who spoke as if he did it because he thought it his duty to preach and not because he had any special object in convincing or moving his audience. His nose was very pug, his person very lean, his collar very high and stiff, and his whole appearance denoted a man entirely lacking energy, surely not the man for a California missionary. Yet how good it seemed to meet again with a few for divine service—it was indeed a pleasure. We have now been over a country twice as large as Massachusetts, and this is the second Protestant congregation we have seen, and both of these feeble and small. But there are Catholic churches in every considerable town.
As I came out of church and met Averill in the street, we were accosted by a man who wanted us to ride a few miles and look at a supposed silver “lead” he had discovered. We declined, but were soon beset by others, with ore and “indications” from another mine. I must take the specimens, which I did, and returned to camp and “blowpiped” them to get rid of them—found a little silver.
Monterey has about 1,600 inhabitants and is more Mexican than I expected. It is the old capital of California. There are two Catholic churches, and Spanish is still the prevailing language. Like all other places yet seen, more than half of the “places of business” are liquor shops, billard saloons, etc.—all the stores sell cigars, cigarritos, and liquor. Stores are open on Sunday as well as other days, and that is the day for saloons and barrooms to reap a rich harvest. Billiard tables go from morning till midnight—cards and monte are no secrets. Thus it has been in all the towns. Liquor and gambling are the curse of this state. Lots of drunken Indians are in the outskirts of the town tonight.
Monday, May 27.
After examining things about Monterey for three days, we came here to Mr. Tompkins’s ranch, where the feed is good. It is a ranch of four or five thousand acres, on the coast about five miles from Monterey. We pitched our tent in the yard, but a larger log house is our headquarters. Last Monday, while in Monterey, a dull day with showers, we got an “artist” to bring his camera out to camp and take a few pictures of camp on leather. He took four—not good in an artistic sense, but good as showing our camp. We divided our pictures by cutting cards for the choice, and I got the best picture.
Pescadero Ranch was formerly owned by an eccentric, misanthropic, curious man, who lived in solitude and tried to educate two boys, keeping aloof from the world and the rest of mankind. He built a large and very secure log house, for fear of robbers, just on the shore of the Pacific, by a lovely little bay. Behind rise hills covered with tall dark pines, and near the house is a field of about a hundred or more acres, fenced in, where we have fine feed for our mules. His books are still here—a strange collection on science, art, astrology, romance, infidelity, religion, mysteries, etc. Old harness, spades, implements, harpoons, etc., are stored in large numbers. I know not why he had them. He had invented a new harpoon which no one would use.4
By the way, Monterey Bay is a great place for whaling. Two companies are at work, and already over half a dozen whales have been taken here. On Wednesday we saw them towing one in, and on Thursday morning went down to see them cut him up. He was a huge fellow, fifty feet long. Last year they caught one ninety-three feet long which made over a hundred barrels of oil. After stripping off the blubber, the carcasses are towed out into the bay, and generally drift up on the southeast side. The number of whale bones on the sandy beach is astonishing—the beach is white with them. Hundreds of carcasses have there decayed, fattening clouds of buzzards and vultures. The whales are covered with thick black skin. The tail is horizontal. They have no fins, but a pair of huge “paddles,” one on each side—oars, as it were—like great flat arms covered with skin, three or four feet wide and twelve or fifteen feet long. The ball-and-socket joint which attaches the paddle to the body is wonderful—the ball is as large as the end of a half-barrel. Barnacles grow on the skin in great numbers; I will try to collect some if they do not stink too badly.
To return to Pescadero. We came on Thursday. I had letters to several persons. Wednesday evening I had called on a prominent Monterey citizen, and spent an evening in female society, and heard a piano for the first time in many months. On Friday we rode a few miles to Judge Haight’s. He is a wealthy San Francisco gentleman and has a fine ranch here, where he spends a part of the year with the whole or a part of his family. We presented our letters, but did not find him at home.5
We visited the old Mission of Carmelo,6 in the Carmelo Valley, near his ranch. It is now a complete ruin, entirely desolate, not a house is now inhabited. The principal buildings were built around a square, enclosing a court. We rode over a broken adobe wall into this court. Hundreds (literally) of squirrels scampered around to their holes in the old walls. We rode through an archway into and through several rooms, then rode into the church. The main entrance was quite fine, the stone doorway finely cut. The doors, of cedar, lay nearby on the ground.
The church is of stone, about 150 feet long on the inside, has two towers, and was built with more architectural taste than any we have seen before. About half of the roof had fallen in, the rest was good. The paintings and inscriptions on the walls were mostly obliterated. Cattle had free access to all parts; the broken font, finely carved in stone, lay in a corner; broken columns were strewn around where the altar was; and a very large owl flew frightened from its nest over the high altar. I dismounted, tied my mule to a broken pillar, climbed over the rubbish to the altar, and passed into the sacristy. There were the remains of an old shrine and niches for images. A dead pig lay beneath the finely carved font for holy water. I went into the next room, which had very thick walls—four and a half feet thick—and a single small window, barred with stout iron bars. Heavy stone steps led from here, through a passage in the thick wall, to the pulpit. As I started to ascend, a very large owl flew out of a nook. Thousands of birds, apparently, lived in nooks of the old deserted walls of the ruins, and the number of ground squirrels burrowing in the old mounds made by the crumbling adobe walls and the deserted adobe houses was incredible—we must have seen thousands in the aggregate. This seems a big story, but hundreds were in sight at once. The old garden was now a barley field, but there were many fine pear trees left, now full of young fruit. Roses bloomed luxuriantly in the deserted places, and geraniums flourished as rank weeds. So have passed away former wealth and power even in this new country.
Our road to the Mission was a mere trail through the thick chaparral, crossing some deep ravines. We came on the tracks of numerous grizzlies—or, rather, numerous tracks. There are three grizzlies living in the brush near here, particularly bold and savage. One has nearly killed several people. They came here to eat a whale stranded on the beach. As we had two good Sharp’s rifles, besides other guns, we concluded to watch for them that night. An Indian, an old bear hunter, entered into the project, but on examination of the ground, it was found that there was no good place—no trees to get into and watch from—for no one is so mad as to engage in a bear fight unless he has all the odds on his side. So we had to give it up.
Judge Haight came over and invited Averill and me to dinner yesterday. We rode to Point Cypress in the morning—a granite, rocky point, covered with a kind of cedar called “cypress,” more like the cedar of Lebanon than any other tree I have seen.7 Some of the trees were beautiful—and often three or four feet in diameter. I measured one that was eighteen feet eight inches in circumference as high as I could reach. Another, twenty-three feet at two feet from the ground.
Returning to camp, we took other mules and rode to Mr. Haight’s, about five miles. We rode through the old Mission again—and paused a short time among the ruins. We were on hand at two o’clock, the appointed time.
Judge Haight is a fine old man, a man of much intellect, lives in a comfortable house, has with him two daughters, most lovely young women, of perhaps eighteen and twenty-two years—pretty, agreeable, cultivated, and sensible. I don’t know when I have spent an afternoon so pleasantly. The dinner was good, not brilliant—champagne was partaken of moderately. His library was well stocked with choice works. It was indeed a luxury to meet with ladies—the first time we had sat at a table with them since New Year’s at Mr. Wilson’s. We were decidedly pleased, and we think they were, for they are much isolated here. They had a fine piano, and one of the girls played well. We climbed a hill just above the valley, and had a pretty view of the Carmelo Valley, the sea beyond, and the mountains in the south. He has a fine ranch, keeps about twelve hundred sheep, much better animals than one generally sees here. We were so urged to stay to tea that we did, and rode home by twilight. One dared not wait later for fear of grizzlies. Where our trail ran through dense chaparral we came on fresh tracks made but a few minutes before—after a man had passed an hour before—but we were spared a sight of any animals.
Tuesday Evening, June 4.
We were ready early Tuesday morning, May 28, for a start. Up at daylight—Averill, Peter, and a buccaro for a guide—saddlebags packed, and two pack-mules: Sleepy with blankets and some meat, coffeepots, and bread; Stupid with more blankets, frying pan, and more provisions. We followed a trail about three miles, then struck the road up the Carmelo Valley. We stopped at a house half an hour to wait for Charley, the buccaro, to overtake us. He had been to town for bread for the trip. Mrs. McDougal, where we stopped, insisted on our drinking a pan of milk, which we did, then struck up the valley.
We followed the road about twenty miles. Five ranches were passed; some barley fields along the river, and wild oats in abundance on the hills, supporting many cattle. We lunched at a stream, saddled, and were again off. Here we left the road, and for fifteen miles followed trails, now winding along a steep hillside—steep as a Gothic roof, the stones from the path bounding into a canyon hundreds of feet below—now through a wide stretch of wild oats, now through a deep canyon. We passed two more ranches, where cattle are raised among the hills, and at last struck through a rocky canyon, in which flowed a fine stream, with some glorious old trees. Before dark we arrived at a small ranch owned by a man named Finch, with whom Charley was acquainted. We camped near, and slept well, for we had been ten and a half hours in the saddle in thirteen hours. We frightened up four fine deer just as we went into camp.
Peter and Averill had each bought a “Sharp” for hunting, so on Wednesday they tried for deer. I climbed the mountain for “geology.” First I passed through a wild canyon, then over hills covered with oats, with here and there trees—oaks and pines. Some of these oaks were noble ones indeed. How I wish one stood in our yard at home. One species, called encina, with dark green foliage, was not extra fine, but another, el roble, was very fine.8 I measured one of the latter, with wide spreading and cragged branches, that was twenty-six and a half feet in circumference. Another had a diameter of over six feet, and the branches spread over seventy-five feet each way. I lay beneath its shade a little while before going on. Two half-grown deer sprang up close to me, but got out of pistol shot before I, in my flurry, had the pistol ready. Up, still up, I toiled, got above the grass and oats and trees into the chaparral that covers the high peaks. I struck for the highest peak, but backed out before quite reaching it, for the traces of grizzlies and lions became entirely too thick for anything like safety. Both are very numerous here. Finch killed three a few days before we arrived.
But what a magnificent view I had! A range of hills two thousand to three thousand feet high extends from Monterey to Soledad. It is a part of the mountains, yet there is a system of valleys behind, up which we had passed. The Carmelo River follows this a part of the way. I was higher than these hills. Over them, to the northwest, lay the Bay of Monterey, calm, blue, and beautiful. Beyond were blue mountains, dim in the haze; to the east was the great Salinas plain, with the mountains beyond, dim in the blue distance. In the immediate foreground was the range of hills alluded to, the Palo Scrito, in some places covered with oats, now yellow and nearly ripe, in others black with chaparral. Behind lay a wilderness of mountains, rugged, covered with chaparral, forbidding, and desolate. They are nearly inaccessible, and a large region in there has never been explored by white men.
I returned by the same way I had come up. There is a most beautiful tree I had not seen before, with foliage something like but even richer than the magnolia—it is a kind of manzanita. It would be splendid in cultivation in a mild climate.9
Averill and Peter returned without any venison, but Averill brought in an enormous rattlesnake, by far the biggest we have yet seen. He was huge, and, Averill says, decidedly savage when wounded. He was four and a half feet long, as thick as one’s arm, and had twelve rattles. His head was over an inch and three-quarters broad, with mouth corresponding. I cut out one of his fangs as a specimen.
We spent an hour in Mr. Finch’s house that evening. Two brothers, Americans, have a ranch, and are raising horses. Mrs. Finch seemed a meek, sad woman, with more culture and sensibility than her husband, and evidently pining for other lands and other scenes here in this lonely place, away from the world, almost away from the “rest of mankind.” The house was of sticks plastered with mud, the floor, the earth. Two pretty little girls were playing upon a grizzly skin before the fire. It is a lonely life they lead there.10
Thursday we took a young man for guide and pushed on, over hills, through canyons, winding, climbing, toiling; our road, cattle trails; our landmarks, mountains. I saw many pretty flowers, some new to me. We struck a fine stream of water that flows toward the Salinas plain at Soledad, fourteen miles distant, but it sinks long before that in the arroyo seco, or dry canyon. It was a swift clear stream, and good water on that trip was one of our luxuries. It has been long since I have tasted good water. Here we found a little ranch, Hitchcock’s. The owner was talkative, asked for papers, showed us some fine quicksilver ore, but was too shy to tell us where he found it. He only said it was back in the mountains—“A hell of a place to get to”—which I can easily imagine, if it is six miles farther in than we were, as he said it was.
Here we struck up the canyon into the heart of the mountains a few miles, now over a table for a mile, now down a steep bank and crossing the stream, up on the other side, steep as a house roof. But our mules were trusty; Old Sleepy, with his pack, proved himself equal to the occasion, and my old white mule won fresh laurels. Up this canyon the strata are bent, twisted, contorted, and broken. I never before saw finer examples of bent strata. They were less grand than the noted ones on Lake Lucerne, but more beautiful.
We saw some deer and got a shot—one was wounded, but we did not get him. All had rifles but me; my botanical box and hammer were enough for me. Soon more deer were seen. Peter and the guide started after them. We missed the trail, and in attempting to cross the stream and climb the bank came near having an accident. The bank had a slope of forty-five degrees; the path wound up it at twenty-nine degrees—I measured it. Averill’s mule trod on loose stones and went down. A mule never slips, but here the path slipped. Averill got off and saved himself, but the mule went down slowly and got away. An hour and a half were spent in finding and getting her. At last all were ready again, and we took our way up the canyon as far as mules could get—and that is saying a good deal—and struck a very narrow, wild canyon leading to a little lake (laguna). It was a lovely spot, but a poor place to camp, so we turned back a mile, and camped on the banks of the main stream.
I wish I could describe the spot. A deep rocky canyon, with rugged, almost perpendicular sides, but green, grassy bottom, opens into the main canyon, where there is a swift stream of water of crystal clearness, grass and oats abundant for our mules, fine trees scattered around for effect and all around rise high, rugged, rocky mountains. We are now beyond all traces of human homes, but in the abodes of grizzlies and deer. A fire is built, supper (as well as dinner) got, and then we go out to hunt. In ten minutes Averill is back with a deer, and an hour later the others come in with another. I know not how many deer we saw on that trip. I took a swim in the cool stream—it was refreshing enough after riding on dusty trails and through hot canyons.
I wish you could look on such a camp at night. Scattered around are pack-saddles, saddles, bread—and oh, such bread as we had after sixty miles’ travel on a mule’s back in a bag! It needed sifting to get pieces large enough for mouthfuls. The mules are picketed near and around us. They will give the alarm if grizzlies become too familiar. Scattered on the grass around, we lie rolled in our blankets. A rifle peeps out from beneath the blankets here and there—loaded too, for, although grizzlies never molest persons asleep, it is best to have the weapons handy. The bright camp fire throws a ruddy glare on the green foliage, which shows black shadows and grim recesses back, and stately trunks and gnarled limbs shine out brighter here and there. But brighter than all, and more beautiful to me, are the stars in the deep, clear, blue sky. One is just trembling over the brow of that rugged mountain, it seems almost to touch it—others are slowly moving behind the trees, or the hills, in their majestic march to the west. The only sound to break the silence of this solitude is the murmur of the streams by us. And thus we sleep—such glorious sleep—sound and refreshing; no bad air, no close smell of feathers, no musty, ill-aired beds from which one rises in the morning with gummy eyes and heavy brain and mouth tasting as if half filled with Glauber’s salts and clay.
The shadows were dark in the canyon as we rose, and some choice cuts of venison roasted on the coals were partaken of with a relish that many a hothouse millionaire might well envy. Ah, it was good! We lingered around some; I botanized an hour—and then we took our way back, following nearly our same trail. In one place the trail led along the very brink of a precipice 250 to 300 feet high; one could look down, unobstructed, almost perpendicularly (tourists would say quite so), to the rocks and water so far below. It was as steep as the north bank of Taughannock Falls, by the house, and two-thirds as high, the path scarcely a foot wide. But the mules did not hesitate—they know their own powers—and with loose rein we let them take their way, slowly, surely, now looking steadily at the path, but often swinging their heads over and looking at the abyss below. Where the path ascended a steep slope I got off, not for greater safety so much as to ease my mule, which is most too light for me. But most of them rode here, nor spoke of danger.
We got back to Finch’s that night. We found some fossil bones on our way—the backbone of a large fish, not so large as a whale, yet very large. Thousands of acres of these lower hills are covered with wild oats, as thick as a poor oat field at home. These are the “live oats” or “animated oats,” sometimes cultivated at home, and were introduced here from Spain by the old padres.
We got back safely on Saturday, June 1, after a pleasant trip, no mishaps, and much of botanical and geological interest, but well tired from the hard riding.
1. This was not a mission, but was the chapel of Santa Margarita, an asistencia of the Mission of San Luis Obispo.
2. The California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) is now almost, if not quite, extinct.
3. Edward Tompkins, graduate of Union College, married Sarah Haight, lived in Oakland, was a state senator, worked for the founding of the University of California, and was a valuable supporter of the Survey.
4. The present Pebble Beach golf course is on the site of Pescadero Ranch. “The log house was built by a Mr. Gore, who was a brilliant scholar, kept aloof, was very proud, but was not considered eccentric by old Montereyans.” (Information from Mr. Frank Doud, of Monterey.) Mr. J. Beaumont, secretary of Del Monte Properties Company, provides additional information derived from the title records. John C. Gore, the original claimant against the United States for confirmation of title, based his claim on a conveyance made in 1853, which gave him succession to the interest of Fabian Barreto, who had received the grant in 1840. Gore, on August 1, 1860, conveyed the property to Edward Tompkins, who sold it in 1862. It was acquired by the Pacific Improvement Company in 1880.
5. Fletcher Mathews Haight, a graduate of Hamilton College, practiced law at Rochester, N.Y., later at St. Louis, came to San Francisco in 1854, where he practiced law with his son, Henry, who had preceded him to California. In 1861 F. M. Haight was appointed United States District Judge. He died February 23, 1866, at the age of sixty-six. His son, Henry Huntley Haight, was governor of California, 1867-71.
6. La Misión San Carlos Borromeo was established in 1770 at Monterey, but was moved to the present site in 1771. No portion of the present structure was erected until 1793. The Mission was secularized in 1833 and the buildings rapidly fell in ruins. A partial restoration of the buildings was made in 1887.
7. The famous Monterey cypress (Cypressus macrocarpa) is found in an exceedingly restricted area—the Monterey peninsula and the neighboring Point Lobos.
8. The first, encina, is the coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia); the second, el roble, is the valley oak (Quercus lobata).
9. The madroña (Arbutus menziesii).
10. The two brothers were Charles W. and James Finch. The latter married Ellen O’Neil, daughter of Major John M. O’Neil who came to California in 1847 with Stevenson’s Regiment.
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