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The Wonders of the Yosemite Valley, and of California by Samuel Kneeland (1872)


PREFACE.


North America is certainly a favored land in its magnificent scenery in its White and Green Mountains, Adirondacks, Appalachians, Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada; in its great lakes; in its mighty rivers—the Mississippi, Missouri, Colorado, and their tributaries; in its cataracts—Niagara, Genesee, Trenton, Ithaca, Montmorenci, Minnehaha, and the grand cascades of the Yosemite Valley; in its boundless prairies, magnificent forests, and variety of the aspects of nature from the tropics to the arctic regions. If it be possible for grandeur of natural scenery alone to elevate the mind, the Americans should be a people of great ideas.

It is a fact of which comparatively few seem to be aware, that California, the land of gold, is also the land of wonders in scenery and in natural productions. To many of those who are cognizant of this fact, the distance from home, and the consequent fatigue and inconvenience of travel, appear as insurmountable obstacles. The first and the only difficulty in the journey to the Pacific is, to get started; that accomplished, with the comfortable cars, good food, easy bed, and other luxuries of the Pullman and Wagner palaces, the traveller of ordinary endurance and common-sense has only to take his ease and enjoy himself; if, to the above simple qualifications, he fortunately add a natural love of the picturesque, the grand, and the beautiful, I know of no journey on the face of the earth in which so much enjoyment can be crowded into a month’s time.

In the lover of mountain scenery—even in one familiar with the Alps—the Rocky Mountains, and especially the Sierra Nevada, will excite a new and exquisite sensation. Such extent of grandeur is unparalleled in any mountains explored in civilized regions.

It does not require strong nerves, firm determination, nor great physical endurance, to make the trip to the Yosemite; and this magnificent scenery is easily within the reach of the invalid, male or female, who is not so hopelessly enfeebled as to forbid, under any circumstances, removal from home.

The beauties and wonders described in this book, however, are not presented for the benefit of the sick, but to the crowd of pleasure-seekers who make their annual visitations to Niagara, Newport, Saratoga, Cape May, and other centres of fashion, frivolity, foppery and folly. With half the expenditure of money and vital force thus thrown away, to the moral and physical deterioration of all concerned, the California trip, via the Pacific Railroad, may be thoroughly enjoyed. There is nothing in it to enfeeble, but everything to strengthen; the exhilarating mountain air, by day or by night, makes the lungs tingle with a sensation never experienced at the Eastern watering-places; the cool mountain-streams will prove a better tonic to the dyspeptic, than all the drugs he has swallowed. The brain of the student and the overworked merchant can here lie fallow amid scenes which, by their strange fascination, will drive from the memory all thought of books and ledgers; even the love of dress, and the pursuit of fashions, leave their votaries, as they take their seat in the saddle for the Valley or the Big Trees. The absence of storms in the summer, the serenity of an unclouded sky, and a deliciously cool air, permit one to climb the mountains without the risk of getting wet, of being delayed by an avalanche, of falling into an ice-bound crevice, or of being enveloped in a thick mist, at a point noted for fine scenery, so provokingly common in Switzerland. Without dander, hardship, or even discomfort, and with a certainty of fine weather week after week, the California mountains invite you to their magnificent scenery.

Without any pretension to original discovery, or to the loftiness of style befitting so grand a subject, this volume is issued in the hope that the scenes recently visited by the writer may be more sought for by Eastern travellers; and that the order followed by him, and sketched imperfectly here, may serve in some measure as a useful guide to the grandeur of the Yosemite Valley, and to the other wonders of California.

S. K.


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