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Yosemite: Its Wonders and Its Beauties (1868) by John S. Hittell

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TUTUCANULA.

The next object of interest is Tutucanula, or Capitan, an immense rock which rises almost perpendicularly from the valley to a hight of 3,300 feet. It has two fronts, one facing to the west and the other to the south, the two meeting nearly at a right angle, and together about a mile long. This immense cliff is considered by many the most sublime feature of the Yosemite scenery. The immensity of its bulk, the altitude, verticality and smoothness of its faces, and its prominent situation, (being visible from nearly all the principal points of view) fix the attention of the tourist upon it. It is so tall that its hight is greater than the width of the valley in front of it, and if it were to topple over, it would rest upon the opposite cliff. The Indian name, spelled also Tutochahulah and Tutatinello, means the Great Spirit, and Capitan is Spanish for Captain. Prof. Whitney says: “It would be difficult to find, anywhere in the world, a mass of rock presenting a perpendicular face so imposing.” Starr King declared: “A more majestic object than this rock, I never expect to see on this planet.”

Horace Greeley, who entered the valley at night, thus speaks of his first impressions of the great cliff:

“That first, full. deliberate gaze up the opposite hight! Can I ever forget it? The valley is here scarcely half a mile wide, while its northern wall of mainly naked perpendicular granite is at least 4,000 feet high—probably more. But the modicum of moonlight that fell into this awful gorge gave to that precipice a vagueness of outline, an indefinite vastness, a ghostly and wierd spirituality. Had the mountain spoken to me in audible voice, or began to lean over with the purpose of burying me, I should hardly have been surprised. Its whiteness, thrown into bold relief by the patches of trees or shrubs which fringed or flecked it, wherever a few handfuls of its moss, slowly decomposed to earth, could contrive too hold on, continually suggested the presence of snow, which suggestion, with difficulty refuted, was at once renewed.”


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