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The old Tioga road winds its tortuous length of fifty miles through as rough a stretch of country, I suppose, as any road in the United States. Leaving the Big Oak Flat road near Crocker’s Station, some fifteen miles northwest of the Yosemite, it makes for its objective point, the derelict Tioga Mine, on the crest of the Sierra, in a whole-hearted style that comports well with the spirit of the boisterous days in which its lines were run. Its main direction is easterly, parallel to the courses of the Merced and Tuolumne rivers; but in mid-career the opposing bulk of Mount Hoffman forces it to a wide southerly detour where it skirts Lake Tenaya. Then swinging again to the northeast, it crosses the Sierra at Tioga Pass, 9940 feet above sea-level.
After a quiet Sunday, enlivened by a brief but stirring thunder-storm, we marched out early on Monday morning upon this rude highway, heading for Soda Springs. Passing under the eastern shoulder of Murphy’s Dome, it was seen to be continued in two or three subsidiary flatted domes. Bodie’s archives of local lore failed to yield any record of the departed son of Erin who has bequeathed his name to this barren mountain and the creek which comes down on its farther side. He or some other patriot has taken care to commemorate his friends pretty thoroughly in this part of the Sierra: the Raffertys, Delaneys, McGees, Brannigans, and Donohues are all remembered in the names of lakes, mountains, and creeks, while Ireland herself has both a creek and a lake “named for her.” I own that I prefer even these uncompromising names to the sentimental titles that are attached to many of the points of the Yosemite Valley itself.
As we passed close to the little conical point of granite which was so conspicuous at the head of the lake, there was an excellent opportunity to study the peculiar Yosemite formation at close range. One has a vision of Nature in the role of housemaid, scouring away through patient centuries at these granite blisters with a glacier in her hand, polishing and finishing them to perfection. At the north end of even this little mountain a vast quantity of talus has accumulated, much of it looking as white and clean as if it had fallen yesterday; as probably it did, speaking in centuries. On all the surrounding slopes great rounded boulders lie about by thousands, the untidy emptying of the pockets of the ancient glacier.
We were reminded by the appearance of four vaqueros that we were now for a few miles in more travelled country. Soda Springs is the farthest outpost of civilization in this region, and hither all the trails of this part of the mountains head in. The men were Mexican sheep-shearers, who, as we learned in five minutes’ exchange of news, had come up from Inyo by one of the southern passes, bound for the ranches of the San Joaquin.
Cigarette-ends were shed around them as we talked, like autumn leaves. One of them, with an amount of forethought unusual in his race, had used some interval of rest to provide himself with a stock of “tabacos,” which were disposed, in readiness for instant use, in the band of his sombrero. This store was freely drawn upon by his companions, who when they needed a new cigarette had but to jerk their horses over and pluck one from him, as if he were a tree yielding that desirable fruit. They rode tough, undersized ponies with enormous Spanish saddles which clothed the little animals like overcoats, and gave them a tournamental appearance that, in conjunction with the slouching negligence of their riders, was highly comic.
In conversation with them we were able to assure ourselves that we should find any pass by which we might elect to return, after our visit to Mono, open from snow; which is not always the case, even by the end of July, unless the preceding winter has been a mild one in point of snowfall. Bodie also refreshed his knowledge of the movements and general well-being of sundry Jims and Bills “down Inyo,” and “over Mono”; after which, with the inevitable valedictory, “Well, guess we‘ll have to be moving,” and a chorus of “Adios!” the cavalcades sorted themselves and parted east and west.
Like huge blisters the domes rose on all sides, each more remarkable than the last. A very noticeable one is Fairview Dome, along the base of which the road passes, with another facing it, on the extreme summit of which a great pebble of perhaps fifty tons has been left by the ancient glacier, carefully balanced, like a pea on some prodigious ostrich egg. On both these mountains, which rise about a thousand feet above the general level, the glacial polish can be seen glittering to the very top.
Bodie was that morning a man of many moods. First of all snatches of Ben Bolt were borne past me upon the breeze. This outbreak of sentiment I had just succeeded in tracing to the pensive influence of the hemlock forest through which we were riding, when the theme of his song abruptly changed, and I heard him relating, in a novel kind of allegro recitative, the prowess of one Casey, a Hibernian Ulysses of strange and varied exploits. This, too, seemed appropriate enough, in the haunts of bygone Murphys and McGees; but when he broke next into A Life on the Ocean Wave, I abandoned the attempt to follow his mental processes.
It was a saddening feature of the scenery along many parts of our route that we passed frequently through wide areas of tamarack forest where the trees were dead, as the result (so I afterwards found) of fire, though at first sight the cause was not apparent. This was the case in parts of the region we were now traversing. On questioning Bodie as to the cause, his brief reply was, “Insecks”; and he proceeded to express his contempt for certain “Government guys” who, he said, came out every year or two from Washington to examine and report upon the matter. This seemed to confirm the statement which I have sometimes heard advanced, that the man of action is prone to hold him of mere theory and investigation in slight regard.
I found the same principle illustrated when, guiding the conversation into his own field, I took occasion to quote Kipling’s line about “the mule-train coughing in the dust.” “The feller what said that,” he rejoined, “don’t savvy what he wants to say. Mules don’t never cough, not unless they’ve got a cold on ’em. Sneezing’s what he means, and I don’t care who the jay is.” As I seemed to recall having myself experienced a kind of compound of the two operations, I was not prepared to argue the point, and judged it best to abandon this field also to him.
Discoursing thus of many things, at five-animal range, I being, as usual, in the lead and he in the rear, we found ourselves emerging upon a wide expanse of level grass-land. This was the Tuolumne Meadows. Here comes in from the south the so-called Sunrise trail, which is the direct route to this point from the Yosemite Valley by way of the Little Yosemite and the high mountain region east of the Tenaya Cañon. Straight ahead rose Mounts Dana and Gibbs, with Kuna Crest a little to the south and the point of Mount Conness, more distant, in the north. Dana was our to-morrow’s quarry, and we marked him for our own. Cathedral and Unicorn peaks also came now suddenly into full view, close on our right; the former crested with half-a-dozen splintery pinnacles, the latter with a single sharp, horn-shaped cone, and both broadly banded with snow. Out yonder to north and east, under a hood of pale, hard sky, lay the Mono country and Nevada’s dry and burning plains.
Fording the river, which here runs a wide, handsome stream, we made for the camp of the little detachment of soldiers, four in number, who are kept here during the summer on outpost duty. On the way we passed the springs themselves, an outflow of cold mineral water, bubbling up generously, close to the bank of the river.
It was with no little interest that we traced by the soldiers’ maps the course of our wanderings all the last week, locating the cut-offs we had left undone that we ought to have done, and the trails we had done that we ought not to have done.
Striking again into the road we followed it, rising steadily, for five or six miles. At about 9700 feet we found a southerly trail which we held for a mile or so, and then camped on a small creek which comes down from the saddle between Dana and Gibbs, and at the very base of Dana himself. On the west rose the magnificent shape of Kuna Crest, plentifully XXX besnowed. Along the base stretched the moraine of the old glacier, the most perfect instance of a lateral moraine that I have seen. By the trees growing upon it I gauged its average height as not far short of a hundred feet.
It was somewhat too late in the day for us to make the ascent of Dana, so Field went off to look for a small lake which Bodie reported as lying under the northern face of the mountain. A sudden rain coming up, Bodie and I rigged up our big canvas and sat tight. Our guide was in a rare literary mood, and buried himself in our travelling library of three elderly magazines: I devoted myself to the pleasures of anticipation, for to-morrow I was to taste my first authentic mountain of this region.
There he was, 13,050 feet undeniable, showing from our camp a handsome red-brown cone with its longest side thrown out to the northeast, where it terminated in a fine precipice. Forests clothed its lower buttresses, and sheets of snow gleamed on the higher slopes. On the northern side much more snow must be lying, as I could see was the case with his lesser brother Kuna, whose north and west faces were in view. I acknowledge I felt some excitement, though Dana is held to be a very easy mountain to climb, and Alpine Clubs would no doubt deride it. But after all, one’s first thirteen-thousand-footer ought to be something of an event, and I hope never to be blasé of my mountains.
A vivid after-glow flushed the snow on Kuna Crest to a delicious rose, and burned on Gibbs and Dana in a strange, deep, rusty red that needed explaining.
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MT. DANA AND JESSIE LAKE
Lying snugly rolled that night in my blankets, I noticed the sky, which was now clear of clouds, filled with a greater myriad of stars than I ever observed before. The velvet firmament was almost white with their innumerable multitudes. I suppose that there are countless numbers of stars yet unrevealed in the empty spaces of the sky, and I wondered whether we may not be in fact surrounded with an unbroken curtain of light.
The next morning Field discovered that he had left one of his lenses behind, halfway up Alkali Creek Cañon, where he had last used it. Bodie handsomely offered to ride back for it by way of Soda Springs and a cut-off trail. We appreciated this friendly proposal all the more since we knew that he entertained grudging sentiments with regard to photographic implements in general, as being objects unruly to pack, and the occasion of frequent stoppages and disarrangements of loads. As to climbing the mountain, he had done that once before, and “climbing wasn’t his long suit, anyhow.” So at half-past six Field and I started for the summit, while he mounted Clementine and by diligent rope-ending persuaded her away from her attendance on Pet, who I could almost fancy fetched a sigh of relief.
Under a cloudless sky we followed upward the course of the little creek. If I had not known that I was in California I could easily have believed that it was a Highland burn that came shouldering down between bossy, over-curving banks of rough mountain grass, pouring steadily over ledges and boulders, swirling in elbows, draining and sucking through matted roots of heather, and tossing crisp, hissing drops a yard into the air. Then into the blessed forest, with its million-and-one friendly presences, trees and birds, flowers and roving zephyrs, and that old feeling of interrupted action, and hidden, whimsical woodland creatures.
Gradually the forest thinned until we passed out on to the open mountain-side, clothed with mats of dwarf willow and tussocks of wiry grass, and with ribbons of water furrowing the ground in a network of pipe-like channels. A few dwarf pines were scattered here and there, holding their hard-won ground determinedly, like the advanced outposts of an army. The stark poles were tossed about the ground where the storms had wrenched them down, and many of those that stood erect were like skeletons, white and bony. At eleven thousand feet, even the Old Guard, that dies but never surrenders, had been beaten down to the ground, but still they fought upon their backs, under impenetrable shields of flattened and felted foliage that a man might walk upon.
Small rugs of meadow were spread in hollows, spotted with daisies, small but precious. In one of these meadowlets a few thistles were growing sturdily, looking as much at home as if they were on Ben Nevis; and among the boulders an alpine phlox formed little round cushions covered with hundreds of blossoms, ridiculously tiny but marvellously perfect.
So far the way was remarkably easy; it could hardly be called climbing, being nothing but a straight-forward march up the saddle between Mounts Dana and Gibbs. At 11,800 feet we gained the crest of the divide, and with extreme curiosity I looked over to the eastern side of the Sierra. From where we stood a cañon broke steeply down between walls of brick-burned rock. Sheets of “screes” swept down on either side, laced with streaks and pennons of snow. Almost at the head of the cañon lay a small lake of a strange, peacock-blue color, the bluest thing I have ever seen, as Bodie had predicted I should find it. Dark masses of timber filled here and there the hollows of the southern wall. Below and in the middle distance was a confused tumble of buttes and foothills; and beyond that lay a pale, circular sheet of blue-grey water, with a white island in the middle. It was Mono Lake, and strange and ghostly it looked. To the south of it stretched a line of grey volcanic craters, and beyond again, the uneasy ridges of the Nevada desert-ranges faded into the distance.
It was a sight that I had long wished to see, — mysterious Mono; and that day, under a bleached desert sky pencilled with lines of pallid whitish cloud, it looked mysterious, solitary, and desolate enough to satisfy my best expectations.
We were still twelve hundred feet short of the peak of Mount Dana, which rose to our north above a vast slope of broken rock, interrupted here and there by cliffs. It is certainly an easy mountain to climb; I can hardly conceive that there is anywhere a peak of equal height that is so easy of ascent. To reach the summit was simply a matter of pegging away at the tiresome slope, using a reasonable degree of care in picking our footing, for the blocks were of every shape and size, and often shifted under our weight. A broken leg would not be difficult to come by.
The strange color of the mountain as we had seen it from camp was now explained. Both Dana and Gibbs are entirely different in formation from the country we had heretofore traversed. They are not built of granite, but of metamorphic slates, red, green, and purple in color, often handsomely veined and marbled, and splintering smoothly into large cubes and rhomboids, and tile-like smaller fragments. It is an interesting formation, and its rich display of colors, contrasting with the brilliant green of the meadow-patches, makes up a fine combination from a landscape point of view.
As we neared the summit we encountered ever larger snow-fields. The sun was hot, and the water ran in a myriad streams, clinking merrily among the rocks under our feet as if a hundred kobold blacksmiths
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LOOKING EASTWARD FROM MT. DANA, MONO LAKE IN THE DISTANCE, 6000 FEET BELOW
Climbing at last along the edge of a snow-bank that followed a northwesterly ridge, we gained the summit. A wonderful view rewarded us,—a complete circle, three hundred and sixty degrees full, of mountains and lakes, with a strip of desert to the east where the plains of Mono flickered in parching heat. Immediately under the peak to the northeast is a remarkable plateau, about two square miles in extent, almost perfectly smooth, and covered with small broken rock. This plateau breaks away precipitously to the east, and slopes more gently on the west to a narrow snow-filled cañon that divides it from Mount Dana itself. At the head of the cañon lies a small glacier.
To all other quarters of the compass the whole prospect was a sea of peaks and ridges, whitened with snow, gloomy with precipices, and sprinkled with lakes of every size and shape. One long, trough-like valley led away westward toward the peaks and domes of Yosemite. Over all, the sun shining in a sky of broken clouds sent a thousand purple shadows flying like flocks of swallows. Southward a blue haze half obscured and half revealed a multitude of splendid peaks. Among them Mounts Lyell and McClure gleamed whitely glorious, cuirassed with glaciers, and Ritter, knight of the black shield, overtopped even them and us by a few score feet.
It is remarkable how nearly alike in height are the main summits of the Sierra in this middle part of the range. There are four mountains that rise above thirteen thousand feet,—Dana, McClure, Lyell, and Ritter,—yet the last named, which is the highest, rises to only one hundred and fifty-six feet above the thirteen-thousand mark; while a considerable number of peaks have an altitude of over twelve thousand five hundred feet.
The comparison of this mountain topography to the sea is so essentially true that its triteness may be excused. The resemblance is exact and vivid to the broken forms of ocean water at the first lessening of the violence of a storm; and when now I looked out over the vast extent of mountains, I received the same impression of confused but powerful action, of the leaping of passionate surges, the suck and sob of streaming hollows, the implacable gathering and advance of ridges in infinite échelon, that I have experienced in looking out from the deck of a ship in mid-ocean the day after a gale had blown.
It was strange to find among the blocks and boulders of the very summit a lovely plant growing. It was polemonium, bearing a beautiful flower of that heavenly pure blue that I know only in the forget-me-not besides. The blossoms are large, profuse, and clustered, and have a delightful scent. For its luxuriance of size, color, and perfume, it might well be the trophy of a hot-house; and to find such a plant at this altitude, when all other flowers, even the hardy alpine phlox and daisies, had dwarfed and dwindled until they ceased, was a notable surprise. Some angel, no doubt, comes to take earth-pleasure in this lonely garden of the mountains.
We lingered for two hours about the summit, revelling in the superb prospect and the serenity of this heavenward station. Then, having duly contributed to the monument of piled rocks that marks the point of the mountain, and waving au revoir to Mono in expectation of being there to-morrow, we started on the return. The first part was accomplished in chamois fashion, leaping down from slab to slab in erratic ‘ courses, and only stopping to recover breath and the perpendicular when knees and nerves became shaky together. The ascent had taken five hours, the descent occupied two. Neither Field nor I is of the number of those who consider mountains as a sort of gymnastic apparatus, except incidentally; and we suffered no distress when we learned that the mountain has often been climbed in two hours from the locality of our camp. We had done just two and a half times as well.
Bodie had returned from his twenty-five-mile ride, lens recovered and supper already under way. Surpassing appetites, coinciding with the knowledge of unlimited supplies near at hand, justified a. lavish repast in which the last precious dust of the tea-canister was involved. A transcendent fire, fanned every moment to leonine roaring by blasts that roamed down the eastward pass of the mountains, hardly tempered the chill of ten thousand feet of altitude. We unrolled our blankets early, and, discarding only our boots, crept in and lay, feet to the fire, chatting and smoking in tolerable comfort.
By half-past six the next morning we were passing around the eastern face of Kuna Crest, where it rises to a handsome peak. It is altogether a fine mountain, with a long ridge trending southeast and northwest, and maintaining an average height of over 12,000 feet. A faint trail led at first through rough meadow country, and then passed into tamarack forest which here showed no sign of disease, though the trees were whitened and scarred by storm and stress of climate. This hardy conifer has an unusual range of habitat. There are trees of the species in the Yosemite Valley at four thousand feet, and here they were growing at over ten thousand. Though uninteresting in appearance and below the level of its family in physique, one gets to like this tree as one lives with it, for its every-day virtues. It fills the part of the ordinary citizen or man-in-the-street, unpretentious and undistinguished, but carrying on the routine work of the tree-world in a conscientious, methodical manner, leaving the choice places to choicer spirits, and populating great expanses of unhopeful mountain with its serviceable armies.
One or two old cabins, long tumbled into ruin, stood beside the trail. Heaps of stones and rubbish were piled against them, the remains of capacious chimneys. A glow of sentimental warmth seemed still to hang about these mounds of débris. I conjured up again the figures of the bygone miners and sheep-herders who had sat around the fires that once roared in them,—swart Gascons from the Landes, out-screaming the wind with impish piccolos and boisterous accordions; down-east Yankees, “sudden and quick in quarrel,” mitigating the solitude with euchre and deep potations; the ubiquitous Briton, dreaming over Fleet Street or the old village in Surrey or Connemara as he stared into the glowing caverns of the fire. Now it is the little striped chipmunk that sits ruminating there, if such a bundle of nerves can be imagined ever to be in such an attitude of mind; and the only sound is the voice of the Clarke crow, uplifted in soliloquy as weird as that of the Raven.
Some three miles of steady but easy climbing brought us to the head of Mono Pass. A pile of rocks marks the summit, and the bench-mark of the Geological Survey gives the altitude as 10,599 feet. A trail comes in here from the south, leading by way of Parker and Agnew passes to the so-called Devil’s Post-pile, and so out by Mammoth Pass to Pine City on the east side of the Sierra. In the neck of the pass lies a small lake fed by snow-banks, and beyond it a group of long-deserted shanties, a windlass, and a mound of tailings mark the grave of somebody’s hopes and capital. Here blows an eternal wind, strong, steady, and hissing cold. I always feel a solemnity in these great airs of the mountain summits, these winds of God. Like formless but mighty presences, the great sighing billows of the air-ocean surge on their vast courses, singing in majestic recitative their Benedicite, Omnia Opera!
We halted to cinch up saddles and packs as securely as might be before beginning the four-thousand-foot descent of Bloody Cañon. Then with a final backward look to the west we plunged down the steep eastern face of the Sierra. A few hundred yards below we encountered a considerable snow-field. The snow, softened by the midsummer sun, was treacherous and annoying, and it was with difficulty that we prevailed upon the animals to commit their precious bones to the uncertain footing. Several times they all, Pet excepted, made a concerted bolt back up the trail, and for a time the welkin rang with sounds of battle, castigatory drummings upon equine ribs, and all the confusion of a general melee. At last they went floundering and staggering across, sinking to the hocks in the rotten snow-ice. A quarter-mile brought us to another but smaller snow-field. This we skirted; and escaped catastrophe thereby, for it turned out to be hollow beneath. The water running from the upper snow had cut its way under this bank, leaving it a mere shell from wall to wall of the cañon. In its present softened condition it would certainly not have supported the weight of the loaded animals.
Just below lay a charming little lake, blue as heaven, and swept ever and anon with handfuls of wind that sent delightful gleams and shudders over it. It bears the inscrutable designation of Sardine Lake. I hailed Bodie with an inquiry as to the reason for the name, and received his illuminating reply in one word, “Canned.” I learned later that years ago an ill-fated mule bearing a cargo of the delicacy con. signed to a merchant in some mining-camp of the Walker River region had fallen off the trail, and after a series of spectacular revolutions had vanished in the icy waters.
In the upper course of the cañon the walls rise precipitously. It is in fact a gorge rather than a cañon, and it is easy to guess how it came by its name in the days when great bands of cattle were driven across the Sierra by this route, lacerating themselves as they scrambled among the jagged rock-débris through which the so-called trail is laid. When one recalls the behavior of a herd of excited cattle driven along an ordinary highway, and then imagines the scene of action transferred to this fearfully steep defile, filled with shattered rock and narrowing at the top to a mere cleft, with yelling vaqueros urging the bewildered and terrified beasts into a panic, it becomes a marvel that any of the animals should arrive at the head of the pass alive and unmaimed. The bones that still lie strewn up and down the trail testify to the fate of many a victim of Bloody Cañon.
I was charmed to find growing in this wild place a great variety of flowers. In the drip of snow-banks and among the tumble and shatter of slaty rock, there bloomed the choicest specimens that I had seen of many varieties, and with a remarkable range of colors. In particular I noticed columbines of pale rose and yellow, and even pure white; pentstemons crimson, pink, purple, and blue of various shades; and yellow and red mimulus, all surprisingly large and perfect, as if grown in a hot-house. A botanist would be enraptured with them. Here I met also another conifer, the limber pine (Pinus flexilis), a species which is confined, I believe, to the eastern flank of the Sierra. Its whitish twigs and its foliage are very similar to those of P. albicaulis, but the cone is larger and clay-yellow when ripe, and the tree is altogether bigger and more pine-like in habit of growth.
Below Sardine Lake the cañon began to open and the blue hills of Nevada came in sight. Then the forest began in earnest. Owing to the rapid fall in altitude the various conifers meet and overlap very interestingly. Within a short range one passes through the successive belts of the albicaulis, contorta, flexilis, and Jeffrey pines and the two firs. The juniper also grows here to a handsomer tree than its stubborn wont, and it appeared to me that all the vegetation inhabiting the locality attains an unusual perfection of growth.
Two miles and two thousand feet below Sardine Lake lies Walker Lake, a beautiful sheet of water, narrow and winding, nearly a mile in length, and wooded on all sides. Along its northern margin spreads a delightful meadow, fringed with aspen and willow, and exuberantly flowery. Long grasses were mixed with pale blue iris, larkspurs, lupines, daisies, and half-a-dozen kinds of those yellow composite of which, for some reason which seems to have to do with their color, none but botanists take the trouble to learn the names. Wild roses also there were, of a color as deep as was the joy of meeting them; and evening primroses, stately-tall.
The lake is a beautiful one, partly rocky and romantic, partly reedy and rural. Looking back, the mountains towered grandly, snow-laced and stern, close above this Eden; while from this point eastward began the domain of the sage-brush and the desert, hardly more than an hour’s travel from snow-banks and alpine crags. It is a condition highly interesting, and entirely characteristic of California, the land of violent contrasts.
At the lower end of the lake a band of cattle were feeding. To us they wore a pleasing air of novelty. For three weeks we had had neither meat nor milk of them, except the canned apologies, and at the sight the latent butcher within the breast awoke and whetted his tools.
After leaving the lake the northern wall of the cañon becomes bare of timber, except for a sprinkling of small oaks, and is dotted with the usual desert brush. The southern wall continues well forested, and Jeffrey pines and tamaracks kept us company along the trail, each striving to outdo the other in endurance as they approached the desert level. I backed the Jeffrey, as being the nobler, more pine-like tree, and was gratified to see him eventually win out, growing sturdy and green far out on to the Mono plain.
Suddenly we encountered a barbed-wire fence, and the trail widened into a sandy track that no doubt calls itself a road. A clear brook ran beside it, bordered with wild roses and tiger-lilies. Then appeared cultivated enclosures, and in the distance a few scattered farm buildings were visible. An Indian woman, pappoose on back, was performing some primitive agricultural rite about a plot of garden ground fenced with willow poles, where nothing could be discerned to be growing. A girl in a trailing blue “wrapper” turned upon me a countenance of such intense blackness that I at first mistook it for her hair. My salutation, first in English, then in Spanish, elicited no response beyond a grunt staccato and a stare so sincere and prolonged as to become embarrassing. The Mono Indians are famous for their skill in basketry, and this stolid woman, it was likely, could weave baskets of amazing fineness of texture and admirable shape and design. I was anxious to secure a specimen, but felt myself at a disadvantage and was fain to abandon my intention so far as these representatives of the tribe were concerned.
Crossing a meadow of knee-high grass watered by a network of rivulets, I found my party, whom I had allowed to out-travel me by a mile or two, just going into camp at Farrington’s Ranch. So great is the topographical contrast between the eastern and western faces of the range that while on this side it had taken only a few hours to descend from the crest to cultivated plains, on the other it would have taken as many days.
I despatched Bodie straightway to the ranch-house, where he was no stranger, to buy a loaf of stove bread and a pitcher of milk. We ate and drank our fill of these simple rarities with enormous gusto. Then I lay at length among willows, wild roses, ants, and sage-brush, and gazed dreamily off at the line of volcanic craters a few miles away across the valley. Unmistakable craters they are, grey and ashy, topped with burnt-looking rocks, the lips that once spouted the imprisoned flame and fury of the earth up into that blue sky that now smiles so serenely. Will they ever again break silence? Stranger things have happened on this old earth.
Suppose that as I lie here, indolent with ease and the fullness of bread, I should fancy that I see a faint smoke ascending from that grey cone. It cannot be: and yet, it certainly is. Strange: what next? The smoke grows thicker and is unmistakable. After a few minutes a deep sigh or moan of the earth, such as I have heard preceding earthquakes, breaks the heavy hush of the air. I gaze fascinated at the smoking peak, awaiting I know not what. My mind is filled and teeming with all the unimaginable horrors which since childhood I have associated with earthquakes and volcanoes,—Pompeii, Lisbon, Sodom and Gomorrah, Pelee, The Revelation. And then—but never mind what might happen then. What does happen is that Field sits serenely smoking the while he peruses the five-days-old newspaper brought by Bodie from the house for our delight; the bell on the black mule tinkles with a cracked, High-Church sound behind the bush under which I lie; the wind blows, the clouds sail. Still, I remember that the wise man who, sadly reversing the better order, became foolish, wrote before the melancholy change that there was no new thing. under the sun (he might have said, or old either), and that what had been would be again. So after all, who knows?
We had received friendly welcome to supper at the ranch-house, and revelled again in stove bread, with butter sweet and cool as primroses, steak of the juiciest, lettuce of the crispest, onions the most seductive and undeniable, and such a platter of potatoes as may not often be seen upon this planet, towering in plump spheroids of dazzling whiteness and discharging fragrant cumuli of steam that assailed the very ceiling. The atmosphere abounded in taken-for-granted hospitality and friendly badinage, in which certain legendary love-passages of Bodie were haled into the light, he nothing loath although professing ignorance.
Later in the evening Field and I were summoned from photographic labors to partake of—pineapple sherbet! frozen with snow brought from the mountain peaks. Stumbling back to our camp thereafter through the soft, warm darkness, we contemplated with deep joy the prospect of a night sans mosquitoes, and an extra hour of sleep, or of that pleasant semi-coma which refreshes the mental faculties even more, in the morning.
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