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Engineering and History—Speculation and Discouragement—A New Deal—Wall Street—A Primitive Bridge—First Woman in the Yosemite—Lady Visitors from Mariposa and Lady Teachers from San Francisco—Measurements of Heights—First Houses, and their Occupants—A Gay Party and a Glorious Feast.
Although no visits were made during the year 1854 to the Yosemite Valley, it was at this time that the existence of such a locality began to be generally known outside of the limits of Mariposa county. Many of the inhabitants of that county, however, were still incredulous of its being any more remarkable than some other localities among the Sierras. As a matter of early history, I will give a few details of occurrences indirectly connected with the bringing of this valley to the attention of the public as a wonderful natural curiosity.
During the year 1854 an effort was made by a party of engineers from Tuolumne county, to explore a route by which water could be brought from the South Fork of the Merced river into the “dry diggings.” After a reconnoissance, the route was pronounced too expensive to be profitable, as the supply of water would be insufficient, unless the ditch should be extended to the main river, which was not considered practicable.
Notwithstanding this adverse report, the Mariposa “Chronicle” continued to advocate the practicability of the proposed plan, and made some effort to induce capitalists to take an interest in the enterprise, claiming that like investments had proved profitable in the northern mines. To test the feasibility of such a project, Colonel Caruthers and Angevine Reynolds, then of Stockton, came up to explore and run a line of levels over the route. They brought with them, as engineer, Capt. Kiel, a practical surveyor, and a most accomplished mathematician. Captain Boling, having referred these gentlemen to me as one most likely to aid in their undertaking, and practically familiar with that part of the country, I joined them in their enterprise. We started our survey at the “Snow Creek” divide. Col. Caruthers was enthusiastic over the prospect of success, as we advanced, but after rounding the point at “Devil’s Gulch,” and while Mr. Reynolds and myself were establishing a flag station on the opposite side, the Colonel collapsed and ordered a discontinuance of the survey.
Not feeling satisfied with this decision, Mr. Reynolds and myself, mutually agreed to complete the survey. Reynolds was a man of energy and indomitable perseverance. He was the first to establish an express to the Southern mines, and afterwards was for fourteen years successively elected to responsible offices in Mariposa county. I handled the instrument, and Mr. Reynolds acted as rodman. We continued the line up, passed all real obstacles, and then Captain Kiel, who was quite an old gentleman, completed the survey and mapped oüt the route. During this survey, Mr. Reynolds and myself crossed the South Fork and explored along the divide. We were within six or seven miles of the Yosemite, but did not go to it. This was the only year since its discovery, that it was not visited by white men. No Indians were seen by our party, during the time of this survey.
The next season, 1855, the survey began by Caruthers, Reynolds and myself, was pushed with vigor, and although the subject matter of extending the ditch to the main stream was freely discussed and advocated by the Chronicle, no action was taken. Up to this time, the Yosemite was scarcely thought of by the generality of gold hunters and denizens of Mariposa county; that is, in connexion with its stupendous cliffs and wonderful scenery. The solemn grandeur of the locality, and the immensity of the rocks which formed the sides of its inclosing walls, as well as its lofty water-falls, were but barely noticed by Lt. Moore in his report, to which allusion has been made in a previous chapter.
Lt. Moore made no measurements, nor attempted to give any specific descriptions. He only stated unadorned facts and practical impressions. These, however, had in 1854 gone out into the world, and the wonders of the place were more generally known and appreciated by the literary and scientific, than by those in its more immediate vicinity. During the summer of 1855, Mr. J. M. Hutchings, editor and publisher of “Hutchings’ California Magazine,” conceived the idea of visiting the Calaveras “Big Trees” and the Yosemite Valley. As a literary man he was aware that these objects of wonder and curiosity would provide many interesting articles for his periodical. He engaged the services of a well-known artist of San Francisco, Mr. Thomas Ayres, to provide sketches for his descriptive articles. He first visited “The Big Trees” of Calaveras; at Coultersville and Horse Shoe Bend, Mr. Alex. Stair and Wesley Millard joined his party. Mr. Hutchings’ announcement at Mariposa that he was on his way to visit “their wonderful valley,” was considered as an indifferent joke by some; others, who had heard of it in connection with the “Indian war,” asked him if he was not afraid of the Indians; if it was worth the risk to go there. Mr. Hutchings failed to get much information from those of whom he made inquiries at Mariposa. He finally interviewed Captain Boling, who told him where he could procure a guide.
In anticipation of meeting with numerous difficulties on the way, or for other reasons, he hired two guides and started for the valley. The difficulties of the journey vanished as he approached. The excitement of the trip made the party forgetful of the fatigue and roughness of the mountain journey.
I met Stair and Millard,—who were especial friends of mine,—not long after their return from this trip. They were very enthusiastic on the subject of the Yosemite. The enthusiastic descriptions given by the Hutchings party, on its return, aroused the curiosity of the people, staggered the skeptics, and silenced the croakers. Not long afterwards, two parties visited it; one from Sherlocks and the other from Mariposa. With the party from Sherlocks, were the Mann brothers, who afterwards built a trail from Mariposa to the valley. They commenced it in the fall of that year, 1855. Mr. Hutchings’ publications and lithographic illustration of the Yosemite, or highest fall, served to advertise the attractions. From this period may be dated the commencement of the visits of tourists. His influence has aided materially in affording improved facilities of access to it, and in providing for the comfort of visitors. The interest growing out of Mr. Hutchings’ visit to the Yosemite, together with the rumored prospect that Fremont & Co. were about to do something with the “Mariposa Estate,” aroused the energy of local capitalists, and encouraged the advent of settlers and miners. Another company was organized to bring water from the foot of the valley into the “dry diggings.” The limited supply from the South Fork, it was thought, would be insufficient for the prospective demand. Sufficient inducements having been offered to warrant the undertaking, Mr. George K. Peterson, an engineer by profession, and myself, joined in making the necessary survey. We leveled two lines down through the cañon, below the Yosemite, on to the divide of the South Fork. To cross the South Fork without expending too much altitude, we found a long tunnel would be required, besides a suspension of over 800 feet.
This, for a time, discouraged a continuance of the survey. We returned to Mariposa and frankly reported the results of our work and explained the difficulties of the route to those who were most interested in the project. For certain reasons it was deemed advisable to complete the survey between the branches of the river; when it was thought that some equitable arrangement could be made with the South Fork Company for a union of interests in case of sale. The Yosemite Company proposed to convey water over or near the same route as the other, and also to supply water to the miners on the north side of the Merced. By this stroke of policy, it was supposed that a legal division of water could be obtained, that the New Yorkers (Fremont & Co.) would only be too glad to pay for. I did not feel sanguine in the success of this scheme, and so expressed myself. My experience in the cañon with Peterson taught me that an equivalent in cash, which was offered for my services (and which I accepted), was better than any speculative interest in Spain, or even New York. The survey was accordingly recommenced. Four of the company put up the body of a house in the valley. This was the first house ever erected there. It was of white cedar “puncheons,” plank split out of logs. The builders of it supposed that a claim in the valley would doubly secure the water privileges. We made this building our headquarters; covering the roof with our tents. We continued work on this survey until late in November; and until the falling snow rendered the hillside work most difficult; we then returned to Mariposa.
During this survey, while exploring the dividing ridges of the Merced river and the South Fork, our party ran on to an encampment of the wretched Yosemites; mostly old men and women. They had gone out on the extreme south-western point of the divide on the slope of the South Fork.
As Peterson planted his instrument for an observation, the Indians cried out in alarm, thinking no doubt that he was aiming some infernal machine to destroy them. I approached to see if I could recognize any of them as those who had visited our store, before the murders of our men. I also scrutinized their clothing; but their ragged garments would not admit of even a surmise as to their quality or pattern.
Although I failed to recognize our visitors among these miserable people; it was quite evident that I was known to them. I asked “who it was that had killed the men at our store?” They at first pretended not to understand me; but seeing that they were not believed, one came forward, and in a mixture of Spanish and Indian informed me that it was the Tuolume Indians that were the criminals; while they themselves (if not the cleanest) were certainly the best Indians in the mountains. Upon being asked why they were camped in such a place—without water, they said they were at first afraid of our party and the glistening instrument that had been aimed at them; but, that when they saw we were measuring the ground, and marking the trees, they were no longer alarmed, but were afraid of the Monos, whom they said were still angry with them. I told them that it was because of their treachery and dishonesty that they had been made to suffer, and then left them in their wretchedness.
Quite early in the next year (1856), the survey for the water supply was recommenced under instructions from Colonel Fremont, and, under direction of his chief engineer, Mr. J. E. Clayton, Mr. Peterson was placed in charge of the field-work. This work was executed with great care, as on its accuracy the estimates depended. They were to be made by a very eminent engineer of the Erie Canal, upon whose report, it was supposed, Wall street would be governed. Peterson engaged me as his assistant in this survey. During this season the Mann Brothers finished their trail to the Yosemite, so that it was used by visitors. Hearing that they had felled some immense trees and bridged the South Fork, Mr. Peterson had hopes to reach the valley earlier in the season by crossing the river at that place.
On reaching the South Fork, where we supposed the bridge to be, we found that a large tree had been felled across the stream with the design of forming the foundation of a bridge, but it had fallen so low, or so near the water on the opposite side, that a flood would be likely to sweep it away, and it had, therefore, been abandoned. This was a great disappointment to Mr. Peterson. As we could not ford the stream, we would have to go into camp or wait for the water to fall or go back, for the snow-clad ridges were impassable. While Peterson was considering the matter, I took an axe and sloped and notched the butt of the tree so that I was able to get my horse, an intelligent animal, to clamber up on the prostrate trunk; when, without difficulty, I led him safely across and landed him on the other side of the stream. We had two mules, whose natural timidity caused them to hesitate before attempting to climb the log, but their attachment for the horse, which they had seen safely cross, with some persuasion effected with a stout cudgel counteracted their fears, and they too were safely led over.
The tree was about six feet in diameter. Its cork-like bark afforded sure footing for the animals. Peterson—very much pleased—pronounced this the most primitive bridge ever crossed by a pack-train, and declared that it should be recorded as an original engineering feat.
While we were re-loading our animals the Mann Brothers came down to us, as they said to learn how we had crossed the rushing torrent; and were surprised to hear that we had utilized the tree abandoned by them. They informed us that they were constructing a bridge further up the stream, which would be ready for crossing in a week or two. We found no further difficulty in reaching the valley. Not long after we had gone into camp, and commenced our survey again, visitors began to come into the valley. Several gentlemen from San Francisco visited our camp, one of whom I remember was the Rev. Doctor Spier, of the Chinese Mission, in San Francisco. Mr. Peterson had, upon my solicitation, “roded up” to the level of the Pohona Fall, and made as accurate an estimate of the probable height of El Capitan as could be done without the aid of his transit. Mr. Peterson was therefore able to enlighten some of the gentlemen from “the Bay,” as to the approximate height of El Capitan and other prominent objects. Mr. Peterson afterwards made more accurate measurements of heights.
I have no doubt that the four gentlemen referred to as living in the valley, noticed in the note on page 18, in “Whitney’s Yosemite Guide Book,” were of our party, who had notified the public of their claim and intention to make that their residence. The house erected, however, was never honored with a roof, and the material of which it was composed, soon disappeared, after we ceased to occupy it. The difficulties developed by our survey, disheartened the claimants. The claim rights, as well as the claim shanty were alike abandoned.
The first white woman that ever visited the Yosemite was a Madame Gautier, the housekeeper at the Franklin House, Mariposa. A few days afterwards Mrs. Johnny Neil, of Mariposa, and Mrs. Thompson, of Sherlocks, came up. Their courage and endurance should certainly be made a matter of record. The next ladies to visit the place were of the party with Mr. Denman, of “Denman’s High School,” in San Francisco. After this it ceased to be a novelty to see ladies in the Yosemite. Mr. Denman published an account of his trip. His communication was a well written and instructive article. It was the first description that gave the public any definite idea of the magnitude of the scenery, or any accuracy of measurements of the heights of the cliffs and water-falls. I was present when Mr. Peterson gave to Mr. Denman the results of his observations, and consequent estimate of heights. I was amused at Mr. Denman’s expressions of surprise, and his anxious but polite inquiries of Mr. Peterson if he was sure his angles had been correctly marked. Peterson colored slightly at the doubt implied of his professional skill, but with unusual politeness and apparent cheerfulness offered to make a re-survey of El Capitan or any other prominent cliff that Mr. Denman would select for measurement.
The offer was quickly accepted, and a new determination of several points of interest were made.
From the notes taken, each of the gentlemen computed the heights.
Mr. Peterson soon figured up the result of his work, and patiently awaited the result of Mr. Denman’, before he announced his own.
After figuring for sometime, Mr. Denman expressed a belief that he had made a grand mistake somewhere in his calculations, for he had made the result more than the previous estimates and above all seeming probabilities. They then compared figures and found but little difference in their heights. Mr. Denman again worked up the notes, and was convinced of their correctness and reported his conclusions in his descriptions.
The first house erected in the valley for the accommodation of visitors was commenced in 1856, by Mr. Walworth and Mr. Hite. It was made of “boards” rived out of pine logs. The site was that of our old camp-ground of 1851, or a little above it, and nearly opposite the Yosemite Fall.
The next season a blue canvas-covered building was put up just above. In 1858, Mr. Beardsley joined with Mr. Hite, and erected a wooden house. This was afterwards kept by Mr. Peck, Mr. Longhurst, and after 1864, by Mr. Hutchings. Other accommodations for the public were also opened, a popular one of which was a house kept by G. F. Leidig, known to tourists as Leidig’s Hotel.” The first permanent resident, was J. C. Lamon, who made a claim in the upper part of the valley in 1860, and who occupied it both summer and winter for many years. The other residents in the valley only remaining during the season of tourists visits. Before hotel accommodations were provided for the public, visitors to the valley carried with them camp equipage and supplies according to the necessities and inclinations of the parties interested.
In order to dispense with a retinue of camp followers, and the expense of numerous employees, the duties of camp life were ordinarily divided among the party, without regard to wealth, rank, or station in life. It was usually made a point of honor, to at least try to share in the necessary laborious requirements of their associates; although the various duties were not always assigned to the capacity of the individual, or to his adaptation to the position. The blunders were as often sources of amusement, as serious inconveniences. As illustration, I will narrate an incident with a party of excursionists in those early days.
By invitation, I met and accompanied a party from San Francisco on a visit to the Yosemite. The gentlemen composing the party, were Mr. Thomas Ayers, Mr. Forbes, of the firm of Forbes & Babcock agents of Pacific Mail S.S. Co.; Mr. Holladay, of same company; Mr. Easton, of San Francisco, and Col. Riply, of the Commodore Perry expedition, who, I believe, afterwards became General Riply, Chief of Ordinance, U.S.A. Mr. Ayers was the artist who accompanied Mr. Hutchings on his first visit to the valley. He was the first to sketch any of the scenery of the Yosemite. He was afterwards employed in sketching by the Harpers, of New York. While so employed, he was lost off the Farrilones Islands by the capsizing of the schooner “Laura Beven.” Mr. Ayers was a gentleman in feeling and manners. His ingenuity and adaptability to circumstances, with his uniform kindness and good nature, made him the very soul of the party.
This party spent several days in the valley. On the last day, it was proposed to have a grand dinner. To make the event a memorable one, it was decided that each one should have a representative dish of his own individual preparation. We had a plentiful supply of canned meats, fruits, etc., but it was proposed that our bill of fare should consist of game and fish. Trout, grouse and quail, were then tolerably abundant. To guard against a possibility of failure to supply a full variety, Colonel Riply volunteered to provide a dish of beans of his own cooking, which he thought he was prepared to furnish. The cooking of beans was theoretically familiar to him, the Colonel said, from having frequently observed the process among his soldiers. He admitted that, practically, he had never tested the theory, but he felt confident that he would not disgrace his position as a soldier in the cooking of such a prominent army dish. From my knowledge of their haunts, it was assigned to me to provide the game, while Messrs. Easton, Ayers and Holladay, engaged to supply the spread with trout. Mr. Forbes engaged to perform the duty of supplying wood and water,—a very important office, he claimed, the very foundation of all our endeavors. I left the Colonel busy on his part of the programme, and soon acquired a liberal supply of grouse and quail.
As I came into camp from my hunt, my nostrils were saluted with the smell of burnt beans. Mr. Forbes had supplied the fire most liberally, and was resting from his labors to the windward. I removed the kettle and inquired for the Colonel. Mr. Forbes replied that “Col. Riply went down where the fishermen are engaged, and has been gone an hour or more; no doubt he has forgotten his beans.” I hastened to repair damages as far as I was able by removing those not scorched from off the burnt ones. After scouring the kettle with sand, I succeeded in getting them over a slow fire before Col. Riply returned. He soon came hurriedly into camp, and after taking a look at his cookery, pronounced them all right, but said he had almost forgotten that he was on duty as cook.
Observing that he was about to charge the kettle with an undue proportion of salt pork, I again saved the beans, this time from petrifaction, by remarking that their delicacy would be enhanced by parboiling the pork.
With my guardianship, the Colonel’s dish was brought on to the board in a very good condition for eating, and all united in bestowing upon him unstinted praise for providing so palatable an addition to our feast. Col. Riply regretted that he had not provided more, but explained by saying that he had supposed they would swell more while cooking.
The secret of the burnt beans, was known to all the others, but was kept inviolate from the Colonel. He was unconscious of the joke, and bestowed more attention on this standard New England dish than he did upon the delicious trout and game. Our dinner was finished in bumpers to Colonel Riply as chef de cuisine.
During the survey of the year, in addition to measurements, we gave some attention to the geological features of the country we were passing over. We found that the cañon below the Yosemite is about six miles long, and so filled with vast granite bowlders and talus, that it is impossible for any but the agile and sure-footed to pass safely through. The river has to be crossed and recrossed so many times, by jumping from bowlder to bowlder, where the water goes whirling and dashing between—that if the rocks be moss-grown or slimy, as they may be outside of continuous current—one’s life is endangered. During our survey through this cañon, in the month of November, 1855, we failed to get through in one day on our preliminary survey, and were compelled to camp without food or blankets, only sheltered from a storm—half snow, half rain—by an overhanging rock. The pelting mountain storm put out our fires, as it swept down the cañon, and baffled all our attempts to kindle a new flame.
The fall through the cañon is so great, that none but the largest bowlders remain in the current. Some of these immense rocks are so piled, one upon another, as to make falls of nearly one hundred feet. The fall for the entire distance is about fifteen hundred feet. Notwithstanding the fall is so great in so short a distance, advantage may be taken of the configuration of the walls on either side to construct a railroad up through the cañon into the valley, upon a grade and trestle, that may be made practicable. This will, of course, cost money, but it will probably be done. By tunneling the divide and spanning the South Fork with a bridge, a narrow-gauge road could very readily be built that would avoid the necessity of going entirely through the cañon. This could be accomplished most economically by trestling over the talus—at a favorable point—high enough to obtain and preserve a suitable grade, until the sloping mountains below can be reached, when the line can be run without difficulty to the most favorable point of crossing the divide and the South Fork.
The obstructions from snow, encountered in a winter trip to the valley, would by this route, be entirely avoided. Beside, the distance would be somewhat lessened. By rail and stage it is now about 225 miles from San Francisco.
After emerging from the cañon, with its precipitous granite cliffs and water falls, the entire character of the river’s bed and banks are changed. The cliffs have now all disappeared with the granite, and although the steep high mountain divides encroach hard upon the river; high bars or low flats continue on down to the mouth of the South Fork on one side or the other, and then the flats rise higher to the plains.
The fall of the Merced river from the foot of the cañon to the valley of the San Joaquin, averages about thirty-five feet to the mile as estimated by Mr. Peterson.
The outcroppings from the rocky divides below the cañon, are porphyritic, metamorphic, and trappean rocks, silicious limestone, gneiss, green stone, quartz and several varieties of slate. At a point on the left bank of the Merced, near the plain, there is an outcropping of very good limestone, and it is also found, at one point in the Yosemite.
The quartz lodes drained by the Merced river, especially those of Marble Springs, Gentry’s gulch and Maxwells creek, bore a good reputation in early days; and as the drainage may be made complete, no difficulty in working them need be encountered. In some cases, the more prominent lodes, maintain their general direction and thickness (seldom richness) on both sides of the Merced; as, for instance, the celebrated Carson vein. This vein outcrops at the Peña Blanca, near Coultersville, and again south of the Merced river, on a spur running down from Mount Bullion. Here the vein is known as the Johnson Lode, and is divided into the Pine Tree and Josephine sections. These were made famous as the subject of a legal dispute, and were occupied by opposing and armed forces in the interest of “The Merced Mining Company,” on the one side, and Col. Fremont and his associates on the other.
This lode was discovered in the winter of 1850‘-51, by a progressive Virginia liberal, named B. F. Johnson, familiarly known as “Quartz Johnson.”
His discoveries led to the investment of millions of capital in mining enterprises, and if the share-holders of Mariposa Stock have not yet realized upon their investments, it cannot be for want of material; but, I must return to my subject. After having completed the survey of this year, 1856, and having interests at Marble Springs, I joined with George W. Coulter, of Coultersville, and other citizens in constructing what became known as “The Coultersville Free Trail.” We thought the scheme advisable, but the “general public” thought the trail a little too progressive for the wants of Coultersville, and the burden of construction was left to be borne by a few. I never realized any return from this investment. This trail was well located, and considering the amount expended, a comparatively easy one, for the trip to and from the valley was made with comfortable ease.
The trail completed this year by the Mann brothers required greater labor, and was not as good a route, but the views of the Yosemite from their trail, were the best. The Mann brothers did not find theirs a paying investment. They never realized their expenditures, and eventually sold the trail at a loss.
In locating the Coultersville trail, little or no aid was afforded me by the Indian trails that existed at that time; for horses had not seemingly been taken into the valley on the north side, and the foot trails used by the Indians left no traces in the loose granite soil of the higher ridges, but what were soon obliterated by the wash from the melting snow. Where trails were found, they had been purposely run over ground impassable to horses, and they were, consequently, unavailable for our use. Through liberal aid from the “Empire State Mining Company,” located at their quartz lode near the Marble Springs, Mr. Barton and myself had built a wagon road from Coultersville to Bull Creek. This road afforded a good commencement for the Yosemite trail.
The first encampment reached after leaving Bull creek, was “Deer Flat,” so named by us from having startled a small drove, as we went into camp here. One of the deer was shot, and afforded an addition to our camp supplies.
The next camp named was “Hazel Green,” from the number of hazel bushes growing near a beautiful little meadow.
Our next move was to “Crane Flat.” This name was suggested by the shrill and startling cry of some sand-hill cranes we surprised as they were resting on this elevated table. Going from this camp, we came to what I finally called “Tamarack Flat,” although the appealing looks of the grizzlies we met on their way through this pass to the Tuolumne, caused me to hesitate before deciding upon the final baptism; the Grizzlies did not stay to urge any claim, and being affectionately drawn to the trees, we named the camp “Tamarack Flat.” From this flat I blazed out two trails, the lower one for early, the upper for later use; as from this point the snow remains upon the upper trail until quite late; and although much nearer, the snow renders it difficult to travel in the early part of the season. From “Tamarack Flat” to the edge of the valley is but little more than three miles. The whole distance from Coultersville being 41 1/2 miles as stated by Prof. Whitney.
With but little fatigue to one accustomed to the saddle, the trip down to Coultersville or to Mariposa was made in a day.
The wagon roads now opened, are calculated to avoid the deep snow that delays the use of higher trails, or roads, until later in the season; but one traveling by these routes, loses some of the grandest views to be had of the High Sierras and western ranges of hills and mountains; on the old Coultersville Trail, or by way of the old Mariposa Trail. In winter or early spring, in order to avoid the snow, visitors are compelled to take the route of the lowest altitude. The route by Hite’s cove is called but thirty-two miles from Mariposa to the valley; while that by Clark’, on the South Fork, has been usually rated at about forty-two miles. Where the time can be spared, I would suggest that what is called “the round trip” be made; that is, go by one route and return by another; and a “Grand Round” trip will include a visit to the “High Sierra:” going by one divide and returning by another.
As to guides and accommodating hosts, there will always be found a sufficient number to meet the increasing wants of the public, and the enterprise of these gentlemen will suggest a ready means of becoming acquainted with their visitors. Soon, no doubt, a railroad will be laid into the valley, and when the “iron horse” shall have ridden over all present obstacles, a new starting point for summer tourists will be built up in the Yosemite; that the robust lovers of nature may view the divine creations that will have been lost to view in a Pullman. The exercise incident to a summer lounge in the “High Sierras,” will restore one’s vigor, and present new views to the eyes of the curious; while those with less time or strength at their disposal, will content themselves with the beauties and pleasures of the valley.
The passes and peaks named in Prof. Whitney’s guide-book are only the more prominent ones; for turn the eyes along the course of the Sierra Nevada in a northerly or southerly direction at the head of Tuolumne, Merced, San Joaquin, King’, Kah-we-ah or Kern rivers, and almost countless peaks will be seen, little inferior in altitude to those noted in his table.
The highest of these peaks, Mount Whitney, is, according to Prof. Whitney, at least 200 feet higher than any measured in the Rocky Mountains by the topographers of the Hayden survey. A writer in the Virginia (Nevada) Enterprise says: “Whitney stands a lordly creation amid a rugged and grand company of companion peaks, for his nearest neighbor, Mount Tyndall, rises 14,386 feet, and Mount Kah-we-ah, but a few miles off, is 14,000 feet.” Whitney affords “the widest horizon in America; a dome of blue, immeasurable, vast sweeps of desert lowlands, range on range of mighty mountains, grand and eloquent; grace, strength, expansion, depth, breadth, height, all blended in one grand and awful picture. And as the eye takes in these features, a sense of soaring fills the mind, and one seems a part of the very heavens whose lofty places he pierces. The breadth and compass of the world grows upon the mind as the mighty distances flow in upon the view like waves of the sea. * * * * The best that can be said or written but suggests; the eye alone can lead the mind up to a true conception of so mighty and marvelous a group of wonders.”
It is true that one standing upon the dividing ridges of the Rio Grande, Arkansas, Colorado or Platte, is charmed by the views presented of far reaching plains and noble mountains, but it is doubtful if any one view can be found in North America so grand and thrillingly sublime as may be seen in the Sierra Nevadas. The scenery of the Yellow Stone and of the Colorado Cañon have characteristic wonders that are sui generis; but those localities are not desirable for continuous occupation.
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