Page images

It was our intention to breakfast at a station outlines. There are tall mountains which imdue north of Mono Lake, and distant about fif- peratively command attention. To the northteen miles from Bodie. The grade of the road west is Castle Peak. It belies its name when was in our favor most of the way, the horses viewed from the east. We could see no towers. were in fine condition, and we bowled along at It rises bodily to the hight of thirteen thousand a lively gait. For a few miles the scenery was feet, but has no unusual contour. Tracing the tame and devoid of interest. The road wound range south, Mount Lyell, Mount Dana, and about hills of volcanic rock, principally trachyt- Cathedral Peak are easily distinguished from ic lava, which was black, or of a rusty brown the numerous lesser elevations. Mount Dana color, and looked as if the life had been burned pushes nearest to the sky. The altitude of this out of it. Scattered over the hills were low, peak is thirteen thousand two hundred and scraggy nut-pine trees, so twisted and dwarfed

twenty-seven feet, and its pinnacle is seven as to excite special sympathy. These scrub thousand feet higher than Mono Lake. The pine trees are very independent. Give one a peaks named, and others of minor note, are crevice for a beginning, and it will overcome all tipped with snow, and patches of snow, reobstacles. Sympathy appears to be wasted on sembling fragments of frosting from a wedding the nut-pines, after all. Yet they look lone- cake, cling to the broad sides of the mountains, some and forlorn enough at times.

far below the pinnacles, and stubbornly resist Our course drew us toward Mono Lake, and the summer sun. The lake in the foreground, once we were within two miles of its northern

with its volcanic suggestiveness, and a chain of shore. The lake is most striking when seen extinct volcanoes, with truncated cones, a few from a distance. The chemical properties of miles to the south, made a lasting impression the water give the surface a glassy smoothness. on my mind.

The lake and volcanoes told of The rugged, rocky islands rise from their aque- a convulsion of nature which must have been ous setting like huge cameos, and terminate in sublimely terrible to leave these lasting evijagged peaks. The great expanse of water ex- dences of its work. tends fourteen miles east and west, and nine Professor Whitney, who critically examined miles north and south. The country imme- the volcanoes south of the lake, furnishes the diately north and east of the lake shows no tim- following statement in his Geology of the Sierra ber belts, and seems, at first glance, an arid Nevada: The highest of the volcanoes was waste. Closer inspection develops elongated ascended, and its sides found to be covered patches of green north of the lake, which, in with loose ashes, lying at as steep an angle as some instances, are continuous for miles, and the material would allow, mixed with fragments seemingly reach the lake shore. These intrud- of volcanic rock of various kinds, especially of ing patches, or panels, are ranches beside the trachyte. The broad top was found to be of a streams fowing from the mountains to the lake. light gray trachyte, with about twelve sharp West of the lake are black lines of timber, knobs rising around the outside, apparently which extend far into the mountains. Above the remains of the lip of the ancient crater. the timber the mountains are naked, until the Obsidian and pumice are abundant on the top caps or mantles of snow are reached. There and sides of the cone and over the plain beis no regularity to the snow-line. One tall peak neath. The soil, or ashes, of all these cones is may show the slightest suspicion of a cap, set intensely dry and pulverulent, so that a man well to one side, and worn rather jauntily, while sinks into it over the ankles at every step; yet a lesser peak will be covered by a mantle of it supports in places a stunted growth of trees spotless white, extending far below the general and shrubs, and even herbaceous plants. It is line of snow. The Sierra Nevada Mountains evident that but little rain ever falls here, as the have a very disorderly look in the Mono Lake sides of these cones are so little washed, the country, and afford many evidences of a topo- material of which they are composed being of graphical spree. The elevations are dissolute. such a character that they could not long reYou see, at a glance, that they have been out tain their present form except in a very dry all night. The peaks crowd each other. It is climate. These cones rise to the hight of from as if each peak were trying to rest on its neigh- nine thousand two hundred to nine thousand bor, and all were experiencing a still, solemn three hundred feet above the level of the sea, drunk. Looking into the crowd of mountains and the highest is about two thousand seven west of the lake one sees every description of hundred and fifty feet above the level of Mono elevation. There are short mountains, stout of Lake." build, and round and full as a well nourished The station where we halted for our morning alderman. There are symmetrical mountains meal consisted of a tent and a small shed. The which arouse admiration by the beauty of their tent was partitioned into three small rooms, one for sleeping purposes, one devoted to cook | bed of the cañon it is a picturesque stream, ing and eating, and the third and last, though shadowed by tall trees and mountain shrubnot the least important, contained a rude coun- bery, often divided by huge granite bowlders, ter, a barrel of whisky, a tumbler, and a bench. and rich in the music of rushing waters. Where The station people were two in number. First the course is clear, the creek hurries forward in order was a buxom woman, on the shady with the gentlest murmur. Rocky obstructions side of forty, whose ruddy cheeks, numerously and the prostrate trunks of trees induce a ceasedimpled chin, and general amplitude of person less roar, mingled with splashing, and force the contrasted favorably with the barren country waters into a mass of foam. In places, inabout the place. Second, and decidedly sub- deed, it is a passionate mountain torrent, and ordinate, was a man, the husband of our host- presents a dangerous aspect to the intending ess, who promptly complied with the pointed forder. After leaving the cañon, and in its pasrequests of his superior officer. Joe had said sage over the open plain to Mono Lake, it is it was a nice station to patronize, especially as quiet and decorous. The entrance to Mill it was the only one on the road, but he had also Creek Cañon shows glacial action in interestremarked that the bouncing and blooming fe- | ing and instructive forms. On the north side of male in command possessed a leading charac- the cañon, and at its very mouth, is a perfect teristic of her sex, in that she was not averse to terminal moraine, from which more or less débris homage from the men. Joe had traveled the has been washed out on the plain by later acroad before, and knew whereof he spoke. The tion. This moraine'is best described as a long, delicate task of dispensing honeyed words fell low, though clearly defined, mound, crescentic to me. Joe held that compliments from a stran- in shape—the snout, as it were, pointing toward ger always had the greatest weight with the la- the plain. Its length is apparently three thoudies. I naturally deferred to his judgment, ex- sand feet, and its greatest width three hundred perience, and years. We asked for something feet. On the south side of the cañon, and at to eat, and the good woman said that she had an altitude of fifteen hundred feet above the nothing to offer us but bacon. I threw out a level of Mono Lake, are two lateral moraines, guarded compliment to the scenery in that lying parallel to and within a short distance of neighborhood as a feeler. In a moment pota- each other, which are as perfect in their way as toes were found. I spoke of the tasteful ar- the terminal moraine. The lateral moraines rangement of the tent interior, ascribed the are two thousand feet long and two hundred pictorial decorations to her rare but truly fem- and fifty feet wide. They lie on the side of a inine appreciation of art, and finished my offer-mountain, and have a north and south course. ing with a really bright and witty saying I had And between the westernmost moraine and the heard in the Bohemian Club Rooms at San peak of the mountain is a large glacial valley. Francisco. The effect was magical. Eggs, Above the latter moraines the mountain side is milk, butter, coffee, and canned fruits were pro- torn and twisted. Here it was that the glacier duced in bountiful profusion. It was such a clear expired. Here was the final struggle. The case of cause and effect that I began to feel a path of the glacier is traced for miles into the slight alarm. I feared that our amiable hostess range. The glacial debris and eroded rocks, and would try to delay our departure until she had the basined lakes of Mill Creek Cañon clearly ice-cream or a sybaritic luxury to offer. So we show the line of movement. Professor Joseph paid our bill—a ridiculously reasonable charge, Le Conte has studied the glacial ruins on the by the way—and ordered our team to the door. eastern slope of the Sierra to good purpose, As we were starting, our fair and flustered en- though his reports, so far as I have observed, tertainer said, in reply to a farewell remark, do not relate to this particular locality. Ante“Oh, yes, gentlemen, it is lonesome way out rior to the discovery of gold on Mill Creek, the here, especially for us. We have known better cañon, being distant from routes of mountain days. We once kept a beer saloon in Reno." | travel, was a terra incognita. And then she sighed, the good old soul, and we Our road led us to the north side of Mill

Creek, and involved fording. The stream had We passed by the old Mono and Dogtown a width of twenty feet, was about three feet Diggings, once rich and profitable, but long deep, and ran like a mill-race. We placed our since abandoned, and in two hours were at the feet on the dash-board, above the reach of the entrance of Mill Creek Cañon. The cañon is raging torrent, and dashed across in safety. in Homer Mining District. It cuts the main | There is exhilaration in fording this creek. range at right angles. Mill Creek is formed by There is also cool dampness. This dampness cascades and rivulets falling from the snow-clad reached the seat of the buckboard, and evoked mountains at the head of the cañon. In the I from Joe a frontier exclamation befitting the

rode away.


occasion. The road is in the bed of the cañon, | ing prospector, who had tired of "herding a and so near the creek that the sound of the mov- stove”- i. e., sitting about the fire in a baring waters is seldom absent. As we rode along room-determined to locate a town-site for the cañon, on an easy grade, its walls rose high- himself. So he slipped off on his snow-shoes, er, and were more precipitous. Trachyte was and worked his way up the cañon to a spot he succeeded by bands of micaceous granite. This deemed favorable for a thriving town. Stakes granite was destined to give way to the meta- were procured, and before night he had a town morphic granite adjoining a belt of diorite. In laid out on the snow. The depth of the snow the metamorphic granite and diorite the gold was thirty feet. Local report says that several ore is found. The pine, cedar, fir, and tamarack of the lots were sold. I cannot vouch for the trees became more abundant. The rocks were sale. But it is a fact that the spring thaw left more rugged. The scenery was wilder. The the town - site in the air. The cañon narrowed mountain faces were seamed and furrowed, and to a point at the bottom. This narrative is reinspired veneration. A flood of sunshine poured lated with great unction by the people of Hointo the cañon and glorified its beauty. The I heard it several times during my visit, soft air, laden with the bracing odor of the bal- and as some one had stated the particulars in samic pine, the ceaseless sound of the rushing Bodie, and Joe had given me a detailed acwaters, and the countless charms of countless count of the same matter during our ride, the views, stimulated our enthusiasm to the utmost novelty of the whole business came to be tension. Every stride of progress revealed fresh charming toward the last. and striking features in the landscape. The We pushed forward, over a rough and rocky mountainous walls of the cañon were ever show- road, by a mountain swamp, through a mounting new profiles, new stratifications, and new ain meadow, and into the camp of Wasson. colors. Four miles from the entrance of the Lundy and Wasson are a mile apart. Each cañon, we reached Lundy Lake. It occupies a has its advantages and disadvantages, and both glacial basin the full width of the cañon. The are ambitious. Neither has a graveyard, though creek flows into the lake from the west and out Lundy has already been the scene of one or two of it on the east. Lundy Lake is a gem of the fatal discussions. The tradition is said to be Sierra Nevada. Though less than half a mile popular among miners that the pistol and knife wide, and only one mile long, it has a distinct advertise a camp, and are powerful promoters ive character never known in mere ponds. The of mining development, and they are also cred. maximum depth of the lake is said to be two ited with the belief that no camp can attain a hundred and fifty feet. The deep channel is on healthy state of activity without a graveyard. the north side, and far below the road winding | I trust that Homer will have little use for gravearound the mountain. With varying depths, yards. I hold the courtesy and hospitality of the the tints on the surface change. The crystal people in grateful remembrance. Among the water is light blue where shallow, dark blue more pretentious residences in Wasson is that of where deeper. At the point of greatest depth Mr. C. H. Nye, who accompanied Homer in his it is a jet black. Stately trees encompass the early prospecting expeditions in this section. lake at present. But the woodman is ruthless. Mr. Nye is directing hydraulic operations in Picturesqueness is a luxury which he cannot al- the bed of the cañon, and is confident of sucways afford. Tall, straight trees represent so much lumber to him. So down come the trees. A short distance beyond Wasson we drew up Some have come down; others are coming. the team on a rocky bench, and abandoned He has his eye on them.

ourselves to the view. On either side the After a brief halt at the lake, we rode on. cañon the cleft range rises boldly to hights Pine, fir, and cedar trees were more frequent, varying from two thousand to three thousand and increased in size. Groves of mountain feet. Each mountain face is stained, and scaraspen also bordered the road. Near the west-red, and channeled. The discoloration of the ern shore of the lake is the mining camp of rocky surface imparts an antique appearance to Lundy. It consists of a few brand-new cabins, the mountains. Without the seams, the scars, and is supposed to have a future. The charac- and the stains, the scene could not reach its ter of that future remains to be determined. I hoary grandeur. The signs of age are all eshazard no prediction. The site is in a grove of sential. They invest the towering rocks with a noble trees, and has many other attractions. tangible sentiment. Striping the mountains, At this stage of developments it is impossible in a northerly and southerly course, are ledges to give the position of Homer's leading mining of gold-bearing ore. These ledges, or the croptown. There is a wide difference of opinion on pings thereof, are followed, with the eye, up the subject. One day last winter an enterpris- | each side of the cañon, from the line of the float


rock, bordering the creek, to the apparent sum- more than exhausted, and then rode down the mits of the mountains. The cañon is a mining cañon to the Homer mill-site, which is eight cross-cut worthy of old Dame Nature. But thousand four hundred and fifty feet above the practical views and impressions are speedily sea level. The creek is too strong for fording in dispelled by grander sights. Whirling through the vicinity of the site, and has been bridged. narrow gorges about the head of the cañon are We crossed the bridge, and headed our mules up cascades rivaling, in flawless beauty, the tower- a crazy trail on the south side of the cañon. The ing snow-capped peaks. Two long and prom- trail winds through a gorge, several hundred inent cascades arrest attention as the chief feat- feet wide, which we crossed and recrossed conures of the spectacle. We hear no rush of the stantly in making the ascent. It was like tackwaters. At first glance the cascades look like ing against a sharp head-wind. Still there was serpentine bands of crumpled snow. The scene no monotony in the trip. Joe was chipper, and is suggestive rather than satisfying.

We see

cheery, and full of anecdote. He told how sevthe Promised Land, but are not there. We eral animals had fallen from the trail to the bothurry forward, exchange our team for a couple | tom of the cañon, and in other ways contributed of trusty riding mules, and soon gain a knobby to the cheerfulness of the occasion. The trail ridge which fairly commands the cascades. is worn through loose float rock, and has a The ridge abuts against the wall on the north width of six inches. The mules did not mind side of the cañon. Old and gnarled trees, sole the narrowness of the trail. They leisurely survivors of a grove of mountain monarchs, walked to one side of the gorge, sniffed the shade us from the searching sunlight, and the overhanging rock, gathered their feet in a bunch, drooping branches are rustic frames for many like the trick horse in a circus, turned slowly gorgeous vistas. Dashing down the lofty and and deliberately around, and walked off on a precipitous mountain which walls the cañon on new tack. The angle of the gorge for the first the west, and following a sinuous channel in the thousand feet is thirty-two degrees. The tunnorth-west corner of the cañon, is a foamy tor- nel of the Homer Mining Company is in this rent, now a fall, and again a cascade, which is gorge, entering the mountain one thousand and continuous in its series of falls and cascades, fifty feet above the level of the creek directly for a distance of four thousand feet, and has a below. The southern boundary line of the descent of two thousand feet. For one thousand Homer mine, on the summit of the mountains, feet the angle is not less than seventy degrees. has an altitude of eleven thousand three hunThe volume of water in this cascade is eight dred feet above the sea level, and is two thouhundred miner's inches. Such is the North sand eight hundred and fifty feet above the Fork of Mill Creek. It seems to issue from a level of the mill-site. Near the mouth of the crevice in the rocks. Its real source is a chain Homer Company's tunnel is the canvas tent of lakelets far back in the mountains. North which sheltered the employés of the corporation and south of the North Fork are minor cas- last winter. The situation is airy and has a cades—threads of silver winding down to the good view. These are its sole recommendamain creek. In the southwest corner of the tions. After a general examination of the surcañon is the Mill Creek Cascade. The main face rock, which entailed hard scrambling, and source of Main Creek is a chain of lakelets eight a walk through the tunnel, drifts, and crossthousand feet west of, and two thousand feet cuts, we seated ourselves on the dump, and above, the point in the cañon where the junc- were content to remain quiet for a while. From tion with the North Fork is accomplished. this hight the features of the cañon bed were Eight thousand feet of cascade and fall! A seen in miniature. It was like looking through continuous line of sparkling foam! It whirls an inverted opera-glass. Men were dwarfed hither and thither, plunges over the face of a into specks, tall trees became low shrubs, and precipice, dashes through the rocks, but is foam the houses were proportionately insignificant. from the time it leaves the lakelets till it disap- During our brief interval of rest a prospector pears in the cañon bed. The flow of water in drew nigh, with his jackass, and came to a halt. the main fall is three thousand miner's inches. The mining prospector has been the hero of

We viewed the cascades from other positions song and story since the days of less recent of vantage, and never knew a feeling of weari- California. Romance demands him, and he alThese grand works of nature,

ways takes the form required by the exigencies

of the plot. He stands on a lofty eminence, “With grace divine imbued,

and is the central figure in a grand scene. His Bring to their sweetness no satiety."

soul is stirred to its inmost depths. The noWe lingered around the cascades for some bility of his nature asserts itself. He is inspired. hours, and until the time at our disposal was The wanton breezes play with his curly locks,


and ever and anon caress his marble brow. He | tained the same feeling for all jacks that he did speaks not. He is posed to represent an apo- for one or two, or a select few. Every jack who theosis of mankind. He stands there, in the was not ugly or ill bred was liable to have story, a very god.

friends and admirers. Some jacks, like some Our visiting prospector was not of the ro- individuals, never were appreciated. A good mantic class. He was low of stature, rough in deal, of course, depended upon the society in dress, smoked a short and very black pipe, and which a jack was thrown. That sick jack, that spoke with a strong brogue. He stood beside diminutive creature, climbed up the face of a the neatest little jackass I ever saw-a perfect precipice with a pack, weighing two hundred love of a jackass, to borrow a society phrase, and fifty pounds, on his back. He was both with coquettish ears, soft, dreamy eyes, and handsome and good. He never strayed from fawn-colored hair. The prospector had a griev- a camp, and left his owner in the lurch. On ance. He was verbally consigning himself to the contrary, he always kept a close watch on the place Bob Ingersoll pronounces a myth. his master's movements. “Ivery night,” conAnd all because of the jackass. He swore tinued the prospector, now thoroughly enthuscopiously, not at the animal, but in its behalf. ed, "he comes to me siveral times, whin I'm The animal listened patiently, attentively, and shlaping, and sniffs me blankets to see if I'm with apparent appreciation. When the man gone or no. He's the nicest baste in the woruld, paused for want of breath, the animal waved and me frind.” The prospector left us, and other an ear or two, and blinked. He was such a subjects came up for discussion. Still, it was mite of a jackass, and his ears were so long and a long time before I could dismiss the jack from ponderous that the movement of an ear to and my mind. I could not help thinking of the fro was a compliment not to be lightly consid- place he occupied in his master's affections. I ered. It transpired that the prospector and his wondered if the feeling was reciprocated bepack animal were just returning from a trip tween master and jack. And then I mused which had been curtailed by the sudden illness upon the multitude of jackasses who do not of “Moriarity.” “Moriarity” was the jack. know when they are well off. “Moriarity" had presumably eaten an assayer's Lake Cañon is the second natural cross-cut outfit. Nothing weaker than acid could have of Homer District. It opens from the south given “Moriarity” such a bad case of colic. At side of Mill Creek Cañon near Lundy, and has all events, “Moriarity” was a very sick jack. a north-easterly and south-westerly course. It Never was jack nursed more tenderly. Delicate is smaller than Mill Creek Cañon, but of equal attentions were lavished upon him. He was importance as a mining proposition. The south coddled, and fondled, and a dose of medicine fork of Mill Creek, a chain of lakes, and a caswas administered. He voiced no protest. He cade, descending almost vertically a distance had no complaint to make. But he could not of seven hundred feet, are among the scenic conceal his anguish. His broad, intelligent effects of Lake Cañon. Mining in the Lake face was wrinkled, his eyes were fireless, and Cañon section has reached a high altitude, he was unsteady of limb. His sweet patience higher than the Homer. The croppings of the was inexhaustible. As I gazed on him I was May Lundy mine are eleven thousand three impelled to the reflection that "the shallow hundred and thirty-five feet above the sea level, murmur, but the deep are dumb.” “Moriarity" and the tunnel of the May Lundy Mining Comwas finally tucked away in an improvised bed. pany is only two hundred and eighty feet lower. There are so many ordinary jacks in the world Several other companies are at work near the that a superior jack is not very soon forgotten. May Lundy, and with flattering prospects. The The warm attachment existing between “Mo- gold of the Homer District mines is rich and riarity” and his owner aroused my curiosity. clean. Bodie gold is really an electrum of gold I had witnessed the noble fortitude of the jack and silver. Homer gold is the genuine article. under trying circumstances. Hence a desire to It is the gold that lured the argonauts to Calilearn something of his history. I asked the fornia. The proportion of silver in Homer gold prospector a few questions, judiciously prefac- is one dollar in seventy-five. The great hight ing my inquiries with a few complimentary re- and precipitousness of the Homer Mountains marks about jackasses in general, and his own will not interfere with the development of the in particular. He agreed with me that people mines. The tunnel system of works facilitates could grow very fond of these animals. I do exploration. Mill Creek Cañon, where most of not give his exact words. His ideas serve the the milling will be performed, is from seven purpose. He proceeded to say that one could hundred to eight hundred feet lower than Bonot learn to love a jackass unless a close inti- die, is accessible by an easy grade, and abounds macy existed between the two. No man enter- l in timber and water. With the aid of tram

« PreviousContinue »