September 9. Weariness rested
away and I feel eager and ready for another excursion a month or two long in
the same wonderful wilderness. Now, however, I must turn toward the
lowlands, praying and hoping Heaven will shove me back again.
The most telling thing
learned in these mountain excursions is the influence of cleavage joints on
the features sculptured from the general mass of the range. Evidently the
denudation has been enormous, while the inevitable outcome is subtle
balanced beauty. Comprehended in general views, the features of the wildest
landscape seem to be as harmoniously related as the features of a human
face. Indeed, they look human and radiate spiritual beauty, divine thought,
however covered and concealed by rock and snow.
Mr. Delaney has hardly had
time to ask me how I enjoyed my trip, though he has facilitated and
encouraged my plans all summer, and declares I'll be famous some day, a kind
guess that seems strange and incredible to a wandering wilderness-lover with
never a thought or dream of fame while humbly trying to trace and learn and
enjoy Nature's lessons.
The camp stuff is now packed
on the horses, and the flock is headed for the home ranch. Away we go, down
through the pines, leaving the lovely lawn where we have camped so long. I
wonder if I'll ever see it again. The sod is so tough and close it is
scarcely at all injured by the sheep. Fortunately they are not fond of silky
glacier meadow grass. The day is perfectly clear, not a cloud or the
faintest hint of a cloud is visible, and there is no wind. I wonder if in
all the world, at a height of nine thousand feet, weather so steadily,
faithfully calm and bright and hospitable may anywhere else be found. We are
going away fearing destructive storms, though it is difficult to conceive
weather changes so great.
Though the water is now low
in the river, the usual difficulty occurred in getting the flock across it.
Every sheep seemed to be invincibly determined to die any sort of dry death
rather than wet its feet. Carlo has learned the sheep business as perfectly
as the best shepherd, and it is interesting to watch his intelligent efforts
to push or frighten the silly creatures into the water. They had to be
fairly crowded and shoved over the bank; and when at last one crossed
because it could not push its way back, the whole flock suddenly plunged in
headlong together, as if the river was the only desirable part of the world.
Aside from mere money profit one would rather herd wolves than sheep. As
soon as they clambered up the opposite bank, they began baaing and feeding
as if nothing unusual had happened. We crossed the meadows and drove slowly
up the south rim of the valley through the same woods I had passed on my way
to Cathedral Peak, and camped for the night by the side of a small pond on
top of the big lateral moraine.
September 10. In the morning
at daybreak not one of the two thousand sheep was in sight. Examining the
tracks, we discovered that they had been scattered, perhaps by a bear. In a
few hours all were found and gathered into one flock again. Had fine view of
a deer. How graceful and perfect in every way it seemed as compared with the
silly, dusty, tousled sheep! From the high ground hereabouts had another
grand view to the northward — a heaving, swelling sea of domes and
round-backed ridges fringed with pines, and bounded by innumerable
sharp-pointed peaks, gray and barren-looking, though so full of beautiful
life. Another day of the calm, cloudless kind, purple in the morning and
evening. The evening glow has been very marked for the last two or three
weeks. Perhaps the "zodiacal light."
September 11. Cloudless.
Slight frost. Calm. Fairly started downhill, and now are camped at the west
end meadows of Lake Tenaya — a charming place. Lake smooth as glass,
mirroring its miles of glacier-polished pavements and bold mountain walls.
Find aster still in flower. Here is about the upper limit of the dwarf form
of the goldcup oak, — eight thousand feet above sea-level, — reaching about
two thousand feet higher than the California black oak (Quercus Californica).
Lovely evening, the lake reflections after dark marvelously impressive.
September 12. Cloudless day,
all pure sun-gold. Among the magnificent silver firs once more, within two
miles of the brink of Yosemite, at the famous Portuguese bear camp.
Chaparral of goldcup oak, manzanita, and ceanothus abundant hereabouts,
wanting about the Tuolumne meadows, although the elevation is but little
higher there. The two-leaved pine, though far more abundant about the
Tuolumne meadow region, reaches its greatest size on stream-sides hereabouts
and around meadows that are rather boggy. All the best dry ground is taken
by the magnificent silver fir, which here reaches its greatest size and
forms a well-defined belt. A glorious tree. Have fine bed of its boughs
September 13. Camp this
evening at Yosemite Creek, close to the stream, on a little sand flat near
our old camp-ground. The vegetation is already brown and yellow and dry; the
creek almost dry also. The slender form of the two-leaved pine on its banks
is, I think, the handsomest I have anywhere seen. It might easily pass at
first sight for a distinct species, though surely only a variety (Murrayana),
due to crowded and rapid growth on good soil. The yellow pine is as
variable, or perhaps more so. The form here and a thousand feet higher, on
crumbling rocks, is broad branching, with closely furrowed, reddish bark,
large cones, and long leaves. It is one of the hardiest of pines, and has
wonderful vitality. The tassels of long, stout needles shining silvery in
the sun, when the -wind is blowing them all in the same direction, is one of
the most splendid spectacles these glorious Sierra forests have to show.
This variety of Pinus ponderosa is regarded as a distinct species, Pinus
Jeffreyi, by some botanists. The basin of this famous Yosemite stream is
extremely rocky, — seems fairly to be paved with domes like a street with
big cobblestones. I wonder if I shall ever be allowed to explore it. It
draws me so strongly, I would make any sacrifice to try to read its lessons.
I thank God for this glimpse of it. The charms of these mountains are beyond
all common reason, unexplainable and mysterious as life itself.
September 14. Nearly all day
in magnificent fir forest, the top branches laden with superb erect gray
cones shining with beads of pure balsam. The squirrels are cutting them off
at a great rate. Bump, bump, I hear them falling, soon to be gathered and
stored for winter bread. Those that chance to be left by the industrious
harvesters drop the scales and bracts when fully ripe, and it is fine to see
the purple-winged seeds flying in swirling, merry-looking flocks seeking
their fortunes. The bole and dead limbs of nearly every tree in the main
forest-belt are ornamented by conspicuous tufts and strips of a yellow
Camped for the night at
Cascade Creek, near the Mono Trail crossing. Manzanita berries now ripe.
Cloudiness to-day about .10. The sunset very rich, flaming purple and
crimson showing gloriously through the aisles of the woods.
September 15. The weather
pure gold, cloudiness about .05, white cirrus fleets and pencilings around
the horizon. Move two or three miles and camp at Tamarack Flat. Wandering in
the woods here back of the pines which bound the meadows, I found very noble
specimens of the magnificent silver fir, the tallest about two hundred and
forty feet high and five feet in diameter four feet from the ground.
September 16. Crawled slowly
four or five miles to-day through the glorious forest to Crane Flat, where
we are camped for the night. The forests we so admired in summer seem still
more beautiful and sublime in this mellow autumn light. Lovely starry night,
the tall, spiring tree-tops relieved in jet black against the sky. I linger
by the fire, loath to go to bed.
September 17. Left camp
early. Ran over the Tuolumne divide and down a few miles to a grove of
sequoias that I had heard of, directed by the Don. They occupy an area of
perhaps less than a hundred acres. Some of the trees are noble, colossal old
giants, surrounded by magnificent sugar pines and Douglas spruces. The
perfect specimens not burned or broken are singularly regular and
symmetrical, though not at all conventional, showing infinite variety in
general unity and harmony; the noble shafts with rich purplish brown fluted
bark, free of limbs for one hundred and fifty feet or so, ornamented here
and .there with leafy rosettes; main branches of the oldest trees very
large, crooked and rugged, zig-zagging stiffly outward seemingly lawless,
yet unexpectedly stooping just at the right distance from the trunk and
dissolving in dense bossy masses of branchlets, thus making a regular though
greatly varied outline, — a cylinder of leafy, outbulging spray masses,
terminating in a noble dome, that may be recognized while yet far off
upheaved against the sky above the dark bed of pines and firs and spruces,
the king of all conifers, not only in size but in sublime majesty of
behavior and port. I found a black, charred stump about thirty feet in
diameter and eighty or ninety feet high — a venerable, impressive old
monument of a tree that in its prime may have been the monarch of the grove;
seedlings and saplings growing up here and there, thrifty and hopeful,
giving no hint of the dying out of the species. Not any unfavorable change
of climate, but only fire, threatens the existence of these noblest of God's
trees. Sorry I was not able to get a count of the old monument's annual
Camp this evening at Hazel
Green, on the broad back of the dividing ridge near our old camp-ground when
we were on the way up the mountains in the spring. This ridge has the finest
sugar-pine groves and finest manzanita and ceanothus thickets I have yet
found on all this wonderful summer journey.
September 18. Made a long
descent on the south side of the divide to Brown's Flat, the grand forests
now left above us, though the sugar pine still flourishes fairly well, and
with the yellow pine, libocedrus, and Douglas spruce, makes forests that
would be considered most wonderful in any other part of the world.
The Indians here, with great
concern, pointed to an old garden patch on the flat and told us to keep away
from it. Perhaps some of their tribe are buried here.
September 19. Camped this
evening at Smith's Mill, on the first broad mountain bench or plateau
reached in ascending the range, where pines grow large enough for good
lumber. Here wheat, apples, peaches, and grapes grow, and we were treated to
wine and apples. The wine I didn't like, but Mr. Delaney and the Indian
driver and the shepherd seemed to think the stuff divine. Compared to
sparkling Sierra water fresh from the heavens, it seemed a dull, muddy,
stupid drink. But the apples, best of fruits, how delicious they were — fit
for gods or men.
On the way down from Brown's
Flat we stopped at Bower Cave, and I spent an hour in it — one of the most
novel and interesting of all Nature's underground mansions. Plenty of
sunlight pours into it through the leaves of the four maple trees growing in
its mouth, illuminating its clear, calm pool and marble chambers, — a
charming place, ravishingly beautiful, but the accessible parts of the walls
sadly disfigured with names of vandals.
September 20. The weather
still golden and calm, but hot. We are now in the foot-hills, and all the
conifers are left behind except the gray Sabine pine. Camped at the Dutch
Boy's Ranch, where there are extensive barley fields now showing nothing
save dusty stubble.
September 21. A terribly hot,
dusty, sunburned day, and as nothing was to be gained by loitering where the
flock could find nothing to eat save thorny twigs and chaparral, we made a
long drive, and before sundown reached the home ranch on the yellow San
September 22. The sheep were
let out of the corral one by one, this morning, and counted, and strange to
say, after all their adventurous wanderings in bewildering rocks and brush
and streams, scattered by bears, poisoned by azalea, kalmia, alkali, all are
accounted for. Of the two thousand and fifty that left the corral in the
spring lean and weak, two thousand and twenty-five have returned fat and
strong. The losses are: ten killed by bears, one by a rattlesnake, one that
had to be killed after it had broken its leg on a boulder slope, and one
that ran away in blind terror on being accidentally separated from the
flock, — thirteen all told. Of the other twelve doomed never to return,
three were sold to ranchmen and nine were made camp mutton.
Here ends my forever
memorable first High Sierra excursion. I have crossed the Range of Light,
surely the brightest and best of all the Lord has built; and rejoicing in
its glory, I gladly, gratefully, hopefully pray I may see it again.