Abbildungen der Seite

partly due to its being a nearly regular cone, but much of it depends on the intrinsic grandeur of a mountain standing lonely on the plain, full sixty miles in cincture, and in stature nearly eighteen thousand feet. We came back from our expedition with an abundance of venison, a number of interesting color-studies, and memories of California scenery surpassed only by the Yo-Semite. We had struggled through miles of chaparral, after which no abatis that I ever saw on the Potomac would have been any discouragement to us, provided only we had the same wonderful horses. To get some idea of this peculiarly Californian institution as we encountered it, imagine a sidehill which would have given the best horse a hard pull, even had it been bare of undergrowth, and set this hill as thick as it will hold with manzanita and burr-oak : the former, as its name implies, like a little apple-tree, only more viciously gnarled, leathery, and complicated in its boughs than the most picturesque old russet in a New England orchard, and ramifying at once from the root without any main trunk; the latter, an oak-bush of the same general characteristics, having its swarming acorn-cups covered with spikes like the chestnut. When these have interlocked with each other till the earth is invisible and the whole tract has become a lattice of springes and pitfalls, push a horse through it three miles up a slope of forty-five degrees, the breast-high twigs scourging him at every step ; and if you get out, as we did, without a fall or a broken leg to either man or beast, you will not only have acquired a just idea of the California chaparral, but an admiration for the California horse which will last you to your dying day. To repay us for this struggle, we had found one lake lying in a picturesque gorge, only twice before visited by white men; while my artist comrade, always the most indefatigable explorer of every party we were in together, climbed with his color-box to still another lake, of which he was the first discoverer, and whose lovely lineaments he preserved in one of the best studies of our trip. Besides these results of our expedition, we brought away the satisfaction of having leaped our horses across the Sacramento River. Where it flowed at the bottom of one deep ravine we had to traverse, it was a foot deep and ten feet wide. The twig which cracked under my horse's hoof, and fell into the stream as he sprang over, a month hence might be dashing about in the scud under the foot of some Pacific whaler, or, still further off in time, drift into the harbor of Hong Kong. Rivers always seem to me like the nerves of Nature: there is no conductor of thought and impression like that little silver thread which leads out from the ganglion of a deep forest spring, to spread, many leagues off, upon the sensory surface of the Oceanic World. In an earlier chapter I spoke of the mighty emotions which came thronging on me at the heads of the Platte and the Colorado: I felt them only less powerfully when my horse jumped across the Sacramento's birthplace. After a good day's rest at Sisson's, we bade the capital fellow and his excellent wife a good-by which had more regret in it than we ever felt before for comrades of a single week's standing, and resumed our northward journey. The country continued thickly wooded for nearly twenty miles from Strawberry, and the forest trail

was every now and then drowned out of sight by streams rushing from the snow of Shasta. . When we emerged from the timber, we found ourselves on a plain opening widely to the north between diverging ridges, and scattered here and there with black scoriae like the slag of a furnace. In some places an attempt had been made to mend the road with lava; and as it crunched under our horses' hoofs we could almost imagine ourselves making the circuit of Vesuvius, so evident was it from the look and feel of things that Pluto has at no very remote period boiled his dinnerpot on the hob of Shasta Peak. The day was fine, — the air more bracing than we had found since leaving the Yo-Semite. Our week of comparative rest at Sisson's had brought our horses into splendid condition for the road; both we and they were boiling over with animal spirits; and it was still early in the afternoon when we rode the fortieth mile of our way into Yreka, on the full gallop. I need not say that we had made other arrangements than our pommels for the transportation of our heavy baggage to the next place where we should need it. Sisson, always full of resources, had taken . good care of that for us both. Neither to the traveller nor the raconteur is Yreka a place to linger in. It consists of one long street, with a tolerable brick hotel at one end, and a kennel of straggling houses swarming with Chinese of ill odor and worse repute at the other, — intersected by half a dozen lanes, devoted principally to stables, gambling-shops, and liquor dens. I only quote the language of all the inhabitants whom I conversed with, when I say that such glory as it once held among the northern mining-towns has entirely de

parted from it. The discovery of the Boisé and JohnDay mines to the far northeast has attracted away all the principal gold seekers who once dug and panned in the vicinity; and if there ever was a place which had nothing intrinsic to fall back upon, it is Yreka. We were glad to leave it after one night's rest. The day we evacuated it was atmospherically the most glorious that we enjoyed upon our whole trip. The air had a golden look, as if it not merely transmitted, but were stained with sunshine. The sky was spotless, the weather as warm as our mid-June, but without the least languor. The landscape was that broad plain I have mentioned, with Shasta on its verge, intersected by low rolling ridges, and broken by the cones of extinct volcanic spiracles, sometimes grouped, but oftener isolated. Shasta himself seemed to have gained rather than lost in majesty by our forty and now steadily increasing miles of distance. Either from atmospheric effect, or because we now saw a new and more irregular portion of his crown, the snow upon it became opalescent to a degree which I have never seen surpassed by any such effect. The light reflected from it seemed to gleam like a softened flame deep down beneath some pearly medium, rather than any rebound of sunlight from a surface. The rugged hillocks between which we rode were bare and craggy at their tops, but all about their base, and far down into the plain, grew abundance of a plant wonderfully like the heather in its size as well as in the shape and color of its blossoms. Broad, exquisitely claret-tinted streaks and patches of this lovely thing softened the landscape everywhere. We seemed to be travelling in a beautiful confusion of Nature, where the Scottish Highlands had got together under a California sky with the Roman Campagna. Throughout this sweet desolation reigned a visible and audible quiet which made our horses' hoofs seem noisy. Between Yreka and the Klamath River — a narrow, rapid stream, recalling some portions of the Housatonic, which we intersected about noon, and along which we rode for an hour—we met only two or three silent horsemen and as many eremetic woodchoppers. Turning north from the Klamath, we dined at a miserable settlement called Cottonwood, around which for miles in every direction departed gold hunters had burrowed till the ground was a honey-comb, or more properly a last year's hornets' nest, since there was no sign of honey in the cells, and, from what a most dejected native told us of the yield, never had been any to speak of Leaving dreary Cottonwood with even greater pleasure than we had felt in abandoning Yreka, we began ascending the slope toward the Oregon line. At every mile the country grew lovelier. California seemed determined to make our last impressions of her tender. The bare, brown rocks became densely wooded with oaks and evergreens. Late in the afternoon we came to broad meadows of such refreshing deep-green grass as we had not seen before since we left the rich farming lands of the Atlantic side, and the level golden bars which lay on them between forest edges made us homesick with memories of peaceful Eastern lawns at sunset. After crossing several miles of such meadows, and the quiet brooks which ran through them, we traversed a number of strange low ridges, undulating in systematic rhythm, like a mountain-chain making a series of false starts

« ZurückWeiter »