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scape, though it occurs previously at intervals all the way from Denver, and other wormwoods abound on the Plains much further east. The sage rises from a tough gnarled root in a number of spiral shoots which finally twist together into a single trunk, varying in circumference from six inches to two feet, and tenacious as a hawser. The leaves of the plant are gray, woolly, and crisp, with a strong offensive smell, resembling true sage. From Camp Halleck to the Wasatch, almost the only vegetable life not distinctly arborescent greets the traveller's eye in the shape of limitless wastes abandoned to this scrubby sage, and the equally scrubby but somewhat greener "greasewood." For long stages between the high timbered snow-ridges, the only resource for fuel on which the emigrant can rely while following the Rocky Mountain trail, is this pair of dry, resinous shrubs; and they burn so freely as to be a great improvement on the method of boiling his kettle over dry buffalo droppings, which he was compelled to adopt on some level stretches of the Plains.
Where the sage was lacking, the plateau to which we had climbed from Camp Halleck was a mere clean skeleton of the world. Telescopes reveal to us a very similar tract in the moon, and geology takes us back to a time when the earth was all thus. I think that the man who stands where we rode on the 24th of June, need never be without a tolerably correct idea of the azoic period, nor use a glass to see the Lunar Desert. We might have been visiting this sphere by some magical anachronism before the first river flowed, or sea felt tidal fluctuation; when as yet there had been neither Ganoid, nor Euripterus, nor Trilobite. When we descended into a depression
of the plateau, there was nothing but pure rock between us and the horizon. Vast stones lay heaped up into pyramids as if they had been rained from the sky. Cubical masses, each covering an acre of surface and rising to a perpendicular height of thirty or forty feet, appeared in strange series about a rude square, irresistibly suggesting the buttresses of some gigantic palace or prison whose superstructure had crumbled away with the race of its Titanic builders. The most remarkable instance of geologic record which I ever saw or heard of, occurred in a vast rectangular pile of altered red sandstone, which we encountered on this tract. It was a mass nearly the eighth of a mile in circuit, and stood nearly four-square to the height of a hundred feet or more above a basin of waterwashed pebbles. It was a pile as entirely isolated as the dome of SL Peter's, yet on its eastern face it bore the unmistakable signs of having once formed the wall of a mighty cataract. Its upper horizontal edge was channeled in polished grooves; its face was broken into ledges, and the angles of these worn again to curves; there were pot-holes on the top of the 'rock, and gravel strewn with boulders lining the conical basin at its foot; in fact, to one standing on the eastern side of the rock, there appeared every condition requisite for a Niagara, except the water. That was nowhere within sight or credibility. A- poet might have fancied that he heard it; that it was an in-, visible fall, a ghost of some Old World torrent which roared gently as 'twere any sucking dove to the vulgar, but had rhythm and thunder for the ears which can hear the spheres sing. To scientific eyes it was Buch a wonder as the Niagara precipice might be if a cube of its present mass were cut away from the rest of the world on the American and Canada side and at the upper end of Goat Island, the surrounding country leveled to the plane of the lower river, and the water led by some far distant channel to the St. Lawrence. The man who, ten centuries afterward, looked on the scarred dry precipice resulting from such a process, beheld the deep furrows of the brink, counted the slippery shelves beneath it, yet heard no voice of water break the desert silence, would experience some such sensation as I did on beholding that Rocky Mountain stone-pile. Where did the water come from? Where were the successive terraces, where the cradling canon by which the mighty freshets hurled themselves down from the snows to grind this silex into sand or crack it into ledges? To leap this wall with the force recorded, the water must have descended a succession of steep grades towering far above the precipice. Every vestige of such formations has been moved out of the way by some colossal agency, and one might as well look for a cataract from the roof of a house. Yet here stands the unanswerable record,—a witness which has survived cataclysm,—a monument, compared with which the Pyra-' mids were things of yesterday, to a cataract whose very bed had departed, like its vapor, from the face of the modern world.
Another curious formation of this plateau was an uplift of trap-rock in the neighborhood of the sandstone cataract, taking the form of a colossal steamship, much keeled to leeward, and rising the crest of a lofty billow of sandstone. At the distance of forty yards, the illusion was absolutely startling. We could see a handsome clean cut-water, a clipper bow, a mainmast broken off short at the cross-trees, a battered funnel, a hatch with its cover and combings, a pilothouse and a bowsprit, with a fragment of the jibboom. Everything was made out with such mimetic distinctness that we seemed to be looking at some petrifaction where a ship, suddenly transformed to basalt, was foundering in a sea of sandstone.
I have mentioned only the two most important of many remarkable, uplifts, simulating every variety of artificial object that is conceivable of execution in stone. The human face and figure seemed among Nature's most favorite subjects for burlesque. In all the wonderful suggestions of Dora's " Wandering Jew," there is nothing to compare with the frightful stone shapes and faces which occur on this plateau. On a bright sunny day like the one we spent in crassing it, the sensation of the traveller resembles a pleasant nightmare; he feels that if he stayed a night in this wilderness of naked blocks, he would depart mad. The tract is landscape gone demoniacal. Yet even this is weak art compared with the sculptures of trap and sandstone further on toward Salt Lake.
Ten miles of gradual climbing brought us out of this plateau, to another region of rolling ridges, scantily timbered with cedar, and bearing a good crop of gramma grass. We found an occasional rivulet in the valleys, and strips of positive green along its course. Coming out of a quarry whose boundaries comprised a circuit of twenty miles, and whose blocks were hewn large enough to make a cathedral out of each cube, we breathed freer, and welcomed the sight of verdure like a balm. I had never understood before the epic sublimity of that expression, "They shall pray that the mountains may fall on them," nor had I appreciated the horror of that Arabian Nights' talisman which enabled evil magicians to keep their victims under the granite floor of the world. There was not even the piteous relief of moss or lichen,' no sprig of wormwood or cedar, no green lamina of any kind, on all those tremendous buttresses, and slabs, and effigies. The slabs might have been hot tiles on the roof of some impenetrable Dantesque hell; the buttresses waited for another story to the prison which should build itself to heaven; the effigies were devil-sentries guarding the ramparts. No picture can be on a scale sufficiently large to give any idea of the effect produced by these formations on an eye-witness. Almost everybody of Oriental propensities has formed to himself some notion of the way Domdaniel, Vathek, and Aladdin caverns might be expected to look. But if any such person, of however vivid fancy, will pass from the head of the Cache la Poudre to Virginia Dale, without confessing that his most ambitious ideals have been utterly surpassed, and his mind fairly confounded, by the hard realities of trap and sandstone, I will be sure that I have not been modest in estimating other men's imagination by my own.
Between a series of perpendicular sandstone uplifts from two to five hundred feet high, and descending again to another green valley level, we reached Virginia Dale about noon. We had grown so fascinated with the scenery since daybreak that we resolved to leave the stage, and stop over till the next day. I do not know whether I have heretofore more than inferentially mentioned how great a convenience we found the Overland Company's license, always granted their travellers, to lie by whenever and as long as we pleased, without invalidating the contract for through passage.