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quadrilateral which incloses Laramie Plains, following the outer edge of the terraces which bound the level westerly, and reaching the Plains by an eastward return which brings it within a comparatively short distance northerly from the cradle where it sprung.
We now emerged from the gradually terraced dikes, and came to a place where the descent was so precipitous, that sitting on a coach-box one might well feel anxious about tumbling forward on the horses. Our road ran on bare cracked boulders of trap and altered sandstone; threaded black fissures; and slid, with the brake hard on, down slippery stone inclines, just over the edge of whose narrow shelf was a sheer precipice or overhanging wall of trachyte, two or three hundred feet high.
We marked the first appearance of the Platte, far to the south, in the fold of a system of round gray hills, which, as nearly as could be judged from their contour, belonged to that incoherent granite formation weathered into spherical forms, which I mentioned at Virginia Dale. The stream passed out of view to the northeastward, through a precipitous canon of red sandstone, having frequent shelves and hutments which projected several feet from the main wall, and averaging perhaps forty or fifty feet in height from the water-line. Its course traversed nearly the whole of our western horizon, being much of the way distinguishable from our elevation, by glimpses of silvery water or fringes of the always indicative cotton-wood. The round hills which close by at Virginia Dale had seemed, both in form and color, the convolutions of some petrified brain, now softened by distance, and having their gramma and sage-brush lighted by the intensest sun, looked like a flock of Cyclop sheep, whose woolly backs were rounded for slumber as they lay down beside the still waters of the Platte. Each glimpse of those waters the sun was now turning into a pool of silver fire.
Just as we rounded a steep jutting bastion of trap, which threw us a little further towards the outer precipice, I turned away from the beautiful valley view to look upward at those grim crags and terraces, by whose staircase we were descending to the Platte. I had looked just in time, for my point of view was exactly right for the recognition of one of the greatest mimetic wonders I ever saw, even in this most Titanic and Demoniacal country.
The terrace of the Giants' Graveyard, now left behind about five hundred feet above us, was perceived to have an extension far to the southward and westward of the point where we came down from it, until, a mile in front of our present niche, it projected a bold promontory into the valley, beyond the face of the entire remaining precipice, and at least a hundred feet higher. The lower and much the larger part of this promontory was perpendicular, or overhanging; but the upper end of it, for three hundred feet, was weathered into a colossal sculpture, a head and bust of such striking sharpness and vigor, that it seemed almost as impossible that no human artist had had a hand in the work as it was inconceivable how he could have accomplished it.
Behind this promontory, up to the occiput of the sculptured head, ran the wall of a principal trap dike; and further behind, overtopping the wall in a series of ascending towers and bastions, rose a vast pile of the same tremendous cubes, which constituted the foundations of the ruined palaces. It was an easy thing to imagine loopholes in that climbing city of strongholds; to see a spectral flag wave from the highest rampart; to wonder at the structure's grand, simple lines, as if we were criticising some splendid piece of military architecture; to delight in its idea as if Nature shared your humanity.
Braced against the westward wall of this Titanic fortress, and looking across the drowsy flock of hills shepherded by the silver crook of the Platte, — due west across the green oasis which, on the river margin, hundreds of feet below, awaited us with trees, grass, springs, and dinner,— solemn, stern, and saturnine, looked forth the face of John Calvin.
If a sculptor had undertaken to copy in stone the best known likenesses of this noted theologian, the result could not have been a more striking portrait. Any person familiar with the picture, would most instantly have seen it in this head and bust. Even to the traditional Genevese cap, this was the theologian's second self. If Presbyterians ever adopt the usage of a Mecca, this is the site for that Mecca. Here sits the Prophet, bearing witness forever; and his darkened, painful face shows that the Natural Depravity whereof he testified in Geneva, has not gone out of fashion since he left that pulpit. Looking westward, round the globe, he sees plenty to derange his moral liver; and because those rocky lips have no voice to utter warning, he sends it across the valley in a form of stone. From the point where I stood, I could see hardly a place on head, cap, or face, which could have been bettered, as likeness, by a more elaborate bringing out of details. The simulation was perfect, and for nearly half a mile continued so, with varying expressions of wrath or sternness, from every point of view.
Finally emerging from the terrace region, we came out upon the green and shady Platte bottom, which we had seen just below us for the last hour, and stopped at the ferry-station for our dinner.
THE APPROACH TO SALT LAKE CITY.
We crossed the North Platte by an ingenious contrivance which I here saw for the first time, though I cannot but think that some time or other it must have been employed upon many of our narrow Eastern streams, at places too deep and rapid for fording. This is a ferry-boat whose motive power was the current it had to cross. I venture to believe many of my readers as ignorant as I found myself, and endeavor to give some idea of this ingenious contrivance.
A stout post, square-hewn from an entire trunk, about eighteen inches in diameter, is driven firmly into each of the opposite bluffs, and between the two, tautened by a windlass, extends a heavy hempen cable, roven through a pair of lignum-vitae doubleblocks, of sufficient breadth of eye and depth of groove to run without friction and quite independent of each other, from post to post. The lowest sag of the cable, just over midstream, brings it within eight or ten feet of the water-level. So much for the locomotive apparatus.
The ferry-boat is a rough, strongly built scow, with standing room for a four-in-hand team and as many passengers as choose to wedge themselves in between horses and piles of baggage, — a craft apparently of ten or twelve tons burden. At each of its square ends