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of "The Bridal Veil" is one of the few successes in fantastic nomenclature; for, to one viewing it in profile, its snowy sheet, broken into the filmy silver lace of spray, and falling quite free of the brow of the precipice, might well seem the veil worn by the earth at her granite wedding,—no commemorator of any fifty years' bagatelle like the golden one, but crowning the one millionth anniversary of her nuptials.
On either side of Po-ho-n6 the sky-line of the precipice is magnificently varied. The fall itself cuts a deep gorge into the crown of the battlement. On the southwest border of the fall stands a noblv bold,
but nameless rock, three thousand feet in height. Near by is Sentinel Rock, a solitary truncate pinnacle, towering to thirty-three hundred feet. A little further are "Eleachas," or " The Three Brothers," flush with the front surface of the precipice, but their upper posterior bounding-planes tilted in three tiers, which reach a height of thirty-four hundred and fifty feet.
One of the loveliest places in the Valley is the shore of Lake Ah-wi-yah, — a crystal pond of several acres in extent, fed by the north fork of the valley stream, and lying right at the mouth of the narrow strait between the North and South Domes. By this tranquil water we pitched our third camp, and when the rising sun began to shine through the mighty cleft before us, the play of color and chiaroscuro on its rugged walls was something for which an artist apt to oversleep himself might well have sat up all the night. No such precaution was needed by ourselves. Painters, sages, and gentlemen at large, all turned out by dawn; for the studies were grander, the grouse and quail plentier, and the butterflies more gorgeous than we found in any other portion of the Valley. After passing the great cleft eastward, I found the river more enchanting at every step. I was obliged to penetrate in this direction entirely on foot, — clambering between squared blocks of granite dislodged from the wall beneath the North Dome, any one of which might have been excavated into a commodious church, and discovering, for the pains cost by a reconnoissance of five miles, some of the loveliest shady stretches of singing water and some of the finest minor waterfalls in our American scenery.
Our last camp was pitched among the crags and forests behind the South Dome,—where the Middle Fork descends through two successive waterfalls, which, in apparent breadth and volume, far surpass Cho-looke, while the loftiest is nearly as high as Poho-n6. About three miles west of the Domes, the south wall of the Valley is interrupted by a deep canon leading in a nearly southeast direction. Through this canon comes the Middle Fork, and along its banks lies our course to the great " Pi-wi-ack" (senselessly Englished as "Vernal ") and the Nevada Falls. For three miles from our camp, opposite the Yo-Semite Fall, the canon is threaded by a trail practicable for horses. At its termination we dismounted, sent back our animals, and, strapping their loads upon our own shoulders, struck nearly eastward by a path only less rugged than the trackless crags around us. In some places we were compelled to squeeze sideways through a narrow crevice in the rocks, at imminent danger to our burden of blankets and camp-kettles; in others we became quadrupedal, scrambling up acclivities with which the bald main precipice had made but slight compromise. But for our light marching order,— our only dress being knee-boots, hunting-shirt, and trousers,—it would have been next to impossible to reach our goal at all.
But none of us 'regretted pouring sweat or strained sinews, when, at the end of our last terrible climb, we stood upon the oozy sod which is brightened into eternal emerald by the spray of Pi-wi-ack. Far below our slippery standing steeply sloped the walls of the ragged chasm down which the snowy river charges roaring after its first headlong plunge; an eternal rainbow flung its shimmering arch across the mighty cauldron at the base of the fall; and straight before us in one unbroken leap came down Pi-wi-ack from a granite shelf nearly four hundred feet in height and sixty feet in perfectly horizontal width. Some enterprising speculator, who has since ceased to take the original seventy-five cents' toll, a few years ago built a substantial set of rude ladders against the perpendicular wall over which Pi-wi-ack rushes. We found it still standing,' and climbed the dizzy height in a shower of spray, so close to the edge of the fall that we could almost wet our hands in its rim. Once at the top, we found that Nature had been as accommodating to the sight-see"r as man himself; for the ledge we landed on was a perfect breastwork, built from the receding precipices on either side of the canon to the very crown of the cataract. The weakest nerves need not have trembled, when once within the parapet, on the smooth, flat rampart, and looking down into the tremendous boiling chasm whence we had just climbed.
Above Pi-wi-ack the river runs for a mile at the bottom of a granite cradle, sloping upward from it on each side at an angle of about forty-five degrees, in great tabular masses slippery as ice, without a crevice in them for thirty yards at a stretch where even the scraggiest manzanita may catch hold and grow. This tilted formation, broken here and there by spots of scanty alluvium and stunted pines, continues upward till it intersects the posterior cone of the South Dome on one side and a colossal castellated precipice on the other, — creating thus the very typical landscape of sublime desolation. The shining barrenness of these rocks, and the utter nakedness of that vast glittering dome which hollows the heavens beyond them, cannot be conveyed by any metaphor to a reader knowing only the wood-crowned slopes of the Alleghany chain.
Climbing between the stunted pines and giant blocks along the stream's immediate margin,—getting glimpses here and there of the snowy fretwork of churned water which laced the higher rocks, and the black whirls which spun in the deep pits of the roaring bed beneath us,—we came at last to the base of " Yo-wi-ye," or Nevada Fall.
This is the most voluminous, and next to Pi-wi-ack, perhaps, the most beautiful of the Yo-Semite cataracts. Its beauty is partly owing to the surrounding rugged grandeur which contrasts it, partly to ita great height (eight hundred feet) and surpassing volume, but mainly to its' exquisite and unusual shape. It falls from a precipice the highest portion of whose face is as smoothly perpendicular as the wall overleapt by Pi-wi-ack; but invisibly beneath its snowy flood a ledge slants sideways from the cliff about a hundred feet below the crown of the fall, and at an angle of about thirty degrees from the plumbline. Over this ledge the water is deflected upon one side, and spread like a half-open fan to the width of nearly two hundred feet.
At the base of Yo-wi-ye we seem standing in a culde-sac of Nature's grandest labyrinth. Look where we will, impregnable battlements hem us in. We gaze at the sky from the bottom of a savage granite barathrum, whence there is no escape but return through the chinks and over the crags of an oldworld convulsion. We are at the end of the stupendous series of Yo-Semite effects; eight hundred feet above us, could we climb there, we should find the silent causes of power. There lie the broad, still pools that hold the reserved affluence of the snowpeaks; thence might we see, glittering like diamond lances in the sun, the eternal snow-peaks themselves. But these would still be as far above us as we stood below Yo-wi-ye on the lowest valley bottom whence we came. Even from Inspiration Point, where our trail first struck the battlement, we could see far beyond the Valley to the rising sun, towering mightily above Tis-sa-ack herself, the everlasting snow forehead of Castle Rock, his crown's serrated edge cutting the sky at the topmost height of the Sierra. We had spoken of reaching him,—of holding converse with the King of all the Giants. This whole weary way have we toiled since then, — and we know better now. Have we endured all these pains only to learn still deeper life's saddest lesson,—"Climb forever, and there is still an Inaccessible?"
Wetting our faces with the melted treasure of Nature's topmost treasure-house, Yo-wi-ye answers us, ere we turn back from the Yo-Semite's last precipice toward the haunts of men : —'
"Ye who cannot go to the Highest, lo, the Highest comes down to you!"