Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

On the whiffletree having been adjusted, we resumed our line of march, turning, in about five miles from Colorado City, between shaggy precipices and thickets of low evergreen, to the cañon of Camp Creek. The character of the uplifts in the mouth of this cañon is even bolder than at the Garden of the Gods. The most remarkable columnar structure that I saw in our whole journey exists here, in an obelisk of the same brilliant natural brick which forms the material of the Gods, rising quite unsupported to the height of about four hundred feet, with a curious swell at its summit which much exceeds in circumference the lower portion of the shaft, and gives the whole structure a look of self-poise and strong insecurity in the face of natural laws, not excelled by the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I was compelled to sketch it for myself, there being so much more artistic work at hand for the artist's pencil; but I could not give with"my black lines an idea of the color, however truthful the drawing in figure. How much is lost by the absence of color, may be conceived by imagining a shaft higher than the loftiest steeple of our metropolitan churches, red as blood from foot to capital, and relieved against dense green rock-pines, bare brown mountains, shining uplifts of the white variety, or the intense blue sky of a Colorado summer.

Behind the obelisk to the west, the cañon entered the mountains between heightening walls of an unrivaled savage beauty, its last glimpse being a lofty gap with serrated edges like a giant's staircase, formed by the great mass of schistose sandstone broken into square blocks. Neither in pictures nor landscape do I remember a more exquisite gradation between foreground and sky than that which led my eye from the tall red obelisk to the glimpse at the top of the cañon. Nothing occurred on the return to Sprague's—our half-way house both going and coming—more important than the shooting of a fine sickle-bill curlew, which was floating over the long sandy dog-plain I have before noticed. The last place where I had held a curlew in my hands was far up the St. John's River, among the tangled yellow jasmines and convolvuli that border Floridian lagoons; and it was a singular sensation to see this bird so far away from all his (to me) familiar haunts. But the curlew is considerable of a cosmopolitan. In regard to this bird we were compelled to acknowledge a fact that often forced itself upon us afterwards. There is no use in attempting to collect such specimens, unless one goes specially provided for the purpose. You cannot satisfy yourself on the vast field between the Missouri and the Pacific by naturalizing merely en amateur. You must set out with something more than an empty box and a piece of arsenical soap. The climate, being antiseptic, is in your favor; but all else is against you. You have no adequate means of packing your skins, and keeping them from vermin; none for transporting them safely, on the wild routes which we travelled, and in the way we were compelled to travel them. Mineral specimens are all that the amateur can be sure of getting home to the States in good order. This vast field of the Central Continent must be beaten by specialists, each provided with his own definite plan, tools, and means of carriage. At the best, he will have to sacrifice much that it is a real pain not to carry away; for his collections accumulate faster than he will ever be able to forward them to the settlements till the Pacific Railroad has opened its great artery from Pike's Peak to the sea. So, despite our arsenical soap, this fine curlew eventually became so much deteriorated that we had regretfully to throw him away. I will not stale these pages by a review of the route between Sprague's and Denver. We took dinner at the Pretty Woman's Ranch, and came down the slope of the Cherry and Plum Creek Divide just after sunset, getting in twilight a magnificent view of fires which were devastating the dense fir and pine growths of the mountain gorges behind Denver. The smoke and heated air from the vast chimneydraughts of the cañons were wafted full in our faces; and the leaping sheets of flame, or their flickering fringe along the forest top, almost crackled in our ears, and added to the evanescent orange of sundown a bloodier, baleful red. It was about nine o'clock in the evening, when, after a ride through a perfect Shaker meeting of jumping hares, we got over the broad plain between the divide and Jim Beckwith's station, skirted the silent Platte lying steel-gray in twilight shadow, whirled past Camp Weld, and came into Denver.

CHAPTER W.
INTO THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.

THE day before our party left Denver finally, was passed by myself in visiting, under Mr. Pierce's guidance, one of the principal coal outcrops thus far discovered in the Territory. For a wonder, our dust was laid by a fine drizzling rain, which lasted the entire day. The ranchman at whose house we stopped to dine, was quite delighted by it. It was doubtless a godsend to his crops; but, aesthetically speaking, Colorado does not look well in a shower. The Plains seem surprised by it. There is none of that bright, thankful receptivity in them which rain meets from every grassy stretch in the East. There is no hope of their laughing back at bounty in a gayer green,--a green like our meadows, growing greener even while you look at it, and the rain still falls. In spite of the drizzle, our blankets and waterproofs kept us perfectly comfortable on Mr. Pierce's buck-board. Sixteen miles of tolerably smooth driving, picked out by ourselves among the undulations of the Plain north of Denver, brought us to what was called “the Mine.” Nobody was working it at present. It was situated on an entered quarter-section, and some uncertainty as to the title retarded its development. Thus far the workings had been limited to a single lateral shaft, running into the face of a low bluff for the distance of thirty or forty yards, and laid with a wooden tramway, upon which were several small cars, still in good order. The coal was instantly recognizable as tertiary, and must have been among the latest lignite formations of that period. The nearest browncoal layers are, I believe, generally referred to the miocene. This I think subsequent to the miocene. The vein was distributed through a bed of friable, bituminous shales and clay. Both the coal and the shales contained perfect impressions of still contemporary plants. We found numerous specimens of leaves from both the common varieties of cottonwood and the swamp-willow; also of an entire plant belonging to the bulrushes. The coal deposit seemed surrounded by the shales mentioned, both above and below. It burns with a brisk flame and fragrant oily smoke, like the English soft coal, but has much less body, and consumes to ashes without coking. We saw enough of it, and heard sufficiently of other like discoveries near by, to be sure that this mineral is abundant about Denver, and may be profitably mined for domestic purposes. I think it not at all improbable that petroleum , will yet be discovered in the Plains of Colorado. Its origin is not yet among the certainties of science; but the only certain fact about it, that it is a result of vegetable decomposition under pressure, makes us look for it in the underdrainage of all such beds as that near Denver. It seems to play the part of molasses to the sugar of coal, comprising the carbon particles which could not be caught out of solution, and brought within the cohesion of the solid form. The underlying calcareous formations of the chalk

« ZurückWeiter »