Abbildungen der Seite

Immediately about Fort Bridger a small surface had been put under cultivation for the partial supply of residents at the Post, and in some directions evergreen wood was plenty; but on entering the Wahsatch, we again came into a region of gray round hills having no vegetation but the artemisia and grease wood. The night was a magnificent one. The full moon was in a cloudless sky; the air was perfectly still, and although abundantly cold, to show us that we were still at a mountainous altitude, not to compare in this respect with that of the ridges we had hitherto passed at night. I had by this time acquired the habit of going without sleep (one much easier than that of sleeping bent into an ampersand); so I abandoned the inside to companions accomplished in that performance, and, having lost at some stagechanging station the guy-rope apparatus by which I had lashed myself to the wagon-top in former times of miserable sleepiness, at once selected the one practicable method of entertaining myself, and got into conversation with the driver. The only scenery was that congeries of ashen-hued hills I have mentioned, whose formation could be accounted for by a lively imagination on the hypothesis that when this part of the world was in a liquid, or, more strictly, in a lathery condition, some Titan school-boy had put his pipe-bowl into the basin, and blown the contents up into a mass of contiguous bubbles. If these bubbles had been iridescent like those of our childhood, the reflection of that gorgeous full moon on them to-night would have been worth seeing; but their gray monotone and constantly repeated figure made this landscape the drowsiest on our journey.

The sun was well up when we reached Bear River (the first of the Salt Lake tributaries), striking it about thirty miles north of its head, where it is a substantial stream of forty or fifty yards in breadth, with less than the average rapidity of mountain currents, of a somewhat muddy tinge, and cradled by the same round hills of gray sage as those which we had been threading all night. Here we took breakfast. I long ago concluded not to bore my readers with gastronomic comments, unless the subject deserved animadversion by unusual excellence or absolute atrocity. The Bear River breakfast does not belong to the first class of subjects; a recent good dinner has made me magnanimous toward the errors of my race, so I spare Bear River. We were now ninety-two miles from Salt Lake City. Bear River, at this point, lies in the trough between the first and second ridges of the Wahsatch Range. Immediately after crossing the river by a substantial wooden bridge, we began to ascend a bald mountain, which rose, as I estimated, from twelve to fifteen hundred feet above the bed of the stream, and which . compelled us, for the horses' sake, to dismount and walk. I must not omit to say that our load had been increased at Bear River by three soldiers of a California regiment stationed at Salt Lake City. These constituted part of the detail for Overland Mail protection, furnished by General Connor, commandant at the Mormon city, and afterwards, as he well deserved, and as an instance of unusual government perspicuity, at the head of the expedition sent out for a final ending of all our Indian troubles. Our gallant preservers were a noble set of men, but (I say it neither in sorrow nor in anger) they took up room. We knew that although the present area of greatest peril to our

scalps lay on the other side of Salt Lake City, extending over a little less than three hundred miles of desert, there had been, at various times, terrible massacres on this side of the Wahsatch also ; yet our intellects, prevented by long cramping and distortion of their fleshly receptacle, lacked the equanimity for a just striking of the balance between death by scalping and the same disaster more slowly effected by squeezing. I fear we were not grateful. I know that I myself wished the detail belonged to the Cavalry arm of our service. But the brave fellows were very patient with us, and sat as nearly sideways as could be expected of the class whose prime aphorism is “Eyes front l” In a state of semi-somnambulism we all got out, and effected the ascent of the first grade from Bear River on foot. Even the sleepiest of us was rewarded when he reached the top, and stood still to wait for the panting beasts we had distanced, and was obliged in candor to own that the view from this height to the opposite ridge and along the slender creeping line of the Bear was abundantly worth the fatigue of walking to obtain it. About noon we entered that famous gallery of the Wahsatch, the first of an intercommunicating series which lead by easy grades entirely through the range and down to Salt Lake City– Echo Cañon. The series is one of the most magnificent avenues by which Nature has ever supplemented human art or challenged it to hopeless contest. To wring from Nature such an avenue and right of way between two tracts divided in their physical geography by a heaven-high barrier a hundred miles thick, would have cost man at least a century of the most enlightened skill and the most industrious labor. Therefore, as if she felt sympathy with those social and commercial currents which seek to mingle grandly over the whole world, she gives man the pass of the Wahsatch, free as air. The Echo Cañon is a cleft through the range, about ten miles long and of varying width, sometimes opening laterally into valleys or recesses a mile broad, often contracting to a mere alley-way of twenty or thirty yards across. It has a main southwesterly trend, and at its bottom runs the little creek named after it, a small mountain rivulet fed partly by springs and partly by such slender tricklings as reach it from the distant snows. The walls of the cañon are everywhere precipitous, and in the narrowest defiles quite perpendicular, frequently rising to a height of ten or twelve hundred feet. These are mostly of a brilliant red sandstone, and their effect on a sunshiny day is like that of masses of carbuncle. Echo Cañon must obviously have received its name from an echo, though neither by experiment nor asking could I discover one sufficiently remarkable to have given its name to such a magnificent work of Nature. Its grandeur fortunately makes it of no importance whether this subsidiary clap-trap be well based or not. Another source of its reputation exists in Brigham's preparation to fortify it, several years ago, when, to appease a sudden access of anti-Mormonism at the East, Government (or rumor for it) proposed to send an expedition against Salt Lake City, and break up the entire Mormon settlement. Fortunately that act of folly was not committed, although a still worse one was. The Mormons were not attacked, but a body of United States troops were subsisted at enormous expense at Camp Floyd (well named after a thief and spendthrift of the people's money), a place thirty-nine miles from the Mormon city, and having no single advantage as a strategic or commercial post, except its possession of a well not too brackish to drink of. These unfortunate troops were called an army of observation, probably because they must have built an observatory, and used a telescope, to see any Mormons at all. The distance was not, however, too great for the interchange of courtesies on the part of the chief men of either side, nor for the daily visit of enterprising commercial saints with something to sell. General Johnson, in accordance with the orders of the venerable imbecile at the head of affairs, acted as the leader of a nice, well-behaved little army should, and never gave the saints any offense. To revive a joke invented for the benefit of another military quietist: It seems a shame to attack him ; he never attacked anybody. So he stayed there, until from being an eye-sore to the more irritable Mormons, he became a laughing-stock to all of them. He is a good joke among them to this day. The crows laugh at a scarecrow they have detected; how much heartier would they laugh if they could sell him his own grain at one hundred per cent. over the market, or, to stretch the metaphor, his own beeves at the same rate The narrow defile which Brigham selected to fortify before he knew his invaders, is a very Thermopylae. Its bare red walls rise to a height of fifteen hundred feet in a sheer perpendicular. An army of the size of Johnson's could have been decoyed into this defile (its narrowest part is no wider than Broadway at Union Square), and there put to death at the pleasure of their foes. Brigham's idea was to shower them

« ZurückWeiter »