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I talked with the driver as far as Fort Lupton,—a stockaded rendezvous and trading-post, now abandoned, situated on the east bank of the Platte, about thirty miles from Denver,—and then curled myself up in the front boot, found fortunately empty, to finish the nap interrupted at Latham. Waking after a couple of hours, I found the dawn up before me, and resumed my seat on the box for the last fourteen miles.
A few miles out of Denver the signs of civilization began to thicken fast. The inclosed ranches became more frequent. One island in the Platte had been brought under cultivation, and adorned with a house and garden which would not have shamed a neighborhood of Eastern country seats.
Finally, as we ascended a bill, Denver broke upon us. It was a larger place, in its first impression on me, than I had expected to find. It lay scattered at the bottom and about the slopes of a basin formed by the lowest foot-hills of the Rocky Mountains; and its white dots, relieved against the rich brown of the hills, made a very cheerful contrast. At six o'clock in the morning, we bowled over the rim of the basin, and rattled down to the stage office. At the door of the adjoining Planters' Hotel I met some of our party. They had reached Denver, as we expected, just a day before me, without any unusual accident or adventure.
PIKE'S PEAK AND THE GARDEN OF THE GODS.
In a few days we were so thoroughly rested that we became tired of having nothing to tire us. We proposed to ourselves at least two subordinate trips out of Denver before we should finally leave the place for Salt Lake: the first to Pike's Peak, with the remarkable scenery and geological formations lying between it and Denver; the second to the chief Colorado gold mines and their business nucleus at Central City.
Our kind friends at Denver took such a warm, practical interest in the former of these expeditions, that we had hardly broached its subject when the means of accomplishing it were put at our disposal. Governor Evans very kindly offered us his ambulance, a comfortable vehicle, strongly built, capable of accommodating four persons, and the very thing for our purpose, and a pair of stout serviceable horses, accustomed to territorial travelling. Mr. Pierce was obliging enough not only to pilot our expedition, but to contribute his own horse and buck-board to the service, taking our artist and his color-box beside him on the elastic machine. These two being provided for, Judge Hall occupied the fourth seat in the ambulance with myself and the two other Overlanders; and having abundantly supplied ourselves with food and ammunition, we set out for our seventy miles'journey to the base of Pike's Peak, on the 10th of June, after an early breakfast.
Our road led us out of the southern portion of the town, past the barracks of a detachment of Colorado volunteers, called Camp Weld, in honor of the late secretary, who had resigned in their cause. The camp was a pleasant and orderly one; the fine appearance of the men impressed us all.
There is a lofty divide and wooded table-land, which sheds off Cherry Creek upon the east, and Plum Creek on the west side. This divide terminates in a much larger and loftier one, running nearly east and west from the Rocky Mountain foot-hills, an unmeasured distance into the Plains. It is the opinion of many experienced frontiersmen that the Republican Fork of the Kansas River takes its rise out of the eastern extremity of this divide. When we remember the various masses of Rocky Mountain detritus discovered in our expedition to the buffalo country on the lower portion of the Republican Fork, it certainly seems improbable that the stream rises any further east than this. There are not lacking hunters and trappers who assert that they have drunk from the springs of the Republican on this divide; but there is a long tract to be explored before the connection can be absolutely established. All the attempts which had been made to track up the course of the stream prior to our visit at Denver, had failed on account of the extreme sterility of certain portions of its banks. One train, to which a large reward had been offered for the discovery of a route from the Missouri to Denver along the main Kansas and the Republican, was obliged to turn north and seek the old trail, after having wallowed for days through sand-hills, where the teams could hardly pull their load, and nearly starved for lack of herbage. If the Republican can be proved to take its rise where I have supposed, its course is perhaps the best natural line for that portion of the Pacific Railroad to be run between the main Kansas and Denver. Fewer engineering difficulties would exist on this line than on any other; the finest grazing-land in America would be opened to settlement on the lower portion of the Republican; and the barren land intervening between that and the high divide would offer no such obstacles to a railroad train as to make the route impracticable for cattle.
Our present road led us from Denver to the crown of the smaller divide, and thence along its surface, to its junction with the larger. I must not omit to say that this latter is the watershed between the Platte and Arkansas rivers. It is about half-way between Denver and Colorado City. We proposed to reach it by our first day's journey, getting to Colorado City at the close of the second.
Six miles of pretty level travelling brought us to the ascent of the Plum and Cherry Creek divide. By quite a steep rise we reached the top of the divide, and rested our horses while we enjoyed the scenery. From the foot of our lofty elevation the Plains stretched for a hundred miles to the east and north, to our sight as level as the sea, and still more solitary. Standing where all minor details were lost, we could not see the sail of a single wagon-cover whitening the desolate, billowless main; nor did there peer from it any little islets of green vegetation. It might have been the sea of the Ancient Mariner, and we "the first who ever burst" into its silence. The deception, if you choose to call it so, was quite perfect. But I do not like that word. Nature in her highest moods runs the same idea into several creations. Great things resemble each other. The gods are of one blood, and the sea is like the desert.
A yet grander sight than the dead sea of the Plains invited us on our right. We had risen so far above the Denver basin that the foot-hills shrank out of sight, and the mountains behind the town uncovered themselves boldly to our view. From our position they appeared nearly on a level with us, a fact of perspective which enabled us to separate them into five or six distinct or anastomosing ranges between the level plains and the highest snow-peak. The arcs described by each range so intersected those of the neighboring ranges, that Judge Hall quite aptly compared our view to a herd of travelling dromedaries. Equally happy was another favorite illustration of the judge's, frequently used in his explanations of Colorado geology, in which he compared the unfolding of the several uplifts at our present point of vision to the opening leaves of the peony.
A book on the Rocky Mountains should say something about those mountains, yet I confess that I have deliberated well ere deciding to do so. The description I have given of their first azure blossoming on the sky west of Beaver Creek, is no dreamier than must be a reader's idea of the mountains seen close at hand, after the most vivid description that can be written. In the East there is nothing to illustrate the Rocky Mountains by. With the Rocky Mountains, the Alleghanies and the Taconic have no common terms. Here are none of those delicious, turfy glades, those enameled banks, which beautify the mountains of our Atlantic slope. The landscape is without a single patch of bright green. The