The Mountains of California eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 313 pages of information about The Mountains of California.

Perhaps no wild animal in the world is without enemies, but highlanders, as a class, have fewer than lowlanders.  The wily panther, slipping and crouching among long grass and bushes, pounces upon the antelope and deer, but seldom crosses the bald, craggy thresholds of the sheep.  Neither can the bears be regarded as enemies; for, though they seek to vary their every-day diet of nuts and berries by an occasional meal of mutton, they prefer to hunt tame and helpless flocks.  Eagles and coyotes, no doubt, capture an unprotected lamb at times, or some unfortunate beset in deep, soft snow, but these cases are little more than accidents.  So, also, a few perish in long-continued snow-storms, though, in all my mountaineering, I have not found more than five or six that seemed to have met their fate in this way.  A little band of three were discovered snow-bound in Bloody Canon a few years ago, and were killed with an ax by mountaineers, who chanced to be crossing the range in winter.

Man is the most dangerous enemy of all, but even from him our brave mountain-dweller has little to fear in the remote solitudes of the High Sierra.  The golden plains of the Sacramento and San Joaquin were lately thronged with bands of elk and antelope, but, being fertile and accessible, they were required for human pastures.  So, also, are many of the feeding-grounds of the deer—­hill, valley, forest, and meadow—­but it will be long before man will care to take the highland castles of the sheep.  And when we consider here how rapidly entire species of noble animals, such as the elk, moose, and buffalo, are being pushed to the very verge of extinction, all lovers of wildness will rejoice with me in the rocky security of Ovis montana, the bravest of all the Sierra mountaineers.

[1] Pacific Railroad Survey, Vol.  VIII, page 678.

[2] Audubon and Bachman’s “Quadrupeds of North America.”

CHAPTER XV

IN THE SIERRA FOOT-HILLS

Murphy’s camp is a curious old mining-town in Calaveras County, at an elevation of 2400 feet above the sea, situated like a nest in the center of a rough, gravelly region, rich in gold.  Granites, slates, lavas, limestone, iron ores, quartz veins, auriferous gravels, remnants of dead fire-rivers and dead water-rivers are developed here side by side within a radius of a few miles, and placed invitingly open before the student like a book, while the people and the region beyond the camp furnish mines of study of never-failing interest and variety.

When I discovered this curious place, I was tracing the channels of the ancient pre-glacial rivers, instructive sections of which have been laid bare here and in the adjacent regions by the miners.  Rivers, according to the poets, “go on forever”; but those of the Sierra are young as yet and have scarcely learned the way down to the sea; while at least one generation of them have died and vanished together with most of

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The Mountains of California from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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