The Mountains of California eBook

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

On the bank of a small brook that comes gurgling down the side of the left lateral moraine, I found a camp-fire still burning, which no doubt belonged to the gray Indians I had met on the summit, and I listened instinctively and moved cautiously forward, half expecting to see some of their grim faces peering out of the bushes.

Passing on toward the open plain, I noticed three well-defined terminal moraines curved gracefully across the canon stream, and joined by long splices to the two noble laterals.  These mark the halting-places of the vanished glacier when it was retreating into its summit shadows on the breaking-up of the glacial winter.

Five miles below the foot of Moraine Lake, just where the lateral moraines lose themselves in the plain, there was a field of wild rye, growing in magnificent waving bunches six to eight feet high, bearing heads from six to twelve inches long.  Rubbing out some of the grains, I found them about five eighths of an inch long, dark-colored, and sweet.  Indian women were gathering it in baskets, bending down large handfuls, beating it out, and fanning it in the wind.  They were quite picturesque, coming through the rye, as one caught glimpses of them here and there, in winding lanes and openings, with splendid tufts arching above their heads, while their incessant chat and laughter showed their heedless joy.

Like the rye-field, I found the so-called desert of Mono blooming in a high state of natural cultivation with the wild rose, cherry, aster, and the delicate abronia; also innumerable gilias, phloxes, poppies, and bush-compositae.  I observed their gestures and the various expressions of their corollas, inquiring how they could be so fresh and beautiful out in this volcanic desert.  They told as happy a life as any plant-company I ever met, and seemed to enjoy even the hot sand and the wind.

But the vegetation of the pass has been in great part destroyed, and the same may be said of all the more accessible passes throughout the range.  Immense numbers of starving sheep and cattle have been driven through them into Nevada, trampling the wild gardens and meadows almost out of existence.  The lofty walls are untouched by any foot, and the falls sing on unchanged; but the sight of crushed flowers and stripped, bitten bushes goes far toward destroying the charm of wildness.

The canon should be seen in winter.  A good, strong traveler, who knows the way and the weather, might easily make a safe excursion through it from Yosemite Valley on snow-shoes during some tranquil time, when the storms are hushed.  The lakes and falls would be buried then; but so, also, would be the traces of destructive feet, while the views of the mountains in their winter garb, and the ride at lightning speed down the pass between the snowy walls, would be truly glorious.

[Illustration:  VIEW OF THE MONO PLAIN FROM THE FOOT OF BLOODY CANON.]

CHAPTER VI

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The Mountains of California from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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