The Mountains of California eBook

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


Besides these larger canon lakes, fed by the main canon streams, there are many smaller ones lying aloft on the top of rock benches, entirely independent of the general drainage channels, and of course drawing their supplies from a very limited area.  Notwithstanding they are mostly small and shallow, owing to their immunity from avalanche detritus and the inwashings of powerful streams, they often endure longer than others many times larger but less favorably situated.  When very shallow they become dry toward the end of summer; but because their basins are ground out of seamless stone they suffer no loss save from evaporation alone; and the great depth of snow that falls, lasting into June, makes their dry season short in any case.

Orange Lake is a fair illustration of this bench form.  It lies in the middle of a beautiful glacial pavement near the lower margin of the lake-line, about a mile and a half to the northwest of Shadow Lake.  It is only about 100 yards in circumference.  Next the water there is a girdle of carices with wide overarching leaves, then in regular order a shaggy ruff of huckleberry bushes, a zone of willows with here and there a bush of the Mountain Ash, then a zone of aspens with a few pines around the outside.  These zones are of course concentric, and together form a wall beyond which the naked ice-burnished granite stretches away in every direction, leaving it conspicuously relieved, like a bunch of palms in a desert.

In autumn, when the colors are ripe, the whole circular grove, at a little distance, looks like a big handful of flowers set in a cup to be kept fresh—­a tuft of goldenrods.  Its feeding-streams are exceedingly beautiful, notwithstanding their inconstancy and extreme shallowness.  They have no channel whatever, and consequently are left free to spread in thin sheets upon the shining granite and wander at will.  In many places the current is less than a fourth of an inch deep, and flows with so little friction it is scarcely visible.  Sometimes there is not a single foam-bell, or drifting pine-needle, or irregularity of any sort to manifest its motion.  Yet when observed narrowly it is seen to form a web of gliding lacework exquisitely woven, giving beautiful reflections from its minute curving ripples and eddies, and differing from the water-laces of large cascades in being everywhere transparent.  In spring, when the snow is melting, the lake-bowl is brimming full, and sends forth quite a large stream that slips glassily for 200 yards or so, until it comes to an almost vertical precipice 800 feet high, down which it plunges in a fine cataract; then it gathers its scattered waters and goes smoothly over folds of gently dipping granite to its confluence with the main canon stream.  During the greater portion of the year, however, not a single water sound will you hear either at head or foot of the lake, not oven the whispered lappings of ripple-waves along the shore; for the winds are fenced out.  But the deep mountain silence is sweetened now and then by birds that stop here to rest and drink on their way across the canon.

Project Gutenberg
The Mountains of California from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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