The Mountains of California eBook

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


A beautiful variety of the bench-top lakes occurs just where the great lateral moraines of the main glaciers have been shoved forward in outswelling concentric rings by small residual tributary glaciers.  Instead of being encompassed by a narrow ring of trees like Orange Lake, these lie embosomed in dense moraine woods, so dense that in seeking them you may pass them by again and again, although you may know nearly where they lie concealed.

[Illustration:  LAKE STARR KING.]

Lake Starr King, lying to the north of the cone of that name, above the Little Yosemite Valley, is a fine specimen of this variety.  The ouzels pass it by, and so do the ducks; they could hardly get into it if they would, without plumping straight down inside the circling trees.

Yet these isolated gems, lying like fallen fruit detached from the branches, are not altogether without inhabitants and joyous, animating visitors.  Of course fishes cannot get into them, and this is generally true of nearly every glacier lake in the range, but they are all well stocked with happy frogs.  How did the frogs get into them in the first place?  Perhaps their sticky spawn was carried in on the feet of ducks or other birds, else their progenitors must have made some exciting excursions through the woods and up the sides of the canons.  Down in the still, pure depths of these hidden lakelets you may also find the larvae of innumerable insects and a great variety of beetles, while the air above them is thick with humming wings, through the midst of which fly-catchers are constantly darting.  And in autumn, when the huckleberries are ripe, bands of robins and grosbeaks come to feast, forming altogether delightful little byworlds for the naturalist.

Pushing our way upward toward the axis of the range, we find lakes in greater and greater abundance, and more youthful in aspect.  At an elevation of about 9000 feet above sea-level they seem to have arrived at middle age,—­that is, their basins seem to be about half filled with alluvium.  Broad sheets of meadow-land are seen extending into them, imperfect and boggy in many places and more nearly level than those of the older lakes below them, and the vegetation of their shores is of course more alpine.  Kalmia, lodum, and cassiope fringe the meadow rocks, while the luxuriant, waving groves, so characteristic of the lower lakes, are represented only by clumps of the Dwarf Pine and Hemlock Spruce.  These, however, are oftentimes very picturesquely grouped on rocky headlands around the outer rim of the meadows, or with still more striking effect crown some rocky islet.

Moreover, from causes that we cannot stop here to explain, the cliffs about these middle-aged lakes are seldom of the massive Yosemite type, but are more broken, and less sheer, and they usually stand back, leaving the shores comparatively free; while the few precipitous rocks that do come forward and plunge directly into deep water are seldom more than three or four hundred feet high.

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The Mountains of California from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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