The Mountains of California eBook

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

In those glacier meadows that take the places of shallow lakes which have been fed by feeble streams, glacier mud and fine vegetable humus enter largely into the composition of the soil; and on account of the shallowness of this soil, and the seamless, water-tight, undrained condition of the rock-basins, they are usually wet, and therefore occupied by tall grasses and sedges, whose coarse appearance offers a striking contrast to that of the delicate lawn-making kind described above.  These shallow-soiled meadows are oftentimes still further roughened and diversified by partially buried moraines and swelling bosses of the bed-rock, which, with the trees and shrubs growing upon them, produce a striking effect as they stand in relief like islands in the grassy level, or sweep across in rugged curves from one forest wall to the other.

Throughout the upper meadow region, wherever water is sufficiently abundant and low in temperature, in basins secure from flood-washing, handsome bogs are formed with a deep growth of brown and yellow sphagnum picturesquely ruined with patches of kalmia and ledum which ripen masses of beautiful color in the autumn.  Between these cool, spongy bogs and the dry, flowery meadows there are many interesting varieties which are graduated into one another by the varied conditions already alluded to, forming a series of delightful studies.


Another, very well-marked and interesting kind of meadow, differing greatly both in origin and appearance from the lake-meadows, is found lying aslant upon moraine-covered hillsides trending in the direction of greatest declivity, waving up and down over rock heaps and ledges, like rich green ribbons brilliantly illumined with tall flowers.  They occur both in the alpine and subalpine regions in considerable numbers, and never fail to make telling features in the landscape.  They are often a mile or more in length, but never very wide—­usually from thirty to fifty yards.  When the mountain or canon side on which, they lie dips at the required angle, and other conditions are at the same time favorable, they extend from above the timber line to the bottom of a canon or lake basin, descending in fine, fluent lines like cascades, breaking here and there into a kind of spray on large boulders, or dividing and flowing around on either side of some projecting islet.  Sometimes a noisy stream goes brawling down through them, and again, scarcely a drop of water is in sight.  They owe their existence, however, to streams, whether visible or invisible, the wildest specimens being found where some perennial fountain, as a glacier or snowbank or moraine spring sends down its waters across a rough sheet of soil in a dissipated web of feeble, oozing rivulets.  These conditions give rise to a meadowy vegetation, whose extending roots still more obstruct the free flow of the waters, and tend to dissipate them out over a yet wider area. 

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The Mountains of California from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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