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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 275 pages of information about The Illustrated London Reading Book.
In this attitude the sloth has the power of using the fore paw as a hand in conveying food to his mouth, which he does with great address, retaining meanwhile a firm hold of the branch with the other three paws.  In all his operations the enormous claws with which the sloth is provided are of indispensable service.  They are so sharp and crooked that they readily seize upon the smallest inequalities in the bark of the trees and branches, among which the animal usually resides, and also form very powerful weapons of defence.

The sloth has been said to confine himself to one tree until he has completely stripped it of its leaves; but Mr. Waterton says, “During the many years I have ranged the forests, I have never seen a tree in such a state of nudity; indeed, I would hazard a conjecture, that, by the time the animal had finished the last of the old leaves, there would be a new crop on the part of the tree it had stripped first, ready for him to begin again—­so quick is the process of vegetation in these countries.  There is a saying among the Indians, that when the wind blows the sloth begins to travel.  In calm weather he remains tranquil, probably not liking to cling to the brittle extremities of the branches, lest they should break with him in passing from one tree to another; but as soon as the wind arises, and the branches of the neighbouring trees become interwoven, the sloth then seizes hold of them and travels at such a good round pace, that any one seeing him, as I have done, pass from tree to tree, would never think of calling him a sloth.”

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SIERRA NEVADA, OR SNOWY RANGE OF CALIFORNIA.

“The dividing ridge of the Sierra Nevada is in sight from this encampment.  Accompanied by Mr. Preuss, I ascended to-day the highest peak to the right, from which we had a beautiful view of a mountain lake at our feet, about 15 miles in length, and so entirely surrounded by mountains that we could not discover an outlet.  We had taken with us a glass, but though we enjoyed an extended view, the valley was half hidden in mist, as when we had seen it before.  Snow could be distinguished on the higher parts of the coast mountains; eastward, as far as the eye could extend, it ranged over a terrible mass of broken snowy mountains, fading off blue in the distance.  The rock composing the summit consists of a very coarse, dark, volcanic conglomerate:  the lower parts appeared to be of a very slatey structure.  The highest trees were a few scattered cedars and aspens.  From the immediate foot of the peak we were two hours in reaching the summit, and one hour and a quarter in descending.  The day had been very bright, still, and clear, and spring seems to be advancing rapidly.  While the sun is in the sky the snow melts rapidly, and gushing springs cover the face of the mountain in all the exposed places, but their surface freezes instantly with the disappearance of the sun.

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