Turning to the north, the bank of Eleanor was followed to the first camping-place, Plum Flat, an attractive clearing, where wild plums have been augmented by fruit and vegetables. Here, after a good dinner served in the open by the municipal cooks, the municipal sleeping-bags were distributed, and soft and level spots were sought for their spreading. The seasoned campers were happy and enjoyed the luxury. Some who for the first time reposed upon the breast of Mother Earth failed to find her charm. One father awoke in the morning, sat up promptly, pointed his hand dramatically to the zenith, and said, “Never again!” But he lived to revel in the open-air caravansary, and came home a tougher and a wiser man.
A ride of fifteen miles through a finely wooded country brought us to the Lake Eleanor dam-site and the municipal camp, where general preparations are being made and runoff records are being taken. In a comfortable log house two assistants to the engineer spent the winter, keeping records of rainfall and other meteorological data.
While we were in camp here, Lake Eleanor, a mile distant, was visited and enjoyed in various ways, and those who felt an interest in the main purpose of the trip rode over into the Cherry Creek watershed and inspected the sites and rights whose purchase is contemplated. Saturday morning we left Lake Eleanor and climbed the steep ridge separating its watershed from that of the Tuolumne. From Eleanor to Hetch-Hetchy as the crow would fly, if there were a crow and he wanted to fly, is five miles. As mules crawl and men climb, it takes five hours. But it is well worth it for association with granite helps any politician.
Hetch-Hetchy Valley is about half as large as Yosemite and almost as beautiful. Early in the season the mosquitoes make life miserable, but as late as August the swampy land is pretty well dried up and they are few. The Tuolumne tumbles in less effectively than the Merced enters Yosemite. Instead of two falls of nine hundred feet, there is one of twenty or so. The Wampana, corresponding to the Yosemite Falls, is not so high nor so picturesque, but is more industrious, and apparently takes no vacation. Kolana is a noble knob, but not quite so imposing as Sentinel Rock.
We camped in the valley two days and found it very delightful. The dam-site is not surpassed. Nowhere in the world, it is said, can so large a body of water be impounded so securely at so small an expense.
There is an admirable camping-ground within easy distance of the valley, and engineers say that at small expense a good trail, and even a wagon-road, can be built along the face of the north wall, making possible a fine view of the magnificent lake.