On the upper side of the meadow the trail passes through a glorious grove of hemlocks, the clean and clear “floor” of which leads one to the observation that hemlocks generally seem to be hostile to other and lesser growth coming in to occupy the ground with them.
Sierran heather of purple color now appears here and there in patches and we find quantities of it further along. There are also several peculiar puff-balls, and close by a remarkable fungus-growth like a cauliflower, fully a foot in diameter.
Nearing the summit we come to another meadow followed by another grove, where scarcely any trees but hemlocks are to be seen. Here also we see great beds of the California primrose which grows with a straight upright stem crowned with blood-red or deep scarlet flowers above a rich duster of leaves. These flowers generally can be found blooming quite late in the season, following the snowline as the summer’s sun makes it climb higher each day. When the winter’s snows have been extra heavy the plants are covered and no flowers appear, as the snow melts too late, but when there is a lesser amount they bloom as freely as ever, apparently none the worse for their dormant period.
Over the peak billowy white clouds are tossing, like giant cradles built of the daintiest and most silvery cloud-stuff to be found in the heavens for the rocking of the cloud-babies to sleep.
On a sister peak to Ellis Peak, just to the south, is to be seen a remarkable and strikingly picturesque cluster of hemlocks. It is almost circular in form, with eight trees in the center, and twenty-three on the outer rim, which is over a hundred feet in circumference. Seldom does one see so interesting a group of trees anywhere, even when planted, and these, of course, are of native growth.
The summit itself is of broken and shattered granite, which has allowed a scraggly mountain pine to take root and grow close to the U.S. Geological Survey monument. A fierce gale was blowing from the west, and turning toward the tree-clad slopes of the east, we stood in the wind, with the everlasting blue above and the glorious and never-failing green beneath. Unconsciously there sprang to my lips Joaquin Miller’s lines:
And ever and ever His boundless blue,
And ever and ever His green, green sod,
And ever and ever between the two
Walk the wonderful winds of God.
Braving the wind and looking over the steep precipice to the west we see, some four hundred or five hundred feet below us, so that it seems that we might almost throw a stone into it, a small lake. This is Bessie Lake, named after Mrs. C.F. Kohl, of Idlewyld. It discharges its surplus waters into Blackwood Creek, and has several times been stocked with fish. In the mid-distance is Loon Lake, which is the head-waters of the California Ditch, which follows over the Georgetown Divide, carries water some forty to fifty miles, and is distributed by its owners, the Reno Water and Electric Power Co., for mining, irrigation and domestic purposes.