Returning to Rubicon we followed the road back to where we had struck it the day before. The old trail from McKinney’s used to come over the divide from the east and strike the Rubicon near where we then stood, pass by the Springs and then follow the river, but to avoid the steep grades the road had to be constructed around by Buck Island Lake.
Those who ride into Rubicon Springs from McKinney’s, just as they make the last descent, have a wonderful view of Georgetown Mountain before them. Its sloping side is glacially planed off at a steep angle, and it reveals the vast extent the great ice field must have covered in the days of glacial activity. Many bowlders near the Springs are very strongly marked by glacial action.
About a mile from the Springs we came to a tree on which a “cut-off” sign was placed. When the road was being constructed the builders started a new grade at this point and after going for a mile or so found it was so steep that it had to be abandoned and a lesser grade found by going around.
From the summit we could clearly follow the course of the Little Rubicon, and also secured an excellent view of the sharp point of Rubicon Peak (9193 feet).
A stiff and cool breeze was blowing from the west so we were not sorry to find shelter from the wind as we entered a wooded park, where the song of the pines cheered us on our way. Soon we struck the road and followed it until we came to the headwaters of Miller’s Creek on the right. Miller used to run sheep up in the meadows, which afford a smooth grade for the road for some distance. There are many alders here, which bear mute though powerful testimony, in the shape of their gnarled and bent over ground-groveling trunks, of the heavy winters’ snows.
These meadows clearly were once glacial lakes, now filled up, and Miller’s Creek was the instrument of their destruction. Crossing the last of the meadows we came to Burton’s Pass, so called from H.D. Burton, another Placerville pioneer who used to cut hay here, pack it on mules to McKinney’s, and then ship it across to Lakeside, where he sold it for $80 to $100 a ton. We then passed McKinney’s old cabin, the place he built and occupied in 1863, before he went to live at the Lake. Only a few fragments now remain, time and storms having nearly completed the work of destruction.
Nearby was a beautiful lily pond, soon to be a meadow, and just beyond this we stood on the actual divide between the Great Basin and the Pacific. We were at the head of Phipps Creek, named on the map General Creek, from General Phipps. At the mouth of the creek this pioneer located on 160 acres, which, when he died about 1883, was sold to M.H. de Young, of the San Francisco Chronicle. After holding it for many years he sold it in turn to I. Hellman, the banker, who now uses it as his summer estate, having built a fine residence upon it.
Near here we lunched at a sheep-herder’s camp and heard an interesting story of the relocation of an old mine that had helped create the Squaw Valley excitement forty years before. Owing to new and improved methods of extracting the precious metal it is now deemed that this may soon develop into a paying property.