The stream here, during the snow-melting season must be a dashing, roaring, sparkling mass of foam, for it is a bowlder-strewn rocky way, suggesting the wild stream it becomes when the snows melt and spring’s freshets come.
Echo to Strawberry, 7 Miles. The next mile and a half is a rapid descent, for elevation declines five hundred feet, ere we reach Phillips, near which, in Audrian Lake, is the chief source of the South Fork of the American River.
The Water Company that controls the flow has here tampered with primitive physiography, in that it has cut a tunnel or channel from the Echo Lakes, tapping their water supply and conveying it to Audrian Lake. Hence strictly speaking the Echo Lakes are now the headwaters of the South Fork.
Soon we pass Hay Press Meadows, so called from the fact that hay was cut here in the old stage-coach days, baled with an old-fashioned press, and sold for $90 to $100 per ton, after being hauled to Virginia City.
Down we go into Strawberry Valley, where 42-1/2 miles from Placerville, we reach Strawberry, at 5700 feet elevation. This used to be a noted stopping-place in the olden days, sometimes the whole flat area being covered with loaded wagons bound for the mines.
There is a rugged majesty about this Valley that has always made its impression on men. To the right is the southern end of the Crystal Range, and to the left the Yosemite-like cliff known as Lover’s Leap, 6985 feet elevation. As the station at Strawberry is 5700 feet, this cliff is 1285 feet in sheer ascent. Leading up it are strange columnar towers and structures of Egyptian appearance that remind us of those lines of Joaquin Miller’s:
Great massive rocks that near us lay,
Deep nestled in the grass untrod
By aught save wild beasts of the wood—
Great, massive, squared, and chisel’d stone,
Like columns that had toppled down
From temple dome or tower crown,
Along some drifted, silent way
Of desolate and desert town
Built by the children of the Sun.
We pass under the great cliff, and past a glacially-polished dome on the left. The cliff is all cross-hatched and seamed with infiltrations of quartz. Ahead of us to the right is a canyon that is the southern extension of Desolation Valley.
Strawberry to Kyburgs, 10 Miles. A few miles below Strawberry we pass Georgetown Junction (where the road from Georgetown enters the main road), and ten miles brings us to Kyburgs, 4000 feet elevation, the canyon narrowing as we descend. On the right we pass Sugar Loaf (6500 feet).
At Kyburgs the water is taken out for the domestic and irrigation water-supply of Placerville—8000 inches of water. The station is located at a break in the mountains where a cone-shaped rock, covered with trees, is a striking feature.