The woods which clothe the east side of this hill, and sweep away to the east, are among the most charming to be found in the District. The main growth is oak and chestnut, with a thin sprinkling of laurel, azalea, and dogwood. It is the only locality in which I have found the dogtooth violet in bloom, and the best place I know of to gather arbutus. On one slope the ground is covered with moss, through which the arbutus trails its glories.
Emerging from these woods toward the city, one sees the white dome of the Capitol soaring over the green swell of earth immediately in front, and lifting its four thousand tons of iron gracefully and lightly into the air. Of all the sights in Washington, that which will survive the longest in my memory is the vision of the great dome thus rising cloud-like above the hills.
The region of which I am about to speak lies in the southern part of the state of New York, and comprises parts of three counties,—Ulster, Sullivan and Delaware. It is drained by tributaries of both the Hudson and Delaware, and, next to the Adirondack section, contains more wild land than any other tract in the State. The mountains which traverse it, and impart to it its severe northern climate, belong properly to the Catskill range. On some maps of the State they are called the Pine Mountains, though with obvious local impropriety, as pine, so far as I have observed, is nowhere found upon them. “Birch Mountains” would be a more characteristic name, as on their summits birch is the prevailing tree. They are the natural home of the black and yellow birch, which grow here to unusual size. On their sides beech and maple abound; while, mantling their lower slopes and darkening the valleys, hemlock formerly enticed the lumberman and tanner. Except in remote or inaccessible localities, the latter tree is now almost never found. In Shandaken and along the Esopus it is about the only product the country yielded, or is likely to yield. Tanneries by the score have arisen and flourished upon the bark, and some of them still remain. Passing through that region the present season, I saw that the few patches of hemlock that still lingered high up on the sides of the mountains were being felled and peeled, the fresh white boles or the trees, just stripped of their bark, being visible a long distance.
Among these mountains there are no sharp peaks, or abrupt declivities, as in a volcanic region, but long, uniform ranges, heavily timbered to their summits, and delighting the eye with vast, undulating horizon lines. Looking south from the heights about the head of the Delaware, one sees, twenty miles away, a continual succession of blue ranges, one behind the other. If a few large trees are missing on the sky line, one can see the break a long distance off.