Inland rises the great Sierra, with spreading ridge and foothill, like some huge, sprawling centipede, its granite back unbroken for a thousand miles. Frost-torn peaks, of every height and bearing, pierce the blue wastes above. Their slopes are dark with forests of sugar pines and giant sequoias, the mightiest of trees, in whose silent aisles one may wander all day long and see no sign of man. Dropped here and there rest turquoise lakes which mark the craters of dead volcanoes, or which swell the polished basins where vanished glaciers did their last work. Through mountain meadows run swift brooks, over-peopled with trout, while from the crags leap full-throated streams, to be half blown away in mist before they touch the valley floor. Far down the fragrant cañons sing the green and troubled rivers, twisting their way lower and lower to the common plains, each larger stream calling to all his brooks to follow him as down they go headforemost to the sea. Even the hopeless stretches of alkali and sand, sinks of lost streams, in the southeastern counties, are redeemed by the delectable mountains that on all sides shut them in. Everywhere the landscape swims in crystalline ether, while over all broods the warm California sun. Here, if anywhere, life is worth living, full and rich and free.
As there is from end to end of California scarcely one commonplace mile, so from one end of the year to the other there is hardly a tedious day. Two seasons only has California, but two are enough if each in its way be perfect. Some have called the climate “monotonous,” but so, equally, is good health. In terms of Eastern, experience, the seasons may be defined as “late in the spring and early in the fall”;
“Half a year of clouds and flowers, half a year of dust and sky,”
according to Bret Harte. But with the dust and sky come the unbroken succession of days of sunshine, the dry invigorating air, scented by the resin of the tarweed, and the boundless overflow of vine and orchard. Each season in its turn brings its fill of satisfaction, and winter or summer we regret to look forward to change, because we feel never quite sure that the season which is coming will be half so attractive as the season which we now enjoy. If one must choose, in all the fragrant California year the best month is June, for then the air is softest, and a touch of summer’s gold overlies the green of winter. But October, when the first swift rains
“dash the whole long slope with color,”
and leave the clean-washed atmosphere so absolutely transparent that even distance is no longer blue, has a charm not less alluring.