Passing on from the eastern district, marked by its equably distributed rainfall, and therefore naturally forest-clad, I have seen the trees diminish in number, give place to wide prairies, restrict their growth to the borders of streams, and then disappear from the boundless drier plains; have seen grassy plains change into a brown and sere desert—desert in the common sense, but hardly anywhere botanically so—have seen a fair growth of coniferous trees adorning the more favored slopes of a mountain-range high enough to compel summer showers; have traversed that broad and bare elevated region shut off on both sides by high mountains from the moisture supplied by either ocean, and longitudinally intersected by sierras which seemingly remain as naked as they were born; and have reached at length the westward slopes of that high mountain-barrier which, refreshed by the Pacific, bears the noble forests of the Sierra Nevada and the Coast Ranges, and among them trees which are the wonder of the world. As I stood in their shade, in the groves of Mariposa and Calaveras, and again under the canopy of the commoner redwood, raised on columns of such majestic height and ample girth, it occurred to me that I could not do better than to share with you, upon this occasion, some of the thoughts which possessed my mind. In their development they may, perhaps, lead us up to questions of considerable scientific interest.
I shall not detain you with any remarks—which would now be trite—upon the size or longevity of these far-famed Sequoia-trees, or of the sugar-pines, incense-cedar, and firs associated with them, of which even the prodigious bulk of the dominating Sequoia does not sensibly diminish the grandeur. Although no account and no photographic representation of either species of the far-famed Sequoia-trees gives any adequate impression of their singular majesty—still less of their beauty—yet my interest in them did not culminate merely or mainly in considerations of their size and age. Other trees, in other parts of the world, may claim to be older. Certain Australian gumtrees (Eucalypti) are said to be taller. Some, we are told, rise so high that they might even cast a flicker of shadow upon the summit of the Pyramid of Cheops. Yet the oldest of them doubtless grew from seed which was shed long after the names of the pyramid-builders had been forgotten. So far as we can judge from the actual counting of the layers of several trees, no Sequoia now alive sensibly antedates the Christian era.
Nor was I much impressed with an attraction of man’s adding. That the more remarkable of these trees should bear distinguishing appellations seems proper enough; but the tablets of personal names which are affixed to many of them