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An Auto Trip Through the Sierras.
Tule River and Yosemite.
I have been in California fifty-four years. During all of this time I had never visited the Yosemite. Before it was too late I determined to go there. We started in June, 1911.
Accompanied by Mrs. Graves, my son Francis and a friend, Dr. A. C. Macleish, we left Alhambra, June seventh of this year at seven o'clock a. m. We passed through Garvanza, Glendale and Tropico, and were soon on the San Fernando road. The run through the town of that name and through the tunnel, recently constructed to avoid the Newhall grade, was made in good time and without incident.
At Newhall we procured and carried with us a five-gallon can of gasoline. A short distance out of Saugus, we turned into the San Francisquito Canyon road. Shortly afterwards a brand new inner tube on the right rear wheel went completely to pieces. It had been too highly cured and could not stand the heat. We replaced it with another one, and were soon crossing and recrossing the stream which meanders down the canyon. Constantly climbing the grade, we were whirling from sunshine to shadow alternately as the road was overhung with or free from trees.
Old Memories Aroused.
I could not help recalling my trip over the same road with my old friend, Mr. A. C. Chauvin, on the third day of October, 1876. The road was fairly good. Our machine was working nicely, the day a pleasant one, and the trip enjoyable. In a few hours we reached Elizabeth Lake. I pointed out the very spot at which Chauvin and myself camped thirty-five years before.
Ah, the fleeting years! How quickly they have sped! What experiences we have had! What pleasures we have enjoyed! What sorrows endured in thirty-five years! Well it is, that then the future was not unfolded to me, and that all the enthusiasm and hope and ambition of youth led me on to the goal, which has brought me so much joy, as well as much sorrow. Momentous events have affected not only my own life, but the life of nations in these thirty-five years.
Crossing Antelope Valley.
We passed the lake, turning down the grade into Antelope Valley. After several miles of very rolling country, we halted under some almond trees in a deserted orchard for lunch. The grasshoppers were thicker than people on a hot Sunday at Venice or Ocean Park in the "good old summer time." We managed to eat our lunch without eating any of the hoppers, but there wasn't much margin in our favor in the performance. Before starting we emptied our can of gasoline into the tank. Soon we intercepted the road leading from Palmdale to Fairmont and Neenach. We passed both of these places, then Quail Lake and Bailey Hotel. We were soon at Lebec. Then came the beautiful ride past Castac Lake, and down the canyon, under the noble white oak trees, which are the pride of Tejon Ranch. We passed through Ft. Tejon with its adobe buildings already fallen or rapidly falling into ruinous decay. Still descending through the lower reaches of the canyon, we took the final dip down the big grade and rolled out into the valley. A pleasant stream of water followed the road out into the plains, at which sleek, fat cattle drank, or along whose banks they lolled listlessly, having already slaked their thirst. We whirled past the dilapidated ranch buildings put down in the guide books as Rose Station. From this point, since my trip over this country a year ago, much of the road to Bakersfield has been fenced.
While crossing Antelope Valley during the afternoon, I observed a most wonderful cloud effect. A perfectly white cloud hung over Frazier Mountain. Its base was miles long and as straight as if it had been sheared off by machinery. Its top was as irregular as its base was finished. It extended into the sky farther than the blue old mountain did above the surrounding country. Irregular in shape, it assumed the form of mountains, valleys, forests, streams, castles and turrets. I watched it for hours, apparently it never moved. It hung there as immovable as the mountain beneath it. It was at once an emblem of purity and apparent stability. After we had passed Fairmont, my attention was diverted from it for a short time, not over ten minutes, and when again looking for my cloud, it was gone. Every vestige of it had vanished completely, and in its place was the blue sky, its color intensified by reason of its recent meager obscuration.
We reached Bakersfield early in the evening, having made the run of one hundred and forty-six miles, over a heavy mountain range, on fifteen gallons of gasoline. This I call a good performance for any six-cylinder car. Coming down the Tejon Canyon, we passed the only Joe Desmond of Aqueduct fame, with some companions, taking lunch by the roadside. He had come from Mojave. He was bound for Bakersfield to buy hay.
Off for Porterville.
We left Bakersfield at seven a. m. next morning, over an excellent road, for Porterville. Fifty miles after starting we picked up a nail and had a flat tire. Porterville was reached at eleven o'clock. As a side trip we were going to a camp of the San Joaquin Light & Power Company, way up on the Tule River, for the purpose of visiting a grove of big trees located in that vicinity. As we had many miles of uphill work ahead of us, we concluded not to delay at Porterville for lunch. We replenished our lunch basket of the day before from a grocery store, filled our tank with gasoline and sped on. At twelve o'clock, a few miles beyond the small village of Springville, which will shortly be connected with the outside world by a railroad now in process of construction, we halted for lunch in a shady spot on one of the forks of the Tule River.
For many miles before reaching Porterville, we saw quite extensive evidence of the orange industry. There were many groves in full bearing and miles and miles of young groves but a few years planted or just set out.
Tule River Canyon.
From Porterville to Springville, the canyon of the Tule River is quite wide. The course of the river itself is marked by a heavy growth of timber, some quarter of a mile in width. Orange and lemon groves have been planted in favored localities on the bench lands, here and there, but not continuously. There is much hilly land back of the canyon proper, covered with wild oats and evidently devoted entirely to pasture. Shortly after our noon halt we came to the power plant of the Mount Whitney Power Company. Here they told us our journey would end twelve miles further up the stream. From this point the canyon narrowed rapidly until it became a mere gorge. While precipitously steep, the roadbed was good. It ran along the left side of the canyon, going up. At all times we had the right hand side of the canyon in plain view. Far above us on our side, now in plain sight, now hidden by a projecting point or tall timber, was the flume of the Mount Whitney Power Company, which carried water from the river to the powerhouse we had passed. As we ascended, we continually got nearer to this flume, which was run on a grade, and at last we passed under it. We saw it shortly afterwards terminate at an intake in the canyon below our road. From here on I never enjoyed a more beautiful ride. To my mind there is nothing more attractive than a California mountain canyon and its thickly-wooded sides. Below us, foam-covered, white, radiant with light and beauty, ran the Tule River. In its rapid descent, confined to the bottom of the canyon, it hurtled along over water-worn boulders of great size, its swollen masses of surging waters forming here and there cascades, immense pools and miniature falls. It kept up a loud and constant roar, not too loud, but with just enough energy to be grateful to the ear.
The Canyon - A Bower of Beauty.
We had left behind us the scattering timber of the lower foothills. The sides of the canyon were clothed and garlanded in various shades of green from top to bottom. Black oak trees in their fresh, new garbs of early summer, intermingled with stately pines. All space between these trees was filled with a rich growth of all the flowering shrubs known to our California mountains. In the damper places a wild tangle of ferns and vines and bracken entirely hid the earth from view. Lilacs, white and purple, in full bloom emitted a fragrance which rendered the air intoxicating and nearly overpowered one's senses. Mingled with these bushes were the Cascara Segrada, bright-leafed maples, and the brilliantly colored stems and vividly green leaves of the Manzanitas, some in full bloom, some in berries set. The graceful red bud, found in luxuriant growth in Lake County, was also here. Likewise the elders, with their heavy clusters of yellow blossoms. The buckeye, with its long, graceful blossoms, reached far up above the undergrowth. The mountain sage, differing materially from the valley sage and bearing a yellow flower, was also here. The mountain balm, with its long purple blossoms, mingled its colors with its neighbors. Occasionally an humble thistle, with its blossom of purple base and intense pink center, thrust up its head through some leafy bower. Crowding all of these was the grease wood with its yellow bloom, the snow-bush or buckthorn, with a blossom resembling white lilac and fully as sweet, and all the other shrubs of our mountain chaparrals, all, however, blended into one beautiful and fragrant bouquet, so exquisitely formed that man's ingenuity could never equal it in arranging floral decorations. Then again a turn in the road would bring us great masses of tall dogwood with its shining leaves and beautiful white blossoms with yellow centers. They also, like the ferns, sought the cooler, darker spots. Never before have I seen the California slippery elm or leatherwood tree in such perfect form. It makes a stately branching tree. Its great yellow blossoms almost cover the limbs. The shade of the flower is a deep golden yellow. When mingled with the dogwood, the intense green of the foliage of the two trees, coupled with the white and yellow decorations, made a bouquet of rarest beauty. Thimble-berry bushes, rich in color, bright of leaf and rank of growth, sported their great white blossoms with much grace and dignity. Yellow buttercups, carnations, violets of three colors, white, yellow and purple, half hid their graceful heads under the tangled growth of various grasses by the wayside. The wild iris moved their varicolored flowers with each passing breath of air.
Hyacinths, lupins and hollyhocks were freely interspersed with the glistening foliage of the shrubbery. The tiger and yellow mountain lilies were not yet in flower, although we frequently saw their tall stems bearing undeveloped blossoms. The columbine and white and yellow clematis were much in evidence, and presented a charming picture as they wound in and out, and over and around the green leaves of the shrubs, displaying their creamy blossoms with a dainty air and self-conscious superiority. In open places beneath the forest trees, where no large underbrush grew, a fern-like, low shrub, locally known as bear clover, completely hid the earth. It bore a white blossom with yellow center, for all the world like that of a strawberry. To my surprise, the Spanish bayonets in full bloom reared their heads above the lower growing evergreens. We saw them no further north than the Tule River canyon. What a picture the sunlight made on the mountain tops and the sloping sides of the lateral valleys of the canyon! Ah, that river, how beautiful it was! There it ran below us, in the very bottom of the canyon, ever moving, ever turbulent, ever flashing in the sunlight, ever tossing its foamy spray far up into the air, a thing of life, of joy and ecstatic force. It sang and laughed and gurgled aloud in the happiness of its life and freedom. Above was the sky, pure and radiantly blue. Its exquisite coloring was intensified by the wild riot of color beneath it. We still ascended. Each breath of air we drew was rich with the odor of pine and fir, mint and balsam. The line of survey on the opposite side of the canyon from us, marking the course of the tunnel now being constructed by the San Joaquin Light & Power Company, which terminates at a point on the mountain side at the junction of a side canyon sixteen hundred feet above the stream, was now on a level with us. We could see ahead of us where it, like the flume earlier in the day, reached the river level. At this point we knew our journey ended. We were pulling slowly up a stiff, nasty grade, when all at once a loud crash announced the demolition of some of the internal machinery of our car. We stopped from necessity.
"Auto" Breaks Down.
Our "auto" was a helpless thing. When the clutch was thrown in, it could only respond with a loud, discordant whirring. It made no forward movement. We all thought our differential had gone to smash. One of our party went on ahead, and at a nearby camp we telephoned Mr. Hill, superintendent of the power company, of our predicament. He directed a man who was working a pair of heavy horses on a road near by, to hitch onto us and haul us up to his place, a mile or so distant. All of us, except Mrs. Graves, and our chauffeur, who had to steer the car and work the brakes, walked. It was slow going, but the journey finally ended. We found a good, clean camp, clean beds and a good supper awaiting us. That night we reaped the sweet repose which comes from exertion in the open air.
Early next morning we blocked up our car and took off the rear axle, uncoupled the differential case and found everything there intact. We then removed the caps from the wheel hubs and took out the floating axles, or drive shafts. One of them was broken into two pieces. It either had a flaw in it when made or had crystallized, no one could determine which. We got Los Angeles by phone, ordered the necessary parts by express to Porterville, and, think of it, we had these parts delivered to us at two o'clock the next afternoon!
The Soda Spring.
We spent the rest of Friday, June ninth, in visiting a magnificent soda and iron spring, a mile above camp, which is for all the world like the spring of the same quality in Runkle's Meadows, above the lake on Kern River, some ninety miles above Kernville. The waters of the spring were deliciously cool and refreshing.
A Tramp Up A Mountain.
Next morning the male members of our party started up a steep mountain trail to see some sequoias I had heard about. Unused as we were to excessive exercise and the altitude, the climb was a hard one. We ascended from four thousand feet elevation to over seven thousand feet. Most of the way the trail was through heavy fir and sugar-pine. Going up we ran into two beautiful full-grown deer, a buck and a doe. They fled to security with easy, graceful jumps, into the thick underbrush. We heard grouse drumming loudly, in two or three different localities and saw one bird make a long dive from one pine tree to another. We found wild flowers in profusion, of the same variety, fragrance and coloring as encountered in the canyon the day before. Just as we reached the summit, we found, standing on the backbone of the ridge - so located that rain falling on it would flow from one side of it into one water-shed, and from the other side into another water-shed - a great, stately sequoia gigantea fully three hundred feet high and of immense circumference. There wasn't a branch on it within one hundred feet of the ground. It was in good leaf, except at the top, which was gnarled and weather-beaten. Its base had been cruelly burned. This tree bears a striking resemblance to the grizzly giant which we saw later in the Mariposa big tree grove near Wawona. Not far from this fine old guardian of the pass, were groups of noble trees, fully as tall, but not as large as the one described, but perfect trees, erect, stately, and imposing. The bark of all of these trees was very smooth and very red, much more highly colored than the trees in the Wawona grove.
I was too much fatigued to make another mile down the west side of the mountain (we had come up from the east) to inspect a much larger grove of still larger trees. Two of the younger members of our party, my son Francis and Harry Graves, our chauffeur, made the trip while Dr. Macleish and I awaited their return on the summit. They came back enthusiastic over the lower groves, the trees there being much more numerous in number and much larger in size than the ones we first ran into. We sat around resting a while, straining our necks looking for, the tops of those trees, all of which were way up there in the blue sky. We wondered how many years they had been there, and what revolutions in climate and topographical appearance of the country they had witnessed. Finally, having satiated ourselves with their beauty, we started on the return journey, which was made without incident, except that we disturbed a hen grouse with a fine brood of little ones about the size of a valley quail.
A Mother Grouse.
The mother bird flew into a scrub oak. She there asserted the privilege of her sex and scolded us in no uncertain tones. When all her young had flitted away to cover, still scolding, she took one of those long dives down to a deep dark canyon, flying with incredible rapidity, and apparently not moving a feather. No other bird I ever saw can do the trick as a grouse does it. We saw but few other birds on this excursion. An occasional blue-jay, a vagrant bee-bird, now and then a robin, and once in a while a most brilliantly colored oriole made up the list. Fluffy-tailed gray squirrels chattered at us noisily from the wayside trees. They seemed bubbling over with life and motion. We stopped at the Soda Springs for a life-giving draught of its refreshing waters, and were back to camp in time for lunch.
Flight of Lady-Bugs.
When we reached the Soda Springs, we met the most remarkable migration of red lady-bugs that I ever saw. They were coming in myriads from down the main canyon and each side canyon. They extended in a swarm from the ground to a distance above it of from ten to twelve feet. Huge rocks would be covered six or eight inches deep with them. Occasionally they would light upon a tree, and in a few moments the tree or bush would be absolutely covered, every speck of foliage hidden. It was difficult to breathe without inhaling them, and we were kept busy brushing them from our faces and clothes. They were all traveling in one direction - down stream. I believe that they had been into the canyons laying their eggs, and were returning to the valleys. All afternoon the flight continued, but by nightfall there wasn't a lady-bug in sight.
We tried fishing, but the water was too high and too turbulent for success in the sport.
Auto Repairs Arrive.
About two o'clock that afternoon our new floating axle and fittings had arrived, and in another hour the car was set up and ready for business.
The following morning (Sunday) we bade Mr. Hill and his men good-bye and started for Crane Valley. The drive out of the canyon was a beautiful one. We did not go all the way to Porterville, but went several miles beyond Springville, turned into Frazier Valley, and went to Visalia by way of Lindsay and half a dozen small villages, and from there on to Fresno, which place we reached at about two o'clock. The ride was a hot one. We drove through miles and miles of orange orchards, some in full bearing, but mostly recently planted.
We left Fresno at about four-thirty o'clock over the same road we traveled a year before. However, before crossing the river, we turned to the right and went up through a town, Pulaski, where we crossed on a splendid cement bridge. The road was pretty badly cut up from heavy teaming, but we got to Crane Valley about ten o'clock p. m. We had considerable trouble with our carburetor during the afternoon, and lost much time trying to locate the trouble, but without avail.
The younger members of the party, although the hour was late, went to prowling around the camp for something to eat. They raided the cook's pie counter in the dark. We had had a splendid lunch at Fresno at two o'clock, and Mrs. Graves and I were too tired to want anything to eat, and retired on our arrival.
Since our visit to Crane Valley a year ago, we found that the then uncompleted dam was finished. Instead of a small reservoir of water, we found a vast inland sea, with water one hundred and ten feet deep at its deepest part. It is six miles long, by from half to one mile in width. It is twenty-five miles in circumference. The dam proper is nearly two thousand feet long, and at one part is one hundred and fifty-four feet high on its lower side. It is built with a cement core, with rock and earth fill, above and below; that is, on each side of the cement work. The inner and outer surface of the dam are rock-covered. To give you an idea, of its capacity, if emptied on a level plain, its waters would cover forty-two thousand acres of land one foot deep. When we were there a discharge gate had been open two weeks, discharging a stream of water two and one-half feet deep, over a weir thirty-eight feet wide, and the surface of the reservoir had been lowered but two inches. I say, "All hail to the San Joaquin Light & Power Company and its enterprising officials, for the great work completed by them." It is a public benefactor in storing up, for gradual discharge, at a time of the year when it could do no good, this vast body of water which would otherwise run to the sea.
What a place for rest are these mountain valleys! After inspecting the dam, catching some bass and killing a 'rattlesnake, we were all contented to sit around for the remainder of the day. A certain languor takes possession of the human frame when one has come from a lower to a higher altitude. One ceases to think, his mentality goes to sleep, he can doze and dream and be happy in doing so.
Again on the Road.
Tuesday morning, leaving Mr. Dougherty, the Superintendent, and his good wife, we started for Wawona. We traveled up the left side of the lake, over a good road, above the water level, to its extreme western end. Here we climbed a mountain to an elevation of five thousand five hundred feet, over a cattle trail which was badly washed out, to a road leading to Fresno Flats. This place we soon reached over a good but steep roadbed.
Then, winding in and out of the canyon through a foothill country, we made steady progress until we reached the main road from Raymond to Wawona. The grade was uphill all the time. We left the lumbering camp known as Sugar Pine to our right. The lumber interests have made a sad spectacle of miles and miles of country, recently heavily forested. There seems to be no idea in the lumberman's mind of saving the young growth when cutting the larger timber. All the young growth is broken down and destroyed, and finally burned up with the brush and wreckage of the larger trees, leaving the mountain side scarred and blackened, and so lye-soaked that immediate growth of even brush or chaparral is impossible. We passed through Fish Camp, and in a short time came to the toll-gate at which point the road to the Mariposa Grove of big trees branches off.
The rest of the run to Wawona was all downhill, through heavy timber, over a good but dusty road. We reached the hotel in time for lunch. That afternoon, with Mr. Washburn, we took a drive of some miles around the Big Meadows, near the hotel, went up the river and took in all points of interest in the neighborhood. Wawona Hotel is pleasantly located. It is an ideal place to rest. There inertia creeps into the system. You avoid all unnecessary exercise. You are ever ready to drop into a chair, to listen to the wind sighing through the trees, to hear the river singing its never ending song, to watch the robins and the black birds and the orioles come and go, and observe the never-ending coming and going of guests. Some are just arriving from the San Joaquin valley, some are departing to it, or coming home or going to the Yosemite, or starting off or coming from the Big Trees or Signal Peak. You eat and sleep and forget the cares of life, forget its troubles, and smelling the incense of the pines, sleep comes to you the moment your head touches your pillow and lasts unbrokenly until breakfast-time the next day.
Los Angeles People Known Everywhere.
We took passage on a stage-coach next morning for the Wawona big trees. The trip is one ever to be remembered. The road winds around over the mountains, always ascending, for about eight miles. The great trees are scattered over quite an expanse of territory. A technical description of them would be out of place here. To realize their size and majesty you must see them. Many are named after prominent men of the nations, and after various cities and states of the Union. I was glad to see the names of Los Angeles and Pasadena on two magnificent specimens. We drove through the trunk of a standing tree, and present herewith a picture of the feat. The gentleman on the left on the rear seat is a Mr. Isham, and the lady and gentleman on the same seat are a Mr. and Mrs. Risley, just returned from a trip around the world. They are from the same city in the east as Dr. and Mrs. W. Jarvis Barlow, and Mrs. Alfred Solano of this city, to whom they desired to be warmly remembered. Go where you will, you meet someone who knows someone in Los Angeles.
We lunched in the open air at the big trees, and made the return trip in a reverent mood, almost in silence, each of the party given over to his or her reflections. I realize that there is in my mind an ineffaceable mental picture of those gigantic trees, which are so tall, so large, so impressive and massive that they overpower the understanding.
During our stay at Wawona we tried fishing in the main river, which was swollen to a raging torrent by the melting snows. We found it so discolored and so turbulent that fishing was not a success. We also visited the cascades. An immense body of water comes down a rocky gorge very precipitously. From one rock to another the water dashes with an awful roar. Mist and spray ascend and fall over a considerable area, keeping the trees and brush and grass and ferns dripping wet, and it would soon render one's clothing exceedingly uncomfortable.
We Go To Yosemite By Stage.
It is twenty-six miles from Wawona to Yosemite Valley. The stages leave Wawona at eleven thirty a. m. to make the trip. On June sixteenth we took our places with some other victims of this piece of transportation idiocy, on an open four-horse stage for Yosemite. The going was very slow. It was hot and dusty, and we soon got irritable and uncomfortable. Why the traveling public should be subjected to this outrage is beyond me. We ground our weary way over the dusty road, oblivious to the scenery, until six o'clock, when we suddenly came to Inspiration Point, our first view of the great Valley.
The beauty of the scene to some extent compensated us for a beastly ride. Beyond us lay the great gorge known as the Yosemite. Below us the Merced River. On the left were Ribbon Falls, and just beyond them El Capitan. On our right, but well in front of us, were the Bridal Veil Falls. We were just in time to see that wonderful rainbow effect for which they are celebrated. Surely no more beautiful sheet of water could be found anywhere. A wonderful volume of water dashes over the cliff, unbroken by intercepting rocks, and drops a straight distance of six hundred feet. Then it drops three hundred feet more in dancing cascades to the floor of the valley and divides up into three good-sized streams which empty into the Merced River. When once started on its downward course, the water seems all spray. At the bottom of the first six-hundred-foot descent it made a mighty shower of mist like escaping steam from a giant rift in some titanic boiler, and soon reached the floor of the valley. The road from El Portal comes up on the north side of the river. We passed El Capitan, which rears its massive head three thousand three hundred feet in the distance, perpendicularly above the river. We were shown the pine tree, one hundred and fifty feet high, growing out of a rift in the rocks on its perpendicular face, more than two-thirds of the distance from its base. The tree looked to us like a rose bush, not two feet high, in a garden.
As we proceeded up the Valley there were pointed out to us the Three Brothers, a triple group of rocks, three thousand eight hundred feet high. Cathedral Spire, Sentinel Rock, Yosemite and Lost Arrow Falls, and all the other points of interest that can be seen on entering the Valley.
The river was abnormally high - higher we were told, than it had been in many years. It flowed with great rapidity, as if hurrying out of the valley to join the flood waters which had already submerged many acres of land in the San Joaquin valley, miles below. It looked dark and wicked, as if it carried certain death in its cold embrace. Half of the Yosemite valley was flooded. Meadows, rich in natural grasses, were knee deep with back water.
We reached the Sentinel Hotel, and sloughing off the most of the fine emery-like mountain dust with which we were enveloped, we got our first good look at the Yosemite Falls. They were at their best. Imagine a large river, coming over a cliff, a seething, foaming mass of spray, and dropping, in two descents, two thousand six hundred and thirty-four feet, sending heavenward great clouds of mist! I took one look, then looked up the Valley to the great Half Dome, to Glacier Point, from there to Sentinel Peak and the Cathedral Spires, and I concluded that the Yosemite is too beautiful for description, too sublime for comprehension and too magnificent for immediate human understanding. In the presence of those awful cliffs, towering, with an average height of over three thousand feet, above the floor of the valley; those immense waterfalls, as they thundered over the canyon walls; that mad river, gathering their united flow into one embrace, scurrying away with an irresistible energy that almost sweeps you off your feet as you look at it, all things human seem to shrink into the infinitesimal. You do not ask yourself, "How did all this get here?" You accept the situation as you find it. You leave it to the scientists to dispute whether the valley was formed wholly by glacial action or by some gigantic convulsion of nature, which tore its frowning cliffs apart, leaving the Valley rough, unfinished and uncouth to the gentle, molding hand of Time to smooth it up and beautify its floor with its present growth of oaks and pines and shrub and bush and ferns and vines, and laughing, running waters.
You are four thousand feet above sea-level. All around you cliffs and walls tower three thousand feet and upwards above you. Back of these are still higher peaks, whole mountain ranges, clothed in their snowy mantles, this season far beyond their usual time. The air is delightful, pure as the waters of the Yosemite Falls, soft as a carpet of pine needles to the foot-fall, balmy as the breath of spring, and cool and invigorating.
The Valley Overflowing With Visitors.
The valley is full of people; the hotels crowded, the camps overflowing. From early dawn until the setting summer sun has cast long shadows over meadow and stream alike, there is a moving mass of restless people, either mounted on horseback, in vehicles or on foot, going out or coming in from the trails and side excursions. The walker seemed to get the most fun out of life. Man and woman are alike khaki clad and sunburned to a berry-brown. They walk with the easy grace of perfect strength and long practice, and think nothing of "hiking" to the top of Yosemite Falls or Sentinel Peak and back. One of the favorite trips is to Glacier Point by the Illilouette, Vernal and Nevada Falls, a distance of eleven miles, remaining there all night at a comfortable inn and returning by a shorter route by Sentinel Peak.
Looking up between the rocky walls of the valley, how far away the stars all looked at night! In that pure atmosphere, how beautiful the sky! How perfect each constellation! Each star with peculiar brightness shone. One's view of the sky is circumscribed by the height of the cliffs. Instead of the great arched vault of heaven one usually looks up to, one sees only that part of the sky immediately above the valley. It was like looking at the heavens from the bottom of a deep, narrow shaft. I looked in vain for well known beacon lights. They were not in sight. The towering cliffs shut them out. The sky looked strange to me, yet how beautiful it was! Through the gathering darkness we took one more look at the Yosemite Falls and betook ourselves to bed, to sleep the sleep once enjoyed in the long ago, when as children we returned, tired but happy, from some long outing in the woods.
We Visit the Floor of the Valley.
On the following morning we took in the sights of the floor of the valley. We rode to Mirror Lake, which, however, did not come up to its reputation. This summer the entrance to the lake has changed its channel from its west to its east side, and a long sand bar has been deposited in the lake proper, all of which our guide told us marred the reflections usually visible therein.
We passed hundreds of people of all ages walking through the valley. In visiting the Yosemite you do not realize that the valley is several miles long, and has an average width of about one-half a mile. The great height of the surrounding walls dwarfs your idea of distance. Even the trees, many of which are of great size, look small and puny.
The Happy Isles.
We drove to the Happy Isles, small islands covered with trees, around which the river surges in foaming masses. Standing at the upper end of the one of the Happy Isles, one gets a splendid impression of the cascade effect of the waters, rushing madly down a steep rocky channel, with an irresistible, terrifying force. The descent of the bed of the stream is very marked. The waters come over submerged, rocky masses. Just as you think that maddened torrent must sweep over the island, engulfing you in its course, the stream divides, half of it passing to the right, and half to the left. These divided waters unite again farther down the valley.
On our return from this short excursion, Francis, Dr. Macleish and Harry, taking their lunch with them, walked up to the top of the Yosemite Falls. They stood beneath the flag at Yosemite Point and got a comprehensive view of the entire valley. They reported the trip a heart-breaking one.
The valley has a military government. What Major Forsyth says goes. There are no saloons in the Yosemite, nor are there any cats. The Major saw a cat catch a young gray squirrel. He issued an edict that the cats must go or be killed. They went.
Excursion to Glacier Point.
The next day all of our party, except Mrs. Graves, who had made the journey some years before, went to the top of Glacier Point. We took a stage to the Happy Isles and there mounted mules for the trail. The climb is a steady one. Soon we got our first view of the Vernal Falls. To my mind they are the most perfect waterfalls in the Valley. The water flows over the cliffs an unbroken mass, one hundred feet wide. The initial drop is three hundred and fifty feet. The effect can not be imagined by one who has not seen the actual descent of this great mass of water. The emerald pond above the falls, in which the waters assume an emerald hue, and appear to seek a momentary rest before taking the final plunge over the cliffs, is one of the Valley's beauty spots. The roar of the falling waters, striking the rocks below, is loud and reverberating. Great clouds of spray and mist float off in falling masses, appearing more like smoke than water.
After passing Vernal Falls you come to the Diamond Cascades. They are below the Nevada Falls. The long flowing waters from the Nevada Falls have cut a channel deep into the bed rock. You cross this channel on a bridge. Under and below the bridge the water flows with such velocity that great volumes of it are hurled into the air in long strings, one succeeding the other. The sunlight on these strings of water makes them flash like diamonds. The effect is as if some one were sowing diamonds by the bushel above the water. A similar effect is noticed, though not so pronounced, just above the Nevada Falls. The latter are something like a mile above Vernal Falls. They are six hundred feet high. They seem to come over the cliff like the Yosemite Falls, through a broken or distorted lip, and the water is lashed to foam and looks for all the world like the smoke of some mighty conflagration, upon which a score of modern fire engines are playing. Near the top of the Nevada Falls is a fir tree more than ten feet in diameter, said to be the largest tree in the Yosemite Valley. Just above the falls we again crossed the river on a bridge. Near the bridge, on the rocks is plain evidence of glacial scourings. A glacial deposit is left in patches on the rocks which is today as smooth as plate glass.
Abandoned Eagle's Nest.
Above Vernal Falls we skirted the base and climbed partly around the side of Liberty Cap, one of the great granite domes of the valley, until we reached the top of the cliff over which the Nevada Falls plunge. Well up on the side of this cliff, in an inaccessible retreat, our guide, who had traversed this route for twenty-two years, showed me an ancient but now abandoned eagle's nest. The noble birds, in late years, not liking the coming of the thousands of excursionists who passed that way daily, forsook their home for some other locality.
The trail now winds around the mountainsides, finally crossing the canyon above the Illiouette Falls. In a short time we are at Glacier Point. As you go out to the iron railing erected on the outer edge of a flat rock on the extreme edge of the cliff, and look down into the valley below you, you can not help a shrinking feeling, and you are only too glad soon to move back and get a view from safer quarters.
The celebrated overhanging rock is at this point. It is a piece of granite, say four or five feet wide, flat on top, but with rounding edges. It sticks out from the cliff several feet. Foolhardy people walk out to the edge of it and make their bow to imaginary audiences over three thousand feet below. One of the guides with our party, wearing heavy "chaps" (bear-skin overalls) walked out upon this rock, took off his hat, waved it over his head, posed for his photograph, even took a jig step or two, stood on one foot and peered into the abyss below with apparent unconcern. Earlier in life I might have taken a similar chance, but it would be a physical impossibility for me to do it now. We feasted our eyes on the magnificent view.
We were now nearly level with the Half Dome (our elevation was seven thousand one hundred feet), below us the beautiful valley with its winding river, bright meadows and stately forests. Horses staked out on the meadow looked like dogs; people, like ants. The Yosemite, Vernal, Nevada and Illilouette Falls, Mirror Lake, the roaring cascades above, the Happy Isles, all the peaks of the upper end of the Valley, and mountains for miles and miles beyond, snowcapped and storm-swept, were in plain sight.
After an appetizing lunch at the hotel, we took the short trail for the valley. It is three and a half miles long, almost straight up and down, and is hard riding or walking. But the journey was soon ended, and that night we again slept the sleep of the joyously tired.
Morning came too soon, ushering in another perfect mountain day. We simply loafed around, never tiring of looking at the river or falls in sight, or the everlasting cliffs above us. We put in an hour or two watching a moving-picture outfit photographing imitation Indians.
Views Through A "Claude Lorraine Glass."
That evening as the daylight waned, while sky and stream, trees, mountains and jagged peaks were still gloriously tinted with the sun's last rays, Mr. Chris. Jorgenson, the artist, brought out a "Claude Lorraine glass." We stood upon the bridge of the Merced river and caught upon the glass the Half Dome, bathed in mellow light; the Yosemite Falls with its great mass of falling waters exquisitely illuminated; Sentinel Peak, the swiftly moving river fringed with green trees, the grassy meadows and the fleecy clouds. The picture of reflected beauty so produced, such tints and colors, such glints of stream and forest, such a glorified reproduction of the beauties of the Valley can only be imagined, they can not be described.
There were enough Los Angeles people in the Yosemite at the time to have voted a bond issue. They were all out for a good time, and were having it.
Our Return to Wawona.
Not wishing to undergo the torture of the noon-day ride back to Wawona, a party of us chartered a stage to leave the Valley at six o'clock a. m. We got off next morning at six-forty and had a delightful drive, making Wawona before noon. Thus a few hours' difference in the time of starting made a pleasure of what otherwise would have been a torment. While we were in the Valley some Los Angeles friends had arrived at Wawona and were in camp near the hotel.
We rested at Wawona several days. During one of these I went with the boys on horseback to Signal Peak, whose elevation is seven thousand and ninety-three feet. The San Joaquin valley was enveloped in haze, but the mountain ranges east of us were in plain sight. We could see all the peaks from Tallac at Lake Tahoe to Mt. Whitney. Mt. Ritter, Mt. Dana, Mt. Hamilton, Galen Clarke, Star King, Lyell, the Gale Group, and others whose names I do not now recall, stood out in bold relief, encased in snowy mantles. The view from Signal Peak is well worth the trip. We enjoyed it so much that we persuaded Mrs. Graves and some ladies to take it next day by carriage, which is easily done.
On June twenty-third the boys went to Empire Meadows, some eleven miles distant, with a fishing party. They had fair luck, the entire party taking nearly two hundred eastern brook trout.
On the morning of June twenty-fourth, at six o'clock, we started on our homeward journey. We had carburetor trouble coming up - we still had it going out, until at last our driver discovered that one of the insulating wires had worn through its covering and, coming in contact with metal, had resulted in a short circuit. When this was remedied our troubles were over, and our machine performed handsomely. The first forty-four miles to Raymond were all downhill, over a very rough road, with sharp turns and depressions every one hundred feet or so, to allow the rainwater to run off of the road, which rendered the going very slow. We were three hours and a half reaching Raymond. Passing this point we sped into Madera, then to Firebaugh. During the morning we saw a stately pair of wild pigeons winging their swift flight in and out of some tall pine trees.
Water High in San Joaquin Valley.
The San Joaquin river was very high and had overflowed thousands of acres of land. Our road, slightly elevated, passed for miles through an inland sea. To reach Los Banos, we made a wide detour to the left. We crossed the Pacheco Pass into the Santa Clara valley. We had intended to go to Holister by way of San Felipe. Some three miles from the latter place we saw a sign reading "Hollister nine miles." We took the road indicated and must have saved six or seven miles.
This portion of the country is largely given over to fruit growing and raising flower and garden seed, acres and acres of which were in full bloom, and the mingled colors were exceedingly charming. We reached Holister in good time, one hundred and seventy miles from Wawona. We found good accommodations at the Hotel Hartman. Bright and early next morning we were off. We went due west. We found the bridge over the Pajaro river utterly destroyed by last winter's rains. We crossed through the bed of the stream without difficulty and were soon upon the main road to Salinas, just below San Juan. As we ascended the San Juan hills, we paused at a turn in the road and got a view of the beautiful valley in which Hollister lies. No more peaceful landscape ever greeted mortal eye. Every acre as far as one could see, not devoted to pasturage, was cultivated. There were grain and hay fields, orchards by the mile, and the seed farms in full bloom, while cattle and horses grazed peacefully in many pastures. We turned away with regret at leaving a land so beautiful, so happy and contented looking.
At Salinas river we found a man with a good-sized team of horses, who, for one dollar and fifty cents, hauled us through a little water which we could have crossed without difficulty, and a quarter of a mile of loose, shifting sand which we could never have crossed without his aid. He has a tent in which he has lived since last winter, and he gets them "coming and going," as no machine can negotiate that stretch of road unassisted. He earns his money, and I wish him well.
Fine Run to Los Olivos.
Taking out the time spent at lunch and in taking on gasoline, we reached Los Olivos, two hundred and thirty-one miles from Hollister, in eleven hours' running time. We again had good accommodations at Los Olivos and were off next morning on the final "leg" of our journey. The road from the north side of Gaviote Pass to within a few miles of Santa Barbara is a disgrace to Santa Barbara county. I prefer the valley route with its heat to the coast route, and I warn all automobilists to avoid the latter route.
We had a good lunch at Shepherd's Inn, and then ran home in time for dinner. We came by Calabasas, and just before we reached the Cahuenga Pass we turned off and went through Lankershim on our way to Alhambra. We all remarked that in no section of the state we had visited did the trees look as healthy, the alfalfa as luxuriant, the garden truck as vigorous, as they did at Lankershim. Every inch of the ground there is cultivated; there are no waste spots.
Home looked better and dearer to us when we reached it than it ever did before. We had traveled one thousand and forty-five miles and used on the trip one hundred and four gallons of gasoline, thus averaging over all sorts of roads, including several mountain ranges, a little better than ten miles to the gallon. I defy any six cylinder car in America to beat this record. I used the same old Franklin car, in which I have made four tours of California. I have no apology to offer for breaking the driveshaft. The parts of any car will stand just so much. Pass this point and trouble ensues. This grand old car has run over eighty thousand miles and seen much hardship. I salute it!