The Redemption of Steep Rock Cove (Steep Rock Cove Series Book 1)
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This is where General Canby was slain while seeking to make peace with the treacherous Modocs. Two or three miles farther on is the main stronghold of the Modocs, held by them so long and defiantly against all the soldiers that could be brought to the attack. Indians usually choose to hide in tall grass and bush and behind trees, where they can crouch and glide like panthers, without casting up defenses that would betray their positions; but the Modoc castle is in the rock.
When the Yosemite Indians made raids on the settlers of the lower Merced, they withdrew with their spoils into Yosemite Valley; and the Modocs boasted that in case of war they had a stone house into which no white man could come as long as they cared to defend it. Yosemite was not held for a single day against the pursuing troops; but the Modocs held their fort for months, until, weary of being hemmed in, they chose to withdraw.
It consists of numerous redoubts formed by the unequal subsidence of portions of the lava flow, and a complicated network of redans abundantly supplied with salient and re-entering angles, being united each to the other and to the redoubts by a labyrinth of open and covered corridors, some of which expand at intervals into spacious caverns, forming as a whole the most complete natural Gibraltar I ever saw. Other castles scarcely less strong are connected with this by subterranean passages known only to the Indians, while the unnatural blackness of the rock out of which Nature has constructed these defenses, and the weird, inhuman physiognomy of the whole region are well calculated to inspire terror.
Deadly was the task of storming such a place. The breech-loading rifles of the Indians thrust through chinks between the rocks were ready to pick off every soldier who showed himself for a moment, while the Indians lay utterly invisible. They were familiar with byways both over and under ground, and could at any time sink suddenly out of sight like squirrels among the loose boulders.
Our bewildered soldiers heard them shooting, now before, now behind them, as they glided from place to place through fissures and subterranean passes, all the while as invisible as Gyges wearing his magic ring.
Gunwalloe, The Lizard
To judge from the few I have seen, Modocs are not very amiable-looking people at best. When, therefore, they were crawling stealthily in the gloomy caverns, unkempt and begrimed and with the glare of war in their eyes, they must have seemed very demons of the volcanic pit. Captain Jack's cave is one of the many somber cells of the castle.
It measures twenty-five or thirty feet in diameter at the entrance, and extends but a short distance in a horizontal direction. The floor is littered with the bones of the animals slaughtered for food during the war. Some eager archaeologist may hereafter discover this cabin and startle his world by announcing another of the Stone Age caves. The sun shines freely into its mouth, and graceful bunches of grass and eriogonums and sage grow about it, doing what they can toward its redemption from degrading associations and making it beautiful.
Where the lava meets the lake there are some fine curving bays, beautifully embroidered with rushes and polygonums, a favorite resort of waterfowl. On our return, keeping close along shore, we caused a noisy plashing and beating of wings among cranes and geese. The ducks, less wary, kept their places, merely swimming in and out through openings in the rushes, rippling the glassy water, and raising spangles in their wake.
The countenance of the lava beds became less and less forbidding. Tufts of pale grasses, relieved on the jet rocks, looked like ornaments on a mantel, thick-furred mats of emerald mosses appeared in damp spots next the shore, and I noticed one tuft of small ferns. From year to year in the kindly weather the beds are thus gathering beauty--beauty for ashes. Returning to Sheep Rock and following the old emigrant road, one is soon back again beneath the snows and shadows of Shasta, and the Ash Creek and McCloud Glaciers come into view on the east side of the mountain.
They are broad, rugged, crevassed cloudlike masses of down-grinding ice, pouring forth streams of muddy water as measures of the work they are doing in sculpturing the rocks beneath them; very unlike the long, majestic glaciers of Alaska that riverlike go winding down the valleys through the forests to the sea. These, with a few others as yet nameless, are lingering remnants of once great glaciers that occupied the canyons now taken by the rivers, and in a few centuries will, under present conditions, vanish altogether.
The rivers of the granite south half of the Sierra are outspread on the peaks in a shining network of small branches, that divide again and again into small dribbling, purling, oozing threads drawing their sources from the snow and ice of the surface. They seldom sink out of sight, save here and there in the moraines or glaciers, or, early in the season, beneath the banks and bridges of snow, soon to issue again.
But in the north half, laden with rent and porous lava, small tributary streams are rare, and the rivers, flowing for a time beneath the sky of rock, at length burst forth into the light in generous volume from seams and caverns, filtered, cool, and sparkling, as if their bondage in darkness, safe from the vicissitudes of the weather in their youth, were only a blessing.
Only a very small portion of the water derived from the melting ice and snow of Shasta flows down its flanks on the surface. Probably ninety-nine per cent of it is at once absorbed and drained away beneath the porous lava-folds of the mountain to gush forth, filtered and pure, in the form of immense springs, so large, some of them, that they give birth to rivers that start on their journey beneath the sun, full-grown and perfect without any childhood. Thus the Shasta River issues from a large lake-like spring in Shasta Valley, and about two thirds of the volume of the McCloud gushes forth in a grand spring on the east side of the mountain, a few miles back from its immediate base.
To find the big spring of the McCloud, or "Mud Glacier," which you will know by its size it being the largest on the east side , you make your way through sunny, parklike woods of yellow pine, and a shaggy growth of chaparral, and come in a few hours to the river flowing in a gorge of moderate depth, cut abruptly down into the lava plain. Should the volume of the stream where you strike it seem small, then you will know that you are above the spring; if large, nearly equal to its volume at its confluence with the Pitt River, then you are below it; and in either case have only to follow the river up or down until you come to it.
Under certain conditions you may hear the roar of the water rushing from the rock at a distance of half a mile, or even more; or you may not hear it until within a few rods.
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It comes in a grand, eager gush from a horizontal seam in the face of the wall of the river gorge in the form of a partially interrupted sheet nearly seventy-five yards in width, and at a height above the riverbed of about forty feet, as nearly as I could make out without the means of exact measurement. For about fifty yards this flat current is in one unbroken sheet, and flows in a lacework of plashing, upleaping spray over boulders that are clad in green silky algae and water mosses to meet the smaller part of the river, which takes its rise farther up.
Joining the river at right angles to its course, it at once swells its volume to three times its size above the spring. The vivid green of the boulders beneath the water is very striking, and colors the entire stream with the exception of the portions broken into foam.
The color is chiefly due to a species of algae which seems common in springs of this sort. That any kind of plant can hold on and grow beneath the wear of so boisterous a current seems truly wonderful, even after taking into consideration the freedom of the water from cutting drift, and the constance of its volume and temperature throughout the year. The temperature is about 45 degrees, and the height of the river above the sea is here about three thousand feet. Asplenium, epilobium, heuchera, hazel, dogwood, and alder make a luxurious fringe and setting; and the forests of Douglas spruce along the banks are the finest I have ever seen in the Sierra.
From the spring you may go with the river--a fine traveling companion--down to the sportsman's fishing station, where, if you are getting hungry, you may replenish your stores; or, bearing off around the mountain by Huckleberry Valley, complete your circuit without interruption, emerging at length from beneath the outspread arms of the sugar pine at Strawberry Valley, with all the new wealth and health gathered in your walk; not tired in the least, and only eager to repeat the round.
Tracing rivers to their fountains makes the most charming of travels. As the life-blood of the landscapes, the best of the wilderness comes to their banks, and not one dull passage is found in all their eventful histories. Tracing the McCloud to its highest springs, and over the divide to the fountains of Fall River, near Fort Crook, thence down that river to its confluence with the Pitt, on from there to the volcanic region about Lassen's Butte, through the Big Meadows among the sources of the Feather River, and down through forests of sugar pine to the fertile plains of Chico--this is a glorious saunter and imposes no hardship.
Food may be had at moderate intervals, and the whole circuit forms one ever-deepening, broadening stream of enjoyment. Fall River is a very remarkable stream. It is only about ten miles long, and is composed of springs, rapids, and falls--springs beautifully shaded at one end of it, a showy fall one hundred and eighty feet high at the other, and a rush of crystal rapids between.
The banks are fringed with rubus, rose, plum cherry, spiraea, azalea, honeysuckle, hawthorn, ash, alder, elder, aster, goldenrod, beautiful grasses, sedges, rushes, mosses, and ferns with fronds as large as the leaves of palms--all in the midst of a richly forested landscape.
Nowhere within the limits of California are the forests of yellow pine so extensive and exclusive as on the headwaters of the Pitt. They cover the mountains and all the lower slopes that border the wide, open valleys which abound there, pressing forward in imposing ranks, seemingly the hardiest and most firmly established of all the northern coniferae. The volcanic region about Lassen's Butte I have already in part described.
Miles of its flanks are dotted with hot springs, many of them so sulphurous and boisterous and noisy in their boiling that they seem inclined to become geysers like those of the Yellowstone. The ascent of Lassen's Butte is an easy walk, and the views from the summit are extremely telling. Innumerable lakes and craters surround the base; forests of the charming Williamson spruce fringe lake and crater alike; the sunbeaten plains to east and west make a striking show, and the wilderness of peaks and ridges stretch indefinitely away on either hand.
The lofty, icy Shasta, towering high above all, seems but an hour's walk from you, though the distance in an air-line is about sixty miles. The "Big Meadows" lie near the foot of Lassen's Butte, a beautiful spacious basin set in the heart of the richly forested mountains, scarcely surpassed in the grandeur of its surroundings by Tahoe. During the Glacial Period it was a mer de glace, then a lake, and now a level meadow shining with bountiful springs and streams.
In the number and size of its big spring fountains it excels even Shasta. One of the largest that I measured forms a lakelet nearly a hundred yards in diameter, and, in the generous flood it sends forth offers one of the most telling symbols of Nature's affluence to be found in the mountains. The great wilds of our country, once held to be boundless and inexhaustible, are being rapidly invaded and overrun in every direction, and everything destructible in them is being destroyed.
How far destruction may go it is not easy to guess.
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Every landscape, low and high, seems doomed to be trampled and harried. Even the sky is not safe from scath--blurred and blackened whole summers together with the smoke of fires that devour the woods. The Shasta region is still a fresh unspoiled wilderness, accessible and available for travelers of every kind and degree. Would it not then be a fine thing to set it apart like the Yellowstone and Yosemite as a National Park for the welfare and benefit of all mankind, preserving its fountains and forests and all its glad life in primeval beauty?
Very little of the region can ever be more valuable for any other use--certainly not for gold nor for grain. No private right or interest need suffer, and thousands yet unborn would come from far and near and bless the country for its wise and benevolent forethought. VI The City of the Saints The mountains rise grandly round about this curious city, the Zion of the new Saints, so grandly that the city itself is hardly visible.
The Wahsatch Range, snow-laden and adorned with glacier-sculpted peaks, stretches continuously along the eastern horizon, forming the boundary of the Great Salt Lake Basin; while across the valley of the Jordan southwestward from here, you behold the Oquirrh Range, about as snowy and lofty as the Wahsatch. To the northwest your eye skims the blue levels of the great lake, out of the midst of which rise island mountains, and beyond, at a distance of fifty miles, is seen the picturesque wall of the lakeside mountains blending with the lake and the sky.
The glacial developments of these superb ranges are sharply sculptured peaks and crests, with ample wombs between them where the ancient snows of the glacial period were collected and transformed into ice, and ranks of profound shadowy canyons, while moraines commensurate with the lofty fountains extend into the valleys, forming far the grandest series of glacial monuments I have yet seen this side of the Sierra. In beginning this letter I meant to describe the city, but in the company of these noble old mountains, it is not easy to bend one's attention upon anything else.
Salt Lake cannot be called a very beautiful town, neither is there anything ugly or repulsive about it. From the slopes of the Wahsatch foothills, or old lake benches, toward Fort Douglas it is seen to occupy the sloping gravelly delta of City Creek, a fine, hearty stream that comes pouring from the snows of the mountains through a majestic glacial canyon; and it is just where this stream comes forth into the light on the edge of the valley of the Jordan that the Mormons have built their new Jerusalem.
At first sight there is nothing very marked in the external appearance of the town excepting its leafiness. Most of the houses are veiled with trees, as if set down in the midst of one grand orchard; and seen at a little distance they appear like a field of glacier boulders overgrown with aspens, such as one often meets in the upper valleys of the California Sierra, for only the angular roofs are clearly visible. Perhaps nineteen twentieths of the houses are built of bluish-gray adobe bricks, and are only one or two stories high, forming fine cottage homes which promise simple comfort within.