A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains
by Isabella L. Bird
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On Sunday work is nominally laid aside, but most of the men go out hunting or fishing till the evening, when we have the harmonium and much sacred music and singing in parts. To be alone in the park from the afternoon till the last glory of the afterglow has faded, with no books but a Bible and Prayer-book, is truly delightful. No worthier temple for a "Te Deum" or "Gloria in Excelsis" could be found than this "temple not made with hands," in which one may worship without being distracted by the sight of bonnets of endless form, and curiously intricate "back hair," and countless oddities of changing fashion.

I shall not soon forget my first night here.

Somewhat dazed by the rarefied air, entranced by the glorious beauty, slightly puzzled by the motley company, whose faces loomed not always quite distinctly through the cloud of smoke produced by eleven pipes, I went to my solitary cabin at nine, attended by Evans. It was very dark, and it seemed a long way off. Something howled—Evans said it was a wolf—and owls apparently innumerable hooted incessantly. The pole-star, exactly opposite my cabin door, burned like a lamp. The frost was sharp. Evans opened the door, lighted a candle, and left me, and I was soon in my hay bed. I was frightened—that is, afraid of being frightened, it was so eerie—but sleep soon got the better of my fears. I was awoke by a heavy breathing, a noise something like sawing under the floor, and a pushing and upheaving, all very loud. My candle was all burned, and, in truth, I dared not stir. The noise went on for an hour fully, when, just as I thought the floor had been made sufficiently thin for all purposes of ingress, the sounds abruptly ceased, and I fell asleep again. My hair was not, as it ought to have been, white in the morning!

I was dressed by seven, our breakfast hour, and when I reached the great cabin and told my story, Evans laughed hilariously, and Edwards contorted his face dismally. They told me that there was a skunk's lair under my cabin, and that they dare not make any attempt to dislodge him for fear of rendering the cabin untenable. They have tried to trap him since, but without success, and each night the noisy performance is repeated. I think he is sharpening his claws on the under side of my floor, as the grizzlies sharpen theirs upon the trees. The odor with which this creature, truly named Mephitis, can overpower its assailants is truly AWFUL. We were driven out of the cabin for some hours merely by the passage of one across the corral. The bravest man is a coward in its neighborhood. Dogs rub their noses on the ground till they bleed when they have touched the fluid, and even die of the vomiting produced by the effluvia. The odor can be smelt a mile off. If clothes are touched by the fluid they must be destroyed. At present its fur is very valuable. Several have been killed since I came. A shot well aimed at the spine secures one safely, and an experienced dog can kill one by leaping upon it suddenly without being exposed to danger. It is a beautiful beast, about the size and length of a fox, with long thick black or dark-brown fur, and two white streaks from the head to the long bushy tail. The claws of its fore-feet are long and polished. Yesterday one was seen rushing from the dairy and was shot. "Plunk," the big dog, touched it and has to be driven into exile. The body was valiantly removed by a man with a long fork, and carried to a running stream, but we are nearly choked with the odor from the spot where it fell. I hope that my skunk will enjoy a quiet spirit so long as we are near neighbors.

October 3.

This is surely one of the most entrancing spots on earth. Oh, that I could paint with pen or brush! From my bed I look on Mirror Lake, and with the very earliest dawn, when objects are not discernible, it lies there absolutely still, a purplish lead color. Then suddenly into its mirror flash inverted peaks, at first a dawn darker all round. This is a new sight, each morning new. Then the peaks fade, and when morning is no longer "spread upon the mountains," the pines are mirrored in my lake almost as solid objects, and the glory steals downwards, and a red flush warms the clear atmosphere of the park, and the hoar-frost sparkles and the crested blue-jays step forth daintily on the jewelled grass. The majesty and beauty grow on me daily. As I crossed from my cabin just now, and the long mountain shadows lay on the grass, and form and color gained new meanings, I was almost false to Hawaii; I couldn't go on writing for the glory of the sunset, but went out and sat on a rock to see the deepening blue in the dark canyons, and the peaks becoming rose color one by one, then fading into sudden ghastliness, the awe-inspiring heights of Long's Peak fading last. Then came the glories of the afterglow, when the orange and lemon of the east faded into gray, and then gradually the gray for some distance above the horizon brightened into a cold blue, and above the blue into a broad band of rich, warm red, with an upper band of rose color; above it hung a big cold moon. This is the "daily miracle" of evening, as the blazing peaks in the darkness of Mirror Lake are the miracle of morning. Perhaps this scenery is not lovable, but, as if it were a strong stormy character, it has an intense fascination.

The routine of my day is breakfast at seven, then I go back and "do" my cabin and draw water from the lake, read a little, loaf a little, return to the big cabin and sweep it alternately with Mrs. Dewy, after which she reads aloud till dinner at twelve. Then I ride with Mr. Dewy, or by myself, or with Mrs. Dewy, who is learning to ride cavalier fashion in order to accompany her invalid husband, or go after cattle till supper at six. After that we all sit in the living room, and I settle down to write to you, or mend my clothes, which are dropping to pieces. Some sit round the table playing at eucre, the strange hunters and prospectors lie on the floor smoking, and rifles are cleaned, bullets cast, fishing flies made, fishing tackle repaired, boots are waterproofed, part-songs are sung, and about half-past eight I cross the crisp grass to my cabin, always expecting to find something in it. We all wash our own clothes, and as my stock is so small, some part of every day has to be spent at the wash tub. Politeness and propriety always prevail in our mixed company, and though various grades of society are represented, true democratic equality prevails, not its counterfeit, and there is neither forwardness on one side nor condescension on the other.

Evans left for Denver ten days ago, taking his wife and family to the Plains for the winter, and the mirth of our party departed with him. Edwards is somber, except when he lies on the floor in the evening, and tells stories of his march through Georgia with Sherman. I gave Evans a 100-dollar note to change, and asked him to buy me a horse for my tour, and for three days we have expected him. The mail depends on him. I have had no letters from you for five weeks, and can hardly curb my impatience. I ride or walk three or four miles out on the Longmount trail two or three times a day to look for him. Others, for different reasons, are nearly equally anxious. After dark we start at every sound, and every time the dogs bark all the able-bodied of us turn out en masse. "Wait for the wagon" has become a nearly maddening joke.

October 9.

The letter and newspaper fever has seized on every one. We have sent at last to Longmount. The evening I rode out on the Longmount trail towards dusk, escorted by "Mountain Jim," and in the distance we saw a wagon with four horses and a saddle horse behind, and the driver waved a handkerchief, the concerted signal if I were the possessor of a horse. We turned back, galloping down the long hill as fast as two good horses could carry us, and gave the joyful news. It was an hour before the wagon arrived, bringing not Evans but two "campers" of suspicious aspect, who have pitched their camp close to my cabin! You cannot imagine what it is to be locked in by these mountain walls, and not to know where your letters are lying. Later on, Mr. Buchan, one of our usual inmates, returned from Denver with papers, letters for every one but me, and much exciting news. The financial panic has spread out West, gathering strength on its way. The Denver banks have all suspended business. They refuse to cash their own checks, or to allow their customers to draw a dollar, and would not even give green-backs for my English gold! Neither Mr. Buchan nor Evans could get a cent. Business is suspended, and everybody, however rich, is for the time being poor. The Indians have taken to the "war path," and are burning ranches and killing cattle. There is a regular "scare" among the settlers, and wagon loads of fugitives are arriving in Colorado Springs. The Indians say, "The white man has killed the buffalo and left them to rot on the plains. We will be revenged." Evans had reached Longmount, and will be here tonight.

October 10.

"Wait for the wagon" still! We had a hurricane of wind and hail last night; it was eleven before I could go to my cabin, and I only reached it with the help of two men. The moon was not up, and the sky overhead was black with clouds, when suddenly Long's Peak, which had been invisible, gleamed above the dark mountains, all glistening with new-fallen snow, on which the moon, as yet uprisen here, was shining. The evening before, after sunset, I saw another novel effect. My lake turned a brilliant orange in the twilight, and in its still mirror the mountains were reflected a deep rich blue. It is a world of wonders. To-day we had a great storm with flurries of fine snow; and when the clouds rolled up at noon, the Snowy Range and all the higher mountains were pure white. I have been hard at work all day to drown my anxieties, which are heightened by a rumor that Evans has gone buffalo-hunting on the Platte!

This evening, quite unexpectedly, Evans arrived with a heavy mail in a box. I sorted it, but there was nothing for me and Evans said he was afraid that he had left my letters, which were separate from the others, behind at Denver, but he had written from Longmount for them. A few hours later they were found in a box of groceries!

All the hilarity of the house has returned with Evans, and he has brought a kindred spirit with him, a young man who plays and sings splendidly, has an inexhaustible repertoire, and produces sonatas, funeral marches, anthems, reels, strathspeys, and all else, out of his wonderful memory. Never, surely was a chamber organ compelled to such service. A little cask of suspicious appearance was smuggled into the cabin from the wagon, and heightens the hilarity a little, I fear. No churlishness could resist Evans's unutterable jollity or the contagion of his hearty laugh. He claps people on the back, shouts at them, will do anything for them, and makes a perpetual breeze. "My kingdom for a horse!" He has not got one for me, and a shadow crossed his face when I spoke of the subject. Eventually he asked for a private conference, when he told me, with some confusion, that he had found himself "very hard up" in Denver, and had been obliged to appropriate my 100-dollar note. He said he would give me, as interest for it up to November 25th, a good horse, saddle, and bridle for my proposed journey of 600 miles. I was somewhat dismayed, but there was no other course, as the money was gone.

[16] I tried a horse, mended my clothes, reduced my pack to a weight of twelve pounds, and was all ready for an early start, when before daylight I was wakened by Evans's cheery voice at my door. "I say, Miss B., we've got to drive wild cattle to-day; I wish you'd lend a hand, there's not enough of us; I'll give you a good horse; one day won't make much difference." So we've been driving cattle all day, riding about twenty miles, and fording the Big Thompson about as many times. Evans flatters me by saying that I am "as much use as another man"; more than one of our party, I hope, who always avoided the "ugly" cows.

[16] In justice to Evans, I must mention here that every cent of the money was ultimately paid, that the horse was perfection, and that the arrangement turned out a most advantageous one for me.

October 12.

I am still here, helping in the kitchen, driving cattle, and riding four or five times a day. Evans detains me each morning by saying, "Here's lots of horses for you to try," and after trying five or six a day, I do not find one to my liking. Today, as I was cantering a tall well-bred one round the lake, he threw the bridle off by a toss of his head, leaving me with the reins in my hands; one bucked, and two have tender feet, and tumbled down. Such are some of our little varieties. Still I hope to get off on my tour in a day or two, so at least as to be able to compare Estes Park with some of the better-known parts of Colorado.

You would be amused if you could see our cabin just now. There are nine men in the room and three women. For want of seats most of the men are lying on the floor; all are smoking, and the blithe young French Canadian who plays so beautifully, and catches about fifty speckled trout for each meal, is playing the harmonium with a pipe in his mouth. Three men who have camped in Black Canyon for a week are lying like dogs on the floor. They are all over six feet high, immovably solemn, neither smiling at the general hilarity, nor at the absurd changes which are being rung on the harmonium. They may be described as clothed only in boots, for their clothes are torn to rags. They stare vacantly. They have neither seen a woman nor slept under a roof for six months. Negro songs are being sung, and before that "Yankee Doodle" was played immediately after "Rule Britannia," and it made every one but the strangers laugh, it sounded so foolish and mean. The colder weather is bringing the beasts down from the heights. I heard both wolves and the mountain lion as I crossed to my cabin last night.

I. L. B.


"Please Ma'ams"—A desperado—A cattle hunt—The muster—A mad cow—A snowstorm—Snowed up—Birdie—The Plains—A prairie schooner—Denver—A find—Plum Creek—"Being agreeable"—Snowbound—The grey mare.


This afternoon, as I was reading in my cabin, little Sam Edwards ran in, saying, "Mountain Jim wants to speak to you." This brought to my mind images of infinite worry, gauche servants, "please Ma'am," contretemps, and the habit growing out of our elaborate and uselessly conventional life of magnifying the importance of similar trifles. Then "things" came up, with the tyranny they exercise. I REALLY need nothing more than this log cabin offers. But elsewhere one must have a house and servants, and burdens and worries—not that one may be hospitable and comfortable, but for the "thick clay" in the shape of "things" which one has accumulated. My log house takes me about five minutes to "do," and you could eat off the floor, and it needs no lock, as it contains nothing worth stealing.

But "Mountain Jim" was waiting while I made these reflections to ask us to take a ride; and he, Mr. and Mrs. Dewy, and I, had a delightful stroll through colored foliage, and then, when they were fatigued, I changed my horse for his beautiful mare, and we galloped and raced in the beautiful twilight, in the intoxicating frosty air. Mrs. Dewy wishes you could have seen us as we galloped down the pass, the fearful-looking ruffian on my heavy wagon horse, and I on his bare wooden saddle, from which beaver, mink, and marten tails, and pieces of skin, were hanging raggedly, with one spur, and feet not in the stirrups, the mare looking so aristocratic and I so beggarly! Mr. Nugent is what is called "splendid company." With a sort of breezy mountain recklessness in everything, he passes remarkably acute judgments on men and events; on women also. He has pathos, poetry, and humor, an intense love of nature, strong vanity in certain directions, an obvious desire to act and speak in character, and sustain his reputation as a desperado, a considerable acquaintance with literature, a wonderful verbal memory, opinions on every person and subject, a chivalrous respect for women in his manner, which makes it all the more amusing when he suddenly turns round upon one with some graceful raillery, a great power of fascination, and a singular love of children. The children of this house run to him, and when he sits down they climb on his broad shoulders and play with his curls. They say in the house that "no one who has been here thinks any one worth speaking to after Jim," but I think that this is probably an opinion which time would alter. Somehow, he is kept always before the public of Colorado, for one can hardly take up a newspaper without finding a paragraph about him, a contribution by him, or a fragment of his biography. Ruffian as he looks, the first word he speaks—to a lady, at least—places him on a level with educated gentlemen, and his conversation is brilliant, and full of the light and fitfulness of genius. Yet, on the whole, he is a most painful spectacle. His magnificent head shows so plainly the better possibilities which might have been his. His life, in spite of a certain dazzle which belongs to it, is a ruined and wasted one, and one asks what of good can the future have in store for one who has for so long chosen evil?[17]

[17] September of the next year answered the question by laying him down in a dishonored grave, with a rifle bullet in his brain.

Shall I ever get away? We were to have had a grand cattle hunt yesterday, beginning at 6:30, but the horses were all lost. Often out of fifty horses all that are worth anything are marauding, and a day is lost in hunting for them in the canyons. However, before daylight this morning Evans called through my door, "Miss Bird, I say we've got to drive cattle fifteen miles, I wish you'd lend a hand; there's not enough of us; I'll give you a good horse."

The scene of the drive is at a height of 7,500 feet, watered by two rapid rivers. On all sides mountains rise to an altitude of from 11,000 to 15,000 feet, their skirts shaggy with pitch-pine forests, and scarred by deep canyons, wooded and boulder strewn, opening upon the mountain pasture previously mentioned. Two thousand head of half-wild Texan cattle are scattered in herds throughout the canyons, living on more or less suspicious terms with grizzly and brown bears, mountain lions, elk, mountain sheep, spotted deer, wolves, lynxes, wild cats, beavers, minks, skunks, chipmunks, eagles, rattlesnakes, and all the other two-legged, four-legged, vertebrate, and invertebrate inhabitants of this lonely and romantic region. On the whole, they show a tendency rather to the habits of wild than of domestic cattle. They march to water in Indian file, with the bulls leading, and when threatened, take strategic advantage of ridgy ground, slinking warily along in the hollows, the bulls acting as sentinels, and bringing up the rear in case of an attack from dogs. Cows have to be regularly broken in for milking, being as wild as buffaloes in their unbroken state; but, owing to the comparative dryness of the grasses, and the system of allowing the calf to have the milk during the daytime, a dairy of 200 cows does not produce as much butter as a Devonshire dairy of fifty. Some "necessary" cruelty is involved in the stockman's business, however humane he may be. The system is one of terrorism, and from the time that the calf is bullied into the branding pen, and the hot iron burns into his shrinking flesh, to the day when the fatted ox is driven down from his boundless pastures to be slaughtered in Chicago, "the fear and dread of man" are upon him.

The herds are apt to penetrate the savage canyons which come down from the Snowy Range, when they incur a risk of being snowed up and starved, and it is necessary now and then to hunt them out and drive them down to the "park." On this occasion, the whole were driven down for a muster, and for the purpose of branding the calves.

After a 6:30 breakfast this morning, we started, the party being composed of my host, a hunter from the Snowy Range, two stockmen from the Plains, one of whom rode a violent buck-jumper, and was said by his comrade to be the "best rider in North Americay," and myself. We were all mounted on Mexican saddles, rode, as the custom is, with light snaffle bridles, leather guards over our feet, and broad wooden stirrups, and each carried his lunch in a pouch slung on the lassoing horn of his saddle. Four big, badly-trained dogs accompanied us. It was a ride of nearly thirty miles, and of many hours, one of the most splendid I ever took. We never got off our horses except to tighten the girths, we ate our lunch with our bridles knotted over saddle horns, started over the level at full gallops, leapt over trunks of trees, dashed madly down hillsides rugged with rocks or strewn with great stones, forded deep, rapid streams, saw lovely lakes and views of surpassing magnificence, startled a herd of elk with uncouth heads and in the chase, which for some time was unsuccessful, rode to the very base of Long's Peak, over 14,000 feet high, where the bright waters of one of the affluents of the Platte burst from the eternal snows through a canyon of indescribable majesty. The sun was hot, but at a height of over 8,000 feet the air was crisp and frosty, and the enjoyment of riding a good horse under such exhilarating circumstances was extreme. In one wild part of the ride we had to come down a steep hill, thickly wooded with pitch pines, to leap over the fallen timber, and steer between the dead and living trees to avoid being "snagged," or bringing down a heavy dead branch by an unwary touch.

Emerging from this, we caught sight of a thousand Texan cattle feeding in a valley below. The leaders scented us, and, taking fright, began to move off in the direction of the open "park," while we were about a mile from and above them. "Head them off, boys!" our leader shouted; "all aboard; hark away!" and with something of the "High, tally-ho in the morning!" away we all went at a hard gallop down-hill. I could not hold my excited animal; down-hill, up-hill, leaping over rocks and timber, faster every moment the pace grew, and still the leader shouted, "Go it, boys!" and the horses dashed on at racing speed, passing and repassing each other, till my small but beautiful bay was keeping pace with the immense strides of the great buck-jumper ridden by "the finest rider in North Americay," and I was dizzied and breathless by the pace at which we were going. A shorter time than it takes to tell it brought us close to and abreast of the surge of cattle. The bovine waves were a grand sight: huge bulls, shaped like buffaloes, bellowed and roared, and with great oxen and cows with yearling calves, galloped like racers, and we galloped alongside of them, and shortly headed them and in no time were placed as sentinels across the mouth of the valley. It seemed like infantry awaiting the shock of cavalry as we stood as still as our excited horses would allow. I almost quailed as the surge came on, but when it got close to us my comrades hooted fearfully, and we dashed forward with the dogs, and, with bellowing, roaring, and thunder of hoofs, the wave receded as it came. I rode up to our leader, who received me with much laughter. He said I was "a good cattleman," and that he had forgotten that a lady was of the party till he saw me "come leaping over the timber, and driving with the others."

It was not for two hours after this that the real business of driving began, and I was obliged to change my thoroughbred for a well-trained cattle horse—a bronco, which could double like a hare, and go over any ground. I had not expected to work like a vachero, but so it was, and my Hawaiian experience was very useful. We hunted the various canyons and known "camps," driving the herds out of them; and, until we had secured 850 head in the corral some hours afterwards, we scarcely saw each other to speak to. Our first difficulty was with a herd which got into some swampy ground, when a cow, which afterwards gave me an infinity of trouble, remained at bay for nearly an hour, tossing the dog three times, and resisting all efforts to dislodge her. She had a large yearling calf with her, and Evans told me that the attachment of a cow to her first calf is sometimes so great that she will kill her second that the first may have the milk. I got a herd of over a hundred out of a canyon by myself, and drove them down to the river with the aid of one badly-broken dog, which gave me more trouble than the cattle. The getting over was most troublesome; a few took to the water readily and went across, but others smelt it, and then, doubling back, ran in various directions; while some attacked the dog as he was swimming, and others, after crossing, headed back in search of some favorite companions which had been left behind, and one specially vicious cow attacked my horse over and over again. It took an hour and a half of time and much patience to gather them all on the other side.

It was getting late in the day, and a snowstorm was impending, before I was joined by the other drivers and herds, and as the former had diminished to three, with only three dogs, it was very difficult to keep the cattle together. You drive them as gently as possible, so as not to frighten or excite them,[18] riding first on one side, then on the other, to guide them; and if they deliberately go in a wrong direction, you gallop in front and head them off. The great excitement is when one breaks away from the herd and gallops madly up and down-hill, and you gallop after him anywhere, over and among rocks and trees, doubling when he doubles, and heading him till you get him back again. The bulls were quite easily managed, but the cows with calves, old or young, were most troublesome. By accident I rode between one cow and her calf in a narrow place, and the cow rushed at me and was just getting her big horns under the horse, when he reared, and spun dexterously aside. This kind of thing happened continually. There was one very handsome red cow which became quite mad. She had a calf with her nearly her own size, and thought every one its enemy, and though its horns were well developed, and it was quite able to take care of itself, she insisted on protecting it from all fancied dangers. One of the dogs, a young, foolish thing, seeing that the cow was excited, took a foolish pleasure in barking at her, and she was eventually quite infuriated. She turned to bay forty times at least; tore up the ground with her horns, tossed and killed the calves of two other cows, and finally became so dangerous to the rest of the herd that, just as the drive was ending, Evans drew his revolver and shot her, and the calf for which she had fought so blindly lamented her piteously. She rushed at me several times mad with rage, but these trained cattle horses keep perfectly cool, and, nearly without will on my part, mine jumped aside at the right moment, and foiled the assailant. Just at dusk we reached the corral—an acre of grass enclosed by stout post-and-rail fences seven feet high—and by much patience and some subtlety lodged the whole herd within its shelter, without a blow, a shout, or even a crack of a whip, wild as the cattle were. It was fearfully cold. We galloped the last mile and a half in four and a half minutes, reached the cabin just as the snow began to fall, and found strong, hot tea ready.

[18] In several visits to America I have observed that the Americans are far in advance of us and our colonial kinsmen in their treatment of horses and other animals. This was very apparent with regard to this Texan herd. There were no stock whips, no needless worrying of the animals in the excitement of sport. Any dog seizing a bullock by his tail or heels would have been called off and punished, and quietness and gentleness were the rule. The horses were ridden without whips, and with spurs so blunt that they could not hurt even a human skin, and were ruled by the voice and a slight pressure on the light snaffle bridle. This is the usual plan, even where, as in Colorado, the horses are bronchos, and inherit ineradicable vice. I never yet saw a horse BULLIED into submission in the United States.

October 18.

Snow-bound for three days! I could not write yesterday, it was so awful. People gave up all occupation, and talked of nothing but the storm. The hunters all kept by the great fire in the living room, only going out to bring in logs and clear the snow from the door and windows. I never spent a more fearful night than two nights ago, alone in my cabin in the storm, with the roof lifting, the mud cracking and coming off, and the fine snow hissing through the chinks between the logs, while splittings and breaking of dead branches, wind wrung and snow laden, went on incessantly, with screechings, howlings, thunder and lightning, and many unfamiliar sounds besides. After snowing fiercely all day, another foot of it fell in the early night, and, after drifting against my door, blocked me effectually in. About midnight the mercury fell to zero, and soon after a gale rose, which lasted for ten hours. My window frame is swelled, and shuts, apparently, hermetically; and my bed is six feet from it. I had gone to sleep with six blankets on, and a heavy sheet over my face. Between two and three I was awoke by the cabin being shifted from underneath by the wind, and the sheet was frozen to my lips. I put out my hands, and the bed was thickly covered with fine snow. Getting up to investigate matters, I found the floor some inches deep in parts in fine snow, and a gust of fine, needle-like snow stung my face. The bucket of water was solid ice. I lay in bed freezing till sunrise, when some of the men came to see if I "was alive," and to dig me out. They brought a can of hot water, which turned to ice before I could use it. I dressed standing in snow, and my brushes, boots, and etceteras were covered with snow. When I ran to the house, not a mountain or anything else could be seen, and the snow on one side was drifted higher than the roof. The air, as high as one could see, was one white, stinging smoke of snowdrift—a terrific sight. In the living room, the snow was driving through the chinks, and Mrs. Dewy was shoveling it from the floor. Mr. D.'s beard was hoary with frost in a room with a fire all night. Evans was lying ill, with his bed covered with snow. Returning from my cabin after breakfast, loaded with occupations for the day, I was lifted off my feet, and deposited in a drift, and all my things, writing book and letter included, were carried in different directions. Some, including a valuable photograph, were irrecoverable. The writing book was found, some hours afterwards, under three feet of snow.

There are tracks of bears and deer close to the house, but no one can hunt in this gale, and the drift is blinding. We have been slightly overcrowded in our one room. Chess, music, and whist have been resorted to. One hunter, for very ennui, has devoted himself to keeping my ink from freezing. We all sat in great cloaks and coats, and kept up an enormous fire, with the pitch running out of the logs. The isolation is extreme, for we are literally snowed up, and the other settler in the Park and "Mountain Jim" are both at Denver. Late in the evening the storm ceased. In some places the ground is bare of snow, while in others all irregularities are leveled, and the drifts are forty feet deep. Nature is grand under this new aspect. The cold is awful; the high wind with the mercury at zero would skin any part exposed to it.

October 19.

Evans offers me six dollars a week if I will stay into the winter and do the cooking after Mrs. Edwards leaves! I think I should like playing at being a "hired girl" if it were not for the bread-making! But it would suit me better to ride after cattle. The men don't like "baching," as it is called in the wilds—i.e. "doing for themselves." They washed and ironed their clothes yesterday, and there was an incongruity about the last performance. I really think (though for the fifteenth time) that I shall leave to-morrow. The cold has moderated, the sky is bluer than ever, the snow is evaporating, and a hunter who has joined us to-day says that there are no drifts on the trail which one cannot get through.


"The Island Valley of Avillon" is left, but how shall I finally tear myself from its freedom and enchantments? I see Long's snowy peak rising into the night sky, and know and long after the magnificence of the blue hollow at its base. We were to have left at 8 but the horses were lost, so it was 9:30 before we started, the WE being the musical young French Canadian and myself. I have a bay Indian pony, "Birdie," a little beauty, with legs of iron, fast, enduring, gentle, and wise; and with luggage for some weeks, including a black silk dress, behind my saddle, I am tolerably independent. It was a most glorious ride. We passed through the gates of rock, through gorges where the unsunned snow lay deep under the lemon-colored aspens; caught glimpses of far-off, snow-clad giants rising into a sky of deep sad blue; lunched above the Foot Hills at a cabin where two brothers and a "hired man" were "keeping bach," where everything was so trim, clean, and ornamental that one did not miss a woman; crossed a deep backwater on a narrow beaver dam, because the log bridge was broken down, and emerged from the brilliantly-colored canyon of the St. Vrain just at dusk upon the featureless prairies, when we had some trouble in finding Longmount in the dark. A hospitable welcome awaited me at this inn, and an English friend came in and spent the evening with me.


My letters on this tour will, I fear, be very dull, for after riding all day, looking after my pony, getting supper, hearing about various routes, and the pastoral, agricultural, mining, and hunting gossip of the neighborhood, I am so sleepy and wholesomely tired that I can hardly write. I left Longmount pretty early on Tuesday morning, the day being sad, with the blink of an impending snow-storm in the air. The evening before I was introduced to a man who had been a colonel in the rebel army, who made a most unfavorable impression upon me, and it was a great annoyance to me when he presented himself on horse-back to guide me "over the most intricate part of the journey." Solitude is infinitely preferable to uncongeniality, and is bliss when compared with repulsiveness, so I was thoroughly glad when I got rid of my escort and set out upon the prairie alone. It is a dreary ride of thirty miles over the low brown plains to Denver, very little settled, and with trails going in all directions. My sailing orders were "steer south, and keep to the best beaten track," and it seemed like embarking on the ocean without a compass. The rolling brown waves on which you see a horse a mile and a half off impress one strangely, and at noon the sky darkened up for another storm, the mountains swept down in blackness to the Plains, and the higher peaks took on a ghastly grimness horrid to behold. It was first very cold, then very hot, and finally settled down to a fierce east-windy cold, difficult to endure. It was free and breezy, however, and my horse was companionable. Sometimes herds of cattle were browsing on the sun-cured grass, then herds of horses. Occasionally I met a horseman with a rifle lying across his saddle, or a wagon of the ordinary sort, but oftener I saw a wagon with a white tilt, of the kind known as a "Prairie Schooner," laboring across the grass, or a train of them, accompanied by herds, mules, and horsemen, bearing emigrants and their household goods in dreary exodus from the Western States to the much-vaunted prairies of Colorado.

The host and hostess of one of these wagons invited me to join their mid-day meal, I providing tea (which they had not tasted for four weeks) and they hominy. They had been three months on the journey from Illinois, and their oxen were so lean and weak that they expected to be another month in reaching Wet Mountain Valley. They had buried a child en route, had lost several oxen, and were rather out of heart. Owing to their long isolation and the monotony of the march they had lost count of events, and seemed like people of another planet. They wanted me to join them, but their rate of travel was too slow, so we parted with mutual expressions of good will, and as their white tilt went "hull down" in the distance on the lonely prairie sea, I felt sadder than I often feel on taking leave of old acquaintances. That night they must have been nearly frozen, camping out in the deep snow in the fierce wind. I met afterwards 2,000 lean Texan cattle, herded by three wild-looking men on horseback, followed by two wagons containing women, children, and rifles. They had traveled 1,000 miles. Then I saw two prairie wolves, like jackals, with gray fur, cowardly creatures, which fled from me with long leaps.

The windy cold became intense, and for the next eleven miles I rode a race with the coming storm. At the top of every prairie roll I expected to see Denver, but it was not till nearly five that from a considerable height I looked down upon the great "City of the Plains," the metropolis of the Territories. There the great braggart city lay spread out, brown and treeless, upon the brown and treeless plain, which seemed to nourish nothing but wormwood and the Spanish bayonet. The shallow Platte, shriveled into a narrow stream with a shingly bed six times too large for it, and fringed by shriveled cotton-wood, wound along by Denver, and two miles up its course I saw a great sandstorm, which in a few minutes covered the city, blotting it out with a dense brown cloud. Then with gusts of wind the snowstorm began, and I had to trust entirely to Birdie's sagacity for finding Evans's shanty. She had been there once before only, but carried me direct to it over rough ground and trenches. Gleefully Mrs. Evans and the children ran out to welcome the pet pony, and I was received most hospitably, and made warm and comfortable, though the house consists only of a kitchen and two bed closets. My budget of news from "the park" had to be brought out constantly, and I wondered how much I had to tell. It was past eleven when we breakfasted the next morning. It was cloudless with an intense frost, and six inches of snow on the ground, and everybody thought it too cold to get up and light the fire. I had intended to leave Birdie at Denver, but Governor Hunt and Mr. Byers of the Rocky Mountain News both advised me to travel on horseback rather than by train and stage telling me that I should be quite safe, and Governor Hunt drew out a route for me and gave me a circular letter to the settlers along it.

Denver is no longer the Denver of Hepworth Dixon. A shooting affray in the street is as rare as in Liverpool, and one no longer sees men dangling to the lamp-posts when one looks out in the morning! It is a busy place, the entrepot and distributing point for an immense district, with good shops, some factories, fair hotels, and the usual deformities and refinements of civilization. Peltry shops abound, and sportsman, hunter, miner, teamster, emigrant, can be completely rigged out at fifty different stores. At Denver, people who come from the East to try the "camp cure" now so fashionable, get their outfit of wagon, driver, horses, tent, bedding, and stove, and start for the mountains. Asthmatic people are there in such numbers as to warrant the holding of an "asthmatic convention" of patients cured and benefited. Numbers of invalids who cannot bear the rough life of the mountains fill its hotels and boarding-houses, and others who have been partially restored by a summer of camping out, go into the city in the winter to complete the cure. It stands at a height of 5,000 feet, on an enormous plain, and has a most glorious view of the Rocky Range. I should hate even to spend a week there. The sight of those glories so near and yet out of reach would make me nearly crazy. Denver is at present the terminus of the Kansas Pacific Railroad. It has a line connecting it with the Union Pacific Railroad at Cheyenne, and by means of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, open for about 200 miles, it is expecting to reach into Mexico. It has also had the enterprise, by means of another narrow-gauge railroad, to push its way right up into the mining districts near Gray's Peak. The number of "saloons" in the streets impresses one, and everywhere one meets the characteristic loafers of a frontier town, who find it hard even for a few days or hours to submit to the restraints of civilization, as hard as I did to ride sidewise to Governor Hunt's office. To Denver men go to spend the savings of months of hard work in the maddest dissipation, and there such characters as "Comanche Bill," "Buffalo Bill," "Wild Bill," and "Mountain Jim," go on the spree, and find the kind of notoriety they seek.

A large number of Indians added to the harlequin appearance of the Denver streets the day I was there. They belonged to the Ute tribe, through which I had to pass, and Governor Hunt introduced me to a fine-looking young chief, very well dressed in beaded hide, and bespoke his courtesy for me if I needed it. The Indian stores and fur stores and fur depots interested me most. The crowds in the streets, perhaps owing to the snow on the ground, were almost solely masculine. I only saw five women the whole day. There were men in every rig: hunters and trappers in buckskin clothing; men of the Plains with belts and revolvers, in great blue cloaks, relics of the war; teamsters in leathern suits; horsemen in fur coats and caps and buffalo-hide boots with the hair outside, and camping blankets behind their huge Mexican saddles; Broadway dandies in light kid gloves; rich English sporting tourists, clean, comely, and supercilious looking; and hundreds of Indians on their small ponies, the men wearing buckskin suits sewn with beads, and red blankets, with faces painted vermilion and hair hanging lank and straight, and squaws much bundled up, riding astride with furs over their saddles.

Town tired and confused me, and in spite of Mrs. Evans's kind hospitality, I was glad when a man brought Birdie at nine yesterday morning. He said she was a little demon, she had done nothing but buck, and had bucked him off on the bridge! I found that he had put a curb on her, and whenever she dislikes anything she resents it by bucking. I rode sidewise till I was well through the town, long enough to produce a severe pain in my spine, which was not relieved for some time even after I had changed my position. It was a lovely Indian summer day, so warm that the snow on the ground looked an incongruity. I rode over the Plains for some time, then gradually reached the rolling country along the base of the mountains, and a stream with cottonwoods along it, and settlers' houses about every halfmile. I passed and met wagons frequently, and picked up a muff containing a purse with 500 dollars in it, which I afterwards had the great pleasure of restoring to the owner. Several times I crossed the narrow track of the quaint little Rio Grande Railroad, so that it was a very cheerful ride.

RANCH, PLUM CREEK, October 24.

You must understand that in Colorado travel, unless on the main road and in the larger settlements, there are neither hotels nor taverns, and that it is the custom for the settlers to receive travelers, charging them at the usual hotel rate for accommodation. It is a very satisfactory arrangement. However, at Ranch, my first halting place, the host was unwilling to receive people in this way, I afterwards found, or I certainly should not have presented my credentials at the door of a large frame house, with large barns and a generally prosperous look. The host, who opened the door, looked repellent, but his wife, a very agreeable, lady-like-looking woman, said they could give me a bed on a sofa. The house was the most pretentious I have yet seen, being papered and carpeted, and there were two "hired girls." There was a lady there from Laramie, who kindly offered to receive me into her room, a very tall, elegant person, remarkable as being the first woman who had settled in the Rocky Mountains. She had been trying the "camp cure" for three months, and was then on her way home. She had a wagon with beds, tent, tent floor, cooking-stove, and every camp luxury, a light buggy, a man to manage everything, and a most superior "hired girl." She was consumptive and frail in strength, but a very attractive person, and her stories of the perils and limitation of her early life at Fort Laramie were very interesting. Still I "wearied," as I had arrived early in the afternoon, and could not out of politeness retire and write to you. At meals the three "hired men" and two "hired girls" eat with the family. I soon found that there was a screw loose in the house, and was glad to leave early the next morning, although it was obvious that a storm was coming on.

I saw the toy car of the Rio Grande Railroad whirl past, all cushioned and warm, and rather wished I were in it, and not out among the snow on the bleak hill side. I only got on four miles when the storm came on so badly that I got into a kitchen where eleven wretched travelers were taking shelter, with the snow melting on them and dripping on the floor. I had learned the art of "being agreeable" so well at the Chalmers's, and practiced it so successfully during the two hours I was there, by paring potatoes and making scones, that when I left, though the hosts kept "an accommodation house for travelers," they would take nothing for my entertainment, because they said I was such "good company"! The storm moderated a little, and at one I saddled Birdie, and rode four more miles, crossing a frozen creek, the ice of which broke and let the pony through, to her great alarm. I cannot describe my feelings on this ride, produced by the utter loneliness, the silence and dumbness of all things, the snow falling quietly without wind, the obliterated mountains, the darkness, the intense cold, and the unusual and appalling aspect of nature. All life was in a shroud, all work and travel suspended. There was not a foot-mark or wheel-mark. There was nothing to be afraid of; and though I can't exactly say that I enjoyed the ride, yet there was the pleasant feeling of gaining health every hour.

When the snow darkness began to deepen towards evening, the track became quite illegible, and when I found myself at this romantically situated cabin, I was thankful to find that they could give me shelter. The scene was a solemn one, and reminded me of a description in Whittier's Snow-Bound. All the stock came round the cabin with mute appeals for shelter. Sheep dogs got in, and would not be kicked out. Men went out muffled up, and came back shivering and shaking the snow from their feet. The churn was put by the stove. Later on, a most pleasant settler, on his way to Denver, came in his wagon having been snow blocked two miles off, where he had been obliged to leave it and bring his horses on here. The "Grey Mare" had a stentorian voice, smoked a clay pipe which she passed to her children, raged at English people, derided the courtesy of English manners, and considered that "Please," "Thank you," and the like, were "all bosh" when life was so short and busy. And still the snow fell softly, and the air and earth were silent.

Letter X

A white world—Bad traveling—A millionaire's home—Pleasant Park—Perry's Park—Stock-raising—A cattle king—The Arkansas Divide—Birdie's sagacity—Luxury—Monument Park—Deference to prejudice—A death scene—The Manitou—A loose shoe—The Ute Pass—Bergens Park—A settler's home—Hayden's Divide—Sharp criticism—Speaking the truth.


It is difficult to make this anything of a letter. I have been riding for a whole week, seeing wonders and greatly enjoying the singular adventurousness and novelty of my tour, but ten hours or more daily spent in the saddle in this rarefied, intoxicating air, disposes one to sleep rather than to write in the evening, and is far from conducive to mental brilliancy. The observing faculties are developed, and the reflective lie dormant.

That night on which I last wrote was the coldest I have yet felt. I pulled the rag carpet from the floor and covered myself with it, but could not get warm. The sun rose gloriously on a shrouded earth. Barns, road, shrubs, fences, river, lake, all lay under the glittering snow. It was light and powdery, and sparkled like diamonds. Not a breath of wind stirred, there was not a sound. I had to wait till a passing horseman had broken the track, but soon after I set off into the new, shining world. I soon lost the horseman's foot-marks, but kept on near the road by means of the innumerable foot-prints of birds and ground squirrels, which all went in one direction. After riding for an hour I was obliged to get off and walk for another, for the snow balled in Birdie's feet to such an extent that she could hardly keep up even without my weight on her, and my pick was not strong enough to remove it. Turning off the road to ask for a chisel, I came upon the cabin of the people whose muff I had picked up a few days before, and they received me very warmly, gave me a tumbler of cream, and made some strong coffee. They were "old Country folk," and I stayed too long with them. After leaving them I rode twelve miles, but it was "bad traveling," from the balling of the snow and the difficulty of finding the track. There was a fearful loneliness about it. The track was untrodden, and I saw neither man nor beast. The sky became densely clouded, and the outlook was awful. The great Divide of the Arkansas was in front, looming vaguely through a heavy snow cloud, and snow began to fall, not in powder, but in heavy flakes. Finding that there would be risk in trying to ride till nightfall, in the early afternoon I left the road and went two miles into the hills by an untrodden path, where there were gates to open, and a rapid steep-sided creek to cross; and at the entrance to a most fantastic gorge I came upon an elegant frame house belonging to Mr. Perry, a millionaire, to whom I had an introduction which I did not hesitate to present, as it was weather in which a traveler might almost ask for shelter without one.

Mr. Perry was away, but his daughter, a very bright-looking, elegantly-dressed girl, invited me to dine and remain. They had stewed venison and various luxuries on the table, which was tasteful and refined, and an adroit, colored table-maid waited, one of five attached Negro servants who had been their slaves before the war. After dinner, though snow was slowly falling, a gentleman cousin took me a ride to show me the beauties of Pleasant Park, which takes rank among the finest scenery of Colorado, and in good weather is very easy of access. It did look very grand as we entered it by a narrow pass guarded by two buttes, or isolated upright masses of rock, bright red, and about 300 feet in height. The pines were very large, and the narrow canyons which came down on the park gloomily magnificent. It is remarkable also from a quantity of "monumental" rocks, from 50 to 300 feet in height, bright vermilion, green, buff, orange, and sometimes all combined, their gay tinting a contrast to the disastrous-looking snow and the somber pines. Bear Canyon, a gorge of singular majesty, comes down on the park, and we crossed the Bear Creek at the foot of this on the ice, which gave way, and both our horses broke through into pretty deep and very cold water, and shortly afterwards Birdie put her foot into a prairie dog's hole which was concealed by the snow, and on recovering herself fell three times on her nose. I thought of Bishop Wilberforce's fatal accident from a smaller stumble, and felt sure that he would have kept his seat had he been mounted, as I was, on a Mexican saddle. It was too threatening for a long ride, and on returning I passed into a region of vivacious descriptions of Egypt, Palestine, Asia Minor, Turkey, Russia, and other countries, in which Miss Perry had traveled with her family for three years.

Perry's Park is one of the great cattle-raising ranches in Colorado. This, the youngest State in the Union, a Territory until quite recently, has an area of about 68,000,000 acres, a great portion of which, though rich in mineral wealth, is worthless either for stock or arable farming, and the other or eastern part is so dry that crops can only be grown profitably where irrigation is possible. This region is watered by the South Fork of the Platte and its affluents, and, though subject to the grasshopper pest, it produces wheat of the finest quality, the yield varying according to the mode of cultivation from eighteen to thirty bushels per acre. The necessity for irrigation, however, will always bar the way to an indefinite extension of the area of arable farms. The prospects of cattle-raising seem at present practically unlimited. In 1876 Colorado had 390,728, valued at L2:13s. per head, about half of which were imported as young beasts from Texas. The climate is so fine and the pasturage so ample that shelter and hand-feeding are never resorted to except in the case of imported breeding stock from the Eastern States, which sometimes in severe winters need to be fed in sheds for a short time. Mr. Perry devotes himself mainly to the breeding of graded shorthorn bulls, which he sells when young for L6 per head.

The cattle run at large upon the prairies; each animal being branded, they need no herding, and are usually only mustered, counted, and the increase branded in the summer. In the fall, when three or four years old, they are sold lean or in tolerable condition to dealers who take them by rail to Chicago, or elsewhere, where the fattest lots are slaughtered for tinning or for consumption in the Eastern cities, while the leaner are sold to farmers for feeding up during the winter. Some of the wealthier stockmen take their best lots to Chicago themselves. The Colorado cattle are either pure Texan or Spanish, or crosses between the Texan and graded shorthorns. They are nearly all very inferior animals, being bony and ragged. The herds mix on the vast plains at will; along the Arkansas valley 80,000 roam about with the freedom of buffaloes, and of this number about 16,000 are exported every fall. Where cattle are killed for use in the mining districts their average price is three cents per lb. In the summer thousands of yearlings are driven up from Texas, branded, and turned loose on the prairies, and are not molested again till they are sent east at three or four years old. These pure Texans, the old Spanish breed, weigh from 900 to 1,000 pounds, and the crossed Colorado cattle from 1,000 to 1,200 pounds.

The "Cattle King" of the State is Mr. Iliff, of South Platte, who owns nine ranches, with runs of 15,000 acres, and 35,000 cattle. He is improving his stock; and, indeed, the opening of the dead-meat trade with this country is giving a great impetus to the improvement of the breed of cattle among all the larger and richer stock-owners. For this enormous herd 40 men are employed in summer, about 12 in winter, and 200 horses. In the rare case of a severe and protracted snowstorm the cattle get a little hay. Owners of 6,000, 8,000 and 10,000 head of cattle are quite common in Colorado. Sheep are now raised in the State to the extent of half a million, and a chronic feud prevails between the "sheep men" and the "cattle men." Sheep-raising is said to be a very profitable business, but its risks and losses are greater, owing to storms, while the outlay for labor, dipping materials, etc., is considerably larger, and owing to the comparative inability of sheep to scratch away the snow from the grass, hay has to be provided to meet the emergency of very severe snow-storms. The flocks are made up mostly of pure and graded Mexicans; but though some flocks which have been graded carefully for some years show considerable merit, the average sheep is a leggy, ragged beast. Wether mutton, four and five years old, is sold when there is any demand for it; but except at Charpiot's, in Denver, I never saw mutton on any table, public or private, and wool is the great source of profit, the old ewes being allowed to die off. The best flocks yield an average of seven pounds. The shearing season, which begins in early June, lasts about six weeks. Shearers get six and a half cents a head for inferior sheep, and seven and a half cents for the better quality, and a good hand shears from sixty to eighty in a day. It is not likely that sheep-raising will attain anything of the prominence which cattle-raising is likely to assume. The potato beetle "scare" is not of much account in the country of the potato beetle. The farmers seem much depressed by the magnitude and persistency of the grasshopper pest which finds their fields in the morning "as the garden of Eden," and leaves them at night "a desolate wilderness."

It was so odd and novel to have a beautiful bed room, hot water, and other luxuries. The snow began to fall in good earnest at six in the evening, and fell all night, accompanied by intense frost, so that in the morning there were eight inches of it glittering in the sun. Miss P. gave me a pair of men's socks to draw on over my boots, and I set out tolerably early, and broke my own way for two miles. Then a single wagon had passed, making a legible track for thirty miles, otherwise the snow was pathless. The sky was absolutely cloudless, and as I made the long ascent of the Arkansas Divide, the mountains, gashed by deep canyons, came sweeping down to the valley on my right, and on my left the Foot Hills were crowned with colored fantastic rocks like castles. Everything was buried under a glittering shroud of snow. The babble of the streams was bound by fetters of ice. No branches creaked in the still air. No birds sang. No one passed or met me. There were no cabins near or far. The only sound was the crunch of the snow under Birdie's feet. We came to a river over which some logs were laid with some young trees across them. Birdie put one foot on this, then drew it back and put another on, then smelt the bridge noisily. Persuasions were useless; she only smelt, snorted, held back, and turned her cunning head and looked at me. It was useless to argue the point with so sagacious a beast. To the right of the bridge the ice was much broken, and we forded the river there; but as it was deep enough to come up to her body, and was icy cold to my feet, I wondered at her preference. Afterwards I heard that the bridge was dangerous. She is the queen of ponies, and is very gentle, though she has not only wild horse blood, but is herself the wild horse. She is always cheerful and hungry, never tired, looks intelligently at everything, and her legs are like rocks. Her one trick is that when the saddle is put on she swells herself to a very large size, so that if any one not accustomed to her saddles her I soon find the girth three or four inches too large. When I saddle her a gentle slap on her side, or any slight start which makes her cease to hold her breath, puts it all right. She is quite a companion, and bathing her back, sponging her nostrils, and seeing her fed after my day's ride, is always my first care.

At last I reached a log cabin where I got a feed for us both and further directions. The rest of the day's ride was awful enough. The snow was thirteen inches deep, and grew deeper as I ascended in silence and loneliness, but just as the sun sank behind a snowy peak I reached the top of the Divide, 7,975 feet above the sea level. There, in unspeakable solitude, lay a frozen lake. Owls hooted among the pines, the trail was obscure, the country was not settled, the mercury was 9 degrees below zero, my feet had lost all sensation, and one of them was frozen to the wooden stirrup. I found that owing to the depth of the snow I had only ridden fifteen miles in eight and a half hours, and must look about for a place to sleep in. The eastern sky was unlike anything I ever saw before. It had been chrysoprase, then it turned to aquamarine, and that to the bright full green of an emerald. Unless I am color-blind, this is true. Then suddenly the whole changed, and flushed with the pure, bright, rose color of the afterglow. Birdie was sliding at every step, and I was nearly paralyzed with the cold when I reached a cabin which had been mentioned to me, but they said that seventeen snow-bound men were lying on the floor, and they advised me to ride half a mile farther, which I did, and reached the house of a German from Eisenau, with a sweet young wife and a venerable mother-in-law. Though the house was very poor, it was made attractive by ornaments, and the simple, loving, German ways gave it a sweet home atmosphere. My room was reached by a ladder, but I had it to myself and had the luxury of a basin to wash in. Under the kindly treatment of the two women my feet came to themselves, but with an amount of pain that almost deserved the name of torture.

The next morning was gray and sour, but brightened and warmed as the day went on. After riding twelve miles I got bread and milk for myself and a feed for Birdie at a large house where there were eight boarders, each one looking nearer the grave than the other, and on remounting was directed to leave the main road and diverge through Monument Park, a ride of twelve miles among fantastic rocks, but I lost my way, and came to an end of all tracks in a wild canyon. Returning about six miles, I took another track, and rode about eight miles without seeing a creature. I then came to strange gorges with wonderful upright rocks of all shapes and colors, and turning through a gate of rock, came upon what I knew must be Glen Eyrie, as wild and romantic a glen as imagination ever pictured. The track then passed down a valley close under some ghastly peaks, wild, cold, awe-inspiring scenery. After fording a creek several times, I came upon a decayed-looking cluster of houses bearing the arrogant name of Colorado City, and two miles farther on, from the top of one of the Foot Hill ridges, I saw the bleak-looking scattered houses of the ambitious watering place of Colorado Springs, the goal of my journey of 150 miles. I got off, put on a long skirt, and rode sidewise, though the settlement scarcely looked like a place where any deference to prejudices was necessary. A queer embryo-looking place it is, out on the bare Plains, yet it is rising and likely to rise, and has some big hotels much resorted to. It has a fine view of the mountains, specially of Pike's Peak, but the celebrated springs are at Manitou, three miles off, in really fine scenery. To me no place could be more unattractive than Colorado Springs, from its utter treelessness.

I found the ——-s living in a small room which served for parlor, bedroom, and kitchen, and combined the comforts of all. It is inhabited also by two prairie dogs, a kitten, and a deerhound. It was truly homelike. Mrs. ——- walked with me to the boarding-house where I slept, and we sat some time in the parlor talking with the landlady. Opposite to me there was a door wide open into a bed room, and on a bed opposite to the door a very sick-looking young man was half-lying, half-sitting, fully dressed, supported by another, and a very sick-looking young man much resembling him passed in and out occasionally, or leaned on the chimney piece in an attitude of extreme dejection. Soon the door was half-closed, and some one came to it, saying rapidly, "Shields, quick, a candle!" and then there were movings about in the room. All this time the seven or eight people in the room in which I was were talking, laughing, and playing backgammon, and none laughed louder than the landlady, who was sitting where she saw that mysterious door as plainly as I did. All this time, and during the movings in the room, I saw two large white feet sticking up at the end of the bed. I watched and watched, hoping those feet would move, but they did not; and somehow, to my thinking, they grew stiffer and whiter, and then my horrible suspicion deepened, and while we were sitting there a human spirit untended and desolate had passed forth into the night. Then a man came out with a bundle of clothes, and then the sick young man, groaning and sobbing, and then a third, who said to me, with some feeling, that the man who had just died was the sick young man's only brother. And still the landlady laughed and talked, and afterwards said to me, "It turns the house upside down when they just come here and die; we shall be half the night laying him out." I could not sleep for the bitter cold and the sound of the sobs and groans of the bereaved brother. The next day the landlady, in a fashionably-made black dress, was bustling about, proud of the prospective arrival of a handsome coffin. I went into the parlor to get a needle, and the door of THAT room was open, and children were running in and out, and the landlady, who was sweeping there, called cheerily to me to come in for the needle, and there, to my horror, not even covered with a face cloth, and with the sun blazing in through the unblinded window, lay that thing of terror, a corpse, on some chairs which were not even placed straight. It was buried in the afternoon, and from the looks of the brother, who continued to sob and moan, his end cannot be far off.

The ——-s say that many go to the Springs in the last stage of consumption, thinking that the Colorado climate will cure them, without money enough to pay for even the coarsest board. We talked most of that day, and I equipped myself with arctics and warm gloves for the mountain tour which has been planned for me, and I gave Birdie the Sabbath she was entitled to on Tuesday, for I found, on arriving at the Springs, that the day I crossed the Arkansas Divide was Sunday, though I did not know it. Several friends of Miss Kingsley called on me; she is much remembered and beloved. This is not an expensive tour; we cost about ten shillings a day, and the five days which I have spent en route from Denver have cost something less than the fare for the few hours' journey by the cars. There are no real difficulties. It is a splendid life for health and enjoyment. All my luggage being in a pack, and my conveyance being a horse, we can go anywhere where we can get food and shelter.


This is a highly picturesque place, with several springs, still and effervescing, the virtues of which were well known to the Indians. Near it are places, the names of which are familiar to every one—the Garden of the Gods, Glen Eyrie, Pike's Peak, Monument Park, and the Ute Pass. It has two or three immense hotels, and a few houses picturesquely situated. It is thronged by thousands of people in the summer who come to drink the waters, try the camp cure, and make mountain excursions; but it is all quiet now, and there are only a few lingerers in this immense hotel. There is a rushing torrent in a valley, with mountains, covered with snow and rising to a height of nearly 15,000 feet, overhanging it. It is grand and awful, and has a strange, solemn beauty like death. And the Snowy Mountains are pierced by the torrent which has excavated the Ute Pass, by which, to-morrow, I hope to go into the higher regions. But all may be "lost for want of a horseshoe nail." One of Birdie's shoes is loose, and not a nail is to be got here, or can be got till I have ridden for ten miles up the Pass. Birdie amuses every one with her funny ways. She always follows me closely, and to-day got quite into a house and pushed the parlor door open. She walks after me with her head laid on my shoulder, licking my face and teasing me for sugar, and sometimes, when any one else takes hold of her, she rears and kicks, and the vicious bronco soul comes into her eyes. Her face is cunning and pretty, and she makes a funny, blarneying noise when I go up to her. The men at all the stables make a fuss with her, and call her "Pet." She gallops up and down hill, and never stumbles even on the roughest ground, or requires even a touch with a whip.

The weather is again perfect, with a cloudless sky and a hot sun, and the snow is all off the plains and lower valleys. After lunch, the ——-s in a buggy, and I on Birdie, left Colorado Springs, crossing the Mesa, a high hill with a table top, with a view of extraordinary laminated rocks, LEAVES of rock a bright vermilion color, against a background of snowy mountains, surmounted by Pike's Peak. Then we plunged into cavernous Glen Eyrie, with its fantastic needles of colored rock, and were entertained at General Palmer's "baronial mansion," a perfect eyrie, the fine hall filled with buffalo, elk, and deer heads, skins of wild animals, stuffed birds, bear robes, and numerous Indian and other weapons and trophies. Then through a gate of huge red rocks, we passed into the valley, called fantastically, Garden of the Gods, in which, were I a divinity, I certainly would not choose to dwell. Many places in this neighborhood are also vulgarized by grotesque names. From this we passed into a ravine, down which the Fountain River rushed, and there I left my friends with regret, and rode into this chill and solemn gorge, from which the mountains, reddening in the sunset, are only seen afar off. I put Birdie up at a stable, and as there was no place to put myself up but this huge hotel, I came here to have a last taste of luxury. They charge six dollars a day in the season, but it is now half-price; and instead of four hundred fashionable guests there are only fifteen, most of whom are speaking in the weak, rapid accents of consumption, and are coughing their hearts out. There are seven medicinal springs. It is strange to have the luxuries of life in my room. It will be only the fourth night in Colorado that I have slept on anything better than hay or straw. I am glad that there are so few inns. As it is, I get a good deal of insight into the homes and modes of living of the settlers.

BERGENS PARK, October 31.

This cabin was so dark, and I so sleepy last night, that I could not write; but the frost during the night has been very severe, and I am detained until the bright, hot sun melts the ice and renders traveling safe. I left the great Manitou at ten yesterday. Birdie, who was loose in the stable, came trotting down the middle of it when she saw me for her sugar and biscuits. No nails could be got, and her shoe was hanging by two, which doomed me to a foot's pace and the dismal clink of a loose shoe for three hours. There was not a cloud on the bright blue sky the whole day, and though it froze hard in the shade, it was summer heat in the sun. The mineral fountains were sparkling in their basins and sending up their full perennial jets but the snow-clad, pine-skirted mountains frowned and darkened over the Ute Pass as I entered it to ascend it for twenty miles. A narrow pass it is, with barely room for the torrent and the wagon road which has been blasted out of its steep sides. All the time I was in sight of the Fountain River, brighter than any stream, because it tumbles over rose-red granite, rocky or disintegrated, a truly fair stream, cutting and forcing its way through hard rocks, under arches of alabaster ice, through fringes of crystalline ice, thumping with a hollow sound in cavernous recesses cold and dark, or leaping in foam from heights with rush and swish; always bright and riotous, never pausing in still pools to rest, dashing through gates of rock, pine hung, pine bridged, pine buried; twinkling and laughing in the sunshine, or frowning in "dowie dens" in the blue pine gloom. And there, for a mile or two in a sheltered spot, owing to the more southern latitude, the everlasting northern pine met the trees of other climates. There were dwarf oaks, willows, hazel, and spruce; the white cedar and the trailing juniper jostled each other for a precarious foothold; the majestic redwood tree of the Pacific met the exquisite balsam pine of the Atlantic slopes, and among them all the pale gold foliage of the large aspen trembled (as the legend goes) in endless remorse. And above them towered the toothy peaks of the glittering mountains, rising in pure white against the sunny blue. Grand! glorious! sublime! but not lovable. I would give all for the luxurious redundance of one Hilo gulch, or for one day of those soft dreamy "skies whose very tears are balm."

Bergens Park

Up ever! the road being blasted out of the red rock which often overhung it, the canyon only from fifteen to twenty feet wide, the thunder of the Fountain, which is crossed eight times, nearly deafening. Sometimes the sun struck the road, and then it was absolutely hot; then one entered unsunned gorges where the snow lay deep, and the crowded pines made dark twilight, and the river roared under ice bridges fringed by icicles. At last the Pass opened out upon a sunlit upland park, where there was a forge, and with Birdie's shoe put on, and some shoe nails in my purse, I rode on cheerfully, getting food for us both at a ranch belonging to some very pleasant people, who, like all Western folk, when they are not taciturn, asked a legion of questions. There I met a Colonel Kittridge, who said that he believed his valley, twelve miles off the track, to be the loveliest valley in Colorado, and invited me to his house. Leaving the road, I went up a long ascent deep in snow, but as it did not seem to be the way, I tied up the pony, and walked on to a cabin at some distance, which I had hardly reached when I found her trotting like a dog by my side, pulling my sleeve and laying her soft gray nose on my shoulder. Does it all mean sugar? We had eight miles farther to go—most of the way through a forest, which I always dislike when alone, from the fear of being frightened by something which may appear from behind a tree. I saw a beautiful white fox, several skunks, some chipmunks and gray squirrels, owls, crows, and crested blue-jays. As the sun was getting low I reached Bergens Park, which was to put me out of conceit with Estes Park. Never! It is long and featureless, and its immediate surroundings are mean. It reminded me in itself of some dismal Highland strath—Glenshee, possibly. I looked at it with special interest, as it was the place at which Miss Kingsley had suggested that I might remain. The evening was glorious, and the distant views were very fine. A stream fringed with cotton-wood runs through the park; low ranges come down upon it. The south end is completely closed up, but at a considerable distance, by the great mass of Pike's Peak, while far beyond the other end are peaks and towers, wonderful in blue and violet in the lovely evening, and beyond these, sharply defined against the clear green sky, was the serrated ridge of the Snowy Range, said to be 200 miles away. Bergens Park had been bought by Dr. Bell, of London, but its present occupant is Mr. Thornton, an English gentleman, who has a worthy married Englishman as his manager. Mr. Thornton is building a good house, and purposes to build other cabins, with the intention of making the park a resort for strangers. I thought of the blue hollow lying solitary at the foot of Long's Peak, and rejoiced that I had "happened into it."

The cabin is long, low, mud roofed, and very dark. The middle place is full of raw meat, fowls, and gear. One end, almost dark, contains the cooking-stove, milk, crockery, a long deal table, two benches, and some wooden stools; the other end houses the English manager or partner, his wife, and three children, another cooking-stove, gear of all kinds, and sacks of beans and flour. They put up a sheet for a partition, and made me a shake-down on the gravel floor of this room. Ten hired men sat down to meals with us. It was all very rough, dark, and comfortless, but Mr. T., who is not only a gentleman by birth, but an M.A. of Cambridge, seems to like it. Much in this way (a little smoother if a lady is in the case) every man must begin life here. Seven large dogs—three of them with cats upon their backs—are usually warming themselves at the fire.


I did not leave Mr. Thornton's till ten, because of the slipperiness. I rode four miles along a back trail, and then was so tired that I stayed for two hours at a ranch, where I heard, to my dismay, that I must ride twenty-four miles farther before I could find any place to sleep at. I did not enjoy yesterday's ride. I was both tired and rheumatic, and Birdie was not so sprightly as usual. After starting again I came on a hideous place, of which I had not heard before, Hayden's Divide, one of the great back-bones of the region, a weary expanse of deep snow eleven miles across, and fearfully lonely. I saw nothing the whole way but a mule lately dead lying by the road. I was very nervous somehow, and towards evening believed that I had lost the road, for I came upon wild pine forests, with huge masses of rock from 100 to 700 feet high, cast here and there among them; beyond these pine-sprinkled grass hills; these, in their turn, were bounded by interminable ranges, ghastly in the lurid evening, with the Spanish Peaks quite clear, and the colossal summit of Mount Lincoln, the King of the Rocky Mountains, distinctly visible, though seventy miles away. It seemed awful to be alone on that ghastly ridge, surrounded by interminable mountains, in the deep snow, knowing that a party of thirty had been lost here a month ago. Just at nightfall the descent of a steep hill took me out of the forest and upon a clean log cabin, where, finding that the proper halting place was two miles farther on, I remained. A truly pleasing, superior-looking woman placed me in a rocking chair; would not let me help her otherwise than by rocking the cradle, and made me "feel at home." The room, though it serves them and their two children for kitchen, parlor, and bed room, is the pattern of brightness, cleanliness, and comfort. At supper there were canned raspberries, rolls, butter, tea, venison, and fried rabbit, and at seven I went to bed in a carpeted log room, with a thick feather bed on a mattress, sheets, ruffled pillow slips, and a pile of warm white blankets! I slept for eleven hours. They discourage me much about the route which Governor Hunt has projected for me. They think that it is impassable, owing to snow, and that another storm is brewing.

HALL'S GULCH, November 6.

I have ridden 150 miles since I wrote last. On leaving Twin Rock on Saturday I had a short day's ride to Colonel Kittridge's cabin at Oil Creek, where I spent a quiet Sunday with agreeable people. The ride was all through parks and gorges, and among pine-clothed hills, about 9,000 feet high, with Pike's Peak always in sight. I have developed much sagacity in finding a trail, or I should not be able to make use of such directions as these: "Keep along a gulch four or five miles till you get Pike's Peak on your left, then follow some wheel-marks till you get to some timber, and keep to the north till you come to a creek, where you'll find a great many elk tracks; then go to your right and cross the creek three times, then you'll see a red rock to your left," etc., etc. The K's cabin was very small and lonely, and the life seemed a hard grind for an educated and refined woman. There were snow flurries after I arrived, but the first Sunday of November was as bright and warm as June, and the atmosphere had resumed its exquisite purity. Three peaks of Pike's Peak are seen from Oil Creek, above the nearer hills, and by them they tell the time. We had been in the evening shadows for half an hour before those peaks ceased to be transparent gold.

On leaving Colonel Kittridge's hospitable cabin I dismounted, as I had often done before, to lower a bar, and, on looking round, Birdie was gone! I spent an hour in trying to catch her, but she had taken an "ugly fit," and would not let me go near her; and I was getting tired and vexed, when two passing trappers, on mules, circumvented and caught her. I rode the twelve miles back to Twin Rock, and then went on, a kindly teamster, who was going in the same direction, taking my pack. I must explain that every mile I have traveled since leaving Colorado Springs has taken me farther and higher into the mountains. That afternoon I rode through lawnlike upland parks, with the great snow mass of Pike's Peak behind, and in front mountains bathed in rich atmospheric coloring of blue and violet, all very fine, but threatening to become monotonous, when the wagon road turned abruptly to the left, and crossed a broad, swift, mountain river, the head-waters of the Platte. There I found the ranch to which I had been recommended, the quarters of a great hunter named Link, which much resembled a good country inn. There was a pleasant, friendly woman, but the men were all away, a thing I always regret, as it gives me half an hour's work at the horse before I can write to you. I had hardly come in when a very pleasant German lady, whom I met at Manitou, with three gentlemen, arrived, and we were as sociable as people could be. We had a splendid though rude supper. While Mrs. Link was serving us, and urging her good things upon us, she was orating on the greediness of English people, saying that "you would think they traveled through the country only to gratify their palates"; and addressed me, asking me if I had not observed it! I am nearly always taken for a Dane or a Swede, never for an Englishwoman, so I often hear a good deal of outspoken criticism.

In the evening Mr. Link returned, and there was a most vehement discussion between him, an old hunter, a miner, and the teamster who brought my pack, as to the route by which I should ride through the mountains for the next three or four days—because at that point I was to leave the wagon road—and it was renewed with increased violence the next morning, so that if my nerves had not been of steel I should have been appalled. The old hunter acrimoniously said he "must speak the truth," the miner was directing me over a track where for twenty-five miles there was not a house, and where, if snow came on, I should never be heard of again. The miner said he "must speak the truth," the hunter was directing me over a pass where there were five feet of snow, and no trail. The teamster said that the only road possible for a horse was so-and-so, and advised me to take the wagon road into South Park, which I was determined not to do. Mr. Link said he was the oldest hunter and settler in the district, and he could not cross any of the trails in snow. And so they went on. At last they partially agreed on a route—"the worst road in the Rocky Mountains," the old hunter said, with two feet of snow upon it, but a hunter had hauled an elk over part of it, at any rate. The upshot of the whole you shall have in my next letter.

I. L. B.

Letter XI

Tarryall Creek—The Red Range—Excelsior—Importunate pedlars—Snow and heat—A bison calf—Deep drifts—South Park—The Great Divide—Comanche Bill—Difficulties—Hall's Gulch—A Lord Dundreary—Ridiculous fears.


It was another cloudless morning, one of the many here on which one awakes early, refreshed, and ready to enjoy the fatigues of another day. In our sunless, misty climate you do not know the influence which persistent fine weather exercises on the spirits. I have been ten months in almost perpetual sunshine, and now a single cloudy day makes me feel quite depressed. I did not leave till 9:30, because of the slipperiness, and shortly after starting turned off into the wilderness on a very dim trail. Soon seeing a man riding a mile ahead, I rode on and overtook him, and we rode eight miles together, which was convenient to me, as without him I should several times have lost the trail altogether. Then his fine American horse, on which he had only ridden two days, broke down, while my "mad, bad bronco," on which I had been traveling for a fortnight, cantered lightly over the snow. He was the only traveler I saw in a day of nearly twelve hours. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of that ride. I concentrated all my faculties of admiration and of locality, for truly the track was a difficult one. I sometimes thought it deserved the bad name given to it at Link's. For the most part it keeps in sight of Tarryall Creek, one of the large affluents of the Platte, and is walled in on both sides by mountains, which are sometimes so close together as to leave only the narrowest canyon between them, at others breaking wide apart, till, after winding and climbing up and down for twenty-five miles, it lands one on a barren rock-girdled park, watered by a rapid fordable stream as broad as the Ouse at Huntingdon, snow fed and ice fringed, the park bordered by fantastic rocky hills, snow covered and brightened only by a dwarf growth of the beautiful silver spruce. I have not seen anything hitherto so thoroughly wild and unlike the rest of these parts.

I rode up one great ascent where hills were tumbled about confusedly; and suddenly across the broad ravine, rising above the sunny grass and the deep green pines, rose in glowing and shaded red against the glittering blue heaven a magnificent and unearthly range of mountains, as shapely as could be seen, rising into colossal points, cleft by deep blue ravines, broken up into sharks' teeth, with gigantic knobs and pinnacles rising from their inaccessible sides, very fair to look upon—a glowing, heavenly, unforgettable sight, and only four miles off. Mountains they looked not of this earth, but such as one sees in dreams alone, the blessed ranges of "the land which is very far off." They were more brilliant than those incredible colors in which painters array the fiery hills of Moab and the Desert, and one could not believe them for ever uninhabited, for on them rose, as in the East, the similitude of stately fortresses, not the gray castellated towers of feudal Europe, but gay, massive, Saracenic architecture, the outgrowth of the solid rock. They were vast ranges, apparently of enormous height, their color indescribable, deepest and reddest near the pine-draped bases, then gradually softening into wonderful tenderness, till the highest summits rose all flushed, and with an illusion of transparency, so that one might believe that they were taking on the hue of sunset. Below them lay broken ravines of fantastic rocks, cleft and canyoned by the river, with a tender unearthly light over all, the apparent warmth of a glowing clime, while I on the north side was in the shadow among the pure unsullied snow.

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