Now let Joseph LeConte take up the theme and give us of the rich treasure-store of his knowledge and observation. In the American Journal of Science and Arts, Third Series, for 1875, he discussed the very field we are now interested in, and his fascinating and illuminating explanations render the subject perfectly clear. Said he:
Last summer I had again an opportunity of examining the pathways of some of the ancient glaciers of the Sierra. One of the grandest of these is what I call the Lake Valley Glacier. Taking its rise in snow fountains among the high peaks in the neighborhood of Silver Mountain, this great glacier flowed northward down Lake Valley, and, gathering tributaries from the summit ridges on either side of the valley, but especially from the higher western summits, it filled the basin of Lake Tahoe, forming a great "mer de glace," 50 miles long, 15 miles wide, and at least 2000 feet deep, and finally escaped northeastward to the plains. The outlets of this great "mer de glace" are yet imperfectly known. A part of the ice certainly escaped by Truckee Canyon (the present outlet of the Lake); a part probably went over the northeastern margin of the basin. My studies during the summer were confined to some of the larger tributaries of this great glacier.
[Footnote 1: This is the name given by Dr. LeConte to the Basin in which Lake Tahoe rests and including the meadow lands above Tallac.]
Truckee Canyon and Donner Lake Glaciers. I have said that one of the outlets of the great "mer de glace" was by the Truckee River Canyon. The stage road to Lake Tahoe runs in this canyon for fifteen miles. In most parts of the canyon the rocks are volcanic and crumbling, and therefore ill adapted to retain glacial marks; yet in some places where the rock is harder these marks are unmistakable. On my way to and from Lake Tahoe, I observed that the Truckee Canyon glacier was joined at the town of Truckee by a short but powerful tributary, which, taking its rise in an immense rocky amphitheater surrounding the head of Donner Lake, flowed eastward. Donner Lake, which occupies the lower portion of this amphitheater, was evidently formed by the down-flowing of the ice from the steep slopes of the upper portion near the summit. The stage road from Truckee to the summit runs along the base of a moraine close by the margin of the lake on one side, while on the other side, along the apparently almost perpendicular rocky face of the amphitheater, 1000 feet above the surface of the lake, the Central Pacific Railroad winds its fearful way to the same place. In the upper portion of this amphitheater large patches of snow still remain unmelted during the summer.
My examination of these two glaciers, however, was very cursory. I hasten on, therefore, to others which I traced more carefully.
Lake Tahoe lies countersunk on the very top of the Sierra. This great range is here divided into two summit ridges, between which lies a trough 50 miles long, 20 miles wide, and 3000 to 3500 feet deep. This trough is Lake Valley. Its lower half is filled with the waters of Lake Tahoe. The area of this Lake is about 250 square miles, its depth 1640 feet, and its altitude 6200 feet. It is certain that during the fullness of glacial times this trough was a great "mer de glace," receiving tributaries from all directions except the north. But as the Glacial Period waned—as the great "mer de glace" dwindled and melted away, and the lake basin became occupied by water instead, the tributaries still remained as separate glaciers flowing into the Lake. The tracks of these lingering small glaciers are far more easily traced and their records more easily read, than those of the greater but more ancient glacier of which they were once but the tributaries.
Of the two summit ridges mentioned above the western is the higher. It bears the most snow now, and in glacial times gave origin to the grandest glaciers. Again: the peaks on both these summits rise higher and higher as we go toward the upper or southern end of the Lake. Hence the largest glaciers ran into the Lake at its southwestern end. And, since the mountain slopes here are toward the northeast and therefore the shadiest and coolest, here also the glaciers have had the greatest vitality and lived the longest, and have, therefore, left the plainest records. Doubtless, careful examination would discover the pathways of glaciers running into the Lake from the eastern summit also; but I failed to detect any very clear traces of such, either on the eastern or on the northern portion of the western side of the Lake; while between the southwestern end and Sugar Pine Point, a distance of only eight or ten miles, I saw distinctly the pathways of five or six. North of Sugar Pine Point there are also several. They are all marked by moraine ridges running down from the summits and projecting as points into the Lake. The pathways of three of these glaciers I studied somewhat carefully, and after a few preliminary remarks, will describe in some detail.
Mountains are the culminating points of the scenic grandeur and beauty of the earth. They are so, because they are also the culminating points of all geological agencies—igneous agencies in mountain formation, aqueous agencies in mountain sculpture. Now, I have already said that the mountain peaks which stand above the Lake on every side are highest at the southwestern end, where they rise to the altitude of 3000 feet above the lake surface, or between 9000 and 10,000 feet above the sea. Here, therefore, ran in the greatest glaciers; here we find the profoundest glacial sculpturings; and here also are clustered all the finest beauties of this the most beautiful of mountain lakes. I need only name Mount Tallac, Fallen Leaf Lake, Cascade Lake, and Emerald Bay, all within three or four miles of each other and of the Tallac House. These three exquisite little lakes (for Emerald Bay is also almost a lake), nestled closely against the loftiest peaks of the western summit ridge, are all perfect examples of glacial lakes.
South of Lake Tahoe, Lake Valley extends for fifteen miles as a plain, gently rising southward. At its lower end it is but a few feet above the lake surface, covered with glacial drift modified by water, and diversified, especially on its western side, by debris ridges, the moraines of glaciers which continued to flow into the valley or into the Lake long after the main glacier, of which they were once tributaries, had dried up. On approaching the south end of the Lake by steamer, I had observed these long ridges, divined their meaning, and determined on a closer acquaintance. While staying at the Tallac House I repeatedly visited them and explored the canyons down which their materials were brought. I proceed to describe them.
Fallen Leaf Lake Glacier. Fallen Leaf Lake lies on the plain of Lake Valley, about one and a half miles from Lake Tahoe, its surface but a few feet above the level of the latter Lake; but its bottom far, probably several hundred feet, below that level. It is about three to three and one-half miles long and one and one-fourth miles wide. From its upper end runs a canyon bordered on either side by the highest peaks in this region. The rocky walls of this canyon terminate on the east side at the head of the lake, but on the west side, a little farther down. The lake is bordered on each side by an admirably marked debris ridge (moraine) three hundred feet high, four miles long, and one and one-half to two miles apart. These moraines may be traced back to the termination of the rocky ridges which bound the canyon. On one side the moraine lies wholly on the plain; on the other side its upper part lies against the slope of Mount Tallac. Near the lower end of the lake a somewhat obscure branch ridge comes off from each main ridge, and curving around it forms an imperfect terminal moraine through which the outlet of the lake breaks its way.
[Footnote 2: Professor Price informs me there is a difference of eighty feet between the level of Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake.]
On ascending the canyon the glaciation is very conspicuous, and becomes more and more beautiful at every step. From Glen Alpine Springs upward it is the most perfect I have ever seen. In some places the white rocky bottom of the canyon, for many miles in extent, is smooth and polished and gently undulating, like the surface of a glassy but billowy sea. The glaciation is distinct also up the sides of the canyon 1000 feet above its floor.
There can be no doubt, therefore, that a glacier once came down this canyon filling it 1000 feet deep, scooped out Fallen Leaf Lake just where it struck the plain and changed its angle of slope, and pushed its snout four miles out on the level plain, nearly to the present shores of Lake Tahoe, dropping its debris on either side and thus forming a bed for itself. In its subsequent retreat it seems to have rested its snout some time at the lower end of Fallen Leaf Lake, and accumulated there an imperfect terminal moraine.
Cascade Lake Glacier. Cascade Lake, like Fallen Leaf Lake, is about one and one-half miles from Lake Tahoe, but, unlike Fallen Leaf Lake, its discharge creek has considerable fall, and the lake surface is, therefore, probably 100 feet above the level of the greater lake. On either side of this creek, from the very border of Lake Tahoe, runs a moraine ridge up to the lake, and thence along each side of the lake up to the rocky points which terminate the true mountain canyon above the head of the lake. I have never anywhere seen more perfectly defined moraines. I climbed over the larger western moraine and found that it is partly merged into the eastern moraine of Emerald Bay to form a medial at least 300 feet high, and of great breadth. From the surface of the little lake the curving branches of the main moraine, meeting below the lake to form a terminal moraine, are very distinct. At the head of the lake there is a perpendicular cliff over which the river precipitates itself, forming a very pretty cascade of 100 feet or more. On ascending the canyon above the head of the lake, for several miles, I found, everywhere, over the lip of the precipice, over the whole floor of the canyon, and up the sides 1000 feet or more, the most perfect glaciation.
There cannot, therefore, be the slightest doubt that this also is the pathway of a glacier which once ran into Lake Tahoe. After coming down its steep rocky bed, this glacier precipitated itself over the cliff, scooped out the lake at its foot, and then ran on until it bathed its snout in the waters of Lake Tahoe, and probably formed icebergs there. In its subsequent retreat it seems to have dropped more debris in its path and formed a more perfect terminal moraine than did Fallen Leaf Glacier.
Emerald Bay Glacier. All that I have said of Fallen Leaf Lake and Cascade Lake apply, almost word for word, to Emerald Bay. This beautiful bay, almost a lake, has also been formed by a glacier. It also is bounded on either side by moraines, which run down to and even project into Lake Tahoe, and may be traced up to the rocky points which form the mouth of the canyon at the head of the bay. Its eastern moraine, as already stated, is partly merged into the western moraine of Cascade Lake, to form a huge medial moraine. Its western moraine lies partly against a rocky ridge which runs down to Lake Tahoe to form Rubicon Point. At the head of the bay, as at the head of Cascade Lake, there is a cliff about 100 feet high, over which the river precipitates itself and forms a beautiful cascade. Over the lip of this cliff, and in the bed of the canyon above, and up the sides of the cliff-like walls, 1000 feet or more, the most perfect glaciation is found. The only difference between this glacier and the two preceding is, that it ran more deeply into the main lake and the deposits dropped in its retreat did not rise high enough to cut off its little rock basin from that lake, but exists now only as a shallow bar at the mouth of the bay. This bar consists of true moraine matter, i.e., intermingled bowlders and sand, which may be examined through the exquisitely transparent water almost as perfectly as if no water were present. All that I have described separately and in detail, and much more, may be taken in at one view from the top of Mount Tallac. From this peak nearly the whole course of these three glaciers, their fountain amphitheaters, their canyon beds, and their lakes enclosed between their moraine arms, may be seen at once. The view from this peak is certainly one of the finest that I have ever seen. Less grand and diversified in mountain forms than many from peaks above the Yosemite, it has added beauty of extensive water surface, and the added interest of several glacial pathways in a limited space. The observer sits on the very edge of the fountain amphitheaters still holding large masses of snow; immediately below, almost at his feet, lie glistening, gem-like, in dark rocky setting, the three exquisite little lakes; on either side of these, embracing and protecting them, stretch out the moraine arms, reaching toward and directing the eye to the great Lake, which lies, map-like, with all its sinuous outlines perfectly distinct, even to its extreme northern end, twenty-five to thirty miles away. As the eye sweeps again up the canyon-beds, little lakes, glacier scooped rock basins, filled with ice-cold water, flash in the sunlight on every side. Twelve or fifteen of these may be seen.
From appropriate positions on the surface of Lake Tahoe, also, all the moraine ridges are beautifully seen at once, but the glacial lakes and the canyon-beds, of course, cannot be seen.
There are several questions of a general nature suggested by my examination of these three glacial pathways, which I have thought best to consider separately.
a. Evidences of the existence of the Great Lake Valley Glacier. On the south shore of Lake Tahoe, and especially at the northern or lower end of Fallen Leaf Lake, I found many pebbles and some large bowlders of a beautiful striped agate-like slate. The stripes consisted of alternate bands of black and translucent white, the latter weathering into milk-white, or yellowish, or reddish. It was perfectly evident that these fragments were brought down from the canyon above Fallen Leaf Lake. On ascending this canyon I easily found the parent rock of these pebbles and bowlders. the It is a powerful outcropping ledge of beautifully striped siliceous slate, full of fissures and joints, and easily broken into blocks of all sizes, crossing the canyon about a half mile above the lake. This rock is so peculiar and so easily identified that its fragments become an admirable index of the extent of the glacial transportation. I have, myself, traced these pebbles only a little way along the western shores of the great Lake, as my observations were principally confined to this part; but I learn from my brother, Professor John LeConte, and from Mr. John Muir, both of whom have examined the pebbles I have brought home, that precisely similar fragments are found in great abundance all along the western shore from Sugar Pine Point northward, and especially on the extreme northwestern shore nearly thirty miles from their source. I have visited the eastern shore of the Lake somewhat more extensively than the western, and nowhere did I see similar pebbles. Mr. Muir, who has walked around the Lake, tells me that they do not occur on the eastern shore. We have, then, in the distribution of these pebbles, demonstrative evidence of the fact that Fallen Leaf Lake glacier was once a tributary of a much greater glacier which filled Lake Tahoe.
The only other agency to which we could attribute this transportation is that of shore ice and icebergs, which probably did once exist on Lake Tahoe; but the limitation of the pebbles to the western, and especially the northwestern shores, is in exact accordance with the laws of glacial transportation, but contrary to those of floating ice transportation—for lake ice is carried only by winds, and would, therefore, deposit equally on all shores.
Again: I think I find additional evidence of a Lake Tahoe "mer de glace" in the contrasted character of the northern and southern shores of this Lake.
All the little glacial lakes described above are deep at the upper end and shallow at the lower end. Further, all of them have a sand beach and a sand flat at the upper end, and great bowlders thickly scattered in the shallow water, and along the shore at the lower end. These facts are easily explained, if we remember that while the glacial scooping was principally at the upper end, the glacial droppings were principally at the lower end. And further: that while the glacial deposit was principally at the lower end, the river deposit, since the glacial epoch, has been wholly at the upper end.
Now the great Lake, also, has a similar structure. It also has a beautiful sand and gravel beach all along its upper shore, and a sand flat extending above it; while at its lower, or northern end, thickly strewed in the shallow water, and along the shore line, and some distance above the shore line, are found in great abundance bowlders of enormous size. May we not conclude that similar effects have been produced by similar causes—that these huge bowlders were dropped by the great glacier at its lower end? Similar bowlders are also found along the northern portion of the eastern shore, because the principal flow of the ice-current was from the southwest, and in the fulness of glacial times the principal exit was over the northeastern lip of the basin.
b. Origin of Lake Tahoe. That Lake Tahoe was once wholly occupied by ice, I think, is certain; but that it was scooped out by the Lake Valley glacier is perhaps more doubtful. All other Sierra lakes which I have seen certainly owe their origin to glacial agency. Neither do I think we should be staggered by the size or enormous depth of this Lake. Yet, from its position, it may be a plication-hollow, or a trough produced by the formation of two parallel mountain ridges, and afterward modified by glacial agency, instead of a pure glacial-scooped rock-basin. In other words, Lake Valley, with its two summit ridges, may be regarded as a phenomenon belonging to the order of mountain-formation and not to the order of mountain sculpture. I believe an examination of the rocks of the two summit ridges would probably settle this. In the absence of more light than I now have, I will not hazard an opinion.
[Footnote 3: This question practically has been settled by Mr. Lindgren, and his conclusions are given in an earlier chapter.]
c. Passage of slate into granite. From the commencement of the rocky canyon at the head of Fallen Leaf Lake, and up for about two miles, the canyon walls and bed are composed of slate. The slate, however, becomes more and more metamorphic as we go up, until it passes into what much resembles trap. In some places it looks like diorite and in others like porphyry. I saw no evidence, however, of any outburst. This latter rock passes somewhat more rapidly into granite at Glen Alpine Springs. From this point the canyon bed and lower walls are granite, but the highest peaks are still a dark, splintery, metamorphic slate. The glacial erosion has here cut through the slate and bitten deep into the underlying granite. The passage from slate through porphyritic diorite into granite may, I think, be best explained by the increasing degree of metamorphism, and at the same time a change of the original sediments at this point; granite being the last term of metamorphism of pure clays, or clayey sandstones, while bedded diorites are similarly formed from ferruginous and calcareous slates. Just at the junction of the harder and tougher granite with the softer and more jointed slates, occur, as might be expected, cascades in the river. It is probable that the cascades at the head of Cascade Lake and Emerald Bay mark, also, the junction of the granite with the slate—only the junction here is covered with debris. Just at the same junction, in Fallen Leaf Lake Canyon (Glen Alpine Basin), burst out the waters of Glen Alpine Springs, highly charged with bicarbonates of iron and soda.
d. Glacial Deltas. I have stated that the moraines of Cascade Lake and Emerald Bay glaciers run down to the margin of Lake Tahoe. An examination of this portion of the Lake shore shows that they run far into the Lake—that the Lake has been filled in, two or three miles, by glacial debris. On the eastern margin of Lake Tahoe, the water, close along the shore, is comparatively shallow, the shore rocky, and along the shore-line, above and below the water, are scattered great bowlders, probably dropped by the main glacier. But on the west margin of the Lake the shoreline is composed wholly of moraine matter, the water very deep close to shore, and the bottom composed of precisely similar moraine matter. In rowing along the shore, I found that the exquisite ultramarine blue of the deep water extends to within 100 to 150 feet of the shore-line. At this distance, the bottom could barely be seen. Judging from the experiments of my brother, Professor John Le Conte, according to which a white object could be seen at a depth of 115 feet, I suppose the depth along the line of junction of the ultramarine blue and the emerald green water is at least 100 feet. The slope of the bottom is, therefore, nearly, or quite, 45 degrees. It seems, in fact, a direct continuation beneath the water of the moraine slope. The materials, also, which may be examined with ease through the wonderfully transparent water, are exactly the same as that composing the moraine, viz: earth, pebbles, and bowlders of all sizes, some of them of enormous dimensions. It seems almost certain that the margin of the great Lake Valley glacier, and of the Lake itself when this glacier had melted and the tributaries first began to run into the Lake, was the series of rocky points at the head of the three little lakes, about three or four miles back from the present margin of the main Lake; and that all lakeward from these points has been filled in and made land by the action of the three glaciers described. At that time Rubicon Point was a rocky promontory, projecting far into the Lake, beyond which was another wide bay, which has been similarly filled in by debris brought down by glaciers north of this point. The long moraines of these glaciers are plainly visible from the Lake surface; but I have not examined them. Thus, all the land, for three or four miles back from the Lake-margin, both north and south of Rubicon Point, is composed of confluent glacial deltas, and on these deltas the moraine ridges are the natural levees of these ice-streams.
e. Parallel Moraines. The moraines described above are peculiar and almost unique. Nowhere, except about Lake Tahoe and near Lake Mono, have I seen moraines in the form of parallel ridges lying on a level plain and terminating abruptly without any signs of transverse connection (terminal moraine) at the lower end. Nor have I been able to find any description of similar moraines in other countries. They are not terminal moraines, for the glacial pathway is open below. They are not lateral moraines, for these are borne on the glacier itself, or else stranded on the deep canyon sides. Neither do I think moraines of this kind would be formed by a glacier emerging from a steep narrow canyon and running out on a level plain; for in such cases, as soon as the confinement of the bounding walls is removed, the ice stream spreads out into an ice lake. It does so as naturally and necessarily as does water under similar circumstances. The deposit would be nearly transverse to the direction of the motion, and, therefore, more or less crescentic. There must be something peculiar in the conditions under which these parallel ridges were formed. I believe the conditions were as described below.
We have already given reason to think that the original margin of the Lake, in glacial times, was three or four miles back from the present margin, along the series of rocky points against which the ridges abut; and that all the flat plain thence to the present margin is made land. If so, then it is evident that at that time the three glaciers described ran far out into the Lake, until reaching deep water, where they formed icebergs. Under these conditions, it is plain that the pressure on this, the subaqueous portion of the glacial bed, would be small, and become less and less until it becomes nothing at the point where the icebergs float away. The pressure on the bed being small, not enough to overcome the cohesion of ice, there would be no spreading. A glacier running down a steep narrow canyon and out into the deep water, and forming icebergs at its point, would maintain its slender, tongue-like form, and drop its debris on each side, forming parallel ridges, and would not form a terminal moraine because the materials not dropped previously would be carried off by icebergs. In the subsequent retreat of such a glacier, imperfect terminal moraines might be formed higher up, where the water is not deep enough to form icebergs. It is probable, too, that since the melting of the great "mer de glace" and the formation of the Lake, the level of the water has gone down considerably, by the deepening of the Truckee Canyon outlet by means of erosion. Thus not only did the glaciers retreat from the Lake, but also the Lake from the glaciers.
As already stated, similar parallel moraine ridges are formed by the glaciers which ran down the steep eastern slope of the Sierras, and out on the level plains of Mono. By far the most remarkable are those formed by Bloody most Canyon Glacier, described by me in a former paper. These moraines are six or seven miles long, 300 to 400 feet high, and the parallel crests not more than a mile asunder. There, also, as at Lake Tahoe, we find them terminating abruptly in the plain without any sign of terminal moraine. But higher up there are small, imperfect, transverse moraines, made during the subsequent retreat, behind which water has collected, forming lakes and marshes. But observe: these moraines are also in the vicinity of a great lake; and we have abundant evidence, in very distinct terraces described by Whitney and observed by myself, that in glacial times the water stood at least six hundred feet above the present level. In fact, there can be no doubt that at that time the waters of Mono Lake (or a much greater body of water of which Mono is the remnant) washed against the bold rocky points from which the debris ridges start. The glaciers in this vicinity, therefore, must have run out into the water six or seven miles, and doubtless formed icebergs at their point, and, therefore, formed there no terminal moraine.
[Footnote 4: Geological Survey of California, Vol. I, 451.]
That the glaciers described about Lake Tahoe and Lake Mono ran out far into the water and formed icebergs I think is quite certain, and that parallel moraines open below are characteristic signs of such conditions I also think nearly certain.
f. Glacial Erosion. My observations on glacial pathways in the High Sierra, and especially about Lake Tahoe, have greatly modified my views as to the nature of glacial erosion. Writers on this subject seem to regard glacial erosion as mostly, if not wholly, a grinding and scoring; the debris of this erosion as rock-meal; the great bowlders, which are found in such immense quantities in the terminal deposit, as derived wholly from the crumbling cliffs above the glacial surface; the rounded bowlders, which are often the most numerous, as derived in precisely the same way, only they have been engulfed by crevasses, or between the sides of the glacier and the bounding wall, and thus carried between the moving ice and its rocky bed, as between the upper and nether millstone. In a word, all bowlders, whether angular or rounded, are supposed to owe their origin or separation and shaping to glacial agency.
Now, if such be the true view of glacial erosion, evidently its effect in mountain sculpture must be small indeed. Roches moutonnees are recognized by all as the most universal and characteristic sign of a glacial bed. Sometimes these beds are only imperfect moutonnees, i.e., they are composed of broken angular surface with only the points and edges planed off. Now, moutonnees surfaces always, and especially angular surfaces with only points and edges beveled, show that the erosion by grinding has been only very superficial. They show that if the usual view of glacial erosion be correct, the great canyons, so far from being formed, were only very slightly modified by glacial agency. But I am quite satisfied from my own observations, that this is not the only nor the principal mode of glacial erosion. I am convinced that a glacier, by its enormous pressure and resistless onward movement, is constantly breaking off large blocks from its bed and bounding walls. Its erosion is not only a grinding and scoring, but also a crushing and breaking. It makes by its erosion not only rock-meal, but also large rock-chips. Thus, a glacier is constantly breaking off blocks and making angular surfaces, and then grinding off the angles both of the fragments and the bed, and thus forming rounded bowlders and moutonnees surfaces. Its erosion is a constant process of alternate rough hewing and planing. If the rock be full of fissures, and the glacier deep and heavy, the rough hewing so predominates that the plane has only time to touch the corners a little before the rock is again broken and new angles formed. This is the case high up on the canyon walls, at the head of Cascade Lake and Emerald Bay, but also in the canyon beds wherever the slate is approached. If, on the other hand, the rock is very hard and solid, and the glacier be not very deep and heavy, the planing will predominate over the rough hewing, and a smooth, gentle billowy surface is the result. This is the case in the hard granite forming the beds of all the canyons high up, but especially high up the canyon of Fallen Leaf Lake (Glen Alpine Basin), where the canyon spreads out and extensive but comparatively thin snow sheets have been at work. In some cases on the cliffs, subsequent disintegration of a glacier-polished surface may have given the appearance of angular surfaces with beveled corners; but, in other cases, in the bed of the canyon, and on elevated level places, where large loosened blocks could not be removed by water nor by gravity, I observed the same appearances, under conditions which forbid this explanation. Mr. Muir, also, in his Studies in the Sierra, gives many examples of undoubted rock-breaking by ancient glaciers.
Angular blocks are mostly, therefore, the ruins of crumbling cliffs, borne on the surface of the glacier and deposited at its foot. Many rounded bowlders also have a similar origin, having found their way to the bed of the glacier through crevasses, or along the sides of the glacier. But most of the rounded bowlders in the terminal deposit of great glaciers are fragments torn off by the glacier itself. The proportion of rounded bowlders—of upper or air-formed—to nether or glacier-formed fragments, depends on the depth and extent of the ice-current. In the case of the universal ice-sheet (ice-flood) there are, of course, no upper formed or angular blocks at all—there is nothing borne on the surface. The moraine, therefore, consists wholly of nether-formed and nether-borne severely triturated materials (moraine profunde). The bowlders are, of course, all rounded. This is one extreme. In the case of the thin moving ice-fields, the glacierets which still linger among the highest peaks and shadiest hollows of the Sierra, on the other hand, the moraines are composed wholly of angular blocks. This is the character of the terminal moraine of Mount Lyell glacier. These glacierets are too thin and feeble and torpid to break off fragments—they can only bear away what falls on them. This is the other extreme. But in the case of ordinary glaciers—ice-streams—the bowlders of the terminal deposit are mixed; the angular or upper-formed predominating in the small existing glaciers of temperate climates, but the rounded or nether-formed greatly predominating in the grand old glaciers of which we have been speaking. In the terminal deposits of these, especially in the materials pushed into the Lake, it is somewhat difficult to find a bowlder which has not been subjected to severe attrition.
THE LESSER LAKES OF THE TAHOE REGION AND HOW THEY WERE FORMED
This is not to be a description of the scores of Glacial Lakes found in the Tahoe region, but an answer to the questions so often asked about practically all of these lakes, as to their origin and continuance.
Rich as our Sierras are in treasures none are more precious than these. They give one pleasing surprises, often when least expected. For while the tree-clusters, the mountain-peaks, and the glowing snow-banks throw themselves into our view by their elevated positions, the retiring lakes, secluded, modest, hide their beauty from us until we happen to climb up to, or above, them.
From the higher summits how wonderfully they appear. Let the eye follow a fruitful branch of an apple, pear or peach. How the leaves, the stem, the fruit occur, in sure but irregular order. It is just so with the glacial lakes of the Sierras. They are the fruit of the streams that flow from the glacial fountains. They lie on rude and unexpected granite shelves,—as Le Conte Lake; under the shadow of towering peaks,—as Gilmore Lake; on bald glacier-gouged and polished tables,—as those of Desolation Valley; embosomed in deep woods,—as Fallen Leaf, Heather and Cascade; in the rocky recesses of sloping canyons,—as Susie, Lucile and the Angoras; hidden in secret recesses of giant granite walls,—as Eagle; or sprawling in the open,—as Loon, Spider, etc.
What a variety of sizes, shapes and characteristics they present. There are no two alike, yet they are nearly all one in their attractive beauty, in the purity of their waters, and in the glory, majesty, sublimity and beauty mirrored on their placid faces.
In poetic fashion, yet with scientific accuracy, John Muir thus describes their origin in his Mountains of California, a book every Tahoe lover should possess:
When a mountain lake is born,—when, like a young eye, it first opens to the light,—it is an irregular, expressionless crescent, inclosed in banks of rock and ice,—bare, glaciated rock on the lower side, the rugged snout of a glacier on the upper. In this condition it remains for many a year, until at length, toward the end of some auspicious cluster of seasons, the glacier recedes beyond the upper margin of the basin, leaving it open from shore to shore for the first time, thousands of years after its conception beneath the glacier that excavated its basin. The landscape, cold and bare, is reflected in its pure depths; the winds ruffle its glassy surface, and the sun thrills it with throbbing spangles, while its waves begin to lap and murmur around its leafless shores,—sun-spangles during the day and reflected stars at night its only flowers, the winds and the snow its only visitors. Meanwhile, the glacier continues to recede, and numerous rills, still younger than the lake itself, bring down glacier-mud, sand-grains, and pebbles, giving rise to margin-rings and plats of soil. To these fresh soil-beds come many a waiting plant. First, a hardy carex with arching leaves and a spike of brown flowers; then, as the seasons grow warmer, and the soil-beds deeper and wider, other sedges take their appointed places, and these are joined by blue gentians, daisies, dodecatheons, violets, honey-worts, and many a lowly moss. Shrubs also hasten in time to the new gardens,—kalmia with its glossy leaves and purple flowers, the arctic willow, making soft woven carpets, together with the healthy bryanthus and cassiope, the fairest and dearest of them all. Insects now enrich the air, frogs pipe cheerily in the shallows, soon followed by the ouzel, which is the first bird to visit a glacier lake, as the sedge is the first of plants. So the young lake grows in beauty, becoming more and more humanly lovable from century to century. Groves of aspen spring up, and hardy pines, and the hemlock spruce, until it is richly overshadowed and embowered. But while its shores are becoming enriched, the soil-beds creep out with incessant growth, contracting its area, while the lighter mud-particles deposited on the bottom cause it to grow shallower, until at length the last remnant of the lake vanishes,—closed forever in ripe and natural old age. And now its feeding-stream goes winding on without halting through the new gardens and groves that have taken its place.
The length of the life of any lake depends ordinarily upon the capacity of its basin, as compared with the carrying power of the streams that flow into it, the character of the rocks over which these streams flow, and the relative position of the lake toward other lakes. In a series whose basins lie in the same canyon, and are fed by one and the same main stream, the uppermost will, of course, vanish first unless some other lake-filling agent comes in to modify the result; because at first it receives nearly all of the sediments that the stream brings down, only the finest of the mud-particles being carried through the highest of the series to the next below. Then the next higher, and the next would be successively filled, and the lowest would be the last to vanish. But this simplicity as to duration is broken in upon in various ways, chiefly through the action of side-streams that enter the lower lakes direct. For, notwithstanding many of these side tributaries are quite short, and, during late summer, feeble, they all become powerful torrents in spring-time when the snow is melting, and carry not only sand and pine-needles, but large trunks and bowlders tons in weight, sweeping them down their steeply inclined channels and into the lake basins with astounding energy. Many of these side affluents also have the advantage of access to the main lateral moraines of the vanished glacier that occupied the canyon, and upon these they draw for lake-filling material, while the main trunk stream flows mostly over clean glacier pavements, where but little moraine matter is ever left for them to carry. Thus a small rapid stream with abundance of loose transportable material within its reach may fill up an extensive basin in a few centuries, while a large perennial trunk stream, flowing over clean, enduring pavements, though ordinarily a hundred times larger, may not fill a smaller basin in thousands of years.
Many striking examples of these successive processes may be seen in the Tahoe region, as, for instance, Squaw Valley, which lies between the spurs of Squaw Peak and Granite Chief. This was undoubtedly scooped out by a glacier that came down from Squaw Peak and Granite Chief. The course of the ice-sheet was down to the Truckee River. When the glacier began to shrink it left its terminal moraine as a dam between the basin above and the river below. In due time, as the glacier finally receded to a mere bank of half-glacierized snow on the upper portions of the two peaks, the basin filled up with water and thus formed a lake. Slowly the sand and rocky debris from the peaks filled up the lake, and in the course of time a break was made in the moraine, so that the creek flowed over or through it and the lake ceased to exist, while the meadow came into existence.
DONNER LAKE AND ITS TRAGIC HISTORY
Closely allied to Lake Tahoe by its near proximity, its situation on the Emigrant Gap automobile road from Sacramento to Tahoe, and that it is seen from Mt. Rose, Mt. Watson, and many Tahoe peaks, is Dormer Lake,—lake of tragic memories in the early day pioneer history of this region.
It was in 1846 that James T. Reed, of Springfield, Ill., determined to move to California. This land of promise was then a Mexican province, but Reed carefully and thoroughly had considered the question and had decided that, for his family's good, it was well to emigrate. He induced two other Illinois families to accompany him, those of George and Jacob Donner. Thursday, April 15th, 1846, the party started, full of high hopes for the future. The story of how they met with others bound for California or Oregon, at Independence, Mo., journeyed together over the plains and prairies to Fort Hall, where Lansford W. Hastings, either in person or by his "Open Letter," led part of the band to take his new road, which ultimated in dire tragedy, is well known.
The Oregon division of the divided party took the right-hand trail, while the other took the left-hand to Fort Bridger. It is the experiences of this latter party with which we are concerned. Misfortune came to them thick and fast from this time on. The wagons were stalled in Weber Canyon and had to be hauled bodily up the steep cliffs to the plateau above; some of their stock ran away, after heartbreaking struggles over the Salt Lake desert; mirages intensified their burning thirst by their disappointing lure; Indians threatened them, and finally, to add despair to their wretchedness, a quarrel arose in which Mr. Reed, in self-defence, killed one of the drivers, named Snyder. Reed was banished from the party under circumstances of unjustifiable severity which amounted to inhuman cruelty, and his wife and helpless children, the oldest of them, Virginia, only twelve years of age, had to take the rest of the journey without the presence of their natural protector. Food supplies began to give out, the snow fell earlier than usual and added to their difficulties, and before they reached the region of the Truckee River they were compelled to go on short rations. Then, under suspicious circumstances one of the party, Wolfinger, was lost, and though his wife was informed that he had been murdered by Indians, there was always a doubt in the minds of some as to whether that explanation were the true one. On the 19th of October, an advance guard that had gone on to California for food, returned, bringing seven mules ladened with flour and jerked beef. The story of this trip I have recounted more fully in the book Heroes of California. Without this additional food the party never could have survived. On the 22nd they crossed the Truckee River for the forty-ninth time.
Heavy snow now began to intercept their weary way. They were finally compelled to take refuge in an abandoned cabin near the shore of what is now known as Donner Lake, and there, under circumstances of horror and terror that can never fully be comprehended and appreciated, the devoted men, women and children were imprisoned in the snow until the first relief party reached them, February 19th, with scant provisions, brought in at life's peril on snowshoes. A "Forlorn Hope" had tried to force its passage over the snowy heights. Fifteen brave men and women determined to see if they could not win their way over and send back help. Out of the fifteen seven only survived and reached the Sacramento Valley, and they were compelled to sustain life by eating the flesh of those who had perished.
The second relief party was organized by Mr. Reed,—the banished leader—and thirty-one of the party were still in camp at Donner Lake when he arrived, with nine stalwart men to help, on March 1st. On the 3rd nine of them left, with seventeen of the starving emigrants, but they were caught in a fearful snow-storm as they crossed the summit, and ten miles below were compelled to go into camp. Their provisions gave out, Mrs. Graves died, leaving an emaciated babe in arms and three other children, one a five-year-old, who died the next day. Isaac Donner died the third night. Reed and Greenwood, carrying Reed's two children, Mattie and James Jr., with one of the survivors who could walk, now struggled down the mountain in the hope that they could reach help to go back and finish the rescue work. These met Mr. Woodworth who organized the third relief party, of seven men, who returned to "Starved Camp," to find the survivors begging piteously for something to eat. This relief party divided into two parts—one to go over the summit to give help to the needy there, the other to get the "Starved Camp" remnant to safety. The first section succeeded in their mission of mercy and a few days later caught up with the other section from Starved Camp.
Mr. C.F. McGlashan, formerly editor of the Truckee Republican, has written a graphic account, with great care and desire for accuracy, of the complete expedition, which gives the heart-rending story with completeness, and I expect to publish ere long the personal story of Virginia Reed Murphy, who is still alive, one of the few survivors of the ill-fated party.
Through privations and hardships untold the survivors were ultimately enabled to reach Sutter's Fort, only to find the most vile and fearful stories set in circulation about them. Four separate relief parties were sent from California, and their adventures were almost as tragic as those of the sufferers they sought to help. Bret Harte, in his Gabriel Conroy, has told much—though in the exaggerated and unjust form the stories were first circulated—of the Donner tragedy, and it has been made the subject of much newspaper and other writing and discussion.
An unusual trip that can be taken from Tahoe Tavern is down to the foot of Donner Lake and then, turning to the left, follow the old emigrant and stage-road. It has not been used for fifty years, but it is full of interest. There are many objects that remain to tell of its fascinating history. Over it came many who afterwards became pioneers in hewing out this new land from the raw material of which lasting commonwealths are made. Turning south to Cold Stream, it passes by Summit Valley on to Starved Camp. The stumps of the trees cut down by the unfortunate pioneers are still standing.
It was always a difficult road to negotiate, the divide between Mt. Lincoln and Anderson Peak being over 7500 feet high. But those heroes of 1848-49 made it, triumphing over every barrier and winning for themselves what Joaquin Miller so poetically has accorded them, where he declares that "the snow-clad Sierras are their everlasting monuments."
This road is now, in places, almost obliterated. One section for three miles is grown up. Trees and chaparral cover it and hide it from the face of any but the most studiously observant. When the road that takes to the north of Donner Lake was built in 1861-62 and goes directly and on an easier grade by Emigrant Gap to Dutch Flat, this road by Cold Stream was totally abandoned. For years the county road officials have ignored its existence, and now it is as if it never had been, save for its memories and the fragments of wagons, broken and abandoned in the fierce conflict with stern Nature, and suggesting the heart-break and struggle the effort to reach California caused in those early days.
LAKE TAHOE AND THE TRUCKEE RIVER
As is well known, the Truckee River is the only outlet to Lake Tahoe. This outlet is on the northwest side of the Lake, between Tahoe City and Tahoe Tavern, and is now entirely controlled by the concrete dam and head-gates referred to in the chapter on "Public uses of the Water of Lake Tahoe."
When Fremont came down from Oregon in 1844, he named the river Salmon Trout River, from the excellent fish found therein, but the same year, according to Angel, in his History of Nevada, a party of twenty-three men, enthused by the glowing accounts they had heard of California, left Council Bluffs, May 20th, crossed the plains in safety, and reached the Humboldt River. Here an Indian, named Truckee, presented himself to them and offered to become their guide. After questioning him closely, they engaged him, and as they progressed, found that all his statements were verified. He soon became a great favorite among them, and when they reached the lower crossing of the river (now Wadsworth), they were so pleased by the pure water and the abundance of the fish to which he directed them, that they named the stream "Truckee" in his honor.
This Capt. Truckee was the chief of the Paiutis, and the father of Winnemucca (sometimes known as Poito), and the grandfather of Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, long known in Boston and other eastern cities, where she lectured under the patronage of Mrs. Horace Mann, Mrs. Ole Bull, Miss Longfellow, and other prominent women, as the Princess Sallie. When I first went to Nevada, over thirty-three years ago, I soon got to know her and her father, Winnemucca, and met them constantly.
Sarah always claimed that Truckee and Fremont were great friends and that it was the Pathfinder who named the river after her grandfather, but nowhere in his Report of the 1843-44 Expedition does he mention Truckee, and he called the river the "Salmon Trout River"; and this name he retained both in the report and map published in his Memoirs of My Life, Vol. I only of which was issued by Belford, Clarke and Company, of Chicago, in 1887.
Hence Sallie is undoubtedly mistaken in this regard. But on several points she is correct, and too great emphasis cannot be laid upon these facts. They are, I, that Truckee guided several emigrant parties, even as far as Sutter's Fort, California (where Sacramento, the Capital of the State, now stands); II, that he was always friendly, true and honest in his dealings with the whites; III, that had the emigrants and settlers in Nevada treated him as honestly as he did them there would never have been any conflicts between the Paiutis and the whites; IV, that when the latter first came to the country he called councils of his people and bade them welcome the newcomers with open arms.
He died just as the wrongs inflicted upon the Paiutis were making them desperate and resolved on war. Though his son, Winnemucca, is well known never openly to have waged war against the whites, it was thoroughly understood that secretly he favored it. But had his father lived and retained his health and power there is little doubt but that the open conflict would have been averted, and many precious human lives on both sides saved.
The Truckee River has its rise in Lake Tahoe, flows northward and breaks through the Mount Pluto ridge in a narrow canyon, one thousand to two thousand feet in depth. While the canyon is narrow and its slopes, especially on the east, are rocky and steep, it is not exactly gorge-like, except for the space of a mile or so, a short distance below Tahoe. For twelve miles the river follows a northerly course, and it is then joined by Donner Creek flowing from Donner Lake. The united streams then turn eastward and take a course across the northern end of the gravelly flat of Martis Valley, in a channel two hundred to two-hundred-fifty feet below the level of the plain. At Boca it cuts through the eastern range with a canyon one thousand to three thousand five hundred feet in depth and emerges on the plains of Nevada between Verdi and Reno. It returns again to the north below Wadsworth, having run sixty-nine miles from Donner Creek, and then, flowing sixteen more miles, it discharges into Pyramid Lake. At Tahoe the river begins at an elevation of 6,225 feet above sea level; at Pyramid the level is 4,890 feet, thus giving the river a fall of 1,335 feet in ninety-seven miles.
The Truckee River receives a number of large tributaries; the principal ones being Little Truckee River and Prosser Creek, the former heading in Webber Lake, the latter in the main range of the Sierras, most of its sources lying in small lakes held in hollows and basins excavated by glaciers.
Until it was contaminated by the refuse of civilization its waters were pure and healthful, but legal enactments have been necessary to protect the stream from sawdust and other pollutions.
As elsewhere explained the Truckee River being the only outlet of Lake Tahoe, and therefore its natural outflow channel, together with the facts that its origin is in California and it then flows into Nevada, and that part of Lake Tahoe is in each state, has helped complicate the solution of the question as to who is entitled to the surplus waters of the Lake. This is discussed somewhat in a later chapter devoted to the subject.
It may be interesting to recall that in 1900 Mr. A.W. Von Schmidt, President of the Lake Tahoe and San Francisco Water Works, offered to sell to the City of San Francisco certain rights to the water of Lake Tahoe, the dam at the outlet, contract for a deed to two and a half acres of land on which the outlet dam was constructed, a diverting dam in the Truckee River, a patent to the land (forty acres) on which this land stood, and the maps and surveys for a complete line conveying the water of Lake Tahoe to the city of the Golden Gate. He offered to construct this line, including a tunnel through the Sierra Nevadas, and deliver thirty million gallons of water daily, for $17,960,000. If a double line, or a hundred millions of gallons daily, were required, the price was to be correspondingly increased.
This proposition aroused the people of Nevada, and R.L. Fulton, of Reno, Manager of the State Board of Trade, wrote to the San Francisco supervisors, calling attention to the facts that there was no surplus water from Tahoe during the irrigation season, for the water had been diverted by the farmers living along the Truckee River to their fields; that flouring-mills, smelting and reduction works, electric light plant and water-works at Reno, immense saw-mills, a furniture factory, box factory, water and electric-light works, railroad water-tanks, etc., at Truckee, half a dozen ice-ponds, producing over 200,000 tons of ice annually, sawmills and marble-working mills at Essex; planing-mills at Verdi, paper-mill at Floristan, and other similar plants, were totally dependent for their water supply upon the Truckee River.
He also claimed (what was the well-known fact) that the Von Schmidt dam was burned out many years ago, and that Nevada would put up a tremendously stiff fight to prevent any such diversion of Tahoe water as was contemplated. Needless to say the plan fell through.
BY RAIL TO LAKE TAHOE
Lake Tahoe is fifteen miles from Truckee, which is one of the mountain stations on the main line of the Southern Pacific Railway (Central Route), two hundred and eight miles from San Francisco, thirty-five miles from Reno, Nevada, and five hundred and seventy-four miles from Ogden, Utah. By the San Joaquin Valley route via Sacramento, the distance to Los Angeles is five hundred and eighty miles, or by San Francisco and the Coast Line six hundred and ninety-two miles.
During the summer season trains run frequently through, making Tahoe easily accessible.
From the east the traveler comes over what is practically the long known and historic overland stage-road, over which so many thousands of gold-seekers and emigrants came in the days of California's gold excitement. Every mile has some story of pioneer bravery or heroism, of hairbreadth escape from hostile Indians or fortuitous deliverance from storm or disaster. It was over this route the pilgrims came who sought in Utah a land of freedom where they might follow their own peculiar conceptions of religion and duty, untrammeled and uninterfered with by hostile onlookers and disbelievers. Here came the home-seekers of the earlier day, when California was still a province of Mexico; those who had been lured by the glowing stories of the Land of the Sun Down Sea, where orange and lemon, vine and fig flourished and indicated the semi-tropic luxuriance and fruitfulness of the land.
From the west the railroad traverses, in the main, the continuation of this old overland road. After leaving the fertile valley of the Sacramento and rising into the glorious foot-hills of the Sierras, every roll of the billows of the mountains and canyons wedged in between is redolent of memories of the argonauts and emigrants. Yonder are Yuba, Dutch Flat, the North Fork, the South Fork (of the American River), Colfax, Gold Run, Midas, Blue Canyon, Emigrant Gap, Grass Valley, Michigan Bluff, Grizzly Gulch, Alpha, Omega, Eagle Bird, Red Dog, Chips Flat, Quaker Hill and You Bet. Can you not see these camps, alive with rough-handed, full-bearded, sun-browned, stalwart men, and hear the clang of hammer upon drill, the shock of the blast, the wheeling away and crash of waste rock as it is thrown over the dump pile?
And then, as we look up and forward into the sea of mountain-waves into the heart of which we ride, who but Joaquin Miller can describe the scene?
Here lifts the land of clouds! Fierce mountain forms, Made white with everlasting snows, look down Through mists of many canyons, mighty storms That stretch from Autumn's purple drench and drown The yellow hem of Spring. Tall cedars frown Dark-brow'd, through banner'd clouds that stretch and stream Above the sea from snowy mountain crown. The heavens roll, and all things drift or seem To drift about and drive like some majestic dream.
And it is in the very bosom of this majestic scenery that Lake Tahoe lies enshrined. Its entrancing beauty is such that we do not wonder that these triumphant monarchs of the "upper seas" cluster around it as if in reverent adoration, and that they wear their vestal virgin robes of purest white in token of the purity of their worship.
Thoughts like these flood our hearts and minds as we reach Truckee, the point where we leave the Southern Pacific cars and change to those of the narrow-gauge Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company. After a brief wait, long enough to allow transfer of baggage, we leave, from the same station, for the fifteen miles' ride to Tahoe Tavern on the very edge of the Lake.
This ride is itself romantic and beautiful. On the day trains observation cars are provided, and the hour is one of delightful, restful and enchanting scenes. The Truckee River is never out of sight and again and again it reminds one in its foaming speed of Joaquin Miller's expressive phrase:
See where the cool white river runs.
Before 1900 this ride used to be taken by stage, the railway having been built in that year. It is interesting here to note that the rails, the locomotives, the passenger and freight cars were all transported bodily across the Lake from Glenbrook, on the Nevada side. There they were in use for many years mainly for hauling logs and lumber to and from the mills on the summit, whence it was "flumed" to Carson City.
In those days logging was carried on in the Truckee River Canyon and the visitor would often have the pleasure of seeing logs "shoot the chutes" into the river, by which they were floated to the mills at Truckee. Here is a picture:
Tree, bush, and flower grow and blossom upon either side; and a little bird, with a throat like a thrush, warbles a canticle of exquisite musical modulations, so to speak. But the most stirring sight of all is the system of logging carried on by the mill companies. "Look! Quick!" ejaculates the driver; and your gaze is directed to a monster log that comes furiously dashing from the summit down a chute a thousand feet in length with twice the ordinary speed of a locomotive. So rapid is its descent that it leaves a trail of smoke behind it, and sometimes kindles a fire among the slivers along its way. Ah! it strikes the water! In an instant there is an inverted Niagara in the air, resplendent with prismatic and transparent veils of spray.
[Footnote 1: John Vance Cheney in Lippincott's.]
The main portion of the canyon is walled in by abrupt acclivities, upon which majestic trees used to grow, but where now only the growth of the past twenty-five to fifty years is found, doing its best to hide the scars and wounds of the logging days.
The river, issuing from the Lake above, dashes down its wild way in resistless freedom. It is a rapid, all but savage stream, widening occasionally into sheltered pools exceedingly dark and deep. The bowlders in its channel, and those crowding down into it from its farther bank, cause it to eddy and foam with fierce but becoming pride.
A few miles from the Tavern we pass the scene of the Squaw Valley mining excitement where the two towns of Knoxville and Claraville arose as if by magic, tent cities of thousands of inhabitants, lured hither by a dream of gold, too soon to fade away, leaving nothing but distress behind.
Deer Park station suggests the leaving point for that charmingly picturesque resort, snuggling in the heart of Bear Canyon. Now we pass the masses of tuffaceous breccia that "Pap" Church, the old stage-driver used to call the Devil's Pulpit, and the devil's this and that or the other, until many a traveler would wish they were all with the devil.
This is a remnant of the vast mass of volcanic rock that in long ago prehistoric times was poured out in molten sheets over the region, and that formed the range we shall shortly see at the north end of the Lake—the Mount Pluto range. At some later period either earthquake convulsion started the break which ultimately eroded and disintegrated into the great gorge through which the railway has brought us, or grinding glacier cut the pathway for us.
Here, on the right, is a tiny swinging foot-bridge over the river. This is the beginning, the suggestion, for the vast suspension bridges that have allowed the world to cross the great North River from New York to Brooklyn, and that span great rivers and gorges elsewhere in the world. Nay! scarcely the beginning. That you find further up and deeper down in the High Sierras and their shaded and wooded canyons, where wild vines throw their clinging tendrils across from one shore to another of foaming creeks, and gradually grow in girth and strength until they form bridges, over which chipmunks, squirrels, porcupines, 'coons, coyotes, and finally mountain lions, bears, and even men cross with safety. There is the real origin of the suspension bridge. But this is a miniature, a model, a suggestion of the big bridges. It affords ready access to the house on the other side. In winter, however, the boards are taken up, as the heavy snows that fall and accumulate might wreck it.
It is hard to realize that, a few months from now, when winter begins, this railroad must perforce cease its operations. Snow falls, here, where the sun is now smiling so beneficently upon laughing meadows, dotted here and there with dainty flowers, to a depth of ten and even twenty feet. The mail—necessarily much reduced in winter—is first of all carried in sleighs, then, as the snows deepen, on snow-shoes, so that those who stay to preserve the "summer hotels" from winter's ravages may not feel entirely shut out from the living world beyond.
But there is nothing that suggests snow now. We are enjoying the delights of a summer day or evening, and know that we are near our journey's end. Suddenly there is a long call of the whistle, a short curve, and if in the daytime, the Lake suddenly appears, or, if at night, the lights of the Tavern, and our rail journey is done. We are deposited in Fairyland, for whether it be day or evening, the Lake or the Tavern, our senses are thrilled and charmed by everything that appears.
THE WISHBONE AUTOMOBILE ROUTE TO AND AROUND LAKE TAHOE
This is the name given to the 260-mile automobile route to and from Lake Tahoe, going in from Sacramento over the world-famed Emigrant Gap and Donner Lake road, around the western shore of Lake Tahoe, from Tahoe Tavern to Tallac, and thence back to Sacramento over the historic and picturesque Placerville road. While both of the two main arms of the "wishbone" carry the traveler over the Sierras, the roads are wonderfully different. On the Emigrant Gap arm the road seems to have been engineered somewhat after the Indian fashion, viz., to allow the wildest and most expansive outlooks, while the Placerville route is largely confined to the picturesque and beautiful canyon of the South Fork of the American River. Both have honored histories and both are fascinating from the scenic standpoint and the difference in the two routes merely accentuates the charm of the trip, when compared with the new portion of the road, the connecting link that binds them together and now makes possible the ride around the lake shore. Experience has demonstrated, however, that it is better to make the circuit as herein outlined.
A brief sketch of the history of the building of the Emigrant Gap portion of this road cannot fail to be of interest.
It was practically followed by a host of the emigrants who sought California during the great gold excitement of 1848-9. It was also one of the earliest routes used between Sacramento and the mines of the High Sierras. In 1849 it was established from Sacramento to Auburn, Grass Valley and Nevada City and to-day there is practically little deviation from the original route. In 1850 the mines on the Forest Hill Divide were discovered and a branch road from Auburn was built to that section. At Illinoistown (now Colfax) the road branched, one arm crossing the North Fork of the American River to Iowa Hill and other camps on that divide, while the main road continued up the Sierras to Gold Run, Dutch Flat and other points higher up.
Until the Central Pacific Railway was built in the 'sixties Illinoistown was the junction for the different Camps in Nevada County and the Bear River and Iowa Hill Divides. The population of these regions in those early days was much greater than at the present time, yet the demands of the modern automobile have so improved the roads that they are much superior to what the large population of those days enjoyed.
In 1862 the California legislature authorized the supervisors of certain counties to call special elections to vote upon the question as to whether those counties should subscribe towards the building of the Central Pacific Railway, and to authorize them to issue bonds for the amounts they decided to expend. San Francisco county subscribed $1,000,000, Sacramento county $300,000 and Placer county $250,000.
In 1863 the Railroad Company began its work of grading the road bed at Sacramento, and yet, in 1865 it was only completed to Alta, a distance of 68 miles. At the same time it was making strenuous efforts to divert passenger and freight traffic for Virginia City and other Nevada points from the Placerville route. This had become possible because of the fact that when the railway line was actually built as far as Newcastle the engineers realized that before they could build the rest of their railroad they would need to construct a highway of easy grade, which would enable them to haul the necessary supplies for constructing the tunnels, cuts and bridges. Accordingly a survey was made up to Truckee, over the Nevada line into Reno and Virginia City, securing the best possible grade for a wagon road, and this was rushed to a hasty completion.
Naturally, they were anxious to gain all the paying traffic possible, and especially under the adverse conditions under which they were laboring. But, needless to say, this caused the fiercest hostility on the part of their competitors, laid them open to serious charges, which, later, were made, and that for a time threatened desperate consequences, as I will now proceed to relate.
In the late fall of 1864 the Sacramento Valley Railroad (the rival of the Central Pacific) arranged to make a record trip from Freeport to Virginia City by the Placerville route. Though the officials endeavored to keep the matter secret, it leaked out and immediately the Central Pacific planned to circumvent their aim. They stationed relays along their own line to compete, and Nature and Fate seemed to come to their aid. A fierce storm arose the day before the start was to be made, and it fell heavier on the Placerville than on the other route. Though the drivers of each line did their utmost, feeling their own personal honor, as well as that of their company at stake, the heavy rains at Strawberry arrested the Placerville stage and made further progress impossible, while the other route was enabled to complete its trip on record time. Mr. L.L. Robinson, the Superintendent of the Sacramento Valley Railroad, who himself accompanied the stage, wired from Strawberry, "Heavy rains, heavy roads, slow time"—reluctant to own a possible defeat. But the Sacramento Union, the organ of the Central Pacific, came out the next morning with glowing accounts of the successful run of the stages over the Emigrant Gap route and ridiculed Mr. Robinson's telegram, ironically comparing it with Caesar's classic message to the Roman Senate: "Veni, Vidi, Vici."
It was such struggles for local business as this that led the San Francisco Alta California, a paper bitterly opposed to the Central Pacific, to denounce the railway, in 1866, as the "Dutch Flat Swindle." It claimed that the railway would never be built further than Alta and that it was built so far only for the purpose of controlling passenger and freight traffic over their wagon road to Virginia City and other Nevada points. Other San Francisco papers joined in the fight and so energetically was it conducted, and so powerful became the opposition that they actually prevailed upon the people of San Francisco to repudiate their contract to purchase a million dollars' worth of Central Pacific stock and compromise by practically making the railroad company a present of $600,000 (which had already been expended) provided they would release the City and County from their pledge to raise the remaining $400,000.
The folly of this action is now so apparent that it is hard to conceive how even political and civic jealousy or hatred could have been so blinded to self-interest. The Central Pacific engineers had undertaken one of the most difficult pieces of railway engineering in the world, and the financiers of the company were having an equally desperate struggle. During the Civil War the finances of the nation were at a low ebb and money was exceedingly difficult to secure. Yet in spite of all obstacles the company had gone ahead in perfect good faith, and at that very time were hauling rails and track material from Alta, and soon from Cisco, to Truckee (then called Coburn Station on the old Emigrant Gap road), and had actually built the railroad from Truckee down into Nevada and as far east as Wadsworth, or a little beyond, before the tunnel at Summit was completed.
Thus in storm and stress was this road born, and in the winter time of our day it is still a road of storm and stress, as are all of the roads over the High Sierras. It must be remembered that while the elevation at Sacramento is but thirty feet above sea level, at Summit it is 7018 feet, and even at Truckee, where the turn is made for Tahoe, it is 5819 feet. Naturally such high altitudes receive considerable snow, which render the roads impassable during the winter season. In 1914 I went from Truckee to the Summit on the 10th of June, and save for two or three patches of snow which were rapidly melting, there were no serious obstacles that any good motor could not overcome.
FROM SACRAMENTO TO TAHOE ON THE EMIGRANT GAP AND DONNER LAKE ROUTE, 135 MILES
From Sacramento the grade is easy and the country fairly open until Auburn is reached (35-1/2 miles.) The roads are excellent, the disintegrated granite affording local material close at hand for perfect road building. The Sierras stretch away to the east in gently ascending billows, covered over with richest verdure of native trees of every variety, and of the thousands of orchard trees that are making this region as famous for its fruits as it used to be for its mines. For from 1849 until the hydraulic mines were closed down by the anti-debris decision in the U.S. Supreme Court, this section and beyond was one of the richest gold mining regions of California, and historically, one of the greatest importance to the State. Such places as Auburn, Illinoistown (Colfax), Gold Run and Dutch Flat, were rich producing camps and branch roads reached to Yankee Jim, Todd's Valley, Forest Hill, Michigan Bluffs, Bath, and other towns on what is known as the Forest Hill Divide, a divide being a local term, to signify the rocky, mountainous mass,—nearly always having a level grade on its summit,—that separates two forks of the same stream, or two different streams. From Colfax another road led to Grass Valley, Nevada City, and North Bloomfield in Nevada County, and Iowa Hill, Wisconsin Hill, Monona Flat, and Damascus on the Iowa Hill Divide. All these were centers of rich mining districts which were scenes of the greatest activity in the days of their productivity. Now, however, most of them are abandoned, except Auburn, Colfax, and Nevada City which have other resources, and Grass Valley, which maintains its high standing owing to its rich quartz mines. Forest Hill, Iowa Hill, and Michigan Bluff have drift mines which maintain small and meager populations compared with those of the early and prosperous days. In the 'fifties Yankee Jim and its tributary mines had a population of 3000, while to-day it is entirely deserted. Todd's Valley, which was also a flourishing camp has suffered the same fate.
Auburn to Colfax 16 Miles, Colfax to Emigrant Gap, 30-1/2 Miles. Leaving Auburn the road ascends more rapidly until Colfax (16 miles) is reached (elevation 2422 feet). Then ten miles further one is in the heart of the most extensive hydraulic mining operations of California. Thousands of acres are passed which yet bear the scars of the "washing down" for the precious mineral hid away during the centuries until the Argonauts of '49 and later unearthed it by their gigantic hydraulic nozzles. Millions of dollars were extracted from these placers, but now the villages are deserted and all mining operations have ceased. The time is not far distant when automobile parties will arrange to stop over in one of these little places, and with a competent guide, go over the deserted placers. It is hard to realize that by the mere power of water mountains were washed away, leaving the denuded country on the one hand, a land of mounds and hummocks, like the Bad Lands in miniature, and on the other hand of masses of debris, too heavy to be washed away into the streams.
The wildest portions of the Sierras are revealed in ascending from Dutch Flat to the Summit. The snowsheds of the Southern Pacific Railway come into sight, perched like peculiar long black boxes, with peep-holes, along an impossible ledge of the massive granite cliffs, and the Sierran trees tower upright from every possible vantage ground in the granite beneath.
At Towle, three miles beyond Dutch Flat, the shipping point is reached from which much of the material was hauled for the building of Lake Spaulding dam. Hundreds of teams were employed in this work, and the road showed an almost unbroken procession for months. This was in 1912-13. A side trip to this remarkable dam, impounding the waters of the High Sierras for the generation of electric power to be used not only in the Sacramento Valley but in far away San Francisco, cannot fail to be of interest. The area of the Lake, with the dam at its present elevation, is such as to justify the assertion that it is next to if not the largest artificial lake in the world.
Emigrant Gap to Cisco, 14 Miles.—Fourteen miles from Towle, after enjoying the rich blue haze of Blue Canyon, the road passes through the natural Sierran pass at Emigrant Gap which gives its name to the route. Here one who has not been over the road before must not fail to note the following: As he passes through the Gap the massive granite wall towers in dominant power to the right and leads one to feel that miles of rugged peaks are there. Yet not more than a hundred yards farther on, the wall fades away, and if he stops here, and turns off the road slightly to the right, he will glimpse a vision of glory and sublimity that will take away his breath. Here, from a thousand or two thousand feet almost sheer above it, one gazes down to where in peaceful repose lies Bear Valley, a rich emerald green meadow, on the right side of which flows the South Fork of the Yuba River, and on the left heads Bear Creek, which empties into the Sacramento at Marysville. Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes are alway spent here by those who know of this delectable surprise, yet many come over the road unheeding and are never aware of what they have missed.
Eight miles beyond Emigrant Gap, at Cisco, one sees a branch road which leads to the old Meadow Lake Mining District, which in the 'sixties had a population of several thousands. A large town was built there, which is now totally abandoned.
Cisco to Summit, 13 Miles. At Summit a marvelous view is had in both directions, east and west. Westward the fall of the Sierras into the Sacramento Valley is apparently so gentle and easy as to lead one to wonder that he has risen so high, but eastward the descent is much more steep and abrupt. The rude granite in many places is almost barren though Sierran trees abound. The grade is easy, and the new grade and tunnel under the Southern Pacific tracks makes an added improvement. Almost immediately on emerging from this tunnel the full glory of the eastern view is forced upon the attention. At one's feet, apparently, lies the placid surface of Donner Lake, its pure blue giving one a premonitory foretaste of the richer blues that await him at Tahoe, while beyond are the mountains that overlook the Great Basin of Nevada.
Summit to Truckee, 11 Miles. Rapidly the road descends, well engineered and easy to negotiate to any responsible driver, and before one is aware he is bowling along on the level Donner Boulevard, which is as perfect a piece of country road as can be found anywhere on earth. The Monument (not yet completed) erected by the Native Sons to the memory of the Donner Lake pioneers, and the Memorial Cross, erected on the spot where the unhappy party camped, are passed and in a few minutes Truckee is reached. This was once the scene of great lumber activities but now much reduced, although it is the shipping point for Hobarts Mills, which is one of the largest lumber camps of the West.
Here the road to Tahoe turns sharply to the south, and the fifteen miles run to the Tavern is made in the picturesque canyon of the Truckee River fully described in another chapter.
The elevations are Sacramento, 32 feet; Auburn, 1360; Colfax, 2422; Emigrant Gap, 5225; Cisco, 5940; Summit, 7018; Truckee, 5819; Tahoe Tavern, 6240.
FROM TAHOE TAVERN TO TALLAC
On Tuesday, June 9, 1914, I had the pleasure of making the first trip of the season over the new Tahoe Boulevard from Tahoe to Tallac. Let me here quote the account written at the time:
It was a fine morning, clear and just cool enough to be pleasant, no wind, sun shining through the trees, the Lake glistening in its richest morning glory, the air like wine, birds singing everywhere, chipmunks chattering as they ran up and down the trees, and we as full of life as they, when we made the start. Our machine was a Chalmers 20, a first-class chauffeur at the wheel, with instructions to go slow, let us see all there was, and to run no risks if the winter's snows and storms had interfered with the safety of the road. We didn't even wear overcoats, though all the peaks were covered with snow.
The first mile or two from the Tavern is through avenues of second growth timber just tall enough to be delightful. In turn we passed many of the choice residences that are making Tahoe growingly popular as a summer home, and then crossed Ward Creek and Blackwood Creek. This latter is one of the principal trout spawning streams of Tahoe, and to prevent fishermen from catching the fish that seek the stream at the spawning season the Fish Commissioners have placed a buoy out in the Lake, some twenty-five hundred feet away, within which bound it is illegal to catch fish.
While many trees have been logged from this region there are still enough to make it forest-like, and as the road winds and turns it affords glimpses and full views, sometimes for only a moment or two, and again for a minute or more, of the placid-faced blue Lake on the left, or the snowy mountain summits straight ahead or on the right. What rich contrasts of color, what revelations of majesty and sublimity each new turn affords!
The first eight miles is fairly level road and close to the Lake, but eight miles out, just before reaching McKinney's, the new portion of the State Highway begins, and it has been engineered to give scenic and romantic effect all along the way. In road building no longer is it necessary to consider the cheapest and nearest way. "Give us the most scenic," cry the motorists, "we'll pay the bills and our machines will speedily eat up any extra distance we may be required to travel to obtain the best scenery of the country." From now on the whole trip is one of carefully engineered surprises and revelations. Colwell's Moana Villa, and Pomin's new and beautiful place are passed and then we ascend, and suddenly Meek's Bay is revealed to us, a glorious symphony in blues, deepening and richening into pure amethyst, with lines, patches and borders of emerald and lapis lazuli. Beyond rise hill-studded slopes leading the eye higher and higher until, anchored in a sky as blue as is the Lake below, are the snowy-white crowns of the Rubicon Peaks, with here and there a craggy mass protruding as though it were a Franciscan's scalp surrounded by pure white hair. Up and down we glide, the soft purring of the motor as we run on the level changing to the chug-chugging of the up-pulls, or the grip of the brake as we descend. Every few feet new vistas of beauty are projected before us. The moving pictures are all exquisite. Indeed, after many studies of this incomparable Lake Tahoe I verily believe there is no more beautiful spot on it than Meek's Bay seen from this road.
To get its full charm we stop the machine for a while. Looking back we discover that the curve where we rest is a marvelous outlook point. We have ascended to a good height and look down upon the Lake. There are light blue, emerald green, deep blue in patches and in long irregularly shaped points. Here are Como, Maggiore, Lugano and Windermere all in one, though as yet free from the houses and artificial gardens on the slopes. But Nature such as this needs none of man's adornment to make it perfect.
Starting the engine again we circle around the point and come immediately into another charming circlet of views. Between Meek's Bay and Rubicon Point is another little recess in the lakeshore, Grecian Bay, a good second to the one I have just described. Here we particularly notice the effect of the many varieties of trees, their dark trunks, branches and foliage set out almost in silhouette against the pure color of the Lake below. These elevated stretches of road are a constant joy and delight. They afford us glad surprises every few moments in such views of the Lake as we could not otherwise obtain.
Crossing Lonely Gulch, watched over by the serene pure loveliness of the snowy peaks above, a good climb up a steep stretch of road brings us to the shoulder of Rubicon Point. Winding in and out, twining and twisting around and around, we reach Rubicon Park, from which place we get a perfect view of the whole Lake from one end to the other.
To-day there are a score or more of fishermen out in their little boats, and strange to say, all of them near enough to be seen, are fishing in a patch of deep blue. The water there must be deeper than elsewhere, for there is where they invariably get their best catches.
In marked contrast to the blue is a great finger of emerald thrust out from a nearby point, as if in warning not to dare pass its mysterious border.
Now we come to the wild and rugged scenery. We are hemmed in on the right by towering crags and walls of massive gray rock. Shattered and seamed, scarred and disintegrated, they look as though earthquake and lightning shock and the storms of a thousand years had battled with them. They give a new touch of grandeur and almost awesome sublimity to the scene.
For a mile or two we play at hide and seek with the Lake. It seems as though we were in the hands of a wizard. "Now you see it, now you don't." Query: "Where is the Lake?" Mountains, snowbanks, granite walls, trees galore, creeks flashing their white crests dashing down their stony courses toward the Lake, but only now and then do we catch fleeting glimpses of it. All at once it bursts full and clear again upon our enraptured vision, but only to give us a full taste of its supernal beauty before we are whirled around a curve where the eye rests upon nothing but the rugged majesty of the Sierras. Change and contrast, the picturesque, beautiful, delicate and exquisite in close touch and harmonious relationship with the majestic and the sublime. Travel the whole world over and nothing surpassing this can be found.
Now we curve around high up above Emerald Bay, that small glacial Lake, the eastern terminal moraine of which was unfortunately torn through, so that the lake disappeared and became a bay of the great Lake itself. Every moment of this portion of the ride is a delight. The senses are kept keenly alert, for not only have we the Lake, the bay and the mountains, but part of the way we have flowers and shrubs by the thousands, bees and butterflies flit to and fro, and singing streams come foaming white from the snowbanks above, eager to reach the Lake. As our car-wheels dash across these streamlets they splash up the water on each side into sparkling diamonds and on every hand come up the sweet scents of growing, living things. Now Mt. Tallac, in all his serene majesty, looms ahead. Snow a hundred or more feet deep in places covers his rocky sides. Here we can see where glaciers were born in the early days when Tallac was several thousand feet higher than it now is.
Below us is the emerald-ringed bay, with its romantic little island at the west end, and nearby the joyously-shouting Eagle Creek as it plunges over the precipice and makes the foam-flecked Eagle Falls. Our road here was blasted through some fiercely solid and hostile rock. One boulder alone that stood in the way weighed (it was estimated by the engineers) from 800 to 1000 tons. Fifty cases of highly explosive powder were suitably placed all around it. Excursion steamers took hundreds of people from all parts of the Lake to see the explosion, and at the proper moment, while everybody held his breath, the fuses were fired, the blasts took effect, the rock flew down to the level beneath, shattered into four great masses. A new El Capitan now rises above us, though it lacks the smooth unbroken dignity of the great Yosemite cliff, yet it is sublime in its sudden rise and vast height. Nestling at its feet is Eagle Lake, and beyond are the Velmas and a score of other glacial jewels calling for visitors to rhapsodize over their beauty. Maggie's Peaks are to our right, Eagle Falls to our left, with Emerald Bay, the Island, the Point and the Lake beyond all calling upon us to enjoy them to the full.
We decide to stay here for lunch, and under the shelter of a giant sugar pine a thousand years old, listening to the eternally buoyant song of Eagle Falls, we refresh ourselves with the good lunch put up for us at the Tavern.
Again we push ahead and soon have our first adventure: The road gang was at work, and we did not expect to go much farther, but they assured us that, save for a few rough places here and there, which they would speedily correct, we need have no fear but that we could get through with ease. In a score of places, since we left the Tavern, we had crossed little streams of snow-water that had come tumbling down from the banks above. Suddenly we came to one with a larger volume than most of the others, and the road bed a little softer, so it had cut quite a deep little passage for itself. Easily our chauffeur dropped the front wheels into the cut, and to his surprise he found they stuck there. It did not take us long to jack up the wheels and put rocks underneath them, and we were about ready to get out when the road gang came along with a wagon and a pair of sturdy mules. As quickly as it takes me to tell it the mules were attached to our back axle and we were pulled out. A few more rocks and a couple of planks placed over the cut and we were honking on our way with triumph.
Half a mile farther we came upon the ridge that separates Emerald Bay from Cascade Lake. Both are in clear View at the same time, while to the west we can hear the joyous song of Cascade Falls in its grand leap down from the foot of the snow-banks of Mt. Tallac into the tree-clad stream-course below.
Now the road brings us almost directly above the Lake, with a rapid slope down, covered with dainty trees and shrubs of recent growth. From here we gain a fine view of the south end of the lakeshore. Tallac, the Grove, Bijou, Al Tahoe and clear across to Lakeside, with the deep green of the meadows above, and the snowy crowns of Freel's, Job's, and Job's sister, with Monument Peak combine to give the proper setting to the Lake.
Soon we are racing across the level to the Fish Hatchery, between avenues of quaking aspens and young tamaracks and pines. Suddenly we come upon a mired car, the driver of which had just crossed the Sierras from Placerville, with little or no difficulty, but coming to a soft piece of road here when going a trifle faster than he should, and the side of the road having caught a lot of snow-water, he had bogged and was working like a beaver to extricate himself. We had a stout rope along and it was the work of two or three minutes to get him out and we again pushed forward, gratified and smiling at the warmly expressed thanks of himself and his three happy women-folks who were enjoying their first trip into the Tahoe country, and already confessing their complete subjection to its thrall.
Passing the Hatchery we were only a few more minutes in reaching Tallac House, the first to complete the auto-trip this season. Except for a few short stretches of scarcely completed road it is in excellent condition, and the road gang now at work will have all the rough portions smoothed down in a few days.
It should here be noted that side trips may be made in automobiles to Glen Alpine Springs and Fallen Leaf Lodge. Both resorts use their own automobile stages daily during the season, hence keep the roads in good condition.
We made the return trip from Tallac House to the Tavern in two hours exactly. The distance is 26 miles. The road gang had already put a bridge over the place that had delayed us on coming out, and the road throughout was easy and safe. Naturally it is not as easy to negotiate as a San Francisco boulevard, but with the wheel in the hands of a careful chauffeur there is perfect safety and a trip that need give not a moment's fear to the most timorous.
FROM TALLAC TO SACRAMENTO, BY THE PLACERVILLE ROUTE, 108 MILES
This is practically the first historic route into California, for, as I have shown in the chapter on Fremont's Explorations, it was the one the Pathfinder practically followed on his memorable trip that led to the discovery of Lake Tahoe.
Hence, when the gold excitement attracted its thousands to California, many of the argonauts took this road, following the Humboldt River and turning south at the Humboldt "Sink," crossing to the Carson "Sink" and then ascending to the headwaters of the Carson River, over into Hope Valley and thence down to Strawberry Valley and on to the mines. This was the origin of the road, and it was in steady and continuous use until the startling news of the discovery of the Comstock Lode in Virginia City aroused the mining world. From every camp in California rude and stalwart men eagerly set forth to reach the new Camp. It was a genuine stampede. The chief question was: "Will the new Camp make good?" It answered this question by transcending the expectations of the most sanguine. Silver and gold were taken out in fabulous quantities. Chunks of almost pure native silver, weighing scores of pounds, were hewed out of the chambers where they were found, and men went wild with excitement. Houses sprang up over-night. A vast population soon clung to the slopes of Mt. Davidson. Mining and milling machinery was needed, and demanded with tremendous urgency, to reap the richer harvest. There was no railroad, and the old Emigrant Road was not in condition to meet the needs. Few people can realize the wild excitement that reigned and the string of teams, men riding on horseback, or afoot, stage-coaches, freight wagons, that poured in endless procession over the road. Nothing like it has been seen since, except during the Klondike rush. As soon, however, as it was possible to secure the proper authority newer and easier grades were surveyed and private individuals undertook to build certain sections of the road under the condition that they were to be granted the right to collect toll for so many years. These rights have long since lapsed, and the road is now a part of the excellent system of El Dorado County, which, though a mountain county, boasts some of the best roads in California.
Tallac to Echo, 11-1/2 Miles. Leaving Tallac, an easy and pleasant eight-mile run on almost level roads through Tallac Meadows brings one to Celios, once Myers' Station (6500 feet). Now begins the upgrade, winding its way up the mountain side to the crest from which Starr King wrote his exquisite description, elsewhere quoted. This is one of the superb outlook-points where the full sweep of Lake and encircling mountains is in full and complete view.
After a few minutes for gazing the journey is resumed, soon crossing a bridge, near which stand the remnants of the old toll-house. On the right a foot-trail or bridle-path leads to Glen Alpine. A few miles of fairly rapid descent and Echo is reached, 49-1/2 miles from Placerville.
The stream here, during the snow-melting season must be a dashing, roaring, sparkling mass of foam, for it is a bowlder-strewn rocky way, suggesting the wild stream it becomes when the snows melt and spring's freshets come.
Echo to Strawberry, 7 Miles. The next mile and a half is a rapid descent, for elevation declines five hundred feet, ere we reach Phillips, near which, in Audrian Lake, is the chief source of the South Fork of the American River.
The Water Company that controls the flow has here tampered with primitive physiography, in that it has cut a tunnel or channel from the Echo Lakes, tapping their water supply and conveying it to Audrian Lake. Hence strictly speaking the Echo Lakes are now the headwaters of the South Fork.
Soon we pass Hay Press Meadows, so called from the fact that hay was cut here in the old stage-coach days, baled with an old-fashioned press, and sold for $90 to $100 per ton, after being hauled to Virginia City.
Down we go into Strawberry Valley, where 42-1/2 miles from Placerville, we reach Strawberry, at 5700 feet elevation. This used to be a noted stopping-place in the olden days, sometimes the whole flat area being covered with loaded wagons bound for the mines.
There is a rugged majesty about this Valley that has always made its impression on men. To the right is the southern end of the Crystal Range, and to the left the Yosemite-like cliff known as Lover's Leap, 6985 feet elevation. As the station at Strawberry is 5700 feet, this cliff is 1285 feet in sheer ascent. Leading up it are strange columnar towers and structures of Egyptian appearance that remind us of those lines of Joaquin Miller's:
Great massive rocks that near us lay, Deep nestled in the grass untrod By aught save wild beasts of the wood— Great, massive, squared, and chisel'd stone, Like columns that had toppled down From temple dome or tower crown, Along some drifted, silent way Of desolate and desert town Built by the children of the Sun.
We pass under the great cliff, and past a glacially-polished dome on the left. The cliff is all cross-hatched and seamed with infiltrations of quartz. Ahead of us to the right is a canyon that is the southern extension of Desolation Valley.
Strawberry to Kyburgs, 10 Miles. A few miles below Strawberry we pass Georgetown Junction (where the road from Georgetown enters the main road), and ten miles brings us to Kyburgs, 4000 feet elevation, the canyon narrowing as we descend. On the right we pass Sugar Loaf (6500 feet).
At Kyburgs the water is taken out for the domestic and irrigation water-supply of Placerville—8000 inches of water. The station is located at a break in the mountains where a cone-shaped rock, covered with trees, is a striking feature.
Kyburgs, Through Riverton, to Pacific House, 14 Miles. Passing the South Fork of the American on the left, nine and a half miles brings us to Riverton, a charming river resort where many visitors stop during the season for a day or a week, as this is a noted center for fishing and hunting. Here we cross over an excellent bridge, surrounded by a mountain amphitheater lined with trees, and our road follows the course of the bowlder-strewn river-bed. Yonder is the scene of a noted "hold-up" in the old mining days.
If we cared to go over the files of the newspapers of the days when bullion was being shipped daily by stage to Placerville, how many accounts might we not find of "hold-ups" by daring "road-agents." And it does not take much imagination to picture in this secluded spot or that, the sudden appearance of a masked bandit, gun in hand, and to hear the sharp quick commands, "Halt! and Hands up!" and to hear the "squeesch" of the brake on the wheel, to see the hands of driver, express-messenger, and passengers go up in helpless anger and furious impotence.
Then the "Stand down here!" or "Come off of that quick, and line up alongside!" and the immediate obedience of all concerned, and the sharp "keep them hands up, gentlemen, or somebody'll be gettin' hurt," or perhaps a fierce imprecation, if the bandit was less of the "Gentleman George" type than has so often been described.