Edwinia, with its attractive waxy white flowers, and potentilla, with bloom of gold, are shrubs which lend a charm to much of the mountain-section. Black birch and alder trim many of the streams, and the mountain maple is thinly scattered from the foothills to nine thousand feet altitude. Wild roses are frequently found near the maple, and gooseberry bushes fringe many a brook. Huckleberries flourish on the timbered slopes, and kinnikinick gladdens many a gravelly stretch or slope.
Between the altitudes of eight thousand and ten thousand feet there are extensive forests of the indomitable lodge-pole pine. This borders even more extensive forests of Engelmann spruce. Lodge-pole touches timber-line in a few places, and Engelmann spruce climbs up to it in every canon or moist depression. Along with these, at timber-line, are flexilis pine, balsam fir, arctic willow, dwarf black birch, and the restless little aspen. All timber-line trees are dwarfed and most of them distorted. Conditions at timber-line are severe, but the presence, in places, of young trees farthest up the slopes suggests that these severe conditions may be developing hardier trees than any that now are growing on this forest frontier. If this be true, then timber-line on the Rockies is yet to gain a higher limit.
Since the day of "Pike's Peak or bust," fires have swept over more than half of the primeval forest area in Colorado. Some years ago, while making special efforts to prevent forest fires from starting, I endeavored to find out the cause of these fires. I regretfully found that most of them were the result of carelessness, and I also made a note to the effect that there are few worse things to be guilty of than carelessly setting fire to a forest. Most of these forest fires had their origin from camp-fires which the departing campers had left unextinguished. There were sixteen fires in one summer, which I attributed to the following causes: campers, nine; cigar, one; lightning, one; locomotive, one; stockmen, two; sheep-herders, one; and sawmill, one.
Fires have made the Rocky Mountains still more rocky. In many places the fires burn their way to solid rock. In other places the humus, or vegetable mould, is partly consumed by fire, and the remainder is in a short time blown away by wind or washed away by water. Fires often leave only blackened granite rock behind, so that in many places they have not only consumed the forests, but also the food upon which the new forests might have fed. Many areas where splendid forests grew, after being fire-swept, show only barren granite. As some of the granite on the Rockies disintegrates slowly, it will probably require several hundred years for Nature to resoil and reforest some of these fire-scarred places. However, upon thousands of acres of the Rockies millions of young trees are just beginning to grow, and if these trees be protected from fire, a forest will early result.
I never see a little tree bursting from the earth, peeping confidently up among the withered leaves, without wondering how long it will live or what trials or triumphs it will have. I always hope that it will find life worth living, and that it will live long to better and to beautify the earth. I hope it will love the blue sky and the white clouds passing by. I trust it will welcome all seasons and ever join merrily in the music, the motion, and the movement of the elemental dance with the winds. I hope it will live with rapture in the flower-opening days of spring and also enjoy the quiet summer rain. I hope it will be a home for the birds and hear their low, sweet mating-songs. I trust that when comes the golden peace of autumn days, it will be ready with fruited boughs for the life to come. I never fail to hope that if this tree is cut down, it may be used for a flagpole to keep our glorious banner in the blue above, or that it may be built into a cottage where love will abide; or if it must be burnt, that it will blaze on the hearthstone in a home where children play in the firelight on the floor.
In many places the Rockies rise more than three thousand feet above the heights where live the highest struggling trees at timber-line, but these steep alpine slopes are not bare. The rocks are tinted with lichens. In places are miles of grassy slopes and miniature meadows, covered with coarse sedges and bright tender flowers. Among the shrubs the Betula glandulosa is probably commonest, while Dasiphora fruticosa and Salix chlorophylla are next in prominence. Here and there you will see the golden gaillardia, the silver and blue columbines, splendid arrays of sedum, many marsh-marigolds, lungworts, paint-brushes of red and white and yellow green, beds of purple primroses, sprinklings of alpine gentians, many clusters of live-forever, bunches of honey-smelling valerian, with here and there standing the tall stalks of fraseria, or monument-plant. There are hundreds of other varieties of plants, and the region above timber-line holds many treasures that are dear to those who love flowers and who appreciate them especially where cold and snow keep them tiny.
Above timber-line are many bright blossoms that are familiar to us, but dwarfed to small size. One needs to get down and lie upon the ground and search carefully with a magnifying-glass, or he will overlook many of these brave bright but tiny flowers. Here are blue gentians less than half an inch in height, bell-flowers only a trifle higher, and alpine willows so tiny that their catkins touch the ground. One of the most attractive and beautiful of these alpine flowers is the blue honeysuckle or polemonium, about an inch in height. I have found it on mountain-tops, in its fresh, clear coloring, at an altitude of fourteen thousand feet, as serene as the sky above it.
A climb up the Rockies will develop a love for nature, strengthen one's appreciation of the beautiful world outdoors, and put one in tune with the Infinite. It will inspire one with the feeling that the Rockies have a rare mountain wealth of their own. They are not to be compared with the Selkirks or the Alps or any other unlike range of mountains. The Rockies are not a type, but an individuality, singularly rich in mountain scenes which stir one's blood and which strengthen and sweeten life.
Besieged by Bears
Two old prospectors, Sullivan and Jason, once took me in for the night, and after supper they related a number of interesting experiences. Among these tales was one of the best bear-stories I have ever heard. The story was told in the graphic, earnest, realistic style so often possessed by those who have lived strong, stirring lives among crags and pines. Although twenty years had gone by, these prospectors still had a vivid recollection of that lively night when they were besieged by three bears, and in recounting the experience they mingled many good word-pictures of bear behavior with their exciting and amusing story. "This happened to us," said Sullivan, "in spite of the fact that we were minding our own business and had never hunted bears."
The siege occurred at their log cabin during the spring of 1884. They were prospecting in Geneva Park, where they had been all winter, driving a tunnel. They were so nearly out of supplies that they could not wait for snowdrifts to melt out of the trail. Provisions must be had, and Sullivan thought that, by allowing twice the usual time, he could make his way down through the drifts and get back to the cabin with them. So one morning, after telling Jason that he would be back the next evening, he took their burro and set off down the mountain. On the way home next day Sullivan had much difficulty in getting the loaded burro through the snowdrifts, and when within a mile of the cabin, they stuck fast. Sullivan unpacked and rolled the burro out of the snow, and was busily repacking, when the animal's uneasiness made him look round.
In the edge of the woods, only a short distance away, were three bears, apparently a mother and her two well-grown children. They were sniffing the air eagerly and appeared somewhat excited. The old bear would rise on her hind paws, sniff the air, then drop back to the ground. She kept her nose pointed toward Sullivan, but did not appear to look at him. The smaller bears moved restlessly about; they would walk a few steps in advance, stand erect, draw their fore paws close to their breasts, and sniff, sniff, sniff the air, upward and in all directions before them. Then they would slowly back up to the old bear. They all seemed very good-natured.
When Sullivan was unpacking the burro, the wrapping had come off two hams which were among the supplies, and the wind had carried the delicious aroma to the bears, who were just out of their winter dens after weeks of fasting. Of course, sugar-cured hams smelled good to them. Sullivan repacked the burro and went on. The bears quietly eyed him for some distance. At a turn in the trail he looked back and saw the bears clawing and smelling the snow on which the provisions had lain while he was getting the burro out of the snowdrift. He went on to the cabin, had supper, and forgot the bears.
The log cabin in which he and Jason lived was a small one; it had a door in the side and a small window in one end. The roof was made of a layer of poles thickly covered with earth. A large shepherd-dog often shared the cabin with the prospectors. He was a playful fellow, and Sullivan often romped with him. Near their cabin were some vacant cabins of other prospectors, who had "gone out for the winter" and were not yet back for summer prospecting.
The evening was mild, and as soon as supper was over Sullivan filled his pipe, opened the door, and sat down on the edge of the bed for a smoke, while Jason washed the dishes. He had taken only a few pulls at his pipe when there was a rattling at the window. Thinking the dog was outside, Sullivan called, "Why don't you go round to the door?" This invitation was followed by a momentary silence, then smash! a piece of sash and fragments of window-glass flew past Sullivan and rattled on the floor. He jumped to his feet. In the dim candle-light he saw a bear's head coming in through the window. He threw his pipe of burning tobacco into the bear's face and eyes, and then grabbed for some steel drills which lay in the corner on the floor. The earth roof had leaked, and the drills were ice-covered and frozen fast to the floor.
While Sullivan was dislodging the drills, Jason began to bombard the bear vigorously with plates from the table. The bear backed out; she was looking for food, not clean plates. However, the instant she was outside, she accepted Sullivan's invitation and went round to the door! And she came for it with a rush! Both Sullivan and Jason jumped to close the door. They were not quick enough, and instead of one bear there were three! The entire family had accepted the invitation, and all were trying to come in at once!
When Sullivan and Jason threw their weight against the door it slammed against the big bear's nose,—a very sensitive spot. She gave a savage growl. Apparently she blamed the two other bears either for hurting her nose or for being in the way. At any rate, a row started; halfway in the door the bears began to fight; for a few seconds it seemed as if all the bears would roll inside. Sullivan and Jason pushed against the door with all their might, trying to close it. During the struggle the bears rolled outside and the door went shut with a bang. The heavy securing cross-bar was quickly put into place; but not a moment too soon, for an instant later the old bear gave a furious growl and flung herself against the door, making it fairly crack; it seemed as if the door would be broken in. Sullivan and Jason hurriedly knocked their slab bed to pieces and used the slats and heavy sides to prop and strengthen the door. The bears kept surging and clawing at the door, and while the prospectors were spiking the braces against it and giving their entire attention to it, they suddenly felt the cabin shake and heard the logs strain and give. They started back, to see the big bear struggling in the window. Only the smallness of the window had prevented the bear from getting in unnoticed, and surprising them while they were bracing the door. The window was so small that the bear in trying to get in had almost wedged fast. With hind paws on the ground, fore paws on the window-sill, and shoulders against the log over the window, the big bear was in a position to exert all her enormous strength. Her efforts to get in sprung the logs and gave the cabin the shake which warned.
Sullivan grabbed one of the steel drills and dealt the bear a terrible blow on the head. She gave a growl of mingled pain and fury as she freed herself from the window. Outside she backed off growling.
For a little while things were calmer. Sullivan and Jason, drills in hand, stood guard at the window. After some snarling in front of the window the bears went round to the door. They clawed the door a few times and then began to dig under it. "They are tunneling in for us," said Sullivan. "They want those hams; but they won't get them."
After a time the bears quit digging and started away, occasionally stopping to look hesitatingly back. It was almost eleven o'clock, and the full moon shone splendidly through the pines. The prospectors hoped that the bears were gone for good. There was an old rifle in the cabin, but there were no cartridges, for Sullivan and Jason never hunted and rarely had occasion to fire a gun. But, fearing that the animals might return, Sullivan concluded to go to one of the vacant cabins for a loaded Winchester which he knew to be there.
As soon as the bears disappeared, he crawled out of the window and looked cautiously around; then he made a run for the vacant cabin. The bears heard him running, and when he had nearly reached the cabin, they came round the corner of it to see what was the matter. He was up a pine tree in an instant. After a few growls the bears moved off and disappeared behind a vacant cabin. As they had gone behind the cabin which contained the loaded gun, Sullivan thought it would be dangerous to try to make the cabin, for if the door should be swelled fast, the bears would surely get him. Waiting until he thought it safe to return, he dropped to the ground and made a dash for his own cabin. The bears heard him and again gave chase, with the evident intention of getting even for all their annoyances. It was only a short distance to his cabin, but the bears were at his heels when he dived in through the broken window.
A bundle of old newspapers was then set on fire and thrown among the bears, to scare them away. There was some snarling, until one of the young bears with a stroke of a fore paw scattered the blazing papers in all directions; then the bears walked round the cabin-corner out of sight and remained quiet for several minutes.
Just as Jason was saying, "I hope they are gone for good," there came a thump on the roof which told the prospectors that the bears were still intent on the hams. The bears began to claw the earth off the roof. If they were allowed to continue, they would soon clear off the earth and would then have a chance to tear out the poles. With a few poles torn out, the bears would tumble into the cabin, or perhaps their combined weight might cause the roof to give way and drop them into the cabin. Something had to be done to stop their clawing and if possible get them off the roof. Bundles of hay were taken out of the bed mattress. From time to time Sullivan would set fire to one of these bundles, lean far out through the window, and throw the blazing hay upon the roof among the bears. So long as he kept these fireworks going, the bears did not dig; but they stayed on the roof and became furiously angry. The supply of hay did not last long, and as soon as the annoyance from the bundles of fire ceased, the bears attacked the roof again with renewed vigor.
Then it was decided to prod the bears with red-hot drills thrust up between the poles of the roof. As there was no firewood in the cabin, and as fuel was necessary in order to heat the drills, a part of the floor was torn up for that purpose.
The young bears soon found hot drills too warm for them and scrambled or fell off the roof. But the old one persisted. In a little while she had clawed off a large patch of earth and was tearing the poles with her teeth.
The hams had been hung up on the wall in the end of the cabin; the old bear was tearing just above them. Jason threw the hams on the floor and wanted to throw them out of the window. He thought that the bears would leave contented if they had them. Sullivan thought differently; he said that it would take six hams apiece to satisfy the bears, and that two hams would be only a taste which would make the bears more reckless than ever. The hams stayed in the cabin.
The old bear had torn some of the poles in two and was madly tearing and biting at others. Sullivan was short and so were the drills. To get within easier reach, he placed the table almost under the gnawing bear, sprang upon it, and called to Jason for a red-hot drill. Jason was about to hand him one when he noticed a small bear climbing in at the window, and, taking the drill with him, he sprang over to beat the bear back. Sullivan jumped down to the fire for a drill, and in climbing back on the table he looked up at the gnawed hole and received a shower of dirt in his face and eyes. This made him flinch and he lost his balance and upset the table. He quickly straightened the table and sprang upon it, drill in hand. The old bear had a paw and arm thrust down through the hole between the poles. With a blind stroke she struck the drill and flung it and Sullivan from the table. He shouted to Jason for help, but Jason, with both young bears trying to get in at the window at once, was striking right and left. He had bears and troubles of his own and did not heed Sullivan's call. The old bear thrust her head down through the hole and seemed about to fall in, when Sullivan in desperation grabbed both hams and threw them out of the window.
The young bears at once set up a row over the hams, and the old bear, hearing the fight, jumped off the roof and soon had a ham in her mouth.
While the bears were fighting and eating, Sullivan and Jason tore up the remainder of the floor and barricaded the window. With both door and window closed, they could give their attention to the roof. All the drills were heated, and both stood ready to make it hot for the bears when they should again climb on the roof. But the bears did not return to the roof. After eating the last morsel of the hams they walked round to the cabin door, scratched it gently, and then became quiet. They had lain down by the door.
It was two o'clock in the morning. The inside of the cabin was in utter confusion. The floor was strewn with wreckage; bedding, drills, broken boards, broken plates, and hay were scattered about. Sullivan gazed at the chaos and remarked that it looked like poor housekeeping. But he was tired, and, asking Jason to keep watch for a while, he lay down on the blankets and was soon asleep.
Toward daylight the bears got up and walked a few times round the cabin. On each round they clawed at the door, as though to tell Sullivan that they were there, ready for his hospitality. They whined a little, half good-naturedly, but no one admitted them, and finally, just before sunrise, they took their departure and went leisurely smelling their way down the trail.
Mountain Parks and Camp-Fires
The Rockies of Colorado cross the State from north to south in two ranges that are roughly parallel and from thirty to one hundred miles apart. There are a number of secondary ranges in the State that are just as marked, as high, and as interesting as the main ranges, and that are in every way comparable with them except in area. The bases of most of these ranges are from ten to sixty miles across. The lowlands from which these mountains rise are from five to six thousand feet above sea-level, and the mountain-summits are from eleven thousand to thirteen thousand feet above the tides. In the entire mountain area of the State there are more than fifty peaks that are upward of fourteen thousand feet in height. Some of these mountains are rounded, undulating, or table-topped, but for the most part the higher slopes and culminating summits are broken and angular. Altogether, the Rocky Mountain area in Colorado presents a delightful diversity of parks, peaks, forests, lakes, streams, canons, slopes, crags, and glades.
On all of the higher summits are records of the ice age. In many places glaciated rocks still retain the polish given them by the Ice King. Such rocks, as well as gigantic moraines in an excellent state of preservation, extend from altitudes of twelve or thirteen thousand feet down to eight thousand, and in places as low as seven thousand feet. Some of the moraines are but enormous embankments a few hundred feet high and a mile or so in length. Many of these are so raw, bold, and bare, they look as if they had been completed or uncovered within the last year. Most of these moraines, however, especially those below timber-line, are well forested. No one knows just how old they are, but, geologically speaking, they are new, and in all probability were made during the last great ice epoch, or since that time. Among the impressive records of the ages that are carried by these mountains, those made by the Ice King probably stand first in appealing strangely and strongly to the imagination.
All the Rocky Mountain lakes are glacier lakes. There are more than a thousand of these. The basins of the majority of them were excavated by ice from solid rock. Only a few of them have more than forty acres of area, and, with the exception of a very small number, they are situated well up on the shoulders of the mountains and between the altitudes of eleven thousand and twelve thousand feet. The lower and middle slopes of the Rockies are without lakes.
The lower third of the mountains, that is, the foothill section, is only tree-dotted. But the middle portion, that part which lies between the altitudes of eight thousand and eleven thousand feet, is covered by a heavy forest in which lodge-pole pine, Engelmann spruce, and Douglas spruce predominate. Fire has made ruinous inroads into the primeval forest which grew here.
A large portion of the summit-slopes of the mountains is made up of almost barren rock, in old moraines, glaciated slopes, or broken crags, granite predominating. These rocks are well tinted with lichen, but they present a barren appearance. In places above the altitude of eleven thousand feet the mountains are covered with a profuse array of alpine vegetation. This is especially true of the wet meadows or soil-covered sections that are continually watered by melting snows.
In the neighborhood of a snowdrift, at an altitude of twelve thousand feet, I one day gathered in a small area one hundred and forty-two varieties of plants. Areas of "eternal snows," though numerous, are small, and with few exceptions, above twelve thousand feet. Here and there above timber-line are many small areas of moorland, which, both in appearance and in vegetation, seem to belong in the tundras of Siberia.
While these mountains carry nearly one hundred varieties of trees and shrubs, the more abundant kinds of trees number less than a score. These are scattered over the mountains between the altitudes of six thousand and twelve thousand feet, while, charming and enlivening the entire mountain-section, are more than a thousand varieties of wild flowers.
Bird-life is abundant on the Rockies. No State east of the Mississippi can show as great a variety as Colorado. Many species of birds well known in the East are found there, though, generally, they are in some way slightly modified. Most Rocky Mountain birds sound their notes a trifle more loudly than their Eastern relatives. Some of them are a little larger, and many of them have their colors slightly intensified.
Many of the larger animals thrive on the slopes of the Rockies. Deer are frequently seen. Bobcats, mountain lions, and foxes leave many records. In September bears find the choke-cherry bushes and, standing on their hind legs, feed eagerly on the cherries, leaves, and good-sized sections of the twigs. The ground-hog apparently manages to live well, for he seems always fat. There is that wise little fellow the coyote. He probably knows more than he is given credit for knowing, and I am glad to say for him that I believe he does man more good than harm. He is a great destroyer of meadow mice. He digs out gophers. Sometimes his meal is made upon rabbits or grasshoppers, and I have seen him feeding upon wild plums.
There are hundreds of ruins of the beaver's engineering works. Countless dams and fillings he has made. On the upper St. Vrain he still maintains his picturesque rustic home. Most of the present beaver homes are in high, secluded places, some of them at an altitude of eleven thousand feet. In midsummer, near most beaver homes one finds columbines, fringed blue gentians, orchids, and lupines blooming, while many of the ponds are green and yellow with pond-lilies.
During years of rambling I have visited and enjoyed all the celebrated parks of the Rockies, but one, which shall be nameless, is to me the loveliest of them all. The first view of it never fails to arouse the dullest traveler. From the entrance one looks down upon an irregular depression, several miles in length, a small undulating and beautiful mountain valley, framed in peaks with purple forested sides and bristling snowy grandeur. This valley is delightfully open, and has a picturesque sprinkling of pines over it, together with a few well-placed cliffs and crags. Its swift, clear, and winding brooks are fringed with birch and willow. A river crosses it with many a slow and splendid fold of silver.
Not only is the park enchanting from the distance, but every one of its lakes and meadows, forests and wild gardens, has a charm and a grandeur of its own. There are lakes of many kinds. One named for the painter, now dead, who many times sketched and dreamed on its shores, is a beautiful ellipse; and its entire edge carries a purple shadow matting of the crowding forest. Its placid surface reflects peak and snow, cloud and sky, and mingling with these are the green and gold of pond-lily glory. Another lake is stowed away in an utterly wild place. It is in a rent between three granite peaks. Three thousand feet of precipice bristle above it. Its shores are strewn with wreckage from the cliffs and crags above, and this is here and there cemented together with winter's drifted snow. Miniature icebergs float upon its surface. Around it are mossy spaces, beds of sedge, and scattered alpine flowers, which soften a little the fierce aspect of this impressive scene.
On the western margin of the park is a third lake. This lake and its surroundings are of the highest alpine order. Snow-line and tree-line are just above it. Several broken and snowy peaks look down into it, and splendid spruces spire about its shores. Down to it from the heights and snows above come waters leaping in white glory. It is the centre of a scene of wild grandeur that stirs in one strange depths of elemental feeling and wonderment. Up between the domes of one of the mountains is Gem Lake. It is only a little crystal pool set in ruddy granite with a few evergreens adorning its rocky shore. So far as I know, it is the smallest area of water in the world that bears the name of lake; and it is also one of the rarest gems of the lakelet world.
The tree-distribution is most pleasing, and the groves and forests are a delight. Aged Western yellow pines are sprinkled over the open areas of the park. They have genuine character, marked individuality. Stocky and strong-limbed, their golden-brown bark broken into deep fissures and plateaus, scarred with storm and fire, they make one think and dream more than any other tree on the Rockies. By the brooks the clean and childlike aspens mingle with the willow and the alder or the handsome silver spruce. Some slopes are spread with the green fleece of massed young lodge-pole pines, and here and there are groves of Douglas spruce, far from their better home "where rolls the Oregon." The splendid and spiry Engelmann spruces climb the stern slopes eleven thousand feet above the ocean, where weird timber-line with its dwarfed and distorted trees shows the incessant line of battle between the woods and the weather.
Every season nearly one thousand varieties of beautiful wild flowers come to perfume the air and open their "bannered bosoms to the sun." Many of these are of brightest color. They crowd the streams, wave on the hills, shine in the woodland vistas, and color the snow-edge. Daisies, orchids, tiger lilies, fringed gentians, wild red roses, mariposas, Rocky Mountain columbines, harebells, and forget-me-nots adorn every space and nook.
While only a few birds stay in the park the year round, there are scores of summer visitors who come here to bring up the babies, and to enliven the air with song. Eagles soar the blue, and ptarmigan, pipits, and sparrows live on the alpine moorlands. Thrushes fill the forest aisles with melody, and by the brooks the ever-joyful water-ouzel mingles its music with the song of ever-hurrying, ever-flowing waters. Among the many common birds are owls, meadowlarks, robins, wrens, magpies, bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, and several members of the useful woodpecker family, together with the white-throated sparrow and the willow thrush.
Speckled and rainbow trout dart in the streams. Mountain sheep climb and pose on the crags; bear, deer, and mountain lions are still occasionally seen prowling the woods or hurrying across the meadows. The wise coyote is also seen darting under cover, and is frequently heard during the night. Here among the evergreens is found that small and audacious bit of intensely interesting and animated life, the Douglas squirrel, and also one of the dearest of all small animals, the merry chipmunk. Along the brooks are a few small beaver colonies, a straggling remnant of a once numerous population. It is to be hoped that this picturesque and useful race will be allowed to extend its domain.
The park has also a glacier, a small but genuine chip of the old block, the Ice King. The glacier is well worth visiting, especially late in summer, when the winter mantle is gone from its crevasses, leaving revealed its blue-green ice and its many grottoes. It is every inch a glacier. There are other small glaciers above the Park, but these glacial remnants, though interesting, are not as imposing as the glacial records, the old works which were deposited by the Ice King. The many kinds of moraines here display his former occupation and activities. There are glaciated walls, polished surfaces, eroded basins, and numerous lateral moraines. One of the moraines is probably the largest and certainly one of the most interesting in the Rockies. It occupies about ten square miles on the eastern slope of the mountain. Above timber-line this and other moraines seem surprisingly fresh and new, as though they had been formed only a few years, but below tree-line they are forested, and the accumulation of humus upon them shows that they have long been bearers of trees.
The rugged Peak looks down over all this wild garden, and is a perpetual challenge to those who go up to the sky on mountains. It is a grand old granite peak. There are not many mountains that require more effort from the climber, and few indeed can reward him with such a far-spreading and magnificent view.
One of the most interesting and impressive localities in the Rockies lies around Mt. Wetterhorn, Mt. Coxcomb, and Uncompahgre Peak. Here I have found the birds confiding, and most wild animals so tame that it was a joy to be with them. But this was years ago, and now most of the wild animals are wilder and the birds have found that man will not bear acquaintance. Most of this region was recently embraced in the Uncompahgre National Forest. It has much for the scientist and nature-lover: the mountain-climber will find peaks to conquer and canons to explore; the geologist will find many valuable stone manuscripts; the forester who interviews the trees will have from their tongues a story worth while; and here, too, are some of Nature's best pictures for those who revel only in the lovely and the wild. It is a strikingly picturesque by-world, where there are many illuminated and splendid fragments of Nature's story. He who visits this section will first be attracted by an array of rock-formations, and, wander where he will, grotesque and beautiful shapes in stone will frequently attract and interest his attention.
The rock-formation is made up of mixtures of very unequally tempered rock metal, which weathers in strange, weird, and impressive shapes. Much of this statuary is gigantic and uncouth, but some of it is beautiful. There are minarets, monoliths, domes, spires, and shapeless fragments. In places there are, seemingly, restive forms not entirely free from earth. Most of these figures are found upon the crests of the mountains, and many of the mountain-ridges, with their numerous spikes and gigantic monoliths, some of which are tilted perilously from the perpendicular, give one a feeling of awe. Some of the monoliths appear like broken, knotty tree-trunks. Others stand straight and suggest the Egyptian obelisks. They hold rude natural hieroglyphics in relief. One mountain, which is known as Turret-Top, is crowned with what from a distance seems to be a gigantic picket-fence. This fence is formed by a row of monolithic stones.
One of the most remarkable things connected with this strange locality is that its impressive landscapes may be overturned or blotted out, or new scenes may be brought forth, in a day. The mountains do not stand a storm well. A hard rain will dissolve ridges, lay bare new strata, undermine and overturn cliffs. It seems almost a land of enchantment, where old landmarks may disappear in a single storm, or an impressive landscape come forth in a night. Here the god of erosion works incessantly and rapidly, dissecting the earth and the rocks. During a single storm a hilltop may dissolve, a mountain-side be fluted with slides, a grove be overturned and swept away by an avalanche, or a lake be buried forever. This rapid erosion of slopes and summits causes many changes and much upbuilding upon their bases. Gulches are filled, water-courses invaded, rivers bent far to one side, and groves slowly buried alive.
One night, while I was in camp on the slope of Mt. Coxcomb, a prolonged drought was broken by a very heavy rain. Within an hour after the rain started, a large crag near the top of the peak fell and came crashing and rumbling down the slope. During the next two hours I counted the rumbling crash of forty others. I know not how many small avalanches may have slipped during this time that I did not hear. The next day I went about looking at the new landscapes and the strata laid bare by erosion and landslide, and up near the top of this peak I found a large glaciated lava boulder. A lava boulder that has been shaped by the ice and has for a time found a resting-place in a sedentary formation, then been uplifted to near a mountain-top, has a wonder-story of its own. One day I came across a member of the United States Geological Survey who had lost his way. At my camp-fire that evening I asked him to hug facts and tell me a possible story of the glaciated lava boulder. The following is his account:—
The shaping of that boulder must have antedated by ages the shaping of the Sphinx, and its story, if acceptably told, would seem more like fancy than fact. If the boulder were to relate, briefly, its experiences, it might say: "I helped burn forests and strange cities as I came red-hot from a volcano's throat, and I was scarcely cool when disintegration brought flowers to cover my dead form. By and by a long, long winter came, and toward the close of it I was sheared off, ground, pushed, rolled, and rounded beneath the ice. 'Why are you grinding me up?' I asked the glacier. 'To make food for the trees and the flowers during the earth's next temperate epoch,' it answered. One day a river swept me out of its delta and I rolled to the bottom of the sea. Here I lay for I know not how long, with sand and boulders piling upon me. Here heat, weight, and water fixed me in a stratum of materials that had accumulated below and above me. My stratum was displaced before it was thoroughly solidified, and I felt myself slowly raised until I could look out over the surface of the sea. The waves at once began to wear me, and they jumped up and tore at me until I was lifted above their reach. At last, when I was many thousand feet above the waves, I came to a standstill. Then my mountain-top was much higher than at present. For a long time I looked down upon a tropical world. I am now wondering if the Ice King will come for me again."
The Engelmann spruce forest here is an exceptionally fine one, and the geologist and I discussed it and trees in general. Some of the Indian tribes of the Rockies have traditions of a "Big Fire" about four centuries ago. There is some evidence of a general fire over the Rockies about the time that the Indian's tradition places it, but in this forest there were no indications that there had ever been a fire. Trees were in all stages of growth and decay. Humus was deep. Here I found a stump of a Douglas spruce that was eleven feet high and about nine feet in diameter. It was so decayed that I could not decipher the rings of growth. This tree probably required at least a thousand years to reach maturity, and many years must have elapsed for its wood to come to the present state of decay. Over this stump was spread the limbs of a live tree that was four hundred years of age.
Trees have tongues, and in this forest I interviewed many patriarchs, had stories from saplings, examined the mouldy, musty records of many a family tree, and dug up some buried history. The geologist wanted in story form a synopsis of what the records said and what the trees told me, so I gave him this account:—
"We climbed in here some time after the retreat of the last Ice King and found aspen and lodge-pole pine in possession. These trees fought us for several generations, but we finally drove them out. For ages the Engelmann spruce family has had undisputed possession of this slope. We stand amid three generations of mouldering ancestors, and beneath these is the sacred mould of older generations still.
"One spring, when most of the present grown-up trees were very young, the robins, as they flew north, were heard talking of strange men who were exploring the West Indies. A few years later came the big fire over the Rockies, which for months choked the sky with smoke. Fire did not get into our gulch, but from birds and bears which crowded into it we learned that straggling trees and a few groves on the Rockies were all that had escaped with their lives. Since we had been spared, we all sent out our seed for tree-colonies as rapidly as we could, and in so doing we received much help from the birds, the squirrels, and the bears, so that it was not long before we again had our plumes waving everywhere over the Rockies. About a hundred and sixty years ago, an earthquake shook many of us down and wounded thousands of others with the rock bombardment from the cliffs. The drought a century ago was hard on us, and many perished for water. Not long after the drought we began to see the trappers, but they never did us any harm. Most of them were as careful of our temples as were the Indians. While the trappers still roamed, there came a very snowy winter, and snow-slides mowed us down by thousands. Many of us were long buried beneath the snow. The old trees became dreadfully alarmed, and they feared that the Ice King was returning. For weeks they talked of nothing else, but in the spring, when the mountain-sides began to warm and peel off in earth-avalanches, we had a real danger to discuss.
"Shortly after the snowy winter, the gold-seekers came with their fire havoc. For fifty years we have done our best to hold our ground, but beyond our gulch relentless fire and flashing steel, together with the floods with which outraged Nature seeks to revenge herself, have slain the grand majority, and much, even, of the precious dust of our ancestors has been washed away."
With the exception of the night I had the geologist, my days and nights in this locality were spent entirely alone. The blaze of the camp-fire, moonlight, the music and movement of the winds, light and shade, and the eloquence of silence all impressed me more deeply here than anywhere else I have ever been. Every day there was a delightful play of light and shade, and this was especially effective on the summits; the ever-changing light upon the serrated mountain-crests kept constantly altering their tone and outline. Black and white they stood in midday glare, but a new grandeur was born when these tattered crags appeared above storm-clouds. Fleeting glimpses of the crests through a surging storm arouse strange feelings, and one is at bay, as though having just awakened amid the vast and vague on another planet. But when the long, white evening light streams from the west between the minarets, and the black buttressed crags wear the alpine glow, one's feelings are too deep for words.
The wind sometimes flowed like a torrent across the ridges, surging and ripping between the minarets, then bearing down like an avalanche upon the purple sylvan ocean, where it tossed the trees with boom, roar, and wild commotion. I usually camped where it showed the most enthusiasm. Here I often enjoyed the songs or the fierce activities of the wind. The absence and the presence of wind ever stirred me strongly. Weird and strange are the feelings that flow as the winds sweep and sound through the trees. The Storm King has a bugle at his lips, and a deep, elemental hymn is sung while the blast surges wild through the pines. Mother Nature is quietly singing, singing soft and low while the breezes pause and play in the pines. From the past one has been ever coming, with the future destined ever to go when, with centuries of worshipful silence, one waits for the winds in the pines. Ever the good old world grows better both with songs and with silence in the pines.
Here the energy and eloquence of silence was at its best. That all-pervading presence called silence has its happy home within the forest. Silence sounds rhythmic to all, and attunes all minds to the strange message, the rhapsody of the universe. Silence is almost as kind to mortals as its sweet sister sleep.
A primeval spruce forest crowds all the mountain-slopes of the Uncompahgre region from an altitude of eight thousand feet to timber-line. So dense is this forest that only straggling bits of sun-fire ever fall to the ground. Beneath these spiry, crowding trees one has only "the twilight of the forest noon." This forest, when seen from near-by mountain-tops, seems to be a great ragged, purple robe hanging in folds from the snow-fields, while down through it the white streams rush. A few crags pierce it, sun-filled grass-plots dot its expanse at intervals, and here and there it is rent with a vertical avalanche lane.
Many a happy journey and delightful climb I have had in the mountains all alone by moonlight, and in the Uncompahgre district I had many a moonlight ramble. I know what it is to be alone on high peaks with the moon, and I have felt the spell that holds the lonely wanderer when, on a still night, he feels the wistful, tender touch of the summer air, while the leaves whisper and listen in the moonlight, and the moon-toned etchings of the pines fall upon the magic forest floor.
One of the best moonlit times that I have had in this region was during my last visit to it. One October night I camped in a grass-plot in the depths of a spruce forest. The white moon rose grandly from behind the minareted mountain, hesitated for a moment among the tree-spires, then tranquilly floated up into space. It was a still night. There was silence in the treetops. The river near by faintly murmured in repose. Everything was at rest. The grass-plot was full of romantic light, and on its eastern margin was an etching of spiry spruce. A dead and broken tree on the edge of the grass-plot looked like a weird prowler just out of the woods, and seemed half-inclined to come out into the light and speak to me. All was still. The moonlit mist clung fantastically to the mossy festoons of the fir trees. I was miles from the nearest human soul, and as I stood in the enchanting scene, amid the beautiful mellow light, I seemed to have been wafted back into the legend-weaving age. The silence was softly invaded by zephyrs whispering in the treetops, and a few moonlit clouds that showed shadow centre-boards came lazily drifting along the bases of the minarets, as though they were looking for some place in particular, although in no hurry to find it. Heavier cloud-flotillas followed, and these floated on the forest sea, touching the treetops with the gentleness of a lover's hand. I lay down by my camp-fire to let my fancy frolic, and fairest dreams came on.
It was while camping once on the slope of Mt. Coxcomb that I felt most strongly the spell of the camp-fire. I wish every one could have a night by a camp-fire,—by Mother Nature's old hearthstone. When one sits in the forest within the camp-fire's magic tent of light, amid the silent, sculptured trees, there go thrilling through one's blood all the trials and triumphs of our race. The blazing wood, the ragged and changing flame, the storms and calms, the mingling smoke and blaze, the shadow-figures that dance against the trees, the scenes and figures in the fire,—with these, though all are new and strange, yet you feel at home once more in the woods. A camp-fire in the forest is the most enchanting place on life's highway by which to have a lodging for the night.
Alma, 119, 127.
Arctostaphylos Uva-Ursi. See Kinnikinick.
Aspen, 204-206, 208.
Bears, vapor from a bear, 20; a bear and her cubs, 79; prospectors besieged by, 217-229; feeding on choke-cherries, 237.
Beaver, 238, 242; usefulness of, 53; cutting trees, 54-56; young, 56-58; houses of, 57; granary of, 58; tools of, 58, 59; dam-building, 59, 60; growth of a dam, 61; the dam a highway, 61; influence of dams on stream-flow, 61-64; dams catching and holding soil, 64-67; value of, 67.
Birds, Rocky Mountain, abundance of, 151, 152, 237; various species of, 152-159; song of, 159; a pet quail, 160-167; of a mountain park, 241, 242.
Boulder, a lava, 247-249.
Cabin, a night in a deserted, 22, 23.
Camp-fires, 5, 6, 77; the spell of the camp-fire, 256, 257.
Camping outfit, 4.
Carpenter, Prof. L. G., 4, 83.
Chambers Lake, 93.
Cottonwood, broad-leaf, 200.
Cottonwood, narrow-leaf, 200.
Coyotes, 77, 242; Scotch and the, 133-138; usefulness of, 237.
Crested Butte, 7.
Dog, the story of a collie, 131-147; a St. Bernard and a pet quail, 160, 164-167.
Electrical phenomena, in winter, 26; before the Poudre flood, 83-95.
Fir, balsam (Abies lasiocarpa), 207, 208.
Fir, Douglas. See Spruce, Douglas.
Fires, forest, 12, 14; and the lodge-pole pine, 186, 187, 191, 192; causes of, 209; effects of, 209, 210; Indian tradition of a "Big Fire," 249, 250.
Flowers, above timber-line, 211-213; of a mountain park, 241.
Forestry, an address on, 13, 14.
Gem Lake, 240.
Geneva Park, 217.
Geologist, a night with a, 247-252.
Girl, climbing Long's Peak with an eight-year-old, 99-111.
Glaciation, 234, 235, 243.
Grand Ditch Camp, 93.
Grand Lake, 14, 15, 22.
Ground-hog, 110, 237.
Hague's Peak, 84.
Hoosier Pass, 119, 123.
Horses, return, 115-118; Midget, 119-128.
Hotel, ejected from a, 11.
Ice, fine arts of, 12.
Kinnikinick, a plant pioneer, 171-175; its nursery for trees, 175, 176; growth of, 176, 177; flowers and fruit of, 177; as a bed, 177, 178; a legend of, 178, 179; reclaiming work of, 180.
Lakes, 235, 239, 240.
Lead Mountain, 9.
Lion, mountain, 6, 20, 23; an epicure, 9, 10; tracked by a, 10.
Long's Peak, 15, 84; a climb up, with a little girl, 99-111; summit of, 109, 110; Scotch and the young lady on, 138-141; a winter climb with Scotch, 142-147; birds on summit of, 158.
Medicine Bow National Forest, 23.
Medicine-men, 10, 11.
Mesa Verde, 31, 48, 49.
Moonlight, the mountains by, 254-256.
Mt. Coxcomb, 244; camping on the slope of, 246-254, 256.
Mt. Lincoln, 11, 123.
Mt. Richthofen, 93.
Mt. Silverheels, 120, 121.
Mt. Wetterhorn, 244.
Ouzel, water, 100-102, 152, 153, 158, 159.
Park, a Rocky Mountain, 238-244.
Pine, nursed by kinnikinick, 175, 176.
Pine, lodge-pole, its names, 183; description of, 183; its habit of growth, 183, 184; its aggressive character, 184; distribution of, 184, 185, 208; its method of dispersing its seeds, 185-187, 191; growth of, 187, 188, 193, 194; as a colonist and pioneer, 189; cones embedded in, 189, 190; sunlight necessary to, 190; fire in a forest of, 191, 192; enemies of, 193; uses of, 193; value of, 193-195.
Pine, Western yellow, a thousand-year-old, 31-50; habits of the, 200-204; character of the, 240.
Pinus flexilis, 188, 208.
Plants, of the summit-slopes, 235, 236.
Poudre Lakes, 86.
Poudre Valley, flood in, 83, 95.
Ptarmigan, 9, 107, 153, 158.
Quail, a pet, 161-167.
Rabbit, snowshoe, 9.
Rex, a St. Bernard dog, 160, 164-167.
Rock, easily eroded, 246.
Rock-formations, grotesque and beautiful, 245, 246.
Rocky Mountains, individuality of, 213; character of, 233, 234.
Schoolhouse, a mountain, 13.
Sheep, mountain, 9; a flock of, 78.
Snow, tracks in, 9.
Snow-cornice, breaking through a, 17.
Snow-slides, 19, 20; an adventure with a snow-slide, 24, 25.
Snowstorm, a, 8.
Specimen Mountain, electrical phenomena on, 88-92.
Spruce, Colorado blue or silver, 207, 208.
Spruce, Douglas, or Douglas fir, 188, 189, 203, 204; a large stump, 249.
Spruce, Engelmann, 188, 189, 208, 241, 249; the story of a forest of, 250-252.
Squirrel, Douglas, 242; as a nurseryman, 34, 35; and the old pine, 35, 47; character of, 79; cutting off and storing cones, 102-104.
Thrush, Audubon's hermit, 152, 154.
Timber-line, 104-107, 208, 209.
Trap Creek, 94, 95.
Trees, of the Rocky Mountains, 199-211, 236. See also individual species.
Uncompahgre National Forest, 244.
Uncompahgre Peak, 244.
Uncompahgre region, wonders of the, 244-256.
Wolves, an adventure with, 71-75.
Woodpecker, Texas, 39, 40.
The Riverside Press
CAMBRIDGE . MASSACHUSETTS
U . S . A
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