En route again. 3D October.
The severity of the last night made us active; the appearance of deep snow upon the mountains and of ice in the valleys was an intelligible hint that the Sierra Nevada which lay before us would be by no means an easy task. Despite, therefore, the idleness always engendered by a halt, and the frigid blasts which poured down from the eastern hills, where rain was falling in torrents, we hitched up, bade adieu to our Mormon host, and set out about 4 P.M. Antelope Springs, the next station, was 30 miles distant; we resolved, therefore, to divide it, after the fashion of Asia and Africa, by a short forenoon march.
The road runs to the southwest down the Deep-Creek Valley, and along the left bank of the western rivulet. Near the divide we found a good bottom, with plenty of water and grass; the only fuel was the sage-bush, which crackled merrily, like thorns, under the pot, but tainted the contents with its medicinal odor. The wagons were drawn up in a half circle to aid us in catching the mules; the animals were turned out to graze, the men were divided into watches, and the masters took up their quarters in the wagons. Age gave the judge a claim to the ambulance, which was admitted by all hands; I slept with "Scotch Joe," an exceedingly surly youth, who apparently preferred any thing to work. At 8 P.M. a storm of wind and rain burst upon us from the S.W.: it was so violent that the wagons rocked before the blast, and at times the chance of a capsize suggested itself. The weather was highly favorable for Indian plundering, who on such nights expect to make a successful attack.
To the Wilderness. 4Th October.
We awoke early in the frigid S.W. wind, the thermometer showing 39° F. After a few hundred yards we reached “Eight mile Springs,” so called from the distance to Deep Creek. The road, which yesterday would have been dusty to the hub, was now heavy and viscid; the rain had washed out the saleratus, and the sight and scent, and the country generally, were those of the environs of a horse-pond. An ugly stretch of two miles, perfectly desert, led to Eight-mile-Spring Kanyon, a jagged little ravine about 500 yards long, with a portaled entrance of tall rock. It is not, however, considered dangerous.
Beyond the kanyon lay another grisly land, if possible more deplorable than before; its only crops were dust and mud. On the right hand were turreted rocks, around whose base ran Indian trails, and a violent west wind howled over their summits. About 1 30 P.M. we came upon the station at Antelope Springs: it had been burned by the Gosh Yutas in the last June, and had never been rebuilt. "George,” our cook, who had been one of the inmates at the time, told us how he and his confrères had escaped. Fortunately, the corral still stood: we found wood in plenty, water was lying in an adjoining bottom, and we used the two to brew our tea.
Beyond Antelope Springs was Shell Creek, distant thirty miles by long road and eighteen by the short cut. We had some difficulty in persuading Kennedy to take the latter; property not only sharpens the intellect, it also generates prudence, and the ravine is a well-known place for ambush. Fortunately two express riders came in and offered to precede us, which encouraged us. About 3 P.M. we left the springs and struck for the mouth of the kanyon, which has not been named; Sevier and Farish are the rival claimants. Entering the jagged fir and pine-clad breach, we found the necessity of dismounting. The bed was dry-it floods in spring and autumn-but very steep, and in a hole on the right stood water, which we did not touch for fear of poison. Reaching the summit in about an hour we saw below the shaggy foreground of evergreens, or rather ever-blacks, which cast grotesque, and exaggerated shadows in the last rays of day, the snowy-white mountains, gloriously sunlit, on the far side of Shell Creek. Here for the first time appeared the piñon pine (P. Monophyllus), which forms the principal part of the Indian's diet; it was no beauty to look upon, a dwarfish tree, rendered shrub-like by being feathered down to the ground. The nut is ripe in early autumn, at which time the savages stow away their winter provision in dry ravines and pits. The fruit is about the size of a pistachio, with a decided flavor of turpentine, tolerably palatable, and at first laxative. The cones are thrown upon the fire, and when slightly burnt the nuts are easily extracted; these are eaten raw, or like the Hindoo's toasted grains. The harvest is said to fail every second year. Last season produced a fine crop, while in this autumn many of the trees were found, without apparent reason but frost, dead.
We resumed the descent along a fiumara, which presently "sank," and at 5 P.M. halted in a prairillon somewhat beyond. Bunch-grass, sage-fuel, and water were abundant, but the place was favorable for an attack. It is a golden rule in an Indian country never to pitch near trees or rocks that can mask an approach, and we were breaking it in a place of danger. However, the fire was extinguished early, so as to prevent its becoming a mark for Indians, and the pickets, placed on both sides of the ravine, were directed to lie motionless a little below the crest, and to fire at the first comer. I need hardly say we were not murdured; the cold, however, was uncommonly piercing.