Thursday, Aug. 8.— Arrived at the edge of the desert, 95 miles from Salt Lake City, at 4 P. M. [Simpson's Springs] (Clemens)
To Tophet. 28th September.
On a cool and cloudy morning, which at 10 A.M. changed into a clear sunny day, we set out, after paying $3 for three feeds, to make the second station. Our road lay over the seven miles of plain that ended Rush Valley: we saw few rabbits, and the sole vegetation was stunted sage. Ensued a rough divide, stony and dusty, with cahues and pitch-holes: it is known by the name of General Johnston's Pass. The hills above it are gray and baldheaded, a few bristles of black cedar protruding from their breasts, and the land wears an uninhabitable look. After two miles of toil we halted near the ruins of an old station. On the right side of the road was a spring half way up the hill: three holes lay full of slightly alkaline water, and the surplus flowed off in a black bed of vegetable mud, which is often dry in spring and summer. At “Point Look-out,” near the counterslope of the divide, we left on the south Simpson's route, and learned by a signpost that the distance to Carson is 533 miles. The pass led to Skull Valley, of ominous sound. According to some, the name is derived from the remains of Indians which are found scattered about a fine spring in the southern parts. Others declare that the mortal remains of bison here lie like pavement-stones or cannon balls in the Crimean Valley of Death. Skull Valley stretches nearly southwest of the Great Salt Lake plain, with which it communicates, and its drainage, as in these parts generally, feeds the lake. Passing out of Skull Valley, we crossed the cahues and pitch-holes of a broad bench which rose above the edge of the desert, and after seventeen miles beyond the Pass reached the station which Mormons call Egan's Springs, anti-Mormons Simpson's Springs, and Gentiles Lost Springs.
Standing upon the edge of the bench, I could see the Tophet in prospect for us till Carson Valley: a road narrowing in perspective to a point spanned its grisly length, awfully long, and the next mail station had shrunk to a little black knob. All was desert: the bottom could no longer be called basin or valley: it was a thin fine silt, thirsty dust in the dry season, and putty-like mud in the spring and autumnal rains. The hair of this unlovely skin was sage and greasewood: it was warted with sand-heaps; in places mottled with bald and horrid patches of salt soil, while in others minute crystals of salt, glistening like diamond-dust in the sunlight, covered tracts of moist and oozy mud. Before us, but a little to the right or north, and nearly due west of Camp Floyd, rose Granite Mountain, a rough and jagged spine or hog's back, inhabited only by wolves and antelopes, hares and squirrels, grasshoppers, and occasionally an Indian family. Small sweet springs are found near its northern and southern points. The tradition of the country declares it to be rich in gold, which, however, no one dares to dig. Our road is about to round the southern extremity, wheeling successively S. and S.E., then W. and N.W., then S.W. and S.E., and S.W. and N.W.-in fact, round three quarters of the compass; and for three mortal days we shall sight its ugly frowning form. A direct passage leads between it and the corresponding point of the southern hill: we contemplate, through the gap, a blue ridge where lies Willow-Spring Station, the destination of our party after to-morrow; but the straight line which saves so much distance is closed by bogs for the greater part of the year, and the size of the wild sage would impede our wagon-wheels.
The great desert of Utah Territory extends in length about 300 miles along the western side of the Great Salt Lake. Its breadth varies: a little farther south it can not be crossed, the water, even where not poisonous, being insufficient. The formation is of bottoms like that described above, bench-lands, with the usual parallel and perfectly horizontal water-lines, leaving regular steps, as the sea settled down, by the gradual upheaval of the land. They mark its former elevation upon the sides of the many detached ridges trending mostly N. and S. Like the rim of the Basin, these hills are not a single continuous mountain range which might be flanked, but a series of disconnected protrusions above the general level of the land. A paying railway through this country is as likely as a profitable canal through the Isthmus of Suez: the obstacles must be struck at right angles, with such assistance as the rough kanyons and the ravines of various levels afford.
We are now in a country dangerous to stock. It is a kind of central point, where Pávant, Gosh Yuta (popularly called Gosh Ute), and Panak (Bannacks) meet. Watches, therefore, were told off for the night. Next morning, however, it was found that all had stood on guard with unloaded guns.