Submitted by scott on Sat, 05/16/2020 - 00:26

To Cold Springs. 15th October.

After a warmer night than usual—thanks to fire and lodging --we awoke, and found a genial south wind blowing. Our road lay through the kanyon, whose floor was flush with the plain; the bed of the mountain stream was the initiative of vile traveling, which, without our suspecting it, was to last till the end of the journey. The strain upon the vehicle came near to smashing it, and the prudent Kennedy, with the view of sparing his best animals, gave us his worst-two aged brutes, one of which, in consequence of her squealing habits, had won for herself the title of “ole Hellion.” The divortia aquarum was a fine water-shed to the westward, and the road was in V shape, whereas before it had oscillated between U and WW. As we progressed, however, the valleys became more and more desert, the sage more stunted, and the hills more brown and barren. After a midday halt, rendered compulsory by the old white mare, we resumed our way along the valley southward, over a mixture of pitch-hole and boulder, which forbids me to forget that day's journey. At last, after much sticking and kicking on the part of the cattle, and the mental refreshment of abundant bad language, self-adhibited by the men, we made Cold-Springs Station, which, by means of a cut across the hills, could be brought within eight miles of Smith's Creek.

The station was a wretched place, half built and wholly unroofed; the four boys, an exceedingly rough set, ate standing, and neither paper nor pencil was known among them. Our animals, however, found good water in a rivulet from the neighboring hills, and the promise of a plentiful feed on the morrow, while the humans, observing that a “beef” had been freshly killed, supped upon an excellent steak. The warm wind was a pleasant contrast to the usual frost, but, as it came from the south, all the weather-wise predicted that rain would result. We slept, however, without such accident, under the haystack, and heard the loud' howling of the wolves, which are said to be larger on these hills than elsewhere.

To Sand Springs. 16th October.

In the morning the wind had shifted from the south to a more pluvial quarter, the southeast-in these regions the westerly wind promises the fairest—and stormy cirri mottled the sky. We had à long stage of thirty-five miles before us, and required an early start, yet the lazy b'hoys and the weary cattle saw 10 A.M. before we were en route. Simpson's road lay to our south; we could, however, sight, about two miles distant from the station, the easternmost formation, which he calls Gibraltar Gate. For the first three miles our way was exceedingly rough; it gradually improved into a plain cut with nullabs, and overgrown with a chapparal, which concealed a few “burrowing hares." The animals are rare; during the snow they are said to tread in one another's trails after Indian fashion, yet the huntsman easily follows them. After eight miles we passed a spring, and two miles beyond it came to the Middle Gate, where we halted from noon till 5:15 P.M. Water was found in the bed of a river which fills like a mill-dam after rain, and a plentiful supply of bunch-grass, whose dark seeds it was difficult to husk out of the oat-like capsules. We spent our halt in practicing what Sorrentines call la caccia degl uccelluzzi, and in vain attempts to walk round the uncommonly wary hawks, crows, and wolves.

Hitching to as the sun neared the western horizon, we passed through the Gate, narrowly escaping a "spill” down a dwarf precipice. A plain bounded on our left by cretaceous bluffs, white as snow, led to the West Gate, two symmetrical projections like those farther eastward. After that began a long divide broken by frequent chuck-holes, which, however, had no cunette at the bottom. Ān ascent of five miles led to a second broad basin, whose white and sounding ground, now stony, then sandy, scattered over with carcass and skeleton, was bounded in front by low dark ranges of hill. Then crossing a long rocky divide, so winding that the mules' heads pointed within a few miles to N., S., E., and W., we descended by narrow passes into a plain. The eye could not distinguish it from a lake, so misty and vague were its outlines: other senses corrected vision, when we sank up to the hub in the loose sand. As we progressed painfully, broken clay and dwarf vegetation assumed in the dim shades fantastic and mysterious forms. I thought myself once more among the ruins of that Arab village concerning which Lebid sang,

Ay me! ay me! all lone and drear the dwelling-place, the home - On Mina, o'er Rijam and Ghool, wild beasts unheeded roam."

Tired out and cramped with cold, we were torpid with what the Bedouin calls El Rakl—la Ragle du Désert, when part of the brain sleeps while the rest is wide awake. At last, about 2:30 A.M., thoroughly “knocked up”—a phrase which I should advise the Englishman to eschew in the society of the fair Columbian—we sighted a roofless shed, found a haystack, and, reckless of supper or of stamping horses, fell asleep upon the sand.

To Carson Lake. 17th October.

Sand-Springs Station deserved its name. Like the Brazas de San Diego and other mauvaises terres near the Rio Grande, the land is cumbered here and there with drifted ridges of the finest sand, sometimes 200 feet high, and shifting before every gale. Behind the house stood a mound shaped like the contents of an hour-glass, drifted up by the stormy S.E. gale in esplanade shape, and falling steep to northward or against the wind. The water near this vile hole was thick and stale with sulphury salts: it blistered even the hands. The station-house was no unfit object in such a scene, roofless and chairless, filthy and squalid, with a smoky fire in one corner, and a table in the centre of an impure floor, the walls open to every wind, and the interior full of dust. Hibernia herself never produced aught more characteristic. Of the ernployés, all loitered and sauntered about desceuvrés as cretins, except one, who lay on the ground crippled and apparently dying by the fall of a horse upon his breast-bone.

About 11 A.M. we set off to cross the ten miles of valley that stretched between us and the summit of the western divide still separating us from Carson Lake. The land was a smooth saleratus plain, with curious masses of porous red and black basalt protruding from a ghastly white. The water-shed was apparently to the north, the benches were distinctly marked, and the bottom looked as if it were inundated every year. It was smooth except where broken up by tracks, but all off the road was dangerous ground: in one place the horses sank to their hocks, and were not extricated without difficulty. After a hot drive-the glass at 9 A.M. showed 74° F.—we began to toil up the divide, a sand formation mixed with bits of granite, red seeds, and dwarf shells, whose lips were for the most part broken off. Over the fine loose surface was a floating haze of the smaller particles, like the film that veils the Arabian desert. Arrived at the summit, we sighted for the first time Carson Lake, or rather the sink of the Carson River. It derives its name from the well-known mountaineer whose adventurous roamings long anticipated scientific exploration. Supplied by the stream from the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada, it is just such a lake as might be formed in any of the basins which we had traversed—a shallow sheet of water, which, in the cloudy sky and mitigated glare of the sun, looked pale and muddy. Apparently it was divided by a long, narrow ruddy line, like ochre-colored sand; a near approach showed that water on the right was separated from a saleratus bed on the left by a thick bed of tule rush. Stones imitated the sweep of the tide, and white particles the color of a wash.

Our conscientious informant at Sand-Springs Station had warned us that upon the summit of the divide we should find a perpendicular drop, down which the wagons could be lowered only by means of lariats affixed to the axle-trees and lashed round strong “stubbing-posts." We were not, however, surprised to find a mild descent of about 30°. From the summit of the divide five miles led us over a plain too barren for sage, and a stretch of stone and saleratus to the watery margin, which was troublesome with sloughs and mud. The cattle relished the water, although tainted by the rush; we failed, however, to find any of the freshwater clams, whose shells were scattered along the shore.

Remounting at 5:15 P.M. we proceeded to finish the ten miles which still separated us from the station, by a rough and stony road, perilous to wheel conveyances, which rounded the southern extremity of the lake. After passing a promontory whose bold projection had been conspicuous from afar, and threading a steep kanyon leading toward the lake, we fell into its selvage, which averaged about one mile in breadth. The small crescent of the moon soon ceased to befriend us, and we sat in the sadness of the shade, till presently a light glimmered under Arcturus, the road bent toward it, and all felt “jolly.” But,

Heu, heu! nos miseros, quam totus homuncio nil est !"

A long dull hour still lay before us, and we were approaching civilized lands. "Sink Station” looked well from without; there was a frame house inside an adobe inclosure, and a pile of wood and a stout haystack promised fuel and fodder. The inmates, however, were asleep, and it was ominously long before a door was opened. At last appeared a surly cripple, who presently disappeared to arm himself with his revolver. The judge asked civilly for a cup of water; he was told to fetch it from the lake, which was not more than a mile off, though, as the road was full of quagmires, it would be hard to travel at night. Wood the churl would not part with: we offered to buy it, to borrow it, to replace it in the morning; he told us to go for it ourselves, and that after about two miles and a half we might chance to gather some. Certainly our party was a law-abiding and a self-governing one; never did I see men so tamely bullied; they threw back the fellow's sticks, and cold, hungry, and thirsty, simply began to sulk. An Indian standing by asked $20 to herd the stock for a single night. At last, George the Cordon Blue took courage; some went for water, others broke up a wagon-plank, and supper after a fashion was concocted.

I preferred passing the night on a side of bacon in the wagon to using the cripple's haystack, and allowed sleep to steep my senses in forgetfulness, after deeply regretting that the Mormons do not extend somewhat farther westward.


 

Citations

Burton, Richard. 1861. The City Of The Saints. London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts.

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