From Orion: 4 P. M., arrived on the summit of “Big mountain,” 15 miles from Salt Lake City, when the most gorgeous view of mountain peaks yet encountered, burst on our sight.
At 4 30 we resumed our journey along the plain of the Weber or Webber River. It is second in importance only to the Bear River: it heads near the latter, and flowing in a devious course toward the northwest falls into the Great Salt Lake, a few miles south of its sister stream, and nearly opposite Fremont's Island. The valley resembles that described in yesterday's diary; it is, however, narrower, and the steep borders, which if water washed would be red like the kanyon rocks, are well clothed with grass and herbages. In some places the land is defended by snake fences in zigzags, to oppose the depredations of emigrants cattle upon the wheat, barley, and stunted straggling corn within. After fording the river and crossing the bottom, we ascended steep banks, passed over a spring of salt water five miles from the station, and halted for a few minutes to exchange news with the mail wagon that had left Great Salt Lake City this (Friday) morning. Followed a rough and rugged tract of land apparently very trying to the way worn cattle; many deaths had taken place at this point, and the dead lay well preserved as the monks of St Bernard. After a succession of chuck holes, rises, and falls, we fell into the valley of Bauchmin's Creek. It is a picturesque hollow; at the head is a gateway of red clay, through which the stream passes; the sides also are red, and as the glow and glory of the departing day lingered upon the heights, even artemisia put on airs of bloom and beauty, blushing in contrast with the sharp metallic green of the quaking asp and the duller verdure of the elder (Alnus viridis). As the evening closed in, the bottom land became more broken, the path less certain and the vegetation thicker; the light of the moon, already diminished by the narrowness of the valley, seemed almost to be absorbed by the dark masses of copse and bush. We were not sorry to make at 7:45 PM, the "Carson House Station" at Bauchmin's Fork - the traveling had been fast, seven miles an hour - where we found a log hut, a roaring fire, two civil Mormon lads, and some few "fixins" in the way of food. We sat for a time talking about matters of local importance, the number of emigrants, and horse thieves, the prospects of the road and the lay of the land. Bauchmin's Fork, we learned, is a branch of East Kanyon Creek, itself a tributary of the Weber River, from the station an Indian trail leads over the mountains to Provo City. I slept comfortably enough upon the boards of an inner room, not however, without some apprehensions of accidentally offending a certain skunk (Mephitis mephitica), which was in the habit of making regular nocturnal visits. I heard its puppy like bark during the night, but escaped what otherwise might have happened.
And why, naturally asks the reader, did you not shut the door? Because there was none (p 188-9).
The End Hurrah August 25th
To day we are to pass over the Wasach, the last and highest chain of the mountain mass between Fort Bridger and the Great Salt Lake Valley, and - by the aid of St James of Compostella, who is, I believe, bound over to be the patron of pilgrims in general, - to arrive at our destination, New Hierosolyma, or Jerusalem, alias Zion on the tops of the mountains, the future city of Christ, where the Lord is to reign over the Saints, as a temporal king, in power and great glory. (p 189-90)
So we girt our loins and started after a cup of tea and a biscuit at 7 AM, under the good guidance of Mr Macarthy, who after a whisky less night looked forward not less than ourselves to the run in. Following the course of Bauchmin's Creek, we completed the total number of fordings to thirteen in eight miles. The next two miles were along the bed of a water course, a complete fiumara, through a bush full of tribulus, which accompanied us to the end of the journey. Presently the ground became rougher and steeper: we alighted and set our beasts manfully against "Big Mountain," which lies about four miles from the station. The road bordered upon the wide arroyo, a tumbled bed of block and boulder, with water in places oozing and trickling from the clay walls, from the sandy soil, and from beneath the heaps of rock, - living fountains these, most grateful to the parched traveler. The synclinal slopes of the chasm were grandly wooded with hemlocks, firs, balsam pines, and other varieties of abies; some tapering up to the height of ninety feet, with an admirable regularity of form, color, and foliage. The varied hues of the quaking asp were there; the beech, the dwarf oak, and a thicket of elders and wild roses; while over all the warm autumnal tints already mingled with the bright green of summer. The ascent became more and more rugged: this steep pitch, at the end of a thousand miles of hard work and semi starvation, causes the death of many a wretched animal, and we remarked that the bodies are not inodorous among the mountains as on the prairies. In the most fatiguing part, we saw a hand cart halted, while the owners, a man, a woman, and a boy, took breath. We exchanged a few consolatory words with them and hurried on. The only animal seen on the line, except the grasshopper, whose creaking wings gave forth an ominous note, was the pretty little chirping squirrel. The trees, however, in places bore the marks of huge talons, which were easily distinguished as the sign of bears. The grizzly does not climb except when young: this was probably the common brown variety. At half way the gorge opened out, assuming more the appearance of a valley; and in places, for a few rods, were dwarf stretches of almost level ground. Toward the Pass summit the rise is sharpest: here we again descended from the wagon, which the four mules had work enough to draw, and the total length of its eastern rise was five miles. Big Mountain lies eighteen miles from the city. The top is a narrow crest, suddenly forming an acute based upon an obtuse angle. (p 190)
From that eyrie, 8,000 feet above sea level, the weary pilgrim first sights his shrine, the object of his long wanderings, hardships, and perils, the Happy Valley of the Great Salt Lake. The western horizon, when visible, is bounded by a broken wall of light blue mountain, the Oquirrh, whose northernmost bluff buttresses the southern end of the lake, and whose eastern flank sinks in steps and terraces into a river basin, yellow with the sunlit golden corn, and somewhat pink with its carpeting of heath like moss. In the foreground a semicircular sweep of hill top, and an inverted arch of rocky wall, shuts out all but a few spans of the valley. These heights are rough with a shaggy forest, in some places black green, in others of brownish red, in others of the lightest ash color, based upon a ruddy soil; while a few silvery veins of snow still streak the bare gray rocky flanks of the loftiest peak. (p 190-1)
After a few minutes' delay to stand and gaze, we resumed the footpath way, while the mail wagon, with wheels rough locked, descended what appeared to be an impracticable slope. The summit of the Pass was well nigh cleared of timber; the woodman's song informed us that the evil work was still going on, and that we are nearly approaching a large settlement. Thus stripped of their protecting fringes, the mountains are exposed to the heat of summer, that sends forth countless swarms of devastating crickets, grasshoppers, and blue worms; and to the wintry cold, that piles up, four to six feet high, - the mountain men speak of thirty and forty, - the snows drifted by the unbroken force of the winds. The Pass from November to February can be traversed by nothing heavier than "sleighs," and during the snow storms even these are stopped. Falling into the gorge of Big Kanyon Creek, after a total of twelve hard miles from Bauchmin's Fork, we reached at 11:30 the station that bears the name of the water near which it is built. We were received by the wife of the proprietor, who was absent at the time of our arrival; and half stifled by the thick dust and the sun which had raised the glass to 103d, we enjoyed copious draughts -tant soit peu qualified - of the cool but rather hard water, that trickled down the hill into a trough by the house side. Presently the station master, springing from his light "sulky," entered, and was formally introduced to us by Mr Macarthy as Mr Ephe Hanks. I had often heard of this individual, as one of the old triumvirate of Mormon desperadoes, the other two being Orrin Porter Rockwell and Bill Hickman - as the leader of the dreaded Danite band, and in short as a model ruffian. The ear often teaches the eye to form its pictures: I had eliminated a kind of mental sketch of those assassin faces which one sees on the Apennines and Pyrenees, and was struck by what met the eye of sense. The "vile villain," as he has been called by anti Mormon writers, who verily do not try to menager their epithets, was a middle sized, light haired, good looking man, with regular features, a pleasant and humorous countenance, and the manly manner of his early sailor life, touched with the rough cordiality of the mountaineer. "Frank as a bear hunter," is a proverb in these lands. He had, like the rest of the triumvirate, and like most men (Anglo Americans) of desperate courage and fiery excitable temper, a clear pale blue eye, verging upon gray, and looking as if it wanted nothing better than to light up, together with a cool and quiet glance that seemed to shun neither friend nor foe. (p 191-2)
The terrible Ephe began with a facetious allusion to all our new dangers under the roof of a Danite, to which in similar strain, I made answer that Danite or Damnite was pretty much the same to me. After dining, we proceeded to make trial of the air cane, to which he took, as I could see by the way he handled it, and by the nod with which he acknowledged the observation, "almighty convenient sometimes not to make a noise, Mister," a great fancy. He asked me whether I had a mind to "have a slap" at his namesake, an offer which was gratefully accepted, under the promise that "cuffy" should previously be marked down so as to save a long ride and a troublesome trudge over the mountains. His battery of "killb'ars" was heavy and in good order, so that on this score there would have been no trouble, and the only tool he bade me bring was a Colt's revolver, dragoon size. He told me that he was likely to be in England next year, when he had set the "ole woman" to her work. I suppose my look was somewhat puzzled, for Mrs Dana graciously explained that every Western wife, even when still, as Mrs Ephe was, in her teens, commands that venerable title, venerable, though somehow not generally coveted.
From Big Kanyon Creek Station to the city, the driver "reckoned," was a distance of seventeen miles. We waited till the bright and glaring day had somewhat burned itself out; at noon heavy clouds came up from the south and southwest, casting a grateful shade and shedding a few drops of rain. After taking friendly leave of the "Danite" chief, - whose cordiality of manner had prepossessed me strongly in his favor - we entered the mail wagon and prepared ourselves for the finale over the westernmost ridge of the stern Wasach (p 192)
Twain, of course, had a different impression of the "Destroying Angel" Ephe Hanks:
..., we changed horses, and took supper with a Mormon “Destroying Angel.”
“Destroying Angels,” as I understand it, are Latter-Day Saints who are set apart by the Church to conduct permanent disappearances of obnoxious citizens. I had heard a deal about these Mormon Destroying Angels and the dark and bloody deeds they had done, and when I entered this one’s house I had my shudder all ready. But alas for all our romances, he was nothing but a loud, profane, offensive, old blackguard! He was murderous enough, possibly, to fill the bill of a Destroyer, but would you have any kind of an Angel devoid of dignity? Could you abide an Angel in an unclean shirt and no suspenders? Could you respect an Angel with a horse-laugh and a swagger like a buccaneer?
There were other blackguards present—comrades of this one. And there was one person that looked like a gentleman—Heber C. Kimball’s son, tall and well made, and thirty years old, perhaps. A lot of slatternly women flitted hither and thither in a hurry, with coffee-pots, plates of bread, and other appurtenances to supper, and these were said to be the wives of the Angel—or some of them, at least. And of course they were; for if they had been hired “help” they would not have let an angel from above storm and swear at them as he did, let alone one from the place this one hailed from. (Roughing It)