Benson John Lossing.

Harper's encyclopdia of United States history from 458 A.D. to 1905 (Volume 3) online

. (page 72 of 76)
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of my anxious solicitude by night and disputes. Their grief was only inferior

day, was destroyed. We had brought this to my own.

barometer in safety 1,000 miles, and This lake is about 3 miles long and
broke it almost among the snow of the of very irregular width and apparently
mountains. The loss was felt by the great depth, and is the head - water of
whole camp. All had seen my anxiety, the third New Fork, a tributary to Green
and aided me in preserving it. The River, the Colorado of the West. On the
height of these mountains, considered by map and in the narrative I have called
the hunters and traders the highest in it Mountain Lake. I encamped on the
the whole range, had been a theme of north side, about 350 yards from the out-
constant discussion among them; and all let. This was the most western point at
had looked forward with pleasure to the which I obtained astronomical obser-
moment when the instrument, which they vations, by which this place, called Ber-
believed to be as true as the sun, should nier s encampment, is made in 110 08
stand upon the summits and decide their 03" W. long, from Greenwich, and lat.

401



FREMONT, JOHN CHARLES

43 49 49"-. The mountain peaks, as As will be seen, on reference to a map,
laid down, were fixed by bearings from on this short mountain chain are the
this and other astronomical points. We head - waters of four great rivers of the
had no other compass than the small ones continent, namely, the Colorado, Colum-
used in sketching the country; but from bia, Missouri, and Platte Rivers. It had
an azimuth, in which one of them was been my design, after having ascended the
used, the variation of the compass is 18 mountains, to continue our route on the
E. The correction made in our field work western side of the range, and, crossing
by the astronomical observations indi- through a pass at the northwestern end
cates that this is a very correct observa- of the chain, about 30 miles from our
tion. present camp, return along the eastern
As soon as the camp was formed, I set slope across the heads of the Yellowstone
about endeavoring to repair my barometer. River, and join on the line to our station
As I have already said, this was a stand- of August 7, immediately at the foot of
ard cistern barometer, of Troughton s con- the ridge. In this way, I should be en-
struction. The glass cistern had been abled to include the whole chain and its
broken about midway; but, as the instru- numerous waters in my survey; but vari-
ment had been kept in a proper position, ous considerations induced me, very re-
no air had found its way into the tube, luctantly, to abandon this plan,
the end of which had always remained cov- I was desirous to keep strictly within
ered. I had with me a number of phials the scope of my instructions ; and it would
of tolerably thick glass, some of which have required ten or fifteen additional
were of the same diameter as the cistern, days for the accomplishment of this ob-
and I spent the day in slowly working ject. Our animals had become very much
on these, endeavoring to cut them of the worn out with the length of the journey;
requisite length; but, as my instrument game was very scarce; and, though it
was a very rough file, I invariably broke does not appear in the course of the narra-
them. A groove was cut in one of the tive (as I have avoided dwelling upon
trees, where the barometer was placed trifling incidents not connected with the
during the night, to be out of the way of objects of the expedition), the spirits of
any possible danger; and in the morning the men had been much exhausted by the
I commenced again. Among the powder- hardships and privations to which they
horns in the camp, I found one which was had been subjected. Our provisions had
very transparent, so that its contents wellnigh all disappeared. Bread had
could be almost as plainly seen as through been long out of the question; and of all
glass. This I boiled and stretched on our stock we had remaining two or three
a piece of wood to the requisite diameter, pounds of coffee and a small quantity of
and scraped it very thin, in order to in- macaroni, which had been husbanded with
crease to the utmost its transparency. I great care for the mountain expedition
then secured it firmly in its place on the we were about to undertake. Our daily
instrument with strong glue made from meal consisted of dry buffalo meat cooked
a buffalo, and filled it with mercury prop- in tallow; and, as we had not dried this
erly heated. A piece of skin, which had with Indian skill, part of it was spoiled,
covered one of the phials, furnished a good and what remained of good was as hard
pocket, which was well secured with strong as wood, having much the taste and ap-
thread and glue; and then the brass cover pearance of so many pieces of bark. Even
was screwed into its place. The instru- of this, our stock was rapidly diminishing
ment was left some time to dry; and, in a camp which was capable of consum-
when I reversed it, a few hours after, I ing two buffaloes in every twenty-four
had the satisfaction to find it in perfect hours. These animals had entirely disap-
order, its indications being about the same peared, and it was not probable that we
as on the other side of the lake before it should fall in with them again until we
had been broken. Our success in this little returned to the Sweet Water,
incident diffused pleasure throughout the Our arrangements for the ascent were
camp; and we immediately set about our rapidly completed. We were in a hostile
preparations for ascending the mountains, country, which rendered the greatest

462



FREMONT, JOHN CHARLES

vigilance and circumspection necessary, had passed over, nature had collected all
The pass at the north end of the mountain her beauties together in one chosen place,
was generally infested by Blackfeet; and We were overlooking a deep valley, which
immediately opposite was one of their was entirely occupied by three lakes, and
forts, on the edge of a little thicket, two from the brink the surrounding ridges
or three hundred feet from our encamp- rose precipitously 500 and 1,000 feet,
ment. \Ve were posted in a grove of covered with the dark green of the
beech, on the margin of the lake, and a balsam pine, relieved on the border of
few hundred feet long, with a narrow the lake with the light foliage of the
prairillon on the inner side, bordered by aspen. They all communicated with each
the rocky ridge. In the upper end of other; and the green of the waters,
this grove we cleared a circular space common to mountain lakes of great depth,
about 40 feet in diameter, and with showed that it would be impossible to
the felled timber and interwoven cross them. The surprise manifested by
branches surrounded it with a breastwork our guides when these impassable ob-
5 feet in height. A gap was left for a stacles suddenly barred our progress
gate on the inner side, by which the ani- proved that they were among the hidden
nials were to be driven in and secured, treasures of the place, unknown even to
while the men slept around the little work, the wandering trappers of the region.
It was half hidden by the foliage, and, Descending the hill, we proceeded to make
garrisoned by twelve resolute men, would our way along the margin to the southern
have set at defiance any band of savages extremity. A narrow strip of angular
which might chance to discover them in fragments of rock sometimes afforded a
the interval of our absence. Fifteen of rough pathway for our mules; but gen-
the best mules, with fourteen men, were erally we rode along the shelving side,
selected for the mountain party. Our occasionally scrambling up, at a consider-
provisions consisted of dried meat for two able risk of tumbling back into the lake,
days, with our little stock of coffee and The slope was frequently 00. The
some macaroni. In addition to the pines grew densely together, and the
barometer and thermometer I took with ground was covered with the branches
me a sextant spy-glass, and we had, of and trunks of trees. The air was fragrant
course, our compasses. In charge of the with tho odor of the pines ; and I realized
camp I left Brenier, one of my most trust- this delightful morning the pleasure of
worthy men, who possessed the most de- breathing that mountain air which makes
termined courage. a constant theme of the hunter s praise,
August 12. Early in the morning we anci which now made us feel as if we had
left the camp, fifteen in number, well all been drinking some exhilarating gas.
armed, of course, and mounted on our The depths of this unexplored forest were
best mules. A pack animal carried our a place to delight the heart of a botanist,
provisions, with a coffee-pot and kettle There was a rich undergrowth of plants
and three or four tin cups. Every man and numerous gay-colored flowers in brill-
had a blanket strapped over his saddle, iant bloom. We reached the outlet at
to serve for his bed, and the instruments length, where some freshly barked wil-
were carried by turns on their backs. We lows that lay in the water showed that
entered directly on rough and rocky beaver had been recently at work. There
ground, and. just after crossing the ridge, were some small brown squirrels jumping
had the good fortune to shoot an ante- about in the pines and a. couple of large
lope. We heard the roar, and had a mallard ducks swimming about in the
glimpse of a waterfall as we rode along; stream.

and, crossing in our way two fine streams, The hills on this southern end were

tributary to the Colorado, in about two low, and the lake looked like a mimic sea

hours ride we reached the top of the first as the waves broke on the sandy beach

row or range of the mountains. Here, in the force of a strong breeze. There

again, a view of the most romantic beauty was a pretty open spot, with fine grass

met our eyes. It seemed as if, from the for our mules; and we made our noon

vast expanse of uninteresting prairie we halt on the beach, under the shade of

403



FREMONT, JOHN CHARLES

some large hemlocks. We resumed our seemed to conduct by a smooth gradual

journey after a halt of about an hour, slope directly towards the peak, which,

making our way up the ridge on the from long consultation as we approached

western side of the lake. In search of the mountain, we had decided to be the

smoother ground, we rode a little inland, highest of the range. Pleased with the

and, passing through groves of aspen, discovery of so fine a road for the next

soon found ourselves again among the day, we hastened down to the camp,

pines. Emerging from these, we struck where we arrived just in time for supper,

the summit of the ridge above the upper Our table service was rather scant; and

end of the lake. we held the meat in our hands, and clean

We had reached a very elevated point; rocks made good plates on which to

and in the valley below and among the spread our macaroni. Among all the

hills were a number of lakes at different sirange places on which we had occasion

levels, some two or three hundred feet to encamp during our long journey, none

above others, with which they com- have left so vivid an impression on my

municated by foaming torrents. Even to mind as the camp of this evening. The

our great height, the roar of the cata- disorder of the masses which surrounded

racts came up ; and we could see them us, the little hole through which we saw

leaping down in lines of snowy foam, the stars overhead, the dark pines where

From this scene of busy waters, we we slept, and the rocks lit up with the

turned abruptly into the stillness of a glow of our fires made a night picture

forest, where we rode among the open of very wild beauty.

bolls of the pines over a lawn of August 13. The morning was bright

verdant grass, having strikingly the air and pleasant, just cool enough to make

of cultivated grounds. This led us, after exercise agreeable; and we soon entered

a time, among masses of rock, which the defile I had seen the preceding day.

had no vegetable earth but in hollows It was smoothly carpeted with a soft

and crevices, though still the pine forest grass and scattered over with groups of

continued. Towards evening we reached flowers, of which yellow was the pre-

a defile, or rather a hole in the moun- dominant color. Sometimes we were

tains, entirely shut in by dark pine-cov- forced by an occasional difficult pass to

ered rocks. pick our way on a narrow ledge along

A small stream, with a scarcely per- the side of the defile, and the mules were

coptible current, flowed through a level frequently on their knees; but these ob-

bottom of perhaps 80 yards width where structions were rare, and we journeyed

the grass was saturated with water. Into on in the sweet morning air, delighted at

this the mules were turned, and were our good fortune in having found such

neither hobbled nor picketed during the a beautiful entrance to the mountains,

night, as the fine pasturage took away This road continued for about 3 miles,

all temptation to stray; and we made our when we suddenly reached its terini-

bivouac in the pines. The surrounding nation in one of the grand views which

masses were all of granite. While supper at every turn meet the traveller in this

was being prepared, I set out on an ex- magnificent region. Here the defile up

cursion in the neighborhood, accompanied which we had travelled opened out into a

by one of my men. We wandered about small lawn, where, in a little lake, the

among the crags and ravines until dark, stream had its source.

richly repaid for our walk by a fine col- There were some fine asters in bloom,

lection of plants, many of them in full but all the flowering plants appeared to

bloom. Ascending a peak to find the seek the shelter of the rocks and to be

place of our camp, we saw that the little of lower growth than below, as if they

de-file in which we lay communicated with loved the warmth of the soil, and kept

the long green valley of some stream, out of the way of the winds. Imme-

which, here locked up in the mountains, diately at our feet a precipitous descent

far away to the south, found its way in led to a confusion of defiles, and before us

a dense forest to the plains. rose the mountains as we have represent-

Looking along its upward course, it ed them in the view on page 461. It is

464



FREMONT, JOHN CHARLES

not by tlif splendor of far-off views, numerable springs made them very

which have lent such a glory to the Alps, slippery.

that these impress the mind, but by a By the time we had reached the farther
gigantic disorder of enormous masses and side of the lake, we found ourselves all
a savage sublimity of naked rock in won- exceedingly fatigued, and, much to the
derful contrast with innumerable green satisfaction of the whole party, we en-
spots of a rich floral beauty shut up in camped. The spot we had chosen was a
their stern recesses. Their wildness seems broad, flat rock, in some measure protected
well suited to the character of the people from the winds by the surrounding crags,
who inhabit the country. and the trunks of fallen pines afforded
I determined to leave our animals here us bright fires. Near by was a foaming
and make the rest of our way on foot, torrent which tumbled into the little
The peak appeared so near that there lake about 150 feet below us, and which,
was no doubt of our returning before by way of distinction, we have called
night; and a few men were left in charge Island Lake. We had reached the upper
of the mules, with our provisions and limit of the piney region; as above
blankets. We took with us nothing but this point no tree was to be seen, and
our arms and instruments, and, as the patches of snow lay everywhere around us
day had become warm, the greater part on the cold sides of the rocks. The flora
left our coats. Having made an early of the region we had traversed since leav-
dinner, we started again. W T e were soon ing our mules was extremely rich, and
involved in the most ragged precipices, among the characteristic plants the scarlet
nearing the central chain very slowly, flowers of the Dodecatheon dentatum ev-
and rising but little. The first ridge hid erywhere met the eye in great abundance,
a succession of others ; and when, with A small green ravine, on the edge of which
great fatigue and difficulty, we had we were encamped, was filled with a profu-
climbed up 500 feet, it was but to sion of alpine plants in brilliant bloom,
make an equal descent on the other From barometrical observations made dur-
side. All these intervening places were ing our three days sojourn at this place,
filled with small deep lakes, which met its elevation above the Gulf of Mexico is
the eye in every direction, descending 10,000 feet. During the day we had seen
from one level to another, sometimes no sign of animal life; but among the
under bridges formed by huge fragments rocks here we heard what was supposed to
of granite, beneath which was heard the be the bleat of a young goat, which we
roar of the water. These constantly ob- searched for with hungry activity, and
structed our path, forcing us to make found to proceed from a small animal of
long detours, frequently obliged to re- a gray color, with short ears and no tail,
trace our steps, and frequently falling probably the Siberian squirrel. We saw a
among the rocks. Maxwell was precipi- considerable number of them, and, with
tated towards the face of a precipice, and the exception of a small bird like a spar-
saved himself from going over by throw- row, it is the only inhabitant of this
ing himself flat on the ground. We elevated part of the mountains. On our
clambered on, always expecting with return we saw below this lake large flocks
e\ery ridge that we crossed to reach the of the mountain-goat. We had nothing
foot of the peaks, and always disap- to eat to-night. Lajeunesse with several
pointed, until about four o clock, when, others took their guns and sallied out in
pretty well worn out, we reached the search of a goat, but returned unsuccess-
shore of a little lake in which there was ful. At sunset the barometer stood at
a rocky island, and from which we ob- 20.522, the attached thermometer 50.
tairied the view given in the frontis- Here we had the misfortune to break our
piece. We remained here a short time to thermometer, having now only that at-
rest, and continued on around the lake, tached to the barometer. I was taken ill
which had in some places a beach of shortly after we had encamped, and con-
white sand, and in others was bound tinned so until late in the night, with
with rocks, over which the way was dim- violent headache and vomiting. This was
cult and dangerous, as the water from in- probably caused by the excessive fatigue
TIL 2 G 405



FREMONT, JOHN CHARLES

I had undergone and want of food, and reeled towering SOU or 1,000 feet into
perhaps also in some measure by the the air above him. In the mean time,
rarity of the air. The night was cold, finding himself grow rather worse than
as a violent gale from the north had better, and doubtful how far my strength
sprung up at sunset, which entirely blew would carry me, I sent Basil Lajeunesse
away the heat of the fires. The cold and with four men back to the place where
our granite beds had not been favor- the mules had been left,
able to sleep, and we were glad to see We were now better acquainted with the
the face of the sun in the morning, topography of the country; and I directed
Not being delayed by any prepara- him to bring back with him, if it were
tion for breakfast, we set out imme- in any way possible, four or five mules,
diately. with provisions and blankets. With me
On every side as we advanced was heard were Maxwell and Ayer ; and, after we
the roar of waters and of a torrent, which had remained nearly an hour on the rock,
we followed up a short distance until it it became so unpleasantly cold, though
expanded into a lake about one mile in the day was bright, that we set out on our
length. On the northern side of the lake return to the camp, at which we all ar-
was a bank of ice, or rather of snow cov- rived safely, straggling in one after the
ered with a crust of ice. Carson had other. I continued ill during the after-
been our guide into the mountain, and noon, but became better towards sundown,
agreeably to his advice we left this little when my recovery was completed by the
valley and took to the ridges again, which appearance of Basil and four men, all
we found extremely broken and where we mounted. The men who had gone with
were again involved among precipices, him had been too much fatigued to return.
Here were ice-fields; among which we and were relieved by those in charge of
were all dispersed, seeking each the best the horses; but in his powers of en-
path to ascend the peak. Mr. Preuss at- durance Basil resembled more a moun-
tempted to walk along the upper edge of tain-goat than a man. They brought
one of these fields, which sloped away at blankets and provisions, and we enjoyed
an angle of about twenty degrees; but well our dried meat and a cup of good
his feet slipped from under him, and he coffee. We rolled ourselves up in our
went plunging down the plane. A few blankets, and, with our feet turned to
hundred feet below, at the bottom, were a blazing fire, slept soundly until morn-
some fragments of sharp rock, on which ing.

he landed, and, though he turned a couple August 15. It had been supposed that
of somersets, fortunately received no in- we had finished with the mountains; and
jury beyond a few bruises. Two of the the evening before it had been arranged
men, Clement Lambert and Descoteaux, that Carson should set out at daylight,
had been taken ill, and lay down on the and return to breakfast at the Camp of
rocks a short distance below; and at this the Mules, taking with him all but four
point I was attacked with headache and or five men, who were to stay with mo
giddiness, accompanied by vomiting, as and bring back the mules and instruments.
on the day before. Finding myself un- Accordingly, at the break of day they set
able to proceed, I sent the barometer over out. With Mr. Preuss and myself re-
to Mr. Preuss, who was in a gap two or mained Basil Lajeunesse, Clement Lam-
three hundred yards distant, desiring him bert, Janisse, and Descoteaux. When we
to reach the peak, if possible, and take had secured strength for the day by a
an observation there. He found himself hearty breakfast, we covered what re-
unable to proceed farther in that direc- mained, which was enough for one meal,
tion, and took an observation where the with rocks, in order that it might be safe
barometer stood at 19.401, attached ther- from any marauding bird, and saddling
mometer 50 in the gap. Carson, who cur mules, turned our faces once more
had gone over to him, succeeded in reach- towards the peaks. This time we deter
ing one of the snowy summits of the mined to proceed quietly and cautiously,
main ridge, whence he saw the peak tow- deliberately resolved to accomplish our
ards which all our efforts had been di- object, if it were within the compass of

466



FREMONT, JOHN CHARLES

human means. We were of opinion that sitting down as soon as we found breath
a long delile which lay to the left of yes- beginning to fail. At intervals we reached
terday s route would lead us to the foot places where a number of springs gushed
of the main peak. Our mules had been from the rocks, and about 1,800 feet above
refreshed by the fine grass in the little the lakes came to the snow-line. From
ravine at the island camp, and we intend- this point our progress was uninterrupted
ed to ride up the defile as far as possible, climbing. Hitherto I had worn a pair of
in order to husband our strength for the thick moccasins, with soles of parfleche;
main ascent. Though this was a fine pas- but here I put on a light thin pair, which
sage, still it was a defile of the most I had brought for the purpose, as now the
rugged mountains known, and we had use of our toes became necessary to a fur-
many a rough and steep slippery phu-e to ther advance. I availed myself of a sort
cross before reaching the end. In this of comb of the mountains, which stood
place the sun rarely shone. Snow lay against the wall like a buttress, and which
along the border of the small stream the wind and the solar radiation, joined
which flowed through it, and occasional to the steepness of the smooth rock, had
icy passages made the footing of the mules kept almost entirely free from snow. Up
very insecure; and the rocks and ground this I made my way rapidly. Our cau-



Online LibraryBenson John LossingHarper's encyclopdia of United States history from 458 A.D. to 1905 (Volume 3) → online text (page 72 of 76)