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THE WRITINGS OF JOHN MUIR

Sierra Edition

VOLUME II

[Illustration: _The Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park_]




MY FIRST SUMMER IN THE SIERRA

BY

JOHN MUIR

[Illustration]

BOSTON AND NEW YORK

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

1917




COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY JOHN MUIR

COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED




TO

THE SIERRA CLUB OF CALIFORNIA

FAITHFUL DEFENDER OF THE PEOPLE'S PLAYGROUNDS




CONTENTS

I. THROUGH THE FOOTHILLS WITH A FLOCK OF SHEEP 3

II. IN CAMP ON THE NORTH FORK OF THE MERCED 32

III. A BREAD FAMINE 75

IV. TO THE HIGH MOUNTAINS 86

V. THE YOSEMITE 115

VI. MOUNT HOFFMAN AND LAKE TENAYA 149

VII. A STRANGE EXPERIENCE 178

VIII. THE MONO TRAIL 195

IX. BLOODY CAÑON AND MONO LAKE 214

X. THE TUOLUMNE CAMP 232

XI. BACK TO THE LOWLANDS 254

INDEX 265




ILLUSTRATIONS


THE YOSEMITE FALLS, YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK _Frontispiece_

The total height of the three falls is 2600 feet. The upper fall is
about 1600 feet, and the lower about 400 feet. Mr. Muir was
probably the only man who ever looked down into the heart of the
fall from the narrow ledge of rocks near the top.

_From a photograph by Charles S. Olcott_

SHEEP IN THE MOUNTAINS 8

Since the establishment of the Yosemite National Park the pasturing
of sheep has not been allowed within its boundaries, and as a
result the grasses and wild flowers have recovered very much of
their former luxuriance. The flock of sheep here photographed were
feeding near Alger Lake on the slope of Blacktop Mountain, at an
altitude of about 10,000 feet and just beyond the eastern boundary
of the Park.

_From a photograph by Herbert W. Gleason_

A SILVER FIR, OR RED FIR (_Abies magnifica_) 90

This tree was found in an extensive forest of red fir above the
Middle Fork of King's River. It was estimated to be about 250 feet
high. Mr. Muir, on being shown the photograph, remarked that it was
one of the finest and most mature specimens of the red fir that he
had ever seen.

_From a photograph by Herbert W. Gleason_

THE NORTH AND SOUTH DOMES 122

The great rock on the right is the South Dome, commonly called the
Half-Dome, according to Mr. Muir "the most beautiful and most
sublime of all the Yosemite rocks." The one on the left is the
North Dome, while in the center is the Washington Column.

_From a photograph by Charles S. Olcott_

CATHEDRAL PEAK 154

This view was taken from a point on the Sunrise Trail just south of
the Peak, on a day when the "cloud mountains" so inspiring to Mr.
Muir were much in evidence.

_From a photograph by Herbert W. Gleason_

THE VERNAL FALLS, YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK 182

_From a photograph by Charles S. Olcott_

THE HAPPY ISLES, YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK 190

This is the main stream of the Merced River after passing over the
Nevada and Vernal Falls and receiving the Illilouette tributary.

_From a photograph by Charles S. Olcott_

THE THREE BROTHERS, YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK 208

The highest rock, called Eagle Point, is 7900 feet above the sea,
and 3900 feet above the floor of the valley.

_From a photograph by Charles S. Olcott_

MAP OF THE YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK 264

_From the United States Geological Survey_


FROM SKETCHES MADE BY THE AUTHOR IN 1869

HORSESHOE BEND, MERCED RIVER 14

ON SECOND BENCH. EDGE OF THE MAIN FOREST
BELT, ABOVE COULTERVILLE, NEAR GREELEY'S
MILL 14

CAMP, NORTH FORK OF THE MERCED 38

MOUNTAIN LIVE OAK (_Quercus chrysolepis_), EIGHT
FEET IN DIAMETER 38

SUGAR PINE 50

DOUGLAS SQUIRREL OBSERVING BROTHER MAN 68

DIVIDE BETWEEN THE TUOLUMNE AND THE MERCED,
BELOW HAZEL GREEN 86

TRACK OF SINGING DANCING GRASSHOPPER IN THE
AIR OVER NORTH DOME 140

ABIES MAGNIFICA (MOUNT CLARK, TOP OF SOUTH
DOME, MOUNT STARR KING) 142

ILLUSTRATING GROWTH OF NEW PINE FROM BRANCH
BELOW THE BREAK OF AXIS OF SNOW-CRUSHED
TREE 144

APPROACH OF DOME CREEK TO YOSEMITE 150

JUNIPERS IN TENAYA CAÑON 164

VIEW OF TENAYA LAKE SHOWING CATHEDRAL PEAK 196

ONE OF THE TRIBUTARY FOUNTAINS OF THE TUOLUMNE
CAÑON WATERS, ON THE NORTH SIDE OF
THE HOFFMAN RANGE 196

GLACIER MEADOW, ON THE HEADWATERS OF THE
TUOLUMNE, 9500 FEET ABOVE THE SEA 204

MONO LAKE AND VOLCANIC CONES, LOOKING SOUTH 228

HIGHEST MONO VOLCANIC CONES (NEAR VIEW) 228

ONE OF THE HIGHEST MOUNT RITTER FOUNTAINS 240

GLACIER MEADOW STREWN WITH MORAINE BOULDERS,
10,000 FEET ABOVE THE SEA (NEAR MOUNT
DANA) 248

FRONT OF CATHEDRAL PEAK 248

VIEW OF UPPER TUOLUMNE VALLEY 252




MY FIRST SUMMER IN THE SIERRA




CHAPTER I

THROUGH THE FOOTHILLS WITH A FLOCK OF SHEEP


In the great Central Valley of California there are only two
seasons - spring and summer. The spring begins with the first rainstorm,
which usually falls in November. In a few months the wonderful flowery
vegetation is in full bloom, and by the end of May it is dead and dry
and crisp, as if every plant had been roasted in an oven.

Then the lolling, panting flocks and herds are driven to the high, cool,
green pastures of the Sierra. I was longing for the mountains about this
time, but money was scarce and I couldn't see how a bread supply was to
be kept up. While I was anxiously brooding on the bread problem, so
troublesome to wanderers, and trying to believe that I might learn to
live like the wild animals, gleaning nourishment here and there from
seeds, berries, etc., sauntering and climbing in joyful independence of
money or baggage, Mr. Delaney, a sheep-owner, for whom I had worked a
few weeks, called on me, and offered to engage me to go with his
shepherd and flock to the headwaters of the Merced and Tuolumne
rivers - the very region I had most in mind. I was in the mood to accept
work of any kind that would take me into the mountains whose treasures I
had tasted last summer in the Yosemite region. The flock, he explained,
would be moved gradually higher through the successive forest belts as
the snow melted, stopping for a few weeks at the best places we came to.
These I thought would be good centers of observation from which I might
be able to make many telling excursions within a radius of eight or ten
miles of the camps to learn something of the plants, animals, and rocks;
for he assured me that I should be left perfectly free to follow my
studies. I judged, however, that I was in no way the right man for the
place, and freely explained my shortcomings, confessing that I was
wholly unacquainted with the topography of the upper mountains, the
streams that would have to be crossed, and the wild sheep-eating
animals, etc.; in short that, what with bears, coyotes, rivers, cañons,
and thorny, bewildering chaparral, I feared that half or more of his
flock would be lost. Fortunately these shortcomings seemed
insignificant to Mr. Delaney. The main thing, he said, was to have a man
about the camp whom he could trust to see that the shepherd did his
duty, and he assured me that the difficulties that seemed so formidable
at a distance would vanish as we went on; encouraging me further by
saying that the shepherd would do all the herding, that I could study
plants and rocks and scenery as much as I liked, and that he would
himself accompany us to the first main camp and make occasional visits
to our higher ones to replenish our store of provisions and see how we
prospered. Therefore I concluded to go, though still fearing, when I saw
the silly sheep bouncing one by one through the narrow gate of the home
corral to be counted, that of the two thousand and fifty many would
never return.

I was fortunate in getting a fine St. Bernard dog for a companion. His
master, a hunter with whom I was slightly acquainted, came to me as soon
as he heard that I was going to spend the summer in the Sierra and
begged me to take his favorite dog, Carlo, with me, for he feared that
if he were compelled to stay all summer on the plains the fierce heat
might be the death of him. "I think I can trust you to be kind to him,"
he said, "and I am sure he will be good to you. He knows all about the
mountain animals, will guard the camp, assist in managing the sheep,
and in every way be found able and faithful." Carlo knew we were talking
about him, watched our faces, and listened so attentively that I fancied
he understood us. Calling him by name, I asked him if he was willing to
go with me. He looked me in the face with eyes expressing wonderful
intelligence, then turned to his master, and after permission was given
by a wave of the hand toward me and a farewell patting caress, he
quietly followed me as if he perfectly understood all that had been said
and had known me always.

* * * * *

_June 3, 1869._ This morning provisions, camp-kettles, blankets,
plant-press, etc., were packed on two horses, the flock headed for the
tawny foothills, and away we sauntered in a cloud of dust: Mr. Delaney,
bony and tall, with sharply hacked profile like Don Quixote, leading the
pack-horses, Billy, the proud shepherd, a Chinaman and a Digger Indian
to assist in driving for the first few days in the brushy foothills, and
myself with notebook tied to my belt.

The home ranch from which we set out is on the south side of the
Tuolumne River near French Bar, where the foothills of metamorphic
gold-bearing slates dip below the stratified deposits of the Central
Valley. We had not gone more than a mile before some of the old leaders
of the flock showed by the eager, inquiring way they ran and looked
ahead that they were thinking of the high pastures they had enjoyed last
summer. Soon the whole flock seemed to be hopefully excited, the mothers
calling their lambs, the lambs replying in tones wonderfully human,
their fondly quavering calls interrupted now and then by hastily
snatched mouthfuls of withered grass. Amid all this seeming babel of
baas as they streamed over the hills every mother and child recognized
each other's voice. In case a tired lamb, half asleep in the smothering
dust, should fail to answer, its mother would come running back through
the flock toward the spot whence its last response was heard, and
refused to be comforted until she found it, the one of a thousand,
though to our eyes and ears all seemed alike.

The flock traveled at the rate of about a mile an hour, outspread in the
form of an irregular triangle, about a hundred yards wide at the base,
and a hundred and fifty yards long, with a crooked, ever-changing point
made up of the strongest foragers, called the "leaders," which, with the
most active of those scattered along the ragged sides of the "main
body," hastily explored nooks in the rocks and bushes for grass and
leaves; the lambs and feeble old mothers dawdling in the rear were
called the "tail end."

[Illustration: _Sheep in the Mountains_]

About noon the heat was hard to bear; the poor sheep panted pitifully
and tried to stop in the shade of every tree they came to, while we
gazed with eager longing through the dim burning glare toward the snowy
mountains and streams, though not one was in sight. The landscape is
only wavering foothills roughened here and there with bushes and trees
and outcropping masses of slate. The trees, mostly the blue oak
(_Quercus Douglasii_), are about thirty to forty feet high, with pale
blue-green leaves and white bark, sparsely planted on the thinnest soil
or in crevices of rocks beyond the reach of grass fires. The slates in
many places rise abruptly through the tawny grass in sharp
lichen-covered slabs like tombstones in deserted burying-grounds. With
the exception of the oak and four or five species of manzanita and
ceanothus, the vegetation of the foothills is mostly the same as that of
the plains. I saw this region in the early spring, when it was a
charming landscape garden full of birds and bees and flowers. Now the
scorching weather makes everything dreary. The ground is full of cracks,
lizards glide about on the rocks, and ants in amazing numbers, whose
tiny sparks of life only burn the brighter with the heat, fairly
quiver with unquenchable energy as they run in long lines to fight and
gather food. How it comes that they do not dry to a crisp in a few
seconds' exposure to such sun-fire is marvelous. A few rattlesnakes lie
coiled in out-of-the-way places, but are seldom seen. Magpies and crows,
usually so noisy, are silent now, standing in mixed flocks on the ground
beneath the best shade trees, with bills wide open and wings drooped,
too breathless to speak; the quails also are trying to keep in the shade
about the few tepid alkaline water-holes; cottontail rabbits are running
from shade to shade among the ceanothus brush, and occasionally the
long-eared hare is seen cantering gracefully across the wider openings.

After a short noon rest in a grove, the poor dust-choked flock was again
driven ahead over the brushy hills, but the dim roadway we had been
following faded away just where it was most needed, compelling us to
stop to look about us and get our bearings. The Chinaman seemed to think
we were lost, and chattered in pidgin English concerning the abundance
of "litty stick" (chaparral), while the Indian silently scanned the
billowy ridges and gulches for openings. Pushing through the thorny
jungle, we at length discovered a road trending toward Coulterville,
which we followed until an hour before sunset, when we reached a dry
ranch and camped for the night.

Camping in the foothills with a flock of sheep is simple and easy, but
far from pleasant. The sheep were allowed to pick what they could find
in the neighborhood until after sunset, watched by the shepherd, while
the others gathered wood, made a fire, cooked, unpacked and fed the
horses, etc. About dusk the weary sheep were gathered on the highest
open spot near camp, where they willingly bunched close together, and
after each mother had found her lamb and suckled it, all lay down and
required no attention until morning.

Supper was announced by the call, "Grub!" Each with a tin plate helped
himself direct from the pots and pans while chatting about such camp
studies as sheep-feed, mines, coyotes, bears, or adventures during the
memorable gold days of pay dirt. The Indian kept in the background,
saying never a word, as if he belonged to another species. The meal
finished, the dogs were fed, the smokers smoked by the fire, and under
the influences of fullness and tobacco the calm that settled on their
faces seemed almost divine, something like the mellow meditative glow
portrayed on the countenances of saints. Then suddenly, as if awakening
from a dream, each with a sigh or a grunt knocked the ashes out of his
pipe, yawned, gazed at the fire a few moments, said, "Well, I believe
I'll turn in," and straightway vanished beneath his blankets. The fire
smouldered and flickered an hour or two longer; the stars shone
brighter; coons, coyotes, and owls stirred the silence here and there,
while crickets and hylas made a cheerful, continuous music, so fitting
and full that it seemed a part of the very body of the night. The only
discordance came from a snoring sleeper, and the coughing sheep with
dust in their throats. In the starlight the flock looked like a big gray
blanket.

_June 4._ The camp was astir at daybreak; coffee, bacon, and beans
formed the breakfast, followed by quick dish-washing and packing. A
general bleating began about sunrise. As soon as a mother ewe arose, her
lamb came bounding and bunting for its breakfast, and after the thousand
youngsters had been suckled the flock began to nibble and spread. The
restless wethers with ravenous appetites were the first to move, but
dared not go far from the main body. Billy and the Indian and the
Chinaman kept them headed along the weary road, and allowed them to pick
up what little they could find on a breadth of about a quarter of a
mile. But as several flocks had already gone ahead of us, scarce a leaf,
green or dry, was left; therefore the starving flock had to be hurried
on over the bare, hot hills to the nearest of the green pastures, about
twenty or thirty miles from here.

The pack-animals were led by Don Quixote, a heavy rifle over his
shoulder intended for bears and wolves. This day has been as hot and
dusty as the first, leading over gently sloping brown hills, with mostly
the same vegetation, excepting the strange-looking Sabine pine (_Pinus
Sabiniana_), which here forms small groves or is scattered among the
blue oaks. The trunk divides at a height of fifteen or twenty feet into
two or more stems, outleaning or nearly upright, with many straggling
branches and long gray needles, casting but little shade. In general
appearance this tree looks more like a palm than a pine. The cones are
about six or seven inches long, about five in diameter, very heavy, and
last long after they fall, so that the ground beneath the trees is
covered with them. They make fine resiny, light-giving camp-fires, next
to ears of Indian corn the most beautiful fuel I've ever seen. The nuts,
the Don tells me, are gathered in large quantities by the Digger Indians
for food. They are about as large and hard-shelled as hazelnuts - food
and fire fit for the gods from the same fruit.

_June 5._ This morning a few hours after setting out with the crawling
sheep-cloud, we gained the summit of the first well-defined bench on the
mountain-flank at Pino Blanco. The Sabine pines interest me greatly.
They are so airy and strangely palm-like I was eager to sketch them, and
was in a fever of excitement without accomplishing much. I managed to
halt long enough, however, to make a tolerably fair sketch of Pino
Blanco peak from the southwest side, where there is a small field and
vineyard irrigated by a stream that makes a pretty fall on its way down
a gorge by the roadside.

After gaining the open summit of this first bench, feeling the natural
exhilaration due to the slight elevation of a thousand feet or so, and
the hopes excited concerning the outlook to be obtained, a magnificent
section of the Merced Valley at what is called Horseshoe Bend came full
in sight - a glorious wilderness that seemed to be calling with a
thousand songful voices. Bold, down-sweeping slopes, feathered with
pines and clumps of manzanita with sunny, open spaces between them, make
up most of the foreground; the middle and background present fold beyond
fold of finely modeled hills and ridges rising into mountain-like masses
in the distance, all covered with a shaggy growth of chaparral, mostly
adenostoma, planted so marvelously close and even that it looks like
soft, rich plush without a single tree or bare spot. As far as the eye
can reach it extends, a heaving, swelling sea of green as regular and
continuous as that produced by the heaths of Scotland. The sculpture of
the landscape is as striking in its main lines as in its lavish richness
of detail; a grand congregation of massive heights with the river
shining between, each carved into smooth, graceful folds without leaving
a single rocky angle exposed, as if the delicate fluting and ridging
fashioned out of metamorphic slates had been carefully sandpapered. The
whole landscape showed design, like man's noblest sculptures. How
wonderful the power of its beauty! Gazing awe-stricken, I might have
left everything for it. Glad, endless work would then be mine tracing
the forces that have brought forth its features, its rocks and plants
and animals and glorious weather. Beauty beyond thought everywhere,
beneath, above, made and being made forever. I gazed and gazed and
longed and admired until the dusty sheep and packs were far out of
sight, made hurried notes and a sketch, though there was no need of
either, for the colors and lines and expression of this divine
landscape-countenance are so burned into mind and heart they surely can
never grow dim.

[Illustration: HORSESHOE BEND, MERCED RIVER]

[Illustration: ON SECOND BENCH. EDGE OF THE MAIN FOREST BELT ABOVE
COULTERVILLE, NEAR GREELEY'S MILL]

The evening of this charmed day is cool, calm, cloudless, and full of a
kind of lightning I have never seen before - white glowing cloud-shaped
masses down among the trees and bushes, like quick-throbbing fireflies
in the Wisconsin meadows rather than the so-called "wild fire." The
spreading hairs of the horses' tails and sparks from our blankets show
how highly charged the air is.

_June 6._ We are now on what may be called the second bench or plateau
of the Range, after making many small ups and downs over belts of
hill-waves, with, of course, corresponding changes in the vegetation. In
open spots many of the lowland compositæ are still to be found, and some
of the Mariposa tulips and other conspicuous members of the lily family;
but the characteristic blue oak of the foothills is left below, and its
place is taken by a fine large species (_Quercus Californica_) with
deeply lobed deciduous leaves, picturesquely divided trunk, and broad,
massy, finely lobed and modeled head. Here also at a height of about
twenty-five hundred feet we come to the edge of the great coniferous
forest, made up mostly of yellow pine with just a few sugar pines. We
are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making
every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us. Our
flesh-and-bone tabernacle seems transparent as glass to the beauty about
us, as if truly an inseparable part of it, thrilling with the air and
trees, streams and rocks, in the waves of the sun, - a part of all
nature, neither old nor young, sick nor well, but immortal. Just now I
can hardly conceive of any bodily condition dependent on food or breath
any more than the ground or the sky. How glorious a conversion, so
complete and wholesome it is, scarce memory enough of old bondage days
left as a standpoint to view it from! In this newness of life we seem to
have been so always.

Through a meadow opening in the pine woods I see snowy peaks about the
headwaters of the Merced above Yosemite. How near they seem and how
clear their outlines on the blue air, or rather _in_ the blue air; for
they seem to be saturated with it. How consuming strong the invitation
they extend! Shall I be allowed to go to them? Night and day I'll pray
that I may, but it seems too good to be true. Some one worthy will go,
able for the Godful work, yet as far as I can I must drift about these
love-monument mountains, glad to be a servant of servants in so holy a
wilderness.


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