Charles Frederick Holder.

Life in the open; sport with rod, gun, horse, and hound in southern California online

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ains of California everywhere. They appeared to rise
from the bed of the pallid silent sea of sand. But, like
the buffalo, the antelope has been crowded to the wall
in California, and a few small herds only haunt the great
desert of to-day.

In his antelope range map of 1902, Merriam recog-
nises a few in the extreme north-west of California, and
another herd near the Mexican line where Imperial and

Candle Cactus, Lower California and Arizona.

The Heart of the Desert 175

other towns now stand, or in the country west of the
delta along New River. If one wishes antelope hunt-
ing he must go to Arizona, Sonora, Chihuahua, Mon-
tana, or Wyoming ; or, nearer, take the steamer for
Ensenada and hunt for the only American antelope in
Lower California, in whose ranges the mountain sheep
is also found.

Within fifteen years there has been excellent ante-
lope hunting in the Mojave and Antelope valleys, which
shows how suddenly this game has been driven out by
the march of enterprise. On the Mojave desert I met
an old California!! who told me that he had had the sport
of his life before he got so "long in the tooth." His
method was to follow the antelope on horseback ; either
run it down, or shoot it from the saddle at full speed
a dangerous and sportsmanlike method in strong con-
trast to the fashion of some hunters who entice the little
creature up to them by "ways that are dark" and shoot
it down, a victim to curiosity.

The pronghorn is one of the most interesting of all
American animals, and should be shot only with a
camera. It is the only hollow-horned animal that sheds
its horn sheaths a feature that was long denied or
doubted, and believed impossible. In the early days it
roamed over the great plains and was essentially an ani-
mal of the open. Its hair is rough and stiff, its horns
graceful, with a single prong half-way up, and near their
base the large and prominent eyes which enable them
to see an enemy for a long distance behind. In the

, 7 6 Life in the Open

north the herds migrate at different times of the year,
but in the south, as in Mexico, they are found in the
same general localities year after year. The young are
born in May or June. For a few days they are helpless,
and would be easily passed by as a stone or as brush, the
little one stretching itself out, laying its head flat, and
remaining perfectly quiet though a pack train passes
within a few feet unconscious mimicry that often saves
it from enemies. By all means hunt the antelope on
the California desert, and when it is found, let it pass.
The compensation is a glance at one of the greatest
deserts of the world, a vast dreamland, which some
winters is a bed of flowers, and in summer is often a
fiery furnace, a menace to life.

A fascinating part of the desert is that portion near
Indio, where, in the present year, that spectre of this
desert, the " Salton sea," rose and filled the Salton basin
until the Indians, who took to the hills, could not see
across. This strange phenomenon threatened various
desert towns, and bridges were washed away. Boats were
built in Imperial in this year when the Rio Colorado
ran wild, broke through the intakes of the big irrigating
canal, and found its way by old trails and new river-
beds to the Salton sink, two hundred and eighty feet be-
neath the level of the sea. The last time I rode into
Indio the locusts were "stabbing the air with their
shrill alarms," and one could smell the heat. It was too
hot for originality, so I remarked to a native that it was
hot, it being 1 10 in the shade. He smiled and begged

The Heart of the Desert 177

to differ with me : "It was cool ; yesterday it was
hot, 130 in the shade."

In the vicinity of Indio one finds a palm forest, one
of the things worth seeing ; a forest of tall fan palms,
which appear to be indigenous to the locality, reaching
down into Lower California. They are found growing
in the narrow heated canons, their roots in the hot seep-
ing water ; others out in the wash of the canon's mouth
splendid examples of a desert forest which appeal to
the imagination and the lover of the picturesque. Not
long in the past this entire area has been under water ;
an old sea-beach may be traced a long distance from
near Yuma to Indio, and a water line can be seen along
the base of the mountains that form the barrier between
the desert and the garden spot of Southern California.

Nearer the delta the land is being reclaimed, and
ranches and farms laid out, and with the Midas-like
touch of water the desert sands turn to gold; and where
once sandy dunes drifted to and fro, vast fields of grain
lie rippling in the sun, telling of the desert reclaimed
and homes where some one may yet sing with Byron,

Oh! that the desert were my dwelling-place
With one fair spirit for my minister

That I might all forget the human race
And, hating no one, love but only her.

-'- : ~

Chapter XIII

El Camino Real

(Coaching or Automobiling)

LOS ANGELES was the starting-point, the
centre of radiation for many of our coaching
and riding trips to Santa Barbara and beyond
and through Southern California to the adobes of Tia
Juana. To see Southern California effectively the trip
should be made by coach, motor-car, carriage, or on
horseback. Excellent roads extend all over the country,
inviting one to the old ranches, canons, ruins, and Mis-
sions which cannot be seen from car windows.

It was a mere conceit, perhaps, but remembering that
in the olden time pilgrims and travellers in this fair
country found a Mission at the end of nearly every
day's journey from San Francisco to San Diego and be
yond, along El Camino Real, the King's Highway, we
determined to emulate the ancient custom and go over
the old roads ; not on horseback, as did the old Cali-
fornian, but in a four-in-hand, making as nearly as pos-
sible a Mission every night, seeking the hospitality of
its secularised walls in reverential fashion, as did the


Life in the Open

traveller of the last century, yet receiving it for obvious
reasons, perchance, at the neighbouring inn.

The plan had not only an essence of romance and
novelty to commend it, but was within the possibilities,
the ecclesiastical chain being as follows, beginning at
Santa Barbara:

Santa Barbara Mission, founded in 1786, by coach
to the Mission of San Buenaventura (i 783). From San
Buenaventura to Mission of San Fernando (1797), then
to the Mission of San Gabriel Archangel (i 771). From
San Gabriel to San Juan Capistrano (1776). From San
Juan to the trio of Missions of Pala, Rincon, and Pauma.
Pala to San Luis Rey de Francia (1798). San Luis
Rey to the Mission of San Diego de Acala (1769).
Not only could these Missions be reached in a single
day's journey, but inns or hotels were available. This
with the guaranty of fair roads, good weather, and
choice scenery made the trip one of more than pleasant

The four-in-hand was not running on time ; there
were no relays to be met ; hence the attempt to make a
new Mission every night was not directly adhered to,
though the ecclesiastical route was followed literally as
outlined, with many an interesting side-trip to cafton,
seashore, and mountain range. Under such inspiration
a jolly party bowled toward the Santa Barbara Mission
one morning, and reined up under its ancient walls.
The " outfit " was a modernised California coach, the
plethoric boot packed with hampers of good things ;

El Camino Real

rifles for the black-tailed deer, and shotguns for the
valley quail, while four or five grey- and stag-hounds
following were suggestive of hare and coyote as game.

According to a calendar which the young lady on
the box seat carried, it was that thoroughly uncomfort-
able period midway the Christmas holidays and the first
of March, when in the East thaws and violent freezes fol-
low each other like avenging Nemeses ; yet here nature
seemed conspiring to impugn the testimony of the rec-
ords. It was winter as the seasons go, but to all intents
and purposes midsummer in Southern California. The
cool breeze was coming in from the Pacific, sweeping
up the mesa of the old town, bowling over acres of
golden poppies, robbing the field of wild forget-me-nots
of its perfume and carrying it over the Mission wall, to
mingle with the floral incense of the old church garden.
The driver called it a winter day ; yet as he flecked his
leaders and the horn gave an answering note to the
meadow lark on the Mission wall, there was not one in
the party who really believed that the Ides of March
were near at hand.

From the highlands about the Mission the finest view
of Santa Barbara is obtained. The Pacific is before us,
stretching away to illimitable distance, the crescent-
shaped beach facing the south, from which reaches back
the intervening town with its broad streets lined with
palm, pepper, magnolia, and a wealth of semi-tropical
plants and trees. To the north lies the Santa Ynez
Valley, the blue ocean on one side, the mountains on

184 Life in the Open

the other, while to the south and east deep groves of
orange, lemon, lime, and olive tell of El Montecito and

It was at the Mission that the complete supremacy
of man was demonstrated, as, after interviewing the
courteous Fathers, the gentlemen of the party were in-
vited into the Mission garden, while the ladies rested in
the outer hall, consumed with curiosity. No woman
with one or two notable exceptions, as the Princess
Louise had ever entered the garden, so it was said ;
and the old gardener, gowned and cowled, laughingly
told of the pretexts adopted by fair visitors, who evi-
dently believed that the grim walls concealed some
deep and unfathomable mystery.

The Mission of Santa Barbara is the only one that
has never been out of Franciscan control, and is one of
the finest in the State, standing as it did nearly a century
ago when its bells rang the Angelus, their echoes calling
the faithful up the deep cafions of the Santa Ynez.

The Father told us of the ancient splendours of the
church, of its inception by Junipero Serra, its erection
in 1786 by Father Antonio Paterna, and detailed its
completion in 1794. In 1810-12, he said, it was almost
shattered by earthquakes, but was ultimately rebuilt, then
torn down and the present building founded in 1820.
We entered the old dormitories, the workshops once
filled with native artisans, stood on the red-tiled roof,
and looked down upon the broad, arched corridors
where the Fathers walk and read ; strolled among the

El Camino Real

ancient graves of the founders, and tarried in the
quaintly decorated chapel, while the Father whispered
the history of the treasures upon the walls. He told us
of the struggles of the Fathers; the acts of the Mexi-
can Governor in 1827, resulting in the destruction of
the revenues of the Mission ; of the desecration that
accompanied the demand for secularisation, and various
efforts at confiscation. In 1833 tne government suc-
ceeded, and the Missions were converted into secular
curacies. Later the Missions fell into the hands of
commissioners, and in 1834 the public literally seized the
Mission lands. We listened to the story of the succes-
sive phases of the struggle, of the times under Don
Juan Alvarado, of the attempt in 1840 to restore the
Missions to power, and of the act of Pope Gregory
XVI., in the same year, making California a bishopric,
and many other moves resulting to-day in the Missions
being, instead of centres of ecclesiastical power, more
like simple parish churches.

This Mission as a whole is a delight to the artistic
eye. The cell-like rooms, the ancient and worn stone
pavements, the crude doors with huge iron trappings,
the high windows, enormous walls, the odour of sanctity,
all tend to complete a historical picture of deep in-
terest. Without, the commanding front with its two
towers of stone and adobe pierced with arched doors,
the lofty fa9ade with its finely cut columns, the time-
worn statues of the saints above, make the pile at once
striking and impressive. No little architectural and

Life in the Open

artistic skill was shown by the builders. Especially
does the stone fountain in front, with its round basin
and quaint carvings, attract the eye. Near here was an
adobe bath-house, in the fa$ade of which a lion's head
was carved, from which once poured the clear water of
the Santa Ynez. It is evident that the makers of the
Mission were men of deep religious and artistic feeling ;
and the old building reflects credit upon their memory.

But we have tarried too long. A number of dark-
eyed penitents are waiting for the Father by the con-
fessional, and after handing an ancient nail or spike of
the old Mission as a memento to one lady, a photograph
of the church and some flowers from the garden to
others, the Father disappears to banish the past in the
sins of the present generation.

Santa Barbara reminds one of some of the Mediter-
ranean resorts, and has been compared to Nice ; but the
comparison is hardly just. The American resort has the
advantage in climate, is always delightful, indeed per-
fect, winter or summer. Its winter mean is 54.29, that
of Nice 47.88; its summer mean 67.71, that of Nice
72; its difference between winter and summer 13 to
24 of Nice. Again, the Barbarian of the Saints, as the
young lady on the box seat calls our host, tells us that
the hot, burning winds of Southern Europe are never
known here, that this is the only true paradise, the real
land of dolce far niente, the home of the gods.

The quiet old town, with its fine hotels, long asphalt-
paved streets, its miles of gardens and splendid drives ;

Pampas Grass, San Diego, on El Camino Real.

El Camino Real 187

shops for the sale of curiosities ; its Chinatown, where
the odour of opium and firecrackers mingles with the
perfume of flowers ; its long wharf, yachts, and vessels,
all offer inducements to tarry. Parts of Spanish-town
still remain inviolate, and we are told of the glories of
the old De la Guerra mansion, where Richard H. Dana
witnessed a marriage festival in 1836. The family is
still living in Santa Barbara. We buy a reboso, an
Indian basket, from an old Mexican woman, " for luck,"
the driver puts it, and are away up the fine, hard road
to La Patera, where the Indians buried their stone
mortars and household gods in the long ago.

Near here we drive through the fine ranches of
Hollister, Cooper, and Stowe, the former known as
" Glen Annie." " Ellwood," the Cooper homestead, is
famous for its olive orchard, the largest in Southern
California, also in America, with works the perfection of
neatness, over which the courteous host takes us. The
home is embowered with flowers from every clime, a
garden the year round. From here we pass for several
miles up the picturesque little canon by the side of a
stream and beneath trees that were young in the days
of the Franciscan padres, and, finally, at the head of the
ravine, halt for a consideration of the well-filled hampers
which the coach is made to disgorge for this is a
feature of coaching in Southern California ; the mid-
day meal is carried, and a picnic is enjoyed in some
nook or corner that may meet the eye.

From this region numerous trips can be made to

i88 Life in the Open

glens and eyries which in their beauty compare favour-
ably with those of European resorts : the Gaviota Pass,
the Valley of the Santa Ynez, the mountains rising to
the east, while to the west the ocean is seen here and
there, a reminder of the extremes that Santa Barbara
affords. Here the lover of the picturesque may spend
weeks without exhausting its beauty. But we are off
again, rolling down to the beach, with its long line
of shining sands, calling to mind New England shores.
But here, they tell us, the water on this February day
has a temperature of sixty-one degrees, about that of
Newport in June. Tourists are enjoying the surf ; the
splendid palm-lined beach is gay with riders, while the
castellated rocks on the north are dotted with strollers
from the big mission-like hotel near by. Over beyond
the blue stretch of water that forms the Santa Barbara
Channel rise the Channel Islands.

We could have reached the Ojai Valley, thirty-seven
miles south-east from Santa Barbara, through the
Cacitas Pass, but preferred to go by the Mission of San
Buenaventura, thirty miles away. This took us through
the delightful suburbs of El Montecito with its hot
sulphur springs far up the caflon, thirteen hundred feet
above the sea, where the Indians resorted years ago, by
nooks and corners of the Santa Ynez, the San Marcos
Pass, and the Painted Cave and Rocks.

The stage road winds along the edge of the shore,
gleaming sandy crescents succeeding one another in
endless variety. Through the orange groves of El

El Camino Real 189

Montecito we enter Carpenteria and its slopes. Here a
peculiar patch of black ground being ploughed by a
Mexican catches the eye of a scientific coacher, who
pronounces it the site of an ancient Indian village. The
Mexican stops work as the coach slows up, leans
upon his plough, and while rolling a cigarette senten-
tiously answers the questions thrown at him singly and
in pairs. After much solicitation, he finally enters the
adobe near at hand and returns with some of the results
of his ploughing, ancient relics turned up in former
barley seasons : a stone mortar, some abalone shells,
the holes stopped with asphaltum, the dishes of the
Indians, bits of soapstone with perforations, arrow-
heads of flint, and a flute that some ancient had manu-
factured from the wing bone of a bird. It is rudely
made, and ornamented with bits of pearl from the
abalone. Beads of shell and a flint knife complete the
treasures of this collection.

" Who were these people ? " asks some one.

" No sabe, sefior," puffs the Mexican.

He might have said that his house was resting on a
veritable kitchen-midden, a town-site of the early Cali-
fornians, which Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovered
when he sailed up the Santa Barbara Channel nearly
three hundred and fifty years ago. He might have said
that the adventurer found this land the site of many
villages, where once lived thousands of happy natives.
He might have told us that his ancestors were of the
party, and that they buried the great captain, Cabrillo,

190 Life in the Open

on San Miguel, where he still sleeps. But in point of
fact he said nothing and looked in stolid amazement at


the volubility and learning of the American whip of the
strange vehicle.

Our road follows the beach through Carpenteria,
past graceful sand-dunes where rich grasses grow, where
the faint track of sea-birds is seen and the roar of the
surf breaks gently on the ear. Beyond lies the ocean,
as smooth as a disk of steel, with beds of kelp floating
lightly on its surface the resting place of the gull and
otter; and here the sail of a Chinese junk, the green
slopes of the Santa Ynez on the other side, and little
caftons reaching down to the shore, playing a veritable
game of hide-and-seek with the gleaming ocean. Now
an adobe ranges into view, with its barren, well-worn
door-yard, its ramada, and garlands of chillies, red and
glaring, its hairless dogs, and dark-eyed children who
have never seen a red and yellow coach and who stare
hard and long, silent at the melody of the horn.

Down we plunge into the little arroyo, splashing
across the clear brook that, with its sparkling sands and
dashing trout, comes gurgling down under the arcades of
alder and willow ; up the bank with a rush, winding
through a grove of live oaks where the tap-tap of the
woodpecker echoes, and the gray squirrel flashes his fox-
like tail ; out into the fields again, on to the road lined
with yellow violets, bluebells, cream-cups, daisies, pop-
pies, bluettes, and other wild flowers that seem to reach
far up to the manzanita forests of the upper slopes.

Palms of the Mission of San Fernando Rey on the King's Highway.

El Camino Real 191

From the hillside comes the note of the valley quail,
then the roar of its wings. The nest of the wood-rat
hangs on a limb ; the air is filled with insect life dancing
lightly in the sunbeams, all on this winter day.

And so on we go, over the same road that Father
Junipero Serra and Governor Felipe de Neve with their
guard of sixty soldiers passed when marching to found
the Presidio of Santa Barbara one hundred and nine
years ago, and with a final burst of speed, ride bravely
into the old town of San Buenaventura, cross the shal-
low river that creeps lazily out from the grove of alders
and willows, round the big hill that divides the town,
and passing the shadows of the old Mission of San
Buenaventura seek the more material comforts of the
Inn of the Roses.

In and about San Buenaventura there are rides of
no little interest. The Ojai Valley is but a few miles
away along a seductive trout stream that successfully
woos the coacher; but the old Mission is the pilce de
resistance, and one cannot contemplate these old piles,
almost the only historic ruins in America, without being
impressed with the energy, courage, and faith of Padre
Junipero Serra and his followers, who built this chain of
Missions up and down the coast for six hundred miles ;
a region infested with Indians, and at that time with
wild and dangerous animals.

The San Buenaventura Mission, which was founded
in 1783, is small, but well preserved. It has a large
belfry or bell tower, a large enclosure, but lacks the

192 Life in the Open

more pretentious Moorish architecture which character-
ises some of the other Missions. Yet the padre tells us
that early in the nineteenth century this was one of the
wealthiest of this great chain, possessing vast flocks and
herds under Padre Francisco Dumetz and Vincente de
Santa Maria.

From San Buenaventura the road pitches down into
a wide valley, and we ride by the sea, which has a long
fine beach from which can be seen the jagged points of
Anacapa Island. We pass through Hueneme, then turn
to the east, passing Camulos and so on to San Fernando.

Up through a delightful country we roll along, stop-
ping for the night at Santa Paula, the following day
reaching San Fernando Valley, and the Mission of that
name, that has long been one of the attractive ruins of
the State. Here we see some of the tallest palms in
Southern California, the remains of the old Mission olive
grove, and a long line of splendid Moorish arches and
tiled roofs, preserved from utter destruction by the Land-
marks Club of Los Angeles. The padre tells us that
Lasuen dedicated the Mission in 1797, and that the
present ruin dates from 1806, being named after King
Fernando III. of Spain, who was canonised in 1671 by
the Pope.

At this time of the year San Fernando is a garden.
The chaparral is rich in greens, and the songs of the
mocking-bird and the meadow-lark are heard on every
side. Rising to the south are the green slopes of the
Sierra Santa Monica Mountains that finally leap into

El Camino Real 193

the sea. The old Mission is deserted. Bats flit about
its beautiful arches at night ; the strong west wind
sweeps through its adobe rooms unobstructed, and one
tries in vain to reconstruct the principality of eighty
years ago. Yet it was the centre of great groves and
extensive vineyards ; it had flocks and herds, and $90,-
ooo in cash ; but in 1846 it was sold by Governor Pio
Pico for $14,000 to carry on the war against the United
States. San Fernando is still picturesque in its de-
cadence ; the resort of artists, poets, and lovers of the

Los Angeles is but a few miles distant, but the
coach keeps to the left, along the foothills of the Sierra
Madre, and enters the Canada through a series of
fine ranches, and so passes out into the San Gabriel,
crossing the Arroyo Seco above Pasadena, a charming
and modern city, the centre of tourist interest in South-
ern California, abounding in fine hotels and drives, and
remarkable for its climate, winter and summer, the best
test of which is the long list of well-known men and
women of the East who have made their home here.

Pasadena is but four miles from the wall of the
Sierra Madre, nine miles from Los Angeles, and tl ree
from the old Mission of San Gabriel, in the town of that
name. Of all the valleys of Southern California, the
San Gabriel is the richest, the most beautiful ; and climb-
ing to the summit of Raymond Hill, which the genius of
Walter Raymond has made famous, the coachers are

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Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderLife in the open; sport with rod, gun, horse, and hound in southern California → online text (page 10 of 21)