Charles Frederick Holder.

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

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miles away, and in the foreground the ranches, vineyards,
and gardens of the San Gabriel Valley, merging into
green hills to the right, and to the east melting away
into other and more distant valleys, telling of Pomona
and Chino.

Directly behind me rose the wall of the Sierra Madre,
five thousand or six thousand feet in height, the first
range of the mountains that for forty miles reached
away to the desert. I could climb on to its face in a
few moments and lose myself in its dense investment
of chaparral, or I had the choice of three gateways im-
mediately at hand Millard's to the south, Negro im-
mediately behind, and the Arroyo Seco to the west. In
rainy seasons these canons bore raging streams of
water. Millard's was famous for its waterfall, and up
the arroyo for twenty miles or more there were long
stretches of rocky walls and mountain ranges merging
into dark and distant canons that seemed to wind away
like living things, to be lost in other ranges far beyond.
These mountain passes and the contiguous country be-
came my range; I learned to know them well, and the
fascination of the life, its absolute quiet, its tranquillity
and peace, the beauty of the scenery, took a strong hold
upon my imagination, and I could understand how
some men could turn their backs upon the roar of great
cities and live in the mountains.

2H Life in the Open

There was something restful in the quiet of the deep
cafions ; the music of the rippling stream as it eddied
around the rocks, the rustle of the leaves, the high
green walls and sinuous, deep blue sky river above,
gleaming like a turquoise mosaic through the cafion
branches, all appealed to the finer senses. The air was
sweet, pure, vibrant, and cool, but never damp or humid,
and in the summer months rarely too warm for comfort.
In the winter, after the rains, each cafion became a garden
of ferns and brakes, and the great halls of the mount-
ains rang and reverberated with the resonant melody of
falling, rushing water. Moving up the can" on into the
higher areas of the range, its beauties increased, the
trees became larger and more plentiful, and the sinuous
trail wound and curved through pleasant arcades of
green and graceful leaves which moved gently, softly in
the wind.

At every step some new and charming vista ap-
peared, now down into some little potrtro where the
sun sifted in, bathing the ferns with a golden light, or
up some dark green branching cafion. Now the trail
dipped down, and I looked far ahead into a green tunnel,
formed by the cafion trees, or again came upon the
sheer face of the fern-lined cliff, the abrupt wall of the
Sierras, the trail rising higher and higher until reaching
a little divide I could look out on to a great maze of
tumbling mountains rolling away in every direction, an
arabesque of cafion, valley, and chaparral.

There is something in the smiling face of mountains




Life in the Sierra Madre 215

that takes strong hold of the fancy and imagination.
There is an impulse to stop and bare the head before
the works of the Infinite Designer of all these mount-
ains, hills, and valleys.

In following the trail or the stream bed up some
lateral canon, there is a constant change. Shadows and
lights flit, come and go ; now the trail is through
some dark green abyss, then broadens out into glorious
sunshine, or again where deep shadows ripple down
through the interstices of the leaves and dance and play
across the trail.

Crossing the stream perhaps a hundred times, we
reach the upper range and camp in the very heart of
the forest. The arroyo flows by the camp, and up
from the green abyss half a mile distant comes the
vibrant roar of the fall, the joyous melody of the waters
that are plunging on to the distant sea.

I have often walked down these cafions at night,
when the tone of the wind is different ; all day long it
has been from the sea, now it blows from the mount-
ains themselves, and from far away comes the murmur
of the forest borne softly on, like the voice of the ocean.
Now it is among the pine needles, rising and falling, a
harp of a thousand strings, the soul of melody in its
cadence. The canon is deep in purple shades, and
where the trail opens out the upper line is marked by
stars, scintillating in intense brilliancy. The lateral
canons are of inky blackness, and the rush and melody
of the water comes from mysterious and distant points.

216 Life in the Open

Over the divide is heard the laughing, yelping howl of
the coyote and perhaps the mournful cry of the mount-
ain lion. The air is cool and like velvet on the cheek,
and has a remarkable carrying quality ; the falling
branches, the rolling down of mimic avalanches or slides
of rock or gravel are distinctly heard, though far away,
and every sound has its peculiar individuality.

I have stood on the high peaks at night and watched
the fog come stealing in from the sea, until it spread out
an opaline vestment, filling all the valleys with seas of
silver, through which the tops of hills and lesser mount-
ains protruded like islands ; a sea of marvellous lights
and shades. In early morning it is vermilion or violet
or silver, a splendid spectacle, as though the very air had
frozen and filled the lowlands with a rolling, billowy sea
of ice that stretched away to the horizon and wound its
way around the limitless world. At other times the full
moon rises clear and beautiful, flooding the valleys with
silvery light, while the darkness of the cafions is so in-
tensified that they can be traced for miles. The valley
becomes a world of shadows, and weird shapes form
and re-form, advance and retreat, as the moon rises and
floods the land with light.

The mountains are not always peaceful. At times
they are rent by fierce northers, when pandemonium
seems to have broken loose, and the scene is made more
terrible by the fact that it is blowing in a cloudless sky.
Such a night was clear and brilliant; the stars, due per-
haps to the electrical condition of the atmosphere, took

Life in the Sierra Madre 217

on a more brilliant glow and blazed like electric lights.
The trees in the upper ranges bent and bowed before
the blast, branches were beaten to the ground, and oc-
casionally the crash of limb or trunk came down the
wind, or the roar of some avalanche of gravel where
the rain had loosened the soil, and sent it crashing down
the mountainside. Reaching its climax with roar and
wild acclaim, the wind suddenly ceased, to come on
again with renewed force. Such winds are the most
dangerous and blow in a clear sky without rain ; they
come in over the ranges from the north, sweep in
through the passes, as the Cajon, and in the form of
sand-storms fill certain sections with dust that is carried
miles out to sea, where I have seen it coming on, a vast,
ominous deep-red cloud.

The rain-storms in the mountains fill the streams
with melody and the forest thrills with ten thousand vi-
brant notes. The roar and cadence of the greater falls,
the ripple over rocky beds, the wild sweep and surge of
rain or sheets of water against granite cliffs, and the wail
of the wind as it rises and gives rein to its fancy,
sweeping over the ridges, rushing down into the canons,
through the chaparral, on in sheets and rivers, bending
great trees and snapping off the dead wood, are all
features in the splendid setting of the forest stage.

By such a storm I was isolated in the mountains for
several days ; the ordinarily peaceful streams became
violent rivers; Millard Canon, the Arroyo Seco, and
Negro Cafion were impassable, and at its height I

2i8 Life in the Open

expected that our cabin would blow over into the
cafion, and suggested to the owner that it would not be
a bad plan to rope it down to a neighbouring tree. As it
did blow over in a later gale it was evident that my half-
joking request was not unwarranted. It had rained
heavily and steadily for three days ; the wind came in a
series of gusts, and when they passed and went whirling
up the caftons, the silence was profound by contrast ; but
it only made audible another roar. At first I thought
it the rush of waters in the caftons ; but it had so weird
and ponderous a note that I went out and made my
way to the carton's edge on the north and found that it
was caused by the rolling of big rocks down the steep
bed of the cafion. So strong was the flow of waters, that
the rounded and polished boulders began to move and
came rolling down the bed of the stream, creating a vi-
bration that filled the air with weird and ominous sounds.

On the fourth day provisions gave out and a volun-
teer was sent down, but the stream caught his horse and
swept it away. The following day the clouds melted,
the sun broke through and filled the valley, caressing the
mountains with its rays, and a week later the face of the
land had changed to lighter and warmer tints.

Once in a fierce storm in the mountains I faced from
a divide a fall on the distant slope. At ordinary times
it was a slender line of silver, a cord of the mountain
lute, but now every cafion, every lateral branch, was
running full and the fall was a splendid thing strong
and resonant. As I crouched in the saddle in the

Palms at Santa Anita Ranch, Arcadia, San Gabriel Valley.

Life in the Sierra Madre 219

friendly shelter of a big rock, I saw the fierce gusts
of wind strike the falling water, lift it from its course,
toss it in air like hair, whirling the strands so high that
for a moment they seemed lost; then as the wind passed
on they took shape and form again. Then the storm
would gather its forces and sweep into the rocky and
polished bowl worn away by time and eternity, and
swing the silvery mass like a gigantic pendulum, from
side to side, tossing it here and there as though
in play, to creep away and go roaring on through
the forest, up the slopes, raging into lateral cafions,
until I could no longer hear it and only trace it by the
bending trees silhouetted against the leaden sky on
the edge of the range.

The southern mountains have not the vast and
extended forests that symbolise the Yosemite region,
but they have a wealth of trees in the mountain laurel,
buckthorn, lilac, the wild cherry, madrona, manzanita,
pines of several kinds, false hemlock, white cedar, juni-
per, oaks, and many more.

All the cafions are filled with verdure; each is a
park, with all the glories of ferns and wild lilies and
a host of flowers that lure the stroller on and on into
the maze of gulfs and rivers of green which make up
the forests of the Sierra Madre.

He who views the mountains from the valley fails
to appreciate their size; the wall of bare rock is
perhaps disappointing, but here is a range whose
exact prototype does not exist in any land austere,

220 Life in the Open

burnt out in places, gaunt and grim, it symbolises the
war of eternal ages. Mother Mountains indeed, well
named by some mountain lover, as all mountains are
the mothers of the land at their feet, and Southern
California is the child of its ranges, and the fertile val-
leys are the washings of its deepest cafions and loftiest

Here is range after range as high as Mount Wash-
ington. The Adirondacks, Alleghanies, and all the
peaks of New England could be thrown into the maze
of cafions of this range, and the addition not be sus-
pected. No mountains in America rise so abruptly
from their base, none present such an array of deep
cafions and precipitous slopes, such long and narrow
divides, such stupendous reaches from summit to val-
ley. I am familiar with many mountain ranges, but
do not recall any such wall, or sudden rise, as that
which confronts the pilgrim from the East as he crosses
the Colorado or the Mojave desert and ascends to the
California divide. He stops near Salton, where at the
deepest point the valley is two hundred and eighty feet
below the level of the sea, and climbs to the divide
nearly a mile above it amid stupendous peaks which
tower from ten to eleven thousand feet in air, the heart
of the Sierra Madre.

In strolling through the cafions or on the upland
mesas you obtain a glimpse of the life. There are
countless birds ; you may see the California condor, as
I have in the oak forests of the San Gabriel. The

Life in the Sierra Marde 221

ordinary buzzard soars over the cafions, and the road-
runner, or paisano, garbed in splendid colours, runs
along the trail. In the open, the ground-squirrel lives
in burrows, uttering a peculiar cry, " spink, spink" re-
sembling the blow of a blaster boring a hole in hard
granite. You may occasionally see a badger, and count-
less little blue-throated lizards bask on the rocks, while
beneath them you find one with a turquoise-blue tail.

Southern California is remarkable for its freedom
from disagreeable animals. In my travels I have never
encountered an adult rattlesnake, though they are here,
and rarely have I seen snakes of any kind, except the
gopher snake. Tarantulas and scorpions are indige-
nous to the soil, but are rarely seen. The horned toad
is the common lizard, harmless, and an interesting pet.
The variety of birds is endless, and the chorus of song
about the homes at sunrise in early spring is one of the
charming features of a remarkable country.

Chapter XV
The Wild Goat on Orizaba

WHEN Cabrillo came up the California coast
in 1542, he sighted a large island with two
prominent peaks, and from almost any-
where in the mountains of Southern California they can
be seen rising from the sea.

Cabrillo named the island, after one of his ships, La
Vittoria, but the name given it by Viscaino, in 1645,
Santa Catalina, from the saint's day of his arrival,
has held down through the years. One of the peaks is
called Orizaba, and the other Black Jack. They are not
high ; though from a distance they might be considered
in the five-thousand-foot class, twenty-two hundred
would be nearer the truth ; yet Orizaba and Black Jack
have summits and slopes that in steepness might belong
to the top of some wind-swept peak ten thousand feet in
air. I say this, as I have been to the peaks of both
mountains on horseback, and, with some knowledge of
trails in California, never found myself in quite so dis-
agreeable a position as one afternoon when trying to
15 225

226 Life in the Open

lead my horse down the south side of Orizaba, sliding just
ahead and trying to keep from under him. I had un-
advisedly left the trail, and was trying to reach a goat,
when I found myself in a maze of fallen rock that had
been breaking off and rolling down the slide for ages.
Nevertheless, I commend the mountains by the proper
trail to the lover of mountain climbing and hunting, as,
should the goat elude him, he will bag one of the most
attractive and enduring views in all Southern California.

The mountains rise very nearly in the centre of the
island, and from any point present the appearance of
great volcanoes, surrounded by lava-like rocks, yet all
about rise hills covered with chaparral, and verdant
rivers wind away here, there, and everywhere. My start-
ing-point had been a camp at Middle Ranch, that lies
under some cottonwoods at the base of the Cabrillo
Mountains, where they form the north slope of the
carton. It was the dead of winter, and the island was
carpeted with alfileria, wild grasses, and clover. The
canon stream ran merrily on, coming from some mysteri-
ous place and gaining in volume, rushing in beneath ar-
cades of cottonwoods, willows, and alders, whose tops
were often draped with masses of wild clematis, and so
reaching the sea, at a little beach on the south coast two
or three miles down the canon, up which the strong
west wind came, bearing the sound of breaking waves,
and the soothing melody of the sea.

The wild goat was said to be in force at or near the
head of Cottonwood Cafion; so, with rifle-scabbards fast-

The Wild Goat on Orizaba 227

ened to the big Mexican saddles, we rode across the
hills to the north, and gradually rose, entering the chap-
arral, coming out on the edge of a wood-lined cliff covered
with ironwood, manzanita, and scrub oak, while over all
the slopes, blazing in deep reds, were Heteromeles, or
" holly " berries, that are in a way as famous in Southern
California as the cherry blossoms of Japan. A deep
canon swept up to the right, partly filled with cactus and
chaparral, and opposite rose Orizaba. As we stood,
taking in its beauties, the bleat of a wild goat came on
the air, and soon after a herd was seen winding around
the slope, then turning slowly up a trail. I never made
a better miss in my life, putting a bullet from the saddle
four or five feet this side of the big buck in the lead
and sending the herd up the slope on a run, where they
looked like small dogs, so far away were they.

We soon found the trail, a precipitous plunge down
through the chaparral, frightening scores of valley quail,
coming out into the cafion with its patches of cactus,
then turned up the slope, finally reaching another trail
which led up the rocky side of the mountain, a goat and
sheep trail, over which the wiry horses slowly made their
way, by adopting the zigzag method, literally beating
up the slope in short tacks, I leading my animal, my
comrade riding. The trail was like one, described by
some wag, that led into a tree, and for an hour we
worked our way up the side of the almost impassable
mountain, gradually rising above the hills and canons.

Finally, reaching the summit, we fastened the tired

228 Life in the Open

horses to the rocks and crept slowly over the rough
surface, and then, out on a mass of seeming lava,
three hundred yards away, saw the herd, a large buck
standing out in bold relief. I had disgraced myself, so
insisted that my companion take the shot, which he
did ; but whether it was the strong wind or the pecul-
iar pulsating atmosphere, he missed, and the animals
plunged down the side and disappeared. We followed,
and reaching the spot, heard them somewhere far down
the slope, so returned for our horses, stopping for a
few moments to take in the splendid vista that stretched
away. We could see the ocean on all sides, an ineffa-
ble tint of old Persian turquoise, and below and all
about cartons, peaks, and ranges that formed the most
remarkable jumble and maze it was ever my good for-
tune to look down upon.

The island was an emerald in a setting of azure, its
green intense the green some of the French realists
paint, and on this background the cafions were darker,
melting one into the other. Opposite were the Cabrillo
Mountains and Middle Ranch Carton, and to the west
the hills went tumbling away to the sea, to meet it in lofty
rocky cliffs, against which a light-blue haze seemed to
play. To the east rose the snow-capped mountains of
the Sierra Madre, San Antonio, San Jacinto, and San
Bernardino, ten and twelve thousand feet high ; their
white summits standing out against the blue sky in
strong relief, across thirty miles of the blue Pacific and
as many more of green hills and vales. All Southern

Wild Goat Shooting from a Boat, Santa Catalina.

The Wild Goat on Orizaba 229

California was before us and the islands of the sea.

Perhaps you have led a horse down the rocky slope
of a mountain where the trail is a matter of fiction, a
trail by courtesy, where the horse slides and you are
continually stepping aside to allow him to pass, then
rounding him up by the riata which you have fastened
about his neck to anchor him by. If so you know its
difficulties and delights. Half-way down we came to
the end of navigation on a bed of broken rock, and it
was by a special dispensation that we got out and down,
the dispensation being clever horses.

We followed up the cafton to its head, climbed Black
Jack, and on the way up got the shot that gave us the
big head as a trophy, shooting the goat across the gulch
by mere good fortune. It was two o'clock that after-
noon when we secured the game and started home
down the canon, after a series of seemingly endless
climbs, taking six hours to secure one pair of horns.

Hunting the wild goat is not always so difficult. I
have run upon them in the lowlands, and there are
places well known to Mexican Joe and Joe Adargo, the
guides, where they can be had with less difficulty. But
I believe the sportsman will not care for the easy places,
as the climb over these mountains, the wildness of the
scenery from the summits, the beauty of the canons
and their verdure, will well repay the effort. A fine
hunting-ground is that on the south-west side of the
island, where it rises and faces the sea in cliffs often so
precipitous that even the wild goat cannot crawl down.

230 Life in the Open

Riding out on some of these points the cliffs for miles
can be seen. A fine road extends the entire length of
the island from Pebble Beach to Avalon, from Avalon
to the Isthmus at Cabrillo, and then on for five or
six miles, any part of which will repay the lover of

The following day we took the trail up Cottonwood
Carton, visiting an ancient stone cave dwelling on the
divide, a great spur of Orizaba, where the ancient Santa
Catalinans lived centuries ago. At the entrance a huge
clump of cactus grew over piles of gleaming abalone
shells, which the natives had carried up the long hill from
the sea several miles distant. On the way up the canon
we found traces of ancient occupation, bowls or mortars
partly worked out in the solid steatite, or stone imple-
ments ; and at night rode into camp at Empire, where
verd-antique is being quarried. This ledge is an an-
cient olla manufactory, and the marks and scars of the
work are still to be seen. Here all the bowls or mortars
of soapstone found in the graves of the Southern Cali-
fornian Indians were made, shipped over the Santa Cata-
lina Channel in canoes, and exchanged for deer skins and
other products.

The next morning we started for Avalon by the
north coast, following a narrow trail skirting Black
Jack, now along cliffs so precipitous that a misstep would
send the horse rolling down a thousand feet into the
deep cartons, always on the coast, until the head of the
trail was reached, where we followed the windings of

The Wild Goat on Orizaba 231

the canons in and out until we entered the vale of Ava-
lon. I commend this ride on horseback to the hunter
who enjoys wild and picturesque situations in mountain
and cliff climbing.

I have hunted the wild goat in boats, the boatman
rowing along shore, the animals being found high up on
the face of cliffs, and I have often seen them between
Pebble Beach and Seal Rocks, where the island shores
rise in splendid cliffs. Thousands pass this front, this
fortress of rocks, in the course of the year, but it is only
when some man is stranded on the beach and can-
not climb the cliff, and so reach the town of Avalon, a
few miles away, that one realises how impossible it is.
I have seen a goat come down the face of this precipice
several hundred feet high and find itself unable to get
back. It is possible to climb it in places, but the human
climber is then often confronted with a series of steep
canons that are menacing and dangerous to a novice.

The wild goat of Santa Catalina is the common goat
grown wild, which some one placed upon the island
years ago. It has multiplied so that several thousand
are to be found, affording excellent sport ; at least I
have always had to earn my game in long climbs that
well repaid the exertion, if not in game, in the experience
and a certain charm of isolation.

The wild goat has developed certain peculiarities:
the horns are often larger, and the bucks sometimes
have a heavy development of hair over the chest not
seen in the tame goat. The kids are excellent eating,

232 Life in the Open

especially when barbecued by some of the Mexican
past-masters of the art on the island.

On one trip to Middle Ranch, the barbecue was held
in the evening around a big camp-fire. The Mexicans
had stripped off long poles of willow, and impaling big
joints of meat, held it over the coals, turning it around
and around until done to a turn ; then there were chili
con carne and chili Colorado a.f\d.frzjoles, and then, over
the cigars and pipes, tales of the old times, by the old-
timers, tales of the days when Santa Catalina, according
to legend, was traded for a horse.

Middle Ranch Cafton, which almost cuts the island in
two, is remarkable for its climate. In summer a cool
breeze sweeps in from the sea, coming up the long wind-
ing river of verdure, making the conditions almost per-

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Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderLife in the open; sport with rod, gun, horse, and hound in southern California → online text (page 12 of 21)