Charles Frederick Holder.

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

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and Cairo, Florida, Colorado, and other States.


362 Life in the Open

In the course of time he reached Southern California,
and after several years' trial selected the San Gabriel
Valley as having the most perfect climate he could find
in a civilised country for continuous residence. My own
home for twenty years has been but five miles distant
from the ranch of this well-known and enterprising citi-
zen, and, while I have not made extensive investigations
abroad, I have in America, and am confident that his
judgment is unbiased and his assumptions correct and

The perfect climate, in all probability, does not ex-
ist, but I believe that parts of Southern California come
nearer to it than any locality in the civilised world. A
locality cannot be adequately judged by a single year,
as some seasons are wet, and some are dry ; the real
test is by the decade, or better by two. Orange trees
thirty years old bloom in my garden, giving the answer
to the query as to the lack of extreme cold in that time.

The variety of climates in Southern California, their
remarkable range, are the features which impress the
new-comer, and are well illustrated in the following inci-
dent: Some years ago, I published anonymously in a
New York journal, the Evening Post, if I am not mistaken,
a statement to the effect that the residents of Pasadena
could pick oranges, bathe in the ocean with a temper-
ature not much cooler than that of Newport in summer,
and enjoy sleighing and snow-shoeing, all in one day.
This extraordinary statement from the Eastern stand-
point was regarded a joke by the press, and quoted as

Climate of Souhtern California 363

a fair sample of the " California big story," and consid-
ered a figment of the imagination pure and simple.

The Pasadena Board of Trade several years later
took the matter up and decided to show the world that
it was not only a very simple thing to accomplish, but
the tourist, sportsman or invalid could find in one day
any altitude and climate from sea. level to six thousand
or even ten thousand feet ; semitropic summer, and all
the grades of climate and climatic variants up to snow-
banks, and winter, drear and desolate.

The extreme altitude mentioned was on San Antonio
and San Jacinto Mountains, snow-covered in winter, and
reached from Los Angeles or Pasadena in a few hours;
but the Board of Trade devoted itself to Pasadena.
They appointed a committee of well-known citizens,
and, with a photographer to illustrate their experiences,
started one day in February, or mid-winter, to prove
the story. The town or city of Pasadena lies at the
base of the Sierra Madre, which here rises abruptly to-
an altitude of six thousand feet, and at this time the
peaks were white with snow down to the four thousand-
foot level.

Extending up this mountain range in Rubio Cafton
was a cable road, the Mount Lowe Railroad, that in a
few moments carried the passengers from the base to
the thirty-five-hundred-foot point, and while the com-
mittee was not dependent upon this mode of trans-
portation, there being horse trails, they proposed to
utilise it, and laid out an itinerary which covered every

3 6 4 Life in the Open

point in the discussion. The accompanying illustrations
tell the story. The committee at 10 A. M. met in the
orange grove of the late Andrew McNally of Chicago,
where they ate oranges, then picked roses, and idled in
a wealth of flowers that made up the garden. At 1 1
we find them on the mountain railroad at the foot of
the incline. At I2M. they had entered the snow level,
thirty-fi ve hundred feet up, soon reaching Alpine Tav-
ern amid a scene that epitomised winter.

Hundreds of square miles of mountains stretched
away white with snow, and on distant peaks the wind
was blowing snow banners into the air. Here a sleigh
met the party, and they were carried still higher up the
mountain, amid huge snow-banks where with snow-shoes
they walked about and enjoyed the novelty of snow-
balling. At 1.30 P. M. they were again at the NcNally
trout pool, in the land of summer, and at 3.30 P.M. we
might have seen them, as did the photographer, bathing
in the waters of the Pacific at Santa Monica, from which
they steamed back to the orange groves of Pasadena,
where late in the afternoon they assembled in the orange
grove of one of the party and read the congratulatory
telegrams of their feat. In a few hours they had passed
through various climates, from semitropic summer and
ripening oranges, to the heart of winter, and altitudes
from the sea level to over a mile above it, all attainable
in half a day if desired, and in the most comfortable,
indeed luxurious, fashion.

Few localities have so many singular conditions

Climate of Southern California 365

liable to affect the climate as Southern California. It
is an oasis of limited extent encompassed by deserts
which have few equals for heat on the habitable globe.
There are mountains of great height, abysmal sinks two
hundred and eighty-two feet below the level of the sea ;
indeed the country is a maze of mountains, the people
living in the valleys or along the seashore enjoying
what is, in all probability, the most perfect climate

The impression has gone abroad that Southern Cal-
ifornia is a winter resort, with a burning summer, when
in point of fact the shores of the Pacific from Santa Bar-
bara to San Diego, and often miles inland, are remark-
ably cool in summer ; the heat conditions which hold on
the North Atlantic coast being unknown. There are
warm, often intensely hot, days in the interior towns and
valleys in August and September, but the nights are
almost always cool, and one of the objections some peo-
ple have to Southern California is that one cannot dress
in light clothing and sit out of doors every evening, as
they are, as a rule, too cool. As an illustration of San
Gabriel Valley climate, I am writing these lines on
August twenty-first in Pasadena, twenty-eight miles from
the ocean, at noon. My room faces the north, or the
garden, and the windows and doors are open. It is a
warm day in Pasadena, but my room thermometer shows
70, and this has been the average for me all summer
with few exceptions ; later it becomes warmer for a few
days, then cools off again ; all of which leads me up to

366 Life in the Open

the statement that personally, after a trial of twenty
years, I prefer the summers of Southern California to
the winters, and after residing in almost every section of
the country I believe Southern California possesses a
more than remarkable climate, winter and summer, if
judged by my stadnard, the experience of two decades.

I have seen winters when it rained too much, I have
seen five or six years when it did not rain enough. I
have seen long hot summers when the inland towns
were extremely uncomfortable, but judging the country
by the rule of general average, by five years, a decade,
or two decades, it stands in my estimation without peer,
as the nearest to the fabled perfect all around climate.

Southern California has all the advantages of the
Riviera without any of its drawbacks, as the hot winds
from Africa, its cold winds from the Italian Alps, and
to-day it is the centre of high civilisation, radiating from
Los Angeles, a city with a winter population of two
hundred and fifty thousand souls, from which the pil-
grim can in a few hours, as I have shown, reach almost
any altitude from the snow line to the level of the sea.

It is difficult to describe the peculiar climate of South-
ern California, which is now, and always will be, the
loadstone to attract thousands to its shores. The entire
country has been built up from a series of Spanish-Mex-
ican ranches to an American principality in thirty years
and is made up of the cream of the people of the East
and Europe, who have come to California not all as
pioneers or invalids, but in the main men and women

Winter Verdure in Southern California.

(i) Mariposa Poppy. (2) Olive. (3) Red Pepper Berries.

Climate of Southern California 367

of wealth in search of that chimera, the perfect climate ;
the climate without marked seasonal changes and ex-
tremes. The pictures of Southern California display a
wealth of palms and other tropical verdure ; hence in the
public mind the country is considered tropical, and the
tourist is often heard to remark, "If your winters are so
mild your summers must be very hot," and the same
tourist waxes indignant when the Californian states that
Los Angeles is fifty per cent, cooler than New York in

Southern California produces a semi-tropic vegeta-
tion as well as productions of the temperate zone, but it
is far from being tropical. This is not better illustrated
than by saying that in winter Southern Californians
dress as do Eastern people. They wear winter cloth-
ing, and for two months or longer have furnace- and
grate-fires, and are extremely uncomfortable if they do
not. They wear overcoats at night and when riding,
yet at mid-day they often let the fires go out and throw
open the doors and windows ; indeed it is the cool
nights that make the winter.

It seems very cold on these winter days to the new-
comer, but just how cold it really is I leave the reader to
realise when I say that in front of my house the helio-
trope climbs to above the windows of the first story.
This is protected by the eaves, and is on the south side
of the house, yet in eight years it has never been touched
by frost, though I have found ice in an Indian mortar
near by in the early morning. It feels cold and pene-

368 Life in the Open

trating, but if the dweller in the land goes out of doors
and takes normal exercise it is not noticed ; at least
the heliotropes, roses, stocks, violets, and countless
others are growing in the open air every day in the
Southern California winter.

I should call the climate of Southern California
temperate, with a very small rainfall ; a region with two
summers : one cool, from December to April, another
warmer, from April to December. During the cool
summer it rains on the average fifteen inches, about
half the rainfall of Boston or New York. The rain
often falls at night. The remainder of the year it does
not rain, but the towns and cities are supplied with
water, in pipes, from the mountains. They turn this
on lawns, and irrigate their ranches from the same

A climatic glimpse of the year may be given. In
November the skies are clear, or perhaps in October,
and the weather is cool. Suddenly, long, slender masses
of cloud appear along the mountain-side, coming from
the south-east, and persist during the day. They dis-
appear, come again, and, after many trials, one night it
begins to rain for the first time since May, or earlier.
This initial rain may continue several days, mostly at
night, or it may clear after a few hours. If there has
been a fall of two inches, or even one, an almost imme-
diate change is noticed. The air is free of dust, the
trees are washed down, and all nature puts on a smiling
face, and where the atmosphere has been hazy and


Climate of Souhtren California 369

thick it is now clear. The mountains appear so near
that you feel that you can almost touch them. In a
short time a wonderful transformation comes over the
face of nature. Along the roadway lines and masses of
green appear, and so rapidly do these increase and
broaden that in a marvellously short space of time
the land, that a week or so before was gray with
dead grasses, is now a vivid green. Nearly all this is
alfileria and clover. Soon the grain-fields that have
been planted sprout, and another hue, that of barley,
oats, and other grains, is seen rippling smiling in the
sun, and from the tops of hills a covering of delicate
green reaching away to the distant sea.

The so-called rainy season is now on, and if a nor-
mal one it should rain a day or two once in three or
four weeks. But sometimes the storm continues for
a longer time, and there is a " wet winter," and it rains
as much as it does in the East, or forty inches ; but the
average for Los Angeles may be said to be between
fifteen and twenty inches per annum, or half that of the
New York year, and the country appears to thrive better
on it. If rain fell in the summer the dry, cool climate
would disappear.

In December or January, if the rain conies early, the
country is soon a vast flower-garden, a field of the cloth
of gold, ablaze on the upland slopes with the Escholtzia
or so-called California poppy, while elsewhere gleam
the painter's brush, the scarlet mimulus, the bluette,

370 Life in the Open

countless daisies, cream-cups of delicate design, yellow
violets, Mariposa lilies, the shooting-star, suggestive of
the floral procession that marches on with the coming
of winter days. The chapparal is now abloom, and in
mid-winter the flaming red of Heteromeles is seen
everywhere, and near the mountains the delicate laven-
der of the wild lilac. It is winter, but in some in-
comprehensible way the flowers are in bloom, only the
sycamores and a few other trees being bare. The
nights are cool, a fire is acceptable morning and even-
ing, and the rains leave a mantle of snow on the high
peaks ; San Antonio, San Jacinto, San Bernardino are
white all winter.

I can sit in my garden, amid roses and orange
blossoms, and watch the snow blowing up the north
slope of the former, forty miles away, and often the
entire range is white with snow down to the twenty-five-
hundred-foot line ; but it will be gone on the lower
range perhaps by noon, when the houses in the valley
have thrown open doors and windows. The snow
on the high mountains gives a delightful tang to the
air, and makes the nights cool ; but the roses bloom on
and on for ever, and the tomato ripens in protected val-
leys. I hardly know to what to compare such a winter ;
possibly October in the East, when occasional frost
comes, but there is no autumnal display in the low-
lands, no masses of colour except in the cafions ; in-
stead of dropping, leaves come out at Christmas. The
yule-tide wreaths are of Heteromeles berries which

Climate of Southern California

grow on the canon side ; oranges and lemons are ripen-
ing, and the city gardens glow with every flower seen in
the East in July.

So pass the winter days. The land is gay with
tourists, and the now green golf-links of Santa Barbara,
Coronado, Avalon, Los Angeles, Riverside, and Pasa-
dena are filled with players ; the mountain caftons are
picnic grounds, and there are trips to the coast, and sea-
bathing ; and the towns along-shore Venice, Long
Beach, Ocean Park, Terminal, Santa Monica, Avalon,
Playa Del Ray, Coronado, Santa Barbara, and others are
crowded with an array of visitors from all over the
world, basking in the soft and balmy winds.

The rain-storms now due are often not storms at
all, but gentle winds. Again it blows heavily, and the
rain that has been heralded off the Washington coast
strikes Southern California as a south-easter ; a south-
east wind is an indication of rain. You are impressed by
one feature in the winter that is sure and definite : you
rarely have a day that some part of it is not available
for an outing of some kind, and you have never passed
a winter where there were so few rainy days. It is life
in the open, and an abundance of it ; a life of sunshine.
Sometimes there is a " norther " and the air is " sting-
ing," yet the flowers do not complain, and the orange-
trees have never been killed down.

On these winter days the thermometer will read at
mid-day from 65 to 75. On rainy days or during a
storm it will read from 55 to 65. The rains are sup-

372 Life in the Open

posed to continue until April, coming once in three or
four weeks, in no sense constituting a " rainy season/'
which is a popular delusion. In February or March
there are often several hot days ; then the spring weather^
cool, delightful, with high fog, comes and continues with
an uninterrupted procession of beautiful days. The first
really hot weather in May perhaps dries up the herbage
or alfileria and clover. The crops of barley and oats
are piled high, and are being baled ; the vineyards are
masses of green and the mesas are again taking on the
brown hue of summer, though the chaparral, that clothes
the hills and mountains, is always green. In May and
June the tender tints of Calochortus, the Mariposa lily,
white and lavender, cast a filmy sheen in little parterres
or along the southern slopes of the hills, poising like
flocks of literal butterflies over the gaunt and spined
leaves of cactus. Early the graceful Brodsea paints the
chaparral in vivid tints of lavender, and in the caftons
the wild tiger lily gives a flame-like hue to the rocky

Every season has its floral host, and from May to
July a signal blazes on the mountain-sides, tall stalks
shooting up here and there like magic, the splendid
ethereal bloom of the yucca, the " candlestick of the
Lord," an angelus of the eternal slopes, the clang of
whose bells is incense.

A strong breeze now blows regularly from the ocean,
erroneously called the " trade wind," stopping at night
to blow from the mountains, bringing a suggestion of sa-

Climate of Southern California 373

line odors from the sea into the great valleys by day, and
the aroma of pine and fir by night. Up to August 2oth
there may be no disagreeable warm or hot days, and
when it is warm it seems warmer than it really is. At
one point, seven hundred feet above the sea, fourteen
miles from it, the thermometer reached 100 but twenty-
three times in five years, and the showing at Los An-
geles is even more remarkable.

When days of excessive heat come, the wind is from
the desert and it is dry, not dangerous ; and during it
the death rate of a large city like Los Angeles, with over
two hundred thousand inhabitants, will not veer from
normal, while a hot " wave " in the East will strike down
hundreds, children and adults. This refers to the in-
terior towns twenty or thirty miles from the sea, as
Pasadena. Those nearer the desert are much hotter,
but in all these places the nights are cool, and on the
hottest days the man who stands under a tree will soon
move into the sun to " cool off." In a word, in the East
and South the air becomes heated and the interior of a
house is nearly as warm as out of doors, but in South-
ern California summers the normal air remains cool ; it
is constantly coming from the sea and does not be-
come heated in the Eastern sense ; hence those who un-
derstand the country open up their houses early in
the morning on very warm days, allow the clear
night air to percolate through them, and at nine
o'clock close the house, shutting out the heat, keeping
the temperature at 70 or below 75 until three or four

374 Life in the Open

o'clock, when the wind is cooler and the house is
thrown open.

At the seashore, the towns from Santa Barbara to
Coronado, days so hot as to be a menace to comfort are
extremely rare. The summer fog that is almost always
to be seen off the coast, a high fog, is the balance wheel
giving cool days. It comes in at night and rarely re-
mains after sunrise, passing off leaving the grass drip-
ping with moisture, often depositing one one-hundredth
of an inch of water ; the air is crisp and delicious. This
fog, common to all the coast, is always welcome and is
in no sense a menace to health, this being the consensus
of opinion among leading physicians. Dr. John M.
Radebaugh, who has lived twenty-five years in Pasadena,
considers this region preeminent in America as a health
resort ; indeed the fog is regarded as a benefit to the
land and its people.

The old resident in California will, as a rule, tell the
new-comer that he knows nothing about the climate,
and that all signs, especially the " rain signs," fail ; yet
there are certain facts relating to the climate that are
definitely known. Perhaps the most conspicuous feat-
ure in the country is the constant cool west wind that
blows all day, in fact everywhere in California, but south
of Point Conception it loses some of its force and is
a pleasant wind that makes Southern California summer
climate what it is. It begins in the morning from eight
to nine o'clock, increases in force until three or so, and
then begins to wane ; always steady, blowing under clear

Pasadena's Varied Climates.

(0 Board of Trade at McXally Ranch, picking roses at 10 A.M
Lowe incline. (3) 12 M. 'Entering the snow, 3500 feet.
putting on snowshoes.

(2) ii A.M. Taking Mt.
(4) 12.30 P.M. 4500 feet

Climate of Southern California


skies, bracing and health-giving. I have been drifting
in the Santa Catalina Channel in a dead calm when I
suddenly heard a roar far away to the west, and have seen
a ridge of whitecaps coming on like a tidal wave, the
approach of the morning wind. Hardly has the west
wind died down in the afternoon when it begins to blow
in an opposite direction, and all night the land along-
shore has a breeze that sweeps down from the verdure-
clad mountains.

Each day, then, in summer, Southern California has
two distinct and opposite winds: one from the ocean,
and one at night from the mountains and vast arid
region which surrounds the land to the east, a rare com-
bination that cannot but have its effect as a vigorous
and health-giving tonic. In twenty years I have seen
but two gales which were alarming to some people in
the San Gabriel Valley, and neither one equalled the
heavy north-easters I have known on the Atlantic coast
and the furious wind squalls of the intercontinental
region. Hurricanes and cyclones are unknown in South-
ern California. Four or five years will pass without a
thunder-storm, and the town of Pasadena has been struck
by lightning but twice to my knowledge in twenty years.
These phenomena are not a part of the normal condi-
tions of things ; they are the rare exceptions.

There is a feature of the Pacific coast that many
writers and authors credit with having a decided in-
fluence upon the climate of the Pacific coast. This is
the so-called Black Current of Japan, the Kuro Shiwo,

376 Life in the Open

which sweeps up the coast of China from the tropics,
crosses the north Pacific and flows down the west coast
of North America. If this current holds its temperature
to any considerable degree it would hardly seem possible
that it should not to some extent modify the climate of
California that differs so notably from points in the same
latitude on the Atlantic coast ; but Professor Alexander
G. McAdie, professor of meteorology of the U. S.
Weather Bureau, stationed at San Francisco, who has
made a study of the climatology of California, be-
lieves that the current has very little influence upon the
coast, and he ascribes the prevailing west winds, which
are factors in the summer climate, to an " easterly drift
of the atmosphere in temperate latitudes." The follow-
ing is taken from Professor McAdie's report of 1903 :

" The prevailing easterly drift of the atmosphere in
temperate latitudes, causing the well-known winds from
the west, is one of the prime factors in modifying the
climate of the coast of California. This coast line,
stretching for 10 degrees of latitude, is subjected to a
steady indraft of air from the west. In this movement,
together with the fact that to the west is the great
Pacific Ocean, lies the secret of the difference in tem-
peratures between the Atlantic and the Pacific coasts at
places of like latitude. For some years there has been an
impression that the milder climate of the Pacific coast
was due to a warming influence of the Kuro Skiwo, or
Japan current. No reliable data exist to support such
a belief, and it is quite unlikely that the Japan current

Climate of Southern California


plays any important part in modifying the climate of
the Pacific coast. The active factors are, as said above,
the prevailing easterly drift of the atmosphere and the
proximity of the mass of water, a great natural conserv-
ator of heat. . . . It is probable that if one of
these conditions (the easterly drift of the air and
the proximity of the ocean in modifying climate) could
be reversed and the general movement of the air in
these latitudes lie from east to west, marked differences
in climatic conditions would result, and the Pacific
coast might then have a rigorous climate."

The cause of rains why some reach Southern Cali-
fornia and others pass east in the latitude of Oregon or
San Francisco, and why it does not rain in Southern

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Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderLife in the open; sport with rod, gun, horse, and hound in southern California → online text (page 19 of 21)