Charles Frederick Holder.

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

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breaking in of ribs.

What a splendid animal he was, and what a coward
was the mountain lion ! Yet I may do the latter in-
justice, though he started as though he had been hit
whenever the ram struck his partition and jarred the
very earth.

A fine animal is the mountain sheep. He is wild
and loves the wild places. His home is on the lofty,
wind-swept crags of high mountains. As I write, I can
look over the tops of palms and orange trees in my
garden and see his home the bare, pallid rocks that
form the summit of San Antonio, two miles or more
above the sea. The gentle wind in the valley of the
San Gabriel is barely sufficient to arouse the music of
the pine needles, yet up the north slope of San Antonio
I can sometimes see a mass of snow rolling on, like a
great white diaphanous cloud, that rises higher and
higher, a wraith of the mountains, telling of the rigours
of winter in this home of the mountain sheep.

The Bighorn

There is something in the personality of the animal
which attracts one, and I well remember the old cow-
man who owned the Colorado bighorn and who in-
tended ' sending him to some zoological garden in Ger-
many. " There 's game for you, gentlemen," he said.
" The big sheep is every inch an aristocrat ; he may be
a sheep, but he possesses the attributes of goat, ante-
lope, and elk, so far as game is concerned."

The bighorn stands about three feet in height at
the shoulders, and in his best condition weighs three
hundred odd pounds, and he has a coat of various
shades and tints. That of the San Antonio specimens
I have seen, Ovis canadensis, was a very light brown
and drab, a colour that so resembled the great cliffs and
washes in which it was found that, when standing still,
it appeared to melt and become a part of the basic
slopes of its home.

The crowning glory of the animal is its horns,
which are massive, deeply corrugated, flat, and ranging
from thirty to fifty-two inches in length and from thir-
teen to eighteen inches in circumference. There is
something about these massive head ornaments which
stamps the mountain sheep as the aristocrat of his

I have never hunted the sheep in Lower California
but am informed by Mr. Grosvenor Wotkyns and Mr.
Nordhoff, who has a ranch below Ensenada, that good
sport can be found there in the upper regions of the
southern Sierras, which are so accessible that the

I34 Life in the Open

localities most frequented by this splendid game can
be reached on horseback, which is not often the case
farther north. Once in this Lower California hunting
ground, the sportsman will find himself on the very
backbone of the continent, and at a glance can sweep
the Pacific, the mountain ranges, the Gulf of California,
and the vast desert beyond, and here, among scenes of
chaos and desolation, is the home of the mountain
sheep, that is sometimes followed from peak to peak,
over countless divides, and into deep caftons before it
is shot

The sheep are so common that a hunt is rarely
barren, and several good pairs of horns will repay the
not difficult trip into this part of Mexico.

Chapter X

The Home of the Mountain Lion

CAMPING out or living in the Sierra Madre in
a rainy winter is not without charm and
excitement. To look at the placid and well-
wooded canon that cuts off Las Cacitas from the mesa
below in summer, one would never suspect the volume
of water which often comes foaming down during the
occasional winter rains. The river course is now dry ;
the summer sun has driven the water far below the sur-
face, where it sweeps slowly along, the underground river
that has given fame to Southern California. Yet I have
been shut in by floods on this spur of the mountains for
three days, and kept awake at night not by the roar of
the waters, but by the deep, menacing sound of boulders
rolling down the bed of the stream in a neighbouring

All these canons, the arteries of the Sierra Madre,
have not been made by a steady, regulated wear and
tear, but by rushes of water, cloudbursts that suddenly
wipe out the fixtures of years, carrying away whole


, 3 g Life in the Open

mountain-sides, changing the face of the country, wash-
ing out more rocks and de'bris than the wear of five
normal years would accomplish. The cafions are a
feature of the country. The little stream foams down
among the rocks and boulders capriciously. In the
upper range there is a series of rocky basins, the water
flowing from one to another over falls of deep green
moss, while the face of the rock is covered with masses
of maidenhair ferns. Lower down, the stream flows
over great boulders, leaping from one to the other, then
out into long, pleasant reaches, to finally break away
from the mountains and go swirling musically on to the

In the cafion I have in mind I knew several men who
preferred its solitudes. One day one came up to our
camp, which was on a spur of the range, and said that
a mountain lion had killed his burro and eaten part of
it during the night, and he was afraid that it would re-
turn. A trip to the cafion camp, a rifle-shot away,
showed the evidence of guilt : a small burro had been
stricken down and torn and lacerated. Several hunters
agreed to stay at the camp and see if the lion returned,
but it did not, though its track was seen in various
places, up and down the stream, testifying to its size.
Not long after I was notified that a lion had been seen
near the old Mission of San Gabriel, and one morning I
joined the hounds in the shadow of the old pile and
followed them over ten or fifteen miles of territory.

Some Mexicans reported that they had seen the

Home of the Mountain Lion 139

lion creeping along at dusk. The next morning its
tracks were found and the hounds readily picked them
up near the old Mission tuna hedge, a mile to the east,
but it was a forlorn hope. The country here was a
mesa, without trees, overlooking a large vineyard some
five feet lower, and every object could be seen for miles.
The dogs took the trail and followed it down across
country in the direction of Puente, where they lost it in
the lowlands ; and it was believed that the lion had
made its way into the Puente Hills, crossing the entire
San Gabriel Valley diagonally, so reaching the wild
country about Mount Santiago.

In many of the mountain towns or those near the
canons, stories are current relating to the mountain lion,
but the animal is rarely seen. One was killed near the
Raymond Hotel in 1898, and another was seen by a
hunter on the old Mount Wilson trail, the animal slink-
ing off into the chaparral. Doubtless a good pack of
hounds taken up into the mountains near Barley Flats,
or at the extreme head of the San Gabriel, would result
in the finding of lions, but there are so few seen or heard
of that hunting is rarely attempted. In the less fre-
quented parts of the country, in the region back of the
Santa Ynez, and between San Jacinto and the Mexican
line, the deep caflons doubtless afford a home for many
lions that are only occasionally heard of or seen.

The mountain lion is an interesting cat on account
of its wide geographical range. My guide, years ago,
entertained me with stories of the panthers he had seen

i 4 o Life in the Open

in the Adirondacks, and I heard of the animal in Ver-
mont hills near Lincoln as the catamount. In Florida
the camp of a party of acquaintances was robbed by a
cougar that took a pig, and though they watched all
night the animal leaped into the pen and secured an-
other pig, making off with the game amid a fusillade
from the guns of a number of frightened negro servants.
This cougar swam across a narrow channel to reach the
key, or island. In South America, from Patagonia to
Brazil, they will tell you of the puma and its ravages.
I saw it first in the Rockies of Colorado, and the same
animal appears on the coast from the far north, where it
is known as the cougar, down to Southern California,
where it is the mountain lion, and periodically appears,
preying upon small animals, but mainly upon the deer,
which in all regions appears to be the game of its choice.

In appearance the lion is a tawny cat bearing some
resemblance to an Asiatic lioness, but much smaller : a
typical cat, big, long of limb, muscular and beautiful.
But here praise ends, as rarely will a mountain lion face
a man, being by nature a cowardly animal, creeping
upon its prey, and often intimidated by a single dog
and hunter.

The big cat kills its game by stealing upon it, generally
attempting, in the case of deer, to approach from above,
hurling itself from an eminence upon the black-tailed or
mule deer. In Arizona, California, New Mexico, and
Montana doubtless many more deer are killed by mount-
ain lions than by hunters. In some parts of Arizona

Home of the Mountain Lion I4 i

the mountain lions are so common, so much a menace
to stock, that the cattlemen frequently combine and hunt
them down with dogs. As a rule, the more difficult an
animal is to take, the more eager hunters are to secure
it, and I confess to many a ride up deep canons and over
narrow trails through the chaparral hoping to meet the
lion of the mountain, and what I know of the mountains,
their delights and pleasures, is mainly due to these quests
for mountain lion and other game. I conceive, then,
that the puma, call him what you will, is as good an
excuse, perhaps better than any other, to induce the
sport-loving reader to enter and know the Sierra Madre.
He is there, but there is a more certain and definite
game to be had : the impression and memory of mount-
ain life, the personality and individuality of the mountains,
that have peculiar charms and beauties of their own.

Mountain climbing is a sport, a pastime, a science, if
you will, a science blending with the gentle arts and
graces, as your real mountaineer is a poet ; so I com-
mend hunting the mountain lion in the Sierra Madre.
No more fascinating hunting-ground can be found in the
south than the great range, from the head of the Santa
Ynez to San Jacinto. In this restricted area are some
of the most interesting peaks in America.

These mountains face the Colorado desert on the
east, one of the most desolate places on earth, at
times a furnace : the hot air pouring upward in such
volume that it leaves a pseudo vacuum, to fill which,
the air rushes in from the ocean, explaining the

142 Life in the Open

steady breeze which continues in Southern Califor-
nia all summer. Mount San Jacinto has fine forests
and streams and long, level stretches abounding in
pines ; regions that are covered with snow in winter and
are gardens in summer. Here are numerous camps,
reached by good trails and waggon roads inviting
to the lover of sport and camp life. The altitude is
from five thousand to seven, eight, or even ten thou-
sand feet, and the facilitiess are excellent. In the range
opposite Los Angeles there are many good trails into
the mountains. The Arroyo Seco is particularly avail-
able, a deep, well-wooded cafton, which can be followed
into the range for twenty or more miles. In the canon
is a fine running stream that has been restocked with
trout, and which will soon be open to the public. In
the San Gabriel Valley, cafions open at short intervals
for miles, many being famous for their beauty. Near
Pasadena are the Arroyo Seco, Milliard, Las Flores,
Eaton, and San Gabriel canons.

The Mount Lowe elevated road takes one into
the upper range to Alpine Tavern. Not far away, at
Eaton's Caflon, is the beginning of the Mount Wilson
trail, which, by an easy grade, takes the mountaineer up
to Mount Wilson, where Martin's camp is stationed
in a saddle just below the solar observatory of the
Carnegie Institute, under charge of Professor George
E. Hale. The pagoda-like observatory looks down
into a deep canon, a gulch of profound depths, the
cafton of the San Gabriel River, one of the largest in the

Home of the Mountain Lion 143

range. On the rushing trout stream are several camps,
as Fellow's, where lovers of mountain life and scenery
make their home ; and all along this stream private camps
are found, outfitting in the towns of the vicinity or in
Los Angeles, where there are houses which make a
business of equipping hunting camps, providing every-
thing but the game. The heart of the San Jacinto
range is reached from Los Angeles on the Sante Fe
road to Hemet, from which a stage takes one up the
mountain trail, a mile above the sea, to Idlewild, where
hotel, cottage, tent, or spreading tree can be had, trained
mountain horses, and one of the most attractive regions
to use as a base when mountaineering in Southern Cali-
fornia, in what is virtually the heart of the California

No more interesting mountain road can be found in
California than the one from Hemet to Idlewild, or to
the upper reaches of Mount San Jacinto, two miles above
the Pacific. To reach this point, the top of the world
seemingly, one passes by mysterious Mount Tauquiz,
about which the old Indians say strange cries and
groans are heard at times, weird tremblings which make
the entire mountain shake. Here we find the Tauquiz
meadows with running streams eight thousand feet above
the sea ; and at every rise new charms of scenery appear.
The trip to the summit from Idlewild is about thirty
miles over a good trail, and from here hundreds of
square miles of California can be seen. The changes in
forest flora alone repay the trip. From willow, sycamore,

144 Life in the Open

oak in the lowlands, the mountain-climber comes
to spruce, firs, pine, and cedar. Farther on these be-
come scarce and far apart, and near the rocky peak
the trees creep along the ground, dwarfed, stunted, as
though beaten down by a constant and relentless enemy.
What the condition is here in winter one can imagine
by watching San Antonio, seeing the dense snow clouds,
hundreds of feet high, roll up its slope, rising above
it like the white vapours of a volcano.

The mountain lover will find a delightful region
about Seven Oaks, the head waters of the Santa Ana
River, the point of departure being the city of Red-
lands from which a twelve-mile stage ride carries one
to the half-way house. From here horses and guide
are taken and the ride made up into the valley of the
Santa Ana, famed for its trout streams and scenery,
almost a mile above the sea. The country is well
wooded with pine trees, and in the vicinity are Bear
Valley and its well stocked lake, Barton Flats, South
Fork, Cienega Seco, and other places of more or less

The San Bernardino range affords many caftons
and mountain retreats attractive to the mountaineer
and sportsman, among which is Skyland above San Ber-
nardino, five thousand feet above the sea. This country
is reached by a good trail or mountain road, once the
old Arrowhead toll road from San Bernardino. Here
are many cafions Devil, Sandpit, and Dark cafions,
Squirrel Inn and Little Bear Valley, and reaching away in

Haunts of the Mountain Lion, and Grizzly Peak (11,725 feet high).

Home of the Mountain Lion

many directions a richly wooded country that will tempt
the mountain lover on into other delightful regions.
All these places, particularly Fredalba, have summer
camps and the amateur mountaineer can climb the
range with ease, and have the comforts of civilisation;
but recognising mountain climbing as a gentle pastime,
I have in mind the lover of nature who would steal
away from the roar of great cities and seek the
solitude of the great silences of these mountains. I
recall a friend who prefers to be alone in the
mountains, who can be met in out-of-the-way places,
generally unarmed, with a pack burro and simple out-
fit ; sleeping where the fancy takes him beneath the
trees. Others ride to the great upland mesas on the
mountains in their own carriages or on horses, carrying
the outfit. The mountains of Southern California are
not often inviting to observers in the valleys ; their
south slopes have often been burnt over, are bare,
rocky, forbidding ; but the keen-eyed mountain lover
will see a fringe of trees on the lofty divides that are
mighty trunks. He will note the deep, blue cafions,
and once in their portals and over the divide on the
north and on well-wooded slopes, he will have discov-
ered the charm of Southern California woodlands.
Once the lower country was well wooded; the valleys
abounded in oak forests; but vandal hands have cut
them down, and the eucalyptus and other trees that
grow rapidly have been planted by the new-comers.
In the canons we shall find tall and picturesque syca-

146 Life in the Open

mores out of leaf hardly six weeks in the year ; cotton-
woods, willows, and the alder. A black and white live
oak makes splendid shade in the bottoms where there
is water; and down in San Diego County, in a re-
stricted area near Delmar, grows the rarest tree in the
world Torrey's pine, a dwarf species not over forty
feet in height. As we ascend the slopes the chaparral
becomes a factor; a dense growth often covering the
hills, the home of the mountain lion, deer, and mountain
quail. It is made up of several kinds of brush, at-
taining the dignity of trees. This and two species
of live-oak bushes and the Adenostoma or grease-
wood constitute the backbone of this foothill verdure.
Then comes the Heteromeles, with its masses of red
berries, the "holly" of the Southern California Christ-
mas festival ; the wild lilacs, with lavender and white
clusters of flowers. Then the manzanita that here is
rarely found on the lower slopes, though in the north
I have seen it on sea level. This and the madrona,
with several others, make up the forest of the approach
to the Sierra Madre, a mimic forest ten or fifteen feet
high, through which run quail, wildcat, and other game ;
a dense interlaced mass often almost impassable for man
or horse. One of the most serious predicaments in
which I ever found myself in California was when try-
ing to make a short cut and ride down through the
chaparral on a steep slope of this range.

Following up the cartons there is a succession of
trees and shrubs. The little caftons and valleys are

Home of the Mountain Lion I47

filled with ferns and brakes, alone a magnet to attract
one again and again. The common brake is the most
conspicuous form, everywhere rearing its graceful
shape, and in damp places we find the bladder, shield,
and chain ferns, cliff brake, the coffee fern beneath
some scrub oak, and mimic plantations of maiden-hair,
the lace and cotton ferns ; and clinging close to the
ground the showy gold and silver back varieties. Here
will be a clump of the huge mountain tiger-lily, six,
eight, yes ten feet in height, a splendid panicle of
flowers, an orange patch against the background of
green. The bay is common at an altitude of two thou-
sand feet, a beautiful tree pouring forth an invigorating
aroma when touched. Down the sides of the canon
roll acorns two inches long, in enormous cups, started
by the gray mountain squirrel with foxlike tail, that
eyes you from the dwarf oak on the slopes, and as you
climb up the sides a flock of dark blue mountain
pigeons take flight or the long-plumed mountain quail
steals away. On every hand are evidences of the war
of ages. Great slides of rock pour down like rivers and
are, indeed, subtle slow-moving rivers of stone. Here
the half of a mountain spur has dropped into the
canon, leaving a red and jagged wound. Part of the
talus has been swept away by the winter's flood ; part is
covered by clustering ferns, while the young lilac and
tall purple larkspurs tried to cover it with a mantle of

Climbing higher the chaparral grows thinner, and

I4 g Life in the Open

hundreds of acres of titanic rocks stand bare facing the
sun, with here and there trees fighting for life in the
crevices. Higher yet comes the summit, 5000 or 6000
or 7000 feet above the sea. From Mount Wilson,
which forms one side of the San Gabriel Cafion, one
may, on a clear day, look on all the lofty peaks
of Southern California. Yonder is Grizzly Peak, in
the San Bernardino range, 11,725 feet high; nearer,
Gleason's, 6493; Cucamonga, 8529; Mount Conejo,
3311; Argus, 6333 ; Brown's Peak, also in San Ber-
nardino County, 5392. White with snow, and with snow
clouds flying about its summit in winter, Mount San
Antonio rises 10,120 feet into the empyrean, while Pilot
Knob, far beyond, boasts of 5525 feet. Other sentinels
to the east are Mount San Bernardino, 10,100 feet high,
San Gabriel Peak, 6232, and there are countless others,
indeed Southern California is an alpine country by the
sea ; its valleys and level slopes are easier to enumerate
than its ranges. The Southern California mountains
have no Marathon to look down upon, but they have the
sea, and from anywhere the blue Pacific with its outline
of white surf gleams brightly in the sunlight.

Climbing up the mountains by the trails the scene is
one of constant change. I have stood on the south
flank of the Sierra Madre, four thousand feet above the
Pacific, and looked down upon the San Gabriel Valley,
one of the garden spots of the world. I saw its groves
of orange, olive, and lemon, its palms and gardens
stretching away for miles at my feet, resting in the green

Home of the Mountain Lion I49

chaparral, yet in ten feet, by passing around a spur of
the mountain, I reached the north side where the snow
was a foot deep on the trail and every peak and slope
was covered with snow as far as the eye could reach.
Not only could one see winter and semi-tropic summer
at a sweeping glance, but could leap from one to the
other. This marvellous transformation is often seen
lower down. On the upper slopes are found many pines,
ponderosa, albicaulis y and monticola, false hemlock, white
cedars, and juniper, up to five thousand feet the buck-
thorn, and beneath it the splendid wild fuchsia making
or forming a forest garden in itself.

Up to four thousand feet the great mass of the chap-
arral has been made up of Adenostoma, the " grease-
wood" of the Mexicans, and from the heights the eye
sweeps over masses of this rich green vestment that
rises and falls, dips into abysmal cafions, tumbling
into the valleys like waves of the sea. We may pass
through a narrow belt of madrona on the three-thousand-
foot level, and now see the spreading, smooth, almost
polished arms of the manzanita that reaches up to the
greater heights ; then, if on the higher mountains, come
to forests and parks of pine, and then to the summits of
bare and barren rock, crowned with snow in winter,
and often bearing it far into the summer.

The highest mountain in the southern Sierras is
Grizzly Peak, or Grayback, eleven thousand seven
hundred and twenty-five feet, capping the San Ber-
nardino section of the Sierra Madre, and remarkable as

, 5 o Life in the Open

being the highest mountain in North America from its
immediate base. Other peaks are measured from the
sea level ; but this stupendous shaft rises clear eleven
thousand feet over two miles into the air from its im-
mediate base, and affords one of the most profound
and comprehensive views in the world. At a single
sweep of the eye, the mountain-climber can face
desert, ocean, and garden ; almost every physical con-
dition known to man is in sight. To the east lies the
Colorado desert, its pallid yellow sands drifting into the
distant haze. Here is the chasm of San Gorgonio, an
abysmal gulf yawning nine thousand feet below. Be-
yond rises, sentinel-like, San Jacinto, with rocky flanks
hiding groves of pine, beautiful glens and streams,
a wonderland shooting upward ten thousand feet within
five miles.

I have approached these mountains from the desert,
where the stupendous masses of rock face a temper-
ature menacing in its heat, and look down upon one of
the most desolate scenes on the habitable globe. No-
where is there a greater contrast than this heated wall
of rock of San Jacinto looking down on Indio and Sal-
ton and the Salton sink, the bottom of an ancient sea
two hundred and eighty feet below the level of the Gulf
of California, and the region just over the divide that
forms the splendid park region of San Jacinto Mountain,
with its brooks, forests, and lakes. The most stolid
mountain-climber is awed and silenced at the peaks,
ranges, chasms, and gulches that stretch away before

Home of the Mountain Lion 151

him. To the north lies the Mojave desert, to the
south a maze of mountains, billows of eternal silence,
rolling on into the distant haze to reappear far down in

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Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderLife in the open; sport with rod, gun, horse, and hound in southern California → online text (page 8 of 21)