Harry T. (Harry Taylor) Gause.

Detailed description of scenes and incidents connected with a trip through the mountains and parks of Colorado, as accomplished by H.B.B. Stapler and Harry T. Gause, July 21-August 20, 1971 online

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Online LibraryHarry T. (Harry Taylor) GauseDetailed description of scenes and incidents connected with a trip through the mountains and parks of Colorado, as accomplished by H.B.B. Stapler and Harry T. Gause, July 21-August 20, 1971 → online text (page 3 of 14)
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and see them disappear with inconceivable rapidity, into their
holes. Once during the day we saw antelope grazing in a
ravine some distance away, but did not even catch a glimpse
of a single buffalo. They appear to be more plenty on the
lower route, viz : the Kansas Pacific Rail Road. We were told
by the employees upon the train that they had been pretty
thoroughly thinned out so far north, and had migrated to the
southern plains. However we saw any number of their skulls,
horns, and skeletons, lying upon the plain, bleached snow-
white by the sun's rays and the effect of weathering.

At last we drew near Cheyenne. We now began to pass
under long snow-sheds built over the track to protect it from
the slides of snow that would inevitably occur without their
intervention, for the country had now become much more
hilly, and, in some places, almost mountainous. The sheds


are constructed over those places where the road passes
through what is called a "Cut," and are braced by long pine
poles, planted firmly in the ground, and joined by short
strips of boards.

It was not until after twelve o'clock that we reached
Cheyenne, the hottest, smallest, dullest little place imagin-
able. The only redeeming feature connected with Cheyenne
is its dry, pure and healthy atmosphere. However warm the
rays of a summer's sun, there is a something about the air
which exhilarates and invigorates one. Its elevation cor-
responding to that of Mt. Washington, in New Hampshire,
gives one a feeling of elasticity which makes it a pleasure to
live. And not only does the charm and novelty of the sur-
roundings refresh the weaned senses, but the eye is gratified
by a scene of contrast and unending variety of broken, mount-
ainous and level landscape. Long ranges of black hills ex-
tend along the horizon, bounding the vision both on the north
and the south. Here and there, perhaps upon the peak of
some taller one than the rest, we noticed a dash of snow
which served only to enliven the already charming view. The
coloring of the more distant hills, formed, by their interchange
of shades and tinges, a most exquisite picture for the artist's

Upon our arrival at Cheyenne, we took a hasty dinner and
sauntered about, to observe the more striking features of the
town, in order to be the better able to form an opinion of its
resources and position. There is nothing attractive immedi-
ately about the city ; one has only to raise his eyes, ho\vr\vr.
from the dusty, unpaved streets, to the horizon, to catch a
grand glimpse of that snowy range, which is in truth the
wealth and pride of North America. Notwithstanding the
beauty and impressiveness of this view, we could hardly be


said to have yet reached the true standpoint from which to
command their fullest and most inpiring extent, or their rich-
est and deepest coloring. Their sublimity as seen from this
place is lost in disance. A correct and overwhelming con-
ception of their altitude is only to be obtained when you stand
nearly at their bases.

Cheyenne is not yet the great junction city which it is pre-
dicted to become in the near future, yet it is the main support
of the Wyoming Territory, almost upon whose borders it is
situated. It is a village still, but judging from its prominent
and well chosen site, its wealth of pure, fresh water from the
mountains, and the enterprise of its inhabitants, who number
somewhere near four thousand, it might warrantably be ex-
pected that the fulfillment of the afore-mentioned prophesy
would be consummated at no distant day. I have spoken at
length in its favor, with two objects ; the first, because it merits
all I have said, and secondly, for the reason that I desire to
erase any erroneous impressions which might have been form-
ed on account of my first statement, which was rather derog-
atory both to its character and prospects.

Upon our return to the station we found the other train
in waiting, and we had just time enough to choose a seat and
deposit our light traveling impedimenta, when the whistle
blew, and we steamed off on our way to Denver.

On the road over, we were again entertained by the prairie
dogs, but now our thoughts were almost constantly occupied
with Denver and its surroundings. The ride for the next five
hours was anything but interesting. In recalling it, there in-
stantly arises a grim spectre of "want." It was not the
scenery taken as a wJiole that left such an impression upon our
minds, but as viewed intimately, and involuntarily estimated,
according to such inspection. The country through which


we passed, was a broken and varied one, and, if covered with
verdure and watered by numerous streams, would have pre-
sented a picture which, in point of scenery and utility, would
have merited the immoderate praise of the many travelers
who, returning to the East, vie with each other to commend
the richness of the soil, the number and length of the streams,
and the agricultural advantages of this western country.

It is a very good thing to travel, but it is a very bad thing,
if the people in the east, by this means, are going to be de-
luded into forming incorrect and injuriously extravagant ideas
of a country which they have never seen. This is not the
worst feature of these flattered and overdrawn accounts of
Colorado ; perhaps, a poor farmer in Pennsylvania, who has
been spending years of toil to barely support his family, reads
this colored description of what ? Of a rich farming land
where the grain waves beside the deep flowing water-courses
and tall trees cast cooling shade over sequestered farm houses,
of warm sunshine, and refreshing rain that cause the rich
grass to spring into life. All this he reads and believes. Act-
ing upon this conviction, he sells his homestead, and migrates
westward. He reaches Colorado, and looks around him for
the fertility and cultivation that has been pictured to him.
What does he see ? Aridity, barrenness and a desert waste.

The few farmers who have ventured their all upon this
sandy soil, and who have'nt made enough to buy their passage
back to the east, are barely sustaining themselves and families
by the very hardest labor. It takes two or three years to
raise wheat enough to supply a family of four or five I mean
by this, that for the first two years, nothing whatever is
raised, and at the end of the third season, he may perhaps
harvest a crop. Fruit growing has always been a total failure
in Colorado, and the only means of moistening the soil suf-


ficiently to bring forth any herb, except burnt buffalo grass
and cactus, is that of irrigation. Ten farmers have lately
combined their capital and labor to dig a ten-mile ditch for
their joint benefit. When we visited Denver, there had no
rain fallen for eight weeks, and during the two weeks that
we spent among the mountains and on the plains, only two
showers fell, and both were in Clear Creek Canon. How can
wheat or corn flourish under such circumstances ? But not-
withstanding all these disadvantages staring every sane trav-
eler in the face with convincing force, the people of the
East read elaborate and high-toned accounts of these same
plains and this same inarable sun-scorched soil. There is a
possibility of its being gradually worked into productiveness,
but only by long years of unrepaid labor, and even then we
have no justification for expecting more than a meagre return
for the immense capital expended. Now in saying what I
have, concerning this region, it has been done from a sense
of duty to those who may read these pages, however few
they may be. I have read so many accounts of the " Far
West," and they have all told of such rich and undeveloped
agricultural districts, that, having now traveled through this
far famed country for myself, and having discovered with what
inexcusable misrepresentations I had been deluded, I feel
it my duty, since I am describing what I saw, to tell the truth,
the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Now let us return to Denver. After reaching the depot,
we were hustled into a huge bus and jolted unceremoniously
away to the hotel, through a pouring rain. The storm had
overtaken us but a few miles from the city.

We were shown very pleasant rooms, and after enjoying
a good, hot supper, and visiting the Post Office and Telegraph
Office, we retired feeling pretty thoroughly fatigued by the
day's travel.


It was not until we rose much refreshed on the fol-
lowing morning, that we could fully realize that we were
in truth at our destination, over two thousand miles from

Some deliberation was necessary to determine how we
should best spend the day, but acting upon a happy thought,
we went down town and succeeded in procuring a couple of
mettled horses, upon which we proposed riding out over the
Plains. Having returned to the hotel and changed our attire
somewhat to suit the excursion, we patiently awaited the
animals. They arrived in good season, so forthwith, we
mounted and were off. We rode directly eastward for about
two miles, when we reached the crest of the ridge overlooking
the city. From this eminence we obtained a grand view of
the Rocky Mountains, which were visible for over a hundred
miles, stretching along the horizon as an immense jagged and
peaked range, lifting their snow-crowned summits into the
clouds. It was a beautiful sight, but we did not get its full
effect until, while returning, we had it directly before us.

Denver lies upon a gentle slope gradually rising from the
South Platte River, which sweeps around its western suburbs,
flowing down the Platte Valley, past Greeley, and joining its
companion stream, the North Platte, at a place bearing the
same name situated upon the line of the Union Pacific Rail
Road. From this point it marks, by its course, the center of
of the great Platte Valley Bottom which extends for hundreds
and hundreds of miles across the vast Plains. Denver is a
city of six thousand inhabitants and possesses all the ad-
vantages of both a railroad terminus and center, and a con-
venient depot for the products of the Clear Creek mining
region, as well as all the other mining districts which it com-
mands through more than half a dozen canons, all visible from


the city. There is not a street but what is limited in per-
spective by either a vista with a mountainous or plain back-
ground. On the southeast is to be seen Pike's Peak, tower-
ing far above the surrounding ones, and looking as though the
intervening distance could not be more than ten miles ; but
which is, in reality, over ninety.

Long's Peak just fills the vista of one of the principal
business streets, and Lincoln's Peak is barely distinguishable,
lying far away to the northwest. There appear to be three
pretty distinct ranges. The first, which lies nearest the city,
is only about two or three thousand feet above the level of
the plain, the second twice the size, and the third, dimly out-
lined against the sky, is scarcely to be distinguished from
great banks of bluish-gray clouds. These three ranges form
by their infinite combinations of color and outline, the most
pleasing feature of this sublimest of mountain scenery. As
you gaze upon them in rapt admiration, you are struck, first
of all, by their magnitude ; for, if they seem so large at a dis-
tance of twenty miles, what would be their appearance when
standing at their feet. Still studying their gigantic proportions,
you become aware of a soothing, quieting influence which is
the result of the perfect blending of colors, the gradual melt-
ing of one range into another, without that abruptness which
is the special characteristic of so many mountain views.
Everything about them is in exquisite harmony with its sur-
roundings. The misty haze hanging over the gorges, and the
dark storm-clouds further back among the peaks, casting a
shadow on the mountain slope, upon which, but a moment
since, the merry sunshine played, illuminating the recesses of
the canons and tinging the bare faces of the rocks with bright-

Away up toward the summits lie white patches of snow,
in sharp contrast with the dark, weather-beaten cliffs. But


to return ! We rode out in a straight course for some six or
eight miles until we happened upon a cool and shady spot on
the banks of the Platte River. Here we hitched our horses
and seated ourselves beneath the over-stretching branches of
the cotton wood trees that lined the stream, to enjoy a short
respite from the fatigue and heat. Soon we were enticed by
some small game to quit our retreat, but it was not long, how-
ever, before we tired of pursuing birds that were not even ap-
proachable ; so we returned, and, reseating ourselves, drank in
the beauty and novelty of the scene around us. On the east,
as far as the eye could reach, stretched away an expanse of
level, scorched plain, with nothing to break its monotony but
the old emigrant trail, that wound along like an immense
white serpent, affording by its perspective a good idea of its
extent. On the west the snowy summits of the Rocky
Mountains reared themselves in majestic grandeur, seeming
to lean against the sky, while the lower ranges jut upward
six or seven thousand feet, and are of a dark, velvety, violet
hue. They are cloven asunder by the canons of the streams
streaked with dark lines of pines which feather their summit,
a'nd are sunny, with steep slopes of pasture. These three chains
with their varying but never discordant undulations are as in-
spiring to the imagination as they are enchanting to the eye.
They hint of concealed grandeurs in all the glens and parks
among them, and yet hold you back with a doubt whether
they are more beautiful near at hand than when beheld at
this distance. They extend around the horizon bounding
the vision also on the south. On the north are moun-
tains and plain in charming contrast. Truly it is worth
all the fatigue of traveling, and the loss of comforts and
time to behold such wonderful exhibitions of the power of


We returned to Denver in time for a late dinner, after
which we amused ourselves in writing a few letters and " doing
the town."

In the evening we spent more than two hours in hunting
up Col. Greenwood, but after finding his residence, we were
told that he was out that evening at a party given by Gov-
ernor Hunt, so we returned to our rooms pretty tired and
quite ready for a sound sleep.

The first thing in the morning we visited the office of the
Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, but as Col. Greenwood was
not in, we lounged and yawned over the monotony of our
situation until we were informed by black "John," who
came to our room, that dinner was ready. This was the most
welcome intelligence that we could have received, so we
followed him to the dining room, where we passed the
pleasantest hour of the whole day.

In the afternoon we employed our time variously, as in
consulting over our future plans, looking about the town,
making sundry arrangements relating to our projected moun-
tain tour, sitting lazily in our rooms and sleeping, which last
occupied most of the time.

The entire evening was spent in packing our trunks and
carpet bags, and making up our mountain outfit, for we had
decided to leave for Georgetown upon the following morning.
We retired early in order to obtain a good rest before begin-
ning our labors.

We were called on Sunday morning in time for the six
o'clock stage, and at the appointed hour we were jolting out
of Denver toward the mountains. Our course, at first, lay
toward the base of Long's Peak, but at the end of an hour
deviated toward the north, and entered the range through
one of the numerous canons which open out upon the plain.


It was not until we stopped at a relay house about
thirteen miles from Denver that we found ourselves actually
in the heart of the chain. The mountains rise on either side
almost perpendicularly, forming, at times, apparently insur-
mountable barriers to the onward progress of the stage, but
we always managed to wind around their bases so as to avoid
such obstacles.

We took dinner at a few shanties and a big pine building
bearing the name of " Pine Valley House ;" however, they
set a good table, so we, of course enjoyed ourselves corres-

The scenery to be met with in this ride is, beyond all
description, sublime and awe inspiring. The senses are
benumbed in taking in the wildness, ruggedness and beauty
of those Rocky Mountain passes and gorges. At one moment
we were just hanging to the mountain side, thousands of feet
above the bottom of the canon, then winding around the
brinks of fearful precipices, and anon dragging slowly along
by the side of the gurgling waters of Clear Creek, that flows
through South Park, and which, traversing the plain far below
Denver, forms, for itself, a plateau of rich grazing land before
bidding adieu to the grand, old hoary hills forever.

Every few moments, as we rounded a sharp bend in the
road, we would catch a glimpse of a scene that would fill the
soul of a poet or artist with pure delight. Here were deep
gorges and lovely valley-bottoms, winding rivulets and snow-
capped peaks, all heaped together in the wildest but most
enchanting confusion. The snow was not everywhere white,
but often flushed with the most exquisite pinkish tint that
only enhanced its beauty. The verdure of the pines which
covered the mountain sides to a hight of eleven thou-
sand and eight hundred feet, seemed like a huge garment


of deepest green, festooned in graceful folds along the steep
acclivity, as if to hide from sight the ugliness of the bare
rocks beneath.

Every mile or so we passed the rude hut of some lone
miner, who imagines that he is getting rich, but in reality
wasting his labor, and perhaps his capital upon an insignifi-
cant lode.

It was a superb day. The wind blew from the snow-
fields, tempering the heat of a dazzling sun in a cloudless sky.
We were now above the line of arborescence, and began to
experience a change in the atmosphere the more striking the
greater our ascent.

Here and there, we saw behind and below us the scat-
tered cabins of the miners, that were barely discernable
through groups of tall, dark fir trees ; the creek, dammed for
a stamp mill, spread out a bright lake in the lap of the valley,
and southward the sharp summit of Franklin's Peak rose
above all the surrounding mountains.

We had still a good wagon road, with rough bridges
across the torrents which came down from every rocky glen.
The valley now gradually narrowed, and we entered a defile
far grander than anything we had yet seen in the Rocky
Mountains. On either side enormous masses of dark red rock
towered over our heads to the hight of fifteen hundred feet,
so torn and split into colossal towers, walls and buttresses,
that every minute presented a new combination of forms.
The bed of the glen was filled with huge fragments, tumbled
from above. Even here, high up on almost inaccessible points,
the prospectors had left their traces, lured by the indications
of ore in cliffs above, to which they dare not climb. Our
necks ached with gazing at the sharp, sky-piercing peaks, in


the hope of detecting mountain sheep, but none were to be
seen. At this elevation there were few trees, and the valley
yawned under us like an enormous green basin with a jagged
white border.

We at last attained a point from which we commanded a
magnificent view of the surrounding range. Looking west-
ward, we could follow the serpentine course of Clear Creek
for more than fifteen miles. The main valley seemed to be
formed of four or five small ones, radiating down from
between the bastions of the main chain.

We had now reached our greatest altitude, and proceed-
ing slowly along the crest of the pass for some distance, the
road suddenly sinks and we are once more descending. What
a relief from the ever-straining, never-resting ascent. But
if the climbing of the steep mountain side at an angle, some-
times of not less than forty-five degrees, is laborious and
attended with extreme peril both to man and beast, the ride
down from the summit is not less fatiguing and dangerous.
The wheels of the large coach were locked almost constantly
by the brake, and the horses went sliding and stumbling down
among the loose stones and half uncovered roots, threaten-
ing us by their fall, with instant death. I like excitement,
but this wasn't of the pleasant sort. Fortunately we had no
ladies along, or perhaps we might not have lived to tell the
story of such a ride. All the way down, or at least until
we reached a plateau, only a few hundred feet above the
stream, we waited in mute expectation of being toppled
over the edges of the gorges, or of being dashed out by
the horny and gnarled branches of the pines, past which
we rumbled at a terrifying speed. Fortunately the driver
understood his business, and piloted us down without any
further accident than the loosening of a whipple-tree.


The view had been utterly forgotten in our anxiety con-
cerning our safety

After reaching the base of the mountain we had better
roads. They were both more level and not so winding, so
that we kept up a pretty fair gait for the next few miles.


Idaho. Its Springs. The Georgetown Valley. Georgetmvn.
Character of its Inhabitants. The Ascent of Grey s Peak.
The View from the Summit. A Storm among the Moun-
tains. The Descent.

At about two o'clock we arrived at Idaho. This is a
pretty little place situated just on the banks of Clear Creek,
whose cold, clear stream, fed from the fields of melting snow,
foamed and flashed in the sun.

The soda springs here have been already turned to serv-
ice. Two bath-houses have been built for summer guests, and
offer one of the greatest luxuries to be obtained in the mount-
ains. Unfortunately, we had not time for a plunge, as the
stage only stopped long enough for a change of horses. One
of the springs is hot, the other cold ; but so close together,
that it would seem inevitable that the waters would mingle
beneath the surface of the ground. In addition to these
springs, there are quite a number of gold mines situated in
the immediate vicinity of the village.

But neither these nor her wealth of mineral waters com-
prise all the riches of Idaho. Further down the valley sonu -
where, there is a vein of rough opal eighteen inches thick.
We saw some specimens at the hotel. It is undoubtedly
opal, though of faint, imperfect fire, as if its quality were
faded by long exposure to the weather.


Leaving this "city among the hills," we drove through
the gorge into another open stretch of valley.

Westward, directly in front, a peak of the central snowy
range towered over all the intermediate hights ; while on
the left Mount Douglass, throwing its own shadow over a
thousand feet of vertical precipice, guarded the entrance into
Georgetown Valley.

We drove on over what is called the "second bottom," a
low table-land, rising into hills a mile from the stream, and
covered with a growth of silvery sage, that, from a distance,
gave it the appearance of a meadow, upon which the crystal
frost-fibres stand, lifting by their tiny strength the gray car-
pet of glittering dew.

We had not proceeded a mile, however, before our way
was barred by an abrupt mountain, through the center of
which, the stream forced its way in a narrow rock-walled slit,
a canon, (funnel) in the strictest sense of the word. The
road led us into this cleft, taking the very edge of a precipice,
two hundred feet in perpendicular depth, where there was
barely room for the wheels to clear the brink. Under us,
Clear Creek was a mass of foam ; opposite, not a stone's
throw across, rose the jagged walls of dark red rock, termi-
nating in fantastic pinnacles. It was an exciting passage,
not unmixed with fear, especially when in ascending a short,
steep ridge, we had to halt, for the horses to breathe, in the
narrowest part of the pass, where portions of the rock under
us had crumbled away. A valley succeeded, then a second
and loftier range where the dividing canon disclosed the most
singular formation of rock natural fortresses and towers.
Away to the left, rose two or three peaks of dazzling snow,
sharply outlined against the hard, dark blue of the sky.

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Online LibraryHarry T. (Harry Taylor) GauseDetailed description of scenes and incidents connected with a trip through the mountains and parks of Colorado, as accomplished by H.B.B. Stapler and Harry T. Gause, July 21-August 20, 1971 → online text (page 3 of 14)