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 4 of 14)
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The road now descended by gradual steps to the bot-
tom of the ravine, and wound along, keeping just alongside
the creek for a distance of five miles.

All around us the half bare sides of the mountains reared
themselves, looking as though at any time they might
entirely shut over the narrow gorge leading into their very
heart. Notwithstanding the perils and difficulties of this
Rocky Mountain ride, we had a good deal of fun in the old
coach. There was a young gentleman from St. Louis, who
afforded amusement for the party by his laughable stories and
odd pantomime.

The time passed very pleasantly after reaching the base
of the first range, until we entered Georgetown Valley, where
difficulties and obstacles multiplied with disheartening rapid-
ity, and it was more than two hours before we again issued
from among the masses of rock and thick forests of pine,
within a mile of our destination. On consulting our watches
we found that it was growing late. Just then, a break in the
woods showed us the evening shadows high on the opposite
mountain ; so we urged the driver to quicken our speed so that
we might reach Georgetown by night-fall. It was only a
short distance further, and we crossed the intervening space
of rich meadow land, studded with many colored mountain
flowers, in the best humor possible, in prospect of a warm
supper and a comfortable bed. Almost unnoticed by any of us,
the mists that had been hanging among the ravines, now
rolled into clouds and came drifting down the valley, bring-
ing with them a cold, drizzling rain. The air was already
damp and chill, and we were obliged to wrap around us our
heavy overcoats in order to keep out the penetrating cold.

At seven o'clock we rode into Georgetown, a pretty little
place that seems as though it had been dropped into the


Clear Creek Valley, settling itself down between the steep
mountain sides and resting there in peaceful security. It
forms the terminus of the stage line.

Above the village, some six miles up the canon, begins
that snowy tangle of mountains, just on the south-eastern
corner of Middle Park, that forms the only barrier to the un-
obstructed entrance into the region of parks and glens beyond.

At present, all the hotels are crowded with tourists or
transient residents spending the summer, and everything
wears on air of life and bustle. If Georgetown were an east-
ern watering resort, the same idea would be expressed by
saying that it was now "the hight of the season."

All along Clear Creek, up through the valley is the
mining region. Every now and then, as you proceed, you
espy, more or less high up the mountain side, little holes
pierced into the solid bed of the rock, and extending some
distance in on the same plane with the entrance. These
are the mouths of tunnels, which, in some instances, reach
a depth of eleven hundred feet.

The inhabitants of all the mountain towns are composed
mostly of miners, but, contrary to the representations of my
eastern friends, who assured me that they were a half-civiliz-
ed, blood-thirsty and boorish community, I found nothing but
politeness ( not what we call " etiquette " ), kindness and socia-
bility. There is also to some degree, refinement and culture,
but owing to their surroundings the former rather predomin-
ates ; I mean now natural refinement. Of course, the miners
have always a rough exterior, but invariably you will find a
kind generous heart beneath. Their general appearance
argues otherwise, but I have found not a few unpolished
diamonds among these hardy frontiersmen.


We stopped on our way into the village at the mail-office,
then, after plashing along through the deserted streets for
some minutes of uninterrupted silence, we drew up before the
door of the Barton House. Alighting, we inquired for rooms ;
but to add to the unpleasantness of our situation, we were
politely informed that the house was over-crowded, but that
we could be accommodated without inconvenience, with cots
spread upon the parlor floor. We had no choice. It was too
wet to tramp about the town in search of a room, and as we
had our baggage here, we determined to stay with it. The
rain was still pouring, and nothing was visible, either up or
down the canon, but dense volumes of vapor filling all the
the space between the mountain sides.

It was a dismal night, but we were obliged to brave its
inclemency and trudge down about a mile, in gum coats, caps,
and high topped boots, to see the livery stable man and engage
our animals for the morrow's journey to the summit of Grey's
Peak. A man named Campbell was at last found, who promis-
ed us the animals, so \ve returned to the hotel in silence,
there being no inducement to begin a lively conversation.

On entering our public sleeping room, we found about A
dozen others already in possession. Our bed was pointed out,
and, as the clerk disappeared through the half open door, I
will close it to all beside.

On the following morning we were called at five o'clock,
and by six found the horses in waiting. The storm had cK-ur-
ed away and all was bright and cheerful. The first beams of
the morning sun gleamed into the canon through the- ritts in
the great masses of vapor that fled before its warmth. Soon,
the bright but distant orb peeped over the tops of the moun-
tains and gladdened all by his enlivening rays.


It was not long before we were in the saddle galloping
gayly over the wild, mountain roads. It was a glorious morn-
ing and we felt the effects of our beautiful and romantic sur-
roundings, which added a new charm to this invigorating ride.

It is fifteen miles from Georgetown to the peak, but
almost before we were aware of it, we had reached a little
place consisting of a few log cabins and a saw mill that is
situated at the foot of the higher range, and at which point we
were to leave the valley and begin the winding ascent to the
summit, which has an altitude of fourteen thousand, five hun-
dred and twenty feet.

We now found the journey more arduous. It was a hard
climb even before we reached the timber line, for these rock-
strewn roads are killing to both man and beast.

After we had ridden for some nine miles, we fell in with
a party bound upon the same route. There was a lawyer
named Scanlin, from St. Louis, who was very entertaining and
witty, the surveyor-general of Colorado and his niece, quite
a pretty young lady from New Orleans, whom he had invited
to spend the summer among the mountains. She was a real
southern girl, and surprised us all by her perfect horseman-
ship and extraordinary bravery in climbing over the rough
rocks, and urging her horse forward along the very brinks of
the frightful precipices, that every now and then imperiled our

When we reached the foot of the mountain we were over
eleven thousand feet above the sea-level, and were even be-
yond the extremest limit of vegetation.

We stopped and looked back. At the base of the moun-
tain we could just peep into the head of a meadow, where a
jungle of willow-bushes, threaded by a net-work of streams,


lay between us and the valley bottom, and here and there,
like an occasional pearl, set in a back-ground of the deepest
emerald, glimmered a patch of silvery-gray sages. At other
places there were what seemed to be black-holes in the ground,
with a white and dotted border, but which were in reality the
burnt forest trees standing, gaunt and lifeless after the
ravages of the destroyer.

Further up, just at the beginning of the ascent, lay the
loveliest meadow park, almost a mile long, opening north-
ward as we entered, directly toward the foot of the great
snowy peak. A swift brook sped down it, under bowery
thickets and past clumps of trees ; the turf was brilliantly
green, and spangled with wild flowers ; steep mountain slopes
bordered it on two sides, and upon the others, it stretched
down toward the valley. Nothing could have been more un-
expected than the change from aspen woods and silvery hills
of sage, to this green, pine-enframed landscape.

Higher still, snow-drifts made their appearance where the
shade was deepest, and the few aspens and alders were just
putting forth their leaves.

From our great hight we looked down into a narrow,
winding glen, between lofty parapets of rock, and beheld
mountains in the distance, flecked with dark shadows and
vanishing in clouds.

Opposite to us, above the silvery gray of the sage-bush,
above the pearly whiteness of the aspen, above the emerald
green of the fir, rose huge mountain foundations, where the
grassy openings were pale, the forest dark, the glens and
gorges filled with shadow, the rocks touched with lines of
light making a checquered effect that suggested cultivation
and old settlement. Beyond these were wilder ridges, .ill
forest ; then bare masses of rock, streaked with snow, ami.


highest of all, the bleak snow-pyramids, piercing the sky.
From south to north stretched the sublime wall the western
boundary of the Middle Park ; and where it fell away toward
the canon by which North Clear Creek enters the heart of the
chain in its course to the foot of Snake Valley, there was a
vision of dim, rosy peaks, a hundred miles distant. Other
snowy summits appeared before us, overlooking the head of
Blue River Valley ; charming valleys opened among the near-
er mountains, and the blue, hazy mist around the heads of the
steeper canons, only added an indistinctness which softened
the wild ruggedness of their outlines.

But we could not stop longer even to enjoy such a view,
so we urged our now rested animals over the rough fragments
of crumbled rocks, and loose, sliding stones, at a speed which
was even more fatiguing than the first ascent. All around
us lay patches of snow which reflected the dazzling sunlight
in a thousand hues.

Although we had felt the gradual change from a denser
to a rarer atmosphere as we ascended, we were not quite pre-
pared for the lightness of the air which we now experienced.
Every few steps compelled us to stop and regain our breath
we could feel our hearts thumping up against our sides with
alarming irregularity, while the poor horses almost gasped
for breath under their heavy burdens. It was hard work ;
sometimes we fancied that we could get along by walking,
much easier, but after about ten feet of floundering and
scrambling, we were glad to climb upon our horses again and
were not so thoughtful afterward of their welfare. The
climbing was fearful. The path lay among the most jagged
rocks and the most frightful chasms. Mr. Scanlin declared
that he was actually afraid to look down, for nothing but
about eight inches of stone lay between him and a terrible


death. The side was so steep, that with but little effort one
could cast a small piece of rock clear to the bottom, several
thousand feet below. At times, the horses seemed to give
out, and would stop, utterly unable to proceed another step
without rest. The angle of ascent could not have been less
than fifty-five or sixty degrees. About two hundred yards
from the top, the path terminated in an irregular mass of rock
that blocked all further progress ; so we dismounted, and
tying the rein around a stone, let it fall, and so secured the
animals. Before attempting the remainder of the distance
which we had to accomplish on foot, we sat down and partook
of the abundant and well assorted lunch which the landlord
had kindly put into our saddle-bags.

After satisfying our hunger and feeling greatly refreshed
and invigorated both by the rest and eatables, we prepared to
ascend. We had hard scrambling and wearisome windings
before us ; but we trudged on, stopping every three or four
steps to rest. At last we rose above the crest. What a view
greeted us as we wound up over the last ridge of rock and
stood upon the summit ! On one side, stretched far away the
Pacific Slope, an undulating ocean of snowy mountains ; on
the other, the Atlantic Slope, with an equal share of peaks and
valleys, and beyond, the Plains just visible. With one grand
sweep we could overlook the country for two hundred miles
around. In breadth of effect, in airy depth and expansion, in
simple, yet most majestic outline, and in originality, yet ex-
quisite harmony, of color, this landscape is unlike anything we
had ever seen.

Northward, we looked down the long, green meadows

with their enclosing slopes of forest, to a line of snow-clad

peaks in the middle distance, and then to a higher and fainter

line, rosily flushed, a hundred and fifty miles away the north-



ern wall of San Louis Park. Southward, is the valley of the
Platte, a deep, gray-green trough, curving out of sight among
the lower ranges, while beyond it, the increasing dimness of
each line of mountains, told of broad, invisible parks and
plains between ; and the farthest peaks, scarcely to be de-
tached from the air, were the merest azure phantoms.

Directly to the west of us, however, rose a knot of tre-
mendous snowy steeps, crowned by a white, unbroken cone;
this was Mount Lincoln, believed to be the highest point in
Colorado. The estimates vary from fifteen to eighteen thous-
and feet ; but the most trustworthy measurement, and that
which corresponds with its apparent elevation above this peak,
is sixteen thousand, six hundred feet. It is the central point
from which at least, four snowy ranges radiate ; is one thous-
and feet above any peak which has yet been measured, and
commands a magnificent view of the whole range, both north
and south, far surpassing even that from Grey's Peak.

The timber line was far, far below us ; near at hand we
were surrounded by a desolation of snow and naked rock.
Mount Lincoln, rising in his awful majesty from amid the
clouds below us, gathered together the white fold? of the sepa-
rating mountain ranges and set his supreme pyramid over
them ; while far to the south east, where the sage-plains of
South Park stretch for a hundred miles, all features were lost
in a soft, purple mist.

Before us, however, lay the crowning grandeur. The
ridge, upon which we stood, slid down like the roof of a house,
to the valley of the Upper Arkansas, which we could trace to
the very fountain-head of the river, its pine groves and long
meandering lines of cotton-wood drawn upon a field of pearly


Starting from Mount Lincoln, the eye follows the central
chain in a wide semicircle around the head of the valley, un-
til it faces us on the opposite side, and then keeps on its course
southward, on and ever on, slowly fading into air, a hundred
miles of eternal snow !

Beyond the great valley, glimmered, as if out of blue air,
the rosy snow of other and farther ranges. Westward, sev-
enty miles distant, stood the lonely Sopris Peak, higher than
Mont Blanc.

This scene of mountain grandeur, in its singular combi-
nations of subdued coloring and varied form, is unsurpassed.
No language is adequate to portray its manifold and ever un-
expected beauties : no words capable of conveying a com-
prehensive impression of its overcoming majesty. It is at
once simple, sublime, and boundless. With a very clear at-
mosphere, the effect might be different ; as we saw it, the
farthest peaks and ranges melted insensibly out of the scope
of vision, suggesting almost incredible distances. The sm>\\-
line, though broken by ravines, was quite uniform ; but the
snows were flushed with such an endless variety of colors,
that they presented a beauty of the rarest kind. This land-
scape alone is worth coming across the Plains to behold.
To add to the sublimity of the scene, a thunder-storm came
up. When first noticed as a long, blue bank of clouds, it
hung over the range to the north-west. Soon dense masses
of vapor began to pour over the summits of the surrounding
peaks, and envelop, as in a misty veil, both hills ami valleys.
The lightning flashed, and the thunder rolled, the reverber-
ations among a hundred rocky canons, causing a prolonged
rumble, as of distant cannonading. Soon we were in the
midst of driving snow and rain. It was very cold, ami u e
were bundled up in blankets, heavy gum-coats and capes, ami


thick over-coats, and even then, felt the piercing blast that
came whistling across the ravine. However, it did not last
long, for as there is always one storm which never abates, but
keeps ever moving about over the range, it does not rest over
any particular spot for a great length of time. As the last
volume of mist went drifting away to the eastward, a glori-
ous view broke upon our delighted vision. We could now see
for many miles to the westward, but there were mountains
and mountains everywhere ; an arctic labyrinth, with a dark
blue ground. White, red, and blue, in striking contrast, and
yet in perfect harmony, with a dash of jet black streaking the
dazzling cones with a seam that could only have been
grooved by the elements, in ages ; all this we took in at
one glance.

Each of us, in turn, climbed up and stood upon the top-
most stone of a little pyramid of rocks that crowns the very
highest spot, took the American flag, and waving it on high
with one hand, and swinging our hats with the other, sang
"America," and gave three loud, long cheers for the land of
the free and the home of the brave. We never thought so
much of our country before ; with even a stronger patriotism
than usual, we celebrated the fourth of July on this last day
of the same month. It was a glorious pinnacle. The
highest spot on the range, on the very back-bone of the
continent, where, should we pour a half pale of water
upon one side, and another on the opposite side, these
halves would flow, respectively, into the Atlantic and Pacific

On either side we saw the streams flowing away from us.
Down the Pacific slope we could trace, for over a hundred
miles, the course of Snake River, winding like a silver thread
among the bases of the apparently miniature mountains. It


is strange what a diminuefying effect is given by these im-
mense altitudes to objects less high. We could look down
toward the south into South Park, also into Middle Park, and
just peep over a spur of the main chain into San Louis Park,
below us, to the north.

We now saw that another portion of the storm was ap-
proaching from the southeast, so we reluctantly began the
descent. While occupying such an elevated position, we were
very liable to become the objective points for the flashes of
lightning, which darted from one cloud to another with a
vividness, which far surpassed anything we had witnessed in
the valley. It was impossible to remount our horses until a
certain point, nearly two thousand feet below us, had been
reached. We passed among great white slants of snow that
had lodged under the cornice of the mountain, and scram-
bled over or slid clown among the loose and sharp edged
rocks that lay right in the zig-zag, headlong path. We kept
this up for over two miles, when we reached a small plateau
of grassy turf, nearly at the base of the mountain, with trem-
bling knees and dripping faces. The rain now descended in
great sheets, flooding the already foaming torrents and wet-
ting us through, even before we had time to dismount and
unpack and don our gum suits. We rode on, forming rather
a straggly, dejected looking procession ; the rain dripping
from the corners of our capes and coats into our boot tops,
and slowly trickling down inside, wetting us to the skin. In
this manner, we plodded along through the deep mud and
cold wintry gusts of wind, for more than an hour and a half
before we reached Bakersville, at the head of the valley. We
stopped here and warmed our stiffened limbs beside the stove,
but soon seeing that the rain had ceased, \\v remounted and
turned our jaded horses heads toward Georgetown, twelve


long miles away. It was seven o'clock before we reached our
destination. We had not carried on a very lively conversa-
tion during our homeward ride, and by this time felt tired,
wet, and out of humor.


The Burleigh Tunnel. Machine Drilling. The Composition of
the Silver Ore. The Reduction Process. Our Mountain
Party. Scenery along the New Trail. Crossing the Range.
The First Mountain Rabbit. Lost among the Rocky
Mountains. A Comic Scene The Head of the Platte.
Another Funny Adventure. The Ride to Hepborris Ranch.

We engaged rooms at a different hotel, where we ob-
tained comfortable quarters, and retired early to recruit our
exhausted energies. We had intended starting at six o'clock
on the next morning, in the stage for Idaho Springs, from
whence we were to strike across the country on mule-back
for a distance of, perhaps, thirty miles, to the intersection of
the trail with the Tarryall road into South Park, and pursue
that route to Fair Play, a little village at the head of the
Park ; but we were so fatigued by our yesterday's climbing,
that it as was as much as we could do to move our sore bodies
from one spot to another. So we gave up that plan and de-
termined to remain in Georgetown another day. Having
come to this wise decision, we cast about us for some pleas-
ant and profitable way in which to spend our time, and finally
concluded that a visit to the gold and silver mines of the
" Clear Creek Mining Region " would be both instructive and

Having ordered a pair of horses and a buggy, we were
soon on our way up the Silver Gulch. The mountain roads


are none of the best, as I before remarked, so it occupied
over an hour to ride about three miles. We carried with us
a letter of introduction to the proprietors of the Burleigh
tunnel, from a gentlemen of position in Georgetown, so that
we were particularly fortunate during our visit. One of the
firm was absent, but we met Mr. Burleigh, a very pleasant
and gentlemanly man. He first exhibited and explained the
machinery outside the tunnel. This is the largest mine in
the district, and the only one which accomplishes all its drill-
ing by machinery. The engines are worked by means of con-
densed air. In this way steam and its appurtenances are en-
tirely dispensed with, and apparently without sustaining any
loss of power, or in any other way suffering a disadvantage.
On the contrary, the cost of the working is less, because the
fuel is not needed which would be necessary for a steam en-
gine. It is not nearly so dangerous as the other would be.
With the known data, viz : the numerical value of the volu-
metric increase of common air, at zero degrees and ordinary
pressure, and the co-efficient expansion of air, they calcu-
late that an engine of four hundred horse-power will do the
work of drilling, at a distance of eleven hundred feet, with
regular four-pronged "irons," as, they called them, being the
drilling chisels. There is a slight correction to be added for
the temperature of the tunnel, and the length and diameter
of the pipe leading into the lode.

After a thorough and satisfactory examination of the
outer works, he proposed sending us in on a hand-car. Can-
dles were procured, and we seated ourselves upon a rough
board that crossed the sides of the car.

A miner came and pushed us along the iron track. It was
the blackness of Egypt about us from the moment we left
the mouth of the tunnel. By holding our candles up, we


could see above us the damp walls glistening in the light.
Underneath us at some depth, ran a drain to carry off the
water always accompanying the ore in the bed. Near the
wall we could trace the course of the india-rubber pipe lead-
ing in from the engine outside. Nothing was visible either
behind or before us. All was black.

We now experienced a strong odor of powder smoke,
which the guide told us was from a blast which had occured
about two hours before we entered. It was fortunate that
the explosion was over, for the concussion is in most instances
so violent that when one takes place at the end of the mine,
a distance of eleven hundred feet from the outer air, the stout
roof of plank that covers the entrance is torn off, and the men
knocked down. Even the miners who remain in the side
avenues have their hats and shoe-soles jerked off and their
breath taken, instantly, from them.

The farther we proceeded the colder and damper it be-

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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 4 of 14)