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 5 of 14)
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came. The air seemed to weigh upon us ; and it was with
difficulty that we could inhale it in sufficient quantities to pre-
vent giddiness. After rumbling along for some time in silence,
now and then passing a crevasse, where we saw the miners at
work with pick and shovel, and after being subjected to the
continual dropping of cold water from the rocky ceiling
above us, we at last heard a confused noise, sounding like a
distant cataract ; but as yet, could see nothing. Soon, how-
ever, a tiny, dim ray of light was pointed out to us by our
guide, who informed us that it was from a candle held by one
of the miners at the end of the tunnel, and where the machine
drilling was in operation. It was the terrible noise of the
drills as they struck the solid rock that we had perceived for
some time past. Having reached the spot, we alighted and
stood for some time, watching the immense chisels us tlu \


glided in and out of the iron caps, striking, with tremendous
force the granite walls, and revolving with inconceivable
velocity, at the moment of impact. All this was accompani-
ed by a deafening roar and clatter, so that it was just as much
as we could do to make ourselves audible, even when placing
our lips at each other's ears, and yelling at the top of our
voices. Consequently the conversation was not very brisk,
and almost every communication was made exclusively by
signs. It was a curious and interesting pantomime to see the
workmen motioning to each other in the most laughable and
idiotic manner. Of course they meant something by each
gesture, but we novices, could not understand a thing, so we
enjoyed ourselves at their expense. .

At the side of the cap in which the drilling piston work-
ed, was an aperture to admit of the free escape of the con-
densed air, after having accomplished its mission. We were
directed to place our hands before this opening, but the in-
stant we did so, they were flung back against the rock with
great violence. It was impossible to check the rush of air.
One could lay hold of it, almost as if it were a stick of wood
or a bar of iron. Think of the terrible force with which it was

Having now seen everything of interest in the mine, we
again seated ourselves upon the car, and were wheeled back
again toward the outer world. It is a fearful place in which
to work. I cannot imagine what induces these miners to
spend their lives in such a dungeon as the Burleigh tunnel.
At its extremity we were over a thousand feet below the
surface of the mountain slope. On our way out, we stopped
a moment to obtain some specimens of the ore from a lode
that intersected the tunnel almost at right angles.


After reaching the open air we delivered up what re-
mained of our candles, feeling that we "had had enough", of
underground traveling. On again conversing with Mr. B.,
we learned some very interesting facts connected with this
mine. This lead yields four or five ounces of pure silver to
the ton, being in value about forty five dollars. There is no
brittle silver. The ore is composed of the following elements
and compounds. Silver, galena, (sulphide of lead), copper,
both native, in hexagonal cubes of the trimetric system, and
in combination; iron pyrites, a slight trace of manganese, also
a small quantity of mica and other calcareous matters, and
what is called "gang," a kind of worthless stone. It is a
very complex ore, but one from which large quantities of
silver are extracted.

The crushing and reduction processes I will describe

Bidding Mr. B. good morning, we rode some miles fur-
ther up the valley to visit the "Terrible" mine. This mine is
the richest silver mine in the region, yielding over eight
hundred dollars per ton ; some of the gold mines, however,
yield over one thousand. The Terrible is worked entirely by
hand, having both a shaft and a tunnel. The lode is only
from one eighth of an inch to an inch in width, that of the
Burleigh tunnel being two inches.

We now visited several other silver mines, among which
were the Cashier and the Sage, &c., but finding that we had
just enough time to reach the hotel before dinner, we decided
to abandon our plan of going into the gold mines, and take
those we had seen, as the representatives of their class, and

In the afternoon we walked down to the reduction works,
which are situated but a short distance from the hotel, and


spent an hour and a half very profitably in studying the ope-
rations by which the rough, unseemly ore is transformed into
the bright, glistening, and costly metal.

First of all they shovel it into a large machine which
crushes it very fine, after which, if there is any that has es-
caped this process, it is taken up into a high, wooden dust-
flue, from which it runs into the "pulverizer," through a long,
wooden channel, and from whence it is returned as the soft-
est powder. Now, a certain quantity is put into each of sev-
eral large revolving hogsheads, and quicksilver, which is the
proto-chloride of mercury, is poured in also. These sub-
stances form an amalgam which is then composed of chloride
of silver and sulphide of mercury, and probably a little phos-
phide of mercury, together with all the comlpex silicates of
aluminum, which are the principal ingredients of the soil.
After amalgamation, the silver is placed in a retort and heat-
ed to a very high temperature. Old horse shoes or other
scraps of iron are now introduced to act as general reducing
agents, instead of sodium or potassium. The chlorine unites
with the iron, forming chloride of iron, and the silver is pre-
cipitated in the form of pure metal. The chlorine fumes are
conducted out of the building by means of a special draft-
chimney. Here is the whole process, and yet, simple as it
really is, it occupies considerable time, and many men. The
metal is finally cast into small ingots and shipped. Perhaps
I have tired you with this detailed account, but I have, as my
excuse, the desire of affording the practical profit of knowing
just how the precious metals are extracted from the earth and
separated from all contaminations. After all, perhaps, it is
worth the reading.

In the evening we indulged in a moonlight walk some
distance down the canon, but returning early, went to bed,
satisfied with our day's experience.


On Wednesday morning at seven -forty-five, we started,
according to former determination, on mule-back, for Fair
Play, in South Park. We had procured the mules and a little
pack-jack, with a boy to attend to the animals. I must give
a place to these two latter personages, the boy and the jack.
They formed the funniest team you ever saw. Charley was
only twelve years old, and the jack about the same age.
Charley was a mighty cute boy, sharp as a steel-trap and full
of fun ; the jack was just the opposite ; dumb, slow and con-
trary. The only thing in which they resembled each other
was in being small. Any other person but Charley would
have touched the ground with his heels, but in this case, ani-
mal and rider just fitted and suited each other.

In the gayest spirits, we set out on our long ride over
the range. It was to occupy two days, for we were going to
attempt to cross the mountains by a newly discovered and
very difficult trail. Few had gone in this way, so we felt
rather elated at our prospects for an adventure. Some miles
from the town we fell in with a party of four gentlemen with
their guides and pack-mule. Of course we at once formed a
party and traveled in company. Indeed, it was quite an ob-
ject to obtain companions of almost any kind on such a long
and rough journey.

The trail led through the wildest, grandest country one
can imagine. No one who has never experienced this ride,
can possibly form a correct idea of its ruggedness and its
glorious mountain scenery. I cannot picture it. Rocks,
boulders, tall pines, thickets, roots, mud-holes, trailing vines,
open glens, steep ascents, steep descents, winding, rocky
is, jutting promontories, deep gulleys, wide, rushing
Jams, clear ground, lakes, thick forest, prostrate timber,
sloping, green, grassy hill-sides, huge, slippery logs, marshes,


bogs, precipices, gorges, little ravines, rocky glens, tumbling
cataracts, quiet, clear rivulets, almost insurmountable hights,
stony mountain sides, overhanging, twisted branches, prickly
bushes, copses of sage and aspen brush, open woods, green,
velvety meadows, and every other feature of the wildest
mountain landscape, met us at every turn. At one moment
we were galloping swiftly over the turf, crowning a sharp
ridge, at the next floundering in a spongy, quicksand bog,
that yielded under the hoofs of our animals, sinking them in
two or three feet of marshy soil. Now we would move slowly
along, step by step picking our way among trailing creepers
and over rough stones and fallen tree-trunks, then plunge bold-
ly into a foaming mountain torrent, and ford it with the great-
est difficulty. It was almost impossible for the horses and
mules to avoid stumbling upon the loose, rolling stones in
crossing a fearful "slide", slipping from the smooth surface of
a rock in crossing a narrow gorge, or sliding upon the sand on
the steep mountain side. Having almost attained the sum-
mit of the range, we camped for dinner in a sequestered glen
or plateau just on the verge of the timber line.

It was very picturesque to watch the eight or nine horses
and mules grazing upon the rich grass of the clearing, each
with a lariet dangling from his neck and trailing along the
ground, and to see the camp, strewn with the paraphernalia of
backwood's life. In the center of a natural rotunda, formed
by four large pine trees, burned the camp fire, upon which
simmered the coffee pot, while, lounging around, laughing,
talking and preparing the meal, was the hungriest, jolliest
group of individuals you ever saw.

After spending the noon hour here, in rest, we br
camp and trudged along again, making a still greater
until we halted upon the broad, rocky crest of the


Here and there bunches of brush, or an occasional grove
of stunted aspens met the eye, while the grass grew in straggly
patches only a few inches in hight. As we were crossing a
belt of low willows that hemmed in the trail on either side,
there suddenly sprang up a huge mountain rabbit, leaving the
thicket and bounding up the steep slope to the right. He
stopped somewhere upon the brow of a little knoll about two
hundred yards distant. A young fellow named Henry Scott
and myself started in pursuit, but spent the next half hour in
beating the bushes, all to no purpose ; however, while we
were gone, two or three other fine fellows were " sprung " by the
rest of the party. Unfortunately, none were killed. They
are excellent game, as they average four or five times the size
of our eastern rabbits. There was not one in our party, not
excepting the guides, who did not think this fellow was an
antelope when we first caught sight of him.

Having with difficulty descended the steep side of the
range for some distance, we suddenly found ourselves com-
pletely at a loss as to where we should strike the Platte Val-
ley trail, as there had been none to follow immediately upon
leaving the summit. It was in vain that we scrambled first
in one direction, then in another ; we were lost. Lost on the
Rocky Mountains ! Matters now began to take a more serious
turn, fortnight was fast throwing her long shadows upon the
mountain sides, and the forest about us we knew to be infest-
ed by grizzly bears and panthers, not to speak of black bears,
wild cats and elk, with all the other regular denizens of the
woods. To add spice to the adventure, a storm gathered
and burst upon us, even before we had noticed any premonitory

ations. Day was rapidly fading into twilight and soon
wilight would vanish into night, and then ! what should
o ? Stopping many times to hold a council to determine


concerning the best course to be pursued, we spent nearly an
hour in reaching the edge of the valley. We started in every
direction, but would always come to an impassable bog or a too
dense forest, so that in every instance we only made matters
worse, for we knew not whether we were ever increasing
the distance between us and the much desired trail. At last,
almost fagged out, we reached the low valley-bottom, but only
to increase our peril. Here we found ourselves in the midst
of an apparently endless bog and thicket. Whichever way
we turned, whether up through the timber again or toward
the Platte river, which we could hear rushing down the
center of the ravine over its stony bed, it 'was all the same ;
no trail could be discovered.

Once or twice there would arise a joyous shout from some
member of the party, who had at last found it, but it always
turned out to be a deer "run-away", through which they
come down in the evenings from their beds among the moun-
tains to drink at their '.'licks", which were noticeable every
few hundred yards.

We sent out scouts, both on foot and horseback, in all
directions, and at length by this means discovered a danger-
ous, though not wholly impassable deer trail to the river,
which we determined we would enter and boldly ford or
swim our way down until we reached an open plateau that
forms the commencement of the Platte Valley Park, a little
quadrangular space which seems to fit in around the three
promontories of the mountains, which jut out into the valleys,
almost concealing it.

Under other circumstances, it would have been a very
ludicrous sight to see us, in a long string, wading and ur
our horses down the stream, but in our uncomfortable
perilous position, we found no inclination to be mirthful.


However, once it was impossible not to indulge in a hearty
laugh. The contrary, awkward and stubborn pack-jack, took
a notion into his thick numb-skull, (however he managed it
we dont know) not to enter the ice-cold water. One of us
got before and the other behind and pulled and pushed with
all our combined strength, but we couldn't even budge him.
Then we detailed a corps of four of the stoutest> men among
us, to go out in the willows, cut as thick sticks as they could
find and belabor the brute until he started. The rest of us
rode on. After proceeding for some distance we stopped and
looked back. Nothing was in sight, but we fancied we could
hear some odd noises away down the valley. We waited and
waited, but all in vain. No donkey made his appearance, so
we thought we would ride back and see what was the matter.
On coming around from behind the last willow bush, there we
saw the jack, standing steadfast and firm, just as we had left
him, but not so were our corps of execution. The poor fellows,
wearied and almost exhausted by their exertions, were now
taking it by turns, of two each. They were so tired that now
only feeble strokes descended on the rump, the iron rump !
of that invincible donkey. We joined in this one sided melee
and had the satisfaction of wasting all our strength to no
more purpose than the others. We stopped. I walked around
in front of the little beast just out of curiosity, to look in his
face. I just rolled with laughter when I saw that mild and
idiotic expression of supreme contentment and stupidity that
overspread his assinine countenence. He looked as if he was
just as happy as he ever expected to be, "and his smile it was
childlike and bland." There was a vacant, absent mindedness
about his manner and position which was irresistably ridicu-
lous. We had found after repeated experiment, that twisting
his tail was a preventive of stoppages, but even this expedient
now failed. We now held another council, and finally, after


much discussion, decided to build a fire under him and either
move him or cook him, but even while we were talking, another
idea seemed to dawn suddenly upon his understanding, for he
began to turn around in the path and strike back toward the
mountain. This movement caused great excitement. We
dashed along on horseback and on foot and managed to col-
lect in the path ahead of him in a dense column that seemed
to frighten him as he came slowly plodding along, swinging
his immense ears in lazy contrariness, for he wheeled about
and made directly for the water, dragging his huge pack
through the bushes, without regard to scratches or loss of
cooking utensils. This was just what we wanted but we dared
not urge him for fear he would again stop, so we followed at
some distance to await the result of our, thus far, successful
maneuver. Upon reaching the stream, he plunged in, as re-
gardless of consequence as he had been while dumbly stand-
ing beneath the blows that fell thick and fast.

Everything now went smoothly again and we soon found
ourselves once more on terra firma, and it was not many
moments before we discovered the lost trail emerging from
the edge of the timber.

We joyfully proceeded on our journey, feeling that we
had been particularly fortunate in extricating ourselves so
easily from the dilemma, because many persons have perished
on account of losing the trail among these mountain gorges.

The scenery, although shrouded in deep gloom, now
began to grow less rugged. From the mouth of the ravine
we rode out into a broad, grassy meadow-park and where the
other members of the party bade us adieu, as they had reach-
ed their destination, a little pine-bough hut that stood at one
edge of the glen-like park. They had come out from George-
town on a hunting and fishing excursion.


We had now arrived at the " Head of the Platte" as it
is called, but Charley Stapler and I had yet eight miles of
rough road before us, for we wished to put up for the night at
Hepborn's Ranch. After exchanging good wishes with our
friends, we galloped on.

In this lonely ride from Cushman's Camp to Hepborn's
Ranch, we experienced the very worst portion of the trail
that we had yet traversed. It was awful nothing but fear-
ful gorges, perpendicular ledges and bogs of the worst
description. We were obliged to leap fallen tree-trunks, push
our way through tangled and matted branches, cross rickety
log bridges, and flounder in mud-holes without number. But
it was the most amusing thing to see the short-legged jack
attempting the crossing of some of the deepest bogs. He
would plunge and rear frantically in his helpless endeavors to
get out. Sometimes he would sink up to his belly in mud.
Charley sat him like the true horseman that he was all the
while punching and digging him in the sides furiously with
his old dull spurs, and yelling at him and beating his long
ears about by turns. At one place in the road there was an
immense fallen tree-trunk that completely blocked the way,
so it had to be leaped. Stapler's widely distended carpet-bag
had, sometime before, lost its handle, so that now it had to
be carried under the arm. This was a very uncomfortable
position, but it happened that it had come Charley's turn to
take charge of it. He had gotten along well enough so far,
but when after having forded a small stream and ridden up a
very short but abrupt ascent, we came suddenly upon this
huge log lying directly across the path ; he was in a dilemma.
Deciding that delay was worse than anything else just then,
we determined, at least, to make the trial. I, being in ad-
vance, easily leaped my horse over ; next came Charley.


The jack hesitated a moment and then sprang over with all
his pigmy strength, but landed on the middle of the log with
a loud grunt as all the wind went out of his body. Here he
lay, with two feet on each side and Charley on top. After
stupidly gazing around for some moments, he thought it would
be as well to get over, so he plunged and squirmed in his
vain endeavors and we were dismounting to assist him when,
by a sudden and well executed twist of his little corpus, he
jerked his hind legs over and went sprawling on the ground,
pitching poor Charley into the mud. The jack went one way,
the round satchel another, and Charley another. After roll-
ing over, the jack lay still on his side, too lazy to move and
we had to tug away for sometime at his ears before he deigned
to stir. When he did though, raising himself upon his fore-
legs, his hind quarters still resting on the ground, what was
our astonishment upon finding the stirrup clasping his leg al-
most at the shoulder he had run his foot through it in some
unaccountable way. Here was another task for us ; we had
to pick him up and lay him on the log before we could extri-
cate his foot from its awkward and inconvenient position. It
was too ridiculous to see Charley get up out of the mud, rub-
bing his knee, and threatening the dumb little beast with
instant death by cutting his throat. However, he was not
seriously injured and in a few minutes we were again on the

At times the trail was barely discernable as a red mark
running along over the jagged fragments of detached rocks,
and under the knotted and interlaced limbs of the pines,
where we could scarcely urge our animals to venture.

It was now quite dark, so that every few hundred yards,
it was necessary to dismount and scan the ground, to discover
if we were following the real or only an apparent trail. Some-


times we hunted for it in the darkness on hands and knees.
All this was very disheartening and sorely fatiguing. In the
midst of our dismay, the storm that had been rolling up from
the south in dense banks of vapor, overspreading the heavens
with a thicker gloom than that of night, now broke over the
mountain sides, bringing with it a strong southerly wind and
a dripping, drizzling rain. It was only by the sudden glare of
the lightning that we could see the dim trail as it wound

We rode at break-neck speed for over an hour, up steep
banks at a run, and galloping with a desperate recklessness
upon the very edges of the precipices, that here and there
split the mountain side, and with only the thought of, and
determination to, reach Hepborn's Ranch. Had it not been
for the sure-footedness, and quick sightedness of the animals,
we should have been dashed to pieces before we had ridden a

We urged on our panting animals for dear life, for it is a
thing to be dreaded, being left to spend the night in a gulch
of the Rocky Mountains, and too, with three mules to take
care of.

It began to rain in torrents just as we dashed out from
under some thick willows, covering a mountain stream, and
forming a tunnel-like hole, but it was our last ascent, for, by
the vivid flashes of lightning we caught sight of a low, log
cabin, which we joyfully hailed. It was Hepborn's.


The Frontiermari s Home. Once more in the Saddle. Enter-
ing South Park. The Hill of the Espanola. Fair Play.
The " Comfortable' Room. Our Mountain Outfit. The
Ride to Horse SJioe Gulch. First indications of Master
"Bruin" The First Buck. A novel Bear Trap. The
Forest on Fire. A cold, Morning Hunt. Up the Valley
again. The Camp.

We drew up, before the plank platform answering for the
pavement and porch, jerked off the saddles, pounded roughly
on the door and entered without further ceremony. Old Mr.
Hepborn assisted in stabling the animals, and Mrs. Hepborn,
who, by the way, is a splendid cook, bustled about in a hurry
to get us up a hot supper, while we sat around the stove and
dried our saturated clothing.

When we reflected upon the perils we had that day en-
countered, how thankful we were that we had reached a haven
of safety in such good season. We looked out at the storm that
was raging with a fury that threatened destruction, and in
our security, did not notice the bare floor and walls about us,
nor the chinks between the logs, nor the rough, wooden
benches on which we sat. All was comfort and rest to us.

One does not know how to appreciate happy and tranquil
surroundings until they have been removed and he has felt
their loss. That log cabin in the Rocky Mountain ravine was
home to us that stormy night.


After doing full justice to the good "square" meal set
before us, we adjourned to the sitting room. Soon Mrs. Hep-
burn, and the man living with them came into the room and
we drew up our rough, home made chairs around the fire and

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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 5 of 14)