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 6 of 14)
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listened to the life and adventures of the old pioneer, who
seemed to regain his youthful fire as he recounted to us the
many hair breadth escapes, both from Indians and wild ani-
mals, that he had made long years ago, when this region was
still uninhabited. We sat thus until late into the night, when
the little party broke up, each one seeking his own room to
enjoy the rest that we had so well earned during the day.

Before closing the chapter on Wednesday's experience,
I will add a few words concerning this house between the
hills ; this back-woodsman's home on the frontier. Mr. Hep-
born's ranche may be taken as the representative of its class.
It is nothing but a rough, log cabin, with a wing constructed
of the same material, and containing the kitchen, wood-yard,
and barn. The main building consists of five rooms, viz : the
reception or sitting room, and the dining apartment on the
first floor, and three bed-rooms on the second. Then comes
the roof, with, perhaps, a very low attic intervening. The front
door is just high enough to admit of the entrance of a full sized
man, and the interior of the house is entirely bare, there be-
ing nothing to fill the openings between the logs, except in the
lower room where there are several rail road placards, busi-
ness cards, and miscellaneous advertisements, pasted up with-
out regard to taste or beauty.

On Thursday morning we were up with the sun, and felt
ready for another day's ride, even though it be over trails, as
it had been the day before ; but, fortunately, we now could
travel along a good wide stage road that leads from Denver
to Fair Play. The worst of the journey Iiad been accomplished.


Remounting our animals, after finishing the well-pre-
pared breakfast set before us by Mrs. Hepborn, we bade the
old couple farewell and turned our faces toward South Park.
For the first few miles the road lay through a rich, rolling
country, scattered thickly with patches of pine timber, and
little open glens, which glimmered here and there upon the
vast mountain sides like green oases in the surrounding wood-
ed waste. The mountains lining this lovely valley seemed
to have drawn apart to expose to admiring eyes, the beauty
and richness of the country.

After riding for eight miles, hardly noting the lapse of
time while drinking in the charm and novelty of our situation,
we reached the Kenotia House, where hungry travelers can
obtain meals and lodging, and even stabling for their horses ;
but in this instance we merely refreshed ourselves with a cup
of cold water, and rode on. Learning from the landlord
that we would enter South Park in a very short time, we
hastened forward in eager expectation of the beauty of this
long imagined region.

Proceeding at a lively gait for about a mile, we passed
one of the most exquisite little lakes that can be imagined.
It lies to the left of the wagon road at a distance of two
hundred yards, and is lined by a wide margin of tall, rich
grass that gives it the appearance of an immense basin with
a green rim. Sporting upon its glassy surface, we noticed
several wild ducks, but were too far off to obtain a shot with
even a half chance of killing.

After another quick stage we reached the foot of a long,

and rather steep hill, that, according to Charley's statement,

would afford us an excellent view of the lower end of the

Park. In toiling up its side with difficulty, we were remind-



ed of the ascent of Grey's Peak, but all our recollections
were transformed into actual and inspiring experience, when,
on attaining the summit, a grand view opened before our gaze.
Here was South Park ! Here that fairy-land that had so
often been pictured to us in the most inspiring language, and
of which we* had heard so much since entering Colorado ;
here was our final destination, to reach which we had en-
dured the burning heat of the plain, and the fatigue and dis-
comfort of long journeys ; here was our most eagerly looked
for ''Mecca." Truly South Park is the garden of the Rocky
Mountains. A more enchanting scene can not be met with
in the range. It was not awe-inspiring grandeur, and terrify-
ing sublimity, that lay before us ; it was perfect tranquility,
harmony, and soft blending of color and outline. It was a
scene of contrasts between steep, rugged, snow-capped
mountains, and green, grassy plains. All bespoke content-
ment and rest. In the immediate foreground lay the plain,
stretching far away to the south-west, and terminated by the
main chain of the Rocky Mountains, which seen at such a dis-
tance, seemed nothing but a long, blue bank of clouds. The
haze that partially enveloped them in its misty veil, hid from
view their most prominent features, only disclosing enough to
give one an idea of their stupendous proportions and wild
grandeur. We could just catch sight of the small white spots
upon their sides and near their summits, which we knew,
were, in reality, great patches of snow, some of them, per-
haps, hundreds of yards in extent. These mountains were
seventy miles away. There appeared to be no outlet from
this immense plateau, but on descending the hill and plod-
ping along over the level surface of the plain for more than
two hours, we discovered that the road led us toward what
seemed to be a narrow gulch, opening out of the very heart
of the chain.


After entering the Park we had not headed directly across,
but had borne off toward the north, and ridden along, keeping
about four miles distant from the base of the range.

On approaching the gorge, we found that it was entirely
impassable, but that, instead of entering it, the road wound
around to the left, crossing a slight eminence and then lead-
ing to another portion of the park that we had not yet seen.
On the level ground beyond the rise just mentioned, we
stopped for dinner at a ranch, kept by a man named Lechner.
We stabled our animals and entered the cabin, but had to
wait for almost an hour and a half for dinner, during which
time we entertained ourselves by perusing a lot of newspapers
about a year old, and in dozing around the large stove that
formed the principal piece of furniture of the apartment. At
last the landlady, holding a dried-up looking little baby in
her arms, which we at first mistook for a diminutive,
wizen-faced monkey, announced that the meal was upon the
table, and we were not slow in reaching the adjoining room
where a substantial repast was spread before us.

In the afternoon we jogged along as usual, but now began
to feel somewhat fatigued by our two hard day's ride. Other
parts or divisions of the park unfolded before us as we ad-
vanced, add new sights charmed us at every turn of the road.
Everywhere we noticed beautiful glens and ravines extending
some distance into the mountain sides, and, here and there
upon the green slopes, rustic, natural gardens that seemed to
have been fashioned by the hand of man, so regular, and yet
so charmingly irregular, was their arrangement. Small ever-
greens stood in clusters, half concealing serpentine avenues
and walks as it were, but which were, in reality, the smoothly
worn trails of the deer and antelope as they came down to
drink at the mirror-like little lakes' that nestled at the foot of


the mountains. Between the trees the grass was intensely
green, and as smooth and velvety as if but just mown by an
experienced workman. As a back-ground to such lovely spots,
the dark timber of the pine forests rose giant-like and gaunt,
only, in contrast, enhancing by their ruggedness, the rural
serenity and natural beauty of these mountain gardens.

We now ascended an eminence from whose crest we com-
manded a view on both sides of not less than twenty miles.
This is called " The Hill of the Espanola," from the fact that
several years ago, a party of visitors, on their way to Fair
Play, were brutally murdered on the top of this hill, by a band
of savage, half-civilized, highwaymen, of Spanish descent,
styling themselves the " Espanola."

After crossing this ridge we traversed another stretch of
plain, then succeeded a waste of willow bushes, then an open
glen, and at last, rounding a narrow strip of copse, we came
in sight of Fair Play. Let me describe it before we enter, so
that you may know just what to expect, and be in nowise

There is only one long street, with the most "batter-down,''
rickety, log cabins, lining it on either side. About half way
down this so-called street, it being nothing but an^pening to
let wagons between the huts, stand the hotels, there being
two ; further on, stands the store, there being one ; further
still does not stand the church, there being none.

At one extremity is the livery stable, at the other, the
express office, in the interval, the billiard halls and liquor

There is supposed to be a commission store in this de-
lectable tdWi, but it is only a wild supposition, for opposite
the hotel called the Clinton House, stands a miserable frame


shanty, bearing across the front a dilapidated looking sign,
with " S. F. Valiton, Storage and Commission," in crooked,
black letters, painted, probably, a dozen years ago, but which
are almost faded or washed out of sight.

All day long, a crowd of lazy, ' out-of-work " miners,
with, now and then, a hotel keeper or bar-tender, is to be seen
loafing about the door of, or sitting upon the rough, wooden
benches before, the Clinton or Murdock House. Everything
is dull, everybody is dull, so we are dull likewise.

Fair Play is situated on the edge of the high bluffs over-
looking Four Mile Creek. It occupies an excellent site, but
of course, it does not improve its situation. I cannot tell you
what a dismal, woe-begone, insipid, out-of-the-way, diminu-
tive, insignificant place Fair Play is. One must come here
to fully appreciate its discomforts. But speaking of discom-
forts reminds me of what we endured on Thursday night.

On entering the village, we rode up to Murdock's and
asked for rooms. Of course he said 'yes', for all hotel keep-
ers say 'yes', even though their house is so crowded that you
are obliged to sleep on the floor. He was no exception to the
rule, but we were too much fatigued to be inquisitive, so we
sent our animals to the stable and prepared to follow him to
the " comfortable" room that he kept assuring us was in wait-
ing. We stumbled up a narrow, uncarpeted, rickety pair of
stairs, all the while, stooping low, for fear that our heads
might injure the 44 elegantly frescoed ceiling" by a collision.
We reached the top step, took two and stumped our toes
against a shallow sill that marked the entrance, almost pre-
cipitating ourselves at full length upon the floor of that Vo;;/-
f or table" room. Recovering our equipoise, \M- sk>\\ ly and
silently took a mental inventory of the apartment. ( )j>]><>site
the door-hole, for there was no door, was a little


window with dust-incrusted sash and filthy panes, all streak-
ed with the course of rain drops, as they had partially washed
off the dirt ; and at the left of the window stood a bed rough,
unpainted bedstead, and clothes that certainly were never
washed, and covering all, a plaid quilt upon which you might
almost write your name. The pillows, I will leave to your
imagination ; however, I will say, out of the kindness of my
heart, that I do really suppose that once they were white.
They are now of a delightful mud color, all soiled and mussed
and greasy by contact with many a miner's uncombed locks.

We did not lift the topmost coverings. The exterior was
enough ! We knew, of a certainty that if we carried our in-
vestigations below the quilt, we would/have to pay the pen-
alty, and, perhaps, be eaten up alive.

This is the description of only one of the beds that filled
the comfortable room. There were five of them ! Think of
it ! And all occupied ! Now think of it ! And by dirty un-
reliable miners. Imagine that \ Pleasant, wasn't it ? But we
had to submit, for it was too late and we were too tired to
seek other lodgings. The floor was covered, or supposed to
be, by a torn and filthy, old, rag-carpet, that had, per-
haps, been there ever since the house was built. The walls
and ceiling were papered with periodicals and newspapers of
every name and locality. Here and there, a picture, such as
is to be found in the Harpers Weekly or Chimney Corner,
catches the eye and relieves the sameness of color, produced
by such an array of printed matter. Between the feet of two
of the many beds in that comfortable room, stood a home-
made pine table that looked old enough for a home to be made
for it, rather than be made for one. On it, reared its lofty
and snow-white head, a tallow-dip, that gave out just light
enough to distinguish, after having accustomed the eyes to it's


feeble flicker, the farthest bed, which, with it's redheaded oc-
cupant, ornamented the recess around a corner. Opening
through either of the rooms, were what seemed to be upright
trap-doors, which proved afterward to lead into the suburbs
of an attic which was crammed full of old shoes, boxes, bags,
boards, and all the debris of a hotel.

With the very pleasantest ( ? ) feelings imaginable we pre-
pared for bed I mean to daintily dispose ourselves upon the
outside sheets so as not to disturb the lower inmates. We
deposited our bundles and carpet-bags on the cleanest part of
the floor, and carefully examined our revolvers to see if they
were in a condition to oppose any midnight intruders. We
lay awake a long time listening to the yellow curtain flapping
and knocking up against the window sash making the most
suspicious and alarming sounds. We each grasped our weap-
ons in momentary expectation of seeing a long arm slowly en-
tering the room, or of becoming aware that there were more
than five persons in the room. In fact, I cannot say positively
that there were not, for any one might have sneaked in and
slept on the floor without being discovered. The're was no
door and we could lie in the room and look down the stair-
way into the street. In this manner we passed most of the
night and when the gray dawn of morning crept in through
the chinks between the logs, we arose, and having carefully
looked to our * where-withal' to see that none was missing,
we shook hands and congratulated each other, that we had
escaped death during the night, for we might have been rob-
bed, murdered, eaten up, or, indeed, any other fate might have
befallen us.

As soon as we had breakfasted, upon the following morn-
ing, we carried our chattels over to the Clinton House, and
obtained a very fair room on the second floor. It was quite


neat, and not in any way repulsive, as the " comfortable"
room had been. My friend Stapler, who had been suffering
from a severe sore throat during the past few days, now be-
came seriously indisposed. A high fever set in and it employ-
ed all my time in taking care of him, so that nothing of any
interest occured that was worthy of a place in these pages.
We spent the entire day in our room.

On Saturday morning Stapler was so much better that
we found it practicable to fulfil our engagement, with a Mr.
Mills, and his friend Mr. Reed, to go up through the mount-
ains for a week's hunting. We had made an arrangement by
which he was to furnish everything necessary to such an ex-
pedition, so, at the appointed hour in the morning, he came
with his large uncovered wagon and mules, while Mr. Reed
rode a fine roan horse. We packed up our gum suits, carpet
bags and blankets, and after depositing them carefully in the
wagon we arranged ourselves for a long ride. We drove out
of Fair Play toward the north, and taking a sharp turn around
the brow of the bluff, descended, and having crossed Four
Mile Creek, we traversed the plains toward Horse Shoe
Gulch. The ride was a beautiful one, for we wound through
many sequestered glens and timber-lined parks, until we ar-
rived at a cool, shady spot, near a little sheet of clear water,
where we camped temporarily, for dinner. While Mr. Mills
was setting the cooking utensels again in order, we scoured
the country about for, perhaps, a mile square, in search of deer,
but finding none, gave up the chase for the ride. We were
soon seated once more in the wagon, jolting along up the val-
ley. Riding quietly through a clear stretch of plain, we all
at once came to a halt, in sight of a splendid buck antelope,
which was slowly crossing a side park. Unfortunately we
were not near enough to use our rifles, so he was permitted to
walk away unharmed.


Every now and then we noticed little mounds of sand or
sandy soil, heaped up, which were scattered along, and mostly
just at the edge of the forest. There would have been nothing
remarkable about their appearance, had they not been hol-
lowed out as it were, from the top, sometimes to a depth of a
foot and even two feet. After using all my ingenuity to devise
an explanation of their peculiar form to no purpose, I asked
Mr. Mills what they really were. " Ant hills that the bears
have been at," he replied. Here was the solution of the mys-
tery. The bears had rooted about with their nose in search
of the little insects, and had thus destroyed the symmetry of
the hill.

It was rather unfortunate that we did not reach Fair Play
one day sooner, for there had been quite an excitement in the
usually quiet little village. A large grizzly bear had yielded
to temptation and contracted the very bad habit of stealing.
He was accustomed to come every night, at about the mid-
night hour, to a butcher-house, which is situated at the
northern end of the town, and closely bordering the edge of
the dense, pine forest ; and it was in vain that the owners of
the meat, set traps for him, and gummed leaves, in order to
cover his feet and eventually his eyes, so that they might ap-
proach him without fear. One black and stormy night, the
bear came out of the woods at the usual hour, and, after look-
ing carefully around for some minutes, started for the house.
On arriving at the door, he paused again, as if he felt a little
apprehension that some danger was threatening him, but
soon, having seen nothing to attract his attention, he stepped
inside. The moment after he disappeared, three human
figures glided simultaneously from behind as many trees, and
closed in around the door. Then, at a signal, they rushed
forward and drew the sliding planks across the opening, at


the same time, barring and rebarring them, with stout two
inch timbers. Master "bruin " wheeled about, and, seeing in
what a snare he was caught, made a rush at the door, striking
it with his shoulders and head. Finding how useless was this
expenditure of strength, he deliberated what to do next ;
then drew off for some yards, and rising on his hind legs, came
on again for another attack, but this time more slowly and
cautiously. Reaching the side of the building he began a
regular battle with the thick planks. He struck right and
left with his fore limbs, sinking his claws deep into the wood,
and tearing asunder the solid posts, like ribbons. With his
teeth he seized the cross-bars, and rent them in twain as
though they were brittle twigs. At last, the door could not
withstand these terrible assaults, and began to creak and
tremble, then suddenly gave way with a loud crash, and out
walked the bear. By the time he reached the open ground
in front of the building, there were no men in sight. The
only consideration that deterred them from shooting him,
was the desire of obtaining such a valuable prize, alive.

Several days passed by, without any more disturbance.
However, on the night previous to our arrival in Fair Play,
the old grizzly appeared again, at almost the same hour that
had marked his former incursions. The men were on the
watch though, and saw him enter the butcher-house. In the
meantime they had repaired the shattered door, and had sub-
stituted three inch plank for the tivo inch boards that had an-
swered for the door. This they believed would resist all the
attacks which could be made by any bear. However, they
were mistaken in their conjectures, as we shall presently see.
Finding himself shut in again, the bear stood up and came
roaring toward the door. He first bit and then clawed the
timbers, but only to work himself into a greater fury. He kept


up this one sided fight for over a half hour, when, as might
have been expected, by dint of perseverance, he succeeded in
wearing down the oaken posts, until, at each stroke of his
powerful arm, they would bend and creak. They could not
hold out much longer. This alarming fact became evident to
those outside, just in time to prevent the bear's escape, and
perhaps fatal bloodshed. There being a gentleman from St.
Louis present, the honor of killing this huge animal was con-
ferred upon him, as the stranger. Approaching carefully, and
raising himself as high as he could, he pushed the barrel of
his rifle through the logs, and pulled the trigger. There was
a fearful scream, and a continued succession of heavy jars as
the bear went tumbling upon the floor. It was some moments
before the door was opened, and then with the greatest cir-
cumspection, in order to ascertain if the brute had been
killed outright.

This terrible beast weighed over eighteen hundred pounds,
and his meat, after being dressed, weighed about four hun-
dred pounds. He was the largest grizzly bear that had been
seen about Fair Play for a number of years.

Now, after this lengthy digression, we will return to our
ride up the Horse Shoe Gulch.

We passed the whole remaining portion of the day in
reaching a spot, only twelve miles from Fair Play, where we
went into camp for the night. The scenery between Fair Play
and the camp was grand, in its ever changing mountain and
level landscape. Lying on all sides of us, as we had advanced,
were little clearings, shaped in the most fantastic forms ; long
belts of forest trees, rendered almost impassable by fallen tim-
ber and rushing, foaming mountain streams, that came tum-
bling down from their snow-fed sources. The glens were very
level and were covered with a rich, sweet grass, upon which


the deer and antelope graze during the cool hours of the eve-
ning. All was quiet. Even the subdued colorings of the
mountain sides gave a restful and mellowing influence, that
elevated while it softened the feelings. Beyond the level val-
lies rose the wintry, snow capped pinnacles, jutting upward
into the deep blue of the air. We could not peep over the
range that immediately surrounded us, so that we were en-
closed, as it were, in gteat prison walls of pines. But to

After unpacking our wagon and littering the ground for
some distance around with the camp impedimenta, a fire was
lighted and we seated ourselves to a real, out-of-doors, wes-
tern supper. It consisted of beef, tea, bread, or rather a sort
of " pome," made then and there, sugar, condensed milk,
answering for cream, crackers, ginger-bread, butter and choco-
late. This we considered faring very well for mountain life.

After supper we sat around the blazing fire for a long
time, watching the flames dart up luridly for an instant and
then sink back again into the glowing embers, and lay upon
our blankets gazing up at the merrily twinkling stars that
looked down upon us so kindly.

Talking pleasantly, we lingered to a late hour, and then,
the fire having died down to a heap of smouldering coals, and
beginning to feel somewhat chilled by the cold night air, we
wrapped ourselves up in our heavy blankets and composed
ourselves for the night.

In a very few moments I could hear all of my companions
breathing regularly and deeply, which proved that they were
already unconscious and were enjoying the rest of " nature's
sweet restorer, balmy sleep." But no such good fortune was
mine, for I could not lose myself for an instant, even when


using all the childish devices to entice slumber, which I had
been taught when very young. The clearing in which our
camp was situated was flooded with splendid moonlight, and
whenever I opened my eyes on the mysterious mazes of light
and gloom in the depths of the forest, I became excited and
restless. I rose on my elbow and looked at my watch. The

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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 6 of 14)