A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains
Isabella L. Bird

Part 1 out of 4


Isabella L. Bird

Introduction by
Ann Ronald
University of Nevada, Reno

To My Sister,
to whom
these letters were originally written,
they are now
affectionately dedicated.


Introduction, by Ann Ronald


Lake Tahoe--Morning in San Francisco--Dust--A Pacific
mail-train--Digger Indians--Cape Horn--A mountain hotel--A
pioneer--A Truckee livery stable--A mountain stream--Finding a


A lady's "get-up"--Grizzly bears--The "Gem of the Sierras"--A
tragic tale--A carnival of color.


A Temple of Morpheus--Utah--A "God-forgotten" town--A distressed
couple--Dog villages--A temperance colony--A Colorado inn
--The bug pest--Fort Collins.


A plague of flies--A melancholy charioteer--The Foot Hills--A
mountain boarding-house--A dull life--"Being agreeable"--Climate
of Colorado--Soroche and snakes.


A dateless day--"Those hands of yours"--A Puritan--Persevering
shiftlessness--The house-mother--Family worship--A grim Sunday--A
"thick-skulled Englishman"--A morning call--Another
atmosphere--The Great Lone Land--"Ill found"--A log camp--Bad
footing for horses--Accidents--Disappointment.


A bronco mare--An accident--Wonderland--A sad story--The children
of the Territories--Hard greed--Halcyon hours--Smartness--
Old-fashioned prejudices--The Chicago colony--Good luck--Three
notes of admiration--A good horse--The St. Vrain--The Rocky
Mountains at last--"Mountain Jim"--A death hug--Estes Park.


Personality of Long's Peak--"Mountain Jim"--Lake of the Lilies--A
silent forest--The camping ground--"Ring"--A lady's bower--Dawn
and sunrise--A glorious view--Links of diamonds--The ascent of
the Peak--The "Dog's Lift"--Suffering from thirst--The
descent--The bivouac.


Estes Park--Big game--"Parks" in Colorado--Magnificent
scenery--Flowers and pines--An awful road--Our log
cabin--Griffith Evans--A miniature world--Our topics--A
night alarm--A skunk--Morning glories--Daily routine--The
panic--"Wait for the wagon"--A musical evening.


"Please Ma'ams"--A desperado--A cattle hunt--The muster--A mad
cow--A snowstorm--Snowed up--Birdie--The Plains--A prairie
schooner--Denver--A find--Plum Creek--"Being
agreeable"--Snowbound--The grey mare.


A white world--Bad traveling--A millionaire's home--Pleasant
Park--Perry's Park--Stock-raising--A cattle king--The Arkansas
Divide--Birdie's sagacity--Luxury--Monument Park--Deference to
prejudice--A death scene--The Manitou--A loose shoe--The Ute
Pass--Bergens Park--A settler's home--Hayden's Divide--Sharp
criticism--Speaking the truth.


Tarryall Creek--The Red Range--Excelsior--Importunate
pedlars--Snow and heat--A bison calf--Deep drifts--South
Park--The Great Divide--Comanche Bill--Difficulties--
Hall's Gulch--A Lord Dundreary--Ridiculous fears.


Deer Valley--Lynch law--Vigilance committees--The silver
spruce--Taste and abstinence--The whisky fiend--Smartness--Turkey
Creek Canyon--The Indian problem--Public rascality--Friendly
meetings--The way to the Golden City--A rising settlement--Clear
Creek Canyon--Staging--Swearing--A mountain town.


The blight of mining--Green Lake--Golden
City--Benighted--Vertigo--Boulder Canyon--Financial straits--A
hard ride--The last cent--A bachelor's home--"Mountain Jim"--A
surprise--A night arrival--Making the best of it--Scanty fare.


A dismal ride--A desperado's tale--"Lost! Lost! Lost!"--Winter
glories--Solitude--Hard times--Intense cold--A pack of
wolves--The beaver dams--Ghastly scenes--Venison steaks--Our


A whisky slave--The pleasures of monotony--The mountain
lion--"Another mouth to feed"--A tiresome boy--An
outcast--Thanksgiving Day--The newcomer--A literary humbug--
Milking a dry cow--Trout-fishing--A snow-storm--A desperado's


A harmonious home--Intense cold--A purple sun--A grim jest--A
perilous ride--Frozen eyelids--Longmount--The pathless prairie--
Hardships of emigrant life--A trapper's advice--The Little
Thompson--Evans and "Jim."


Woman's mission--The last morning--Crossing the St.
Vrain--Miller--The St. Vrain again--Crossing the prairie--"Jim's"
dream--"Keeping strangers"--The inn kitchen--A reputed
child-eater--Notoriety--A quiet dance--"Jim's" resolve--The
frost-fall--An unfortunate introduction.

Letter I

Lake Tahoe--Morning in San Francisco--Dust--A Pacific
mail-train--Digger Indians--Cape Horn--A mountain hotel--A
pioneer--A Truckee livery stable--A mountain stream--Finding a

LAKE TAHOE, September 2.

I have found a dream of beauty at which one might look all one's
life and sigh. Not lovable, like the Sandwich Islands, but
beautiful in its own way! A strictly North American
beauty--snow-splotched mountains, huge pines, red-woods, sugar
pines, silver spruce; a crystalline atmosphere, waves of the
richest color; and a pine-hung lake which mirrors all beauty on
its surface. Lake Tahoe is before me, a sheet of water
twenty-two miles long by ten broad, and in some places 1,700 feet
deep. It lies at a height of 6,000 feet, and the snow-crowned
summits which wall it in are from 8,000 to 11,000 feet in
altitude. The air is keen and elastic. There is no sound but
the distant and slightly musical ring of the lumberer's axe.

It is a weariness to go back, even in thought, to the clang of
San Francisco, which I left in its cold morning fog early
yesterday, driving to the Oakland ferry through streets with
side-walks heaped with thousands of cantaloupe and water-melons,
tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes, pears, grapes, peaches,
apricots--all of startling size as compared with any I ever saw
before. Other streets were piled with sacks of flour, left out
all night, owing to the security from rain at this season. I
pass hastily over the early part of the journey, the crossing
the bay in a fog as chill as November, the number of "lunch
baskets," which gave the car the look of conveying a great picnic
party, the last view of the Pacific, on which I had looked for
nearly a year, the fierce sunshine and brilliant sky inland, the
look of long RAINLESSNESS, which one may not call drought, the
valleys with sides crimson with the poison oak, the dusty
vineyards, with great purple clusters thick among the leaves, and
between the vines great dusty melons lying on the dusty earth.
From off the boundless harvest fields the grain was carried in
June, and it is now stacked in sacks along the track, awaiting
freightage. California is a "land flowing with milk and honey."
The barns are bursting with fullness. In the dusty orchards the
apple and pear branches are supported, that they may not break
down under the weight of fruit; melons, tomatoes, and squashes of
gigantic size lie almost unheeded on the ground; fat cattle,
gorged almost to repletion, shade themselves under the oaks;
superb "red" horses shine, not with grooming, but with condition;
and thriving farms everywhere show on what a solid basis the
prosperity of the "Golden State" is founded. Very uninviting,
however rich, was the blazing Sacramento Valley, and very
repulsive the city of Sacramento, which, at a distance of 125
miles from the Pacific, has an elevation of only thirty feet.
The mercury stood at 103 degrees in the shade, and the fine white
dust was stifling.

In the late afternoon we began the ascent of the Sierras, whose
sawlike points had been in sight for many miles. The dusty
fertility was all left behind, the country became rocky and
gravelly, and deeply scored by streams bearing the muddy wash of
the mountain gold mines down to the muddier Sacramento. There
were long broken ridges and deep ravines, the ridges becoming
longer, the ravines deeper, the pines thicker and larger, as we
ascended into a cool atmosphere of exquisite purity, and before 6
P.M. the last traces of cultivation and the last hardwood trees
were left behind.[1]

[1] In consequence of the unobserved omission of a date to my
letters having been pointed out to me, I take this opportunity of
stating that I traveled in Colorado in the autumn and early
winter of 1873, on my way to England from the Sandwich Islands.
The letters are a faithful picture of the country and state of
society as it then was; but friends who have returned from the
West within the last six months tell me that things are rapidly
changing, that the frame house is replacing the log cabin, and
that the footprints of elk and bighorn may be sought for in vain
on the dewy slopes of Estes Park.
I. L. B.
(Author's note to the third edition, January 16, 1880.)

At Colfax, a station at a height of 2,400 feet, I got out and
walked the length of the train. First came two great gaudy
engines, the Grizzly Bear and the White Fox, with their
respective tenders loaded with logs of wood, the engines with
great, solitary, reflecting lamps in front above the cow guards,
a quantity of polished brass-work, comfortable glass houses, and
well-stuffed seats for the engine-drivers. The engines and
tenders were succeeded by a baggage car, the latter loaded with
bullion and valuable parcels, and in charge of two "express
agents." Each of these cars is forty-five feet long. Then came
two cars loaded with peaches and grapes; then two "silver palace"
cars, each sixty feet long; then a smoking car, at that time
occupied mainly by Chinamen; and then five ordinary passenger
cars, with platforms like all the others, making altogether a
train about 700 feet in length.

The platforms of the four front cars were clustered over with
Digger Indians, with their squaws, children, and gear. They are
perfect savages, without any aptitude for even aboriginal
civilization, and are altogether the most degraded of the
ill-fated tribes which are dying out before the white races.
They were all very diminutive, five feet one inch being, I should
think, about the average height, with flat noses, wide mouths,
and black hair, cut straight above the eyes and hanging lank and
long at the back and sides. The squaws wore their hair thickly
plastered with pitch, and a broad band of the same across their
noses and cheeks. They carried their infants on their backs,
strapped to boards. The clothing of both sexes was a ragged,
dirty combination of coarse woolen cloth and hide, the moccasins
being unornamented. They were all hideous and filthy, and
swarming with vermin. The men carried short bows and arrows, one
of them, who appeared to be the chief, having a lynx's skin for a
quiver. A few had fishing tackle, but the bystanders said that
they lived almost entirely upon grasshoppers. They were a
most impressive incongruity in the midst of the tokens of an
omnipotent civilization.

The light of the sinking sun from that time glorified the
Sierras, and as the dew fell, aromatic odors made the still air
sweet. On a single track, sometimes carried on a narrow ledge
excavated from the mountain side by men lowered from the top in
baskets, overhanging ravines from 2,000 to 3,000 feet deep, the
monster train SNAKED its way upwards, stopping sometimes in front
of a few frame houses, at others where nothing was to be seen but
a log cabin with a few Chinamen hanging about it, but where
trails on the sides of the ravines pointed to a gold country
above and below. So sharp and frequent are the curves on some
parts of the ascent, that on looking out of the window one could
seldom see more than a part of the train at once. At Cape Horn,
where the track curves round the ledge of a precipice 2,500 feet
in depth, it is correct to be frightened, and a fashion of
holding the breath and shutting the eyes prevails, but my fears
were reserved for the crossing of a trestle bridge over a very
deep chasm, which is itself approached by a sharp curve. This
bridge appeared to be overlapped by the cars so as to produce the
effect of looking down directly into a wild gulch, with a torrent
raging along it at an immense depth below.

Shivering in the keen, frosty air near the summit pass of the
Sierras, we entered the "snow-sheds," wooden galleries, which for
about fifty miles shut out all the splendid views of the region,
as given in dioramas, not even allowing a glimpse of "the Gem of
the Sierras," the lovely Donner Lake. One of these sheds is
twenty-seven miles long. In a few hours the mercury had fallen
from 103 degrees to 29 degrees, and we had ascended 6,987 feet in
105 miles! After passing through the sheds, we had several grand
views of a pine forest on fire before reaching Truckee at 11 P.M.
having traveled 258 miles. Truckee, the center of the "lumbering
region" of the Sierras, is usually spoken of as "a rough mountain
town," and Mr. W. had told me that all the roughs of the district
congregated there, that there were nightly pistol affrays in
bar-rooms, etc., but as he admitted that a lady was sure of
respect, and Mr. G. strongly advised me to stay and see the
lakes, I got out, much dazed, and very stupid with sleep, envying
the people in the sleeping car, who were already unconscious on
their luxurious couches. The cars drew up in a street--if street
that could be called which was only a wide, cleared space,
intersected by rails, with here and there a stump, and great
piles of sawn logs bulking big in the moonlight, and a number of
irregular clap-board, steep-roofed houses, many of them with
open fronts, glaring with light and crowded with men. We had
pulled up at the door of a rough Western hotel, with a partially
open front, being a bar-room crowded with men drinking and
smoking, and the space between it and the cars was a moving mass
of loafers and passengers. On the tracks, engines, tolling heavy
bells, were mightily moving, the glare from their cyclopean eyes
dulling the light of a forest which was burning fitfully on a
mountain side; and on open spaces great fires of pine logs were
burning cheerily, with groups of men round them. A band was
playing noisily, and the unholy sound of tom-toms was not far
off. Mountains--the Sierras of many a fireside dream--seemed to
wall in the town, and great pines stood out, sharp and clear cut,
against a sky in which a moon and stars were shining frostily.

It was a sharp frost at that great height, and when an
"irrepressible rigger," who seemed to represent the hotel
establishment, deposited me and my carpetbag in a room which
answered for "the parlor," I was glad to find some remains of
pine knots still alight in the stove. A man came in and said
that when the cars were gone he would try to get me a room, but
they were so full that it would be a very poor one. The crowd
was solely masculine. It was then 11:30 P.M., and I had not had
a meal since 6 A.M.; but when I asked hopefully for a hot supper,
with tea, I was told that no supper could be got at that hour;
but in half an hour the same man returned with a small cup of
cold, weak tea, and a small slice of bread, which looked as if it
had been much handled.

I asked the Negro factotum about the hire of horses, and
presently a man came in from the bar who, he said, could supply
my needs. This man, the very type of a Western pioneer, bowed,
threw himself into a rocking-chair, drew a spittoon beside him,
cut a fresh quid of tobacco, began to chew energetically, and put
his feet, cased in miry high boots, into which his trousers were
tucked, on the top of the stove. He said he had horses which
would both "lope" and trot, that some ladies preferred the
Mexican saddle, that I could ride alone in perfect safety; and
after a route had been devised, I hired a horse for two days.
This man wore a pioneer's badge as one of the earliest settlers
of California, but he had moved on as one place after another
had become too civilized for him, "but nothing," he added, "was
likely to change much in Truckee." I was afterwards told that
the usual regular hours of sleep are not observed there. The
accommodation is too limited for the population of 2,000,[2]
which is masculine mainly, and is liable to frequent temporary
additions, and beds are occupied continuously, though by
different occupants, throughout the greater part of the
twenty-four hours. Consequently I found the bed and room
allotted to me quite tumbled looking. Men's coats and sticks
were hanging up, miry boots were littered about, and a rifle was
in one corner. There was no window to the outer air, but I slept
soundly, being only once awoke by an increase of the same din in
which I had fallen asleep, varied by three pistol shots fired in
rapid succession.

[2] Nelson's Guide to the Central Pacific Railroad.

This morning Truckee wore a totally different aspect. The crowds
of the night before had disappeared. There were heaps of ashes
where the fires had been. A sleepy German waiter seemed the only
person about the premises, the open drinking saloons were nearly
empty, and only a few sleepy-looking loafers hung about in what
is called the street. It might have been Sunday; but they say
that it brings a great accession of throng and jollity. Public
worship has died out at present; work is discontinued on Sunday,
but the day is given up to pleasure. Putting a minimum of
indispensables into a bag, and slipping on my Hawaiian riding
dress[3] over a silk skirt, and a dust cloak over all, I
stealthily crossed the plaza to the livery stable, the largest
building in Truckee, where twelve fine horses were stabled in
stalls on each side of a broad drive. My friend of the evening
before showed me his "rig," three velvet-covered side-saddles
almost without horns. Some ladies, he said, used the horn of the
Mexican saddle, but none "in the part" rode cavalier fashion. I
felt abashed. I could not ride any distance in the conventional
mode, and was just going to give up this splendid "ravage," when
the man said, "Ride your own fashion; here, at Truckee, if
anywhere in the world, people can do as they like." Blissful
Truckee! In no time a large grey horse was "rigged out" in a
handsome silver-bossed Mexican saddle, with ornamental leather
tassels hanging from the stirrup guards, and a housing of black
bear's-skin. I strapped my silk skirt on the saddle, deposited
my cloak in the corn-bin, and was safely on the horse's back
before his owner had time to devise any way of mounting me.
Neither he nor any of the loafers who had assembled showed the
slightest sign of astonishment, but all were as respectful as

[3] For the benefit of other lady travelers, I wish to explain
that my "Hawaiian riding dress" is the "American Lady's Mountain
Dress," a half-fitting jacket, a skirt reaching to the ankles,
and full Turkish trousers gathered into frills falling over the
boots,--a thoroughly serviceable and feminine costume for
mountaineering and other rough traveling, as in the Alps or any
other part of the world.
I. L. B.
(Author's note to the second edition, November 27, 1879.)

Once on horseback my embarrassment disappeared, and I rode
through Truckee, whose irregular, steep-roofed houses and
shanties, set down in a clearing and surrounded closely by
mountain and forest, looked like a temporary encampment; passed
under the Pacific Railroad; and then for twelve miles followed
the windings of the Truckee River, a clear, rushing, mountain
stream, in which immense pine logs had gone aground not to be
floated off till the next freshet, a loud-tongued, rollicking
stream of ice-cold water, on whose banks no ferns or trailers
hang, and which leaves no greenness along its turbulent progress.

All was bright with that brilliancy of sky and atmosphere, that
blaze of sunshine and universal glitter, which I never saw till I
came to California, combined with an elasticity in the air which
removed all lassitude, and gives one spirit enough for anything.
On either side of the Truckee great sierras rose like walls,
castellated, embattled, rifted, skirted and crowned with pines of
enormous size, the walls now and then breaking apart to show some
snow-slashed peak rising into a heaven of intense, unclouded,
sunny blue. At this altitude of 6,000 feet one must learn to be
content with varieties of Coniferae, for, except for aspens,
which spring up in some places where the pines have been cleared
away, and for cotton-woods, which at a lower level fringe the
streams, there is nothing but the bear cherry, the raspberry, the
gooseberry, the wild grape, and the wild currant. None of these
grew near the Truckee, but I feasted my eyes on pines[4] which,
though not so large as the Wellingtonia of the Yosemite, are
really gigantic, attaining a height of 250 feet, their huge
stems, the warm red of cedar wood, rising straight and branchless
for a third of their height, their diameter from seven to fifteen
feet, their shape that of a larch, but with the needles long and
dark, and cones a foot long. Pines cleft the sky; they were
massed wherever level ground occurred; they stood over the
Truckee at right angles, or lay across it in prostrate grandeur.
Their stumps and carcasses were everywhere; and smooth "shoots"
on the sierras marked where they were shot down as "felled
timber," to be floated off by the river. To them this wild
region owes its scattered population, and the sharp ring of the
lumberer's axe mingles with the cries of wild beasts and the roar
of mountain torrents.

[4] Pinus Lambertina.

The track is a soft, natural, wagon road, very pleasant to ride
on. The horse was much too big for me, and had plans of his own;
but now and then, where the ground admitted to it, I tried his
heavy "lope" with much amusement. I met nobody, and passed
nothing on the road but a freight wagon, drawn by twenty-two
oxen, guided by three fine-looking men, who had some difficulty
in making room for me to pass their awkward convoy. After I had
ridden about ten miles the road went up a steep hill in the
forest, turned abruptly, and through the blue gloom of the great
pines which rose from the ravine in which the river was then hid,
came glimpses of two mountains, about 11,000 feet in height,
whose bald grey summits were crowned with pure snow. It was one
of those glorious surprises in scenery which make one feel as if
one must bow down and worship. The forest was thick, and had an
undergrowth of dwarf spruce and brambles, but as the horse had
become fidgety and "scary" on the track, I turned off in the idea
of taking a short cut, and was sitting carelessly, shortening my
stirrup, when a great, dark, hairy beast rose, crashing and
snorting, out of the tangle just in front of me. I had only a
glimpse of him, and thought that my imagination had magnified a
wild boar, but it was a bear. The horse snorted and plunged
violently, as if he would go down to the river, and then turned,
still plunging, up a steep bank, when, finding that I must come
off, I threw myself off on the right side, where the ground rose
considerably, so that I had not far to fall. I got up covered
with dust, but neither shaken nor bruised. It was truly
grotesque and humiliating. The bear ran in one direction, and
the horse in another. I hurried after the latter, and twice he
stopped till I was close to him, then turned round and cantered
away. After walking about a mile in deep dust, I picked up first
the saddle-blanket and next my bag, and soon came upon the horse,
standing facing me, and shaking all over. I thought I should
catch him then, but when I went up to him he turned round, threw
up his heels several times, rushed off the track, galloped in
circles, bucking, kicking, and plunging for some time, and then
throwing up his heels as an act of final defiance, went off at
full speed in the direction of Truckee, with the saddle over his
shoulders and the great wooden stirrups thumping his sides, while
I trudged ignominiously along in the dust, laboriously carrying
the bag and saddle-blanket.

I walked for nearly an hour, heated and hungry, when to my joy I
saw the ox-team halted across the top of a gorge, and one of the
teamsters leading the horse towards me. The young man said that,
seeing the horse coming, they had drawn the team across the road
to stop him, and remembering that he had passed them with a lady
on him, they feared that there had
been an accident, and had just saddled one of their own horses to
go in search of me. He brought me some water to wash the dust
from my face, and re-saddled the horse, but the animal snorted
and plunged for some time before he would let me mount, and then
sidled along in such a nervous and scared way, that the teamster
walked for some distance by me to see that I was "all right." He
said that the woods in the neighborhood of Tahoe had been full of
brown and grizzly bears for some days, but that no one was in
any danger from them. I took a long gallop beyond the scene of
my tumble to quiet the horse, who was most restless and

Then the scenery became truly magnificent and bright with life.
Crested blue-jays darted through the dark pines, squirrels in
hundreds scampered through the forest, red dragon-flies flashed
like "living light," exquisite chipmunks ran across the track,
but only a dusty blue lupin here and there reminded me of earth's
fairer children. Then the river became broad and still, and
mirrored in its transparent depths regal pines, straight as an
arrow, with rich yellow and green lichen clinging to their stems,
and firs and balsam pines filling up the spaces between them, the
gorge opened, and this mountain-girdled lake lay before me, with
its margin broken up into bays and promontories, most
picturesquely clothed by huge sugar pines. It lay dimpling and
scintillating beneath the noonday sun, as entirely unspoilt as
fifteen years ago, when its pure loveliness was known only to
trappers and Indians. One man lives on it the whole year round;
otherwise early October strips its shores of their few
inhabitants, and thereafter, for seven months, it is rarely
accessible except on snowshoes. It never freezes. In the dense
forests which bound it, and drape two-thirds of its gaunt
sierras, are hordes of grizzlies, brown bears, wolves, elk, deer,
chipmunks, martens, minks, skunks, foxes, squirrels, and snakes.
On its margin I found an irregular wooden inn, with a
lumber-wagon at the door, on which was the carcass of a large
grizzly bear, shot behind the house this morning. I had intended
to ride ten miles farther, but, finding that the trail in some
places was a "blind" one, and being bewitched by the beauty and
serenity of Tahoe, I have remained here sketching, reveling in
the view from the veranda, and strolling in the forest. At this
height there is frost every night of the year, and my fingers are

The beauty is entrancing. The sinking sun is out of sight behind
the western Sierras, and all the pine-hung promontories on this
side of the water are rich indigo, just reddened with lake,
deepening here and there into Tyrian purple. The peaks above,
which still catch the sun, are bright rose-red, and all the
mountains on the other side are pink; and pink, too, are the
far-off summits on which the snow-drifts rest. Indigo, red, and
orange tints stain the still water, which lies solemn and dark
against the shore, under the shadow of stately pines. An hour
later, and a moon nearly full--not a pale, flat disc, but a
radiant sphere--has wheeled up into the flushed sky. The sunset
has passed through every stage of beauty, through every glory of
color, through riot and triumph, through pathos and tenderness,
into a long, dreamy, painless rest, succeeded by the profound
solemnity of the moonlight, and a stillness broken only by the
night cries of beasts in the aromatic forests.
I. L. B.

Letter II

A lady's "get-up"--Grizzly bears--The "Gems of the Sierras"--A
tragic tale--A carnival of color.


As night came on the cold intensified, and the stove in the
parlor attracted every one. A San Francisco lady, much "got up"
in paint, emerald green velvet, Brussels lace, and diamonds,
rattled continuously for the amusement of the company, giving
descriptions of persons and scenes in a racy Western twang,
without the slightest scruple as to what she said. In a few
years Tahoe will be inundated in summer with similar vulgarity,
owing to its easiness of access. I sustained the reputation
which our country-women bear in America by looking a "perfect
guy"; and feeling that I was a salient point for the speaker's
next sally, I was relieved when the landlady, a ladylike
Englishwoman, asked me to join herself and her family in the
bar-room, where we had much talk about the neighborhood and its
wild beasts, especially bears. The forest is full of them, but
they seem never to attack people unless when wounded, or much
aggravated by dogs, or a shebear thinks you are going to molest
her young.

I dreamt of bears so vividly that I woke with a furry death hug
at my throat, but feeling quite refreshed. When I mounted my
horse after breakfast the sun was high and the air so keen and
intoxicating that, giving the animal his head, I galloped up and
down hill, feeling completely tireless. Truly, that air is the
elixir of life. I had a glorious ride back to Truckee. The road
was not as solitary as the day before. In a deep part of the
forest the horse snorted and reared, and I saw a cinnamon-colored
bear with two cubs cross the track ahead of me. I tried to keep
the horse quiet that the mother might acquit me of any designs
upon her lolloping children, but I was glad when the ungainly,
long-haired party crossed the river. Then I met a team, the
driver of which stopped and said he was glad that I had not gone
to Cornelian Bay, it was such a bad trail, and hoped I had
enjoyed Tahoe. The driver of another team stopped and asked if I
had seen any bears. Then a man heavily armed, a hunter probably,
asked me if I were the English tourist who had "happened on" a
"Grizzly" yesterday. Then I saw a lumberer taking his dinner on
a rock in the river, who "touched his hat" and brought me a
draught of ice-cold water, which I could hardly drink owing to
the fractiousness of the horse, and gathered me some mountain
pinks, which I admired. I mention these little incidents to
indicate the habit of respectful courtesy to women which prevails
in that region. These men might have been excused for speaking
in a somewhat free-and-easy tone to a lady riding alone, and in
an unwonted fashion. Womanly dignity and manly respect for women
are the salt of society in this wild West.

My horse was so excitable that I avoided the center of Truckee,
and skulked through a collection of Chinamen's shanties to the
stable, where a prodigious roan horse, standing seventeen hands
high, was produced for my ride to the Donner Lake. I asked the
owner, who was as interested in my enjoying myself as a West
Highlander might have been, if there were not ruffians about who
might make an evening ride dangerous. A story was current of a
man having ridden through Truckee two evenings before with a
chopped-up human body in a sack behind the saddle, and hosts of
stories of ruffianism are located there, rightly or wrongly.
This man said, "There's a bad breed of ruffians, but the ugliest
among them all won't touch you. There's nothing Western folk
admire so much as pluck in a woman." I had to get on a barrel
before I could reach the stirrup, and when I was mounted my feet
only came half-way down the horse's sides. I felt like a fly on
him. The road at first lay through a valley without a river, but
some swampishness nourished some rank swamp grass, the first
GREEN grass I have seen in America; and the pines, with their red
stems, looked beautiful rising out of it. I hurried along, and
came upon the Donner Lake quite suddenly, to be completely
smitten by its beauty. It is only about three miles long by one
and a half broad, and lies hidden away among mountains, with no
dwellings on its shores but some deserted lumberers' cabins.[5]
Its loneliness pleased me well. I did not see man, beast, or
bird from the time I left Truckee till I returned. The
mountains, which rise abruptly from the margin, are covered with
dense pine forests, through which, here and there, strange forms
of bare grey rock, castellated, or needle-like, protrude
themselves. On the opposite side, at a height of about 6,000
feet, a grey, ascending line, from which rumbling, incoherent
sounds occasionally proceeded, is seen through the pines. This
is one of the snow-sheds of the Pacific Railroad, which shuts out
from travelers all that I was seeing. The lake is called after
Mr. Donner, who, with his family, arrived at the Truckee River in
the fall of the year, in company with a party of emigrants bound
for California. Being encumbered with many cattle, he let the
company pass on, and, with his own party of sixteen souls, which
included his wife and four children, encamped by the lake. In
the morning they found themselves surrounded by an expanse of
snow, and after some consultation it was agreed that the whole
party except Mr. Donner who was unwell, his wife, and a German
friend, should take the horses and attempt to cross the mountain,
which, after much peril, they succeeded in doing; but, as the
storm continued for several weeks, it was impossible for any
rescue party to succor the three who had been left behind. In
the early spring, when the snow was hard enough for traveling, a
party started in quest, expecting to find the snow-bound alive
and well, as they had cattle enough for their support, and, after
weeks of toil and exposure, they scaled the Sierras and reached
the Donner Lake. On arriving at the camp they opened the rude
door, and there, sitting before the fire, they found the German,
holding a roasted human arm and hand, which he was greedily
eating. The rescue party overpowered him, and with difficulty
tore the arm from him. A short search discovered the body of the
lady, minus the arm, frozen in the snow, round, plump, and fair,
showing that she was in perfect health when she met her fate.
The rescuers returned to California, taking the German with them,
whose story was that Mr. Donner died in the fall, and that the
cattle escaped, leaving them but little food, and that when this
was exhausted Mrs. Donner died. The story never gained any
credence, and the truth oozed out that the German had murdered
the husband, then brutally murdered the wife, and had seized upon
Donner's money. There were, however, no witnesses, and the
murderer escaped with the enforced surrender of the money to the
Donner orphans.

[5] Visitors can now be accommodated at a tolerable mountain

This tragic story filled my mind as I rode towards the head of
the lake, which became every moment grander and more unutterably
lovely. The sun was setting fast, and against his golden light
green promontories, wooded with stately pines, stood out one
beyond another in a medium of dark rich blue, while grey bleached
summits, peaked, turreted, and snow slashed, were piled above
them, gleaming with amber light. Darker grew the blue gloom, the
dew fell heavily, aromatic odors floated on the air, and still
the lofty peaks glowed with living light, till in one second it
died off from them, leaving them with the ashy paleness of a dead
face. It was dark and cold under the mountain shadows, the
frosty chill of the high altitude wrapped me round, the solitude
was overwhelming, and I reluctantly turned my horse's head
towards Truckee, often looking back to the ashy summits in their
unearthly fascination. Eastwards the look of the scenery was
changing every moment, while the lake for long remained "one
burnished sheet of living gold," and Truckee lay utterly out of
sight in a hollow filled with lake and cobalt. Before long a
carnival of color began which I can only describe as delirious,
intoxicating, a hardly bearable joy, a tender anguish, an
indescribable yearning, an unearthly music, rich in love and
worship. It lasted considerably more than an hour, and though
the road was growing very dark, and the train which was to take
me thence was fast climbing the Sierras, I could not ride faster
than a walk.

The eastward mountains, which had been grey, blushed pale pink,
the pink deepened into rose, and the rose into crimson, and then
all solidity etherealized away and became clear and pure as an
amethyst, while all the waving ranges and the broken pine-clothed
ridges below etherealized too, but into a dark rich blue, and a
strange effect of atmosphere blended the whole into one perfect
picture. It changed, deepened, reddened, melted, growing more
and more wonderful, while under the pines it was night, till,
having displayed itself for an hour, the jewelled peaks suddenly
became like those of the Sierras, wan as the face of death. Far
later the cold golden light lingered in the west, with pines in
relief against its purity, and where the rose light had glowed in
the east, a huge moon upheaved itself, and the red flicker of
forest fires luridly streaked the mountain sides near and far
off. I realized that night had come with its EERINESS, and
putting my great horse into a gallop I clung on to him till I
pulled him up in Truckee, which was at the height of its evening
revelries--fires blazing out of doors, bar-rooms and saloons
crammed, lights glaring, gaming tables thronged, fiddle and banjo
in frightful discord, and the air ringing with ribaldry and
I. L. B.

Letter III

A Temple of Morpheus--Utah--A "God-forgotten" town--A distressed
couple--Dog villages--A temperance colony--A Colorado inn--The
bug pest--Fort Collins.


Precisely at 11 P.M. the huge Pacific train, with its heavy bell
tolling, thundered up to the door of the Truckee House, and on
presenting my ticket at the double door of a "Silver Palace" car,
the slippered steward, whispering low, conducted me to my
berth--a luxurious bed three and a half feet wide, with a hair
mattress on springs, fine linen sheets, and costly California
blankets. The twenty-four inmates of the car were all invisible,
asleep behind rich curtains. It was a true Temple of Morpheus.
Profound sleep was the object to which everything was dedicated.
Four silver lamps hanging from the roof, and burning low, gave
a dreamy light. On each side of the center passage, rich rep
curtains, green and crimson, striped with gold, hung from silver
bars running near the roof, and trailed on the soft Axminster
carpet. The temperature was carefully kept at 70 degrees. It
was 29 degrees outside. Silence and freedom from jolting were
secured by double doors and windows, costly and ingenious
arrangements of springs and cushions, and a speed limited to
eighteen miles an hour.

As I lay down, the gallop under the dark pines, the frosty moon,
the forest fires, the flaring lights and roaring din of Truckee
faded as dreams fade, and eight hours later a pure, pink dawn
divulged a level blasted region, with grey sage brush growing out
of a soil encrusted with alkali, and bounded on either side by
low glaring ridges. All through that day we traveled under a
cloudless sky over solitary glaring plains, and stopped twice at
solitary, glaring frame houses, where coarse, greasy meals,
infested by lazy flies, were provided at a dollar per head. By
evening we were running across the continent on a bee line, and I
sat for an hour on the rear platform of the rear car to enjoy the
wonderful beauty of the sunset and the atmosphere. Far as one
could see in the crystalline air there was nothing but desert.
The jagged Humboldt ranges flaming in the sunset, with snow in
their clefts, though forty-five miles off, looked within an easy
canter. The bright metal track, purpling like all else in the
cool distance, was all that linked one with Eastern or Western

The next morning, when the steward unceremoniously turned us out
of our berths soon after sunrise, we were running down upon the
Great Salt Lake, bounded by the white Wahsatch ranges. Along its
shores, by means of irrigation, Mormon industry has compelled the
ground to yield fine crops of hay and barley; and we passed
several cabins, from which, even at that early hour, Mormons,
each with two or three wives, were going forth to their day's
work. The women were ugly, and their shapeless blue dresses
hideous. At the Mormon town of Ogden we changed cars, and again
traversed dusty plains, white and glaring, varied by muddy
streams and rough, arid valleys, now and then narrowing into
canyons. By common consent the windows were kept closed to
exclude the fine white alkaline dust, which is very irritating to
the nostrils. The journey became more and more wearisome as we
ascended rapidly over immense plains and wastes of gravel
destitute of mountain boundaries, and with only here and there a
"knob" or "butte"[6] to break the monotony. The wheel-marks of
the trail to Utah often ran parallel with the track, and bones of
oxen were bleaching in the sun, the remains of those "whose
carcasses fell in the wilderness" on the long and drouthy
journey. The daybreak of to-day (Sunday) found us shivering at
Fort Laramie, a frontier post dismally situated at a height of
7,000 feet. Another 1,000 feet over gravelly levels brought us
to Sherman, the highest level reached by this railroad. From
this point eastward the streams fall into the Atlantic. The
ascent of these apparently level plateaus is called "crossing the
Rocky Mountains," but I have seen nothing of the range, except
two peaks like teeth lying low on the distant horizon. It became
mercilessly cold; some people thought it snowed, but I only saw
rolling billows of fog. Lads passed through the cars the whole
morning, selling newspapers, novels, cacti, lollypops, pop corn,
pea nuts, and ivory ornaments, so that, having lost all reckoning
of the days, I never knew that it was Sunday till the cars pulled
up at the door of the hotel in this detestable place.

[6] The mountains which bound the "valley of the Babbling
Waters," Utah, afford striking examples of these "knobs" or

The surrounding plains were endless and verdureless. The scanty
grasses were long ago turned into sun-cured hay by the fierce
summer heats. There is neither tree nor bush, the sky is grey,
the earth buff, the air blae and windy, and clouds of coarse
granitic dust sweep across the prairie and smother the
settlement. Cheyenne is described as "a God-forsaken,
God-forgotten place." That it forgets God is written on its
face. It owes its existence to the railroad, and has diminished
in population, but is a depot for a large amount of the
necessaries of life which are distributed through the scantily
settled districts within distances of 300 miles by "freight
wagons," each drawn by four or six horses or mules, or double
that number of oxen. At times over 100 wagons, with double that
number of teamsters, are in Cheyenne at once. A short time ago
it was a perfect pandemonium, mainly inhabited by rowdies and
desperadoes, the scum of advancing civilization; and murders,
stabbings, shooting, and pistol affrays were at times events of
almost hourly occurrence in its drinking dens. But in the West,
when things reach their worst, a sharp and sure remedy is
provided. Those settlers who find the state of matters
intolerable, organize themselves into a Vigilance Committee.
"Judge Lynch," with a few feet of rope, appears on the scene, the
majority crystallizes round the supporters of order, warnings are
issued to obnoxious people, simply bearing a scrawl of a tree
with a man dangling from it, with such words as "Clear out of
this by 6 A.M., or----." A number of the worst desperadoes are
tried by a yet more summary process than a drumhead court
martial, "strung up," and buried ignominiously. I have been told
that 120 ruffians were disposed of in this way here in a single
fortnight. Cheyenne is now as safe as Hilo, and the interval
between the most desperate lawlessness and the time when United
States law, with its corruption and feebleness, comes upon the
scene is one of comparative security and good order. Piety is
not the forte of Cheyenne. The roads resound with atrocious
profanity, and the rowdyism of the saloons and bar-rooms is
repressed, not extirpated.

The population, once 6,000, is now about 4,000. It is an
ill-arranged set of frame houses and shanties [7] and rubbish
heaps, and offal of deer and antelope, produce the foulest smells
I have smelt for a long time. Some of the houses are painted a
blinding white; others are unpainted; there is not a bush, or
garden, or green thing; it just straggles out promiscuously on
the boundless brown plains, on the extreme verge of which three
toothy peaks are seen. It is utterly slovenly-looking, and
unornamental, abounds in slouching bar-room-looking characters,
and looks a place of low, mean lives. Below the hotel window
freight cars are being perpetually shunted, but beyond the
railroad tracks are nothing but the brown plains, with their
lonely sights--now a solitary horseman at a traveling amble, then
a party of Indians in paint and feathers, but civilized up to the
point of carrying firearms, mounted on sorry ponies, the
bundled-up squaws riding astride on the baggage ponies; then a
drove of ridgy-spined, long-horned cattle, which have been
several months eating their way from Texas, with their escort of
four or five much-spurred horsemen, in peaked hats, blue-hooded
coats, and high boots, heavily armed with revolvers and repeating
rifles, and riding small wiry horses. A solitary wagon, with a
white tilt, drawn by eight oxen, is probably bearing an emigrant
and his fortunes to Colorado. On one of the dreary spaces of the
settlement six white-tilted wagons, each with twelve oxen, are
standing on their way to a distant part. Everything suggests a

[7] The discovery of gold in the Black Hills has lately given it
a great impetus, and as it is the chief point of departure for
the diggings it is increasing in population and importance.
(July, 1879)

September 9.

I have found at the post office here a circular letter of
recommendation from ex-Governor Hunt, procured by Miss Kingsley's
kindness, and another equally valuable one of "authentication"
and recommendation from Mr. Bowles, of the Springfield
Republican, whose name is a household word in all the West.
Armed with these, I shall plunge boldly into Colorado. I am
suffering from giddiness and nausea produced by the bad smells.
A "help" here says that there have been fifty-six deaths from
cholera during the last twenty days. Is common humanity lacking,
I wonder, in this region of hard greed? Can it not be bought by
dollars here, like every other commodity, votes included? Last
night I made the acquaintance of a shadowy gentleman from
Wisconsin, far gone in consumption, with a spirited wife and
young baby. He had been ordered to the Plains as a last
resource, but was much worse. Early this morning he crawled to
my door, scarcely able to speak from debility and bleeding from
the lungs, begging me to go to his wife, who, the doctor said was
ill of cholera. The child had been ill all night, and not for
love or money could he get any one to do anything for them, not
even to go for the medicine. The lady was blue, and in great
pain from cramp, and the poor unweaned infant was roaring for the
nourishment which had failed. I vainly tried to get hot water
and mustard for a poultice, and though I offered a Negro a dollar
to go for the medicine, he looked at it superciliously, hummed a
tune, and said he must wait for the Pacific train, which was not
due for an hour. Equally in vain I hunted through Cheyenne for a
feeding bottle. Not a maternal heart softened to the helpless
mother and starving child, and my last resource was to dip a
piece of sponge in some milk and water, and try to pacify the
creature. I applied Rigollot's leaves, went for the medicine,
saw the popular host--a bachelor--who mentioned a girl who, after
much difficulty, consented to take charge of the baby for two
dollars a day and attend to the mother, and having remained till
she began to amend, I took the cars for Greeley, a settlement on
the Plains, which I had been recommended to make my starting
point for the mountains.

FORT COLLINS, September 10.

It gave me a strange sensation to embark upon the Plains.
Plains, plains everywhere, plains generally level, but elsewhere
rolling in long undulations, like the waves of a sea which had
fallen asleep. They are covered thinly with buff grass, the
withered stalks of flowers, Spanish bayonet, and a small
beehive-shaped cactus. One could gallop all over them.

They are peopled with large villages of what are called prairie
dogs, because they utter a short, sharp bark, but the dogs are,
in reality, marmots. We passed numbers of villages, which are
composed of raised circular orifices, about eighteen inches in
diameter, with sloping passages leading downwards for five or six
feet. Hundreds of these burrows are placed together. On nearly
every rim a small furry reddish-buff beast sat on his hind legs,
looking, so far as head went, much like a young seal. These
creatures were acting as sentinels, and sunning themselves. As
we passed, each gave a warning yelp, shook its tail, and, with a
ludicrous flourish of its hind legs, dived into its hole. The
appearance of hundreds of these creatures, each eighteen inches
long, sitting like dogs begging, with their paws down and all
turned sunwards, is most grotesque. The Wish-ton-Wish has few
enemies, and is a most prolific animal. From its enormous
increase and the energy and extent of its burrowing operations,
one can fancy that in the course of years the prairies will be
seriously injured, as it honeycombs the ground, and renders it
unsafe for horses. The burrows seem usually to be shared by
owls, and many of the people insist that a rattlesnake is also an
inmate, but I hope for the sake of the harmless, cheery little
prairie dog, that this unwelcome fellowship is a myth.

After running on a down grade for some time, five distinct ranges
of mountains, one above another, a lurid blue against a lurid
sky, upheaved themselves above the prairie sea. An American
railway car, hot, stuffy and full of chewing, spitting Yankees,
was not an ideal way of approaching this range which had early
impressed itself upon my imagination. Still, it was truly grand,
although it was sixty miles off, and we were looking at it from a
platform 5,000 feet in height. As I write I am only twenty-five
miles from them, and they are gradually gaining possession of me.

I can look at and FEEL nothing else. At five in the afternoon
frame houses and green fields began to appear, the cars drew up,
and two of my fellow passengers and I got out and carried our own
luggage through the deep dust to a small, rough, Western tavern,
where with difficulty we were put up for the night. This
settlement is called the Greeley Temperance Colony, and was
founded lately by an industrious class of emigrants from the
East, all total abstainers, and holding advanced political
opinions. They bought and fenced 50,000 acres of land,
constructed an irrigating canal, which distributes its waters on
reasonable terms, have already a population of 3,000, and are the
most prosperous and rising colony in Colorado, being altogether
free from either laziness or crime. Their rich fields are
artificially productive solely; and after seeing regions where
Nature gives spontaneously, one is amazed that people should
settle here to be dependent on irrigating canals, with the risk
of having their crops destroyed by grasshoppers. A clause in the
charter of the colony prohibits the introduction, sale, or
consumption of intoxicating liquor, and I hear that the men of
Greeley carry their crusade against drink even beyond their
limits, and have lately sacked three houses open for the sale of
drink near their frontier, pouring the whisky upon the ground, so
that people don't now like to run the risk of bringing liquor
near Greeley, and the temperance influence is spreading over a
very large area. As the men have no bar-rooms to sit in, I
observed that Greeley was asleep at an hour when other places
were beginning their revelries. Nature is niggardly, and living
is coarse and rough, the merest necessaries of hardy life being
all that can be thought of in this stage of existence.

My first experiences of Colorado travel have been rather severe.
At Greeley I got a small upstairs room at first, but gave it up
to a married couple with a child, and then had one downstairs no
bigger than a cabin, with only a canvas partition. It was very
hot, and every place was thick with black flies. The English
landlady had just lost her "help," and was in a great fuss, so
that I helped her to get supper ready. Its chief features were
greasiness and black flies. Twenty men in working clothes fed
and went out again, "nobody speaking to nobody." The landlady
introduced me to a Vermont settler who lives in the "Foot Hills,"
who was very kind and took a great deal of trouble to get me a
horse. Horses abound, but they are either large American horses,
which are only used for draught, or small, active horses, called
broncos, said to be from a Spanish word, signifying that they can
never be broke. They nearly all "buck," and are described as
being more "ugly" and treacherous than mules. There is only one
horse in Greeley "safe for a woman to ride." I tried an Indian
pony by moonlight--such a moonlight--but found he had tender
feet. The kitchen was the only sitting room, so I shortly went
to bed, to be awoke very soon by crawling creatures apparently in
myriads. I struck a light, and found such swarms of bugs that I
gathered myself up on the wooden chairs, and dozed uneasily till
sunrise. Bugs are a great pest in Colorado. They come out of
the earth, infest the wooden walls, and cannot be got rid of by
any amount of cleanliness. Many careful housewives take their
beds to pieces every week and put carbolic acid on them.

It was a glorious, cool morning, and the great range of the Rocky
Mountains looked magnificent. I tried the pony again, but found
he would not do for a long journey; and as my Vermont
acquaintance offered me a seat in his wagon to Fort Collins,
twenty-five miles nearer the Mountains, I threw a few things
together and came here with him. We left Greeley at 10, and
arrived here at 4:30, staying an hour for food on the way. I
liked the first half of the drive; but the fierce, ungoverned,
blazing heat of the sun on the whitish earth for the last half,
was terrible even with my white umbrella, which I have not used
since I left New Zealand; it was sickening. Then the eyes have
never anything green to rest upon, except in the river bottoms,
where there is green hay grass. We followed mostly the course of
the River Cache-a-la-Poudre, which rises in the Mountains, and
after supplying Greeley with irrigation, falls into the Platte,
which is an affluent of the Missouri. When once beyond the
scattered houses and great ring fence of the vigorous Greeley
colonists, we were on the boundless prairie. Now and then
horsemen passed us, and we met three wagons with white tilts.
Except where the prairie dogs have honeycombed the ground, you
can drive almost anywhere, and the passage of a few wagons over
the same track makes a road. We forded the river, whose course
is marked the whole way by a fringe of small cotton-woods and
aspens, and traveled hour after hour with nothing to see except
some dog towns, with their quaint little sentinels; but the view
in front was glorious. The Alps, from the Lombard Plains, are
the finest mountain panorama I ever saw, but not equal to this;
for not only do five high-peaked giants, each nearly the height
of Mont Blanc, lift their dazzling summits above the lower
ranges, but the expanse of mountains is so vast, and the whole
lie in a transparent medium of the richest blue, not
haze--something peculiar to the region. The lack of foreground
is a great artistic fault, and the absence of greenery is
melancholy, and makes me recall sadly the entrancing detail of
the Hawaiian Islands. Once only, the second time we forded the
river, the cotton-woods formed a foreground, and then the
loveliness was heavenly. We stopped at a log house and got a
rough dinner of beef and potatoes, and I was amused at the five
men who shared it with us for apologizing to me for being without
their coats, as if coats would not be an enormity on the Plains.

It is the election day for the Territory, and men were galloping
over the prairie to register their votes. The three in the wagon
talked politics the whole time. They spoke openly and
shamelessly of the prices given for votes; and apparently there
was not a politician on either side who was not accused of
degrading corruption. We saw a convoy of 5,000 head of Texas
cattle traveling from southern Texas to Iowa. They had been
nine months on the way! They were under the charge of twenty
mounted vacheros, heavily armed, and a light wagon accompanied
them, full of extra rifles and ammunition, not unnecessary, for
the Indians are raiding in all directions, maddened by the
reckless and useless slaughter of the buffalo, which is their
chief subsistence. On the Plains are herds of wild horses,
buffalo, deer, and antelope; and in the Mountains, bears, wolves,
deer, elk, mountain lions, bison, and mountain sheep. You see a
rifle in every wagon, as people always hope to fall in with game.

By the time we reached Fort Collins I was sick and dizzy with the
heat of the sun, and not disposed to be pleased with a most
unpleasing place. It was a military post, but at present
consists of a few frame houses put down recently on the bare and
burning plain. The settlers have "great expectations," but of
what? The Mountains look hardly nearer than from Greeley; one
only realizes their vicinity by the loss of their higher peaks.
This house is freer from bugs than the one at Greeley, but full
of flies. These new settlements are altogether revolting,
entirely utilitarian, given up to talk of dollars as well as to
making them, with coarse speech, coarse food, coarse everything,
nothing wherewith to satisfy the higher cravings if they exist,
nothing on which the eye can rest with pleasure. The lower floor
of this inn swarms with locusts in addition to thousands of black
flies. The latter cover the ground and rise buzzing from it as
you walk.
I. L. B.

Letter IV

A plague of flies--A melancholy charioteer--The Foot Hills--A
mountain boarding-house--A dull life--"Being agreeable"--Climate
of Colorado--Soroche and snakes.

CANYON, September 12.

I was actually so dull and tired that I deliberately slept away
the afternoon in order to forget the heat and flies. Thirty men
in working clothes, silent and sad looking, came in to supper.
The beef was tough and greasy, the butter had turned to oil, and
beef and butter were black with living, drowned, and half-drowned
flies. The greasy table-cloth was black also with flies, and I
did not wonder that the guests looked melancholy and quickly
escaped. I failed to get a horse, but was strongly recommended
to come here and board with a settler, who, they said, had a
saw-mill and took boarders. The person who recommended it so
strongly gave me a note of introduction, and told me that it was
in a grand part of the mountains, where many people had been
camping out all the summer for the benefit of their health. The
idea of a boarding-house, as I know them in America, was rather
formidable in the present state of my wardrobe, and I decided on
bringing my carpet-bag, as well as my pack, lest I should be
rejected for my bad clothes.

Early the next morning I left in a buggy drawn by light broncos
and driven by a profoundly melancholy young man. He had never
been to the canyon; there was no road. We met nobody, saw
nothing except antelope in the distance, and he became more
melancholy and lost his way, driving hither and thither for
about twenty miles till we came upon an old trail which
eventually brought us to a fertile "bottom," where hay and barley
were being harvested, and five or six frame houses looked
cheerful. I had been recommended to two of these, which
professed to take in strangers, but one was full of reapers, and
in the other a child was dead. So I took the buggy on, glad to
leave the glaring, prosaic settlement behind. There was a most
curious loneliness about the journey up to that time. Except for
the huge barrier to the right, the boundless prairies were
everywhere, and it was like being at sea without a compass. The
wheels made neither sound nor indentation as we drove over the
short, dry grass, and there was no cheerful clatter of horses'
hoofs. The sky was cloudy and the air hot and still. In one
place we passed the carcass of a mule, and a number of vultures
soared up from it, to descend again immediately. Skeletons and
bones of animals were often to be seen. A range of low, grassy
hills, called the Foot Hills, rose from the plain, featureless
and monotonous, except where streams, fed by the snows of the
higher regions, had cut their way through them. Confessedly
bewildered, and more melancholy than ever, the driver turned up
one of the wildest of these entrances, and in another hour the
Foot Hills lay between us and the prairie sea, and a higher and
broken range, with pitch pines of average size, was revealed
behind them. These Foot Hills, which swell up uninterestingly
from the plains on their eastern side, on their western have the
appearance of having broken off from the next range, and the
break is abrupt, and takes the form of walls and terraces of rock
of the most brilliant color, weathered and stained by ores, and,
even under the grey sky, dazzling to the eyes. The driver
thought he had understood the directions given, but he was
stupid, and once we lost some miles by arriving at a river too
rough and deep to be forded, and again we were brought up by an
impassable canyon. He grew frightened about his horses, and said
no money would ever tempt him into the mountains again; but
average intelligence would have made it all easy.

The solitude was becoming somber, when, after driving for nine
hours, and traveling at the least forty-five miles, without any
sign of fatigue on the part of the broncos, we came to a stream,
by the side of which we drove along a definite track, till we
came to a sort of tripartite valley, with a majestic crooked
canyon 2,000 feet deep opening upon it. A rushing stream roared
through it, and the Rocky Mountains, with pines scattered over
them, came down upon it. A little farther, and the canyon became
utterly inaccessible. This was exciting; here was an inner
world. A rough and shaky bridge, made of the outsides of pines
laid upon some unsecured logs, crossed the river. The broncos
stopped and smelt it, not liking it, but some encouraging speech
induced them to go over. On the other side was a log cabin,
partially ruinous, and the very rudest I ever saw, its roof of
plastered mud being broken into large holes. It stood close to
the water among some cotton-wood trees. A little higher there
was a very primitive saw-mill, also out of repair, with some logs
lying about. An emigrant wagon and a forlorn tent, with a
camp-fire and a pot, were in the foreground, but there was no
trace of the boarding-house, of which I stood a little in dread.
The driver went for further directions to the log cabin, and
returned with a grim smile deepening the melancholy of his face
to say it was Mr. Chalmers', but there was no accommodation
for such as him, much less for me! This was truly "a sell." I
got down and found a single room of the rudest kind, with the
wall at one end partially broken down, holes in the roof, holes
for windows, and no furniture but two chairs and two unplaned
wooden shelves, with some sacks of straw upon them for beds.
There was an adjacent cabin room, with a stove, benches, and
table, where they cooked and ate, but this was all. A hard,
sad-looking woman looked at me measuringly. She said that they
sold milk and butter to parties who camped in the canyon, that
they had never had any boarders but two asthmatic old ladies, but
they would take me for five dollars per week if I "would make
myself agreeable." The horses had to be fed, and I sat down on a
box, had some dried beef and milk, and considered the matter. If
I went back to Fort Collins, I thought I was farther from a
mountain life, and had no choice but Denver, a place from which I
shrank, or to take the cars for New York. Here the life was
rough, rougher than any I had ever seen, and the people repelled
me by their faces and manners; but if I could rough it for a few
days, I might, I thought, get over canyons and all other
difficulties into Estes Park, which has become the goal of my
journey and hopes. So I decided to remain.

September 16.

Five days here, and I am no nearer Estes Park. How the days pass
I know not; I am weary of the limitations of this existence.
This is "a life in which nothing happens." When the buggy
disappeared, I felt as if I had cut the bridge behind me. I sat
down and knitted for some time--my usual resource under
discouraging circumstances. I really did not know how I should
get on. There was no table, no bed, no basin, no towel, no
glass, no window, no fastening on the door. The roof was in
holes, the logs were unchinked, and one end of the cabin was
partially removed! Life was reduced to its simplest elements. I
went out; the family all had something to do, and took no notice
of me. I went back, and then an awkward girl of sixteen, with
uncombed hair, and a painful repulsiveness of face and air, sat
on a log for half an hour and stared at me. I tried to draw her
into talk, but she twirled her fingers and replied snappishly in
monosyllables. Could I by any effort "make myself agreeable"? I
wondered. The day went on. I put on my Hawaiian dress, rolling
up the sleeves to the elbows in an "agreeable" fashion. Towards
evening the family returned to feed, and pushed some dried beef
and milk in at the door. They all slept under the trees, and
before dark carried the sacks of straw out for their bedding. I
followed their example that night, or rather watched Charles's
Wain while they slept, but since then have slept on blankets on
the floor under the roof. They have neither lamp nor candle, so
if I want to do anything after dark I have to do it by the
unsteady light of pine knots. As the nights are cold, and free
from bugs, and I do a good deal of manual labor, I sleep well.
At dusk I make my bed on the floor, and draw a bucket of ice-cold
water from the river; the family go to sleep under the trees, and
I pile logs on the fire sufficient to burn half the night, for I
assure you the solitude is eerie enough. There are unaccountable
noises, (wolves), rummagings under the floor, queer cries, and
stealthy sounds of I know not what. One night a beast (fox or
skunk) rushed in at the open end of the cabin, and fled through
the window, almost brushing my face, and on another, the head and
three or four inches of the body of a snake were protruded
through a chink of the floor close to me, to my extreme disgust.
My mirror is the polished inside of my watchcase. At sunrise
Mrs. Chalmers comes in--if coming into a nearly open shed can be
called IN--and makes a fire, because she thinks me too stupid to
do it, and mine is the family room; and by seven I am dressed,
have folded the blankets, and swept the floor, and then she puts
some milk and bread or stirabout on a box by the door. After
breakfast I draw more water, and wash one or two garments daily,
taking care that there are no witnesses of my inexperience.
Yesterday a calf sucked one into hopeless rags. The rest of the
day I spend in mending, knitting, writing to you, and the various
odds and ends which arise when one has to do all for oneself. At
twelve and six some food is put on the box by the door, and at
dusk we make up our beds. A distressed emigrant woman has just
given birth to a child in a temporary shanty by the river, and I
go to help her each day.

I have made the acquaintance of all the careworn, struggling
settlers within a walk. All have come for health, and most have
found or are finding it, even if they have not better shelter
than a wagon tilt or a blanket on sticks laid across four poles.
The climate of Colorado is considered the finest in North
America, and consumptives, asthmatics, dyspeptics, and sufferers
from nervous diseases, are here in hundreds and thousands, either
trying the "camp cure" for three or four months, or settling here
permanently. People can safely sleep out of doors for six months
of the year. The plains are from 4,000 to 6,000 feet high, and
some of the settled "parks," or mountain valleys, are from 8,000
to 10,000. The air, besides being much rarefied, is very dry.
The rainfall is far below the average, dews are rare, and fogs
nearly unknown. The sunshine is bright and almost constant, and
three-fourths of the days are cloudless. The milk, beef, and
bread are good. The climate is neither so hot in summer nor so
cold in winter as that of the States, and when the days are hot
the nights are cool. Snow rarely lies on the lower ranges, and
horses and cattle don't require to be either fed or housed during
the winter. Of course the rarefied air quickens respiration.
All this is from hearsay.[8] I am not under favorable
circumstances, either for mind or body, and at present I feel a
singular lassitude and difficulty in taking exercise, but this is
said to be the milder form of the affliction known on higher
altitudes as soroche, or "mountain sickness," and is only
temporary. I am forming a plan for getting farther into the
mountains, and hope that my next letter will be more lively. I
killed a rattlesnake this morning close to the cabin, and have
taken its rattle, which has eleven joints. My life is embittered
by the abundance of these reptiles--rattlesnakes and moccasin
snakes, both deadly, carpet snakes and "green racers," reputed
dangerous, water snakes, tree snakes, and mouse snakes, harmless
but abominable. Seven rattlesnakes have been killed just outside
the cabin since I came. A snake, three feet long, was coiled
under the pillow of the sick woman. I see snakes in all withered
twigs, and am ready to flee at "the sound of a shaken leaf." And
besides snakes, the earth and air are alive and noisy with forms
of insect life, large and small, stinging, humming, buzzing,
striking, rasping, devouring!

[8] The curative effect of the climate of Colorado can hardly be
exaggerated. In traveling extensively through the Territory
afterwards I found that nine out of every ten settlers were cured
invalids. Statistics and medical workers on the climate of the
State(as it now is) represent Colorado as the most remarkable
sanatorium in the world.
I. L. B.

Letter V

A dateless day--"Those hands of yours"--A Puritan--Persevering
shiftlessness--The house-mother--Family worship--A grim Sunday--A
"thick-skulled Englishman"--A morning call--Another
atmosphere--The Great Lone Land--"Ill found"--A log camp--Bad
footing for horses--Accidents--Disappointment.

CANYON, September.

The absence of a date shows my predicament. THEY have no
newspaper; _I_ have no almanack; the father is away for the day,
and none of the others can help me, and they look contemptuously
upon my desire for information on the subject. The monotony will
come to an end to-morrow, for Chalmers offers to be my guide over
the mountains to Estes Park, and has persuaded his wife "for once
to go for a frolic"; and with much reluctance, many growls at the
waste of time, and many apprehensions of danger and loss, she has
consented to accompany him. My life has grown less dull from
their having become more interesting to me, and as I have "made
myself agreeable," we are on fairly friendly terms. My first
move in the direction of fraternizing was, however, snubbed. A
few days ago, having finished my own work, I offered to wash up
the plates, but Mrs. C., with a look which conveyed more than
words, a curl of her nose, and a sneer in her twang, said "Guess
you'll make more work nor you'll do. Those hands of yours" (very
brown and coarse they were) "ain't no good; never done nothing, I
guess." Then to her awkward daughter: "This woman says she'll
wash up! Ha! ha! look at her arms and hands!" This was the
nearest approach to a laugh I have heard, and have never seen
even a tendency towards a smile. Since then I have risen in
their estimation by improvizing a lamp--Hawaiian fashion--by
putting a wisp of rag into a tin of fat. They have actually
condescended to sit up till the stars come out since. Another
advance was made by means of the shell-pattern quilt I am
knitting for you. There has been a tendency towards approving of
it, and a few days since the girl snatched it out of my hand,
saying, "I want this," and apparently took it to the camp. This
has resulted in my having a knitting class, with the woman, her
married daughter, and a woman from the camp, as pupils. Then I
have gained ground with the man by being able to catch and saddle
a horse. I am often reminded of my favorite couplet,--

Beware of desperate steps; the darkest day,
Live till to-morrow, will have passed away.

But oh! what a hard, narrow life it is with which I am now in
contact! A narrow and unattractive religion, which I believe
still to be genuine, and an intense but narrow patriotism, are
the only higher influences. Chalmers came from Illinois nine
years ago, pronounced by the doctors to be far gone in
consumption, and in two years he was strong. They are a queer
family; somewhere in the remote Highlands I have seen such
another. Its head is tall, gaunt, lean, and ragged, and has
lost one eye. On an English road one would think him a starving
or a dangerous beggar. He is slightly intelligent, very
opinionated, and wishes to be thought well informed, which he is
not. He belongs to the straitest sect of Reformed Presbyterians
("Psalm-singers"), but exaggerates anything of bigotry and
intolerance which may characterize them, and rejoices in truly
merciless fashion over the excision of the philanthropic Mr.
Stuart, of Philadelphia, for worshipping with congregations which
sing hymns. His great boast is that his ancestors were Scottish
Covenanters. He considers himself a profound theologian, and by
the pine logs at night discourses to me on the mysteries of the
eternal counsels and the divine decrees. Colorado, with its
progress and its future, is also a constant theme. He hates
England with a bitter, personal hatred, and regards any allusions
which I make to the progress of Victoria as a personal insult.
He trusts to live to see the downfall of the British monarchy and
the disintegration of the empire. He is very fond of talking,
and asks me a great deal about my travels, but if I speak
favorably of the climate or resources of any other country, he
regards it as a slur on Colorado.

They have one hundred and sixty acres of land, a "Squatter's
claim," and an invaluable water power. He is a lumberer, and has
a saw-mill of a very primitive kind. I notice that every day
something goes wrong with it, and this is the case throughout.
If he wants to haul timber down, one or other of the oxen cannot
be found; or if the timber is actually under way, a wheel or a
part of the harness gives way, and the whole affair is at a
standstill for days. The cabin is hardly a shelter, but is
allowed to remain in ruins because the foundation of a frame
house was once dug. A horse is always sure to be lame for want
of a shoe nail, or a saddle to be useless from a broken buckle,
and the wagon and harness are a marvel of temporary shifts,
patchings, and insecure linkings with strands of rope. Nothing
is ever ready or whole when it is wanted. Yet Chalmers is a
frugal, sober, hard-working man, and he, his eldest son, and a
"hired man" "Rise early," "going forth to their work and labor
till the evening"; and if they do not "late take rest," they
truly "eat the bread of carefulness." It is hardly surprising
that nine years of persevering shiftlessness should have resulted
in nothing but the ability to procure the bare necessaries of

Of Mrs. C. I can say less. She looks like one of the English
poor women of our childhood--lean, clean, toothless, and speaks,
like some of them, in a piping, discontented voice, which seems
to convey a personal reproach. All her waking hours are spent in
a large sun-bonnet. She is never idle for one minute, is severe
and hard, and despises everything but work. I think she suffers
from her husband's shiftlessness. She always speaks of me as
"This" or "that woman." The family consists of a grown-up son, a
shiftless, melancholy-looking youth, who possibly pines for a
wider life; a girl of sixteen, a sour, repellent-looking
creature, with as much manners as a pig; and three hard, un-
child-like younger children. By the whole family all courtesy
and gentleness of act or speech seem regarded as "works of the
flesh," if not of "the devil." They knock over all one's things
without apologizing or picking them up, and when I thank them for
anything they look grimly amazed. I feel that they think it
sinful that I do not work as hard as they do. I wish I could
show them "a more excellent way." This hard greed, and the
exclusive pursuit of gain, with the indifference to all which
does not aid in its acquisition, are eating up family love and
life throughout the West. I write this reluctantly, and after a
total experience of nearly two years in the United States. They
seem to have no "Sunday clothes," and few of any kind. The
sewing machine, like most other things, is out of order. One
comb serves the whole family. Mrs. C. is cleanly in her person
and dress, and the food, though poor, is clean. Work, work,
work, is their day and their life. They are thoroughly ungenial,
and have that air of suspicion in speaking of every one which is
not unusual in the land of their ancestors. Thomas Chalmers
is the man's ecclesiastical hero, in spite of his own severe
Puritanism. Their live stock consists of two wretched horses, a
fairly good bronco mare, a mule, four badly-bred cows, four gaunt
and famished-looking oxen, some swine of singularly active
habits, and plenty of poultry. The old saddles are tied on with
twine; one side of the bridle is a worn-out strap and the other a
rope. They wear boots, but never two of one pair, and never
blacked, of course, but no stockings. They think it quite
effeminate to sleep under a roof, except during the severest
months of the year. There is a married daughter across the
river, just the same hard, loveless, moral, hard-working being as
her mother. Each morning, soon after seven, when I have swept
the cabin, the family come in for "worship." Chalmers "wales" a
psalm, in every sense of the word wail, to the most doleful of
dismal tunes; they read a chapter round, and he prays. If his
prayer has something of the tone of the imprecatory psalms, he
has high authority in his favor; and if there be a tinge of the
Pharisaic thanksgiving, it is hardly surprising that he is
grateful that he is not as other men are when he contemplates the
general godlessness of the region.

Sunday was a dreadful day. The family kept the Commandment
literally, and did no work. Worship was conducted twice, and was
rather longer than usual. Chalmers does not allow of any books
in his house but theological works, and two or three volumes of
dull travels, so the mother and children slept nearly all day.
The man attempted to read a well-worn copy of Boston's Fourfold
State, but shortly fell asleep, and they only woke up for their
meals. Friday and Saturday had been passably cool, with frosty
nights, but on Saturday night it changed, and I have not felt
anything like the heat of Sunday since I left New Zealand, though
the mercury was not higher than 91 degrees. It was sickening,
scorching, melting, unbearable, from the mere power of the sun's
rays. It was an awful day, and seemed as if it would never come
to an end. The cabin, with its mud roof under the shade of the
trees, gave a little shelter, but it was occupied by the family,
and I longed for solitude. I took the Imitation of Christ, and
strolled up the canyon among the withered, crackling leaves, in
much dread of snakes, and lay down on a rough table which some
passing emigrant had left, and soon fell asleep. When I awoke it
was only noon. The sun looked wicked as it blazed like a white
magnesium light. A large tree-snake (quite harmless) hung from
the pine under which I had taken shelter, and looked as if it
were going to drop upon me. I was covered with black flies. The
air was full of a busy, noisy din of insects, and snakes,
locusts, wasps, flies, and grasshoppers were all rioting in the
torrid heat. Would the sublime philosophy of Thomas a Kempis,
I wondered, have given way under this? All day I seemed to hear
in mockery the clear laugh of the Hilo streams, and the drip of
Kona showers, and to see as in a mirage the perpetual Green of
windward Hawaii. I was driven back to the cabin in the late
afternoon, and in the evening listened for two hours to abuse of
my own country, and to sweeping condemnations of all religionists
outside of the brotherhood of "Psalm-singers." It is jarring and
painful, yet I would say of Chalmers, as Dr. Holland says of

If ever I shall reach the home in heaven,
For whose dear rest I humbly hope and pray,
In the great company of the forgiven
I shall be sure to meet old Daniel Gray.

The night came without coolness, but at daylight on Monday
morning a fire was pleasant. You will now have some idea of my
surroundings. It is a moral, hard, unloving, unlovely,
unrelieved, unbeautified, grinding life. These people live in a
discomfort and lack of ease and refinement which seems only
possible to people of British stock. A "foreigner" fills his
cabin with ingenuities and elegancies, and a Hawaiian or South
Sea Islander makes his grass house both pretty and tasteful. Add
to my surroundings a mighty canyon, impassable both above and
below, and walls of mountains with an opening some miles off to
the vast prairie sea.[9]

[9] I have not curtailed this description of the roughness
of a Colorado settler's life, for, with the exceptions of the
disrepair and the Puritanism, it is a type of the hard,
unornamented existence with which I came almost universally in
contact during my subsequent residence in the Territory.

An English physician is settled about half a mile from here over
a hill. He is spoken of as holding "very extreme opinions."
Chalmers rails at him for being "a thick-skulled Englishman," for
being "fine, polished," etc. To say a man is "polished" here is
to give him a very bad name. He accuses him also of holding
views subversive of all morality. In spite of all this, I
thought he might possess a map, and I induced Mrs. C. to walk
over with me. She intended it as a formal morning call, but she
wore the inevitable sun-bonnet, and had her dress tied up as when
washing. It was not till I reached the gate that I remembered
that I was in my Hawaiian riding dress, and that I still wore the
spurs with which I had been trying a horse in the morning! The
house was in a grass valley which opened from the tremendous
canyon through which the river had cut its way. The Foot Hills,
with their terraces of flaming red rock, were glowing in the
sunset, and a pure green sky arched tenderly over a soft evening
scene. Used to the meanness and baldness of settlers' dwellings.
I was delighted to see that in this instance the usual log cabin
was only the lower floor of a small house, which bore a
delightful resemblance to a Swiss chalet. It stood in a
vegetable garden fertilized by an irrigating ditch, outside of
which were a barn and cowshed. A young Swiss girl was bringing
the cows slowly home from the hill, an Englishwoman in a clean
print dress stood by the fence holding a baby, and a fine-looking
Englishman in a striped Garibaldi shirt, and trousers of the same
tucked into high boots, was shelling corn. As soon as Mrs.
Hughes spoke I felt she was truly a lady; and oh! how refreshing
her refined, courteous, graceful English manner was, as she
invited us into the house! The entrance was low, through a log
porch festooned and almost concealed by a "wild cucumber."
Inside, though plain and poor, the room looked a home, not like a
squatter's cabin. An old tin was completely covered by a
graceful clematis mixed with streamers of Virginia creeper, and
white muslin curtains, and above all two shelves of
admirably-chosen books, gave the room almost an air of elegance.
Why do I write almost? It was an oasis. It was barely three
weeks since I had left "the communion of educated men," and the
first tones of the voices of my host and hostess made me feel as
if I had been out of it for a year. Mrs. C. stayed an hour and a
half, and then went home to the cows, when we launched upon a sea
of congenial talk. They said they had not seen an educated lady
for two years, and pressed me to go and visit them. I rode home
on Dr. Hughes's horse after dark, to find neither fire nor light
in the cabin. Mrs. C. had gone back saying, "Those English
talked just like savages, I couldn't understand a word they

I made a fire, and extemporized a light with some fat and a wick
of rag, and Chalmers came in to discuss my visit and to ask me a
question concerning a matter which had roused the latent
curiosity of the whole family. I had told him, he said, that I
knew no one hereabouts, but "his woman" told him that Dr. H. and
I spoke constantly of a Mrs. Grundy, whom we both knew and
disliked, and who was settled, as we said, not far off! He had
never heard of her, he said, and he was the pioneer settler of
the canyon, and there was a man up here from Longmount who said
he was sure there was not a Mrs. Grundy in the district, unless
it was a woman who went by two names! The wife and family had
then come in, and I felt completely nonplussed. I longed to tell
Chalmers that it was he and such as he, there or anywhere, with
narrow hearts, bitter tongues, and harsh judgments, who were the
true "Mrs. Grundys," dwarfing individuality, checking lawful
freedom of speech, and making men "offenders for a word," but I
forebore. How I extricated myself from the difficulty, deponent
sayeth not. The rest of the evening has been spent in preparing
to cross the mountains. Chalmers says he knows the way well, and
that we shall sleep to-morrow at the foot of Long's Peak. Mrs.
Chalmers repents of having consented, and conjures up doleful
visions of what the family will come to when left headless, and
of disasters among the cows and hens. I could tell her that the
eldest son and the "hired man" have plotted to close the saw-mill
and go on a hunting and fishing expedition, that the cows will
stray, and that the individual spoken respectfully of as "Mr.
Skunk" will make havoc in the hen-house.


This is indeed far removed. It seems farther away from you than
any place I have been to yet, except the frozen top of the
volcano of Mauna Loa. It is so little profaned by man that if
one were compelled to live here in solitude one might truly say
of the bears, deer, and elk which abound, "Their tameness is
shocking to me." It is the world of "big game." Just now a
heavy-headed elk, with much-branched horns fully three feet long,
stood and looked at me, and then quietly trotted away. He was so
near that I heard the grass, crisp with hoar frost, crackle under
his feet. Bears stripped the cherry bushes within a few yards of
us last night. Now two lovely blue birds, with crests on their
heads, are picking about within a stone's-throw. This is "The
Great Lone Land," until lately the hunting ground of the Indians,
and not yet settled or traversed, or likely to be so, owing to
the want of water. A solitary hunter has built a log cabin up
here, which he occupies for a few weeks for the purpose of
elk-hunting, but all the region is unsurveyed, and mostly
unexplored. It is 7 A.M. The sun has not yet risen high enough
to melt the hoar frost, and the air is clear, bright, and cold.
The stillness is profound. I hear nothing but the far-off
mysterious roaring of a river in a deep canyon, which we spent
two hours last night in trying to find. The horses are lost, and
if I were disposed to retort upon my companions the term they
invariably apply to me, I should now write, with bitter emphasis,
"THAT man" and "THAT woman" have gone in search of them.

The scenery up here is glorious, combining sublimity with beauty,
and in the elastic air fatigue has dropped off from me. This is
no region for tourists and women, only for a few elk and bear
hunters at times, and its unprofaned freshness gives me new life.
I cannot by any words give you an idea of scenery so different
from any that you or I have ever seen. This is an upland valley
of grass and flowers, of glades and sloping lawns, and
cherry-fringed beds of dry streams, and clumps of pines
artistically placed, and mountain sides densely pine clad, the
pines breaking into fringes as they come down upon the "park,"
and the mountains breaking into pinnacles of bold grey rock as
they pierce the blue of the sky. A single dell of bright green
grass, on which dwarf clumps of the scarlet poison oak look like
beds of geraniums, slopes towards the west, as if it must lead to
the river which we seek. Deep, vast canyons, all trending
westwards, lie in purple gloom. Pine-clad ranges, rising into
the blasted top of Storm Peak, all run westwards too, and all the
beauty and glory are but the frame out of which
rises--heaven-piercing, pure in its pearly luster, as glorious a
mountain as the sun tinges red in either hemisphere--the
splintered, pinnacled, lonely, ghastly, imposing, double-peaked
summit of Long's Peak, the Mont Blanc of Northern Colorado.[10]

[10] Gray's Peak and Pike's Peak have their partisans, but
after seeing them all under favorable aspects, Long's Peak stands
in my memory as it does in that vast congeries of mountains,
alone in imperial grandeur.

This is a view to which nothing needs to be added. This is truly
the "lodge in some vast wilderness" for which one often sighs
when in the midst of "a bustle at once sordid and trivial." In
spite of Dr. Johnson, these "monstrous protuberances" do "inflame
the imagination and elevate the understanding." This scenery
satisfies my soul. Now, the Rocky Mountains realize--nay,
exceed--the dream of my childhood. It is magnificent, and the
air is life giving. I should like to spend some time in these
higher regions, but I know that this will turn out an abortive
expedition, owing to the stupidity and pigheadedness of Chalmers.

There is a most romantic place called Estes Park, at a height of
7,500 feet, which can be reached by going down to the plains and
then striking up the St. Vrain Canyon, but this is a distance of
fifty-five miles, and as Chalmers was confident that he could
take me over the mountains, a distance, as he supposed, of about
twenty miles, we left at mid-day yesterday, with the fervent
hope, on my part, that I might not return. Mrs. C. was busy the
whole of Tuesday in preparing what she called "grub," which,
together with "plenty of bedding," was to be carried on a pack
mule; but when we started I was disgusted to find that Chalmers
was on what should have been the pack animal, and that two
thickly-quilted cotton "spreads" had been disposed of under my
saddle, making it broad, high, and uncomfortable. Any human
being must have laughed to see an expedition start so grotesquely
"ill found." I had a very old iron-grey horse, whose lower lip
hung down feebly, showing his few teeth, while his fore-legs
stuck out forwards, and matter ran from both his nearly-blind
eyes. It is kindness to bring him up to abundant pasture. My
saddle is an old McLellan cavalry saddle, with a battered brass
peak, and the bridle is a rotten leather strap on one side and a
strand of rope on the other. The cotton quilts covered the
Rosinante from mane to tail. Mrs. C. wore an old print skirt, an
old short-gown, a print apron, and a sun-bonnet, with a flap
coming down to her waist, and looked as careworn and clean as she
always does. The inside horn of her saddle was broken; to the
outside one hung a saucepan and a bundle of clothes. The one
girth was nearly at the breaking point when we started.

My pack, with my well-worn umbrella upon it, was behind my
saddle. I wore my Hawaiian riding dress, with a handkerchief
tied over my face and the sun-cover of my umbrella folded and
tied over my hat, for the sun was very fierce. The queerest
figure of all was the would-be guide. With his one eye, his
gaunt, lean form, and his torn clothes, he looked more like a
strolling tinker than the honest worthy settler that he is. He
bestrode rather than rode a gaunt mule, whose tail had all been
shaven off, except a turf for a tassel at the end. Two flour bags
which leaked were tied on behind the saddle, two quilts were
under it, and my canvas bag, a battered canteen, a frying pan,
and two lariats hung from the horn. On one foot C. wore an old
high boot, into which his trouser was tucked, and on the other an
old brogue, through which his toes protruded.

We had an ascent of four hours through a ravine which gradually
opened out upon this beautiful "park," but we rode through it for
some miles before the view burst upon us. The vastness of this
range, like astronomical distances, can hardly be conceived of.
At this place, I suppose, it is not less than 250 miles wide, and
with hardly a break in its continuity, it stretches almost from
the Arctic Circle to the Straits of Magellan. From the top of
Long's Peak, within a short distance, twenty-two summits, each
above 12,000 feet in height, are visible, and the Snowy Range,
the backbone or "divide" of the continent, is seen snaking
distinctly through the wilderness of ranges, with its waters
starting for either ocean. From the first ridge we crossed after
leaving Canyon we had a singular view of range beyond range cleft
by deep canyons, and abounding in elliptical valleys, richly
grassed. The slopes of all the hills, as far as one could see,
were waving with fine grass ready for the scythe, but the food of
wild animals only. All these ridges are heavily timbered with
pitch pines, and where they come down on the grassy slopes they
look as if the trees had been arranged by a landscape gardener.
Far off, through an opening in a canyon, we saw the prairie
simulating the ocean. Far off, through an opening in another
direction, was the glistening outline of the Snowy Range. But
still, till we reached this place, it was monotonous, though
grand as a whole: a grey-green or buff-grey, with outbreaks of
brilliantly-colored rock, only varied by the black-green of
pines, which are not the stately pyramidal pines of the Sierra
Nevada, but much resemble the natural Scotch fir. Not many miles
from us is North Park, a great tract of land said to be rich in
gold, but those who have gone to "prospect" have seldom returned,
the region being the home of tribes of Indians who live in
perpetual hostility to the whites and to each other.

At this great height, and most artistically situated, we came
upon a rude log camp tenanted in winter by an elk hunter, but now
deserted. Chalmers without any scruple picked the padlock; we
lighted a fire, made some tea, and fried some bacon, and after
a good meal mounted again and started for Estes Park. For four
weary hours we searched hither and thither along every
indentation of the ground which might be supposed to slope
towards the Big Thompson River, which we knew had to be forded.
Still, as the quest grew more tedious, Long's Peak stood before
us as a landmark in purple glory; and still at his feet lay a
hollow filled with deep blue atmosphere, where I knew that Estes
Park must lie, and still between us and it lay never-lessening
miles of inaccessibility, and the sun was ever weltering, and the
shadows ever lengthening, and Chalmers, who had started
confident, bumptious, blatant, was ever becoming more bewildered,
and his wife's thin voice more piping and discontented, and my
stumbling horse more insecure, and I more determined (as I am at
this moment) that somehow or other I would reach that blue
hollow, and even stand on Long's Peak where the snow was
glittering. Affairs were becoming serious, and Chalmers's
incompetence a source of real peril, when, after an exploring
expedition, he returned more bumptious than ever, saying he knew
it would be all right, he had found a trail, and we could get
across the river by dark, and camp out for the night. So he led
us into a steep, deep, rough ravine, where we had to dismount,
for trees were lying across it everywhere, and there was almost
no footing on the great slabs of shelving rock. Yet there was a
trail, tolerably well worn, and the branches and twigs near the
ground were well broken back. Ah! it was a wild place. My horse
fell first, rolling over twice, and breaking off a part of the
saddle, in his second roll knocking me over a shelf of three feet
of descent. Then Mrs. C.'s horse and the mule fell on the top of
each other, and on recovering themselves bit each other savagely.
The ravine became a wild gulch, the dry bed of some awful
torrent; there were huge shelves of rock, great overhanging walls
of rock, great prostrate trees, cedar spikes and cacti to wound
the feet, and then a precipice fully 500 feet deep! The trail
was a trail made by bears in search of bear cherries, which

It was getting dusk as we had to struggle up the rough gulch we
had so fatuously descended. The horses fell several times; I
could hardly get mine up at all, though I helped him as much as I
could; I was cut and bruised, scratched and torn. A spine of a
cactus penetrated my foot, and some vicious thing cut the back of
my neck. Poor Mrs. C. was much bruised, and I pitied her, for
she got no fun out of it as I did. It was an awful climb. When
we got out of the gulch, C. was so confused that he took the
wrong direction, and after an hour of vague wandering was only
recalled to the right one by my pertinacious assertions acting on
his weak brain. I was inclined to be angry with the incompetent
braggart, who had boasted that he could take us to Estes Park
"blindfold"; but I was sorry for him too, so said nothing, even
though I had to walk during these meanderings to save my tired
horse. When at last, at dark, we reached the open, there was
a snow flurry, with violent gusts of wind, and the shelter of the
camp, dark and cold as it was, was desirable. We had no food,
but made a fire. I lay down on some dry grass, with my inverted
saddle for a pillow, and slept soundly, till I was awoke by the
cold of an intense frost and the pain of my many cuts and
bruises. Chalmers promised that we should make a fresh start
at six, so I woke him up at five, and here I am alone at
half-past eight! I said to him many times that unless he hobbled
or picketed the horses, we should lose them. "Oh," he said
"they'll be all right." In truth he had no picketing pins. Now,
the animals are merrily trotting homewards. I saw them two miles
off an hour ago with him after them. His wife, who is also after
them, goaded to desperation, said, "He's the most ignorant,
careless, good-for-nothing man I ever saw," upon which I dwelt
upon his being well meaning. There is a sort of well here, but
our "afternoon tea" and watering the horses drained it, so we
have had nothing to drink since yesterday, for the canteen, which
started without a cork, lost all its contents when the mule fell.
I have made a monstrous fire, but thirst and impatience are hard
to bear, and preventible misfortunes are always irksome. I have
found the stomach of a bear with fully a pint of cherrystones in
it, and have spent an hour in getting the kernels; and lo! now,
at half-past nine, I see the culprit and his wife coming back
with the animals.
I. L. B.

LOWER CANYON, September 21.

We never reached Estes Park. There is no trail, and horses have
never been across. We started from camp at ten, and spent four
hours in searching for the trail. Chalmers tried gulch after
gulch again, his self-assertion giving way a little after each
failure; sometimes going east when we should have gone west,
always being brought up by a precipice or other impossibility.
At last he went off by himself, and returned rejoicing, saying he
had found the trail; and soon, sure enough, we were on a
well-defined old trail, evidently made by carcasses which have
been dragged along it by hunters. Vainly I pointed out to him
that we were going north-east when we should have gone
south-west, and that we were ascending instead of descending.
"Oh, it's all right, and we shall soon come to water," he always
replied. For two hours we ascended slowly through a thicket of
aspen, the cold continually intensifying; but the trail, which
had been growing fainter, died out, and an opening showed the top
of Storm Peak not far off and not much above us, though it is
11,000 feet high. I could not help laughing. He had deliberately
turned his back on Estes Park. He then confessed that he was
lost, and that he could not find the way back. His wife sat down
on the ground and cried bitterly. We ate some dry bread, and
then I said I had had much experience in traveling, and would
take the control of the party, which was agreed to, and we began
the long descent. Soon after his wife was thrown from her horse,
and cried bitterly again from fright and mortification. Soon
after that the girth of the mule's saddle broke, and having no
crupper, saddle and addenda went over his head, and the flour was
dispersed. Next the girth of the woman's saddle broke, and she
went over her horse's head. Then he began to fumble helplessly
at it, railing against England the whole time, while I secured
the saddle, and guided the route back to an outlet of the park.
There a fire was built, and we had some bread and bacon; and then
a search for water occupied nearly two hours, and resulted in the
finding of a mudhole, trodden and defiled by hundreds of feet of
elk, bears, cats, deer, and other beasts, and containing only
a few gallons of water as thick as pea soup, with which we
watered our animals and made some strong tea.

The sun was setting in glory as we started for the four hours'
ride home, and the frost was intense, and made our bruised,
grazed limbs ache painfully. I was sorry for Mrs. Chalmers, who
had had several falls, and bore her aches patiently, and had said
several times to her husband, with a kind meaning, "I am real
sorry for this woman." I was so tired with the perpetual
stumbling of my horse, as well as stiffened with the bitter cold,
that I walked for the last hour or two; and Chalmers, as if to
cover his failure, indulged in loud, incessant talk, abusing all
other religionists, and railing against England in the coarsest
American fashion. Yet, after all, they were not bad souls; and
though he failed so grotesquely, he did his incompetent best.
The log fire in the ruinous cabin was cheery, and I kept it up
all night, and watched the stars through the holes in the roof,
and thought of Long's Peak in its glorious solitude, and resolved
that, come what might, I would reach Estes Park.
I. L. B.

Letter VI

A bronco mare--An accident--Wonderland--A sad story--The children
of the Territories--Hard greed--Halcyon hours--
Smartness--Old-fashioned prejudices--The Chicago colony--Good
luck--Three notes of admiration--A good horse--The St.
Vrain--The Rocky Mountains at last--"Mountain Jim"--A death
hug--Estes Park.

LOWER CANYON, September 25.

This is another world. My entrance upon it was signalized in
this fashion. Chalmers offered me a bronco mare for a reasonable
sum, and though she was a shifty, half-broken young thing, I came
over here on her to try her, when, just as I was going away, she
took into her head to "scare" and "buck," and when I touched her
with my foot she leaped over a heap of timber, and the girth gave
way, and the onlookers tell me that while she jumped I fell over
her tail from a good height upon the hard gravel, receiving a
parting kick on my knee. They could hardly believe that no bones
were broken. The flesh of my left arm looks crushed into a
jelly, but cold-water dressings will soon bring it right; and a
cut on my back bled profusely; and the bleeding, with many
bruises and the general shake, have made me feel weak, but
circumstances do not admit of "making a fuss," and I really think
that the rents in my riding dress will prove the most important
part of the accident.

The surroundings here are pleasing. The log cabin, on the top of
which a room with a steep, ornamental Swiss roof has been built,
is in a valley close to a clear, rushing river, which emerges a
little higher up from an inaccessible chasm of great sublimity.
One side of the valley is formed by cliffs and terraces of
porphyry as red as the reddest new brick, and at sunset blazing
into vermilion. Through rifts in the nearer ranges there are
glimpses of pine-clothed peaks, which, towards twilight, pass
through every shade of purple and violet. The sky and the earth
combine to form a Wonderland every evening--such rich, velvety
coloring in crimson and violet; such an orange, green, and
vermilion sky; such scarlet and emerald clouds; such an
extraordinary dryness and purity of atmosphere, and then the
glorious afterglow which seems to blend earth and heaven! For
color, the Rocky Mountains beat all I have seen. The air has been
cold, but the sun bright and hot during the last few days.

The story of my host is a story of misfortune. It indicates who
should NOT come to Colorado.[11] He and his wife are under
thirty-five. The son of a London physician in large practice,
with a liberal education in the largest sense of the word,
unusual culture and accomplishments, and the partner of a
physician in good practice in the second city in England, he
showed symptoms which threatened pulmonary disease. In an evil
hour he heard of Colorado with its "unrivalled climate, boundless
resources," etc., and, fascinated not only by these material
advantages, but by the notion of being able to found or reform
society on advanced social theories of his own, he became an
emigrant. Mrs. Hughes is one of the most charming, and lovable
women I have ever seen, and their marriage is an ideal one. Both
are fitted to shine in any society, but neither had the slightest
knowledge of domestic and farming details. Dr. H. did not know
how to saddle or harness a horse. Mrs. H. did not know whether
you should put an egg into cold or hot water when you meant to
boil it! They arrived at Longmount, bought up this claim, rather
for the beauty of the scenery than for any substantial
advantages, were cheated in land, goods, oxen, everything, and,
to the discredit of the settlers, seemed to be regarded as fair
game. Everything has failed with them, and though they "rise
early, and late take rest, and eat the bread of carefulness,"
they hardly keep their heads above water. A young Swiss girl,
devoted to them both, works as hard as they do. They have one
horse, no wagon, some poultry, and a few cows, but no "hired
man." It is the hardest and least ideal struggle that I have
ever seen made by educated people. They had all their experience
to learn, and they have bought it by losses and hardships. That
they have learnt so much surprises me. Dr. H. and these two
ladies built the upper room and the addition to the house without
help. He has cropped the land himself, and has learned the
difficult art of milking cows. Mrs. H. makes all the clothes
required for a family of six, and her evenings, when the hard
day's work is done and she is ready to drop from fatigue, are
spent in mending and patching. The day is one long GRIND,
without rest or enjoyment, or the pleasure of chance intercourse
with cultivated people. The few visitors who have "happened in"
are the thrifty wives of prosperous settlers, full of housewifely
pride, whose one object seems to be to make Mrs. H. feel her
inferiority to themselves. I wish she did take a more genuine
interest in the "coming-on" of the last calf, the prospects of
the squash crop, and the yield and price of butter; but though
she has learned to make excellent butter and bread, it is all
against the grain. The children are delightful. The little boys
are refined, courteous, childish gentlemen, with love and
tenderness to their parents in all their words and actions.
Never a rough or harsh word is heard within the house. But the
atmosphere of struggles and difficulties has already told on
these infants. They consider their mother in all things, going
without butter when they think the stock is low, bringing in wood
and water too heavy for them to carry, anxiously speculating on
the winter prospect and the crops, yet withal the most childlike
and innocent of children.

[11] The story is ended now. A few months after my visit
Mrs. H. died a few days after her confinement, and was buried on


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