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Title: California - The Land of the Sun
Author: Austin, Mary Hunter, 1868-1934
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "California - The Land of the Sun" ***

produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)

Transcriber's Note:

  Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have
  been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

  On page 18, "arroya" should possibly be "arroyo."

  On page 53, "gaumet" should possibly be "gamut."

  On page 134, the text is "Noriegas'."  The Index shows "Noriega's."

  "Tamalpias" should possibly be "Tamalpais."






     America           The Macmillan Company
                         64 & 66 Fifth Avenue, New York

     Australasia       The Oxford University Press
                         205 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

     Canada            The Macmillan Company of Canada, Ltd.
                         St. Martin's House, 70 Bond Street,

     India             Macmillan & Company, Ltd.
                         Macmillan Building, Bombay
                         309 Bow Bazaar Street, Calcutta





     4, 5, & 6 SOHO SQUARE, LONDON, W.

     _Published Autumn 1914_


  I. The Sparrow Hawk's Own                                    1
  II. Mothering Mountains                                     25
  III. The Coasts of Adventure                                45
  IV. The Port of Monterey                                    61
  V. Old Spanish Gardens                                      85
  VI. The Land of the Little Duck                            105
  VII. The Twin Valleys                                      125
  VIII. The High Sierras and the Sage-brush Country          147


  1. The Three Brothers, Yosemite Valley             _Frontispiece_
                                                        FACING PAGE
  2. San Diego, looking across the Bay toward Point Loma          9
  3. Redlands, looking toward San Bernardino Range               16
  4. A Eucalyptus Grove                                          33
  5. Glendale, Valley of the San Gabriel                         40
  6. A Cañon in the Sierra Madre                                 49
  7. The Cemetery, Santa Barbara Mission                         56
  8. Sycamores, a Coast Range Cañon                              59
  9. Tall Chaparral, Santa Cruz                                  62
  10. Looking down on Monterey and the Bay                       65
  11. Pescadero, a Chinese Fishing Village, Monterey Bay         72
  12. Cypress Point, near Carmel                                 75
  13. Santa Cruz Mountains, the Coast Range                      78
  14. The Patio, Old Spanish Residence                           88
  15. The Golden Gate and Black Point, from Hyde Street,
      San Francisco. (Site of the Panama Exposition,
      1915)                                                     107
  16. Tamalpias                                                 110
  17. Mill Valley, and Backwater of San Francisco Bay           113
  18. Waiting for Duck--Los Baños                               120
  19. Mirror Lake, Yosemite                                     129
  20. Among the Redwoods of the Great Twin Valleys              131
  21. Clear Lake, Lake County                                   134
  22. Castle Crag, Rattlesnake Cañon                            136
  23. McCloud River, Upper Sacramento Valley                    139
  24. Donner Lake, on the old Emigrant Trail                    142
  25. Laurel Lake, Upper Sacramento                             145
  26. Yosemite Falls                                            152
  27. Blue Lake, Lake County                                    155
  28. Lake Tahoe, the High Sierras                              158
  29. Mount Shasta--Sierra Glow                                 161
  30. Valley of the Yosemite                                    163
  31. The Half Dome, Yosemite                                   166
  32. Shasta--Snow Clouds                                       168
     _Sketch Map at end of Volume._



For a graphic and memorable report of the contours of any country, see
always the aboriginal account of its making. That will give you the lie
of the land as no geographer could sketch it forth for you. California
was made by Padahoon the Sparrow-Hawk and the Little Duck, who brooded
on the face of the waters in the Beginning of Things.

There is no knowing where the tale comes from, for Winnenap the
Medicine-Man who told it to me, was eclectic in his faiths as in his
practice. Winnenap was a Shoshone, one of the group who had been forced
southward into Death Valley when the great Pah Ute nation had split
their tribes like a wedge. In the last of their wars he had been taken
as a hostage by the Paiutes and brought up by them. He might have
remembered the story, or his wife might have told him. She was a tall
brown woman out of Tejon, and _her_ mother was of that band of captives
taken from San Gabriel by the Mojaves, Mission-bred. Wherever it came
from, the tale has its roots deep in the land it explains.

Padahoon, being wearied of going to and fro under the heavens, said
to the Little Duck that it was time there should be mountains; so the
Little Duck dived and brought up the primordial mud of which even the
geographers are agreed mountains are made.

As he brought it the Sparrow-Hawk built a round beautiful ring of
mountains enclosing a quiet space of sea. Said the Little Duck, "I
choose this side," coming up with his bill full of mud toward the west.
Whereupon the Sparrow-Hawk built the other side higher. When it was all
done and the Little Duck surveyed it, he observed, as people will to
this day, the discrepancy between the low western hills and the high
Sierras, and he thought the builder had not played him fair. "Very
well, then," said the Sparrow-Hawk, "since you are resolved to be so
greedy," and he bit out pieces of the Sierras with his bill, and threw
them over his shoulder.

You can see the bites still deep and sharp about Mt. Whitney.

But the Little Duck would not be satisfied; he took hold by the great
bulk of Shasta and began to pull, and Padahoon pulled on his side until
the beautiful ring was pulled out in a long oval and began to break on
the west where the bay of San Francisco comes in. So they were forced
to divide the mountain range north and south and make what they could
of it. But the Sparrow-Hawk, remembering the pieces he had thrown over
his shoulder, chose the south, where you can still see him sailing any
clear day about four in the afternoon, over all his stolen territory.

There you have the bones of the land as neatly laid out for you as they
could do it in Kensington Museum: the long oval, breaking seaward, the
high, bitten, westward peaks, and the Sparrow-Hawk's Own, tailing south
like the quirk of an attenuated Q.

They serve, these fragmentary ranges, for the outposts of habitableness
between the sea wind and the forces of pure desertness. Always there
is skirmish and assault going on about them. Showers rush up the slope
of San Jacinto, all their shining spears a-tilt. Great gusts of wind
roar through the Pass of San Gorgiono, the old Puerto de San Carlos.
Seasonally they are beleaguered by stealthy rushes of the fogs that
from the Gulf hear the peaks about Whitney calling, or by the yellow
murk of sand-storms on which the whole face of the desert is lifted up
as it travels toward its destiny in orchard row and vineyard. Always
the edge of the wind is against the stone. They shine, the frontlets of
the sentinel saints, in that keen polish, as the faces of saints must
with benignity.

Just beyond the pilæ of the broken mountains--the Pillars of Hercules
of the West--the desert winds about the eastern bases of the range in
deep indented bays, white-rimmed with the wave marks of its ancient
sea. Out a very little way, where the shuddering heat-waves trick the
imagination, it seems about to be retaken by the ghost of tumbling
billows. Nothing else moves in it; nothing sounds. Plantations of
growing things near the Pass lean all a little toward it, edging,
peering--the wild, spiny, thorny things of the desert to enter the
rain-fed paradise, the full-leafed offspring of the sea wind plotting
to take the unfriended sandy spaces. They creep a little forward or
back as the years run wet or dry. The green things stand up, they
march along the cliffs, they balance on the edge of precipices, but
desperation is in every contorted stem of _mesquite_ and _palo verde_.
And with all this struggle, so still! East on the desert rim the
Colorado ramps like a stallion between its walls, westward the Pacific
rings the low foreshore with thunder; but the land never cries out,
quartz mountains disintegrate but they do not murmur.

It is odd here in a land rife with the naked struggle of great pagan
forces, to find the promontories so lend themselves to the gentle
names of saints. Perhaps the Padres were not so far from nature as one
thinks; in the southerly range which, with San Bernardino on the north,
sentinels the Pass by which the iron-rimmed Emigrant trail enters the
coast valleys, they rendered for once the pagan touch. San Jacinto--St.
Hyacinth--was he ever anything but a Christianised memory of a Grecian
myth, or does it matter at all so long as there are men to see, in
the deep purple light that dies along the heights, the colour of blood
that is shed for love? Perhaps the best thing beauty can say to Greek
or Christian is that there are still things worth dying for. No doubt
the veins of Padre Jayme Bravo were as rich in martyr passion as the
stained air of the mountain is in purples, paling to rose at morning,
thinning at noon to pure aerial blues.

Seen from the coast the range has a finny contour as of some huge
creature risen from the sea, with low hills about it like dolphins
playing; but the prevailing note of the landscape is always blue,
repeating the tints of the wild brodiæa that may be found on the lomas
early in April, sending up its clustered heads between two slender
curving spears.

Near at hand the masking growth is seen to be green, the dark
olivaceous green of the chamisal. Nowhere does one get the force of
the Spanish termination _al_--the place where--as in that word. The
chamisal is the place of the chamise: miles and miles of it, with
scarcely another shrub allowed, spread over the mesa and well up
into laps and bays of the hills. It grows breast high, man high in
the favoured regions; but even where under the influence of drouth
and altitude it creeps to the knees, it abates nothing of its social
character. Its ever-green foliage has a dull shining from the resinous
coating which protects it from evaporation, and a slight sticky feel,
characteristics that no doubt won it the name of "greasewood" from the
emigrants who valued it chiefly because it could be burned green. The
spring winds blowing up from the bay whip all its fretted surface to
a froth of panicled white bloom, that, stirring a little as the wind
shifts, full of bee-murmur, touches the imagination with the continual
reminder of the sea. Higher up the thick lacy chaparral flecks and
ripples, showing the light underside of leaves, and tosses up great
fountain sprays of ceanothus, sea-blue and lilac-scented.


All the human interest of this region centres about the city on the bay
of San Diego, a low locked harbour with a long spit of sand breaking
the mild Pacific swell, as it bides its time for the shipping of the
south-western world. It has already waited longer than most people
suppose. Just fifty years after the landing of Columbus on the Bahamas,
Cabrillo discovered it; Sir Francis Drake, romping up that coast with
his buccaneers, must have seen it though he left no note of any visit,
and in 1602 Sebastian Viscaino anchored there and gave it its present
name. Just about the time the mixed Dutch and English on the Atlantic
coast were beginning to think of themselves as Americans and to act
accordingly, the Franciscan _Frailes_ settled on San Diego bay. Nobody
will know why it was reserved for the brown-skirted brothers of St.
Francis to undertake the subjugation of Alta California, until it is
known why the King of Spain quarrelled with the Jesuits. They were
accused of plotting against His Majesty, but in those days it was
possible to accuse the Jesuits of almost anything without going very
far wrong in the popular estimate. I have my own opinion about it,
which is that a great land, like a great lady, has her way with men.
And no land has called its own as has California:--poet or painter
or pioneer, the world's rim under. No better patron could be found
for this blossoming West than Francis of Assisi, who preached to his
little brothers of the air and would have made a convert of the coyote.
Perhaps the first settlers of a country leave their stripe on all the
land's later offspring: if it was a way the West took to breed fervour
and faith and the spirit of prophecy in the young generation, who shall
say she has not succeeded?

In January of 1769 two expeditions by land and sea set forth in the
name of God and the King of Spain, under the patronage of Señor San
Jose, indubitable patron of all journeys since the flight into Egypt.
In April the ship _San Antonio_ anchored in the placid bay, there to
await the live stock driven up from Velicatá. So the old world came to
the new with a whole collocation of sainted personages flocking like
doves to her banners.

But it was not saints that the land wanted so much as the stuff that
goes to make them. The expedition starved, sickened; their eyes were
holden. Governor Portola, with the greater part of the expedition, made
a long _pasear_ on foot to find the lost port of Monterey, and came
back, with armour rust on his doublet sleeves and nothing much gained
beside, to declare the expedition a failure. But Padre Serra--Junipero
Serra, father president of Missions, juniper of God's own planting,
sapling of that stock of which the founder of the order had wished
for a whole forest full--Padre Serra claimed a churchman's privilege.
He demanded time for a _novena_, a nine days' cycle of prayer to the
patron who was so unaccountably hiding the relief ship in the fogs
and indecisions of the uncharted coast. It is my belief that the Padre
chose the _novena_ simply because it was the longest possible time he
could hope to delay the return of the expedition. Nine days they drew
in their belts and told their beads, and on the last hour of the last
day, far on the sea rim, behold the white wings of succour!

The Patron, who could never be at a loss for an expedient, contrived
that the ship should lose an anchor which compelled it to put in at San
Diego, where they had no expectation of finding any of the party. It
was so that the land tried them out and approved, for from that day the
founding went forward steadily.

There is a fine growing city now on the site of the early landing,
regularly stratified through all the architectural periods of
California, from the low thick-walled adobe of the Spanish occupation
to the newest shingle-stained bungalow of the latest one-lunged
millionaire; but the land has not lost, in a century and a half, one
mark by which the brown-skirted _Frailes_ found their way about in
it. It has its distinctive mark, the Sparrow-Hawk's land, the seal of
a private and peculiar affection. Here about the mouth of one of its
swift seasonal rivers, and touching as with a finger-tip the opposing
shore of the island of Santa Rosa, is the habitat of the Torrey pine.
Japanesque, unrelated, drinking the sea air, never spreading inland,
it hugs the sea-worn edges of La Jolla, as though, as some botanists
believe, the species came to life there out of the jewel-tinted water
and the spirit of the desert dust.

It is also possible to think of it as a relict of the land of which
the broken Channel Islands were made, but in any case it is a pity that
science could not have retained for this lonely, restricted species the
name the _Frailes_ gave to its fostering waters, Soledad--the solitary.
Behind the town the mesa rises abruptly, knife-cut by the gullies of
intermittent streams; and far back where the mountains break down into
foothills, and these into the lomas--little low mounds of detritus--the
sea air collects all the blue rays of the diffused light and holds
them there all day in the hollows, in memory of the sea from which they

In April of the year of the Occupation the white panicles of the
chamise would be tossing here and there, and the yellow violets run
thin lines as of fire among the grasses. You would not believe there
were so many yellow violets in the world as a day's riding will still
show you. At this season, _islay_, the wild cherry, will be shaking out
its fine white spray of bloom, the button willow begins, the sycamore,
the buckthorn, _cascara sagrada_; the great berried manzanita, which
shed its waxen bells as early as December, will be reddening its
apples. Here also the chia, the true sage, the honey-maker, bread of
the wild tribes, makes itself known by the penetrating pungent odour
of its unfolding foliage. Binding all the leafy thickets, runs the
succulent starry bloom of the megarrhiza that, from its hidden root,
as large as a man's body, sends up smothering tendrils so sensitive
to their opportunity that you have only to sit down beside them on
one of these long growing afternoons, to find all their tips curling
in your direction and the stems moving sensibly across the grass in
the direction of support. As early as February the foot-long vines
can be seen locating the nearest shrub or the cañon wall, farther
away than you could detect it by any tactile sense. And how quickly,
once the objective is sensed, the questing Force is withdrawn from
the unsuccessful members! Perhaps this one to the right may keep on
in the direction in which it has caught the invisible communicating
thread from the nearest buckthorn, but the other three or four green
tentacles, finding no invitation from any quarter, not only stop
growing but seem to shrink and dwindle in the interests of the climbing
brother. Sometimes in a particularly lusty growth, all the young vines
will be drawn toward some conspicuous support, so that by the third
day those that lay out starlike, with inquiring tips raised a little,
delicately feeling, will swing through all their points to the one
hopeful direction. These warm sensuous days toward the end of April,
just after rain, when the very earth is full of a subtle intoxication,
one has but to thrust a finger among the bourgeoning tips and tendrils
of the megarrhiza to see them stir with live response. One must
suppose, since the megarrhiza is of no discoverable use to anybody,
that the Force uses it to its own ends, an ascending, uprearing Force,
rehearsing itself for a more serviceable instrument.--This, however,
is a digression; probably the Padres found no time for philosophising
about anything, much less so useless a specimen as the wild cucumber.

What the Franciscans saw first in Alta California was what all pioneers
look for in new lands--the witness of their faith. They saw the
waxberry bush from which they were to gather the thin coating of the
berries into candles for their improvised altars, saw the crepitant,
aromatic _yerba buena_, and the shrubby, glutinous-leaved herb of the
Saints, given to them for healing.

More than all else they must have seen in the month of the Virgin
Mother, high on the altar slopes of San Jacinto and San Bernardino, the
white thyrses of the yucca, called The Candles of Our Lord. Back where
the green exclusiveness of the chamise gives place to the chaparral,
the tall shafts arise. They grow in blossoming, the bells climbing
with the aspiring stalk until as many as six thousand of them may hang
pure and stiff along the lance-like stem between the bayonet-bristling
leaves. Long after the white flame has burnt out, the stalks remain,
rank on rank, as though battalions of Spanish spearmen had fallen
there, holding each his spear aloft in his dead hand.

It is only back there where the yuccas begin, that the small, swift
life of the mesa goes on, very much as it did in the days of the
Spanish _Frailes_. The doves begin it, voicing the mesa dawn in notes
of a cool blueness; then the sleek and stately quail, moving down in
twittering droves to the infrequent water-holes. The rhythm of a flock
in motion is like the ripple of muscles in the sides of a great snake.
After them the road runner, _corredor del camino_, the cock of the
chaparral, crest down, rudder aslant, swifter than a horse, incarnate
spirit of the hopeful dust through which he flirts and flits. Then
the blueness is folded up, it lies packed in the cañons, the mountains
flatten; high in his airy haunts the Sparrow-Hawk sails, and the furry,
frisk-tailed folk begin the day's affairs.


The secret of learning the mesa life is to sit still, to sit still and
to keep on sitting still. The only other secret is to be learned in the
wattled huts stuck like the heaps of the house-building rats in the
dry washes, inwoven with the boughs of buckthorn and _islay_, except
for size scarcely distinguishable from them. For the Indian has gone
through all that green woof with the thread of kinship and found it an
ordered world. He is choke-full as is the chamisal of wild life, of
the tag ends of instincts and understandings left over from the days
when he was brother to the beast--those sleek-bellied rats, stealing to
lay another foot-long, dried stick to the characterless heap of their
dwelling,--bad Indians to him, trying to remember their ways when they
were men; that brown feathered bunch, in and out of the chia bush,--she
was present at the making of man. Your aboriginal has the true sense of
proportion: not size but vitality. You can cover the sage wren with the
hollow of your hand, but you cannot hop so far for your size nor be so
brave about it.

Very different from the spring flutter and fullness, must have been the
look of the land in the year of the martyrdom of Padre Jayme Bravo,
which was the year of Bunker Hill and the Republic. The green of the
chamisal was overlaid then by the brown tones of its seeding. _Islay_
had shed its crimson drupes; the cactus fires had died down to the dull
purples of the fruiting prickly pear; the sycamores by the dwindling
waters of the arroya had scarcely a palsied leaf to wag. The Mission
had been moved, for what reasons must be guessed by whoever has had
occasion to observe the effect of a standing army on the subjugated
peoples, back from the sea marsh to a little valley of what is known
now as Mission River. Sixty converts had come down out of the hills
to receive the Medicine of the Soft-Hearted God. That is the way they
must have looked at it--rood and cup and sprinkling water, and the
bells louder than the medicine drums. Back in the dry gullies the
drums would have been going night and day where the _tingaivashes_, the
Medicine-Men, lashed themselves into a fury over this apostasy. Certain
of the renegades heard them between their orisons; they fled back to
the muttering roll and the pound of the dancing feet. In the night
after that, eight hundred of the Dieguenos, clothed in frantic fervour
and very little else, came down to make an end of the "long gowns." How
the soul of Padre Jayme must have leaped up as he heard them yelling
outside his unguarded hut: the appetite for martyrdom is deeper than
all our dreaming. He ran toward them with arms extended. "Love God, my
children!" he cried, and received their arrows. When it was reported
to the Padre President at Monterey, "Thank God," he said; "now the
soil is watered." It did indeed repay them such a crop of souls as any
watering produces in that soil; but at San Juan Capistrano, where a new
foundation was in progress, they buried the bells and returned to the

Few people understand why Californians so love their Missions, the
meagre ruins of them, scant as a last year's nest. But two priests, a
corporal, and three men in the unmapped land with eight hundred angry
savages--it is the mark of the Western breed to love odds such as that!
It is not to the campanile at Pala nor the ruined arches of San Luis
Rey that men made pilgrimages but to the spirit of enterprise that
built the West.

All about the upper mesa there are traces, scarcely more evident to the
eye than the Missions, that the inhabitants of it have been dreamers,
dreaming greatly. I do not now refer to the court of San Luis Rey,
from the roofs of which a joyous populace once cheered a governor
of California in the part of toreador, in a neighbourhood where
Raphael-eyed muchachitos who have never heard of the Five Little Pigs
that Went to Market can still repeat you the rhyme that begins

     Up in Heaven there is a bull fight,
     The bull has horns of silver and a tail of gold.

Heaven enough under those conditions to the children of the Occupation!
Nor am I thinking of a road on which, when there is a light wind
moving from the sea, you can still hear at midnight the pounding feet
of the Indian riders galloping down to the bay, only to see their
beloved Padre blessing them from the ship's side in departing. I do
not think even--because I make a practice of thinking as little as
possible of a matter so discreditable to us as our Indian policy--of
the procession of the evicted _Palatingwas_, even though the whole
region of Warner's ranch is still full of the shame of it and the
rending cry. The struggle of men with men is at best a sick and squalid
affair for one of the parties; but men contriving against the gods
for possession of the earth is your true epic. The brave little towns
which start up there with their too early florescence of avenue and
public square, the courageous acres which the vineyardist clears in the
chamisal and the chamise takes again! All along the upper mesa, Pan
and the homesteader keep up the ancient fight. And with what unequal
weapons! The wild gourd, the bindweed, the megarrhiza, at the mere
rumour of a cleared space, come beckoning and joining hands. Though
he goes gunning all day without finding one young rabbit for his pot,
the bark of the homesteader's orchard trees will be gnawed by them at
the precise sappy moment. At dawn the quail may be heard with soft
contented noises between the rows of bearing vines, plunging their
beaks in the ripest berries. Then the mule-deer will spend the night
in the carefully fenced enclosure, ruining the largest bunches with
selective bites; after which the homesteader, if he is wise, will know
that he is beaten. The mule-deer can go over any fence, though usually
he prefers to go between the wires, which he can do without altering
his stride. Detected, even at its most leafless, the antlered chaparral
makes cover for him until, after hours of following, he is glimpsed
at last, scaling at his stiff bounding gait some inaccessible rocky
stair from which nothing comes back but the bullet's deflected whine.
Now and then some pot-hunter who remembers when the mule-deer could be
heard barking to the does in any deep gully, when the moon rose hot on
the flushed trail of the October day, will tell you that there are no
more of his kind on San Jacinto. But so long as there are homesteaders
to be fended from the hill borders, the mule-deer will come back. And
when the mule-deer is gone there will still be drouth. Let the coast
currents swing out a few degrees, or the Gulf winds blow contrarily for
consecutive seasons, and the stoutest homesteader fails. After a few
years you can guess where he has been by finding the chamise growing
taller in the ploughed places.

Incurable wild hills and wild sufficing sea, and the little strip
between which they give to one another--Indian giving!--conceded by the
years of rain and demanded back by drouth; shoals that the tide piles
and the sea eats again! It lies like a many-coloured dancer's scarf,
and hearts are still caught in its folds as in the days of the Spanish

There's a stripe of aquamarine turning to chrysoprase, that's for
the sea; amber then for the hollow cliffs of La Jolla and San Juan,
smugglers' cliffs eaten well under the shore; a stripe of scarlet,
spangled with viscid diamond dew, that's for the mesembryanthemums
crowding the foreshore; pale green of the lupins with a white thread
through it of the highway, green again for the chamisal, and blue of
the mountains' unassailable sea thought.

Nature is a great symbolist; what she makes out of her own materials is
but the shadow of what man in any country will make finally of his. San
Diego by the sea dreams of a great sea empery. What by all the signs
she is bound to produce, is a poet. There in the scarf-coloured, low
shore is the vocal forecast of him in the night-singing mocking-bird.
Especially in the fringing island of Coronado out of the waxberry bush
he can be heard gurgling like a full fountain with jets and rushes
of pure crystal sound. From moonrise on until dawn he scatters from a
tireless throat, music like light and laughter. It is as impossible to
close the eyes under it as in the glare of the sun. And if the moon,
the measurer, be gone on a journey to the other side of the world,
still he sings, all his notes muffled by the dark; he sways and sings,
dozes and sings, dreaming and wakes to sing. So it should be with poets
whether anybody wishes them to or not. "The lands of the sun expand the
soul," says the proverb.



It is all part of that subtle relation between the observer and the
landscape of the west, which goes by the name of "atmosphere," that
one returns again and again to the reality of Christian feeling in the
Franciscan Pioneers, as witnessed by the names they left us--one of the
most charming proofs, if proof were wanted, of the power of religion
to illuminate the mind to a degree often denied to generations of art
and culture. How many book-fed tourists rounding the blue ranks of San
Jacinto to face the noble front of the Coast Range as it swings back
from the San Gabriel valley, would have found for it a name at once so
absolute, so understanding as Sierra Madre, Mother Mountain?

There you have it all in one comprehensive sweep: the brooding,
snow-touched, virginal peaks, visited and encompassed by the sacred
spirit of the sea, and below it the fertile valley, the little
huddling, skirting hills fed from her breast. The very lights that
die along the heights, the airs that play there, the swelling fecund
slopes, have in them something so richly maternal; the virtue of
the land is the virtue that we love most in the mothers of men. And
if you want facts under the poetry, see how the Sierra receives the
rain and sends it down laden with the rich substance of her granite
bosses, making herself lean to fatten the valleys. The great gorges
and swift angles of the hills which fade and show in the evening
glow, are wrought there by the ceaseless contribution of the mountain
to the tillable land. And what a land it has become! There have been
notable kingdoms of the past of fewer and less productive acres. Yet
even in the great avenues of palms that flick the light a thousand
ways from their wind-stirred, serrate edges, is a reminder of the
host of bristling, spiny growth the land once entertained. It is as if
the sinister forces of the desert lurked somewhere not far under the
surface, ready at any moment to retake all this wonder of fertility,
should the beneficence of the Mother Mountain fail. The Padre pioneers
must have felt these two contending forces many a time when they lay
down at night under the majestic Sierra, for they named the first
spot where they made an abiding place, in honour of the protecting
influence, _Nuestro Señora, Reina de Los Angeles_, Our Lady the Queen
of the Angels. There she hovered, snow-whitened amid tall candles of
the stars, while south and west the coyote barked the menace of the
unwatered lands. Now this is remarkable, and one of the things that go
to show we are vastly more susceptible to influences of nature than
some hard-headed members of society suppose, that in this group of
low hills and shallow valleys between the Sierra Madre and the sea,
the most conspicuous human achievement has been a new form of domestic

This is the thing that most strikes the attention of the traveller:
not the orchards and the gardens, which are not appreciably different
in kind from those of the Riviera and some favoured parts of Italy,
but the homes, the number of them, their extraordinary adaptability to
the purposes of gracious living. The Angelenos call them bungalows,
in respect to the type from which the later form developed, but they
deserve a name as distinctive as they have in character become. These
little thin-walled dwellings, all of desert-tinted native woods and
stones, are as indigenous to the soil as if they had grown up out of
it, as charming in line and the perfection of utility as some of those
wild growths which show a delicate airy florescence above ground, but
under it have deep, man-shaped, resistant roots. With their low and
flat-pitched roofs they present a certain likeness to the aboriginal
dwellings which the Franciscans found scattered like wasps' nests among
the chaparral along the river,--which is only another way of saying
that the spirit of the land shapes the art that is produced there.

One must pause a little by the dry wash of this river, so long ago
turned into an irrigating ditch that it is only in seasons of unusual
flood it remembers its ancient banks, and finds them, in spite of
all that real estate agencies have done to obliterate such natural
boundaries. This river of Los Angeles betrays the streak of original
desertness in the country by flowing bottom-side up, for which it
receives the name of _arroya_, and even _arroya seca_ as against the
_rio_ of the full-flowing Sacramento and San Juan. A _rio_ is chiefly
water, but an _arroya_, and especially that one which travels farthest
from the Mothering Mountains toward the sea, is at most seasons of
the year a small trickle of water among stones in a wide, deep wash,
overgrown with button willow and sycamores that click their gossiping
leaves in every breath of wind or in no wind at all. Tiny gold and
silver backed ferns climb down the banks to drink, and as soon as the
spring freshet has gone by, brodiæas and blazing stars come up between
the boulders worn as smooth as if by hand.

Farther up, where the stream narrows, it is overgrown by willows,
alders, and rock maples, and leaps white-footed into brown pools for
trout. Deer drink at the shallows, and it is not so long ago that
cinnamon bear and grizzlies tracked the wet clay of its borders. This
is the guarantee that this woman-country is in no danger of too much
mothering. No climate which is acceptable to trout and grizzlies is in
the least likely to prove enervating; men and beasts, they run pretty
much to the same vital, sporting qualities.

All that country which extends from the foot of the Sierra Madre to the
sea, is so cunningly patterned off with ranks of low hills and lomas
that its vastness is disguised, or rather revealed by subtle change and
swift surprises as a discreet woman reveals her charms. This renders it
one of the most delightful of motoring countries. The car swings over a
perfect road into snug little orchard nooks as safe and secret seeming
as a nest, climbs a round-breasted hill to greet the wide horizon of
the sea, or a mesa stretching away into blue and amber desertness,
which when adventured upon, discloses in unsuspected hollows white,
peaceful towns girt by great acres of orange groves, or the orderly
array of vines trimmed low and balancing like small, wide-skirted
figures in a minuet. And then the ground opens suddenly to deep, dry
gullies where little handfuls of the grey soil gather themselves up and
scuttle mysteriously under the cactus bushes, and dried seeds of the
megarrhiza rattle with a muffled sound as the pods blow about. Here one
meets occasionally the last survivors of the old way of life before men
found it: _neotoma_, the house-building rat, with his conical heap of
rubbish; or a road runner, tilting his tail and practising his short,
sharp runs in the powdery sand under the rabbit brush; here, too, the
lurking desert shows its spiny tips like a creature half-buried in the
sand, not dead, but drowsing.

  [Illustration: A EUCALYPTUS GROVE]

As artists know colour, and poets know it, this is the most colourful
corner of the world. The blue and silver tones of the Sparrow-Hawk's
land give place to airy violets, fawns, and rich ambers. It is curious,
that obstinate preference which a locality has for colour schemes
of its own adoption; man can break up and re-form them, but he can
never quite overcome the original key. Here the bright, instant note
of the geraniums that shore up the bungalows, even the insult of the
magenta-coloured Bougainvillea is subdued by the aerial softness
that lies along the hills like the bloom on fruit. The sheets of
Eschscholtzia gold that once spread over miles of the San Gabriel
valley, and still linger in torn fragments about Altadena, have been
sheared by the plough, to vanish and reappear again in the solid globes
of orange, distilled from the saps and juices of the soil.

One of the most interesting of the instruments by which the cultivated
landscape has gathered up and fixed the evanescent greens that spread
thinly yet over the uncropped hills in spring, is the eucalyptus.
All the tints are there, from the olive greens of the chaparral to
the sombre darkness of the evergreen oak; young shoots of it have the
silvery finish of the artemisia which once gave the note of the mesas
about Riverside and San Bernardino. No other imported tree has quite
to such a degree the air of the _habitué_; one wonders indeed if it
could have been half so much at home in Australia, from whence it has
returned like some wandering heir to the ancestral acre.

It proves its blood royal by its facile adaptiveness to the prevailing
lines of the landscape, taking the rounded, leaning outline of the live
oaks on the wind-driven hills, or in sheltered ravines springing upward
straight as the silver firs. Perhaps its most charming possibilities
are revealed in the middle distance where, lifted high on columnar
stems, its leaf crowns take on the blunt, flowing contours of the
hills. At all times it has a beautiful resilience to the wind, bowing
with a certain courtliness without compulsion, and recovering as if
by conscious harmonious movement. The pepper tree, however, most
magnificent specimens of which may be found lining the avenues of
Pasadena, or in some unexpected corner of the hills marking the site of
some old Spanish hacienda, is always an alien. It is like the Spaniards
who brought it, perhaps, in its drooping grace, in the careless
prodigality with which it sheds its fragile crimson fruits. Something
of old-worldliness persists in its spicy odours, and in the stir of its
lacy shadows; when the moon comes over the mountain wall and the wind
is moving, there is the touch of mystery one associates with lovely
señoritas leaning out of balconies. One fancies that the pepper tree
will last so long as the dying race of Dons and Doñas, and with them
will cease to be a feature of local interest.

There is hardly more than a trace in the modern city of Los Angeles of
_Nuestra Señora, Reina de los Angeles_. The last time I passed through
the old plaza, the streets of offence encroached upon it from the east,
and a corner of the sacred precinct had been sacrificed to the trolley.
The Church of Our Lady, over whose door may still be traced the fading
inscription from which the city takes its name, was never a mission,
but one of the six chapels or _asistencias_ centred about the Mission
San Gabriel. It was here the first expedition passed northward looking
for the port of Monterey, on the day of the feast of Our Lady in the
year when the Atlantic Colonies were making up their minds to fight the
English. It was close to this spot and along Downey Street were enacted
the most pitiful of all the tragic incidents which marked the recession
of the aboriginal races. Bereft of their lands and the protection of
their Church, they became a prey to the greed of the dominant peoples,
and used regularly to be incited to drunkenness upon their wages on
Sunday, arrested while in that condition, and sold each Monday morning
for the amount of their fines to the neighbouring ranchers. Things
like this lurking under the surface of commercial enterprise, as the
desert lies in wait in sandy stretches, advise us that much of our
insistence on democracy grows out of our inability to trust ourselves
to deal equitably with our fellows under any other conditions. We can
keep to the rules of the game we have set up more easily than to the
unfenced humanities. Here in the old plaza full of sleepy light, which
still retains the indefinable stamp of the people to whom to-morrow was
always a better day for doing things, one sighs for the short-sighted
self-interest which so wasted the native children of the soil.

But after all the land couldn't have loved them as it does the race
for which it brings forth its miraculous harvests. Not that there
weren't miracles in those days; in fact they began here, or rather at
San Gabriel, six miles or so beyond the river which in those days was
called Porcincula, a name that linked the old world with the new by
way of the little chapel in Italy in which the beloved Francis received
such heavenly favours. The miracle of San Gabriel relates to a display
of a canvas presentiment of Our Lady, at the mere sight of which the
wild tribes experienced exceeding grace. Looking up suddenly at the
Mother Mountain brooding above the plain, it is easy to understand
how the symbol of aloof but solicitous care came home to the primitive
mind, always peculiarly open to suggestions of humaneness in nature.

The heads of the Sierra Madre are rounded, the contours of great
dignity. The appeal it makes to the eye is of mass and line. Its
charms, and it has many, of forested slope, leaping waters, and lilied
meadows, do not offer themselves to the casual glance, but must be
sought after with great pains. The bulk of the range is of warm,
grey granite, clothed with atmospheric colour as with a garment. It
borrows more from the sky than the sea, taking on at times an aerial
transparency, the soul of the mountain about to pass trembling into
light. Pinkish tones are discoverable in even the bluest shadows,
and at times the peaks are touched with the rich, roseate orange of
the Alpine-glow. But the variations of temperature and atmospheric
conditions are not sufficiently pronounced to present themselves to
the sense as the source of its aspects of tenderness, of majesty,
of virginal aloofness. Rather such changes seem to be occasioned by
palpitations of the Mountain Spirit, remote in sacred meditation,
glowing, dimming, defining itself from within.

It may be that the immense vitality of the land, its abundance, the
bursting orchards, the rich variety of native growth, somehow dwarfs
the earliest impression of the Sierra Madre, since few, if any, gather
at first an adequate idea of the actual mass and height it represents.
It is only after appreciation of the really amazing activities of the
Angelenos is a little dulled by familiarity, at early morning when
the groves are sleeping and the bright plantations of the gardens lack
the sun to flash their brilliance on the sight, or at evening when a
sea mist covers the teeming land, one is prepared to hear that many of
these peaks are higher than the Simplon, and that it would be possible
to wander for months in the intricacies of its cañons without having
time to grow familiar with a single one of them.

Sometimes the mere mechanics of the land, the pull of the wind up the
narrow gorges as you pass, advises the open mind of power and immensity
residing in the thinly forested bulks. Passing what appears a mere
shadowy gulf in the mountain wall, you are aware of a murmurous sound
as of the sea in a shell, and feel suddenly the push of the draught
on your windshield like a great steady hand. In places above San
Bernardino, the steady pouring of invisible wind rivers has swept the
soil for miles and defied three generations of artificial plantations.
And sometimes the mountain speaks directly to the soul. I recall such
an occasion one late spring. We had been skirting the range toward
Riverside all afternoon, having the fall of the land seaward always
in view, noting how, in spite of the absurd predilection of men for
square fields and gridiron arrangements, the main lines of cultivation
were being pulled into beauty by the sheer necessity of humouring
the harvest. It was that lagging hour between the noon splendour and
the gathering of the light for its dramatic passage into night. The
orange orchards lay dead green in the hollows, unplanted ridges showed
scarcely a trace of atmospheric blueness; unlaced, unbuskined, the
land rested. And all in the falling of a leaf, in the scuttle of a
horned toad in the dust of the roadway, it lifted into eerie life. It
bared its teeth; the veil of the mountain was rent. Nothing changed,
nothing stirred or glimmered, but the land had spoken. As if it had
taken a step forward, as if a hand were raised, the mountain stood
over us. And then it sank again. While the chill was still on us, the
grip of terror, there lay the easy land, the comfortable crops, the red
geraniums about the bungalows. But never again for me would the Sierra
Madre be a mere geographical item, a feature of the landscape; it was
Power, immanent and inescapable. Shall not the mother of the land do
what she will with it?

Entering the cañons of the San Gabriel, one is struck with the
endearing quality of their charm. In a country which disdains every
sort of prettiness, and dares even to use monotony as an element of
beauty, as California does, it is surprising to find, cut in the solid
granite wall, little dells all laced with fern and saxifrage, and
wind swung, frail, flowery bells. Little streams come dashing down the
runways with an elfin movement, with here and there a miniature fall
"singing like a bird," as Muir described it, between moss-encrusted


Into the open mouths of such cañons have retreated the hosts of
wildflowers that once in the wet seasons overran all that country from
San Bernardino to the sea,--the white sage, most honeyful of all the
sages, the poppies, gilias, cream cups, nemophilias which twenty-five
years ago were as common as meadow grass, as thick as the planted
fields of alfalfa which have usurped them. Settlers who came into
this country when the trail over the San Gorgiono had not yet hardened
between iron rails, tell of riding belly deep for miles in wild oats
and waving bloom, and where the trail goes out over the San Fernando,
toward Camulas, the yellow mustard reached its scriptural height, and
the birds of the air built their nests in it. Now and then in very
wet years a faint yellow tinge, high up under the bases of the hills,
is all that is left of the seed which, by report, the Padres sowed
along the coastwise trails, to mark where they trod the circuit of the

Everywhere within the cañons, honeyful flowers abound, and up from the
rocky floors the slopes are stiff with chaparral. This characteristic
growth, which, seen from the open valley flooded by dry sun, appears as
a mere scurf, a roughened lichen on the mountain wall, is in reality a
riot of manzanita, mahogany, ceanothus, cherry and black sage, from ten
to fifteen feet high, all but impassable. Elsewhere in the ranges to
the north, the chaparral is loose enough to admit fern and herbaceous
plants, carpeting the earth, but here the rigid, spiny stems contend
for three or four feet, thick as the carving in old cathedral choirs,
before they attain light and air enough to put forth leaf or twig. On
the seaward side of the mountains, miles and miles of this dense growth
flow over the ranges, parted here and there by knife-edge ridges, or
by huge bosses of country rock, affording a great sweep to the eye,
reaching far to seaward. From here the lower country shrinks to its
proper proportion--a toy landscape planted with Noah's Ark trees--and
the noise of men is overlaid by the great swells of the Pacific which
come thundering in, lifting far and faint reverberations along the

On either side of these vast conning towers it is still possible to
trace the indefinite tracks which wild creatures make, running clear
and well defined for short distances and then melting unaccountably
into the scrub again. Occasionally still they discover traces of the
wild life in which the Sierra Madre once abounded. Deer are known to
take advantage of such natural outlooks in protecting themselves from
their natural enemies, and from the evidence of frequent visits here,
bears and foxes and bobcats must have made much the same use of them.
From such high escarpments the Indians would have seen Cabrillo's
winged boats go by, and from them, all up the coast, ascended the
pillars of smoke that attended the galleon of Francis Drake.

Once within the portals of the range, the granite walls sheer away
from sequestered parks of oak, madroño, and Douglas spruce. The trees
are not thickly set here as in the north, but admit of sunny space
and murmurous bee pasture between their gracefully contrasting boles,
and to a thousand bright-feathered and scaled things unknown to the
all-pine or all-redwood forests. Such parks or basins vary from a few
yards to an acre or two in extent, threaded like beads upon a single
stream. One thinks indeed of the old-fashioned "charm string" in which
each meadow space has its peculiar virtue:--open sunny shallows, arrowy
cascades, troops of lilies standing high as a man's head, forested
fern, columbine, delphinum, and scarlet mimulus along the water

They grow slighter as the trail ascends--it is possible now to make
nearly the whole distance in gravity cars for that purpose provided,
but I recommend a sure-footed mule for the true mountain-lover--until
above the source of the streams, from dips and saddles of the range,
above the summer-shrunken glaciers, where the trees are bowed and the
chaparral creeps as if awed and dizzy, it is possible to have a glimpse
of the still unconquered and unconquerable "sage brush county." All
along the back of the Sierra Madre wall the desert laps like a slow
tide, rolling up and receding with the drouths and rains. The eye takes
it in no less slowly than the imagination. It stretches, in fact, to
the Colorado, but a haze of heat obscures its eastern border; long
whitened lines of alkali, like wave marks, set the seasonal limit of
its encroachments. Here and there shows the dark checkering of fertile
patches, spilled over from the rich west-lying valleys; trending east
by south lies the Sierra Madre like an arm, guarding the favoured

And yet in her very favour the Mother Mountain is impartial, for
equally as she saves the south from desertness, she has denied to us
the one instrument by which the desert could be mastered. Mighty as
man is in transforming the face of the earth, he is nothing without the



Old trails, older than the memory of man, go out from the southern
country by way of Cahuenga, by Eagle Rock, toward that part of the
shelving coast where the Padre's mustard gold lingered longest, as if
to mark the locality where the gold they missed was first uncovered.
But suppose, on that day of the year '41, Francisco Lopez, _major-domo_
of the Mission San Fernando, had not had an appetite for onions? Who
knows how history would have made itself?

The speculation is idle; anybody named Lopez has always a
taste for onions because they are the nearest thing to garlic.
Señor Francisco,--I suppose one may grant him the title at this
distance--rested under an oak and dug up the wild root with his
knife, and the tide of the world's emigration set toward the Coasts
of Adventure. I have, holding my papers as I write, an Indian basket
reputed to be one of those in which, in those days, placer gold was
washed out of the sandy loam; it was given me by one who had it from
Don Antonio Coronel, and has a pattern about it of the low serried
hills of the coast district. Where it breaks, as all patterns of Indian
baskets do, to give egress to the spirit resident in things dedicated
to human use, there are two figures of men with arms outstretched, but
divided as the pioneers who carried the cross into that country were
from those who followed the lure of gold. The basket wears with time,
but the pattern holds, inwoven with its texture as Romance is woven
with the history of all that region lying between San Francisco on the
north and Cahuenga where, after a bloodless battle, was consummated the
cession of California from Mexico.


From the white landmark of San Juan Capistrano to a point opposite
Santa Inez, saints thick as sea-birds, standing seaward, break the
long Pacific swell: San Clemente, Santa Catalina, Santa Rosa--their
deep-scored cliffs searched by the light, revealing their kinship
with the parallel mainland ranges. But there are hints here, in the
plant and animal life and in the climate, milder even than that of
the opposing channel ports, hints which not even the Driest-Dustiness
dare despise, of those mellower times than ours from which all fables
of Blessed Islands are sprung. Islands "very near the terrestrial
paradise" the old Spanish romancer described them. Often as not the
imagination sees more truly than the eye. I myself am ready to affirm
that something of man's early Eden drifted thither on the Kuro-Siwa,
that warm current deflected to our coast, which, for all we know of it,
might well be one of the four great rivers that went about the Garden
and watered it. Great golden sun-fish doze upon the island tides,
flying-fish go by in purple and silver streaks, and under the flat
bays, which take at times colour that rivals the lagoons of Venice,
forests of kelp, a-crawl with rainbow-coloured life, sleep and sway
upon tides unfelt of men. There are days at Catalina so steeped with
harmonies of sea and sun that the singing of the birds excites the
soothed sense no more than if the lucent air had that moment dripped in
sound. These are the days when the accounts that Cabrillo left of his
findings there, of a civil and religious development superior to the
tribes of the mainland, beguile the imagination.

One thinks of the watery highway between the west coast and the
channel islands as another _Camino Real_ of the sea, where in place
of mule trains and pacing Padres, went balsas, skin canoes, galleons,
far-blown Chinese junks, Russian traders, slipping under the cliffs
of San Juan for untaxed hides and tallow, Atlantic whalers, packets
rounding the Horn, sunk past the load line with Argonauts of '49,
opium smugglers dropping a contraband cask or an equally prohibited
coolie under the very wing of San Clemente. So many things could have
happened--Odysseys, Æneids--that it is with a sigh one resigns the
peaks of the submerged range, paling and purpling on the west, to the
student of sea-birds and sea-nourished plants.

Looking from the islands landward, the locked shores have still for
long stretches the aspect of undiscovered country. Hills break abruptly
in the surf or run into narrow moon-shaped belts of sand where a
mountain arm curves out or the sea eats inward. And yet for nearly four
centuries the secret of the land was blazoned to all the ships that
passed, in the great fields of poppy gold that every wet season flamed
fifty miles or more to seaward.

One must have seen the Eschscholtzia so, smouldering under the mists
of spring, to understand the thrill that comes of finding them later
scattered as they are, throughout the gardens of the world. I recall
how at Rome, coming up suddenly out of the catacombs--we had gone down
by another entrance and had been wandering for hours in the mortuary
gloom--memory leaped up to find a great bed of golden poppies tended
by brown, bearded Franciscans. They couldn't say--Fray Filippo, whom I
questioned, had no notion--whence the sun-bright cups had come, except
that they were common in the gardens of his order. It seemed a natural
sort of thing for some Mission Padre, seeking a memento of himself to
send back to his Brothers of St. Francis half a world away, to have
chosen these shining offsprings of the sun. There was confirmation in
the fact that Fray Filippo knew them not by the unspellable botanical
name, but by the endearing Castilian "dormidera," sleepy-eyed, in
reference to their habit of unfolding only to the light; but the
connecting thread was lost. Channel fishermen still, in spite of the
obliterating crops, can trace the blue lines of lupins between faint
streaks of poppy fires, and catch above the reek of their boats, when
the land wind begins, blown scents of _islay_ and ceanothus.

No rivers of water of notable size pour down this west coast, but
rivers of green flood the shallow cañons. Here and there from the crest
of the range one catches an arrowy glimpse of a seasonal stream, but
from the sea-view the furred chaparral is unbroken except for bare
ridges, wind-swept even of the round-headed oaks. This coast country is
a favourite browsing place for deer; they can be seen there still in
early summer, feeding on the acorns of the scrub oaks, and especially
on the tender twigs of wind-fallen trees, or herding at noon in the
deep fern which closes like cleft waters over their heads. Until
within a few years it was no unlikely thing to hear little black bears
snorting and snuffing under the manzanita, of the berries of which
they are inordinately fond. This lovely shrub with its twisty, satiny
stems of wine-red, suffusing brown, its pale conventionalised leaves
and flat little umbels of berries, suggests somehow the carving on old
Gothic choirs, as though it borrowed its characteristic touch from an
external shaping hand; as if with its predetermined habit of growth it
had a secret affinity for man, and waited but to be transplanted into
gardens. It needs, however, no garden facilities, but shapes itself
to the most inhospitable conditions. About the time it begins to put
forth its thousand waxy bells, in December or January, the toyon, the
native holly, is at its handsomest. This is a late summer flowering
shrub that in mid-winter loses a little of its glossy green, and above
its yellowing foliage bears berries in great scarlet clusters. Between
these two overlapping ends, the gaumet of the chaparral is run in blues
of wild lilac, reds and purples of rhus and buckthorn and the wide,
white umbels of the alder, which here becomes a tree fifty to sixty
feet in height. It is the only one of the tall chaparral which has
edible fruit, for though bears and Indians make a meal of manzanita,
it does not commend itself to cultivated taste. More humble species,
huckleberry, thimble, and blackberry, crowd the open spaces under the
oak-madroño forests, or, as if they knew their particular usefulness
to man, come hurrying to clearings of the axe, and may be seen holding
hands as they climb to cover the track of careless fires. In June whole
hill-slopes, under the pine and madroños, burn crimson with sweet, wild
strawberries. The wild currant and the fuchsia-flowered gooseberry are
not edible, but they are under no such obligation; they "make good"
with long wands of jewel-red, drooping blossoms, and in the case of
the currant, with delicate pink racemes, thrown out almost before
the leaves while the earth still smells of winter dampness. Though
nobody seems to know how it travelled so far, the "incense shrub" is
a favourite of English gardens where, before the primroses begin, it
serves the same purpose as in the west coast cañons, quickening the
sense into anticipations of beauty on every side.

Inland the close, round-backed hills draw into ranks and ranges, making
way for chains of fertile valleys which also fill out the Californian's
calendar of saints. But, in fact, your true Californian prays to his
land as much as ever the early Roman did, and pours on it libations
of water and continuous incense of praise. Every one of these longish,
north-trending basins is superlatively good for something,--olives or
wheat, perhaps; Pajaro produces apples and Santa Clara has become the
patroness of prunes.

Nothing could be more ethereally lovely than the spring aspect of the
orchard country. It begins with the yellowing of the meadow lark's
breast, and then of early mornings, with the appearance, as if flecks
of the sky had fallen, of great flocks of bluebirds that blow about
in the ploughed lands and are dissolved in rain. Then the poppies
spring up like torchmen in the winter wheat, and along the tips of
the apricots, petals begin to show, crumpled as the pink lips of
children shut upon mischievous secrets; a day or two of this and then
the blossoms swarm as bees, white fire breaks out among the prunes,
it scatters along the foothills like the surf. Toward the end of the
blooming season all the country roads are defined by thin lines of
petal drift, and any wind that blows is alive with whiteness. After
which, thick leafage covers the ripening fruit and the valley dozes
through the summer heat with the farms outlined in firm green, like a
patchwork quilt drawn up across the mountains' knees.

The tree that gives the memorable touch to the landscape of the coast
valleys is the oak, both the roble and encinas varieties. There are
others with greater claims to distinction, the sequoia, the "big
tree," lurking in the Santa Cruz mountains, the madroño, red-breeched,
green-coated, a very Robin Hood of trees, sequestered in cool cañons,
and the redwood, the _palo colorado_, discovered by the first Governor,
Don Gaspar de Portola, on his search for the lost port of Monte Rey.
All these keep well back from the main lines of travel. The most that
the rail tourist sees of them is a line of redwoods, perhaps, climbing
up from the sea-fronting cañons to peer and whisper on the ridges above
the fruiting orchards. But the oaks go on, keeping well in the laps
of the hills, avoiding the wind rivers, marching steadily across the
alluvial basins on into the hot interior. They are more susceptible to
wind influence than almost any other, and mark the prevailing direction
of the seasonal air currents with their three-hundred-year-old trunks
as readily as reeds under a freshet. You can see them hugging the
lee side of any cañon, leaning as far as they may out of the sea-born
draughts, but standing apart, true aristocrats among trees, disdaining
alike one another and the whole race of orchard inmates. When in full
leaf, for the _roble_ is deciduous, they are both of them distinctly
paintable, particularly when in summer the trunks, grey and aslant,
upbearing cloud-shaped masses of dark green, make an agreeable
note against the fawn-coloured hills. The _roble_ is a noble tree,
high-crowned, with a great sweep of branches, but seen in winter
stripped of its thick, small leafage, it loses interest. Its method of
branching is fussy, too finely divided, and without grace.


Around Santa Margarita and Paso Robles filmy moss spreads a veil over
the _robles_ as of Druid meditation; one fancies them aloof from the
stir of present-day life as they were from the bears that used to
feed on the mast under them. A hundred years or so ago the Franciscans
drove out the bears by an incantation--I mean by the exorcism of the
Church enforced with holy water and a procession with banners around
the Mission precinct: "I adjure you, O Bears, by the true God, by the
Holy God ... to leave the fields to our flocks, not to molest them nor
come near them." But bears or _homo sapiens_, it is all one to the oaks
of San Antonio; indeed, if legend is to be credited, the four-footed
brothers would have been equally as acceptable to the patron of the
Mission where this interesting ceremony took place. I can testify,
however, that after all this lapse of time the exorcism is still in
force, for though I have been up and down that country many times I
have seen no bears in it.

Things more pestiferous than bears are driven out, humours of the
blood, stiffness of the joints, by the medicinal waters that bubble
and seep along certain ancient fissures of the country rock. This has
always seemed to me the very insolence of superfluity. Who wishes, when
all the air is censed with the fragrance of wild vines, to have his
nose assaulted with fumes of sulphur, even though it is known to be
good for a number of things? But there are some people who could never
be got to observe the noble proportions of five-hundred-year-old oaks
with the wild grapes going from tree to tree like a tent, except as a
by-process incident to the drinking of nasty waters. So the land has
its way even with our weaknesses.


Besides these excursions inland, which bring us in almost every case to
one of the ancient Franciscan foundations, there are two or three ports
of call on the sea front worth lingering at for more things than the
pleasant air and the radiant wild bloom. One of these is Santa Barbara
which Santa Inez holds in its lap, curving like a scimitar opposite
the most northerly of the channel islands. Understand, however, that
no good comes of thinking of Santa Barbara as a place on the map. It
is a Sargossa of Romance, a haven of last things, the last Mission in
the hands of the Franciscans, the last splendour of the Occupation, the
last place where mantillas were worn and they danced the _fandango_ and
_la jota_; an eddy into which have drifted remnants of every delightful
thing that has passed on the highways of land and sea, which here hail
one another across the curving moon-white beach. Summer has settled
there, California summer which never swelters, never scorches. Frost
descends at times from Santa Inez to the roofs, but lays no finger on
the fuchsias, poinsettias, and the heliotropes climbing to second-story
windows. The wild thickets which connect the territory with the town,
are vocal with night-singing mocking-birds; along the foreshore white
pelicans divide the mountain-shadowed waters. The waters, taking all
the sky's changes, race to the fairy islands, the chaparral runs back
to the flanks of Santa Inez showing yellowly through the distant blue
of pines; overhead a sky clouded with light. This is not a paradox but
an attempt to express the misty luminosity of a heaven filled with
refractions of the summer-tinted slope, the glaucous leafage of the
chaparral, the white sand and sapphire-glinting water. The sky _beyond_
the enclosing mountains has the cambric blueness of the superheated
interior, but directly overhead it has depth and immensity of colour
unequalled except along the Mediterranean.

Santa Barbara is a port of distinguished visitors; more, and more
varieties, of sea-birds put in there on the long flight from the Arctic
to the Isthmus than is easily believable. In the Estero--_esteril_,
sterile--an ill-smelling tide pool lying behind the town, may be found
at one season or another, all the western species that delight the
ornithologist. The black brant, going by night, and wild swans, as
many as a score of them together, have been noted in its backwaters,
and scarcely any stroll along the receding surf but is enlivened by
the resonant, sweet whistle of the plover. In hollows of the sands
thousands of beach-haunting birds may be seen camping for the night,
looking like some sea-coloured, strange vegetation, and early mornings
when the channel racing by, leaves the bay placid, tens of thousands
of shearwaters sleep in shouldering ranks that sway with the incoming
swell as the kelp sways, without being scattered by it. One can see
the same sight, augmented as to numbers, around Monterey, a long day's
journey to the north as the car goes, long enough and lovely enough to
deserve another chapter.




Without doubt history is made quite as much by the mistakes of men
as by their utmost certainties. The persistent belief of the ancient
geographers in the existence of the Straits of Anian, the traditional
North-West Passage, led to some romancing, and to the exploration of
the California coast a century or so before it was of any particular
use to anybody. It led also to the bluest bay. Viscaino took possession
of it for Philip of Spain as early as 1602, nearly two hundred years
before the Franciscans planted a cross there under Viscaino's very
tree. During all that time the same oaks staggered up the slope
away from the wind, and the scimitar curve of the beach kept back
the brilliant waters. There is a figure of immensity in this more
terrifying than the mere lapse of years. Not how many times but with
what sureness for every day the sapphire deep shudders into chrysoprase
along the white line of the breakers. We struggle so to achieve a
little brief moment of beauty, but every hour at Monterey it is given

The bay lies squarely fronting the Pacific swell, about a hundred
miles south of the Golden Gate, between the horns of two of the little
tumbled coast ranges, cutting back to receive the waters of the Pajaro
and the Salinas. From the south the hill juts out sharply, taking
the town and the harbour between its knees, but the north shore is
blunted by the mountains of Santa Cruz. The beach is narrow, and all
along its inner curve blown up into dunes contested every season by
the wind and by the quick, bright growth of sand verbena, lupins, and
mesembryanthemums. The waters of the rivers are set back by the tides,
they are choked with bars and sluiced out by winter floods. For miles
back into the valleys of Pajaro and Salinas, blue and yellow lupins
continue the colour of the sand and the pools of tide water. They climb
up the landward slope of the high dunes and set the shore a little
seaward against the diminished surf. Then the equinoctial tide rises
against the land that the lupins have taken and smooths out their
lovely gardens with a swift, white hand, to leave the beach smooth
again for the building of pale, wind-pointed cones.


The valley of the Salinas, which has its only natural outlet on the
bay, is of the type of coast valleys, long, narrow and shallow, given
over to farming and to memories of Our Lady of Solitude lying now as
a heap of ruins in a barley field. It is a place set apart, where any
morning you might wake to find the sea has entered between the little,
brooding hills to rest.

Gulls follow the plough there, and pines avoid the river basin as
though each of them knew very well their respective rights in it. One
has, however, to make a point of such discoveries, for the entrance to
the valley is obscured by its very candour, lying all open as it does
to drifting dune and variable sea marshes.

It is even more worth while to follow the flat-bordered Pajaro into the
shut valley where dozes the little town of San Juan Bautista, taking
on its well-sunned mesa, those placid lapses of self-forgetfulness
which are to the aged as a foretaste of the long sleep. Here it was
that the magic muse of Music came into the country. It came in a
little tin-piped, wooden hand-organ, built by one Benjamin Dobson of
22 Swan Street, London, in the year 1735, but of all its history until
it was unpacked from mule-back by Padre Lausan in 1797, there is not
a word current. Our acquaintance with it begins on the day that the
Padre set it up in the hills and played, "The Siren's Waltz," "Lady
Campbell's Reel," and all its repertoire of favourite London airs, of
which the least appropriate to its present mission must have been the
one called "Go to the Devil." Which only goes to prove that the spirit
of the Franciscans was often superior to their means, for what the
simple savages did do as soon as they had overcome their superstitious
fear of the noise box, was to come to Mass to hear it as often as
possible. There remain three old volumes of music written later for
the Mission which came true to its founding and excelled in all sweet
sounds, but none, it is said, pleased the Indians so much or so raised
their spirits as "The Siren's Waltz." No doubt its inspiriting strains
added something to the warlike spirit which led here to the only
local resistance opposed to the American invasion, for it was on the
Gavilan heights above the little town that Frémont, on the tallest
tree that he could find, raised the Stars and Stripes, gallantly if
somewhat prematurely. It was from San Juan that Castro's men marched
to the final capitulation of Cahuenga, and finally from here the last
remnant of the old life drains away. One hears the echo of it faint as
the sea sounds that on rare days come trembling up the valley on the
translucent air.

Returning to the bay, one finds all interest centering about the Point
of Pines, a very ancient, rocky termination of the most westerly of
the coast barriers. The Point, which is really a peninsula, is one
of the most notable landmarks between Point Conception on the south
and Fort Point at San Francisco. Its lighthouse stands well out on a
rocky finger, ringed with incessant, clanging buoys; between it and
Santa Cruz light is a roadstead for an empire. A windy bay at best,
deep tides, and squally surfaces, the waters of Monterey have other
values than the colourist finds in them. Sardines, salmon, cod, tuna,
yellow tail run with its tides. At most seasons of the year whales
may be seen spouting there, or are cast upon its shoals. At one time
the port enjoyed a certain prosperity as a whaling station, of which
small trace remains beside the bleaching vertebræ that border certain
of the old gardens and the persistent whalebone souvenirs of the curio
dealer. Lateen-rigged fisher fleets flock in and out of the harbour,
butterfly winged; and all about the rock beaches creep the square-toed
boats of the Japanese and Chinese abalone gatherers. Thousands of
purple sea-urchins, squid, hundred-fingered star-fish, and all manner
of slimy sea delicacies, these slant-eyed Orientals draw up out of
the rainbow rock pools and the deeps below the receding surf. They go
creeping and peering about the ebb, their guttural hunting cries borne
inshore on the quiet air, seeming as much a native sea speech as the
gabble of the gulls. So in their skin canoes and balsas the Indians
must have crept about the inlets for as long as it requires to lay a
yard or two of mould over the ancient middens of the tribe, as long as
it takes to build a barrier of silver dunes half a mile seaward. Even
at that distance the plough turns up the soil evenly sprinkled with
crumbling shell which holds to the last a shred of its old iridescence.
Far inland, past the Sierra Wall even to the country of Lost Borders,
I have found amulets of this loveliest of the pearl shells, traded for
and treasured by a people to whom the "Big Water" is a half-credited
traveller's tale.

About five hundred yards outside the surf, from Laboratory Point,
circling the peninsula to Mission Point on the south, the submerged
rocky ridge has grown a great, tawny mane of kelp. Every year it is
combed and cut by the equinoctial tides, and cast ashore in brown,
sea-smelling wind-rows, and every year it grows again to be the
feeding-ground of a million water-haunting birds. Here the Ancient
Murrelet fattens for the long flight to the Alaskan breeding-grounds,
and in the wildest gales the little nocturnal auklets may be heard
calling to one another above the warring thunder of the surf, or
when the nights are clear and the mists all banded low beneath the
moon, they startle the beach wanderer with their high keen notes and
beetle whirring wings. Long triangular flights of curlew drop down
these beaches against the westering sun, with wings extended straight
above their heads, furling like the little lateen sails come home from
fishing. Sandpipers, sanderlings, all the ripple runners, the skimmers
of the receding foam, all the scavengers of the tide, the gulls,
glaucous-winged, ringbilled, and the species that take their name from
the locality, may be found here following the plough as robins do in
the spring. When the herring school in the bay nothing could exceed the
multitude and clamour of the herring gulls. They stretch out in close
order, wing beating against wing, actually over square miles of the
ruffling water between Point Pinos and the anchorage. But any attempt
to render an account of the wild, winged life that flashes about the
bays of Carmel and Monterey would read like an ornithologist's record.

After storms that divide the waters outside the bay into great toppling
mountains, in the quiet strip between the kelp and the beaches,
thousands of shearwaters may be seen sleeping in long, swaying,
feathered pontoons, shoulder to shoulder. The island rocks standing
within the surf, from the Point of Pines all down the coast to Point
Sur, are famous rookeries of cormorant. Watchful and black against the
guano-whitened rocks, they guard their ancestral nests, redecorated
each season with gay weed, pulled from the painted gardens of the deep;
turning their long necks this way and that like revolving turret-tops,
they beat off the gluttonous gulls with a devotion which would seem to
demand some better excuse than the naked, greasy, wide-mouthed young.
Warm mornings these can be seen stretching black-stemmed, gaping bills
from the nesting hollows, waving this way and that like the tips of
voracious sea anemones. Other rocks, white with salty rime, are given
by mutual consent to rookeries of the yelping seals, the "sea lions" of
this coast. Moonlight nights they can be seen playing there, with the
weird half-human suggestion as of some mythical sea creatures.

Other and less fortunate adventurers on the waters of Monterey have
left strange traces on that coast; one stumbles on a signboard set up
among the rocks to mark where such and such a vessel went to pieces in
a night of storm. Buried deep in the beach beyond the anchorage is the
ancient teakwood hull of the _Natala_, the ship that carried Napoleon
to Elba. It brought secularisation to the Missions also, after which
unfriendly service the wind woke in the night and broke it against the
shore. Just off Point Lobos, the Japanese divers after abalones report
a strange, uncharted, sunken craft, a Chinese junk blown out of her
course perhaps, or one of those unreported galleons that followed a
phantom trail of gold all up the west coast of the New World. Strange
mosses come ashore here, tide by tide, all lacy and scarf-coloured, and
once we found on the tiny strand below Pescadero, a log of sandal-wood
with faint waterworn traces of tool marks still upon it.

Most mysterious of all the hints held by the farthest west--for
behold, when you have come to land again, sailing from this port, it is
east!--of a time before our time, is the Monterey cypress.

Across the neck of the peninsula, a matter of six or eight miles,
cuts in the little bay of Carmel, a blue jewel set in silver sand.
Two points divide it from the racing Pacific, the southern limb of
Punta Pinos, and the deeply divided rocky ledge of Lobos--Lobos,
the wolf, with thin, raking, granite jaws. Now on these two points,
and nowhere else in the world, are found natural plantations of the
trees that might have grown in Dante's Purgatorio, or in the imagined
forests where walked the rapt, tormented soul of Blake. Blake, indeed,
might have had a hint of these from some transplanted seedling on an
English terrace, for the Monterey cypress is quick-growing for the
first century or so and one of the most widely diffused of trees; but
only here on the Point and south to Pescadero ranch do they grow of
God's planting. With writhen trunks and stiff contorted limbs they
take the storm and flying scud as poppies take the sun. Incredibly
old, even to the eye, they have no soil, nor seek none other than
the thousand-year litter of their scaly needles, the husk of their
nut-shaped, woody cones--the Spirit of the Ancient Rocks come to life
in a tree. Grown under friendly conditions the young trees spire as do
other conifers, but here they take on strange enchanted shapes. Their
flat, wind-depressed tops are resilient as springs; one may lie full
length along them, scarcely sunk in the minutely-feathered twigs, and
watch the coasting steamers trail by on seas polished by the heat, or
the winter surf bursting high in air. Or one could steal through their
thick plantations unsuspected, from twisty trunk to trunk in the black
shade, feeling the old earth-mood and man's primeval fear, the pricks
and warnings of a world half made. The oldest of the cypresses are
attacked by a red fungus rust, the colour of corroding time. It creeps
along the under side of boughs and eats away the green, but even then
the twisted heart wood will outlast most human things.


The pines of Monterey, though characteristic enough of the locality
to take on its identifying name, are thoroughly plebeian: prolific,
quick-growing, branching like candelabra when young; but in a hundred
years or so their wide limbs, studded with persistent cones, take on
something of the picturesque eccentricity that may be noticed among
the old in rural neighbourhoods. They grow freely back into the hills
till they are warned away from the cañons by the more sequestered _palo
colorado_. The Monterey pine is one of the long-needled varieties, but
of a too open growth perhaps, or too flexile to have any voice but a
faint rustling echo of the ocean. The hill above Monterey, crowned with
them, is impressive enough; they look lofty and aloof and dark against
the sky, but growing in a wood they are seen to be too spindling and
sparse-limbed to be interesting. The oaks do better by the landscape,
all of the _encinas_ variety, bearing stiff clouds of evergreen foliage
in lines simple enough to compose beautifully with the slow scimitar
sweep of the bay and the round cloud-masses that, gathering from the
sea, hang faintly pearled above the horizon. There are no redwoods
on the peninsula; straggling lines of them look down from Palo Corona
on Carmel Bay, walking one after another, with their odd tent-shaped
tops and long branches all on the windward side, like a procession of
friars walking against the wind. On the Santa Cruz coast, and in small
groups near Carmel, grows the tan bark oak, not a true oak, but of the
genus _Pasania_, whose nearest surviving congeners are no nearer than
Siam. How it came here, survivor of an earlier world, or drifting in on
the changing Japanese current, no one knows. Apparently no one cares,
for the only use the Santa Crucians have found for it is to tan shoe


Three little towns have taken root on the Peninsula: two on the bay
side, the old pueblo of Monterey with its white-washed adobes still
contriving to give character to the one wide street; Pacific Grove,
utterly modern, on the surf side of Punta de Pinos, a town which
began, I believe, as a resort for the churchly minded--a very clean
and well-kept and proper town, absolutely exempt, as the deeds are
drawn to assure us, "from anything having a tendency to lower the moral
atmosphere," a town where the lovely natural woods have given place to
houses every fifty feet or so, all nicely soldered together with lines
of bright scarlet and clashing magentas and rosy pinks of geraniums and
pelargoniums in a kind of predetermined cheerfulness; in short, a town
where nobody would think of living who wanted anything interesting to
happen to him. Above it on the hill, the Presidio commands the naked
slope, fronting toward Santa Cruz, raking the open roadstead with its
guns. It was under this hill on the harbour side, where a little creek
still runs a rill in the rainy season, that Viscaino heard the first
mass in California, and nearly two hundred years later, Padre Serra set
up the cross.

On June 30, 1770, that being the Holy Day of Pentecost, was founded
here the Mission of San Carlos Borromeo, afterward transplanted for
sufficient reasons, over the hill six miles away, on Carmel River. The
town is full of reminders of the days of the Spanish Occupation, when
it was the capital of Alta California. Old gardens here have still the
high adobe walls, old houses the long galleries and little wrought-iron
balconies; times yet the tide rises in the streets of the town, and
still the speech is soft.

It is also possible to buy _tomales_ there and _enchiladas_ and _chile
concarne_ which will for the moment restore your faith in certain
conceptions of a hereafter that of late have lost popularity.

Half a mile back from the beach, and divided from the town by the old
cemetery, in a deep alluvial flat grown to great oaks and creeping
sycamores, is situated one of the famous winter resorts of the world,
Hôtel Del Monte. I can recommend it with great freedom to those
curiously constituted people who have to have an excuse for being out
of doors. The Del Monte drives and golf links are said by those who
have used them, to provide such excuse in its most compelling form.
Those who suffer under no such necessity will do well to take the white
road climbing the hill out of old Monterey, and drop down the other
side of it into Carmel.

From the top of this hill the lovely curve of the bay, disappearing far
to the north under a violet mist, is pure Greek in its power to affect
the imagination. Its blueness is the colour that lies upon the Gulf of
Dreams; the ivory rim of the dunes, the shadowed blue of the terraces
set on a sudden all the tides of recollection back on Salonica,
Lepanto, the hill of Athens. You are reconciled for a moment to the
chance of history which whelmed the colourful days of the Spanish
Occupation. They could never have lived up to it.

But once on the Carmel side of the peninsula, regret comes back very
poignantly. The bay is a miniature of the other, intensified, the
connoisseur's collection,--blue like the eye of a peacock's feather,
fewer dunes but whiter, a more delicate tracery on them of the beach
verbena, hills of softer contours, tawny, rippled like the coat of a
great cat sleeping in the sun. Carmel Valley breaks upon the bay by
way of the river which chokes and bars, runs dry in summer or carries
the yellow of its sands miles out in winter a winding track across the
purple inlet. It is a little valley and devious, reaching far inland.
Above its source the peaks of Santa Lucia stand up; for its southern
bulwark, Palo Corona. Willows, sycamores, elder, wild honeysuckle, and
great heaps of blackberry vines hedge the path of its waters.


Where the valley widens behind the low barrier that shuts out the sea,
sits the Mission of San Carlos Borromeo, once the spiritual capital
of Alta California. Here Junipero Serra, and after him the other Padre
Presidentes, held the administration of Mission affairs, and from here
he wandered forth on foot, up and down this whole coast from San Diego
to Solano, with pacification and the seeds of civilisation. Here on the
walls, faintly to be traced beneath the scorn of time, he blazoned with
his own hands the Burning Heart, the symbol of his own inward flame.
Here, in his seventy-first year, he died and was buried on the gospel
side of the altar. It is reported that his last act was to walk to the
doorway to look once, a long look, on the hills turning amber under
the August sun, on the heaven-blue water and the white hands of the
surf beating against the cliffs of Lobos; looked on the fields and the
orchard planted by his own hand, on the wattled huts of the neophytes
redeemed, as he believed them, to all eternity, after which he lay down
and slept. It is further reported in the annals of the Mission that
it was necessary to place a guard about the wasted body in its shabby
brown gown, to defend it from the crowding mourners craving each a
relic of the blessed remains. Had I lived at that time I should have
been among them, for he was a great soul, and have I not felt even at
this distance of the years the touch of his high fervours! San Carlos
is one of the best-conditioned of these abandoned fortresses of the
faith: the ancient pear trees are still in bearing, the wild mustard
yellows in the fields, its architecture still betrays the uncertain
hand of the savage; back in unsearchable recesses of the hills linger
still some Indians whose garbled greeting is a memory of the _Ama Dios_
which the padres taught them. Until a few years ago the prayer-post,
a rude slab with the triple-knotted cord of the Franciscans carved
around it, still stood on the hill at the end of the path their devout
feet made, resorting to it for courage and consolation. These mementos
fade, but year by year the impress of the great spirit of Serra grows
plainer, like one of those trodden paths of long ago which show not at
all if you seek them in the grass or near at hand, but from the vantage
of Palo Corona are traceable far across the landscape.

The modern Carmel is a place of resort for painter and poet folk.
Beauty is cheap there; it may be had in superlative quality for the
mere labour of looking out of the window. It is the absolute setting
for romance. No shipping ever puts in at the singing beaches. The
freighting teams from the Sur with their bells a-jangle, go by on the
country road, but great dreams have visited the inhabitants thereof.
Spring visits it also with yellow violets all up the wooded hills,
and great fountain sprays of sea-blue ceanothus. Summer reddens the
berries of the manzanita and mellows the poppy-blazoned slopes to tawny
saffron. Strong tides arrive unheralded from some far-off deep-sea
disturbance and shake the beaches. Suddenly, on the quietest days, some
flying squadron of the deep breaks high over Lobos and neighs in her
narrow caverns. Blown foam, whipped all across the Pacific, is cast
up like weed along the sand and skims the wave-marks with a winged
motion. Whole flocks of these foam-birds may be seen scudding toward
the rock-corners of Mission Point after the equinoctial winds. Other
tides the sea slips far out on new-made level reaches, and leaves the
wet sand shining after the sun goes down like the rosy inside pearl of
the abalone.

The forests of Point Pinos are sanctuary. It is still possible to hear
there at long intervals the demoniac howl of the little grey dog of
the wilderness, "Brother Coyote," the butt, the cat's-paw, the Jack
Dullard of Indian folklore, and sometimes in the open country below
Point Lobos to see one curious and agaze from brown, naked bosses of
the hills. Any warm afternoon, by lying very still a long time in the
_encinal_, one may observe the country-coloured bobcat, tawny as the
grass in summer, slipping from shade to shade. Sometimes if startled
he will turn and face you with his blinking, yellow, half-hypnotic
stare before he returns to his unguessed errand. Any morning you may
find about your bungalow innumerable prints as of baby palms pressed
downward in the dust, the tracks of the friendly little racoons who
may be heard bubbling in the shallow cañons any moonlight night. Often
I have left a cut melon under my window for the sake of seeing, an
hour after moonrise, two or three of them scooping out the pink heart,
spatting one another for helpings out of turn, keeping, in spite
of the little gluttons you know them to be, a great affectation of
daintiness. The night-cry of these little creatures is difficult to
distinguish from the love-call of the horned owl, who on the undark
nights of summer skims the low foreshore for the sake of the field-mice
and gophers that feed on the seeds of the beach grasses. Every sort of
migratory bird that passes up and down this coast lingers a while in
the neighbourhood of Monterey, and some species, like the Point Pinos
juncos, take from it their distinctive name. But if, when you walk
in the woods, the Stellar jay has first sight of you, you will find
them singularly empty, for these blue-jacketed policemen of the pines
permit nothing to pass them unannounced. Of all the wood-folk, the wise
quail alone ignores their strident warnings. The quail have learned not
only the certainty of safety but its absolute limit. I have seen whole
flocks of them, scared by the gun, whirring out of the public lands to
a point not out of gunshot but within the forbidden ground, from which
they send back soft twitterings of defiance. It is not, however, their
habit to flush except in great danger, but to run to cover, moving with
a peculiar elusive rhythm, like the rippling of a snake. This plump
little partridge, for it is only in the common speech that he becomes
a quail, is the apt spirit of the chaparral--cheerful, social, strong
in the domestic virtues; his crest not floating backward in warrior
fashion, but cocked forward over an eye, he has all the air of the
militant bourgeois, who could fight of course, but finds that running
matches better with his inclinations. Just at the end of rains, before
mating begins, hundreds of them may be seen feeding in the flock on
open hillsides, and the thickets of buckthorn and ceanothus ring with
their soft Spanish _Cuidado!_--Have a care!

Three roads go up out of the peninsula to entice the imagination--that
which we have already taken to the hills of Salinas and the little
town of San Juan, the road to Carmel Valley, and the adventurous
trail which leads all down the well-bitten coast past Sur and Pieoras
Blancos. The Valley road turns off at the top of the divide between
Carmel and Monterey; it passes on the landward side of the Mission
into the river-bottom and skirts the narrow chain of farms, rising
with the rise of the thinly-forested hills toward Tasajara, the Place
of Springs. Here it is lost in the intricacies of the "back country."
Deer-hunters go that way in the season, and those whose delight it is
to lose themselves in the wilderness, to taste wild fruit and know no
roof but the windy tent of stars. Years since there used to come out
of that country shy-spoken, bearded men with bear-meat to sell and wild
honey in the honeycomb, rifled from hiving rocks and hollow trees; but
I fancy they are all dead now, or translated into the tall moss-bearded

The coast road, after it leaves Point Lobos behind, goes south and
south, between high trackless hills and the lineless Pacific floor.
From the Point you can see it rise over bare, sea-breasting hills, and
disappear in narrow cañons down which, it is reported, immeasurable
redwoods follow the white-footed creeks almost to the surf. Dim,
violet-tinted islands rise offshore to break the sea's assault. Now
and then one ventures in that direction as far as Arbolado, to return
prophesying. But the most of us are wiser, understanding that the best
service the road can render us is to remain a dramatic and unlimned



Dona Ina Manuelita Echivarra had come to the time of life when waists
were not to be mentioned. It took all the evidence of her name to
convince you that her cheek had once known tints of the olive and
apricot. Tio Juan, who sunned himself daily in her patio, had achieved
the richness of weathered teak; his moustachios were whitened as with
the rime that collects on old adobes sometimes near the sea-shore.
But Dona Ina, who missed by a score of years his mark of the days of
_mañana por la mañana_, was muddily dark, and her moustache--but one
does not suggest such things of a lady, and that Dona Ina was a lady
could be proved by a foot so delicately arched and pointed, an ankle so
neat that there was not another like it in your acquaintance save the
mate to it.

Once you had seen it peeping forth from under the black skirt--have
not Castilian ladies worn black immemorially?--you did not require
the assurance of Tio Juan that there was no one in her day could have
danced _la jota_ with Dona Ina Manuelita.

She would clack the castanets for you occasionally still, just to
show how it was done, or with the guitar resting on the arm of her
chair--laps were no more to be thought of than waists were--she would
quaver a song, _La Golindrina_ for choice, or _La Noche esta Serena_.
But unquestionably Dona Ina's time had gone by for shining at anything
but conversation. She could talk, and never so fruitfully as when the
subject was her garden.

A Spanish garden is a very intimate affair. It is the innermost
under-garment of the family life. Dona Ina's was walled away from the
world by six feet of adobe, around the top of which still lingered the
curved red tiles of Mission manufacture. It was not spoken of as the
garden at all, it was the patio, an integral part of the dwelling.
There was, in fact, a raw hide cot on the long gallery which gave
access to it, and Dona Ina's drawn-work chemises bleaching in the
sun. The patio is a gift to us from Andalusia; it is more Greek than
Oriental, and the English porch has about as much relation to it as
the buttons on the back of a man's coat to the sword-belt they were
once supposed to accommodate. The patio is the original mud-walled
enclosure of a people who preferred living in the open but were driven
to protection; the rooms about three sides of it were an afterthought.


The Echivarra patio did not lack the indispensable features of the
early California establishment, the raised grill or cooking platform,
and the ramada, the long vine-covered trellis where one took wine
with one's friends, or the ladies of the family sat sewing at their
interminable drawn work, _enramada_. The single vine which covered the
twenty-foot trellis was of Mission stock, and had been planted by Dona
Ina's father in the year the Pathfinder came over Tejon Pass into the
great twin valleys. In Dona Ina's childhood a wine-press had stood in
the corner of the patio where now there was a row of artichokes, which
had been allowed to seed in order that their stiff silken tassels,
dyed blue and crimson, might adorn the pair of china vases on either
side the high altar. Dona Ina was nothing if not religious. In the
corner of the patio farthest from the gallery, a fig-tree--this also
is indispensable--hung over the tiled wall like a cloud. There was a
weeping willow in the midst of the garden, and just outside, on either
side the door, two great pepper trees of the very stock of the parent
of all pepper trees in Alta California, which a sea captain from South
America gave to the Padre at San Luis Rey. Along the east wall there
were pomegranates.

A pomegranate is the one thing that makes me understand what a pretty
woman is to some men--the kind of prettiness that was Dona Ina's in the
days when she danced _la jota_. The flower of the pomegranate has the
crumpled scarlet of lips that find their excuse in simply being scarlet
and folded like the petals of a flower; and then the fruit, warm from
the sunny wall, faintly odorous, dusky flushed! It is so tempting when
broken open--that sort opens of its own accord if you leave it long
enough on the bush--the rich heart colour, and the pleasant uncloying,
sweet, sub-acid taste. One tastes and tastes--but when all is said and
done there is nothing to a pomegranate except colour and flavour, and
at least if it does not nourish neither does it give you indigestion.
That is what suggests the comparison; there are so many people who
would like to find a pretty woman in the same category. Always when
we sat together nibbling the rosy seeds, I could believe, even without
the evidence of the ankles, that Dona Ina had had her pomegranate days.
Only, of course, she would not have smelled so of musk and--there is
no denying it--of garlic. Thick-walled old adobes of the period of the
Spanish Occupation give off a faint reek of this compelling condiment
at every pore, and as for the musk, it was always about the gallery in
saucers and broken flower-pots.

And yet Dona Ina was sensitive to odours: she told me that she had had
the datura moved from the place where her mother had planted it, to the
far end of the patio, where after nightfall its heavy, slightly fetid
perfume, unnoticeable by day, scented all the air. She added that she
felt convicted by this aversion of a want of sentiment toward a plant
whose wide, papery-white bells went by the name of "Angels' trumpets."

On the day that she told me about the datura, which I had only
recognised by its resemblance to its offensive wayside congener, the
"jimson weed," the Señora Echivarra had been washing her hair with a
tonic made of oil expressed from the seeds of the megharizza after a
recipe which her mother had had from _her_ mother, who had it from an
Indian who used to peddle vegetables from the Mission, driving in every
Saturday in an ancient caretta. I was interested to know if it were
any more efficacious than the young shoots of the golden poppy fried
in olive oil, which I had already tried. So we fell to talking of the
virtues of plants and their application.

We began with the blessed "herb of the saints," dried bunches of which
hung up under the rafters of the gallery as an unfailing resort in
affections of the respiratory tract, and _yerba buena_, in which she
was careful to distinguish between the creeping, aromatic _del campo_
of the woodlands and the _yerba buena del poso_, "herb of the well,"
the common mint of damp places. When she added that the buckskin bag on
the wall contained shavings of _cascara sagrada_, the sacred bark of
the native buckthorn, indispensable to all nurseries, I knew that she
had named two of the three most important contributions of the west to
the modern pharmacopœia. This particular bag of bark had been sent from
Sonoma County, for south of Monterey it grows too thin to be worth the
gathering. The Grindelia, she told me, had come from the salt marshes
about the mouth of the Pajaro, where Don Gaspar de Portola must have
crossed going northward.

"And were you then at such pains to secure them?"

"In the old days, yes," she assured me. In her mother's time there
was a regular traffic carried on by means of roving Indians in healing
herbs and simples; things you could get now by no means whatever.

"As for instance----?" I was curious.

Well, there was creosote gum, which came from the desert beyond the
Sierra Wall, valuable for sores and for rheumatism. It took me a moment
or two, however, to recognise in her appellation of it (_hideondo_,
stinking) the shiny, shellac-covered _larrea_ of the arid regions.
There were roots also of the holly-leaved barberry, which came from wet
mountains northward, and of the "skunk cabbage," which were to be found
only in soggy mountain meadows, where any early spring, almost before
the frost was out of the ground, bears could be seen rooting it from
the sod, fairly burying themselves in the black, peaty loam.

But when it came to _yerba mansa_, Dona Ina averred, her mother would
trust nobody for its gathering. She would take an Indian or two and
as many of her ten children as could not be trusted to be left at
home, and make long _pasears_ into the coast ranges for this succulent
cure-all. I knew it well for one of the loveliest of meadow-haunting
plants; wherever springs babbled, wherever a mountain stream lost
itself under the roble oaks, the _yerba mansa_ lifted above its
heart-shaped leaves of pale green, quaint, winged cones on pink,
pellucid stems. But I had never heard one half of the curative wonders
which Dona Ina related of it. Efficacious in rheumatism, invaluable in
pulmonary complaints, its bruised leaves reduced swellings, the roots
were tonic and alterative.

I spare you the whole list, for Dona Ina was directly of the line of
that lovely Señorita who had disdainfully described the English as the
race who "pay for everything," and to her mind it took a whole category
of virtues to induce so much effort as a trip into the mountains
which had not a _baile_ or a _fiesta_ at the end of it. Other things
that were sought for by the housewives of the Spanish Occupation were
_amole_, or soap-root, the bulbs of a delicate, orchid-like lily which
comes up in the late summer among the stems of the chaparral, and the
roots of the wild gourd, the _chili-cojote_, a powerful purgative.
Green fruit of this most common pest, said Dona Ina, pounded to a pulp,
did wonders in the way of removing stains from clothing.

Then there was artemisia, romero, azalea, the blue-eyed grass of our
meadows, upon an infusion of which fever patients can subsist for days,
and elder, potent against spells, and there was Virgin's bower, which
brought us back to the patio, for a great heap of it lay on the roof
of the gallery, contesting the space there with the yellow banksia
roses. I had supposed, until the Señora Echivarra mentioned it, that
its purpose was purely ornamental, but I was to learn that it had come
into the garden as _yerba de chivato_ about the time the barbed-wire
fences of the gringo began to make a remedy for cuts indispensable to
the ranchero who valued the appearance of his live stock. When the eye,
travelling along its twisty stems and twining leaf-stalks, came to a
clump of yarrow growing at the root of it I began at once to suspect
the whole garden. Was not the virtue of yarrow known even to the

There was thyme flowering in the damp corner beyond the dripping
faucet, and pot-marigold, lavender, rosemary, and lemon verbena, all
plants that grow deep into the use and remembrance of man.

No friend of our race, not even the dog, has been more faithful. The
stock of these had come overseas from Spain--were not the Phœnicians
credited with introducing the pomegranate into Hispaniola?--and thence
by way of the Missions.

All the borders of Dona Ina's garden were edged with rosy thrift, a
European variety; and out on the headlands, a mile away, a paler,
native cousin of it bloomed gaily with beach asters and yellow
sand verbenas, but there was no one who knew by what winds, what
communicating rootlets, they had exchanged greetings.

Observation, travelling by way of the borders, came to the datura,
which was to set the conversation off again, this time not of plants
curative, but hurtful. We knew of the stupefying effects of the bruised
pods and roots of this species, and--this was my contribution--how
the Paiute Indians used to administer the commoner variety, called
_main-oph-weep_, to their warriors to produce the proper battle frenzy,
and especially to young women about to undergo the annual ordeal of the
"Dance of Marriageable Maidens."

Every year, at the spring gathering of the tribes, the maidens piled
their dowries in a heap, and for three days, fasting, danced about it.
If they fell or fainted, it was a sure sign they were not yet equal to
the duties of housekeeping and childbearing; but I had had Paiute women
tell me that they would never have endured the trial without a mild
decoction of _main-oph-weep_.

"It was different with us," insisted Dona Ina; "many a time we have
danced the sun up over the mountain, and been ready to begin again the
next evening...." But I wished to talk of the properties of plants, not
of young ladies.

The mystery of poison plants oppressed me. One may understand how a
scorpion stings in self-protection, but what profit has the "poison
oak" of its virulence? It is not oak at all, but _Rhus trilobata_, and
in the spring whole hillsides are enlivened by the shining bronze of
its young foliage, or made crimson in September. But the pollen that
floats from it in May in clouds, the sticky sap, or even the acrid
smoke from the clearing where it is being exterminated, is an active
poison to the human skin, though I had not heard that any animal
suffered similarly. Dona Ina opined that there was never an evil plant
let loose in the gardens of the Lord but the remedy was set to grow
beside it. A wash of manzanita tea, Grindelia, or even buckthorn, she
insisted, was excellent for poison oak. Best of all was a paste of
pounded "soap root." She knew a plant, too, which was corrective of
the form of madness induced by the "loco" weed, whose pale foliage and
delicately tinted, bladdery pods may be found always about the borders
of the chaparral. For the convulsions caused by wild parsnip there was
the wonder-working _yerba del pasmo_. This she knew also as a specific
for snake-bite and tetanus. So greatly was it valued by mothers of
families in the time of the Spanish Occupation, that when a clearing
was made for a house and patio, in any country where it grew, a plant
or two was always left standing. But it was not until I had looked for
it, where she said I would find it between the oleander and the lemon
verbena, that I recognised the common "grease-wood," the chamise of the
mesa country.

"But were there no plants, Dona Ina, which had another meaning, flowers
of affection, corrective to the spirit?"

"Angelica," she considered doubtfully. Young maids, on occasions of
indecision, would pin a sprig of it across their bosoms, she said,
and after they had been to church would find their doubts resolved;
and there was yarrow, which kept your lover true, particularly if you
plucked it with the proper ceremony from a young man's grave.

Dona Ina remembered a fascinating volume of her mother's time, the
_Album Mexicana_, in which the sentimental properties of all flowers
were set forth. "There was the camelia, a beautiful woman without
virtue, and the pomegranate----"

"But the flowers of New Spain, Dona Ina, was there nothing of these?"
I insisted.

"Of a truth, yes, there was the cactus flower, not the opunta, the
broad-leaved spiny sort, of which hedges were built in the old days,
but the low, flamy-blossomed, prickly variety of hot sandy places. If
a young man wore such a one pinned upon his velvet jacket it signified,
'I burn for you.'"

"And if he wore no flower at all, how then?"

Dona Ina laughed, "_Si me quieros, no me quieros_"; she referred to the
common yellow composite which goes by the name of "sunshine," or in the
San Joaquin, where miles of it mixed with blue phacelias brighten with
the spring, as "fly-flower." "In the old Spanish playing-cards," said
Dona Ina, "the Jack of spades had such a one in his hand, but when I
was a girl no caballero would have been caught saying, 'Love me, love
me not!' They left all that to the señoritas."

There was a Castilian rose growing beside me. Now a Castilian rose
is not in the least what you expect it to be. It is a thick, cabbagy
florescence, the petals short and not recurved, the pink hardly deeper
than that of the common wild rose, the leafage uninteresting. One has
to remember that it distinguished itself long before the time of the
tea and garden hybrids, and, I suspect, borrowed half its charm from
the faces it set off. For there was never but one way in the world for
a rose to be worn, and that is the way Castilian beauties discovered so
long ago that centuries have not made any improvement in it. Set just
behind the ear and discreetly veiled by the mantilla, it suggests the
effulgent charm of Spain, tempered by mystery. The Señora Echivarra had
followed my glance, and nodded acquiescence to my thought. "In dressing
for a _baile_, one would have as soon left off the rose as one's fan.
One wore it even when the dress was wreathed with other flowers."

"And did you, then, go wreathed in flowers?"

"Assuredly; from the garden if we had them, or from the field.
I remember once I was all blue larkspurs, here and here ..." she
illustrated on her person, "and long flat festoons of the _yerba buena_
holding them together."

"It would have taken hoop skirts for that?" I opined.

"That also. It was the time that the waltz had been learned from the
officers of the American ships, and we were quite wild about it. The
good Padre had threatened to excommunicate us all if we danced it
... but we danced ... we danced...." Dona Ina's pretty feet twitched
reminiscently. The conversation wandered a long time in the past before
it came back to the patio lying so still, divided from the street by
the high wall, the clouding fig, and the gnarly pear tree. Beyond the
artichokes a low partition wall shut off the vegetable plot; strings
of chili reddened against it. There was not a blade of grass in
sight, only the flat, black adobe paths worn smooth by generations of
treading, house and enclosing walls all of one earth.

"But if so much came into the garden from the field, Señora, did
nothing ever go out?"

Ah, yes, yes--the land is gracious; there was mustard of course, and
pepper grass and horehound, blessed herb, which spread all over the
west with healing. The pimpernel, too, crept out of the enclosing
wall, and the tree mallow which came from the Channel Islands by way
of the gardens and has become a common hedge plant on the sandy lands
about the bay of San Francisco. Along streams which ran down from
the unfenced gardens of the _Americanos_, callas had domesticated
themselves and lifted their pure white spathes serenely amid a tangle
of mint and wild blackberries and painted cup. The almond, the rude
stock on which the tender sorts were grafted, if allowed to bear
its worthless bitter nuts would take to hillsides naturally. It is
not, after all, walls which hold gardens but water. This is all that
constrains the commingling of wild and cultivated species; they care
little for man, their benefactor. Give them water, said Dona Ina,
and they come to your door like a fed dog, or if you like the figure
better, like grateful children. They repay you with sweetness and

A swift darted among the fig, marigolds, and portulacca of the
inevitable rock-work which was the pride of the old Spanish gardens.
Great rockets of tritoma flamed against the wall, on the other side of
which traffic went unnoted and unsuspecting.

"But we, Dona Ina, we Americans, when we make a garden, make it in the
sight of all so that all may have pleasure in it."

"Eh, the _Americanos_ ..." she shrugged; she moved to give a drink
to the spotted musk, flowering in a chipped saucer; the subject did
not interest her; her thought, like her flowers, had grown up in an




Where the twin rivers set back the tides from the bay, the Land of the
Little Duck begins. The tides come head-on past the Golden Gate and the
river answers to their tremendous compulsion far inland, past the point
where the Sacramento and San Joaquin flow together. On the lee side
of the headland which makes the southern pilaster of the Gate, sits
San Francisco, making of the name she borrowed from the bay a new and
distinguished thing, as some women do with their husbands' titles. A
better location for a city is Carquinez Strait; the Mexican comandante
resident at Sonoma would have had it there, bearing the name of his
wife, Francesca. Said he to the newly arrived American authorities,
"Do so, and I will furnish you the finest site in the world, with State
house and Residence complete." But it appears the land has chosen its
own name.

All the years after the Pope had divided the New World between Spain
and the Portuguese, the harbour lay hidden. Cabrillo, Drake, Maldonado,
Juan de Fuca, Viscaino passed it in the night or veiled in obscuring
fogs. And then Saint Francis showed it clear and lovely to Don Gaspar
Portola, having for that revelation led him with holden eyes past his
journey's objective. Likewise, when the time was ripe, he put it into
the mind of the Yankee alcalde at Yerba Buena, a trading-post in the
neighbourhood of Mission Dolores, that if the hamlet should be called
San Francisco it might catch by implication the vessels clearing all
ports of the world for San Francisco bay.

O Chance, Chance! says the historian and turns another page. But it
is my opinion that among the birds to which Saint Francis preached was
included the Little Duck.

The piers of the city front east, they face the Berkeley Hills,
the Oaklands, the lands of the Sycamore, or, as the first settlers
named them, the Alamedas. From thence vast settlements take their
name, feeding the city as sea-birds do, from their own breasts.
Back and forth between them the shuttling ferries weave thin webs of
glistening wakes, duck-bodied tugs chugg and scuttle, busy still at
world-building. From the promontory which makes the northern barrier of
the Gate, Tamalpias swims out of atmospheric blueness. On its seaward
slope, hardly out of reach of the siren's bellowing note, Muir Park
preserves the ancient forest, rooted in the litter of a thousand years.
And round about the foot of city and mountain the waters of the bay
are blue, the hills are bluer. The hills melt down to greenness in the
spring, the water runs to liquid emerald, flashing amber; the hills are
tawny after rains, the waters tone to the turbid, clayey river-floods;
land and sea they pursue one another as lovers through changing moods
of colour; they have mists for mystery between revealing suns. Unless
these things count for something, San Francisco is the very worst
site in the world for a city. You take your heart in your mouth every
time you go out to afternoon tea in the tram-cars that dip and swing
like cockles at sea. They cut across streets so steep that grass grows
between the cobbles where no traffic ever passes, to plunge down lanes
of dwellings perched precariously as sea-birds' nests on the bare bones
of hills that for true hilliness shame Rome's imperial seven. The bay
side of the peninsula is mud, the Pacific side is sand. There great
wasteful dunes blow up, they shift and pile, they take the contours of
the wind-lashed waters--the very worst site in the world for a great
city's pleasure-ground, and yet somehow it is there.

For this city is one of those which have souls; it is a spirit sitting
on a height, taking to itself form and the offices of civilisation.
This is a thing that we know, because we have seen the land shake it
as a terrier shakes a rat, until the form of the city was broken; it
dissolved in smoke and flame. And then as a polyp of the sea draws out
of the fluent water form and perpetuity for itself, we saw our city
draw back its shapes of wood and stone, and statelier, more befitting
a spirit that has endured so much. Nobody knows really what a city is
except that it is something more than a collocation of houses. From
Telegraph Hill, where the old semaphore stood, which signalled the
far-between arrivals of ships around the Horn, you can see the trade
of the world pass and repass the pillars of the Gate, the wall-sided
warships. But none of these things really explain how San Francisco
came to be clinging there to the leeward of a windy spit of land, like
a great, grey sea-bird with palpitating wings.

  [Illustration: TAMALPIAS]

True to her situation, San Francisco is nothing if not dramatic. One
recalls that the earliest foundation was dedicated to Our Lady of
Dolors, _Nuestro Señora de Dolores_; the Indians fought here as they
did nowhere else against Christian dominion. There were more burials
than baptisms, and in the old cemetery of Yerba Buena the dead were
so abandoned of all grace that the sand refused to hold them. One who
spent his boyhood in the shifting purlieus of the old Laguna told me
how in the hollows where the scrub oaks shrugged off the wind and the
sand waved like water, the nameless coffins were covered and uncovered
between a night and day. But if the dead could not hold their tenancy,
the living succeeded. They did it by the very force of that dramatic
instinct awakened by the plot and counterplot of natural forces.

No Greek tragedy moved to more relentless measures than the moral
upheaval of '56, when the whole city, in solemn funeral train behind
the victim of one of those wild outbursts of lawlessness peculiar to
the "gold rush," saw the lifeless bodies of the perpetrators hanging
from the upper windows of the Vigilance Committee. Fifty years later
came a wilder rout, down streets searched out by fire, snatching
at humour as they ran, as so many points of contact for the city's

The very worst location in the world, as I have remarked, is this windy
promontory past which the grey tides race, but so long as a city can
dramatise itself, one situation will do as well as another in which to
render itself immortal.

The bay of San Francisco with its contingencies is one of the most
interesting of inland yachting waters, full of adventurous weather. It
is possible to sail in one general direction from Alviso to the city of
Sacramento, a hundred and fifty miles, and that without attempting the
thousand miles of estuary and slough through which the waters slink and

At this season of the year the river is pushed backward by the tide a
matter of ten miles or more above Sacramento City: on the San Joaquin
it is felt as far as Crow's Landing. At Antioch it begins to be
saltish, and down through Suisun and Carquinez the river-water fights
its way as far as San Pablo before its identity is wholly lost. At
flood-times it may be traced, a yellowish, turgid streak, as far as
Alcatraz. This is the islet of the albatross which lies south of the
tide race, as Tiburon is on the north, fragments all of them of that
salt-rimed ledge outside the gate where hoarse sea-lions play, and
brother to the castellated cloud far along on the sea's horizon, the
very capital of the kingdom of the Little Duck.


The Faralone Light is the last dropped astern by the Island steamships
sagging south to the equator; it is also the sea-birds' city of
refuge. This is the great murre rookery of the west coast, and formerly
thousands of dozens of eggs were regularly taken from the Faralones
to the San Francisco market; but since the islands became a Government
station the murres have no enemy but the pirates of the air. In clefts
and ledges close against the wall-sided cliffs they defend their
shallow nests against the sheering gulls, or, hard beset, will push
their single, new-hatched nestling into the friendlier sea, darting to
break its fall with incredible swiftness, for a swimming gait is one
of the things that come out of the shell with the native-born at the
Faralones. On the same shelving rocks puffins rear their ratty young in
burrows or under sheltering boulders, and the ashy petrel, the "little
Peter" of the sea, walking by night before the storm, comes ashore here
to hide his seldom nest. On the south Faralone the fierce cormorant
builds her house of painted weed, which often the gulls steal from her
as fast as she brings it ashore, for the gulls are the grafters of the
sea-birds' city. This particular variety, known as the western gull,
neither fishes for himself nor forages for building material. He feeds
on the eggs and nestlings of his neighbours, or waits to snatch the
day's catch from the beak that brought it up from the sea. He has the
virtue of all predatory classes, an exemplary domesticity. His nest is
soft and clean, his nestlings handsome. The western gull is often found
marauding far up the estuary of Sacramento, but it is his congener,
the herring gull, who follows the long white wake the ferries make
ploughing the windy bay; or, distinguished among the silent shore birds
for multitude and clamour, scavenges its reedy borders.

Except for the promontories north and south, and the bold front of the
Berkeley Hills opposing the Gate, the inland borders of the bay are
flat tide-lands and sea-smelling lagunas. Stilts, avocets, herons,
all the waders that haunt this coast or visit it in their seasonal
flights, may be seen stalking the shallows for minnows, or where the
marsh grass reddens, poised like some strange tide-land blossom, lifted
on two slender stems. Low over them any clear day may be seen the grey
old marsh hawk sailing, or the "duck hawk," the peregrine of falconry,
following fiercely in the wake of the migrating hordes of water-fowl.
All about Alviso the guttural cry of the black-crowned night-heron
sounds eerily above the marshes, along with the peculiar "pumping"
love-song of the bittern.

For some reason the air of the marshes is friendly to the mistletoe
infesting the oaks and sycamores which stand back from the tide-line;
but the marshes themselves are treeless. They have their own sorts
of growth, cane and cat-tails and tule, goosefoot, samphire, and the
tasselled sedges. This samphire of Shakespeare, _l'herbe de Saint
Pierre_ of the Normandy Marshes, is the glory of the Franciscan
tide-lands; miles of it, barely above the level of the slow-moving
water, spread a magic carpet of blending crimsons, purples, and
bronzes. Under the creeping mists and subject to the changes of the
water, beaten to gold and copper under the sun, it redeems the flat
lines of the landscape with a touch of Oriental splendour.

For it is a flat kingdom, that of the Little Duck--the hills hanging
remotely on the horizon, the few trees and scattered hugging the low
shore of the sloughs as the shipwrecked cling to their rafts, desperate
of rescue. The rich web of the samphire, the shifting colour of the
water, faintly reminiscent of Venice, borrow another foreign touch
from the names under which the borders recommended themselves to
attention:--Sausalito, "little willows," Tiburon, Corta Madero, San
Quentin, San Raphael. Approached from the water, these names, with
the exception of San Quentin, do no more than stir the imagination.
San Quentin, on one of those courtesy islands newly rescued from the
primordial mud, shows itself uncompromisingly for what it is, one of
those places for the sequestration of public offenders, which is itself
such an offence to our common humanity--to say nothing of our common
sense. Free tides, free sails go by, and long, untrammelled lines of
birds; south above the blue bay and bluer shore, the ethereal blue
dome of Diablo lifts into the free air. Across the upper end of San
Pablo Bay, which is really the north arm of the bay of San Francisco
extending inland, Mare Island lies so low on the water that if it had
not been made a naval reserve station it is difficult to know to what
other use it could be put. One expects to have the land dip and swing
from under like the ship's deck. It is in line with the guns which lie
beside the Gate like watchful, muzzle-pointed dogs, and commands the
whole upper bay and the opposing bluffs of Contra Costa in a manner
highly commendable to those curious persons whose chief excitement
lies in anticipating an Asiatic invasion. Nevertheless, along with
the bastions of San Quentin it strikes, somehow, the note of human
distrust amid all this charm of light and line and elusive colour,
as if suddenly one should discover the tip of a barbed tail under the
skirt of some seductive stranger.

Between San Quentin and the Straits, all about the curve of the bay,
winding, wide-mouthed sloughs give access to a land as fertile as
Egypt. A slough is a mere wallow of unprofitable waters, waters unused
by men and still reluctant of the sea. Pushed aside by the compelling
tides, too undisciplined to make proper banks for themselves, they are
neglected by all but a few fringing willows and shapeless sycamores in
which the herons nest.

Often at evening the white-faced ibis can be seen flying in long,
voiceless lines, just clearing the twilight-tinted water, to their
accustomed night perches in the wind-beaten willows. They return there,
if undisturbed, year after year, accompanied in few and far-between
seasons by the egret and the snowy heron, grown man-shy, or if they
but knew the purpose for which their nuptial plumage is sacrificed,
woman-shy, and seldom seen even by the most wishful eyes.

At Napa a few bull-headed oaks come down almost to the tide-line, and
in Sonoma a clump of alien blue gums huddles aloof and unregarded,
but from the water little is visible beside the stilted cabins of some
gun club or the ramshackle resorts of the flat-nosed, slow craft that
wind on mysterious errands between the sunken lands. Whole families
of half-amphibious humans appear to live comfortably on these drifting
scows, but one never by any chance catches them doing any distinctive

The waters of the sloughs come down from the little inland valleys,
where summer nests and broods in a blue haze along the redwood-serried
hills. Whether it is white with cherry bloom at Napa, or purple with
winy clusters at Sonoma, there is always something interesting going
on there of the large process by which granite mountains are made food
for man. It is worth a visit if only to learn that a country which does
that sort of thing supremely well, finds it also worth while to do it
beautifully. Yachting off San Rafael, it is possible to catch at times
the scent of roses on an off-shore wind above the salt smell of the

The last rip of the tide is through the Straits of Carquinez into the
back-water of Suisun. From here on, it is a rhythmic heaving to and fro
as of well-matched wrestlers, the river-water is set back to Crow's
Landing on the San Joaquin, and miles above Sacramento it returns
again past Antioch and the Suisun islands. It is lost in a wilderness
of tules, through which the sluggish currents blindly wind. Here we
have nothing to do with men, our business is all with the tribe of the
Little Duck: mallard, teal, tern, coot, heron, eared grebe, and awkward

The tule is a round leafless reed. It springs up along the tide-lands
or in the stagnant back-water of the rivers, or by any least dribble
of a desert spring. No condition daunts it but absolute dearth of
water; far-called, it travels on the wind over mountain ranges, over
great wastes of waterless plain to find the one absolute condition, a
pool--white rimmed with alkali or poisonous green with arsenic. I have
seen it flourish by springs so charged with mineral that each slender
column is ringed with its stony deposit, but I do not recall any
standing water where tules are not. The stems are filled with papery
pith so light that the Indians of the San Joaquin made boats of bundles
of them, faggoted together and tied upon a wooden frame.

Year by year the tules reclaim the muddy confluence of the twin rivers.
They make an annual growth, die palely, and are beaten down by the
wind; between their matted stems the young green comes up again. In the
Land of the Little Duck, miles upon miles of them, and not one other
thing, stand up on either side the winding water-lanes, man-high and

The Tulare--the place of the tule--is the haunt not only of water-birds
but innumerable insect-catchers, and especially of the red-winged
blackbirds. In the spring these betake themselves to the reed-fringed
marshes in hundreds, building their nests in such neighbourly proximity
that the young can hop from rim to rim of the tight-slung, grassy
hammocks. Great clouds of the young birds can be seen, just before
mating and after nesting in the fall, rising from the low islands
of the river-junction. In the season also the male yellow-headed
blackbird may be heard singing his sweet but noisy cheering-song to
his sombre mate as she weaves marsh grass and wet pond-weed together
as a foundation for her home, always prudently completed some weeks in
advance of any need of it.


Where the tules thin out along the moving currents, numerous woven
balls of marsh vegetation hang like some strange fruit safely above the
summer rise of the waters. These are the nests of the tule wren, built
by the industrious male, with who knows what excess of parental care
or what intention to deceive. All the while he is at work upon them,
in one, the least conspicuous and apparently the least skilfully built,
the mother bird nurses the brown nestlings with which, suddenly at the
end of July, all the whispering galleries of the tulares are alive.

One who has the courage to penetrate deeper within the tulares, past
the crazy wooden landings of nameless ports at which the flat scows
put in, past the broken willows where the herons nest and the weedy
back-waters lie all smoothly green with the deceptive duck-weed, will
see many wished-for sights. Just before dawn and after nightfall the
inner marshes are vocal with the varied cries of coot and mallard
and the complaining skirl of the mud-hen, the whistling redwing,
the bittern booming from his dingy pool, and all the windy beat of
wings. But by day a stillness falls through which the clicking whisper
of the reeds and the croon of the great rivers cradling to the sea
reaches the sense almost with sound. The air is all alive with the
metallic glint of dragon-flies; now and then the plop of some shining
turtle dropping into the smooth lagoon, or the frightened splash of a
marsh-nesting bird, flecks the silence with a flash of sound. Here one
might see all the duck kind leading forth their young broods, or the
eared grebe swimming with her day-old nestlings on her back. If the
day is dark--black clouds with lightnings playing under--one may hear
the voice of the loon sliding through his sonorous scale to shaking,
witless laughter. Or perhaps the day's sight might be a flock of
pelicans on their way to their nesting-ground in Buena Vista, breasting
the shallows, and with beating wings driving a school of minnows into
some tiny inlet where they may be scooped up in the pouched bills, a
dozen to a mouthful. Better still, some morning mist might rise for
you suddenly on a strip of sandy shore the cranes had chosen for their
wild dances, from which the stately measures of the Greek are said to
be derived. Against the yellow sand, as on the background of a vase,
the dipping figures and white outstretched wing draperies make the
connection clear to you for the moment, along with some other things
long overlaid in the racial memory.

Always at evening in the tulares the air is winnowed by the clanging
hordes of geese and ducks. Triangular flights of teal wing by you,
whizzing like bullets, hazy with speed. Beach-nesting birds, paddlers
in the foodful creeks, go seaward. Now and then some winged frigate of
the open sea, an albatross perhaps blown inland on a storm, will climb
the air to the sea-going wind. Low on the twilight-coloured waters the
tule fog creeps in.

You emerge properly from the vast intricacies of the tulares--if you
emerge at all, and are not completely mazed and lost in them--at
Sacramento, a city but barely rescued from the marsh, and still
marsh-coloured with the damp-loving lichens. _La Dame aux Camelias_, to
the eye, rich in that exotic blossom as no city in the world, but with
a past, oh, unmistakably, and a touch of hectic disorder. The Russians
possessed her, and then the breed of Jack Hamlin, and then--but it
is unfair to list the lovers of a lady of so much charm and such
indubitable capacity for reformation. Sacramento is the State capital,
the geographical pivot of the great twin valleys; she divides with
Stockton on the San Joaquin the tribute of their waters. It was here
on her banks that the overland emigrant trains sat down to wait for
the subsidence of waters in the new world of the West, from here they
scattered to all its hopeful quarters.

If the part the city has played in history has been that of a hostel, a
distributing station, at least she has played it to some purpose. There
are few empires richer than the land the twin rivers drain.



It is geographical courtesy merely, to treat of intramontane California
as a valley; it is in reality a vast, rolling plain. Several little
kingdoms of Europe could be tucked away in it. North and south it has
no natural line of demarcation other than the rivers meeting for their
single assault upon the sea, but its diversity deserves the double
name. They make, the Sacramento rushing from the wooded north and the
sluggish San Joaquin, one of the most interesting waterways of the
world. I should say they made, for of the San Joaquin one must be able
to speak in the past also, to understand it. One must have seen it
before man had tamed it and taught it, supine as a lioness in the sun.

To arrive at a proper feeling for the continuity of the great central
plain, it must be approached from the south, by way of the old Tejon
Pass, up from San Fernando, or down the Tehachapi grade where the
railroad loops and winds through the confluence of the Coast Range with
the Sierra Nevada. Here the hills curve graciously about the vast oval
of the lower San Joaquin. The downthrow of the mountain, stippled with
sage-brush, gives way to tawny sand glistening here and there with
white patches of alkali, mottled with dark blocks of irrigated land.
Its immensity is obscured by the haze of heat.

One is reduced to the figures of the real estate "booster" for terms of
proportion. That modest checkering of green, hours away to the left,
is a forty-mile field of alfalfa; beyond it lie the vineyards that in
less than a quarter of a century relegated Spain to a second place in
the raisin industry of the world. This is the San Joaquin of to-day
and to-morrow. The white-tilted vans of the Argonauts saw it as one
vast, overlapping field of radiant corollas, blue of lupins, phacelias,
nemophilias, gold of a hundred packed species of composite. Wet years
it is still possible for the settler in the unirrigated districts to
wake some morning to blossomy lakes of sky-blueness in the hollows;
from San Emigdio in the Temblors, I have seen, across the whole width of
the valley, the smouldering poppy fires along the bluffs of Kern River.
On the mesa below Tejon the moon-white gilia that the children call
"evening snow" unfurls its musky-scented drifts mile after mile. But
the prevailing note of the San Joaquin is tawny russet; gold it will
be in the season, resplendent as those idols which the Incas overlaid
yearly with fresh-beaten leaf, and in September the barrancas above
Bakersfield and Visalia as yellow as brass, but all up and down the
hill-rimmed hollow is every lion-coloured tint contending still with
the thin belts of planted orchard.

  [Illustration: MIRROR LAKE, YOSEMITE]

Twenty-five years of cultivation have served to shift the lines of
greenness but not greatly to modify the desert key. Once it was all
massed in the tulares which fringed the series of lakes and connecting
sloughs, continuing northward from the lowest point of the San Joaquin.
Kern, Kings, Kaweah, Tule, Merced, and Tuolumne, mighty rivers, and a
hundred lesser singing streams fed it. Elk by thousands ramped in its
reedy borders. It was a haven of nesting water-birds. Whole islands
were populated by pelicans, repairing there annually for the strange,
sidling wing-dances that attend their mating. Blue herons nested in
the tulares; they could be seen trailing their long dangly legs for
hours above the shallows. Indians paddled in their frail balsas, built
of papery, dry reeds, down intricate water-lanes in which white men
venturing, lost themselves and were mazed to madness. Malaria of a
surpassing virulence rode up and down that country on the "tule fogs."
Even yet it is the dread of the cities of the plain to find themselves
beleaguered by the thick, ghost-white mists that at long intervals roll
along the ground, retaking the ancient marshes.

Into this potential opulence the cattleman precipitated himself.
He bought--it is more exact to say he acquired--vast acreage of
Spanish grants; along the rim of the Coast Ranges, territory equal to
principalities was given over to long-horned, lean herds. All about the
old beach-line of the San Joaquin may still be seen the remnant of the
cattle ranches, low formless houses with purlieus of pomegranate and
pampas grass and black figs, and the high, stockaded, acrid-smelling
corrals, to mark the receding waves of the cattle industry. On the
Sierra side the guttered mesas, the hoof-worn foothills advertise
the devastation of the wandering flocks. Early in the 'sixties these
appeared, little, long-armed French and Basques, with hungry hordes
of sheep at their heels, pasturing on the public lands. They ate into
the roots of the lush grass and left the quick rains to cut the soil.
The wool in the hand was always worth the next season's feed to the


Never was a land so planned for the uses of man, its shielding
mountains, its deep alluvial terraces sloping gently to the sun. Men
read it in the hieroglyphic the glistening waters spelled between the
dark patches of the tulares, but it took some experimenting to read the
message aright.

After the cattle and the flocks came the wheat. Up from the meeting
waters the land billowed with grain. Owners buckled the ploughs
together and drove them with engines by tens and twenties across the
thousand-acre fields. But men and engines, they were alike driven
by the drouth. In wet years the wheat rancher rode to view his
shoulder-high harvest, but when the rains, going high and wide over
the valley to break along the saw-teeth of the Sierras, left the wheat
unwatered, the same thing happened to the crops that had happened to
the cattle and the sheep. And at last, amid the rotting carcases and
the shrivelled acres, the message came clear--not the land, but the
water. So they shut up the rivers in the cañons and the day of the
orchardist began.

Geographically it begins at Bakersfield, below the gap where the Kern
comes down from the giant sequoias and is constrained to the wide,
willow-planted canals, governed by head-gates and weirs. Such waters as
find again their ancient levels, do so by way of the loose sandy soil
through which they are filtered in vineyard and orchard. The tulares
have been turned under; the elk are strictly preserved in the hope
that enough of them will breed to serve the purposes of curiosity.
The antelope bands that once flashed their white rumps from bench
to bench of the tawny mesas were reduced, the last time I saw them,
to a scant half-score roving the Tejon under the watchful eye of the
superintendent. But with all this change, nowhere as at this diminished
end, does one gather such an impression of the variety, the imperial
extent of the San Joaquin. For at Bakersfield is one of the world's
largest petroleum fields. The gaunt derricks rear along the unwatered
hills like half-formed prehistoric creatures come up out of the ground
to see what men are about. Reservoirs, fed with the stinking juices
of a time decayed, squat along the barrancas, considering with a slow
leech-like intelligence the tank cars in the form of a Gargantuan
joint-worm of the same period that produced the derricks, as they clank
between the oil-fields and the town. One of the largest oil-fields in
the world--and yet the turn of the road drops it out of sight in the
valley's immensity!

Bakersfield is a heaven of roses. Doubtless there are other things by
which the inhabitants would be glad to have it remembered, but this is
the item that the traveller in the season carries away with him. Roses
do not die there, they fall apart of their own sweetness, wafts of
which envelop the town for miles out on the highway. After nightfall,
when each particular attar distils upon the quiescent air, the
townspeople walk abroad in the streets and the moon comes up full-orbed
across the Temblors at about the level of the clock-tower. Overhead
and beyond it the sky retains a deep velvety blueness until long past
midnight. Traces of colour can be seen sometimes in the zenith when the
glimmer along the knife-edge of the Sierras announces the dawn.

North of Bakersfield, as the valley widens, the Coast Range fades
to a mere shadow mountain, the peaks of Kaweah stand out above the
banded haze, angel-white like the ranked Host. As the road swings in
to the Sierra outposts, broad-headed oaks begin to appear; it skirts
the foot of the great Sierra fault close enough for the landscape to
borrow something from the dark, impending pines. But for the most part
what the observer has to consider is soil and water and the miraculous
product of these two. One must learn to think of the land in terms of
human achievement.

  [Illustration: CLEAR LAKE, LAKE COUNTY]

North from the delta of Kern River lies a hundred miles of country
scarcely disputed with the flocks, far-called and few, which still
at the set time of the year forgather in green swales behind the
town for the annual shearing, for the herders to play hand-ball at
Noriegas', to grow riotously claret drunk and render an evanescent
foreign touch to the brisk modern community. And every foot of that
hundred miles is rife with the seeds of life, awaiting the touch of
the impregnating water. One holds to that conviction as to a friendly
assuring hand. In the presence of that vast plain, palpitating with
the heat, the sluggish, untamed water lolling in the midst of it, the
white-fanged Sierra combing the cloudless blue, beauty becomes a poor
word: appreciation is shipwrecked and cast away. With relief one hails
the beginning of a stripe, dark green like a scarf, scalloping the
foothills--the citrus belt. From Portersville, Lindsay, Exeter it runs
north past the meeting of the waters into the valley of the Sacramento,
and for quality and early fruiting sets the figure of the world market.
As if its waters had some special virtue, wherever a river is poured
out upon the plain some particular crop is favoured. About Fresno
it is raisins, at Madera port wine, sherry, and mild muscatel. The
Merced, which takes its rise in the valley of Yosemite, is partial to
melons and figs. But everywhere are prunes, peaches, apricots, almonds,
sugar-beets, alfalfa, unmeasurable acreage of barley, beans, and
asparagus. Anything is impressive if the scale be large enough, even a
field of onions. Here the league-long rows are as terrible as an army.

Up and down this empire belt proceed two great companies, the hordes
of "fruit-hands" and the army of the bees, following its successive
waves of fruit and bloom. Gangs of pruners, pickers, and packers
are shifted and shunted as the crop demands. Interesting economic
experiments transact themselves under the worried producer's eye; alien
race contending with alien race. The jarring interests of men have by
no means worked out the absolute solution, but the bees have long ago
settled their business. They kill the drones and gather the honey for
the gods who kindly provide them with hives--the more fortunate perhaps
in knowing what their particular gods require.

Wherever along the belt the rivers fail, the pumps take up the work;
strenuous little Davids contending against the Goliaths of drouth. They
can be heard chugging away like the active pulse of the vineyards,
completing the ribbon of greenness that spans from ridge to ridge of
the down-plunging hills.

And then one must take account of the cities of the plain! Twenty-five
years ago they fringed the Sierra base, mere feeders to the mines, the
cattle ranches, the sheep country. They had the manners of the frontier
and the decaying, tawdry vices that filtered down from San Francisco,
sluiced out by intermittent spasms of reform. They were "wide open."
Hairy little herders with jabbering tongues knifed one another in the
shearing season, vaqueros "shot up the town" occasionally; it is still
within memory that prominent citizen "packed a gun" for prominent
citizen. Twenty years ago the last, most southerly, of the chain of
settlements was a very cesspool of the iniquities driven to a last
stand by the influx of home-seekers. I who went through the years of
change with it could tell tales if I would--but, thank Heaven, nobody
would believe them! Now in those old places of unsavoury renown rise
handsome "business blocks," the true mark of cities. Homes heaped
with roses spread on either side of miles of palm-fringed boulevard.
Over it all flows the clear, inspiring current of Sierra-cooled air,
sliding down from the ranked peaks that, whitened from flank to flank
by perpetual snows, hover like phalanxes of protecting wings.


Into the very thick of the cities drop down from the high Sierras
trails to all its places of delight, the sequoia groves, King's River
cañon, and all the lordly peaks about Mt. Whitney and Yosemite; and
setting hillward from San Francisco the old Stockton-Sonora road
along which surged the undisciplined rout of the gold-seekers of
'forty-nine. It leads, this earliest of valley highways, across the
basin of the Stanislaus, past places made famous by the red-shirted,
lusty miners, the sleek-coated gamblers of Bret Harte. It passes the
twenty-eight Mile House where Jack Hamlin ran a poker game, and many a
scene rendered memorable by the gay ladies of Poker Flat. It reaches,
by way of a deep-rutted, ancient track, choked with the characteristic
red dust of the country, Table Mountain, the home of Truthful James.
Table Mountain, having consideration for the near-by Sierras, is a hill
merely, with a flat deposit of _malpais_, the "black rock" of regions
far north and east. Beyond Sonora lie the old placer "diggings," every
foot of which has been combed and sifted for gold. The bones of the
earth are laid bare; all the masking clay, tossed and tumbled, clogged
with rusty pipes and decaying sluices, lies in heaps and depressions
where the gold-seekers cast it. The sense of violation is heightened by
the hue of the soil, redder than the hills of Devon, redder than a red
heifer--but the river furnishes the more descriptive figure, the martyr
hue of the Sacrament. In the flood season it carries the tint of its
ensanguined clays far down into the bay's blueness.

The remnant of that riotous life,--the abandoned cabins, the towns
falling into dissolution,--like the remaining specimens of the fir and
redwood forests cut off to timber the Mother Lode, is left standing by
unfitness. The best of it is a little nugget of remembrance of Francis
Bret Harte and Mark Twain.


It was at Angels in the foothills of Calaveras that Twain, to his
everlasting fame, was so impressed with the performance of the Jumping
Frog. But life at Angels and all up and down that placer country is
as heavy with desuetude as the frog was after the bar-keeper had fed
him with buckshot. As well try to get a draught of that old time as a
drink at any of the dismantled bars, high, ornate, black walnut affairs
across which, in dust and nuggets, passed and repassed probably as much
gold as would serve to buy the orange belt of the San Joaquin--and for
a figure of magnificence you would find nothing more acceptable to its

Much of the history of that country is written in the names. Here the
soft Spanish locutions give place to harsher, but not less descriptive,
Americanisms--Jimtown, Jackass Hill, Squaw Creek; the cañons become
"gulches," the mesas "flats." Later both of these were overlaid by
-villes and -tons, the plain rural names of Anglo-Saxon derivation,
Coulterville, Farmington, Turlock. They smell of orchards. Prosperity
is coming back on the surface of the fruitful waters, but the redwood
forests have not come back. Centuries, nothing less, are required for
the building of one of these towers of greenness, and it is barely
forty years since all that district was one roaring blast of mining
life, rioting, jostling, snatching each from each. In the language
of the country, the Italian truck gardeners will "beat them to it."
They have smoothed over the old "slickens" and comforted the land with

As one travels north, the bulk of the Sierra lessens, the pines climb
higher, the oaks march well down into the middle valley to catch the
wet coast winds, the character of the plantations change, there are
more grain fields, more neat little farms. Finally the old Overland
emigrant trail climbs down from Donner Lake and Emigrant Gap, and you
find yourself deep in the Valley of the Sacramento.

By an air-line from the meeting of the waters, its geographical
frontier is passed in the neighbourhood of Sonora; perhaps the bridge
over the Mokelumne is a better indicator, since that river joins the
San Joaquin at the estuary, but it is not until the Overland road is
crossed that the character of the country definitely betrays the upper

Ascending the river, the works of man are less and less, the forest
and the mountains more. The rapid rise of the wooded slopes keeps
the Sacramento troublous. Tributaries, not large but swift and of
tremendous volume, pour into it. Occasionally from dark cañons is
heard the steady pound of the quartz mill, working some ancient lead,
or a smelter blocks out a whole forested slope with its poisonous
exhalations; but for the most part the northern valley is given over to
brooding quiet, to unending green, and streams as swift as adders.

In Mendocino county, on the coast side, the Range begins to lift
toward the snow-line; on the Sierra side the alpine crest shears away.
From time to time the "logging" industry cuts a wide track down the
redwood forest. One hears above the singing rivers, the clucking of
the donkey-engine or the rip of a mill still going in the midst of its
self-created, sawdust desert. The glutting of the lumber region has
been accomplished as wastefully, as violently, as the search for gold.
All up the valley tall prophets of the rain have been butchered to
make a lumberman's fat purse. But, link by link, the forestry bureau
is closing in the line of the reserves against the lumber "kings," the
Ahabs of a grasping time.

The hills fall into a certain order, serried rank on rank. Deciduous
growth of the lower slopes gives way to redwoods and Shasta fir. Miles
upon miles of them stand so thick that when one dies it does not fall
but remains erect in the arms of its brothers. Great columnar boles
rise out of the river-basins, soaring high over what, except for their
dwarfing proportions, would be a considerable grove of graceful oak
and bay and glistening, magnolia-leafed, crimson-shafted madroño.
Over these the redwoods rise, as over the heads of worshippers the
clustered columns of Milan seek the dome. High up the tops are caught
in a froth of pale-green foliage through which the sunlight filters
blue. This characteristic refraction from their yellowish, inch-long
needles dwells about the redwood as an aura, and far on the horizon
distinguishes their ranks from the hill-slopes masked with pines. So,
blue ridge on ridge, they advance on the imperious height of Shasta.


Shasta is a brother of Fuji and Tacoma, one of those solitary crater
peaks whose whiteness is the honourable age of fiery youth, a good
mountain dead and gone to heaven. Do not go up on it; you will see
a great deal more of what you have seen, wooded hills on hills and
perhaps the sapphire belt of the sea, the glitter of lovely, sail-less
lakes, but you will not understand it any better, for Shasta has no
more to do with the abutting ranges than a great genius with the stock
which produced him. This is a prophet among mountains, a vent from
the burning heart of creation. One is not surprised to learn that the
Indians hereabout count their descent from the Spirit of Shasta and
the Grizzly Bear. That dark belt of forest circling the mountain's
base looks to be the proper haunt for him, the lumbering, little-eyed
embodiment of brute creation. It is well to think of those two things
together, the rip of those mighty claws with a ton or two of brute bulk
behind them, and the awful witness towering to the blue, and suffer the
soul-satisfying fear that lies in wait for man in the great places of
the earth. All our modern fears are mean, fears of the common opinion
and the bill collector. Shasta will have done its best for you if it
enables you to quake in the very marrow of consciousness.

After this it is well to turn southward along the Coast Range, camping
by the trout-abounding rivers, losing yourself in the stiff laurels and
azaleas of Mendocino, fishing at the clear lakes cupped in the hollows.
If the season is right there will be salmon running in Klamath and
Trinity rivers or deer in the steep-sided cañons. And everywhere there
will be the redwoods. It is not, however, in the crowds that the tree
reveals itself. Far down the deforested hills of Sonoma, in isolated
groves, in small groups or singles on the tops of bossy, brass-coloured
hills, it takes on character and charm.

A redwood grove is a three-story affair. On the ground floor, turned
rusty brown, as though the sunlight filtering through had mellowed
there a thousand years, creep the wild ginger, the rosy-flowered
oxalis, trilliums, and violets. All these lower rooms are crowded with
dogwood, with the great berried manzanitas, woodwardias, man-high,
and glistening bays, silver-tipped with light. By one of those
strange but charming affinities of wild life, the redwood grove is
the peculiar haunt of lilies. Every variation of the soil--the peat
bogs of the coast, the high sandy ridges, the damp meadows--has each
its appropriate variety; and not merely lilies, but droves of them,
hundreds of swaying stems, files of them up the line of seeping springs
or round the bases of great boulders, lilies breast high, lilies
overhead, ruby-spotted, golden-throated, shining white, dowered with
the special genius of perfume. Along the chaparral-covered slope and
deep within the cañons one tracks them by the subtle, intoxicating
scent spreading, as I am persuaded no other perfume does, by a
conscious distillation on the melting air.


The second redwood story, that wondrous space of blue-diffusing sun,
between the deciduous underforest and the fairy web of redwood green,
is bird and squirrel haunted. Jays flash back and forth, bright
flickers of the humming-bird go buzzing by. Woodpeckers may be heard
calling the ever-missing "Jacob, Jacob!" who must in their opinion
be concealing himself somewhere about the upper story. The wire-drawn
warble of the brown creeper follows the singer up and down the deeply
corrugated trunks. Wrens, sparrows, juncos, all manner of little
feathered folk in whose coats the tones of brown predominate, frequent
the pillared middle rooms. Once I heard what I thought to be a hermit
thrush, singing out of the dusk of Muir Wood. But I have not the art
of knowing birds by note. People who live much in the redwoods find
them silent; I think it might more easily be that the great trunks
and green-shot glooms have the same quality of dwarfing sound as size.
Redwoods, as I know them, are really lighter and more alive than any
other coniferous forests, but the _effect_ of umbrageous stillness is
induced by vast proportions.

As for what goes on in the upper rooms, who has been there? What birds
arise to their three- or four-hundred-foot heights? The few and slight
boughs, the feathery layers of foliage rounding in age to sloping
crowns, who knows them but the wind and the snows that neither stir nor
are stayed by them? There are some matters that the great Twin Valleys
keep even from the men for whom they have borne an empire.



The proper vehicle for mountain study is not yet available. A great
mountain range is like a great public character, there is much more
to it than is presented to the observation, and it is not open to
familiarity. But if one could fly high and wide over its cloud-lifting
summits, one might learn something of its private relations.

From such a vantage it would instantly appear how distinct are the
Nevadas (_nieve_, snowy) among the Sierras of California. A very
Bonaparte of mountains, new-born and lording it over the ancient
ranges, not content with its vast empery but swinging north into the
unpre-empted icy regions. San Bernardino and San Jacinto are as far
from it as the Faubourg St. Germain from an island in the sea. Sierra
Madre is of the Coast Range; Shasta a fire-hole, a revolutionist; the
true Sierra is the midriff of a continent. From its northern extremity
one sees the sun in a circle and the Northern Lights; that portion of
it we know as Sierra Nevada swings into the state above Honey Lake,
and ends southward in a tumble of blunt peaks below Kern River. This
is quite enough, however, for Californians to make free with, and more
than they can appreciate.

Geographically the range begins on the south at Tehachapi, but at
Walker's Pass, a day's journey to the north, is the first appearance
of its most salient characteristic, the great Sierra Fault. In its
youth the range suffered incredible cataclysms. For two hundred
miles the great eastern plain dropped; weighted as it was with its
withered aristocracy of hills--how weazened and old you can see to
this day--it tore sharply downward, and the depth of that fall from
the heaven-affronting peak of Whitney to the desert valley of Inyo is
a matter of two miles of sheer descent.

The whole Sierra along the line of faultage has the contour of a
wave about to break. It swings up in long water-shaped lines from
the valley of the San Joaquin, and rears its jagged crest above the
abrupt desert shore. Seen from close under, some of these two- and
three-thousand-foot precipices have the pitch of toppling waters. As
they rose new-riven from the earth their proportions must have been
more than terrifying.

Later the Ice Age bore downward from the north, and through
immeasurable years carved the fractured granite into shapes of enduring
beauty. It rounded the great jutting fronts, it insured them against
the tooth of time with the keen icy polish with which they shine
still against the morning. It gouged narrow wall-sided cañons, cut the
course of rivers, and sinking like a graver's tool into the heart of
the range, scooped out deep wells of pleasantness. Afterward, when the
ice was old, it must have moved more slowly, for the lines it left,
retreating northward, are more flowing, the hill-crowns rounder. And
then the mountain was besieged with trees. They stormed it, scaled its
free precipices; you can see by the thick mould of the valleys what
ranks and ranks of them went down, and along the snow-line how by the
persistence of assault they are bent and contorted.

This is the whole effect of the sombre swathes of pine that mask the
Sierra slopes. They march along the water-courses, they climb up sheer
precipices in staggering files, trooping in the passes; across the
smooth meadow spaces they lock arms, they await the word of command.
By a very little observation they are seen to be ranged in orderly
companies. Here a warm current of air travelling steadily from the
superheated valleys carries the life zone higher, there a defiant
bony ridge drops it a few thousand feet, but the relative arrangement
of species does not greatly vary. The broad oaks, like reverend
grandsires, from the foothills see the procession go by, they follow
as far as the gates of the mountain, crutched and bowed. All the lower
cañons are full of a rabble of deciduous trees, chinquapins, scrub oak,
madroño, full of gay camp-followers, lilac, dogwood, azaleas, strumpet
penstemons, flaunting lupins, monk's-hood, columbine.

  [Illustration: YOSEMITE FALLS]

The grey nut pine, wide-branched, unwarlike but serviceable, opens
the ranks of conifers. Then the long-leaved pines begin, _ponderoso_,
_Coulteri_, and the slender, arrowy, fire-resisting _attenuata_. On the
western slope, increasing as they go northward, the redwood holds all
the open country, but it is no climber like _monticola_, the largest
of all true pines, the captain of the Sierra forests. The firs usurp
the water-borders and the low moraines; clannish, incommunicable, they
seem not to find it worth while to grow unless they grow stately. Above
all these range the thin-barked pines, the lodgepole, Douglas spruce,
librocedrus, and hardy junipers in windy passes. About the meadows and
lake-borders the quaking asps push like children between the knees
along the line; and highest, most persistent, the creeping-limbed,
wind-depressed white-barked pine, under whose matted boughs the wild
sheep bed.

The trees have each their own voice--a degree of flexibility or length
of needles upon which the wind harps to produce its characteristic
note. The traveller in the dark of mountain nights knows his way among
them as by the street cries of his own city. The creaking of the firs,
the sough of the long-leaved pines, the whispering whistle of the
lodgepole pine, the delicate frou-frou of the redwoods in a wind, these
come out for him in the darkness with the night scent of moth-haunted
flowers. But there is one tree that for the footer of the mountain
trails is voiceless; it speaks no doubt, but it speaks only to the
austere mountain-heads, to the mindful winds and the watching stars.
It speaks as men speak to one another and are not heard by the little
ants crawling over their boots. This is the "big tree," the sequoia. In
something less than a score of forest patches about the rim of the Twin
Valleys, the sequoia abides, out of some possible preglacial period,
out of some past of which nothing is left to us but the fading memory
of the "giants in those days." The age of individual big trees can
be computed in terms of human history. There are evidences written in
the rings of these that they endured the drouth which made the famine
in the days of Ahab the king, against which Elijah prayed. These are
growing trees whose seeds are fertile.

One might make a very dramatic collocation of the rise and fall of
empires against the life period of a single sequoia, and that would
be easier than to transcribe by mere phrases the impression of one
of these green towers of silence on the sense. Single and deeply
corrugated as a Corinthian column, with only a lightly-branched crown
for a capital, they spire for five thousand years or so, and then the
leaf-crown becomes rounded to a dome in which the winds breed. Warm
days of Spring, their young nestling zephyrs come fluttering down the
deep wells of shade to shake the saplings of a hundred years. In Summer
the fine-leafed foliage catches the sun like spray, diffusing vaporous
blueness; but the majesty of their gigantic trunks is incommunicable.
After a while the stifling sense of awe breaks before it, and you go
on with your small affairs as children will go on playing even in the
royal presence.

  [Illustration: BLUE LAKE, LAKE COUNTY]

The name _Sequoia_ is one of the few cheering notes among our habitual
botanical stupidities--an attempt to express quality as it is humanly
measured in a name. There was once an American Cadmus, Sequoyah, a
Cherokee who invented an Indian alphabet and taught his tribe to read.
Seeing them outnumbered in their own territory, he started west with
the idea of founding a great Indian empire. He was last seen trailing
north across the desert and was heard of no more. Tradition has it that
he reached the forest of the upper Kern River and gave the trees his
name. At least no botanist with his nose in a book has usurped it.

Forests are for cover. They mask not only the naked rock, but the paths
of deer and bear and bighorn. Under the spire-pointed ranks of conifers
that look so black from above, verging to blueness, a world of furtive
folk goes on. A world of birds is in its branches, squirrels nimble
as sparrows, but scarcely anything of this is visible to the watcher
on the heights. Rabbits playing on your lawn would be more noticeable
in proportion than the seldom-seen bighorn leading his light-footed
young from ledge to rocky ledge. The jealous trees cover the trails and
obscure the passes.

As you come up through them you observe the flat, soddy spaces of
old lake basins, green as jewels, and the hanging meadows gay with
cascades of flowers, the stream tangles, the new-made moraines bright
with bindweed and sulphur-flower. But from the heights all this lovely
detail is hidden by the overlapping tents of boughs. Here and there a
stream leaps forth at the falls like a sword from a green scabbard,
or higher up, may be traced as the silver wire on which are strung
unrippled lakes as blue as cobalt. Great chains of such lakes lead down
from the snow-line to the foothill borders, encroached upon by the
silent ranks of trees. As they go down they show soddy borders, they
tend to fill and to grow meadows where presently deep-rooting trees
assume their stations. This is the strategic rule for the taking of a
granite mountain. First the grinding ice and the disintegrating water;
what the streams wash down collects in the glacier-ploughed basins. It
makes lake borders by which the grass comes in--the small grass that
is mightier than mountains, that eats them for its food. Lakes at the
lower levels become meadows, then trees arrive; they overrun the soddy
ground, the snow-manured moraines. The trees themselves take centuries
to fruition. At a later stage men dispossess the forest and build
cities, but this has not yet come to the Sierras. There is something
indomitable in the will of the trees to spread and climb. In the floor
of Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy there are hundred-year-old oaks of full
form and generous growth, and on the slopes above them the same oaks
and of almost the same age are so dwarfed by drouth and altitude that
they are not knee-high to a man, but they keep the due proportions of
their type. A white bark pine will climb where the weight of the winter
drifts is so heavy that it is never able to lift its decumbent trunk
from the ground, clinging like ivy to the wall in which it roots.

In the Spring the rich florescence of the conifers sheds pollen in
drifts that, carried down the melting water, warn the sheep-herder and
the orchardist a hundred miles away of the advancing season. A pine
forest in flower is one of the things worth seeing which is most seldom
seen, for at its best the high passes are still choked by snow, the
lakes ice-locked, the trails dangerous. And then the blossoms, yellow
and crimson tassels and rosy spathes, are carried on the leafy crowns
high over the heads of the most adventurous foresters. What one finds,
as late as the end of June when the trails are open, is a stain of
pollen on the lingering snow, and great clouds of it flying wherever a
bough is brushed by a light wing. In the autumn the whole wood is full
of the click and glint of the winged seeds. Storms of them, like clouds
of locusts, are carried past on the wind, to be dropped in the nearest
clearing or to find a chance lodging in a moss-lined crevice of the
weathered headlands.


But from the heights, all feeling for the process of the forest is
lost in the sense of its irresistible march--it creeps and winds, it
waits darkly for the word. Above the tree-line no sound ascends but a
faint vibration, the body of sound making itself felt in the silence.
On windless days the forest lies black like weed at the bottom of a
lake of air as clear as a vacuum. When the great wind rivers pour about
the peaks, it can be seen lashing like weed in the currents, but still
almost soundlessly--the roar of it passes down the cañons, and is heard
in the cities of the plain. But if the peaks cannot hear what the trees
are plotting about, it is not so with the voices of the water. These
are sharper, more definitive; they rise re-echoing from the rocky walls
and are recognisable each by its distinctive note at incredible heights
of the sheer, glassy, granite frontlets.

In the glacial valleys, such as Yosemite, Tehipite, and Hetch Hetchy,
where young rivers drop from the headlands in long streaming falls,
the noise of them contending with the wind makes mimic thunder. Immense
curtains of falling water are tossed this way and that, they are caught
up and suspended in mid-air, and let fall crashing to the lower levels.
When the wind blows straight up the cañon they will rear against it,
and leap out a shining arc, shattering in mid-air like bursting bombs
of spray. But later in the season, when the streams are heavy with the
melting snows, the wind itself is shattered by the weight of falling
water--it exhausts itself in obscuring clouds of silver dust. When from
Whitney or Williamson or King's Mountain you can see half-a-hundred
such young rivers roaring to the morning, it is as beautiful and as
terrifying as the sight of youth to timorous age. They go leaping with
their shining shields, and their shouting shakes the rocks. Neither
you nor they believe that the most and the best they will come to is an
irrigating canal between sober rows of prunes and barley.

Higher than the forests, or the waters rising out of them, is the
_Py-weack_, the Land of Shining Rocks. They shine with glacier polish;
horses on the high trails sniff suspiciously at their glittering
surfaces. Time can lay slight hold on them by thunder, by frost, and
the little grey moss; it has not yet subdued the front of Oppapago.
Here between snowless ribs and buttresses are the shrunken glaciers
that feed the streams, little toy models of the ancient rivers of ice.
The snowfields of the Sierras are not so inconsiderable as they seem:
they are dwarfed by the precipices among which they hide. Inaccessible
to ordinary mountain travel, they make their best showing from the
surrounding plains, where, lifted in the middle air, they glow with
ethereal whiteness. Close by they display a bewildering waste of broken
ice, boulders, and crevasses, made bleaker by the cobalt shadows.


North the line of peaks stretches, broken by the passes that give
access to the west. Between them, above the source of streams, in the
ice-gouged hollows, lie unfathomable waters that take all their life
from the sky. Or perhaps they are reservoirs from which the sky is
made, fluid jade and azulite and hyacinth and chrysoprase, as if the
skies of many days had run their colours in those bleak bowls. For at
this altitude the wave contour of the range comes out most sharply; the
sky is strangely deep and darker, as if through its translucence one
glimpsed the void of space. One sees the moon and the planets wandering
there with pale lamps held aloft.

No life of any sort is visible from here. Farther down toward the
coast, over the forested moraines, the condor may be seen leaning
against the wind at sunrise. On the edge of the abysmal cañons eagles
make their nests and go dropping down the shadowy depths to seek their
food from God, but they do not rise to these stark heights. Sometimes
a clanging horde of water-fowl, beating up from the Gulf of California
overland to the Canadian marshes, will grow bewildered in the face of
the great wall-sided cliffs; circling they attempt the forward flight,
only to circle and rise anew, until, wing-weary in that thin air, they
sink exhausted to the margin of a mountain lake, satisfied at last to
thread their way humbly along the creek-beds to open country.

The live forces of the High Sierra are the forces of wind and light.
One feels the push of tremendous currents flowing between the peaks
as among rocky islands. Day by day they may be charted by the cloud
fragments floating on them, by the banners of dry snow dust, streaming
out like long grass from the island shores. Thundering fleets of cumuli
drift up the wind rivers and assault the great domes of Whitney and
Oppapago. The light breaks through all the varying cloud strata, and
colours them with splendour; the glow of the clouds reflected on the
snow is caught by the watchful mountain-lover far down the valleys of
Inyo and San Joaquin. This painted hour of sunset is the apotheosis of
mountains, but for me it has less of majesty than the morning after
deep snows. These come usually early in the season. The air for days
will be full of the formless stir, then the range withdraws itself
behind a veil which closes from tented peak to peak, and includes
sometimes the parallel desert ranges which lie along its eastern coast.
Twenty feet will fall in a single session of the white gods behind the
veil. Then comes a morning blue and sharp as a spear-thrust. Every tree
is like an arrow feathered in green and white. Airy bridges built upon
the bending stems shut in the water-courses; the moraines are smooth
and soft as the backs of huddled sheep. By night the range shows from
the valley as a procession of winged figures holding the snows upon
their bosoms. And that, after all, is the business of mountains. The
western front of the Sierra Nevada, which receives the full force of
the Pacific storms, is rewarded with the stateliest forests. Before
those extended snowy mountain arms lie the great Twin Valleys; behind
them stretches the illimitable sage-brush country, the backyard of the

  [Illustration: VALLEY OF THE YOSEMITE]

"Sage-brush country" is one of those local terms that stand for a type
of landscape as distinctive as the moors of England and the campagna
of Italy. It means first of all, open country, great space of sky,
what the inhabitants of it call "eye-reach," treeless except for a few
cotton-woods and willows along the sink of intermittent streams, and
stippled with low shrubs of artemesia. This is the true "sage-brush,"
though it is no sage, the sacred bush of Diana, _Artemisia tridentata_.
It may grow in favoured districts man-high, but ordinarily not more
than two or three feet in the arid regions which it haunts. Other
social shrubs will be found pre-empting miles of the territory to
which the artemesia gives its name, _coleogeny_, _pursia_, _dalia_,
"creosote," but none other gives it the distinctive feature, the web of
pale, silky sage-green against the sun-burned sand.

Other items of the sage-brush landscape are so constant that they
are immediately suggested by it: mountains hanging on the horizon in
opalescent haze, low flowing lines of hills overlaid by old lava-flows,
the "black rock" simulating cloud shadows on the distant ranges, dry
red cones of ancient volcanic ash, and great flat table-topped "buttes"
of the painted desert.

White-crested ranges on the one hand and buttes on the other mark the
limits of the sage; for where snow-caps are, there are trees, and where
the buttes begin the cactus and the palo verde reign.

A sage-brush country is a cattle country primarily; perhaps there may
be mines; where there is water to be stored for irrigation there will
be towns, but the virtue of the sage is that it grows in lands that
man, at least, has found no other use for.

It can thrive on an allowance of water that will support no larger
thing than a chipmunk or a lizard, and, growing, feeds the cattle
on a thousand hills. Therefore it is indispensable to any picture of
the sage-brush country that there should be herds at large in it and
vaqueros riding, or far down the bleached valley the dust of a rodeo
rising. It is impossible to think of such a land and not think of these
things, free life, and air as clear and vibrant with vitality as a
bell. I can never think of it myself without seeing, in addition, the
vultures making a merry-go-round over Panamint, and up from Coso the
creaking line of a twenty-mule team.

The sage-brush country of California begins properly at the foot of
the Sierras where the state-line sheers east by south from Lake Tahoe.
It covers the high valleys that divide the true Sierra from the older,
lesser ranges that keep it company as far south as Olancha. Below
Mono Lake, that part of the gold region made immortal by Mark Twain,
it gives to the chrome- and ochre-tinted soil its distinguishing
characteristic. From the long arm of Death Valley it begins to be
encroached upon by the mesquite, and at Indian Wells it is driven close
under the lee of the last Sierra. The range of which San Bernardino
and San Jacinto are outposts carries the artemisia farther desertward,
almost to the Colorado River in fact, and south again about the Salton
Sea it holds its own with sahuro and palo verde. Its eastern border,
like that of the wild tribes along the Mojave line, is lost in pure
desertness. Formerly much of that country from San Bernardino to
the sea was native to the sage, and all the southern end of the San
Joaquin. But now all this is replaced with orchards, for the artemisia
proves nothing so much of the soil on which it grows as that, given a
due allowance of water, it is as desirable for other things.

  [Illustration: THE HALF DOME, YOSEMITE]

All this country which I have described to you has so recently been sea
that the mark of its old beach-line is plainly to be traced along the
east Sierra wall. Still the evaporating water leaves vast deposits of
salt and alkali, blinking white in the sink of Death Valley. There are
lakes there still where the salt crusts over hard and clear like ice,
and deep thick puddles of bitter minerals, the lees of that ancient
inland ocean. From the top of any of the denuded desert ranges it is
possible to trace the winding bays and estuaries, and, with an eye for
location, to choose the points at which one may fairly expect to find
potsherds, amulets, fire-blackened hearthstones, and the middens of a
nameless people who built their primitive towns along its beaches. It
must have had much to recommend it in those days before the sage-brush
took it, for this inland sea, rather than the more mountainous Pacific
shore, was the route taken by the ancient migratory peoples who left
their undecipherable signs scored into the rocks from the Aztec country
to the Arctic. On isolated igneous rocks near their old encampments,
and high on the walls of the box canons, such as might have been
tide-rifts, high above any mechanical contrivance of the present-day
Indians, the records resist equally the shifts of sea and sand and the
efforts of modern science to read them.

Whether the ghosts of the departed peoples ever revisit the ancient
beaches, the ghosts of waters haunt there daily. Morning and
mid-afternoon the rivers of mirage arise; they well out of the past
and are poured trembling on the plain; phantom fogs blow across them,
wraiths of trees grow up and are reflected in false streams. Often
in very early light there are strange suggestions of----dunes and
boulders perhaps? Only no boulders in that country are flat-topped like
the houses built in lands of the sun, and no dunes are wall-sided.
Mirage, we are told, is but a picture of distant things, mirrored on
atmospheric planes, but then maybe a ghost is only a mirage deflected
on our atmosphere from worlds outside our ken, and it is always easy
in the desert to see things that you cannot possibly believe. Whatever
they are, mirages are real to the eye. I mean that they are not to
be winked away nor dissipated by contact. I have watched a vaquero
ride into one of them and drown to all appearances, or seem to be
swimming his horse across its billows, all of him below its surface as
completely hidden as by rivers of water. Moreover, mirages tend always
to occur under given conditions and in the same places. I recall one
of the stations on the old Mojave stage road, which, approached from
the north about an hour after sunrise, would instantly duplicate: two
houses, two lines of poplars, two high corrals.

  [Illustration: SHASTA--SNOW CLOUDS]

Occasionally along the edge of the sage-brush country one may see that
surpassing wonder, the moon mirage, poured like quicksilver along the
narrow valleys, as if the thirsty land had dreamed of water.

It is odd how this suggestion of sea and river clings to a country
where there is nothing harder to come by than good water to drink.
For any other purpose it is not to be thought of. After one of those
terrible wind storms, the only really incommoding desert weather, it is
possible to find great spaces all rippled and lined in water-markings
like a sea that has suddenly undergone a magic transformation into
sand. The contours of the desert ranges are billowy; they rise out
of the plain like the grey-backed breakers of open sea. The valleys
between are narrow and trough-like; the shores of them are lined with
crawling dunes that, under the steady pressure of wind currents, are
for ever sliding up their own peaks and down the other side, changing
place without ever once losing the long slope to windward and the
abrupt landward fall of waves.

Another item which adds to the suggestion of the illimitable spread
of sage-brush country, like the sea, is the way the sparse forests
of the mountain-tops appear to be islanded by it. For the sage-brush
extends on across the Great Basin, it stretches into Montana and
south to Arizona and New Mexico, it works about the lower end of the
Rocky Mountains and well into the great central plain. The ranges
lie thick in it as ocean swells, as I have said, and stepping from
crest to crest has come the fox-tail pine, _Pinus flexilis_, all the
way from Humboldt Mountain to San Jacinto. A sinewy, thinly-branched
species, as straight-backed as an Indian, it has little affinity for
its noble congeners of the Sierra forests, but keeps to the dry and
open ridges, nourished by clouds and by infrequent shallow snows. With
it, but at lower levels to which the _flexilis_ will never come, is
found frequently the one-leaved piñon pine, the food-crop of the wild
tribes. But the piñon is a pushing sort, it establishes itself upon the
slightest invitation.

There is a story told in the desert of how this grey, round-headed tree
was once a very great _capitan_, who, in order that his death might be
as beneficent to his people as his life had been, was changed into the
foodful pine. Whether the legend is true or not, certain it is that
if you sit down by a piñon, wherever found, and stay long enough, you
will see Indians. They might come in the Spring looking for _taboose_,
or later for willows and grasses for basketry, for seeds of sunflower
and chia, to shoot doves by the water-holes or to hunt chuckwallas. A
chuckwalla is a lizard, a kind of dragon in miniature, barred black and
white, and as offensive to look at as he is harmless, in fact very good
eating and not too plentiful. Mojaves, Shoshones, Paiutes, Pimas, all
the tribes of the sage-brush country, have this in common, that they
live very close to the earth; roots, seeds, reptiles, thick pads of
the cholla cactus, even the grass of the field, serve them. They look,
indeed, as though they had been made of the earth on the very spot that
produced them, of the black rock, the brown sand, and the dark water
that collects in polished basins of the wind-denuded ranges.

Very little rain gets past the heaven-raking crest of the Sierra Nevada
into the sage-brush country; the most that falls is blown up from the
Gulf of California along the draw created by the close, parallel desert
ranges. It is precipitated usually under atmospheric conditions that
produce violent drops and changes. All that the traveller is likely to
find of it is in these rock reservoirs under the run-off of some bare
granite cliff, or in the rare, persistent "water-holes" hollowed out by
beasts or men, marked in the landscape by one lone tree perhaps, or a
clump of shrubby willows. Often there will be no mark at all except the
frequency along the trail of skeleton cattle or wild sheep, pointing
all in one direction, as they died on their way to the far-between
drinking-places. There are districts in this back-door country where
evaporation from the body is so rapid that death overtakes the chance
prospector even with water in sight or in his canteen across his back.
For years a notorious outlaw protected himself in the Death Valley
region, by filling in all the springs in a circle about the territory
to which he had retreated. Beyond that waterless rim even the law could
not penetrate.

And yet how the land repays the slightest moisture! Years when the
Kuro-Siwa swings closer to our coast and the winds are friendly,
I have seen all that country, from Tehachapi, outside the wall, to
San Gorgiono, one sheet of blue and gold. Seeds of a hundred tender
annuals lie in the loose sands for years between the shrubby sage,
their vitality unimpaired by the delayed resurrection of a chance wet
spring. Often I have sifted the sand in my fingers looking for a sign
of the life-giving principle which bursts so suddenly into beauty,
without finding it. Yet after years in which there is no alteration
in the aspect of the country, except the insensible change of the sage
tints from grey to green and grey again, the miracle takes place, the
blossomy wonder is upon the world.

As a matter of fact, the sage-brush country is by no means the desert
that it looks to the casual eye. Besides the social shrubs which have
each their own blossom and seed time, even the driest years will
afford a few blooms of crimson mallow, and in the shelter of every
considerable shrub some dwarfed and delicate phacelia or nemophilia.
Even out of dunes which bury its hundred old trunks to the new season's
twigs, the mesquite will bear its sweet foodful pods. If you know at
what hours to look for it, wild life is never absent, but it is not
ordinarily to be found by white men blundering about in broad noon.

It is only when you meet, in the midst of great open valleys wherein
there is nothing growing higher than the knees of your horse, and
nothing moving bigger than the little horned toad under the cactus
bush, bands of Indians well fed, cushiony with fat of mesquite meal and
chia, that you understand how little you know of the land in which you

There is a Paiute proverb to the effect that no man should attempt the
country east of the Sierras until he has learned to sleep in the shade
of his arrows. This is a picturesque way of saying that he must be able
to reduce his wants to the limit of necessity. Those who have been able
to do so, and have trusted the land to repay them, have discovered that
the measure is over-full.

A man may not find wealth there, nor too much of food even, but he
often finds himself, which is much more important.


_The illustrations are indexed in italics._

     Alcatraz, 112

     Alviso, 112

     Angels, 138

     Antioch, 112, 119

     Arbolado, 84

     "Arroya," definition of, 30

     Bakersfield, 129, 132, 133

     Berkeley Hills, 108, 114

     _Blue Lake, Lake County_, 155

     Buena Vista, 122

     Cabrillo, 49, 108

     Cahuenga, 47, 48, 67

     Calaveras, 139

     Camulas, 41

     _Cañon in the Sierra Madres_, 49

     Carmel, 74, 77, 80, 83

     Carmel River, 76

     Carmel Valley, 78

     Carquinez, 112

     Carquinez Strait, 107, 119

     _Castle Crag, Rattlesnake Cañon_, 136

     Castro, 66

     Catalina, 49

     _Cemetery, The, Santa Barbara Mission_, 56

     Cession of California from Mexico, 48

     _Clear Lake, Lake County_, 134

     "Coasts of Adventure, The," 47-60

     Colorado River, 166

     Contra Costa, 117

     Coronado, 23

     Coronel, Don Antonio, 48

     Corta Madero, 116

     Coso, 165

     Coulterville, 139

     _Cypress Point, near Carmel_, 75

     Death Valley, 166, 172

     _Donner Lake_, 142

     Donner Lake, 140

     Drake, Sir Francis, 9, 43, 108

     Eagle Rock, 47

     Emigrant Gap, 140

     _Eucalyptus Grove, A_, 33

     Exeter, 135

     Faralones, The, 113

     Farmington, 139

     Fort Point, 67

     Francis of Assisi, 10, 108

     Franciscan "Frailes," 9, 12

     Frémont, 66

     Fresno, 135

     Fuca, Juan de, 108

     _Glendale, Valley of the San Gabriel_, 40

     Golden Gate, 107

     _Golden Gate and Black Point_, 107

     Gulf of California, 161, 171

     _Half Dome, The, Yosemite_, 166

     Hamlin, Jack, 137

     Harte, Bret, 137, 138

     Hetch Hetchy Valley, 159

     "High Sierras and the Sage-Brush Country, The" 149-174

     Hôtel Del Monte, 76

     Humboldt Mountain, 170

     Indian Wells, 166

     Inyo Valley, 162

     Jackass Hill, 139

     Jimtown, 139

     Jumping Frog, the, 139

     Kaweah Mountain, 133

     Kaweah River, 129

     Kern River, 129, 132, 134, 155

     King's Mountain, 159

     King's River, 129

     King's River Cañon, 137

     Klamath River, 143

     Kuro-Siwa Current, 49, 172

     Laboratory Point, 68

     Lake Mono, 165

     Lake Tahoe, 165

     _Lake Tahoe_, 158

     "Land of the Little Duck, The," 107-124

     _Laurel Lake, Upper Sacramento_, 145

     Lindsay, 135

     _Looking down on Monterey and the Bay_, 65

     Lopez, Francisco, 47

     Los Angeles, 29, 35

     Los Angeles River, 30

     _McCloud River_, 139

     Madera, 135

     Maldonado, 108

     Mare Island, 116

     Mendocino Country, 141

     Merced River, 129, 135

     _Mill Valley_, 113

     _Mirror Lake, Yosemite_, 129

     Mission Dolores, 108

     Mission Point, 69, 81

     Mission River, 17

     Mission of San Carlos Borromeo, 76, 78

     Mission San Fernando, 47

     Missions, ruins of, 19

     Mokelumne River, 140

     Monterey, 11, 18, 35, 55, 60

     "Monterey, the Port of," 63-84

     Monterey Cypress, 72

     "Mothering Mountains," 27-24

     Mount Oppapago, 160, 162

     Mount Shasta, 5, 143, 150

     _Mount Shasta_, 161

     Mount Whitney, 6, 137, 150, 159, 162

     Mount Williamson, 159

     Napa, 118

     Noriega's, 134

     Olancha, 165

     "Old Spanish Gardens," 87-103

     Pacific Grove, 75

     Padre Jayme Bravo, 7, 17, 18

     Padre Lausan, 66

     Padre Serra (Junipero Serra), 11, 76, 78

     Paiute Indians, 96

     Pajaro, 54, 93

     Pajaro river, 64

     Pala, 19

     "Palatingwas," 20

     Palo Corona, 80

     Panamint, 165

     Pasadena, 34

     Paso Robles, 56

     _Patio, The, Old Spanish Residence_, 88

     _Pescadero, Monterey Bay_, 72

     Pieoras Blancos, 83

     Point Conception, 67

     Point Lobos, 71, 81, 84

     Point of Pines, 67

     Point Pinos, 70, 81

     Point Sur, 70

     Portersville, 135

     Portola, Don Gaspar de, 11, 55, 93, 108

     _Redlands_, 16

     _Redwoods_, 131

     "Rio," A, 30

     Riverside, 33, 39

     Sacramento, 112, 123

     Sacramento River, 107, 127, 135, 140

     "Sage-Brush country," meaning of term, 163

     Salinas, 83

     Salinas River, 64

     Salton Sea, 166

     Sausalito, 116

     San Antonio, 57

     "San Antonio," the, 10

     San Bernardino, 7, 33, 39, 149, 166

     San Carlos, 79

     San Clemente, 48

     San Diego, 22, 78

     San Diego, Bay of, 9

     _San Diego, looking towards Point Loma_, 9

     San Emigdio, 128

     San Fernando, 41, 128

     San Francisco, 67, 107, 108, 110

     San Francisco, Bay of, 112

     San Gabriel, 36

     San Gabriel Valley, 27, 33, 40

     San Gorgiono, 41, 172

     San Gorgiono, Pass of, 6

     San Jacinto, 5, 27, 149, 166, 170

     San Joaquin, 128, 132, 139, 166

     San Joaquin River, 107, 112, 123, 127, 129, 130, 140, 150

     San Joaquin Valley, 162

     San Jose, Señor, 10

     San Juan, 83

     San Juan Bautista, 65, 66

     San Juan Capistrano, 18, 48, 50

     San Luis Rey, 19

     San Pablo, 112

     San Pablo Bay, 116

     San Quentin, 116

     San Raphael, 116, 118

     Santa Barbara, 58

     Santa Catalina, 48

     Santa Clara, 54

     Santa Cruz Coast, 74

     Santa Cruz Mountains, 55, 64

     _Santa Cruz Mountains, the Coast Range_, 78

     Santa Inez, 48, 58

     Santa Margarita, 56

     Santa Rosa, 48

     Sequoia, origin of name, 155

     _Shasta--Snow Clouds_, 168

     Sierra Madre, 27, 28, 37, 40, 42, 44, 149

     Sierra Nevada, 128, 163, 171

     Sierra Nevada, origin of name, 149

     Sierras, the, 4

     Solano, 78

     Sonoma, 107, 118, 144

     Sonoma County, 92

     Sonora, 138, 140

     "Sparrow-Hawk's Own, The," 3-23

     Squaw Creek, 139

     Stanislaus River, 137

     Stockton, 123

     Suisun, 112, 119

     Sur, 80, 83

     _Sycamores, a Coast Range Cañon_, 59

     Table Mountain, 138

     _Tall Chaparral, Santa Cruz_, 62

     Tamalpias, Mount, 109

     _Tamalpias_, 110

     Tasajara, 83

     Tehachapi, 128, 150, 172

     Tehipite Valley, 159

     Tejon, 129

     Tejon Pass, 89, 128, 132

     Temblors, The, 128, 133

     _"Three Brothers, The," Yosemite_--_Frontispiece_

     Tiburon, 112, 116

     Trinity River, 143

     Truthful James, 138

     Tulare, the, 120

     Tule River, 129

     Tuolumne River, 129

     Turlock, 139

     Twain, Mark, 138, 139, 165

     "Twin Valleys, The," 127-146

     _Valley of the Yosemite_, 163

     Visalia, 129

     Viscaino, Sebastian, 9, 63, 76, 108

     _Waiting for Duck--Los Baños_, 120

     Walker's Pass, 150

     Warner's Ranch, 20

     Yerba Buena, 108

     _Yosemite Falls_, 152

     Yosemite Valley, 135, 137, 157, 159


_Printed by_ R. & R. Clark, Limited, _Edinburgh_.


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