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and have to travel by stage for about a hundred miles more into the valley. It was my first experience of a vehicle peculiar to America, called a compound concord-coach. It resembles a large post-chaise, or funeral carriage, accommodating three passengers on each seat. A padded bench moves up and down by a hinge in the middle, and seats three more. The interior thus holds nine persons, packed tightly together. Three or four more on the roof complete the load. The road was so rough, the pace so severe, the springs of the coach so inflexible, that we had to cling firmly to leathern straps, provided for the purpose, to keep our seats at all. In spite of all
spite of all my efforts, I was more than once pitched up to the roof, as we bumped against a boulder, or dropped into a hole; and I completed my first day's journey, a distance of sixty-eight miles, bruised from head to foot.
In approaching Merced, we pass through five thousand acres of wheat without a fence or division of any kind. On leaving it, the road runs for twelve miles through another unbroken field of wheat, which stretches as far as the eye can reach on either side. A pastoral region is then traversed, where flocks and herds roam at large over the prairie. To this succeeds a broken and mountainous country, but which, judging from its profuse natural vegetation, only needs cultivation become a district of extraordinary fertility. The gullies and hill-sides are gay with flowers of brilliant colours and exquisite fragrance. At present, however, it is almost entirely unsettled.
Observing the bark of many of the trees to be riddled with innumerable holes, as though they had been the mark of rifle-shots, I asked an explanation, and was assured that it was the work of woodpeckers, who bore these holes, and stuff them full of acorns for a winter supply of food. An examination of one of the trees seemed to confirm this.
As we continue to ascend, the vegetation changes in its character. Azaleas begin to take the place of the buck-eye, arbutus, snow-bright, and other flowering shrubs of the lower regions. The oak, live oak, black walnut, and other trees of the plains give way to magnificent forests of pine, redwood, and cedar. Then the great mining region of Mariposa, opened up by General Fremont, is entered and passed. The scenery grows grander and wilder. Majestic mountain forms loom up from the horizon. The peaks of the higher Sierras cut the sky with their keen sharp outlines. The road skirts the edge of awful ravines, where the slightest deviation from the trail would be certain destruction. I left the inside of the coach, and mounted to the seat beside the driver, partly to stretch my cramped limbs, partly to enjoy the scenery. Our driver was dashing on at a reckless speed, not unfrequently putting his horses to a gallop. Every now and then he said to me, “Hold on, stranger; there's an ugly hole round the next corner.” More than once, when we had bumped against a big boulder with more than usual violence, which threatened to pitch me into the gulf below, he half soliloquised, half apologised, “Guess I knowed that 'ar stone, but I forgot it.” At length, after thirteen hours of this travelling, we reached Clark's Ranch, coated and choked with dust, black and blue with bruises, and heartily thankful to have accomplished this part of our journey with safety.
At sunrise, next day, I started on horseback, with a guide, to visit the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees, which stands about ten miles from our halting-place for the night. The road led through a vast forest, with a dense undergrowth of flowering shrubs, which made the air heavy with their fragrance. The pines and redwood, which have been increasing in size ever since we left the plain, now assume gigantic proportions. Again and again, as I approached some forest giant, I asked, " Is that one of the big trees?" But it was only a redwood, attaining not more than the contemptible height of two hundred feet. At length, the grove was reached, and all that I had heard of these monarchs of the forest fell short of the reality. For their size I was prepared; but their beauty took me by surprise. The lines of the trunk reminded me of those of the modern lighthousesa broad base, from which rises an exquisitely tapering shaft, perfectly smooth and straight, to a height of two hundred, or two hundred and fifty feet, when a vast crown of branches is thrown out, many of which are as big as an ordinary tree. Unlike the redwood, to which they are allied, they only grow in detached clumps or groves. Their habitat is on terraces varying from five thousand to seven thousand feet above the level of the sea. Nine of these groves are known, of which two at Mariposa and one at Calaveras are the most frequently visited. The general average of the Mariposa groves is the highest, but the largest individual trees are found at Calaveras, which may be visited on the return journey from the Yosemite, following the Coulterville trail.
The scientific name by which these trees have been known in England is Wellingtonia gigantea. This, however, seems to have been given in mistake, under the erroneous idea that they formed a new species. Really they are a variety of the redwood, or Sequoia, which grows abundantly and attains an immense height on the mountain ranges of California. “It is to the happy accident of the generic agreement of the Big Tree with the redwood," says the author of the Geological Survey of California, "that we are not now obliged to call the largest and most interesting tree of America after an English military hero; had it been an English botanist of the highest reputation, the dose would not have been so unpalatable. ... The name now stands as Sequoia gigantea.”
The most important of the trees are named and numbered, -the Mother of the Forest, The Three Graces, Maid of Honour, Daniel Webster, Richard Cobden, Henry Ward Beecher, and so on. One which has fallen, and lies pointing to the south, is called after Andrew Johnson, the late ex-president of the United States, on account "of his southern
proclivities.” The tallest tree actually measured is the Keystone State, in the Calaveras Grove, which is three hundred and twenty-five feet high. One tree, numbered three hundred and thirty in the Mariposa Grove, was originally over hundred feet in circuinference at the base. A calculation of the age of the trees, by counting the annual rings, was made by the Geological Survey. Having selected one which was deemed suitable for the purpose, it was felled by means of augurs and wedges, a task which occupied five men for twenty-two days. The stump, at six feet above the ground, had a circumference of about ninety feet. A very careful counting of the rings gave its probable age as one thousand three hundred years. As this tree was in full vigour, it may be fairly assumed that those which show signs of decay are much older.
Dr. S. Manning,
THE DAY IS DONE.
Falls from the wings of night,
From an eagle in his flight.
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
That my soul cannot resist :