Imatges de pÓgina




NEW persons who see the turbid full of cañons and obstacles, that it has

sluggish waters of the Sacramen- never been traversed consecutively by to in the lower part of its course know anyone who has told or left a record of that for more than 200 miles it is a the trip. Still, the cañon of Pit River bright clear dashing stream, flowing was not altogether terra incognita. At through wild and romantic scenery. some points hundreds have crossed it. For, like many large rivers, it is shorn The former town of Pittsburg, on Squaw of half its glory by being called by an- Creek, had its mining "excitement other name in the upper part of its once, and its votaries all crossed the Pit course; Pit River, rising in the very River in the cañon. In its deeply senorth-eastern corner of California, in questered nooks some half-wild White the mountains west of Surprise Valley men have long consorted with the Indicalled Warner's Range, and flowing to ans. But no one cared to pass along the the south-west for over 200 miles, being difficult precipices and jungle-like slopes the true Sacramento.

to make the long journey through the There is much of early romance con cañon. nected with this river. Cutting as it Last August, it became my duty, in does, right through the Sierra Nevada the way of business, to make a reconmountains, and coming from the east, noissance of this cañon. Knowing it to the early explorers accredited it with be impassable to such animals as horses being the continuation of the Humboldt or mules, my first plan was to take but and the outlet of Utah Lake. Under the one companion with me, in order to have name of Buenaventura, it was search- as few impediments as possible, and to ed for by Lieutenant Fremont, in his hire Indians to pack what we had on first expedition to this coast, all along their backs along the river-bank. the eastern base of the Sierra Nevada. Redding, the terminus of the Califor

The origin of the name “Pit River” is nia and Oregon Railroad, is reached in uncertain. In the Government explora- about seventeen hours from San Frantions it seems to be assumed that it was cisco, and from there the stage started named after the great English premier, with us a little after midnight on our as Mount Pitt in Oregon undoubtedly long moonlit ride. The beauty of hill was; but a general impression prevails and forest and river, by moonlight, was that it was named from the fact that the at once impressive as we emerged from early settlers found upon its banks pits the woods down on the banks of the dug by the Indians, in which to catch Sacramento at Reed's Ferry. Between grasshoppers and other game.

the dark shadowy sycamores the glitWhere the Pit River cuts through the tering river, whirling and gurgling, swept Sierra is the “cañon." This includes by without any intimation of the danthe portion from the mouth of Fall Riv- gers and hardships and death which er to the Sacramento-about a hundred awaited us along its waters. Steeped in miles by the windings of the stream. the full enjoyment of the scene, and free Though not a cañon proper through- from forebodings of evil, we lumbered out its whole extent, this portion is so through the low hills on the east bank

[ocr errors]



of the river, under the shadows of the ber, my companion, was trying to induće oaks and pines, and past the dark thick- the splashing salmon to bite at his hook, ets of manzanita — the night-wind just I went down to see the Indians in their strong enough to blow the dust away, 'camp. Crossing on the dam constructand bring that coolness and sense of ed by Mr. Stone, and following down the freshness befitting the moonlight-past river a winding trail among the sand and the gravelly flats of Buckeye, where, in bowlders for half a mile, under a group former days, miners made their "pile" of oaks I came upon the rancheria. All or lost their hopes of fortune, and where around the brush-wood was covered with still some hopeful ones struggle and toil. salmon, split open and drying in the sun. Presently the hills grow higher, and be- A circular structure of willow poles shelyond Basser's, where we changed hors- tered a group of Indians. In the forees, steep slopes of what Whitney tells us ground four "bucks" were playing cards. is carboniferous limestone overlook the Half a dozen more were sitting back of road. Through these hills we wound; these watching the game. Still farther then up steep summits, from the slopes in the background some half-dozen maof which we caught dim weird views of halas were busy at domestic occupamoonlit forests; down into dark shady tions. On approaching this little group valleys, until at last we descended the the barking of a small dog was my only longest slope of all, and found ourselves greeting, and the glances of the Indians on the banks of the Pit River at Smith's were half-averted, so that it was necesFerry.

sary for me to speak at once. The United States Fish Commission- Indians have no word of greeting, but ers' camp, four miles above on the Mc- watch a stranger, who comes up and sits Cloud River, was our destination, and down among them, in silence, until little there were the Indians we hoped to em- by little they find out his purpose and ploy. So we had another long winding where he comes from. When they get range to cross, and must descend into up to leave they say, “I am going;" another valley of shadows, before we and the answer comes, “Go.” On this could find the McCloud dashing and occasion I could not wait for all this cerroaring down below the road. Soon we emony, and so spoke up at once: saw the wbite tent and new board houses “I want to see Jim.” of the fishery slumbering in the moon- “I am Jim," said one of the cardlight, and just beyond them, towering players, in very good English. “What high in air, the spectral range of lime- you want?” stone mountains that wall in the river I looked at him a moment. A short above. The stillness of death-or its thick-set young Indian, with glittering brother, sleep-overhung the camp, and black eyes and rather a black but goodnot disturbing it, we spread our blank- looking face. “I want you to go with ets and were soon numbered among the me up Pit River." sleepers.

Immediately all eyes were turned on At the fishery next morning all was me, and Jim asked: bustle and preparation. Mr. Stone was “Are you the man Mr. Stone tell me arranging to gather double his former about?" amount of salmon-eggs. In the prose- “Yes, I am the man. Are you ready cution of my own plans I encountered to go with me?" my first difficulty. The Indians I ex- After some hesitation and talk with pected to accompany me were uncertain, the other Indians, he answered: unwilling, and taciturn. While Mr. Lie- “I can't get Indians to go."

After spending much time with them, him with me eventually to San Francisand a great deal of talk, the reasons for co had kept him faithful, but the night's their reluctance were at last elicited. reflections had given him another idea. The cañon, they said, was very rough, He would not go on unless he could and without any continuous trails. Two take his young wife, Hilda, along. In tribes of Indians occupied the cañon. this dilemma I sought advice of Doctor I was among the Wintoons. The up- Silverthorn. The doctor is one of those per half of the cañon was occupied by early pioneers who came into this counthe Pushoosh. These tribes are unable try on the flood - tide of the gold- fever, to understand each other. Long hostil- and was left stranded in one of the farity had left them still jealous of each thest nooks to which the argonauts atother's encroachments, and the hunter tained. He adapted himself to circumof either tribe that followed his quarry stances, took a daughter of the forest to into the territory of the other was him- wife, and made a home on the banks of self in danger of being made game of at Pit River. Here he established a ferry any moment. I argued that they would and built a toll-road when Pittsburg was be safe from the Pushoosh while with a thriving mining-camp. And when the me, and that, though the way was rough, camp was deserted, and that occupation we would make short journeys and get gone, he raised grapes and traded with through.

the Indians. A gray-haired and gray. At last, for the compensation of a bearded man, erect and vigorous, and dollar per day each, three of the Indi- full of stories of combats and adventures ans agreed to take my camp through, with Indians and grizzlies. The docand would be on hand at the fishery tor's dark-eyed tall young son ferried me early next morning. Early enough next over, and the doctor himself was ready morning our Indians came; our camp with an expedient. It was useless, he was ferried over the McCloud, and pack- said, to try and get Indians to pack ed up the long winding trail, through us up the river. But he could take us, groves of oak-trees and thickets of man- with Jim and his mahala (whom he adzanita, where wild pigeons were feeding, vised us to engage), in his wagon round and quails with their young broods were by the stage-road to Fall River, at the parading in great numbers; over the head of the cañon, where we could get crest of limestone; then down, down, a boat, in which he judged it would be through jungles of ceanothus and thick- practicable to descend the river. I had ets of buckeye to the banks of the Pit already been inclined to adopt this plan, River; then up along the river- bank to and now decided to do so. I hastened near the mouth of Squaw Creek, where across to have the camp packed up, and we made our first camp.

make Jim glad with permission to take That night we lay down to sleep full his Hilda with us; and, in spite of our of pleasant anticipations. We seemed disappointment, it was a merry party to have come into a land of beauty, of that rattled past Woodman's in the doomountain, rock, and river. We were tor's new wagon. well equipped for our long trip, and this Our route lay up Cow Creek, over the first day found us well supplied with excellent grade built by the patrons of game. Morning dawned with a differ- the new mining-camp. As the shadows ent aspect of affairs. During the night of evening crept up the hill-side we pass. two of my Indians had deserted, and ed shafts, dumps, and prospect - holes. Jim sat solitary and moody beside the all showing the freshness of recent work. crackling camp-fire. A promise to take Right on the road workmen are grading out a place for the furnace of the “Aft- ley. Next day the camp was sent with erthought”-a mine that is filling its Mr. Lieber to Miller's Bridge, six miles owners with golden dreams, The smelt- below the mouth of Fall River, while I ing furnaces where Mr. Peck is success. gave my attention to procuring a boat. fully turning his copper-ore into mat Finding none suitable, I had one built. are next passed. Several times we are in two days the Fall River was launchstopped where some dusty miner steps ed, the best and stanchest skiff ever into the road, brushes his hat back from seen in that country. his glowing face, and holds up his spec- Fall River Valley, like Big Valley and imen, taken out that day, for our inspec- Klamath Lake Valley, is one of those tion. Splendid specimens they were, of plateau basins that have been inland copper, silver, or gold ores. On a more seas or lakes for eons, probably, before lonesome part of the road two deer reaching their present elevation. An crossed in front of us, but got away in- infusorial marl exposed in Big Valley to the thicket before we could get a shot and Birney Valley, formed during this at them. Darkness compelled us to time, is several hundred feet in thickcamp on the bank of Cow Creek, and ness. The lava -flow covering them all Jim and Hilda showed their usefulness is of a much later period, or rather of in camp by placing a good supper be- later periods, for several distinct overfore us.

flows can be noticed. The present rivAll day on the morrow we were climb- er-channels seem to have been estabing higher and higher into the mount- lished before the later lava - Aow. The ains. We soon entered the region of effect, in many cases, has been to fill up the fir, the sugar-pine, and the pitch- the channels for two-thirds or more of pine. The blue valley quail gave place its length, and by that means compel to the more handsome mountain variety, the streams for that distance to be suband many a specimen of both Mr. Lie- terranean. In this manner many branchber secured. At evening we were tramp- es of the Pit River only come to the suring through the still forest of great firs face within a mile or two of their outlet. and sugar-pines, looking for grouse and Fall River Lake bubbles up in the midgray squirrels. It would be impossible dle of the valley from subterranean for me to convey to those who have not streams of this kind, as if it was one giwitnessed them an idea of the grandeur ant spring; and the river flows out of it of these forests. At an altitude of 5,000 full-sized, deep, and broad, on its short to 6,000 feet all these conifers reach their but winding course to the Pit, into which grandest proportions. Many a symmet- it plunges over beautiful falls, that, the rical tree shoots up from the ground in denizens claim, form the “finest watera mighty column eight to ten feet in di- power in the world.” Farm-houses are ameter. Among these grand trees, be- scattered all through the valley, and at side a mountain spring, we camped, to the falls a little village has sprung up be serenaded by the great owls until a about the fine grist-mill and saw-mill of shot brought one from the dark tree. Winters & Cook. Thousands of dollars top, another specimen for my taxider- have been expended on these structures, mist friend.

and the bridges and roads leading here. Next day we soon left the verdure of These men are martyrs to their faith in the western slope behind us, and de. the natural advantages of this locality. scended to the sagebrush-covered val- Religion and science have their martyrs; leys and lava ridges of the eastern slope. so, too, has civilization. The man who, At night we camped in Fall River Val- recognizing the wants and advantages of


a district, risks his wealth in placing Half-way up the rhyolites begin, layer needed improvements there-risks it in after layer marking different periods of an almost hopeless cause risks and eruption, and showing an loses—is as much a martyr as if he suf- depth of lava-flow, even high on the fered for some dogma or idea. While mountain. The graded road at points the wail of the lost spirit often is “Too winds along the very edge of this cañon, late,” the wail of these martyrs is “Too and gives glimpses down into its yawnsoon.” The improvements may be want- ing depths. ed and the locality well adapted for them, While we were packing up at Miller's but if population is lacking, cui bono? Bridge, a band of Pushoosh came dashBut there is an end to the struggle of ing up on their ponies, to the evident our pioneer martyrs. If they can only disquiet of our Wintoons. From the hold out a little longer, humanity with impudent bearing of these braves it was its wants and wealth will soon fill these evident that only our presence preventbeautiful valleys.

ed them from annoying Jim. I asked At Captain Winters' mill our boat was Jim what they would do if I was not built; but as the cañon immediately be- there. “Maybe steal the pocta” (womlow this is full of rapids, I had it carried an), he said. In spite of this interrupin a wagon six miles over the road to tion, we were soon packed and aboard Miller's Bridge, where Lieber and the of our boat, floating under the bridge Indians were camped. Right glad I and down the rapid current beyond. was to see them again, and I am sure As we found ourselves gliding so swiftthey were equally glad to see me, and to ly among the bright dancing waves, we feel that our explorations could now be- could not repress a cheer, which was gin in earnest. Mr. Lieber had shot answered from the bridge just as a bend several species of birds new to him. of the river hid it from our sight. Jim inspected the screws and calking of Round willowy bends and under over. the boat, as it lay in the wagon, with a arching oaks and sycamores we glided, critical eye, and Hilda looked up from now fast, now slow, as the current flowher culinary work at the camp-fire with ed, until at last we heard rapids roaring a broad smile of welcome. On launch- ahead, and our boat was to be tried. Not ing our boat we found it to possess all overconfident as yet, we ran ashore, and the qualities of stability and ease of I went ahead to reconnoitre. Crushing management desired, so we determined through the brush into a sharp concave to pack up and make a short trip that bend, I found the river roaring a white day.

mass of foam among dark lava bowlders. I had previously explored the cañon The scene was wild and grand enough, between here and the mouth of Fall but terrible when I thought that we must River. Immediately below the mouth go down through those boiling waters. of Fall River, for some ten miles or This is what I had been warned against, more, the Pit River winds, roaring and and I had laughed at their warnings, rushing, through a cañon of immense but now I must go through it. While depth. Where is deepest, and cut al. I watched the white flakes of foam leapmost vertical for a thousand feet, a beau- ing up against the black rocks, Jim pushtiful sample of a mountain section is ed his way through the brush and stood presented. Above the talus at its base beside me. rises a great wall of sandstone and slate, “Pooty bad place.” the strata, distinctly visible, forming a “Yes, Jim; very bad." great arch in this one wave of flexure. “Have to let her down with the rope."


« AnteriorContinua »