A journey to the rocky mountains in 1839 By F. A. Wislizenus, M. D



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CHAPTER NINE - JOURNEY OVER THE BLACK HILLS - CROSSING THE NORTH FORK

THE next morning (June 15th), we left Fort Laramie to journey again in westerly direction through the wilderness. Our way led over the Black Hills above mentioned, leaving the Laramie River to our left, and ascending the North Fork at a moderate distance from it. The North Fork winds here through rocky walls so steep that the river is seldom in view, and there is no traveling on its banks. The hills consisted of sand and limestone, and show here and there a pine or cedar. To the left another high mountain chain is in view, the Platte Mountains, where, as we afterward learned, the North Platte has its source. On the top of the highest mountain of this chain snow was still lying. For four days we camped on little streams that flow into the North Fork, and found at times very pleasant camping grounds, for instance, at Horse Shoe Creek, where we rested on the second day. The water was cool and clear, the grass tall and luxuriant, and a thick fringe of cottonwood and sugar maples wound along the banks. Moreover, our hunters again brought fresh buffalo meat, no small spur in arousing lively appreciation of romantic surroundings. The road was growing daily more difficult. Steep ascents and deep clefts and ravines often made it necessary to lower the carts with ropes and pull them up again, or else make a wide circuit. We were visibly ascending. Had we not been already convinced by the violent current of the Platte of our rapid ascent, the thinner, purer air, the broad sweep of our view and the change in vegetation would have called it to our attention. In regard to the latter we noticed especially two companions of our journey that were no more to leave us, namely, cacti, in several species, and wild sage or wild wormwood (Artemisia Columbiensis). This Artemisia is found on both sides of the Rocky Mountains, in sandy soil, where the grass grows sparsely or not at all. It is of varying size. Sometimes it is stunted, and scarce a foot or two high; but at times it attains the height of a man, and then its stem is as thick as an arm. The wood consists, like that of the vine, of many twisted fibres, is of no use to the carpenter, but makes a good fire, and holds its glow very long. The foliage is characterized by its bitterness. If any of it gets into our food, it is scarce eatable. So, if fresh meat bound to the saddle has been brushed by it in passing, the best thing to do is to throw the meat away. A bird that feeds on this plant, the so-called sage cock or cock of the plains (Tetrao Uriphasianus), has precisely the same taste. The bird is somewhat larger than a prairie chicken, to which its resemblance is closest, and retains the repellant bitter taste of this plant in whatever way it be prepared for eating.

Our fourth night camp was our first on the North Platte since leaving Laramie. The river here was not very broad. Several of us bathed, but the water was so swift that, though we were all good swimmers, we could scarcely reach the opposite shore. The next day we traveled along the river over steep hills, with little grass or wood. Toward noon, just as we were about to set up our camp, I saw that terror of hunters, the grizzly bear. It was a splendid animal, but it ran away at full speed, and our horses were too tired to make chase. We camped that night again by the river on dirty loamy ground. The next morning we were not a little surprised to see opposite us, across the river, a dozen Indians, who had camped there all night. They swam across. They were Shiennes, who gave us to understand that they were on a horse-stealing foray against the Crows. They themselves were afoot, as is customary with Indians on such raids, and we had not the least reason to doubt their statements. Nevertheless we were keenly on guard to prevent any chance mistake of our horses for those of the Crows. For two more days we went along the river. Although we ourselves saw no buffalo herds, our hunters regularly brought fresh meat into camp. One evening an old bull strayed near our camp. A couple of novices started after him, but he fell only at the twentieth shot. The wolves followed promptly after the hunters, and howled for us all night long. Such nocturnal music is so common in this wilderness, especially in the buffalo country, that I finally regretted missing it, and found a sort of enjoyment in the long-drawn wails of these beasts, which run through all the minor chords. Say distinguishes four kinds of wolves in America, namely: 1. The common wolf (Canis lupus). 2. The barking wolf (Canis latrans). 3. The dark wolf (Canis Nubilus); and 4. the black wolf (Canis Lycaon). The last named I have not seen on this trip; the second is common. This wolf is smaller than the others, and is remarkable for his peculiar howl. He begins with two or three barks, about like a dachs, and follows it immediately with the howl. As he generally keeps near buffalo, and is therefore a good omen for hunting, he is also called the Medicine Wolf. Although wolves are seen daily, they are very wary. I never heard that they had attacked men; but at night they become impudent; they often sneak into the midst of the camp, and steal meat or leather goods. If one has shot buffalo or other game, they are sure to be lurking in the distance; they approach cautiously as soon as one goes away and reduce the animal to a skeleton with marvelous speed. They count so securely on this tribute, that they often follow the caravans for days.

Our road along the river now became somewhat smoother. The ground was sandy, and covered with many ant hills, composed of sand and pebbles. We saw some elk. I found, too, a nest of young magpies, which I had not hitherto seen in the United States. On the 21st Of June we halted at the river, in order to cross. The North Platte at this point is not as broad as the South Platte, but just as swift. A canoe of buffalo hides was soon constructed, and the very next day we crossed over without any special mishap.

 

CHAPTER TEN - JOURNEY ALONG THE SWEET WATERS - THE WIND RIVER MOUNTAINS



WE WENT further up the left bank of the North Platte, about fifteen miles. The road led over sandy rolling country. From one hill we enjoyed a magnificent wide prospect. Southwestwardly, on our left, are stretched out the Platte Mountains, out of which the river here comes forth, and toward the northwest, at a distance of about one hundred miles, a foggy streak, in which our older traveling companions recognized the snow peaks of the Big Horn Mountains. In the vicinity live the Crows, a treacherous hostile Indian tribe, equally proficient in stealing and scalping. They often rove through the country along the Platte and the Sweet Waters, which are considered by the Indians as a common war ground. The ground over which we went this day was highly permeated with salts. We had seen this on several occasions before, near the Platte, and some days back had crossed a brook where water tasted quite like Epsom salts. But here it was very marked. We passed along several salt lakes in the prairie, all along whose shores there lay crystallized Epsom salt. At noon we camped on the river for the last time. A herd of buffalo were grazing comfortably on the opposite shore, and were not disturbed by our arrival, for the wind was favorable to us. The river twists here in a southwesterly direction toward the Platte Mountains, from which it issues. Where it issues from the mountains some reddish rocks arise, called the red buttes or hills. Here we left the river, to go more northwesterly toward the Sweet Waters. Moving over monotonous sand hills, we reached at evening a little brook, whose sandy bed had absorbed all the water; but by digging some feet we collected clear water in adequate quantity. During the day we had had thunder storms; at night there came a cold rain mingled with snow; the next morning it was unpleasantly cold. The country continued hilly, sandy, poor as to grass, but so much the richer in sage bush. Buffalo became more and more common. In the sandy soil of this region I found a new strange animal, the so-called horn-frog (Phrynosoma cornuta). It is a kind of lizard with thick head and body and short tail. It is of grayish color. Its whole length amounts to three or four inches. The whole back from head to tail is covered with horny spines. Down the middle of the back runs a horny white comb. On the back of the head are six great spines arranged in semi-circle. This thorny armor makes the little beast resemble an alligator in miniature. It runs very swiftly; is found only on sandy soil, and appears to live on insects. Another smaller kind of lizard, slenderer and exceedingly swift, erroneously called here chameleon, usually occurs in the neighborhood of the horned frog. Near the Sweet Waters the country again becomes more level. Some weatherworn bare rocks alone arise in the midst of the prairie. The ground is covered with decomposed salt tasting of alkali, and with some salt lakes. The buffalo seem specially fond of this region. We drove many herds before us. On the evening of June 25th, we reached the Sweet Waters, a little stream that forms the northern source of the North Platte, and which has probably received its name in contrast to the salty waters round about. We pitched our camp hard by an isolated rock, perhaps one thousand feet long, one hundred feet broad and fifty to sixty feet high, consisting of intermingled granite. It is known by the name of Rock Independence, and is said to have been so christened by a party of Americans who celebrated the Fourth of July here. It is regarded as a Rocky Mountain album, as it were. Many travelers write or cut their names upon it. All round about us, near and afar, rocks and mountains arise. The Platte Mountains are on our left. The Platte itself is said to be twelve miles off. The next morning we crossed the Sweet Waters. For six days we ascended the river in westerly direction, following it more or less closely and crossing it several times to cut off its meanders. Our road at first was level and passed through a valley, rather narrow at the entrance, but gradually widening, which was bounded on both sides by the Sweet Waters Mountains. The rocks of these mountains are partly bare, partly pine-clad. On their summit it is said there live many mountain sheep (big horn, argali, Ovisammon L), an animal resembling the deer in outward appearance, only somewhat larger, but provided instead of antlers with curved horns like a ram, of which one sometimes weighs about thirty pounds. The Indians make their best bows out of these horns. The mountain sheep climb with ease the steepest rock where they can be followed only with difficulty. To my vexation we did not get sight of a single one. We ran across several buffalo. I could not resist the temptation to try my newly acquired horse at buffalo hunting. I singled out an old bull. My horse soon caught up with him, and fearlessly galloped at his left side, permitting me to put the pistol almost on its breast. At the second shot the bull suddenly turned upon me; but my swift horse carried me promptly out of the vicinity; and, exhausted by loss of blood, the animal at the fourth shot fell to the ground. It was very lean, so I only took the tongue.

On the third day (June 28th), a white streak appeared in the west. As we rose higher, it assumed more definite shape. Some of its shining points changed gradually to higher and higher steep cliffs with heads of ice and robes of snow; in a word, snow peaks of the Rocky Mountains arose before us. It was the chain of the Wind River Mountains, one of the steepest in this mighty mountain system. These mountains extend in a northwesterly direction with a length of eighty miles by a breadth of twenty to thirty. It is said that one of these peaks was measured geometrically and barometrically on behalf of the Hudson's Bay Company, and that it is 25,000 feet high. As one approaches the mountains on a plateau, to which one gradually mounts through a journey of a thousand miles, and so is at a considerable elevation, it may well be that they do not seem to the eye as high as they actually are; yet such an assumption as to their height, which would put them in a class with the Himalayas, can scarcely be correct. Be that as it may, it is certainly a lofty and imposing chain of mountains, though I miss the romantic surroundings of the Swiss Alps, with their crystal lakes and blooming valleys which group themselves so picturesquely around the eternal glaciers. As we had to go around the southeastern point of the Wind River Mountains, we now took a more southwestern direction. The plain on which we had hitherto traveled changed gradually to a hilly country, covered with sandy soil and little grass, but the more sage brush, and quantities of buffalo. The geological character is very different, since we are on the Sweet Waters. Pure granite, basalt, quartz and feldspar are now matters of daily observation. Primitive mountains begin. We ascended continuously. The species of cactus become rarer, the mosses more frequent. Some plants occur here only in stunted form. On the sixth day (July 1st) we left the Sweet Waters to our right near their source on the eastern declivity of the Wind River Mountains. Those are the last waters we pass which flow into the Atlantic Ocean. That same day toward evening we reached a little fresh spring that flows toward the Pacific. The divide between these two water systems is formed by an undulating sandy prairie. The spring at which we pitched our night camp issues from under a rock formed of quartz and spar. In the vicinity grew willows, cedars and some birches (quickenasp). Where the water comes out from under the rock the thermometer placed in it sank to 43.5 degrees Fahrenheit, while it stood in the air at 48 degrees.

As supplement, I note the averages of the thermometrical record of our journey, so far of two months' duration, from the borders of Missouri to the divide between the eastern and western waters:

Thermometrical Average According to F.


 

At Sunrise.

Toward Noon.

At Sunset.

In May....

53

72

62.3

In June....

49

72.5

56.8

During all this time we had only very few pleasant days, but rain and storm almost daily. The region of rain now is behind us; and-to use the words of our leader-the country where the wind reigns is before us.

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN - THE YEARLY RENDEZVOUS



OUR NEXT objective point was the upper Green River valley, which is thrust like a bay of prairie between the main chain of the Rockies and the projecting Wind River Mountains. Our direction was northeast. The road thither leads over sandy hills and plateaus. The Wind River Mountains lay to our right, permitting a closer view of the precipitous, weather-beaten granite formations cut by deep ravines. As intervening bulwark, there were foothills, dark with evergreens, but void of snow. To our left new snow peaks came into view, the Grand River Mountains. We crossed several streams, first the Little Sandy and the Big Sandy, then the New Fork; all having their sources in the Wind River Mountains and flowing into the Green River. The water is clear and cool, the river bed pebbly. The shores are usually fringed with willows. In these little rivers there are, furthermore, denizens characteristic of western waters. For, while the Platte has few fish, and little beside catfish are found in the other streams, many trout are found on this side. On the second day we found traces of whites and Indians, that had journeyed ahead of us through this region a short time before, probably to the rendezvous, which takes place yearly about this time in the neighborhood of the Green River. As our destination was the same, though our leader did not know precisely what place had been chosen for it this year, some of our men were sent out for information. They returned the next day while we were camping on the New Fork, with two agents of the fur company, Trips and Walker. These agents were accompanied by their Indian wives and a lot of dogs. The two squaws, quite passable as to their features, appeared in highest state. Their red blankets, with the silk kerchiefs on their heads, and their gaudy embroideries, gave them quite an Oriental appearance. Like themselves, their horses were bedight with embroideries, beads, corals, ribbons and little bells. The bells were hung about in such number that when riding in their neighborhood, one might think one's self in the midst of Turkish music. The squaws, however, behaved most properly. They took care of the horses, pitched a tent, and were alert for every word of their wedded lords. From the agents we learned that this year's meeting place had been fixed on the right bank of the Green River at the angle formed by its junction with Horse Creek. We were now about a day's journey from the place. Starting off in company in the afternoon, we covered, at a more rapid pace than usual, about twelve miles, and then camped on a branch of the New Fork, whose shores were framed with fine pines. It was the Fourth of July, the great holiday of the United States. Our camp, however, presented its humdrum daily appearance. We stretched out around the fires, smoked and, in expectation of what the morrow would bring, went quietly asleep. The next morning we started early, and reached toward noon the Green River, so long desired. The Green River (Colorado of the West) rises in the northwestern slope of the Wind River Mountains, flows in southwestern direction, and empties into the Gulf of California. Where we first saw it, it is a clear, rippling streamlet, abounding in trout; neither very broad, nor very deep; but later on it becomes a broad, rushing stream. Its navigation is said to present enormous difficulties. We crossed the river, and were then in the acute angle formed by it and the Horse Creek (a brook coming from the northwest and emptying here into the Green River). The space between is level; the ground a loamy sand. The camping place was about two miles above the Horse Creek, along the right bank of the Green River. The plain between the two streams is here about three miles broad. The rendezvous has repeatedly been held here. According to observations formerly made, the place is in longitude 107 degrees 12 minutes west, and between 44 and 45 degrees north latitude. So we were about four degrees north of St. Louis. The journey which we had made from the border of Missouri, according to our rough calculation, was near 1,200 miles.

We reached the camping place. What first struck our eye was several long rows of Indian tents (lodges), extending along the Green River for at least a mile. Indians and whites were mingled here in varied groups. Of the Indians there had come chiefly Snakes, Flatheads and Nezperces, peaceful tribes, living beyond the Rocky Mountains. Of whites the agents of the different trading companies and a quantity of trappers had found their way here, visiting this fair of the wilderness to buy and to sell, to renew old contracts and to make new ones, to make arrangements for future meetings, to meet old friends, to tell of adventures they had been through, and to spend for once a jolly day. These trappers, the "Knights without fear and without reproach," are such a peculiar set of people that it is necessary to say a little about them. The name in itself indicates their occupation. They either receive their outfit, consisting of horses, beaver traps, a gun, powder and lead, from trading companies, and trap for small wages, or else they act on their own account, and are then called freemen. The latter is more often the case. In small parties they roam through all the mountain passes. No rock is too steep for them; no stream too swift. Withal, they are in constant danger from hostile Indians, whose delight it is to ambush such small parties, and plunder them, and scalp them. Such victims fall every year. One of our fellow travelers, who had gone to the mountains for the first time nine years ago with about one hundred men, estimated that by this time half the number had fallen victims to the tomahawks of the Indians. But this daily danger seems to exercise a magic attraction over most of them. Only with reluctance does a trapper abandon his dangerous craft; and a sort of serious home-sickness seizes him when he retires from his mountain life to civilization. In manners and customs, the trappers have borrowed much from the Indians. Many of them, too, have taken Indian women as wives. Their dress is generally of leather. The hair of the head is usually allowed to grow long. In place of money, they use beaver skins, for which they can satisfy all their needs at the forts by way of trade. A pound of beaver skins is usually paid for with four dollars worth of goods; but the goods themselves are sold at enormous prices, so-called mountain prices. A pint of meal, for instance, costs from half a dollar to a dollar; a pint of coffee-beans, cocoa beans or sugar, two dollars each; a pint of diluted alcohol (the only spiritous liquor to be had), four dollars; a piece of chewing tobacco of the commonest sort, which is usually smoked, Indian fashion, mixed with herbs, one to two dollars. Guns and ammunition, bear traps, blankets, kerchiefs, and gaudy finery for the squaws, are also sold at enormous profit. At the yearly rendezvous the trappers seek to indemnify themselves for the sufferings and privations of a year spent in the wilderness. With their hairy bank notes, the beaver skins, they can obtain all the luxuries of the mountains, and live for a few days like lords. Coffee and chocolate is cooked; the pipe is kept aglow day and night; the spirits circulate; and whatever is not spent in such ways the squaws coax out of them, or else it is squandered at cards. Formerly single trappers on such occasions have often wasted a thousand dollars. But the days of their glory seem to be past, for constant hunting has very much reduced the number of beavers. This diminution in the beaver catch made itself noticeable at this year's rendezvous in the quieter behavior of the trappers. There was little drinking of spirits, and almost no gambling. Another decade perhaps and the original trapper will have disappeared from the mountains.

The Indians who had come to the meeting were no less interesting than the trappers. There must have been some thousands of them. Their tents are made of buffalo hides, tanned on both sides and sewed together, stretched in cone shape over a dozen poles, that are leaned against each other, their tops crossing. In front and on top this leather can be thrown back, to form door and chimney. The tents are about twelve feet high and twenty feet in circumference at the ground, and give sufficient protection in any kind of weather. I visited many tents, partly out of curiosity, partly to barter for trifles, and sought to make myself intelligible in the language of signs as far as possible. An army of Indian dogs very much resembling the wolf, usually beset the entrance. From some tents comes the sound of music. A virtuoso beats a sort of kettle drum with bells around with all his might, and the chorus accompanies him with strange monotone untrained sounds that showed strong tendency to the minor chords. A similar heart-rending song drew me to a troop of squaws that were engrossed in the game of "the hand", so popular with the Indians. Some small object, a bit of wood, for instance, is passed from hand to hand among the players seated in a circle; and it is some one's part to guess in whose hands the object is. During the game the chorus steadily sings some song as monotonous as those to which bears dance. But the real object is to gamble in this way for some designated prize. It is a game of hazard. In this case, for example, a pile of beads and corals, which lay in the midst of the circle, was the object in question. Men and women are so carried away by the game, that they often spend a whole day and night at it. Other groups of whites and Indians were engaged in barter. The Indians had for the trade chiefly tanned skins, moccasins, thongs of buffalo leather or braided buffalo hair, and fresh or dried buffalo meat. They have no beaver skins. The articles that attracted them most in exchange were powder and lead, knives, tobacco, cinnabar, gaily colored kerchiefs, pocket mirrors and all sorts of ornaments. Before the Indian begins to trade he demands sight of everything that may be offered by the other party to the trade. If there is something there that attracts him, he, too, will produce his wares, but discovers very quickly how much or how little they are coveted. If he himself is not willed to dispose of some particular thing, he obstinately adheres to his refusal, though ten times the value be offered him. The peltry bought from the Indians must be carefully beaten and aired, at peril of having objectionable troops billeted on you. The Indians, accustomed to every kind of uncleanliness, seem to have a special predilection for a certain kind of domestic animal, and even to consider it a delicacy. So, for instance, I have repeatedly seen an old granddam summering before the tent with her gray-haired spouse, and busily picking the "heavy cavalry" from his head. But the fingers that deftly caught the prisoner with equal deftness carried him to the mouth, where the uphappy creature was buried alive. Cha- cun a son gout!

The rendezvous usually lasts a week. Then the different parties move off to their destinations and the plain that today resounded with barbarous music, that was thronged with people of both races, with horses and dogs, returns to its old quiet, interrupted only now and then by the muffled roar of the buffalo and the howl of the wolf. As yet I had had indefinite plans as to how far I should extend my trip. The fur company which we had joined intended resting in the vicinity for some weeks, and then returning with a cargo of furs to the borders of Missouri on the same road by which we had come up here. The greater part of the rest of our company planned to go to the Columbia River; some, too, from there to California. The latter scheme attracted me particularly. I thought of getting to the Columbia in some months, going to California in the fall, spending the winter there, and returning in the spring by way of Santa Fe to the United States. I therefore joined that party. Of late the temperature had been pretty high at noon; the nights, on the other hand, cool. For the first time I felt somewhat unwell, but not enough so to prevent a further journey. The most difficult part of our trip, the crossing of the main chain of the mountains, still lay before us. Capt. Bonneville had already penetrated to the Green River valley with wagons; but, as far as I know, no attempt has as yet been made to go over the mountains themselves with them, but horses and mules alone are used for transportation of baggage.



 

CHAPTER TWELVE - THE CROSSING OF THE MOUNTAINS -THE GRIZZLY BEAR

ON JULY 10th we left the Green River and the rendezvous. Our party consisted of the former traveling companions, of Captain Armedinger, the agent of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Hall on the Snake River, who had visited the rendezvous with about a dozen of his men, of some trappers going back again to their craft, and of several hundred Indians, chiefly Flatheads, on their return to their home across the mountains. The mixed procession presented indeed an original appearance. The inhabitants of a great city would give much to see such a caravan passing through their streets. In motley confusion whites and Indians, squaws and children, scurried past each other. The men let their eyes rove about in search of game, and as soon as a shy antelope came in view, a great bloodthirsting gang rushed after it, to return after some time generally without any success. The squaws, who must attend to the packing, rattled past us with their long tent poles. Anon they would stop to rearrange the pack, to gather herbs and roots, or to quiet the babies. The position of the latter can hardly be called very pleasant. The Indian women carry their nurslings in a case of buffalo hide consisting of a long leather piece with a projection below as foot rest. On this back piece the youngster is laid flat. In front is an arched piece of leather fastened to both sides of the back of the case, enclosing the whole body from the neck to the feet. Only the uncovered head is free, protruding from this little box. The sight inevitably calls to mind the figure of Egyptian mummies. In walking, this little papoose case with its contents is thrown over the back and held with a strap over the forehead or chest of the mother. But in riding it is bound to one side of the saddle, and the little head nods in time to the trot or gallop of the horse. As soon as the child can sit alone, it is freed from its prison house and is fastened to the horse, wrapped in buffalo hide. The first thing for which it learns to grasp is the bridle or the whip. So it is no wonder that the Indians are all born riders and that the squaws have usually a better seat a-horseback than white men. The direction we took to cross the mountains was at first southwest, and afterwards northwest. The chain in front of us, which we have to cross, is much lower than the Wind River Mountains. No more snow peaks tower out of it; only patches of snow can be seen here and there, which probably wholly melt away later in the summer. The naked, jagged forms of rock have also disappeared; and in their stead we have an even, continuous, thickly wooded mountain chain, with narrow valleys and ravines, from which cool mountain streams gush forth. This chain stretches in a rather straight line from north to south, and then, forming an acute angle at the southern end, extends northwestwardly between the Bear River and the Snake River. On the eastern slope of these mountains several brooks arise which all pour into the Green River; from the northwestern slope come the waters which flow toward the Bear River. We descended about eighty miles in Southwestern course along the eastern slope, and crossed the acute angle above mentioned to reach the northwestern slope. On the first day we made only eight miles. We crossed Horse Creek and camped on Lead Creek. The road led over plateaus toward the mountains. The next morning we were still in similar country, but at noon we reached a little meadow, enclosed by steep heights, through which meanders a rippling brook with cool water. From now on we had to wind our way through wooded hills. We generally followed the course of brooks through narrow ravines, on whose steep sides the animals had to climb in single file in a long line. On both sides were acclivities, often very steep, overgrown with heavy pine and cottonwood. At times we had to clamber over the mountains themselves through thick pine timber to get from one ravine to another. The geological formation was primitive throughout. There was particularly much basalt. Here and there, too, one finds traces of that same lava which we later found spread over great areas. The vegetation was rather luxuriant. A quantity of wild flax particularly struck us. The scenery was generally wild and romantic, but I was unable to enjoy its beauties, for I had felt somewhat unwell even at the Green River. With the hope that traveling would soon restore me, I had forborne as yet to make use of the medicines I had with me. But the symptoms became worse. I feared that I was getting a severe bilious fever, and felt myself obliged to make up for my omission. On the fourth day I felt so weak that during the afternoon I could hardly keep my seat on the horse. So I let the whole train pass me, tied my horse and threw myself on the ground, indifferent as to what might become of me. Complete listlessness possessed me. The whole nation of Blackfeet might have swarmed around me; I would not have stirred from the spot. I soon fell into a feverish sleep. My faithful dog (I had a young German hunting dog with me), having missed me in the caravan, had in the meanwhile returned to me. When I woke the sun was setting. My mule had torn himself loose, and thrown off his pack, but was still close by. I felt a little stronger, packed up once more and followed the trail of the caravan. I had ridden some miles, when one of my traveling companions, who in the meanwhile had pitched their night camp and then missed me for the first time, came to meet me. The camp was about three miles away. We reached it that evening, having seen on the way a grizzly bear that ran away from us. The camp was on Smith's Fork, the first water on the northwestern slope, which direction we followed from now on. The character of the country remained substantially the same. We had constantly dense pine forests about us; but the cottonwoods had disappeared. On the fifth day we reached Thomas Fork, on whose banks great quantities of pure, good-tasting common salt were lying. Most of us took along a supply. Such deposits of salt are said to occur at several other places in the mountains; so this most precious of condiments is not very dear there. At noon next day we reached Tullick's Fork. On the road a grizzly bear was shot. As this dreaded animal will cut a figure several times in the adventures of our journey, I will here add some remarks about it.

The grizzly bear (Ursus horribilis, Ord.) is distinguished from other members of the bear family by the almost straight profile of his face and by his longer claws. The hair, short on the forehead and long and thick on the rest of the body, shows a peculiar mixture of white, brown and black, with many shadings. The ears are short and rounded; the forehead somewhat convex. The eyes are very small. The short tail is hidden in the shaggy hair. The curved claws are three to five inches long. The whole length of the full grown bear is about ten feet; his height, three to four feet; his weight, seven hundred to eight hundred pounds. He cannot climb trees like the black bear, but has fearful strength and dexterity. He often drags a whole buffalo for some distance, and runs almost as fast as a horse. He lives partly on meat, partly on fruits and roots. He is found oftener on the eastern than on the western side of the Rocky Mountains. When he is hungry or has been irritated he attacks whatever comes in his way. One blow of his paw is enough to knock a man down. But under other circumstances he runs away from man, and defends himself only when pursued. With such qualities it is no wonder that he is the dread of hunters. A bullet through brain or heart will end him, but in all other parts of the body he survives numerous wounds. A good hunter therefore, does not shoot until he is within ten or twenty feet of him. When the females are with young they live very retired, so that I have never heard of a hunter that shot a pregnant grizzly she bear. The meat of the grizzly is very palatable. Along the back there is solid white fat, a hand thick. The grizzly we found on this occasion was still young. The dogs of the Indians discovered him in a thicket, but he wouldn't budge from it. The Indians surrounded him on horseback, and shot at him. Whenever he assumed a threatening attitude, they all ran away. The dogs, however, seemed to check his anger. He would not leave his hiding place. Finally one of our hunters approached within ten feet of him, and laid him low with a single bullet.

From Tullick's Fork we entered upon more open country. The western slope of the Rocky Mountains has no more deep valleys than the eastern, but passes imperceptibly into broad plateaus. In the afternoon we crossed over a treeless, rather level prairie to the Bear River, and encamped there. The Bear River rises in the Eastern Mountains, a chain toward the south, goes in a semi-circle first northward, then down northwestwardly and empties into the Great Salt Lake (also called Lake Bonneville). It is a clear stream, not very wide or deep. Mostly willows grow on its banks. My illness was by this time pretty well subdued, though I felt very weak for some weeks. Several of our company also were unwell, the cause for which could probably be found in the hot days and cool nights, the drinking of cold mountain water, and the eating of dried meat, which we had to eat for want of fresh. An emetic or purgative, promptly administered, usually brought speedy relief.

On the seventh day we went up the right shore of the Bear River by a fairly level and open road and encamped that evening on its banks. Our night camp was at too attractive a place to be merely mentioned; for we were at one of the most remarkable spots in the whole mountain country-at the Beer Spring, so well known to every mountain traveler.

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN - THE BEER SPRING - JOURNEY TO FORT HALL

AS THERE are persons whose expression fascinates and wins us through something that we keenly feel but cannot clearly understand, so is it also true of some natural scenes. Such an impression took possession of me at first view of the so-called Beer Spring. I have looked on finer and more majestic scenes, but never found a more home-like place than this valley, produced out of the wrecks of prior geological revolutions, or one on which Nature had bestowed more of everlasting peace. Surrounded by banks of lava, numberless mineral springs bubble forth out of the calcined ground; a charming cedar grove invites the weary wanderer to its shades and the clear babbling Bear River rolls its ripples through the valley of peace.

We approached the valley from the east on the seventh day after leaving Green River (on July 16th). The way thither was sprinkled with scattered pieces of lava, and satisfied us that we were on the edge of the so-called great lava plain which is said to stretch in northwesterly direction about one hundred miles across the Snake River.

This lava consists of grayish black, porous, very heavy and hard pieces, varying much in size, sometimes covering the ground in flat layers, sometimes however in walls ten or fifteen feet high and several hundred feet in length, going down vertically on one side and running back to the level on the other in one connected mass. Nowhere in this region could I find anything like craters to whose extinct volcanic activity in prior ages these results could be ascribed. They seemed rather to have originated in so-called earth fires. The neighborhood of Beer Spring forms a center of this land of slags. At least I have not seen elsewhere these scoriae, lying flat as well as built in walls, more frequent or more characteristic of the country. About Beer Spring the lava bed is covered with a very white potter's clay. Out of a hill formed of this clay, the white clay hill, arises a clear fresh brook that flows into the Bear River. About half a mile off is the bottom of this valley abounding in springs. It lies in 44 north latitude and 109 west longitude, on the eastern bank of Bear River. It is shaped like an amphitheater. On the south it is bounded by the Bear River, running from east to west, and by hills beyond the river, covered with pine; on the three other sides it is enclosed by a chain of low sandy, cone-shaped hills, in part bare, in part crowned with pine and cedar. The valley thus enclosed is half a mile to a mile in diameter, and covered as to the greater part with a cedar grove. This evergreen cedar (Juniperus Virginiana) is the same which is also found in the eastern parts of the United States. It is only found in sandy soil on low mountains or the slopes of higher ones. It tends rather to thickness and breadth than to height, and is never crowded, though forming little woods. Unfortunately travelers have cut down and burned many trees of this grove. Its total destruction could rob the valley of one of its most precious ornaments. I fixed my camp under an old cedar, near one of the springs, that here bubble up from the ground. Exhausted by the burden and heat of the day, we all refreshed ourselves with this delicious draught. It was a cool, sparkling water, slightly chalybeate to the taste, with cheering and invigorating effect on the nervous system. So far as I could determine without chemical analysis, it is some acid of iron with abundant carbonic acid and slight admixture of salts. Addition of a little sugar and tartaric acid made it effervesce rapidly; in quiet condition, the carbonic acid escaped in little pearly bubbles. This pearling and effervescing has given the water the prosaic name of Beer Spring, since the term beer is in general use for all effervescing liquids. These springs appear either singly in perpendicularly walled openings out of the earth, about a foot in circumference and several feet deep; or else several of them form a common basin.

The water seems to be the same in all of them. On the margin of these springs there is usually a deposit of a red-brown oxide of iron, and various limestone formations with petrefactions are in the vicinity. The bottom of the spring is a soft mud. The water level seems to be the same in all of them. They have no outlet, although they are obviously in subterranean connection with each other, as well as with the Bear River, close by. For even in the river itself a number of such springs are seen to bubble up, and the stones on the shore, that are washed by these little fountains, are also coated with a red-brown crust. Several of these springs, shaded from the sun, which I tested with the thermometer, showed, all of them, a temperature of 54 F., while the air in the shade stood at 76 . A warm spring, some thousands of feet lower down the river, and close by it, deserves special mention. The spring issues from a block of lime, which it formed itself, in all probability, in the course of time. The stream, as thick as an arm, spouts out in abrupt pulsations, and runs into the river over the rock which is coated with oxide of iron and white crystals of salt. With the air at a temperature of 76 F., this water showed 84 . Its taste was like that of the cold springs, only weaker. About six feet off are two smaller openings, one of which is obstructed, while the other is still open. From the latter there issues with puffing noise, also in spurts, which are not timed, however, with those of the water, a gas mingled with vapor. This gas has a somewhat pungent and benumbing odor. Some of my companions thought it weak sulphurated hydrogen; to me it seemed merely carbonic acid gas. The puffing noise deceptively resembles the well-known sound of an engine, for which reason is also known by the name "Steamboat."

Gladly would I have spent some time in this most interesting valley, but my companions, less enthusiastic than I, insisted an pushing on; and so we left it the next morning. On our seven-day journey from the Green River to the Beer Spring we had covered almost two hundred miles. Many Indians, for whom we traveled too rapidly, had remained behind. Here our company divided again. The greater part of them went northwestwardly to Fort Hall on the Snake River, about fifty or sixty miles distant: while about a dozen others traveled northwardly to hunt, and then also go, with fresh provisions of meat, to Fort Hall. The latter party consisted of my old traveling companions that intended to go to the Columbia River. I joined them. In the mountains themselves we had seen no game save some grizzly bears; and so had lived on the dried meat which we had bought of the Indians at the rendezvous. The projected trip to the Columbia, however, on which we would have to cross a wide, barren, sandy plateau, made fresh meat supplies a necessity, which determined us to make this side trip. The neighborhood of the Beer Spring does not abound in game; further north, however, toward the Snake River, we hoped to find more of it. The leader of our little party was Mr. Richardson, an experienced mountaineer, who had been with us from the beginning of our Journey. On July 17th we left the Beer Spring. Between Snake River and Bear River there is an unimportant chain of mountains, a continuation of the one down whose northwestern slope we had traveled. Two little streams, Gray Creek and Blackfoot Creek, have their sources in these mountains, and flow into the Snake River in a northwesterly course. We crossed these mountains, and zigzagged northeastwardly and northwestwardly in the angle formed by the three streams last mentioned.

On the first day we only saw some shy antelope; on the second day we saw two buffalo, and killed one of them. The country was broken, the ground sandy, and game was scarce. For three days we remained on a little brook, while some of us were sent out to hunt. In all this time only three buffalo, a buffalo calf and a grizzly bear were shot. If ever a sojourn was tedious to me, it was this one. The surroundings were depressingly desolate. Only hungry ravens croaked around, as if in mockery of us; and as the Blackfeet frequently roam through the country, we had to keep as quiet as possible. No one was permitted to fire a gun or go hunting, save the hunters regularly chosen for the purpose. On the seventh day we finally started off again. I felt a load off my heart as I mounted once more, and turned my back on this uncanny country. On the same day we saw in the distance the so-called Three Buttes, three steep snow peaks, across the Snake River, visible from afar. The sandy valley of the Snake River was spread out before us. On the eighth day we crossed the Blackfoot Creek, followed its course for a time, and finally on the ninth day camped near the Snake River, about eight miles below Fort Hall. The next day, July 26th, I rode with some others to the fort.

 

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