A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains, by Isabella Bird

Letter 5

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

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

Beware of desperate steps; the darkest day,

Live till tomorrow, will have passed away.

But oh! what a hard, narrow life it is with which I am now in contact! A narrow and unattractive religion, which I believe still to be genuine, and an intense but narrow patriotism, are the only higher influences. Chalmers came from Illinois nine years ago, pronounced by the doctors to be far gone in consumption, and in two years he was strong. They are a queer family; somewhere in the remote Highlands I have seen such another. Its head is tall, gaunt, lean, and ragged, and has lost one eye. On an English road one would think him a starving or a dangerous beggar. He is slightly intelligent, very opinionated, and wishes to be thought well informed, which he is not. He belongs to the straitest sect of Reformed Presbyterians (“Psalm-singers”), but exaggerates anything of bigotry and intolerance which may characterize them, and rejoices in truly merciless fashion over the excision of the philanthropic Mr. Stuart, of Philadelphia, for worshipping with congregations which sing hymns. His great boast is that his ancestors were Scottish Covenanters. He considers himself a profound theologian, and by the pine logs at night discourses to me on the mysteries of the eternal counsels and the divine decrees. Colorado, with its progress and its future, is also a constant theme. He hates England with a bitter, personal hatred, and regards any allusions which I make to the progress of Victoria as a personal insult. He trusts to live to see the downfall of the British monarchy and the disintegration of the empire. He is very fond of talking, and asks me a great deal about my travels, but if I speak favorably of the climate or resources of any other country, he regards it as a slur on Colorado. They have one hundred and sixty acres of land, a “Squatter’s claim,” and an invaluable water power. He is a lumberer, and has a saw-mill of a very primitive kind. I notice that every day something goes wrong with it, and this is the case throughout. If he wants to haul timber down, one or other of the oxen cannot be found; or if the timber is actually under way, a wheel or a part of the harness gives way, and the whole affair is at a standstill for days. The cabin is hardly a shelter, but is allowed to remain in ruins because the foundation of a frame house was once dug. A horse is always sure to be lame for want of a shoe nail, or a saddle to be useless from a broken buckle, and the wagon and harness are a marvel of temporary shifts, patchings, and insecure linkings with strands of rope. Nothing is ever ready or whole when it is wanted. Yet Chalmers is a frugal, sober, hard-working man, and he, his eldest son, and a “hired man” “Rise early,” “going forth to their work and labor till the evening”; and if they do not “late take rest,” they truly “eat the bread of carefulness.” It is hardly surprising that nine years of persevering shiftlessness should have resulted in nothing but the ability to procure the bare necessaries of life. Of Mrs. C. I can say less. She looks like one of the English poor women of our childhood — lean, clean, toothless, and speaks, like some of them, in a piping, discontented voice, which seems to convey a personal reproach. All her waking hours are spent in a large sun-bonnet. She is never idle for one minute, is severe and hard, and despises everything but work. I think she suffers from her husband’s shiftlessness. She always speaks of me as “This” or “that woman.” The family consists of a grown-up son, a shiftless, melancholy-looking youth, who possibly pines for a wider life; a girl of sixteen, a sour, repellent-looking creature, with as much manners as a pig; and three hard, unchild-like younger children. By the whole family all courtesy and gentleness of act or speech seem regarded as “works of the flesh,” if not of “the devil.” They knock over all one’s things without apologizing or picking them up, and when I thank them for anything they look grimly amazed. I feel that they think it sinful that I do not work as hard as they do. I wish I could show them “a more excellent way.” This hard greed, and the exclusive pursuit of gain, with the indifference to all which does not aid in its acquisition, are eating up family love and life throughout the West. I write this reluctantly, and after a total experience of nearly two years in the United States. They seem to have no “Sunday clothes,” and few of any kind. The sewing machine, like most other things, is out of order. One comb serves the whole family. Mrs. C. is cleanly in her person and dress, and the food, though poor, is clean. Work, work, work, is their day and their life. They are thoroughly ungenial, and have that air of suspicion in speaking of every one which is not unusual in the land of their ancestors. Thomas Chalmers is the man’s ecclesiastical hero, in spite of his own severe Puritanism. Their live stock consists of two wretched horses, a fairly good bronco mare, a mule, four badly-bred cows, four gaunt and famished-looking oxen, some swine of singularly active habits, and plenty of poultry. The old saddles are tied on with twine; one side of the bridle is a worn-out strap and the other a rope. They wear boots, but never two of one pair, and never blacked, of course, but no stockings. They think it quite effeminate to sleep under a roof, except during the severest months of the year. There is a married daughter across the river, just the same hard, loveless, moral, hard-working being as her mother. Each morning, soon after seven, when I have swept the cabin, the family come in for “worship.” Chalmers “wales” a psalm, in every sense of the word wail, to the most doleful of dismal tunes; they read a chapter round, and he prays. If his prayer has something of the tone of the imprecatory psalms, he has high authority in his favor; and if there be a tinge of the Pharisaic thanksgiving, it is hardly surprising that he is grateful that he is not as other men are when he contemplates the general godlessness of the region. Sunday was a dreadful day. The family kept the Commandment literally, and did no work. Worship was conducted twice, and was rather longer than usual. Chalmers does not allow of any books in his house but theological works, and two or three volumes of dull travels, so the mother and children slept nearly all day. The man attempted to read a well-worn copy of Boston’s Fourfold State, but shortly fell asleep, and they only woke up for their meals. Friday and Saturday had been passably cool, with frosty nights, but on Saturday night it changed, and I have not felt anything like the heat of Sunday since I left New Zealand, though the mercury was not higher than 91 degrees. It was sickening, scorching, melting, unbearable, from the mere power of the sun’s rays. It was an awful day, and seemed as if it would never come to an end. The cabin, with its mud roof under the shade of the trees, gave a little shelter, but it was occupied by the family, and I longed for solitude. I took the Imitation of Christ, and strolled up the canyon among the withered, crackling leaves, in much dread of snakes, and lay down on a rough table which some passing emigrant had left, and soon fell asleep. When I awoke it was only noon. The sun looked wicked as it blazed like a white magnesium light. A large tree-snake (quite harmless) hung from the pine under which I had taken shelter, and looked as if it were going to drop upon me. I was covered with black flies. The air was full of a busy, noisy din of insects, and snakes, locusts, wasps, flies, and grasshoppers were all rioting in the torrid heat. Would the sublime philosophy of Thomas a Kempis, I wondered, have given way under this? All day I seemed to hear in mockery the clear laugh of the Hilo streams, and the drip of Kona showers, and to see as in a mirage the perpetual Green of windward Hawaii. I was driven back to the cabin in the late afternoon, and in the evening listened for two hours to abuse of my own country, and to sweeping condemnations of all religionists outside of the brotherhood of “Psalm-singers.” It is jarring and painful, yet I would say of Chalmers, as Dr. Holland says of another:—

If ever I shall reach the home in heaven,

For whose dear rest I humbly hope and pray,

In the great company of the forgiven

I shall be sure to meet old Daniel Gray.

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

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

An English physician is settled about half a mile from here over a hill. He is spoken of as holding “very extreme opinions.” Chalmers rails at him for being “a thick-skulled Englishman,” for being “fine, polished,” etc. To say a man is “polished” here is to give him a very bad name. He accuses him also of holding views subversive of all morality. In spite of all this, I thought he might possess a map, and I induced Mrs. C. to walk over with me. She intended it as a formal morning call, but she wore the inevitable sun-bonnet, and had her dress tied up as when washing. It was not till I reached the gate that I remembered that I was in my Hawaiian riding dress, and that I still wore the spurs with which I had been trying a horse in the morning! The house was in a grass valley which opened from the tremendous canyon through which the river had cut its way. The Foot Hills, with their terraces of flaming red rock, were glowing in the sunset, and a pure green sky arched tenderly over a soft evening scene. Used to the meanness and baldness of settlers’ dwellings. I was delighted to see that in this instance the usual log cabin was only the lower floor of a small house, which bore a delightful resemblance to a Swiss chalet. It stood in a vegetable garden fertilized by an irrigating ditch, outside of which were a barn and cowshed. A young Swiss girl was bringing the cows slowly home from the hill, an Englishwoman in a clean print dress stood by the fence holding a baby, and a fine-looking Englishman in a striped Garibaldi shirt, and trousers of the same tucked into high boots, was shelling corn. As soon as Mrs. Hughes spoke I felt she was truly a lady; and oh! how refreshing her refined, courteous, graceful English manner was, as she invited us into the house! The entrance was low, through a log porch festooned and almost concealed by a “wild cucumber.” Inside, though plain and poor, the room looked a home, not like a squatter’s cabin. An old tin was completely covered by a graceful clematis mixed with streamers of Virginia creeper, and white muslin curtains, and above all two shelves of admirably-chosen books, gave the room almost an air of elegance. Why do I write almost? It was an oasis. It was barely three weeks since I had left “the communion of educated men,” and the first tones of the voices of my host and hostess made me feel as if I had been out of it for a year. Mrs. C. stayed an hour and a half, and then went home to the cows, when we launched upon a sea of congenial talk. They said they had not seen an educated lady for two years, and pressed me to go and visit them. I rode home on Dr. Hughes’s horse after dark, to find neither fire nor light in the cabin. Mrs. C. had gone back saying, “Those English talked just like savages, I couldn’t understand a word they said.” I made a fire, and extemporized a light with some fat and a wick of rag, and Chalmers came in to discuss my visit and to ask me a question concerning a matter which had roused the latent curiosity of the whole family. I had told him, he said, that I knew no one hereabouts, but “his woman” told him that Dr. H. and I spoke constantly of a Mrs. Grundy, whom we both knew and disliked, and who was settled, as we said, not far off! He had never heard of her, he said, and he was the pioneer settler of the canyon, and there was a man up here from Longmount who said he was sure there was not a Mrs. Grundy in the district, unless it was a woman who went by two names! The wife and family had then come in, and I felt completely nonplussed. I longed to tell Chalmers that it was he and such as he, there or anywhere, with narrow hearts, bitter tongues, and harsh judgments, who were the true “Mrs. Grundys,” dwarfing individuality, checking lawful freedom of speech, and making men “offenders for a word,” but I forebore. How I extricated myself from the difficulty, deponent sayeth not. The rest of the evening has been spent in preparing to cross the mountains. Chalmers says he knows the way well, and that we shall sleep tomorrow at the foot of Long’s Peak. Mrs. Chalmers repents of having consented, and conjures up doleful visions of what the family will come to when left headless, and of disasters among the cows and hens. I could tell her that the eldest son and the “hired man” have plotted to close the saw-mill and go on a hunting and fishing expedition, that the cows will stray, and that the individual spoken respectfully of as “Mr. Skunk” will make havoc in the hen-house.

This is indeed far removed. It seems farther away from you than any place I have been to yet, except the frozen top of the volcano of Mauna Loa. It is so little profaned by man that if one were compelled to live here in solitude one might truly say of the bears, deer, and elk which abound, “Their tameness is shocking to me.” It is the world of “big game.” Just now a heavy-headed elk, with much-branched horns fully three feet long, stood and looked at me, and then quietly trotted away. He was so near that I heard the grass, crisp with hoar frost, crackle under his feet. Bears stripped the cherry bushes within a few yards of us last night. Now two lovely blue birds, with crests on their heads, are picking about within a stone’s-throw. This is “The Great Lone Land,” until lately the hunting ground of the Indians, and not yet settled or traversed, or likely to be so, owing to the want of water. A solitary hunter has built a log cabin up here, which he occupies for a few weeks for the purpose of elk-hunting, but all the region is unsurveyed, and mostly unexplored. It is 7 A.M. The sun has not yet risen high enough to melt the hoar frost, and the air is clear, bright, and cold. The stillness is profound. I hear nothing but the far-off mysterious roaring of a river in a deep canyon, which we spent two hours last night in trying to find. The horses are lost, and if I were disposed to retort upon my companions the term they invariably apply to me, I should now write, with bitter emphasis, “THAT man” and “THAT woman” have gone in search of them. The scenery up here is glorious, combining sublimity with beauty, and in the elastic air fatigue has dropped off from me. This is no region for tourists and women, only for a few elk and bear hunters at times, and its unprofaned freshness gives me new life. I cannot by any words give you an idea of scenery so different from any that you or I have ever seen. This is an upland valley of grass and flowers, of glades and sloping lawns, and cherry-fringed beds of dry streams, and clumps of pines artistically placed, and mountain sides densely pine clad, the pines breaking into fringes as they come down upon the “park,” and the mountains breaking into pinnacles of bold grey rock as they pierce the blue of the sky. A single dell of bright green grass, on which dwarf clumps of the scarlet poison oak look like beds of geraniums, slopes towards the west, as if it must lead to the river which we seek. Deep, vast canyons, all trending westwards, lie in purple gloom. Pine-clad ranges, rising into the blasted top of Storm Peak, all run westwards too, and all the beauty and glory are but the frame out of which rises — heaven-piercing, pure in its pearly luster, as glorious a mountain as the sun tinges red in either hemisphere — the splintered, pinnacled, lonely, ghastly, imposing, double-peaked summit of Long’s Peak, the Mont Blanc of Northern Colorado.10

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

This is a view to which nothing needs to be added. This is truly the “lodge in some vast wilderness” for which one often sighs when in the midst of “a bustle at once sordid and trivial.” In spite of Dr. Johnson, these “monstrous protuberances” do “inflame the imagination and elevate the understanding.” This scenery satisfies my soul. Now, the Rocky Mountains realize — nay, exceed — the dream of my childhood. It is magnificent, and the air is life giving. I should like to spend some time in these higher regions, but I know that this will turn out an abortive expedition, owing to the stupidity and pigheadedness of Chalmers. There is a most romantic place called Estes Park, at a height of 7,500 feet, which can be reached by going down to the plains and then striking up the St. Vrain Canyon, but this is a distance of fifty-five miles, and as Chalmers was confident that he could take me over the mountains, a distance, as he supposed, of about twenty miles, we left at mid-day yesterday, with the fervent hope, on my part, that I might not return. Mrs. C. was busy the whole of Tuesday in preparing what she called “grub,” which, together with “plenty of bedding,” was to be carried on a pack mule; but when we started I was disgusted to find that Chalmers was on what should have been the pack animal, and that two thickly-quilted cotton “spreads” had been disposed of under my saddle, making it broad, high, and uncomfortable. Any human being must have laughed to see an expedition start so grotesquely “ill found.” I had a very old iron-grey horse, whose lower lip hung down feebly, showing his few teeth, while his fore-legs stuck out forwards, and matter ran from both his nearly-blind eyes. It is kindness to bring him up to abundant pasture. My saddle is an old McLellan cavalry saddle, with a battered brass peak, and the bridle is a rotten leather strap on one side and a strand of rope on the other. The cotton quilts covered the Rosinante from mane to tail. Mrs. C. wore an old print skirt, an old short-gown, a print apron, and a sun-bonnet, with a flap coming down to her waist, and looked as careworn and clean as she always does. The inside horn of her saddle was broken; to the outside one hung a saucepan and a bundle of clothes. The one girth was nearly at the breaking point when we started. My pack, with my well-worn umbrella upon it, was behind my saddle. I wore my Hawaiian riding dress, with a handkerchief tied over my face and the sun-cover of my umbrella folded and tied over my hat, for the sun was very fierce. The queerest figure of all was the would-be guide. With his one eye, his gaunt, lean form, and his torn clothes, he looked more like a strolling tinker than the honest worthy settler that he is. He bestrode rather than rode a gaunt mule, whose tail had all been shaven off, except a turf for a tassel at the end. Two flour bags which leaked were tied on behind the saddle, two quilts were under it, and my canvas bag, a battered canteen, a frying pan, and two lariats hung from the horn. On one foot C. wore an old high boot, into which his trouser was tucked, and on the other an old brogue, through which his toes protruded. We had an ascent of four hours through a ravine which gradually opened out upon this beautiful “park,” but we rode through it for some miles before the view burst upon us. The vastness of this range, like astronomical distances, can hardly be conceived of. At this place, I suppose, it is not less than 250 miles wide, and with hardly a break in its continuity, it stretches almost from the Arctic Circle to the Straits of Magellan. From the top of Long’s Peak, within a short distance, twenty-two summits, each above 12,000 feet in height, are visible, and the Snowy Range, the backbone or “divide” of the continent, is seen snaking distinctly through the wilderness of ranges, with its waters starting for either ocean. From the first ridge we crossed after leaving Canyon we had a singular view of range beyond range cleft by deep canyons, and abounding in elliptical valleys, richly grassed. The slopes of all the hills, as far as one could see, were waving with fine grass ready for the scythe, but the food of wild animals only. All these ridges are heavily timbered with pitch pines, and where they come down on the grassy slopes they look as if the trees had been arranged by a landscape gardener. Far off, through an opening in a canyon, we saw the prairie simulating the ocean. Far off, through an opening in another direction, was the glistening outline of the Snowy Range. But still, till we reached this place, it was monotonous, though grand as a whole: a grey-green or buff-grey, with outbreaks of brilliantly-colored rock, only varied by the black-green of pines, which are not the stately pyramidal pines of the Sierra Nevada, but much resemble the natural Scotch fir. Not many miles from us is North Park, a great tract of land said to be rich in gold, but those who have gone to “prospect” have seldom returned, the region being the home of tribes of Indians who live in perpetual hostility to the whites and to each other. At this great height, and most artistically situated, we came upon a rude log camp tenanted in winter by an elk hunter, but now deserted. Chalmers without any scruple picked the padlock; we lighted a fire, made some tea, and fried some bacon, and after a good meal mounted again and started for Estes Park. For four weary hours we searched hither and thither along every indentation of the ground which might be supposed to slope towards the Big Thompson River, which we knew had to be forded. Still, as the quest grew more tedious, Long’s Peak stood before us as a landmark in purple glory; and still at his feet lay a hollow filled with deep blue atmosphere, where I knew that Estes Park must lie, and still between us and it lay never-lessening miles of inaccessibility, and the sun was ever weltering, and the shadows ever lengthening, and Chalmers, who had started confident, bumptious, blatant, was ever becoming more bewildered, and his wife’s thin voice more piping and discontented, and my stumbling horse more insecure, and I more determined (as I am at this moment) that somehow or other I would reach that blue hollow, and even stand on Long’s Peak where the snow was glittering. Affairs were becoming serious, and Chalmers’s incompetence a source of real peril, when, after an exploring expedition, he returned more bumptious than ever, saying he knew it would be all right, he had found a trail, and we could get across the river by dark, and camp out for the night. So he led us into a steep, deep, rough ravine, where we had to dismount, for trees were lying across it everywhere, and there was almost no footing on the great slabs of shelving rock. Yet there was a trail, tolerably well worn, and the branches and twigs near the ground were well broken back. Ah! it was a wild place. My horse fell first, rolling over twice, and breaking off a part of the saddle, in his second roll knocking me over a shelf of three feet of descent. Then Mrs. C.‘s horse and the mule fell on the top of each other, and on recovering themselves bit each other savagely. The ravine became a wild gulch, the dry bed of some awful torrent; there were huge shelves of rock, great overhanging walls of rock, great prostrate trees, cedar spikes and cacti to wound the feet, and then a precipice fully 500 feet deep! The trail was a trail made by bears in search of bear cherries, which abounded! It was getting dusk as we had to struggle up the rough gulch we had so fatuously descended. The horses fell several times; I could hardly get mine up at all, though I helped him as much as I could; I was cut and bruised, scratched and torn. A spine of a cactus penetrated my foot, and some vicious thing cut the back of my neck. Poor Mrs. C. was much bruised, and I pitied her, for she got no fun out of it as I did. It was an awful climb. When we got out of the gulch, C. was so confused that he took the wrong direction, and after an hour of vague wandering was only recalled to the right one by my pertinacious assertions acting on his weak brain. I was inclined to be angry with the incompetent braggart, who had boasted that he could take us to Estes Park “blindfold”; but I was sorry for him too, so said nothing, even though I had to walk during these meanderings to save my tired horse. When at last, at dark, we reached the open, there was a snow flurry, with violent gusts of wind, and the shelter of the camp, dark and cold as it was, was desirable. We had no food, but made a fire. I lay down on some dry grass, with my inverted saddle for a pillow, and slept soundly, till I was awoke by the cold of an intense frost and the pain of my many cuts and bruises. Chalmers promised that we should make a fresh start at six, so I woke him up at five, and here I am alone at half-past eight! I said to him many times that unless he hobbled or picketed the horses, we should lose them. “Oh,” he said “they’ll be all right.” In truth he had no picketing pins. Now, the animals are merrily trotting homewards. I saw them two miles off an hour ago with him after them. His wife, who is also after them, goaded to desperation, said, “He’s the most ignorant, careless, good-for-nothing man I ever saw,” upon which I dwelt upon his being well meaning. There is a sort of well here, but our “afternoon tea” and watering the horses drained it, so we have had nothing to drink since yesterday, for the canteen, which started without a cork, lost all its contents when the mule fell. I have made a monstrous fire, but thirst and impatience are hard to bear, and preventible misfortunes are always irksome. I have found the stomach of a bear with fully a pint of cherrystones in it, and have spent an hour in getting the kernels; and lo! now, at half-past nine, I see the culprit and his wife coming back with the animals.

I. L. B.

We never reached Estes Park. There is no trail, and horses have never been across. We started from camp at ten, and spent four hours in searching for the trail. Chalmers tried gulch after gulch again, his self-assertion giving way a little after each failure; sometimes going east when we should have gone west, always being brought up by a precipice or other impossibility. At last he went off by himself, and returned rejoicing, saying he had found the trail; and soon, sure enough, we were on a well-defined old trail, evidently made by carcasses which have been dragged along it by hunters. Vainly I pointed out to him that we were going north-east when we should have gone south-west, and that we were ascending instead of descending. “Oh, it’s all right, and we shall soon come to water,” he always replied. For two hours we ascended slowly through a thicket of aspen, the cold continually intensifying; but the trail, which had been growing fainter, died out, and an opening showed the top of Storm Peak not far off and not much above us, though it is 11,000 feet high. I could not help laughing. He had deliberately turned his back on Estes Park. He then confessed that he was lost, and that he could not find the way back. His wife sat down on the ground and cried bitterly. We ate some dry bread, and then I said I had had much experience in traveling, and would take the control of the party, which was agreed to, and we began the long descent. Soon after his wife was thrown from her horse, and cried bitterly again from fright and mortification. Soon after that the girth of the mule’s saddle broke, and having no crupper, saddle and addenda went over his head, and the flour was dispersed. Next the girth of the woman’s saddle broke, and she went over her horse’s head. Then he began to fumble helplessly at it, railing against England the whole time, while I secured the saddle, and guided the route back to an outlet of the park. There a fire was built, and we had some bread and bacon; and then a search for water occupied nearly two hours, and resulted in the finding of a mudhole, trodden and defiled by hundreds of feet of elk, bears, cats, deer, and other beasts, and containing only a few gallons of water as thick as pea soup, with which we watered our animals and made some strong tea. The sun was setting in glory as we started for the four hours’ ride home, and the frost was intense, and made our bruised, grazed limbs ache painfully. I was sorry for Mrs. Chalmers, who had had several falls, and bore her aches patiently, and had said several times to her husband, with a kind meaning, “I am real sorry for this woman.” I was so tired with the perpetual stumbling of my horse, as well as stiffened with the bitter cold, that I walked for the last hour or two; and Chalmers, as if to cover his failure, indulged in loud, incessant talk, abusing all other religionists, and railing against England in the coarsest American fashion. Yet, after all, they were not bad souls; and though he failed so grotesquely, he did his incompetent best. The log fire in the ruinous cabin was cheery, and I kept it up all night, and watched the stars through the holes in the roof, and thought of Long’s Peak in its glorious solitude, and resolved that, come what might, I would reach Estes Park.

I. L. B.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31