A white world — Bad traveling — A millionaire’s home — Pleasant Park — Perry’s Park — Stock-raising — A cattle king — The Arkansas Divide — Birdie’s sagacity — Luxury — Monument Park — Deference to prejudice — A death scene — The Manitou — A loose shoe — The Ute Pass — Bergens Park — A settler’s home — Hayden’s Divide — Sharp criticism — Speaking the truth.
COLORADO SPRINGS, October 28.
It is difficult to make this anything of a letter. I have been riding for a whole week, seeing wonders and greatly enjoying the singular adventurousness and novelty of my tour, but ten hours or more daily spent in the saddle in this rarefied, intoxicating air, disposes one to sleep rather than to write in the evening, and is far from conducive to mental brilliancy. The observing faculties are developed, and the reflective lie dormant. That night on which I last wrote was the coldest I have yet felt. I pulled the rag carpet from the floor and covered myself with it, but could not get warm. The sun rose gloriously on a shrouded earth. Barns, road, shrubs, fences, river, lake, all lay under the glittering snow. It was light and powdery, and sparkled like diamonds. Not a breath of wind stirred, there was not a sound. I had to wait till a passing horseman had broken the track, but soon after I set off into the new, shining world. I soon lost the horseman’s foot-marks, but kept on near the road by means of the innumerable foot-prints of birds and ground squirrels, which all went in one direction. After riding for an hour I was obliged to get off and walk for another, for the snow balled in Birdie’s feet to such an extent that she could hardly keep up even without my weight on her, and my pick was not strong enough to remove it. Turning off the road to ask for a chisel, I came upon the cabin of the people whose muff I had picked up a few days before, and they received me very warmly, gave me a tumbler of cream, and made some strong coffee. They were “old Country folk,” and I stayed too long with them. After leaving them I rode twelve miles, but it was “bad traveling,” from the balling of the snow and the difficulty of finding the track. There was a fearful loneliness about it. The track was untrodden, and I saw neither man nor beast. The sky became densely clouded, and the outlook was awful. The great Divide of the Arkansas was in front, looming vaguely through a heavy snow cloud, and snow began to fall, not in powder, but in heavy flakes. Finding that there would be risk in trying to ride till nightfall, in the early afternoon I left the road and went two miles into the hills by an untrodden path, where there were gates to open, and a rapid steep-sided creek to cross; and at the en-trance to a most fantastic gorge I came upon an elegant frame house belonging to Mr. Perry, a millionaire, to whom I had an introduction which I did not hesitate to present, as it was weather in which a traveler might almost ask for shelter without one. Mr. Perry was away, but his daughter, a very bright-looking, elegantly-dressed girl, invited me to dine and remain. They had stewed venison and various luxuries on the table, which was tasteful and refined, and an adroit, colored table-maid waited, one of five attached Negro servants who had been their slaves before the war. After dinner, though snow was slowly falling, a gentleman cousin took me a ride to show me the beauties of Pleasant Park, which takes rank among the finest scenery of Colorado, and in good weather is very easy of access. It did look very grand as we entered it by a narrow pass guarded by two buttes, or isolated upright masses of rock, bright red, and about 300 feet in height. The pines were very large, and the narrow canyons which came down on the park gloomily magnificent. It is remarkable also from a quantity of “monumental” rocks, from 50 to 300 feet in height, bright vermilion, green, buff, orange, and sometimes all combined, their gay tinting a contrast to the disastrous-looking snow and the somber pines. Bear Canyon, a gorge of singular majesty, comes down on the park, and we crossed the Bear Creek at the foot of this on the ice, which gave way, and both our horses broke through into pretty deep and very cold water, and shortly afterwards Birdie put her foot into a prairie dog’s hole which was concealed by the snow, and on recovering herself fell three times on her nose. I thought of Bishop Wilberforce’s fatal accident from a smaller stumble, and felt sure that he would have kept his seat had he been mounted, as I was, on a Mexican saddle. It was too threatening for a long ride, and on returning I passed into a region of vivacious descriptions of Egypt, Palestine, Asia Minor, Turkey, Russia, and other countries, in which Miss Perry had traveled with her family for three years. Perry’s Park is one of the great cattle-raising ranches in Colorado. This, the youngest State in the Union, a Territory until quite recently, has an area of about 68,000,000 acres, a great portion of which, though rich in mineral wealth, is worthless either for stock or arable farming, and the other or eastern part is so dry that crops can only be grown profitably where irrigation is possible. This region is watered by the South Fork of the Platte and its affluents, and, though subject to the grasshopper pest, it produces wheat of the finest quality, the yield varying according to the mode of cultivation from eighteen to thirty bushels per acre. The necessity for irrigation, however, will always bar the way to an indefinite extension of the area of arable farms. The prospects of cattle-raising seem at present practically unlimited. In 1876 Colorado had 390,728, valued at L2:13s. per head, about half of which were imported as young beasts from Texas. The climate is so fine and the pasturage so ample that shelter and hand-feeding are never resorted to except in the case of imported breeding stock from the Eastern States, which sometimes in severe winters need to be fed in sheds for a short time. Mr. Perry devotes himself mainly to the breeding of graded shorthorn bulls, which he sells when young for L6 per head. The cattle run at large upon the prairies; each animal being branded, they need no herding, and are usually only mustered, counted, and the increase branded in the summer. In the fall, when three or four years old, they are sold lean or in tolerable condition to dealers who take them by rail to Chicago, or elsewhere, where the fattest lots are slaughtered for tinning or for consumption in the Eastern cities, while the leaner are sold to farmers for feeding up during the winter. Some of the wealthier stockmen take their best lots to Chicago themselves. The Colorado cattle are either pure Texan or Spanish, or crosses between the Texan and graded shorthorns. They are nearly all very inferior animals, being bony and ragged. The herds mix on the vast plains at will; along the Arkansas valley 80,000 roam about with the freedom of buffaloes, and of this number about 16,000 are exported every fall. Where cattle are killed for use in the mining districts their average price is three cents per lb. In the summer thousands of yearlings are driven up from Texas, branded, and turned loose on the prairies, and are not molested again till they are sent east at three or four years old. These pure Texans, the old Spanish breed, weigh from 900 to 1,000 pounds, and the crossed Colorado cattle from 1,000 to 1,200 pounds. The “Cattle King” of the State is Mr. Iliff, of South Platte, who owns nine ranches, with runs of 15,000 acres, and 35,000 cattle. He is improving his stock; and, indeed, the opening of the dead-meat trade with this country is giving a great impetus to the improvement of the breed of cattle among all the larger and richer stock-owners. For this enormous herd 40 men are employed in summer, about 12 in winter, and 200 horses. In the rare case of a severe and protracted snowstorm the cattle get a little hay. Owners of 6,000, 8,000 and 10,000 head of cattle are quite common in Colorado. Sheep are now raised in the State to the extent of half a million, and a chronic feud prevails between the “sheep men” and the “cattle men.” Sheep-raising is said to be a very profitable business, but its risks and losses are greater, owing to storms, while the outlay for labor, dipping materials, etc., is considerably larger, and owing to the comparative inability of sheep to scratch away the snow from the grass, hay has to be provided to meet the emergency of very severe snow-storms. The flocks are made up mostly of pure and graded Mexicans; but though some flocks which have been graded carefully for some years show considerable merit, the average sheep is a leggy, ragged beast. Wether mutton, four and five years old, is sold when there is any demand for it; but except at Charpiot’s, in Denver, I never saw mutton on any table, public or private, and wool is the great source of profit, the old ewes being allowed to die off. The best flocks yield an average of seven pounds. The shearing season, which begins in early June, lasts about six weeks. Shearers get six and a half cents a head for inferior sheep, and seven and a half cents for the better quality, and a good hand shears from sixty to eighty in a day. It is not likely that sheep-raising will attain anything of the prominence which cattle-raising is likely to assume. The potato beetle “scare” is not of much account in the country of the potato beetle. The farmers seem much depressed by the magnitude and persistency of the grasshopper pest which finds their fields in the morning “as the garden of Eden,” and leaves them at night “a desolate wilderness.” It was so odd and novel to have a beautiful bed room, hot water, and other luxuries. The snow began to fall in good earnest at six in the evening, and fell all night, accompanied by intense frost, so that in the morning there were eight inches of it glittering in the sun. Miss P. gave me a pair of men’s socks to draw on over my boots, and I set out tolerably early, and broke my own way for two miles. Then a single wagon had passed, making a legible track for thirty miles, otherwise the snow was pathless. The sky was absolutely cloudless, and as I made the long ascent of the Arkansas Divide, the mountains, gashed by deep canyons, came sweeping down to the valley on my right, and on my left the Foot Hills were crowned with colored fantastic rocks like castles. Everything was buried under a glittering shroud of snow. The babble of the streams was bound by fetters of ice. No branches creaked in the still air. No birds sang. No one passed or met me. There were no cabins near or far. The only sound was the crunch of the snow under Birdie’s feet. We came to a river over which some logs were laid with some young trees across them. Birdie put one foot on this, then drew it back and put another on, then smelt the bridge noisily. Persuasions were useless; she only smelt, snorted, held back, and turned her cunning head and looked at me. It was useless to argue the point with so sagacious a beast. To the right of the bridge the ice was much broken, and we forded the river there; but as it was deep enough to come up to her body, and was icy cold to my feet, I wondered at her preference. Afterwards I heard that the bridge was dangerous. She is the queen of ponies, and is very gentle, though she has not only wild horse blood, but is herself the wild horse. She is always cheerful and hungry, never tired, looks intelligently at everything, and her legs are like rocks. Her one trick is that when the saddle is put on she swells herself to a very large size, so that if any one not accustomed to her saddles her I soon find the girth three or four inches too large. When I saddle her a gentle slap on her side, or any slight start which makes her cease to hold her breath, puts it all right. She is quite a companion, and bathing her back, sponging her nostrils, and seeing her fed after my day’s ride, is always my first care. At last I reached a log cabin where I got a feed for us both and further directions. The rest of the day’s ride was awful enough. The snow was thirteen inches deep, and grew deeper as I ascended in silence and loneliness, but just as the sun sank behind a snowy peak I reached the top of the Divide, 7,975 feet above the sea level. There, in unspeakable solitude, lay a frozen lake. Owls hooted among the pines, the trail was obscure, the country was not settled, the mercury was 9 degrees below zero, my feet had lost all sensation, and one of them was frozen to the wooden stirrup. I found that owing to the depth of the snow I had only ridden fifteen miles in eight and a half hours, and must look about for a place to sleep in. The eastern sky was unlike anything I ever saw before. It had been chrysoprase, then it turned to aquamarine, and that to the bright full green of an emerald. Unless I am color-blind, this is true. Then suddenly the whole changed, and flushed with the pure, bright, rose color of the afterglow. Birdie was sliding at every step, and I was nearly paralyzed with the cold when I reached a cabin which had been mentioned to me, but they said that seventeen snow-bound men were lying on the floor, and they advised me to ride half a mile farther, which I did, and reached the house of a German from Eisenau, with a sweet young wife and a venerable mother-inlaw. Though the house was very poor, it was made attractive by ornaments, and the simple, loving, German ways gave it a sweet home atmosphere. My room was reached by a ladder, but I had it to myself and had the luxury of a basin to wash in. Under the kindly treatment of the two women my feet came to themselves, but with an amount of pain that almost deserved the name of torture. The next morning was gray and sour, but brightened and warmed as the day went on. After riding twelve miles I got bread and milk for myself and a feed for Birdie at a large house where there were eight boarders, each one looking nearer the grave than the other, and on remounting was directed to leave the main road and diverge through Monument Park, a ride of twelve miles among fantastic rocks, but I lost my way, and came to an end of all tracks in a wild canyon. Returning about six miles, I took another track, and rode about eight miles without seeing a creature. I then came to strange gorges with wonderful upright rocks of all shapes and colors, and turning through a gate of rock, came upon what I knew must be Glen Eyrie, as wild and romantic a glen as imagination ever pictured. The track then passed down a valley close under some ghastly peaks, wild, cold, awe-inspiring scenery. After fording a creek several times, I came upon a decayed-looking cluster of houses bearing the arrogant name of Colorado City, and two miles farther on, from the top of one of the Foot Hill ridges, I saw the bleak-looking scattered houses of the ambitious watering place of Colorado Springs, the goal of my journey of 150 miles. I got off, put on a long skirt, and rode sidewise, though the settlement scarcely looked like a place where any deference to prejudices was necessary. A queer embryo-looking place it is, out on the bare Plains, yet it is rising and likely to rise, and has some big hotels much resorted to. It has a fine view of the mountains, specially of Pike’s Peak, but the celebrated springs are at Manitou, three miles off, in really fine scenery. To me no place could be more unattractive than Colorado Springs, from its utter treelessness. I found the ——— s living in a small room which served for parlor, bedroom, and kitchen, and combined the comforts of all. It is inhabited also by two prairie dogs, a kitten, and a deerhound. It was truly homelike. Mrs. ——— walked with me to the boarding-house where I slept, and we sat some time in the parlor talking with the landlady. Opposite to me there was a door wide open into a bed room, and on a bed opposite to the door a very sick-looking young man was half-lying, half-sitting, fully dressed, supported by another, and a very sick-looking young man much resembling him passed in and out occasionally, or leaned on the chimney piece in an attitude of extreme dejection. Soon the door was half-closed, and some one came to it, saying rapidly, “Shields, quick, a candle!” and then there were movings about in the room. All this time the seven or eight people in the room in which I was were talking, laughing, and playing backgammon, and none laughed louder than the landlady, who was sitting where she saw that mysterious door as plainly as I did. All this time, and during the movings in the room, I saw two large white feet sticking up at the end of the bed. I watched and watched, hoping those feet would move, but they did not; and somehow, to my thinking, they grew stiffer and whiter, and then my horrible suspicion deepened, and while we were sitting there a human spirit untended and desolate had passed forth into the night. Then a man came out with a bundle of clothes, and then the sick young man, groaning and sobbing, and then a third, who said to me, with some feeling, that the man who had just died was the sick young man’s only brother. And still the landlady laughed and talked, and afterwards said to me, “It turns the house upside down when they just come here and die; we shall be half the night laying him out.” I could not sleep for the bitter cold and the sound of the sobs and groans of the bereaved brother. The next day the landlady, in a fashionably-made black dress, was bustling about, proud of the prospective arrival of a handsome coffin. I went into the parlor to get a needle, and the door of THAT room was open, and children were running in and out, and the landlady, who was sweeping there, called cheerily to me to come in for the needle, and there, to my horror, not even covered with a face cloth, and with the sun blazing in through the unblinded window, lay that thing of terror, a corpse, on some chairs which were not even placed straight. It was buried in the afternoon, and from the looks of the brother, who continued to sob and moan, his end cannot be far off. The ——— s say that many go to the Springs in the last stage of consumption, thinking that the Colorado climate will cure them, without money enough to pay for even the coarsest board. We talked most of that day, and I equipped myself with arctics and warm gloves for the mountain tour which has been planned for me, and I gave Birdie the Sabbath she was entitled to on Tuesday, for I found, on arriving at the Springs, that the day I crossed the Arkansas Divide was Sunday, though I did not know it. Several friends of Miss Kingsley called on me; she is much remembered and beloved. This is not an expensive tour; we cost about ten shillings a day, and the five days which I have spent en route from Denver have cost something less than the fare for the few hours’ journey by the cars. There are no real difficulties. It is a splendid life for health and enjoyment. All my luggage being in a pack, and my conveyance being a horse, we can go anywhere where we can get food and shelter.
GREAT GORGE OF THE MANITOU, October 29.
This is a highly picturesque place, with several springs, still and effervescing, the virtues of which were well known to the Indians. Near it are places, the names of which are familiar to every one — the Garden of the Gods, Glen Eyrie, Pike’s Peak, Monument Park, and the Ute Pass. It has two or three immense hotels, and a few houses picturesquely situated. It is thronged by thousands of people in the summer who come to drink the waters, try the camp cure, and make mountain excursions; but it is all quiet now, and there are only a few lingerers in this immense hotel. There is a rushing torrent in a valley, with mountains, covered with snow and rising to a height of nearly 15,000 feet, overhanging it. It is grand and awful, and has a strange, solemn beauty like death. And the Snowy Mountains are pierced by the torrent which has excavated the Ute Pass, by which, tomorrow, I hope to go into the higher regions. But all may be “lost for want of a horseshoe nail.” One of Birdie’s shoes is loose, and not a nail is to be got here, or can be got till I have ridden for ten miles up the Pass. Birdie amuses every one with her funny ways. She always follows me closely, and today got quite into a house and pushed the parlor door open. She walks after me with her head laid on my shoulder, licking my face and teasing me for sugar, and sometimes, when any one else takes hold of her, she rears and kicks, and the vicious bronco soul comes into her eyes. Her face is cunning and pretty, and she makes a funny, blarneying noise when I go up to her. The men at all the stables make a fuss with her, and call her “Pet.” She gallops up and down hill, and never stumbles even on the roughest ground, or requires even a touch with a whip. The weather is again perfect, with a cloudless sky and a hot sun, and the snow is all off the plains and lower valleys. After lunch, the ——— s in a buggy, and I on Birdie, left Colorado Springs, crossing the Mesa, a high hill with a table top, with a view of extraordinary laminated rocks, LEAVES of rock a bright vermilion color, against a background of snowy mountains, surmounted by Pike’s Peak. Then we plunged into cavernous Glen Eyrie, with its fantastic needles of colored rock, and were entertained at General Palmer’s “baronial mansion,” a perfect eyrie, the fine hall filled with buffalo, elk, and deer heads, skins of wild animals, stuffed birds, bear robes, and numerous Indian and other weapons and trophies. Then through a gate of huge red rocks, we passed into the valley, called fantastically, Garden of the Gods, in which, were I a divinity, I certainly would not choose to dwell. Many places in this neighborhood are also vulgarized by grotesque names. From this we passed into a ravine, down which the Fountain River rushed, and there I left my friends with regret, and rode into this chill and solemn gorge, from which the mountains, reddening in the sunset, are only seen afar off. I put Birdie up at a stable, and as there was no place to put myself up but this huge hotel, I came here to have a last taste of luxury. They charge six dollars a day in the season, but it is now half-price; and instead of four hundred fashionable guests there are only fifteen, most of whom are speaking in the weak, rapid accents of consumption, and are coughing their hearts out. There are seven medicinal springs. It is strange to have the luxuries of life in my room. It will be only the fourth night in Colorado that I have slept on anything better than hay or straw. I am glad that there are so few inns. As it is, I get a good deal of insight into the homes and modes of living of the settlers.
BERGENS PARK, October 31.
This cabin was so dark, and I so sleepy last night, that I could not write; but the frost during the night has been very severe, and I am detained until the bright, hot sun melts the ice and renders traveling safe. I left the great Manitou at ten yesterday. Birdie, who was loose in the stable, came trotting down the middle of it when she saw me for her sugar and biscuits. No nails could be got, and her shoe was hanging by two, which doomed me to a foot’s pace and the dismal clink of a loose shoe for three hours. There was not a cloud on the bright blue sky the whole day, and though it froze hard in the shade, it was summer heat in the sun. The mineral fountains were sparkling in their basins and sending up their full perennial jets but the snow-clad, pine-skirted mountains frowned and darkened over the Ute Pass as I entered it to ascend it for twenty miles. A narrow pass it is, with barely room for the torrent and the wagon road which has been blasted out of its steep sides. All the time I was in sight of the Fountain River, brighter than any stream, because it tumbles over rose-red granite, rocky or disintegrated, a truly fair stream, cutting and forcing its way through hard rocks, under arches of alabaster ice, through fringes of crystalline ice, thumping with a hollow sound in cavernous recesses cold and dark, or leaping in foam from heights with rush and swish; always bright and riotous, never pausing in still pools to rest, dashing through gates of rock, pine hung, pine bridged, pine buried; twinkling and laughing in the sunshine, or frowning in “dowie dens” in the blue pine gloom. And there, for a mile or two in a sheltered spot, owing to the more southern latitude, the everlasting northern pine met the trees of other climates. There were dwarf oaks, willows, hazel, and spruce; the white cedar and the trailing juniper jostled each other for a precarious foothold; the majestic redwood tree of the Pacific met the exquisite balsam pine of the Atlantic slopes, and among them all the pale gold foliage of the large aspen trembled (as the legend goes) in endless remorse. And above them towered the toothy peaks of the glittering mountains, rising in pure white against the sunny blue. Grand! glorious! sublime! but not lovable. I would give all for the luxurious redundance of one Hilo gulch, or for one day of those soft dreamy “skies whose very tears are balm.”
Up ever! the road being blasted out of the red rock which often overhung it, the canyon only from fifteen to twenty feet wide, the thunder of the Fountain, which is crossed eight times, nearly deafening. Sometimes the sun struck the road, and then it was absolutely hot; then one entered unsunned gorges where the snow lay deep, and the crowded pines made dark twilight, and the river roared under ice bridges fringed by icicles. At last the Pass opened out upon a sunlit upland park, where there was a forge, and with Birdie’s shoe put on, and some shoe nails in my purse, I rode on cheerfully, getting food for us both at a ranch belonging to some very pleasant people, who, like all Western folk, when they are not taciturn, asked a legion of questions. There I met a Colonel Kittridge, who said that he believed his valley, twelve miles off the track, to be the loveliest valley in Colorado, and invited me to his house. Leaving the road, I went up a long ascent deep in snow, but as it did not seem to be the way, I tied up the pony, and walked on to a cabin at some distance, which I had hardly reached when I found her trotting like a dog by my side, pulling my sleeve and laying her soft gray nose on my shoulder. Does it all mean sugar? We had eight miles farther to go — most of the way through a forest, which I always dislike when alone, from the fear of being frightened by something which may appear from behind a tree. I saw a beautiful white fox, several skunks, some chipmunks and gray squirrels, owls, crows, and crested blue-jays. As the sun was getting low I reached Bergens Park, which was to put me out of conceit with Estes Park. Never! It is long and featureless, and its immediate surroundings are mean. It reminded me in itself of some dismal Highland strath — Glenshee, possibly. I looked at it with special interest, as it was the place at which Miss Kingsley had suggested that I might remain. The evening was glorious, and the distant views were very fine. A stream fringed with cotton-wood runs through the park; low ranges come down upon it. The south end is completely closed up, but at a considerable distance, by the great mass of Pike’s Peak, while far beyond the other end are peaks and towers, wonderful in blue and violet in the lovely evening, and beyond these, sharply defined against the clear green sky, was the serrated ridge of the Snowy Range, said to be 200 miles away. Bergens Park had been bought by Dr. Bell, of London, but its present occupant is Mr. Thornton, an English gentleman, who has a worthy married Englishman as his manager. Mr. Thornton is building a good house, and purposes to build other cabins, with the intention of making the park a resort for strangers. I thought of the blue hollow lying solitary at the foot of Long’s Peak, and rejoiced that I had “happened into it.” The cabin is long, low, mud roofed, and very dark. The middle place is full of raw meat, fowls, and gear. One end, almost dark, contains the cooking-stove, milk, crockery, a long deal table, two benches, and some wooden stools; the other end houses the English manager or partner, his wife, and three children, another cooking-stove, gear of all kinds, and sacks of beans and flour. They put up a sheet for a partition, and made me a shake-down on the gravel floor of this room. Ten hired men sat down to meals with us. It was all very rough, dark, and comfortless, but Mr. T., who is not only a gentleman by birth, but an M.A. of Cambridge, seems to like it. Much in this way (a little smoother if a lady is in the case) every man must begin life here. Seven large dogs — three of them with cats upon their backs — are usually warming themselves at the fire.
TWIN ROCK, SOUTH FORK OF THE PLATTE, November 1.
I did not leave Mr. Thornton’s till ten, because of the slipperiness. I rode four miles along a back trail, and then was so tired that I stayed for two hours at a ranch, where I heard, to my dismay, that I must ride twenty-four miles farther before I could find any place to sleep at. I did not enjoy yesterday’s ride. I was both tired and rheumatic, and Birdie was not so sprightly as usual. After starting again I came on a hideous place, of which I had not heard before, Hayden’s Divide, one of the great back-bones of the region, a weary expanse of deep snow eleven miles across, and fearfully lonely. I saw nothing the whole way but a mule lately dead lying by the road. I was very nervous somehow, and towards evening believed that I had lost the road, for I came upon wild pine forests, with huge masses of rock from 100 to 700 feet high, cast here and there among them; beyond these pine-sprinkled grass hills; these, in their turn, were bounded by interminable ranges, ghastly in the lurid evening, with the Spanish Peaks quite clear, and the colossal summit of Mount Lincoln, the King of the Rocky Mountains, distinctly visible, though seventy miles away. It seemed awful to be alone on that ghastly ridge, surrounded by interminable mountains, in the deep snow, knowing that a party of thirty had been lost here a month ago. Just at nightfall the descent of a steep hill took me out of the forest and upon a clean log cabin, where, finding that the proper halting place was two miles farther on, I remained. A truly pleasing, superior-looking woman placed me in a rocking chair; would not let me help her otherwise than by rocking the cradle, and made me “feel at home.” The room, though it serves them and their two children for kitchen, parlor, and bed room, is the pattern of brightness, cleanliness, and comfort. At supper there were canned raspberries, rolls, butter, tea, venison, and fried rabbit, and at seven I went to bed in a carpeted log room, with a thick feather bed on a mattress, sheets, ruffled pillow slips, and a pile of warm white blankets! I slept for eleven hours. They discourage me much about the route which Governor Hunt has projected for me. They think that it is impassable, owing to snow, and that another storm is brewing.
HALL’S GULCH, November 6.
I have ridden 150 miles since I wrote last. On leaving Twin Rock on Saturday I had a short day’s ride to Colonel Kittridge’s cabin at Oil Creek, where I spent a quiet Sunday with agreeable people. The ride was all through parks and gorges, and among pine-clothed hills, about 9,000 feet high, with Pike’s Peak always in sight. I have developed much sagacity in finding a trail, or I should not be able to make use of such directions as these: “Keep along a gulch four or five miles till you get Pike’s Peak on your left, then follow some wheel-marks till you get to some timber, and keep to the north till you come to a creek, where you’ll find a great many elk tracks; then go to your right and cross the creek three times, then you’ll see a red rock to your left,” etc., etc. The K’s cabin was very small and lonely, and the life seemed a hard grind for an educated and refined woman. There were snow flurries after I arrived, but the first Sunday of November was as bright and warm as June, and the atmosphere had resumed its exquisite purity. Three peaks of Pike’s Peak are seen from Oil Creek, above the nearer hills, and by them they tell the time. We had been in the evening shadows for half an hour before those peaks ceased to be transparent gold. On leaving Colonel Kittridge’s hospitable cabin I dismounted, as I had often done before, to lower a bar, and, on looking round, Birdie was gone! I spent an hour in trying to catch her, but she had taken an “ugly fit,” and would not let me go near her; and I was getting tired and vexed, when two passing trappers, on mules, circumvented and caught her. I rode the twelve miles back to Twin Rock, and then went on, a kindly teamster, who was going in the same direction, taking my pack. I must explain that every mile I have traveled since leaving Colorado Springs has taken me farther and higher into the mountains. That afternoon I rode through lawnlike upland parks, with the great snow mass of Pike’s Peak behind, and in front mountains bathed in rich atmospheric coloring of blue and violet, all very fine, but threatening to become monotonous, when the wagon road turned abruptly to the left, and crossed a broad, swift, mountain river, the head-waters of the Platte. There I found the ranch to which I had been recommended, the quarters of a great hunter named Link, which much resembled a good country inn. There was a pleasant, friendly woman, but the men were all away, a thing I always regret, as it gives me half an hour’s work at the horse before I can write to you. I had hardly come in when a very pleasant German lady, whom I met at Manitou, with three gentlemen, arrived, and we were as sociable as people could be. We had a splendid though rude supper. While Mrs. Link was serving us, and urging her good things upon us, she was orating on the greediness of English people, saying that “you would think they traveled through the country only to gratify their palates”; and addressed me, asking me if I had not observed it! I am nearly always taken for a Dane or a Swede, never for an Englishwoman, so I often hear a good deal of outspoken criticism. In the evening Mr. Link returned, and there was a most vehement discussion between him, an old hunter, a miner, and the teamster who brought my pack, as to the route by which I should ride through the mountains for the next three or four days — because at that point I was to leave the wagon road — and it was renewed with increased violence the next morning, so that if my nerves had not been of steel I should have been appalled. The old hunter acrimoniously said he “must speak the truth,” the miner was directing me over a track where for twenty-five miles there was not a house, and where, if snow came on, I should never be heard of again. The miner said he “must speak the truth,” the hunter was directing me over a pass where there were five feet of snow, and no trail. The teamster said that the only road possible for a horse was so-and-so, and advised me to take the wagon road into South Park, which I was determined not to do. Mr. Link said he was the oldest hunter and settler in the district, and he could not cross any of the trails in snow. And so they went on. At last they partially agreed on a route — “the worst road in the Rocky Mountains,” the old hunter said, with two feet of snow upon it, but a hunter had hauled an elk over part of it, at any rate. The upshot of the whole you shall have in my next letter.
I. L. B.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:48