Unexplored!, page 1
By ALLEN CHAFFEE
Author of "Lost River, the Adventures of Two Boys in the Big Woods," "The Travels of Honk-a-Tonk," "Twinkly Eyes" (3 vols.), "Fleet-Foot," "Trail and Tree Top," and "Fuzzy Wuzz, the Little Brown Bear of the Sierras."
Illustrated by William Van Dresser
Spitfire began to double in his best bucking form.--Page 15]
Milton Bradley CompanySpringfield, Massachusetts1922
Copyright, 1922By Milton Bradley CompanySpringfield, MassachusettsBradley Quality Books
Printed in United States of America
H. F. B.,
Who would still be a boy,Were he a thousand years of age.
A pack-burro camping trip in an unexplored region of the high Sierrasresults in a series of adventures for three boys in the late teens, ayoung Geological Survey man and the old prospector who guides them.
They meet bears and catch rainbow trout, are carried to fight fire by theForest Service Air Patrol, and trail the incendiaries through alabyrinthian limestone cave. They ride in a lumber camp rodeo andexperience earthquakes and avalanches. And in the glacier-gouged canyons,the giant Sequoias, and sulphur springs, they trace the story of thegeological formation of the earth, and its evolution from the days ofdinosaurs.
CHAPTER PAGE I The Rodeo 1 II The Camping Trip 31 III Living off the Wilderness 58 IV With the Air Patrol 84 V A Daring Feat 95 VI The Incendiaries 110 VII The Cave 134 VIII The Snow-Slide 154 IX Ted's Fossil Dinosaur 163 X How the Earth Was Made 176 XI The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes 201 XII Gold! 226 Glossary and Pronouncing Dictionary of Geological Terms Used and Key to Geologic Time 263
Ted Smith, flinging his long legs off a frisky bay, grinned delightedlyas his eye caught a flag-decked touring car.
"Are you riding?" called the boy at the wheel.
"Sure AM!" drawled the ranch boy. "How about yourself?"
"Betcher life, Old Kid!" Ace King flung himself to the ground, disclosingthe fact of his new leather chaps--a contrast to Ted's overalls.Greetings followed between Ted and Senator King in the back seat, andPedro Martinez, a black-eyed young fellow who sat a pinto pony alongside.
The slanting rays of California sunshine were fanned by a breeze fromHuntington Lake, as the crowd sifted about the corral fence at CedarCrest. The prevailing khaki of the dusty onlookers gave way at intervalsto a splash of color. An Indian in a purple shirt was borrowing theorange chaps of another broncho-buster; he had drawn number two from thehat. Most of the cowmen offset their "two-quart" sombreros withbrilliant-hued bandannas knotted loosely at their throats. A few worechaparreras in stamped leather, and a few in goatskin--red or black ortan--though most let it go at plain blue overalls. One of the machinesdrawn up beside the soda-pop stand fluttered a flag on its nose. For theFourth was to be marked by a reading of the Declaration of Independencebefore the rodeo and barbecue. (The day had begun with a Parade ofHorribles, in which every last lumberman took part, chanting the marchingsong to an accompaniment of well-belabored frying-pans.)
Unbidden, a band of unspeakably unwashed Digger Indians, attired in gayand ill-assorted rags, appeared, and seated themselves on the oppositehillside, beaming vacuously as the ox was put in the pit to roast(together with two smaller carcasses that the camp cook winkinglydesignated as wild mutton, though he was careful to bury the antlersagainst the possible advent of the Forest Ranger).
The rodeo master, a megaphone-voiced blond giant, in high-heeled ridingboots and spurs that made him limp when he walked, careened up and downthe dusty field on a high-stepping bay, while two lasso men insteel-studded belts and leather cuffs helped round the range stock intothe adjoining small corral.
An unbroken two-year-old with wild, rolling eyes tried to climb the fencewhen the rope tightened on his throat, and a sleek mule kicked out in away that left a red mark on the flank of a lean white mare. Then one ofthe bulls in a separate corral shoved his head under the lower of the twolog bars that fenced him in and lifted--lifted,--but could not breakthrough.
"Riding, old Scout?" Ted asked the young Spanish-Californian.
"'Fraid I'd ride the ground," admitted Pedro, with a gesture of hisplump, manicured hands.
"Yeh!--Saw-horse's HIS mount!" jollied Ace, though the pinto looked by nomeans spiritless. (And to himself he added: "Likely promised his mothernot to. Gee! I'd like to cut him loose from her apron strings for aboutthree months and see how he'd pan out!")
"_He's_ got too much sense to risk his bones," championed the Senator, (aheavy, florid man with a leonine mass of white curly hair and Ace'sdaring black eyes).
Just then a petite young woman rode up, her bobbed curly hair andsun-flushed cheeks topping a red silk blouse joined to her khaki ridingbreeches by a fringed sash that reached half way to her elkskin boots.
"I say, Rosa, are you riding?" greeted Ace. The girl shook her headmerrily. "Dad, that's Pierre La Coste's sister,--you know, he'sfire-lookout on Red Top. Used to be one of our Scouts when we lived inPeach Cove."
"Yeh, we used to call him Pur-r-r," supplemented the ranch boy.
"And that's the horse Ranger Radcliffe's been trying to give her," addedAce, sotto voce. "Isn't he a beauty?"
"And she won't have him?" laughed the Senator.
"Won't have man or beast."
Ace, now studying geology at the University of California, though he hadtraveled widely since the old ranch days, still counted Ted, sandyhaired, thin and freckled, struggling to make his mother's fruit ranch ago, his chum. Pedro, a neighbor of the old days, was his roommate in thefraternity house at Berkeley. All three ran to greet Norris, a young manin the uniform of the U. S. Geological Survey (son of the ForestSupervisor), who now appeared, galloping beside Ranger Radcliffe. For hewas to pilot them on a camping trip into the high Sierras in a week ortwo.
The first entry was just being led forth to be saddled as the fifth andfinal member of their expedition arrived on the scene, afoot,--LongLester, a lanky, bewhiskered old prospector in soft felt hat, clean butcollarless "b'iled shirt," vest, cartridge belt and corduroy "pants,"thrust into the tops of ordinary hob-nailed boots.
"Well, you broncho-busters, out in the center!" megaphoned the man on thebig bay. "Five more riders here!--Two-fifty to ride and seven-fifty moreto go up!" Three men came forward. "We want two more entries. If youpull-leather or fall off, two-fifty. If a fellow rides a bull with onehand hold, he gets seven-fifty. Ten dollars if you go up!"
Ace and Ted exchanged glances as they started forward.
"You're sure courtin' trouble," called the Senator.
"I reckon I am," grinned Ted, "but I'm broke."
"You'll have to pay your winnings to get your bones mended."
"I'll take a chance!"
King laughed. Most of the horses he recognized as having been riddenbefore. But he was secretly resolved if Ace drew a bad one, to exercisehis parental auth
The chums drew from the hat, Ace taking the last name. He started as helooked at his slip. "The white-faced bull," read Ted over his shoulder.
"Gee! Don't tell Dad!" breathed Ace. "What's yours?"
The older boy emitted a long-drawn whistle.
"All right, broncho boys," megaphoned the starter.
The first entry, rearing and snorting, with two lassos about his neck,had finally been blind-folded and caparisoned.
"Johnny White from Fresno, on Old Ned from Northfork," rang theannouncement. An Indian in overalls swung himself into the saddlesimultaneously with the snatching away of lassos and blinders.
The horse tucked his head almost between his knees, and leaped into theair, bowing his back and grunting with each jump, while the dust rosetill no one could tell whether the rider was on or off. Then the horsegalloped to the opposite side of the corral and his unwelcome incumbentwas perceived picking himself sheepishly out of the dust.
"Henry Clark from Table Mountain, on the pinto from Cascada," the nextentry was shortly announced. The Indian in the purple shirt steppedforward, gorgeous in his borrowed chaps.
"Some buckaroo!" grinned Ted.
The pony, not quite so thin as most of the range stock, blinked startledeyes, and the fireworks began. The gorgeous one, barely surviving thefirst buck, and seeing himself riding for a fall in all his finery, leaptnimbly to the ground while the pony went on bucking. He landed right sideup--with no damage to the purple shirt. A derisive jeer greetedthis--fiasco.
"He sure wasn't goin' to dust them ice-cream pants," laughed one of thecrowd hanging over the fence. The Indian signified a desire to try again.After a couple more riders were called, he was given the same mount again.
This time he saved his finery by grabbing hold with both hands.
"Pulling leather only gets two-fifty," adjudged the megaphone man.
"He sure had a good hand hold," gurgled Ted. "Pretty hard on the wrists,isn't it, Henry?"
"Wait till we get you a medal!" boomed Ace.
Next came a white rider, who won the nick-name "Easy Money" by riding amule up with a surcingle, then another Indian,--they were mostly theyoungsters working on local pack-trains,--who began by straddling theneck of his mount and ended by going over the animal's head, landing flaton his back. A momentary hush, and the fence lizards began collectingaround the limp form. The Indian's round brown face had turned gray.
"Stand back and give 'm air," megaphoned the starter, fanning him withhis hat. Some one brought water, then the Indian opened his eyes, andpresently signified a desire to get up. He was helped to his feet. "He'sall right," was the final verdict as the little group led off the field."Somebody give 'm a cigarette." The Indian leaned against the corralfence nonchalantly, lighting up, though with fingers that shook the flameout of several matches.
"Gee!" nudged Ace. "Dad's motioning us, and if he knows I've drawn thatbull, he'll sure----"
"Aw, he's the Gov'ner, just the same. If you had one you'd see. Let'sstick here behind this bunch till my turn comes 'round."
"Sure you'd better try it?" Ted laid a hand on his chum's shoulder.
"Sure thing! What's the use of living if you never take a chance?Besides, you've got a reg'lar rocking-horse yourself, huh?" he scoffed.
"That's all right, I was born ridin'," Ted made light of it.
It was now time for the bay bull. As a saddle swings around on anythingbut a horse, it is easier to ride bulls and mules with a surcingle. Ittook three men to get the bull into the saddling pen, two with lassos andone with a pole, but the strap was finally adjusted around his chest, andthe mount made.
One Shorty Somebody was the rider. And Shorty rode him,--stuck clearacross the corral. But there the bull torpedoed the middle log of thefence and went straight through, scraping Shorty off.
Straight into a startled ring of spectators plowed the enraged beast,sending horses whirling and pedestrians dodging for their lives. Thepetite Rosa's mount got to dancing, and finally staged a petite runawayon his own account, but Rosa kept her head and a tight rein. A small boyscrambled into a low-branching tree. But three lassos and a dozen mountedmen finally headed off the bull and got him into a smaller corral.
Ted looked inquiringly at Ace, but the Senator's son evidently had hisblood up. The white-faced bull, meantime, was again trying to thrust hismassive shoulders beneath the lower bar.
Two mules came next on the program, one rider bringing his mount to termsso quickly that people were laying bets it was just a pack-mule, whilethe other stuck when his jumped the fence.
Ranger Radcliffe, galloping back beside Rosa's now docile mount, waved ahand to the boys. Then a murmur rippled through the loungers thatencircled the corral, as the white-faced bull was called for. Ace'snerves began to tingle.
This bull had been kept in close confinement for several days past, andit had not improved his temper. They had to throw him to put on thestraps.
"Hold him!--Hold him!" at intervals percolated through the hum of voices,as the great brute lay panting in the saddling pen, his eyes ringed withinfuriated white, his snorting breath--audible thirty feet away--sendingspirals of dust scudding before his nose.
"Well, what do you say? Say it quick! I'm betting on the bull," King waschallenging the Ranger, little dreaming who the rider was to be.
This bull was to be ridden with a saddle and one hand hold. The gate ofthe saddling pen cracked as its occupant tried to rise.
"You folks around the fence, you had better look out!" megaphoned thestarter. "This 'ere bull may not look where he's a-goin'!"
The gate cracked again. A woman nearby screamed. Two men with lassosready waited on either side, their mounts aquiver. Ace's ruddy face hadgrown strangely lined, but he stood his ground.
"The fellow that rides that bull is sure foolhardy," the Senator wasremarking, pulling his hat further over his iron-gray brows against theslant of the sun. Then the Ranger rode up with Rosa, and she was invitedto a seat behind the fluttering flag.
"Either that or almighty sandy," amended Radcliffe.
Like a streak of lightning the bull arose, jaws slavering. One mightycrack and he had burst the gate, a plunge and he was plowing his wayacross the field, trailing a rope that still held his saddle horn. Thestarter raced after, his big bay holding back with all his might on therope. The dust blew chokingly into the faces of those on the Senator'sside of the corral. Then the bull caught sight of that fluttering red,white and blue.
For one awful instant Rosa found those staring white-rimmed eyes glaringstraight into her own. The bull's next leap would carry him over thefence and into the machine. She blanched, but sat silent. Pedro, drawn upbeside her on his pinto, felt paralyzed. The Senator threw his engine onas if to back away.
"Hold him!--HOLD him!" shrilled the starter, pounding back. The rope onthe saddle horn--would it hold? Then a lasso was thrown, tighteningneatly around the hind legs of the runaway.
"Got him stretched now!" came the triumphant shout, as the bull went downwith an infuriated snort, and lay there, chest heaving, while thevaqueros made him fast.
"The ride's off,--nobody goin' to ride _him_ to-day!" decided the man onthe bay. The bull was relieved of his saddle and headed protestingly backinto the small corral.
Ace King's face was set in deep lines. He had been all nerved up to hisride. Now that it was off, his knees felt shaky, and he climbed to a seaton the top rail. And Pedro flushed to hide his pallor.
But Ted's time was yet to come. One rider in between, whose horse piledhim on the ground, and the announcement came: "Ted Smith from Peach Cove,rides Spitfire from Huntington Lake."
"I'm sorry for that kid," stated Long Lester, who leaned lankily over thegate, thumbs in the arm-holes of his vest. "Want up, little miss?" and hehelped a child to a vantage point beside him.
"Go to it, old pal!" Ace thumped the contestant breath-takingly.
"Oo-wah-hoo-oo-oo!" the Indians bettered them.
Senator King honked in joyous abandon. Pedro's dark eyes flashed. "Spunkykid!" commented Radcliffe. "I'm betting he'll ride him straight up!"
"He'll be killed!" Rosa shivered.
"Not with those long legs to get a grip with," the Ranger reassured her.
"Ain't that hoss a dinger!" admiringly Long Lester demanded of theassemblage, as Spitfire danced forth with three lassos trying to hold himfor the blinders. Again he tried to climb the fence, eyes wide, nostrilsquivering.
"I'm just itchin' to ride him," Ted replied to Ace's questioning gaze.Every nerve in his wiry body was keyed electrically. Then the saddle wasadjusted, Ted was in the stirrups, and the blinder was jerked free."R-r-ready! Let 'er go!" was megaphoned.
About that time things began to happen. Spitfire, as if feeling that hisreputation needed demonstrating, began to double in his best bucking form.
"_Ride_ him, Ted!" yelled Ace. "Hey, Ted rides him, eh?"
"Scratch him!" contributed Long Lester, who believed in spurs. "Say,he's a-scratchin' him up and down!--Ya-hooooooo!" as Ted rode himup again and again, both arms free, slapping him hip and shoulder,hip and shoulder with his sombrero. Zip!--_Zip!_--ZOOM!--Around andaround they went, the mustang snorting loudly with each bounce, latheringin his effort to unseat his rider. But Ted had grown to his back.
The broncho stopped, exhausted, flanks heaving.
"SOME riding!" gasped Pedro.
Then a shout went up. Ted was champion rider of the rodeo!
To the ranch boy's amazement, he now found his long legs dangling from aseat on the shoulders of his two college friends, while they marchedabout to the tune of "A Jolly Good Fellow,"--Norris himself laughinglyjoining in the chorus, and Long Lester thumping him breath-takinglybetween the shoulder blades.
That was the day the camping trip had been planned. It was also the dayAce's little Spanish 'plane, wirelessed from its hanger inBurlingame, had given them all a surprise, and a trial sail. Thepilot arrived shivering in leather jacket and heavy cap, woolen mufflerand goggles, with similar wraps for Ace, whose leather chaps now served apurpose. For the intense cold of the upper levels it was necessary forthe pilot to lend his outer apparel, as each of the prospective campmates in turn took the observer's seat, with Ace piloting.
Ted was used to flying with him,--had, indeed, given him the nick-namewhich all had now adopted, as a compliment to his exploits as a birdman.But to the other three it was a new experience. He invited Norris first.Their route lay like a map below them, as they winged their way acrossthe sky, steering first due South till the rim of King's River Canyonthreatened to suck them down into its depths, then circling to the Easttill they could see Mt. Whitney rising snow-capped above the surroundingpeaks, and back to the waiting boys.
Long Lester ventured next, and as he afterwards expressed it, he thoughthe was riding on the back of his neck as they soared into the blue deepsabove them, while the ocean of the atmosphere tossed them aboutcapriciously. This time Ace, running her into the cold strait above theriver, headed her down canyon to within a hundred feet of the forest top,his grit based on sound mechanical training; his daring counterbalancedby his cool headed precision. He tried no stunts, however, as he hadpromised his father to indulge in no aerial acrobatics under 1,000 feet.When they finally returned to terra firma, right side up with care, theold prospector expressed himself as nowise envious of Elijah.
Pedro belted himself in with a lack of enthusiasm that Long Lester didnot fail to note with sympathy, and away they soared, fearlessly on Ace'spart, whose eyes, ears and lungs were in the pink of condition. But tothe Spanish boy came first a dizzy, seasick feeling, coupled with aconviction that he could not draw breath against the head wind, then achill that penetrated even the pilot's uniform, as he watched the earthrecede beneath them. The motor purred as they gained momentum and thepropellers whirred noisily, and the changing air pressures so affectedthe stability of the light craft that he felt half the time as if theywere lying over on their side. He also reflected that, should the enginestall, their descent would be a matter of seconds only. In the dry heatthey had been traveling with what seemed terrific speed. He protestedonce, but Ace did not hear him.
Then in the cold of the higher altitude, their speed was reduced andtraveling was smoother. When at last the great white bird dropped backalmost on the spot from which they had started,--the distinguishing featof the Spanish 'plane,--he was almost a convert, though as Lester said,"a little green about the gills." When later the opportunity came to tryit again, he abdicated in favor of Ted.
Norris assured them that there is air for 50 miles above the earth, andsometimes a tidal wave of atmosphere reaching as high as 200 miles,though after it gets about 190 degrees below zero, less is known aboutit. Its density is reduced fully half at 18,000 feet,--half a mile abovethe highest peaks, like Mt. Whitney, but though the air of high altitudesis more buoyant, the cold none the less reduces the speed of the aircruiser.
While they were eating they discussed their itinerary.
Norris had the large trail maps of both Sierra and Sequoia NationalForests. These he laid out and pieced together into one big sheet tenfeet long. On these maps were marked out the good camp grounds, and wherebears, or deer, quail or grouse, might be found, where supplies wereobtainable, or pack and saddle stock, guides and packers, or Forestranger stations (little cabins flying a flag from their peaks, to makethem show up on the map).
There were the "roads passable for wagons," "trails passable for packstock," and "routes passable for foot travel only." There were areasmarked with varying tiny green tufts of grass labeled "meadows wherestock grazing is permitted," and "meadows where it is not permitted,""meadows fenced for the free use of the traveling public" and "meadowsfenced for the use of Forest Rangers only."
Diminutive green pine trees indicated forest areas particularlyinteresting, striped red areas signalized National Forest timber sales,cut over or in operation, black triangles denoted Forest Service fireoutlook stations, and a drawing that looked like a woodshed showed whereForest Service fire fighting tools had been cached in variousout-of-the-way places. "TLP" indicated the free Government telephoneboxes, red doughnutty-looking circles meant good mountains to climb, withsome indication of the safest routes to the top, areas marked out in reddiamonds were labeled as geographically interesting, and those in greenas botanically of more than ordinary interest.
A green feathery-looking line meant a canyon, a green triangle awaterfall, a plain green line a stream offering good fishing, and abroken green line a stream stocked with young fish, while an X meant abarrier impassable by fish, though what that meant, not one of them couldsay.
There were various other marks, such as a hub surrounded by the spokes ofa wheel (whatever it was intended for), the key to which explained thatfrom that point a good view was to be obtained.
But what most attracted their attention, all up and down the crest of theSierra Nevada as it stretched from North, North-West to South,South-East, were the wide green areas "of special scenic interest," mostof which was marked "UNEXPLORED!" in great warning red letters.
It was this part of the map that most fascinated the little campingparty. Why should they choose a route that was all cut and dried forthem, as it were,--where each day they would know when they started outjust about where night would find them and what they would meet with onthe way? Who wanted their views labeled anyway? That was all very well,very thoughtful of the Forest Service, for inexperienced campers, whowould probably never venture into the unknown. But to Ace, the airman, toTed, with his experienced wild-craft, and to Pedro the romanticist, noless than to the young Yale man whose thirst for far places had led himinto the U. S. Geological Survey, the Mystery of the Unexplored called,with a lure that was not to be denied. Long Lester, they knew, was gamefor anything,--for had he not prospected through these mountai
It was a wild region, as rough and as little known as anything fromHawaii to Alaska,--only different. The John Muir Trail, named for theexplorer,--a "way through" rather than a trail,--stretched along thecrest of the range, the roughest kind of going, (absolutely a horsebacktrip, it was generally pronounced), and from its glacier-capped peaks,from 14,500 foot Mt. Whitney, to the even more difficult though lesslofty Lyell, ran the Kings' River, North, Middle, and canyoned SouthForks, the Kern and the Kaweah, the Merced and the San Joaquin,--to nameonly the largest.
Unlike the older Eastern ranges, the Sierra is laid out with remarkableregularity, the one great 12,000- to 14,000-foot divide, with itsscarcely lower passes, giving off ridges on the Western slope like theteeth of a coarse granite comb. Between ridges, deep, glacier-cutcanyons, "yo-semities," (to employ the Indian name), with their swift,cascading rivers make North to South travel difficult, though one canfollow one side of the openly forested canyons to the very crest of themain ridge.
Here and there was a grove of Big Trees, varying in size from the GiantForest of Sequoia National Park to the few mediocre specimens at DinkeyCreek. But as a rule the hot, irrigated valleys of the Sacramento and SanJoaquin gave way to patches of the small oaks and pines of the foothills,and these in turn, several thousand feet higher up the Western slopes, toyellow pine and incense cedar, Sequoias and giant sugar pines. Higherstill came the silver fir belt, and after that, the twisted Tamaracks anddwarfed and storm-tossed mountain pines, reaching often in at least adecorative fringe along the rock cracks to the very peaks, all the way upto 12,000 feet. (Tree line in the White Mountains of New Hampshire comessoon after 5,000.) Above that, of course, only snow and ice could clothethe slopes.
Hell-for-Sure Pass was one name that attracted Ace's eye on the map. Hejudged that it must mean stiff going,--but even had they actually plannedto climb that way, he would have preferred to wait and discover forhimself the reason for its nomenclature. There was also Deadman Pass,(another name to tickle the imagination), Electra Peak, Thousand IslandLake, The Devil's Post Pile, Volcanic Ridge, Crater Creek, StairwayCreek, Fawn Meadow,--and dangerously near, Bear Meadow,--VermilionCliffs, Piute Pass, Disappearing Creek, Lost Canyon, Table Mountain,(reminiscent of the Bret Harte days), Deadman Canyon, (flavoring morestrongly of the gold days of '49), and Rattlesnake Creek, (doubtlessdeserving the title.)--To say nothing of such ordinary features as 13,500foot University Peak, (a mere wave of the sea of peaks surroundingchampions Lyell and Whitney), Diamond Peak, 13,000 feet, Mt. Baxter,likewise around 13,000, Mt. Pinchot, and a score of others (occurring atshort intervals in a solid phalanx). Whoever wants to climb a mountaineverybody climbs, seemed to be the final verdict of the party. There areother peaks almost as high as Whitney, (certainly quite high enough tosuit the most fastidious sportsman), and probably even more difficult ofascent. Why not discover something new under the sun? In other words, whynot strike off at random into the Unexplored? They would head right intothe thick of the thickest green patch on the map, and wander as fancydictated. If they felt like climbing, they would climb. If they felt likelazing, (as Pedro put it), they would laze. If they came to a river theycould cross, all right. If they could not cross, why, all right, whocared?
There was rumor of vast caves that riddled the back country. There werehot springs, soda springs,--who knew what? Good pasturage was never hardto find. The verdant meadows left by the glacier lakes could be countedon up to the very backs of the 9,000-foot ridges. Most of them were halfto a mile wide, and at the head waters of the big rivers, they had heard,were meadows nearer ten miles in length.
With one exception, every lake in the Sierras is a glacier lake (thatexception being Huntington, a "made" lake four miles long that fallsthree thousand feet through a flume to add power to an electric plant).These lakes lie all the way up to as high as 8,000 feet above sea-level,Norris's theory being that in time they will be found higher still. Theglaciers left by the last ice age naturally melted first in the lowerreaches, and as those that now cap the peaks and flow down between ridgeslike the arms of a starfish, melt in their turn, they will leave theiricy, green-blue crystal pools higher and higher up the mountainsides.Just North of Mt. Ritter, Norris told them, lies a glacier lake at analtitude of 12,000 feet, while the glaciers still to be found are slowly,slowly grinding out the basins of the lakes that will one day, (possiblycenturies hence), lie where now linger these evidences of the lastglacier epoch.
Where these lakes have in their turn disappeared they have left theserich-soiled meadows. Where these level-lying meadows failed thempasturage for their burros, Norris guaranteed that there would be plentyof hanging meadows,--long, narrow, bowldery strips of weed enameledverdure slanting up and down the moraine-covered canyon sides, beginningaway up at timber line, where springs the source of their life-givingmoisture.
Before the group broke up that day, word came that Rosa's brother hadbroken his leg, there at the fire outlook on Red Top. (A pack-mule hadcrowded his horse off the trail on the steep slope of an arroyo, and thehorse had fallen, though breaking his otherwise sure descent into thecreek below by coming sharply up against a tree trunk.)
"The worst of it is," worried Radcliffe, "with men so scarce, I don'tknow who to send in his place. Besides, it's a week's horseback trip fromhere,--and fires breaking every day,--and he needs a doctor."
It was not till the deed was done that Ace returned to announce, with thesmile of the cat who has licked the cream, that Rosa had insisted ontaking her brother's place. He, Ace, had found the spot from her sureknowledge of the topography of the place. (She had kept house there forher brother the summer before, in the wee, wind-swept cabin.) And leavingRosa there, as she pluckily insisted, Ace brought her brother back,covering in minutes, as the bird flies, what it would have taken a weekto traverse on horseback. Those mountain trails corkscrew up and down thecanyon sides till instead of calling a certain distance a hundred milesaccording to the map, one states it, "a week into the back-country,"--orin the case of the trailless peaks, (among which Long Lester felt most athome), the same distance might be a matter of a four-weeks' camping trip,with no human habitation, and the likelihood of not even a ranch at whichto purchase supplies, in between.
Then the Senator sent the 'plane back to San Francisco, and its hangar inBurlingame, before--as he said--his young hopeful could start anythingmore. He himself was to spend the next month fishing around Kings' RiverCanyon, putting up at the canvas hotel. But he took as much interest inthe camping trip as if he had been a member of it,--as, indeed, didRanger Radcliffe, though word of a fresh forest fire breaking cut shorthis part in the powwow.
The question now arose, should they go horseback, or afoot withpack-burros,--a string of which Long Lester yearned to pilot.
True, a mountain-bred pony will hop and slide up and down mountain ledgesthat would make an Eastern horse's hair literally stand on end. They havebeen born and bred to it, physically and mentally. They have been knownto sit back almost on their haunches and slide when they could get downno other way. Some of them will walk a log twenty feet above the surfaceof a stream. (The Eastern rider will find that hard to believe, until herecalls the feats of circus horses.) But not all horses are alike, anymore than people. Why should the plains horse and the park horse and goodold Dobbin, the farm horse, be equine mountaineers and prospectors?
"Shank's horses" and the pack-burros won the final ballot,--to Pedro'sopen dismay. But they would first ride the well-defined two-days'horseback trail from Giant Forest to the Kings' River Canyon, and GiantForest is an automobile stage ride from Fresno, which is another shortday's ride from Huntington Lake.
(Strange are the threads of destiny! Not one of that group so much asdreamed that they were embarking on anything but a five weeks' campingtrip.)
[Footnote 1: Pronounced Blingam.]