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LETTER xx                     LAKE IRENE                                  87


LAKE IRENE, July 27.

YESTERDAY we marched through narrow defiles and along
hillsides to this lake, without seeing a tent, a man, or
even a sheep or goat, following a stream which bears
several names and receives several torrents which burst,
full grown, from powerful springs in the mountain sides
—a frequent phenomenon in this country—from its
source till its entrance into this lake. Its two
sides differ remarkably. On the right bank rise the
magnificent ranges which form Shuturun, broken up
into precipices, deep ravines, and peaks, all rocky and
shapely, and absolutely denuded of soil The mountains
on the left bank are great shapeless masses of bare gravel
rising into the high but blunt summit of the Sefid Kuh,
with only occasional outcrops of rock; here and there
among the crevices of the rocky spurs of Shuturun the
Juniperus excelsa plants itself; otherwise, on the sun-
scorched gravel only low tamarisk bushes, yellow salvias,
a few belated campanulas, and a very lovely blue Tricho-
desma mollis remain.

On reaching the top of a very long ascent there was
a unique surprise, for below, walled in by precipitous
mountain sides, lies a lake of wonderful beauty, owing
to its indescribable colour. Wild, fierce, and rocky are
the high mountains in which this gem is set, and now
verdureless, except that in some places where their steep