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Full text of "CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS"

1054 





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CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 




AT TWO-BUNCH PALMS; SAN GORGONIO MOUNTAIN IN 
THE DISTANCE 



CALIFORNIA DESERT 
TRAILS 

BY 

J. SMEATON CHASE 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS FROM PHOTOGRAPHS 
BY THE AUTHOR 

AND AN APPENDIX OF PLANTS 
ALSO HINTS ON DESERT TRAVELLING 




BOSTON AND NEW YORK 

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY 

1919 



COPYRIGHT, 19x9, BY J, SMEATON CHASE 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

AT TWO-BUNCH PALMS; SAN GORGONIO MOUNTAIN IN THE 

DISTANCE- Frontispiece 

A CHARACTERISTIC CASTON-MOUTH WITH ITS APRON OF 

DEBRIS 6 

THE REALM OF GEOLOGY ALONE 10 

IN CHINO CANON 18 

LA REINA DEL CANON 22 

AN INDIAN OLLA CACHED IN A CANON-WALL .... 30 
SEVEN PALMS AND SAN JACINTO MOUNTAIN .... 34 
DESERT-BRUSH: OCOTILLOS THE MAIN FEATURE ... 50 

AN OASIS WATER-HOLE 58 

AN INDIAN CUTTING OUT THE HEART OF AN AGAVE FOR 

BAKING 62 

AN EMERGENCY WATER-SUPPLY 62 

FLORAL SPRING: ABRONIAS AMID MESQUITS .... 66 
SEVEN PALMS AND SAN JACINTO MOUNTAIN: A NIGHT 

EFFECT 94 

THE PATHWAY OF THE TORRENT 102 

IN THOUSAND-PALM CANON no 

SMOKE-TREES IN A CANON WASH 116 

SAND, MOUNTAIN, SKY, AND SILENCE ^ . 120 

THE WATER-LINE OF THE VANISHED SEA 126 

AMONG THE MUD-HILLS 130 



xvi ILLUSTRATIONS 

THE SIDE-WINDER, THE LITTLE HORNED RATTLESNAKE THAT 

GOES SIDEWAYS 134 

CHOLLA CACTUS, THE VILEST OF THE VILE 134 

JOSHUA-TREES ON A HIGH MESA 140 

AT TWENTY-NINE PALMS 150 

IN PAINTED CANON 170 

AT AGUA DULCE: HOME OF FIGTREE JOHN . . . .182 

SUNRISE OVER THE SALTON SEA 188 

ON A DESERT MOUNTAIN TRAIL 230 

THE OLD STAGE-STATION AT VALLECITOS 248 

IN THE SUPERSTITIONS . . 266 

A DESERT SETTLER'S HOME ......... 288 

AN OLD SAGUARO, WITH HOLES OF THE ELF-OWL . . .312 

THE CITY OF LA PAZ 334 

CAHUILLA INDIAN ADOBE HOUSE AND STORAGE-BASKET . 348 

PlCTOGRAPHS OF THE CAHUILLA INDIANS 348 

GOD'S ACRE: CHOLLAS AND MORTALITY . . . . .356 



TO MY AUNT 
IN THE LITTLE RED TOWN 

AMONG THE RAINY CUMBERLAND MOUNTAINS 

THIS UNCOMMONLY DRY VOLUME IS 

AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED 



I ACKNOWLEDGE a sense of mystical rev- 
erence when first I approach some illus- 
trious feature of the globe, some coast 
line of ocean, some mighty river or dreary 
mountain-range, the ancient barrier of 
kingdoms. KINGLAKE: Eoihen. 



PREFACE 

THAT appetite comes by eating I have found to 
be as true in the matter of geography as in the 
affairs of the table. After long wanderings among the 
incomparable forests and mountains and by the ro- 
mantic shores of the most scenic and diversified of 
our States, I fell an easy prey to the beckonings of 
the other principal feature of California's topog- 
raphy, the dreamy, dreary desert. Long ago, on 
short expeditions into and across it at various points, 
I had fallen under its inexplicable charm; now I 
determined to know it more closely, by daily and 
nightly intercourse through months of travel in its 
sun-blasted solitudes: gaining the experience I de- 
sired at the price, certainly, of some discomfort, 
and, possibly, of a trifling degree of danger merely 
enough for spice. 

This volume, then, is the fruit of over two years' 
continuous camping and travelling on the desert. 
It might more exactly be named " Colorado Desert 
Trails" than "California Desert Trails," since there 
are within this State other expanses of desert (such 
as the Mojave, contiguous on the north to the region 
I describe) which are not touched upon in the book. 
But there seemed a danger of confusion in the other 
name, since, on a casual sight, the word "Colorado" 
in the title might give the impression that the sub- 
ject-matter was some region in the State of that 



x PREFACE 

name. The tract I deal with is, in truth', unfortu- 
nately named though the misfortune is acci- 
dental, since, when it was labelled, in 1853, there was 
no State of Colorado and out-and-out Coloradans 
might justly petition our common Uncle that the 
mere suspicion of harboring a desert should be lifted 
from them and the odium plainly fixed upon the 
rival tourist-claiming nephew, California. 

The book might have been made of more instruc- 
tive value, no doubt, had the writer been a man of 
science naturalist, botanist, or geologist; for in 
all those fields, and others that are outside my range, 
the desert is full of matter. Yet it may not be unfair 
to say that the observer whose interest is trained 
upon a certain aspect of Nature may be to that ex- 
tent incapacitated as regards the more general or 
purely scenic bearings of his surroundings. And so 
these discursive notes may possibly bring to the 
reader a truer, though in some ways less explicit, 
impression of the country described than would be 
the case if they came from the pen of one who was 
even a fractional savant. 

For somewhat the same reason, little is here said 
of the really remarkable agricultural developments 
which in the past few years have come over consid- 
erable portions of this intractable-seeming region. 
I am no farmer, know little of potatoes or alfalfa, 
poultry, pigs, or cattle, until the stage when they 
issue in finished product from the kitchen. Thus I 
may seem to ignore what to the practical mind must 
appear the chief, or even the only, items of value. 
I do not forget those Imperialites and Coachellans 



PREFACE jd 

who made hopeful suggestions " I guess you'll 
boom up this section now, won't you, say? Finest 
land in the State" and so on; nor their puzzled 
or pitying glances when I made the only possible 
reply, that I did not, could not, and would not 
boom; was, in fact, even averse to booms and boom- 
ers; and was more enthralled by desert sunsets than 
by desert dairies, astounding as these might be. In a 
word, it is the desert as desert God's desert, not 
man's that engaged my interest, and that, as I 
this moment call it up before my inward eye, seems 
to me the most memorable, in its totality of impres- 
siveness, of all natural objects that I have met. 

But I confess that the fascination of the untamed 
desert has proved to be of too subtle a quality for 
words of mine to render. That would necessarily be 
true, of course, of anybody's attempt in any field of 
Nature: but it would be tenfold true with respect 
to the desert, and I will be bold to say that it would 
be true without regard to the person in the case. 
Whether it be that the desert is too intrinsically 
alien to our psychology, or for some other reason, too 
baffling to trace, I believe it to be the fact that its 
genius is the rarest and the most elusive of all the 
elements that make up the wonder of this transcend- 
ent world. No "last word" on the desert will ever 
be written; no statement, I mean, that, to those who 
know the subject in any real degree, will not seem 
to fail of getting at the essence. 

It is a pleasure to record botanical obligations to 
my friend Mr. S. B. Parish, of San Bernardino, Cali- 
fornia, whose thorough knowledge of the flora of 



xii PREFACE 

the desert, freely put at my disposal, was invaluable 
in revising the Appendix of Plants. I am indebted 
also to the United States Geological Survey for per- 
mission to reprint from one of their publications the 
" Hints on Desert Travelling " that appear in Appen- 
dix A. 

In conclusion, it is most satisfactory to note that, 
since the following chapters were prepared, the 
United States Government has, by a small appro- 
priation of funds, made at least a beginning towards 
bettering the conditions of desert travel by the 
marking of roads and water-holes. 

J.S.C 

PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA 
November, 1918 



CONTENTS 

I. INTRODUCTORY i 

II. THE PALM OASES AND CANONS 15 

III. TREES AND TREE-LIKE GROWTHS 38 

IV. THE SMALLER CACTI, SHRUBS, AND FLOWERS . . 53 
V. SOME DESERT INDIAN LORE .....'. 69 

VI. A DESERT RIDE: PALM SPRINGS TO SEVEN PALMS . 84 

VII. SEVEN PALMS TO THOUSAND PALM CANON . . 96 

VIII. THOUSAND PALM CANON TO COACHELLA VALLEY . no 

IX. COACHELLA VALLEY TO PINON WELL . . .126 

X. PINON WELL TO MECCA 144 

XL MECCA TO FIGTREE JOHN 169 

XII. FIGTREE JOHN TO BOREGO SPRINGS . . . .186 

XIII. BOREGO SPRINGS TO Los COYOTES . . . .205 

XIV. Los COYOTES TO WARNER'S SPRINGS . . . .223 
XV. WARNER'S SPRINGS TO AGUA CALIENTE . . .237 

XVI. AGUA CALIENTE TO "SAN FELIPE CITY" ... 254 

XVII. "SAN FELIPE CITY" TO IMPERIAL VALLEY . . 272 

XVIII. IMPERIAL VALLEY TO YUMA ...... 294 

XIX. YUMA TO BLYTHE 315 

XX. BLYTHE TO COACHELLA VALLEY 339 

APPENDIX A. HINTS ON DESERT TRAVELLING . 359 

B. NOTICEABLE PLANTS OF THE DESERT 366 

INDEX 3 Sl 



CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 



CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 
CHAPTER I 

INTRODUCTORY 

The Desert a riddle Its charm a contradiction Attraction of 
the unattractive The desert fringe a contrast Supremacy in 
color "Opal" the word Sand as a reflector Sunset 
Rock-color Mountain contours Bleached ranges Color 
on levels Rock-mosaic Austerity of the open desert Color- 
flood of spring Sky-color Morning and evening hues 
Battles in the skies The "wistful" quality London versus 
the Colorado Solitude our native air The awe of silence 
The desert as antidote. 

THAT stony mystery the Sphinx, fixed in eter- 
nal reverie amid the immemorial sands of 
Egypt, might well stand as a symbol of the desert 
itself ; not that desert only, but deserts everywhere. 
One point out of many that make up the analogy is 
the baffling nature of the spell that people find in 
the famous monument. One will say it is due to a 
sense of its immense age ; another, that the features 
bear a supernatural expression, or hold some secret 
meaning; another feels its awe to lie in the riddle of 
its purpose; and another, in some supposed signifi- 
cance of its proportions. Similarly, the magic of the 
desert is a riddle. Not only does it defy putting into 
words, but I have never found the person who felt 
that he could even shape it vaguely to himself in 
thought. 

For one thing, it is in its essence a contradiction. 



2 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

The desert is the opposite of all that we naturally 
find pleasing. Yet I believe that its hold upon those 
who have once fallen under its spell is deeper and 
more enduring than is the charm of forest or sea or 
mountain. This must seem a strange statement to 
make, but I make it with consideration and in the 
light of others' experience besides my own. The 
beauty of great woodlands, the mystical solemnity 
of the sea, the power and glory of mountains 
right well we love all these: yet somehow, that pale, 
grave face of the desert, if once you look long upon 
it, takes you more subtly captive and keeps you 
enchained by a stronger bond. It is as if you were 
bemused by the gaze of a sorceress: or had listened 
over long to some witching, monotonous strain: or 
had pondered too deeply on old legends of weirdry 
or parchments from tombs of strange, forgotten 
lands. Certainly it is not love, in any degree, that 
one feels for the desert, nor could any other single 
term convey the sentiment. But whatever it is, 
there is something of haunting in it, and it is a 
haunting that lasts for life. 

The explanation of this puzzling allurement may 
lie partly in the fact that the mind of man is not 
steadfast in its attitude toward Nature: it seems to 
change in reverse, as it were, to the spirit of the time. 
As usual, it is the opposite that attracts. The gentler 
features of the earth, its flowers, meadows, quiet 
hills, have always met response, and most so when 
the times were most troublous. But the vast and the 
wild raised no thrills but those of dislike and fear so 
long as life was, in a manner, similar; that is, while 



INTRODUCTORY 3 

civilization was unborn or young. True, mountain- 
eers have of old loved their mountains, but that was 
due, we may guess, more to appreciation of the pro- 
tection they gave from foes, in times of chronic war 
and foray, than to any sense of their beauty and 
sublimity. 

But now the pendulum tends to the other extreme. 
After centuries of home, security, satisfaction of 
want, we come to a revulsion. Ease and tame ways 
of living having reached, for most of us, the present 
far stage, there has arisen a zest for things rugged 
and wild. Hardship looks attractive, scarcity be- 
comes desirable, starkness turns an unexpected side 
of beauty. If the sun that has pleased me with 
warmth has power to blast as well, Homo sum, let 
him try it on. If Mother Earth has rooms from which 
she would bar me with threats, let her make the 
threats good if she can. If the eye loves verdure and 
low, cool tones of color, let it take a Spartan course 
of whitest light and fiercest color-wave. These things 
also are part of our estate, and we cannot afford to 
leave them out of the accounts. Thus, the desolate, 
gaunt, and dreadful in Nature at last have their 
day: the risk is, indeed, that they may run to over- 
valuation. (Perhaps even the pranks of those funny 
fellows the "futurists," "cubists/ 1 and "vorticists," 
in poetry, music, and art, might be explained by 
this clue: civilization has got on their nerves, and 
they simply have to scream.) 

As scenery merely, the desert is the last field that 
could take the fancy. The forest, even if gloomy, 
gives a sense of companionship, and is filled with 



4 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

life and the means of life food, fire, and shelter. 
The ocean, impersonal and insincere as it is, has 
motion and color, play of ripple and breathing 
grandeur of tide. The mountains give pleasant 
boundary to our little lives, shutting in friends and 
kin, shutting out strange humanity and alien climes, 
and vaguely gratifying the sentiment for home. But 
the desert yields no point of sympathy, and meets 
every need of man with a cold, repelling No. 

There are, it is true, about the fringes of the 
desert, spots of sylvan beauty. Canons break down 
from these sterile walls, where, following a cascading 
brook, cottonwoods and sycamores come trooping 
in verdant file, and palms hold broad fans aloft 
against opaque screen of rock and deep transparency 
of sky. In spring, mating birds find these places out, 
and live in transient busy colonies while they raise 
their broods. Flowers, under unbroken days of sun, 
crowd into sudden bloom, the frail annuals growing 
quickly and hurrying to mature blossom and seed 
before the last moisture is drained from air and soil. 
The hardier plants here keep up a lively show, notice- 
ably strong in the primary colors, well into summer, 
though short will have been their shrift on the open 
desert. Even ferns contrive to live within perhaps a 
quarter-mile of the boundary of strict aridity. 

But these are only local conditions, quite the re- 
verse of typical. One feature of loveliness the desert 
has, however, that is essential : in one field of beauty 
it is supreme. That is the field of color. Professor 
John C. Van Dyke, who has made that fine study of 
the desert which takes the rank of a classic, gives to 



INTRODUCTORY 5 

a companion volume on the ocean the title of " The 
Opal Sea." A better term than " opal " could scarcely 
be found for describing in a word the color of the 
desert itself. The marvellous air, wholly free from 
the vapors and impurities of coast and valley places, 
while it sharpens detail and reduces difference of 
plane, at the same time throws over every object 
in far or middle distance a veil of lilac atmosphere " 
wonderfully thin and transparent. Owing, perhaps, 
to the high power of these color-waves, the eye is 
hardly interfered with in penetrating shadows. As a 
result, one receives the full effect of every tone of 
color, whether in light or shade: while all come to 
the eye softened but enriched, and with that inde- 
finable opaline quality that gives magic and fascina- 
tion to the most poetic of gems. 

The geological simplicity of sand and rock does 
not result, as might be expected, in poverty of color. 
Sand, particularly, might seem to be capable of 
little change of hue. But, on the contrary, its re- 
flecting power gives it special value as a color agent, 
a means of taking on varying effects from the ever- 
changing sky. In the northwestern arm of the Colo- 
rado Desert are two great masses of sand. Flattened 
domes in shape, the higher one rises, I should guess, 
to five hundred feet above the surrounding levels. 
The sand probably overlies a rocky abutment of the 
adjacent foothills, and has been heaped there by 
that scarifying wind, the terror of railway employes 
whose lines are cast in the division which includes 
the San Gorgonio Pass. For months these sand-hills 
were in my daily view, and to describe the shades of 



6 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

color I have noted on them would make tedious par- 
agraphs. From almost snow-white they have taken, 
often in rapid turn, all the hues of gray, of blue, 
of rose, of chrome, of brown, and purple, reaching 
even, under gloom of storm, an approach to absolute 
black. Sand is actually as responsive as a chameleon, 
and I could never tire of the vagaries of those dunes. 

But most they charmed me at sunset that hour 
when the soul itself is suffused with changing hues, 
and comes to its best perception. Then none but 
warm and gentle shades are seen, and the mind, like 
a tranquil lake, receives them and renders them into 
something clearer and deeper than thought. (Is it 
not at evening that we most naturally and truly 
reflect?} Words quite fail to disclose the felicity of 
those spiritual moments of color. Like music, they 
speak the unearthly tongue, and it is only into music 
that they could be translated. I mean, of course, the 
real accents of the Heavenly Maid, not the new, 
loud, German noise which goes with the rattling of 
the sabre and aptly illustrates Kultur. Far from that, 
my sand-hills at evening are an Abetidlied, a child's 
ethereal dream, a reverie, a sigh. 

Rock, contrary to sand, gives back its own color; 
but here it is pure and vivid color, untinged with 
overlying hues of vegetation that elsewhere come 
in to perplex the eye. The prevailing surface hue of 
desert rock is a dark rust-red. I should name it 
Egyptian red, for in my mental picturings of the 
land of the Nile this same dull but powerful note 
rules like absolute Pharaoh. The color, however, is 
not inherent in the stone, which is mainly granite 



INTRODUCTORY 7 

of the common gray. But in course of ages this ma- 
terial, lying usually in huge slabs, has taken on a 
surface sheen and coloring due to weathering and 
baking by the sun. It is spoken of as " desert glaze," 
and is really something like the artificial glaze of 
pottery. Even when the rocks take boulder form 
they are generally great, house-like cubes or rhom- 
boids, offering flat surfaces which sun and weather 
have painted in the same broad, strong hue. Only 
where canons choked with more freshly shattered 
rock score the mountain walls does one catch the 
native tint of the granite, making a startling con- 
trast. From these canon mouths wide, fan-like sheets 
of similar debris sweep down to the level. Up these 
the eye ranges, higher and higher, into gloomy gal- 
leries and chasms until the thread is lost in a maze 
of braided folds of mountain, these overlooked often 
by some far, high crest, in winter white with snow, 
in summer gray with iron crag and precipice of gran- 
ite, but always softly clouded with humanizing pines. 
The characteristic contour form of the desert 
mountain ranges is another element in the beauty 
of desert color. Like geological models set on a table, 
they stand up sharply defined from the general 
level, arresting the glance with new, conspicuous 
effects. No gently modelled approaches prepare the 
eye for the change of plane. From gray or drab ex- 
panse of sand they rear up wall-like profiles of red 
or ochre. Perspective is dwarfed by the clearness of 
air, increasing the sense of verticality. Instead of 
rising from the desert, these mountains stand upon 
it, explicit, bald, almost artificial. 



8 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

Whatever form of geological action may explain 
the peculiarities of these mountain shapes, it has 
resulted in a great irregularity of surface: but this 
irregularity is worked in small scale. The long, al- 
most isolated spur of the San Jacinto that lies be- 
fore me can only be likened to one of those vast 
surges one sees in mid-ocean, driven into infinite 
complexity by hurricane or tornado. In a mile or 
less of mountain-side I count ten or a dozen well- 
defined main canons. They have one general trend, 
and score the barren, red-brown flank sharply from 
almost the crest down to the sudden dead level. 
Interwoven with these principal cleavages, meeting 
and crossing them at every angle, are hundreds of 
lesser depressions, miniature passes and divides. 
The result is a positive cross-hatching of intricate 
contours, resembling in midday light a choppy sea, 
giving at evening and morning a chequer of delicious 
color, molten gold in light, amethyst in shade; or, 
under sunset or sunrise warmth, like the glow of 
red-hot iron flecked with touches of purple more 
than Tyrian. I think the coldest-blooded of men 
would stand and gaze while that pageant was pass- 
ing. For others, the experience, which can never be 
made stale by custom, is more than aesthetic or emo- 
tional: it is moral, I would almost say religious. 

But the remark that rock gives back its own color 
must be qualified, for rock also responds to circum- 
stances. The eastward extension of San Bernardino 
Mountain, lying beyond the sand-hills to which I 
referred above, gives a good example of the possi- 
bilities of this stubborn material. In actual hue the 



INTRODUCTORY 9 

range is the usual deep reddish-brown; but under 
diffused sunlight I have seen it pale down to milky 
white, a tone that one would never suppose could 
come within its scope. Breaking of light-rays by 
vegetation is not the cause, as it might be elsewhere; 
for plant-life is here at its lowest volume, a joke, 
almost a myth, like a Chinaman's beard. It im- 
presses one oddly, this wholesale bleaching away 
of essential color. Withered, ghastly, monstrously 
old, the mountains seem like geologic wraiths, such 
mountains as the ghosts of moon-men may wander 
among in the ashy lunar world. 

The great stretches of level desert also show some 
diversity of color, arising partly from absence or 
presence (iand kind) of vegetation, and partly from 
difference of surface material. But it is only when 
seen in great extent, from a good elevation, that 
atmosphere and grouping of shades lend enchant- 
ment. In near view, seen from slightly above the 
level, a vast drab, tinged usually with olive, is the 
general hue. The olive comes from an infinite stipple 
of low shrubs, so uniform in spacing for each plant 
jealously guards its little territory as to show no 
cloudings of heavier and sparser growth. The effect 
is about as lively and original as fifty square miles 
of tweed in "pepper-and-salt mixture." But though 
not themselves in the least degree stimulating to 
fancy, these dull plains have value as foil and fore- 
ground to the color display of ever-present hills and 
mountains. And when, as often may be the case, 
the close foreground is laid in blocks of that deep, 
powerful red, the landscape, though bare of any 



io CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

recognized elements of beauty, yet is perfect, in its 
way incomparable. 

In places the drab gives way to other tones. 
There are large extents of unmixed sand, boulders, 
gravel, or of pavement-like rock-mosaic in yellow, 
red, lava-black. On these the vegetation is so sparse 
as to yield no element of color. This is the desert 
entire and austere, the realm of geology alone among 
the sciences. Here Time and all things of Time seem 
to have ended or not to have begun. The sun rises, 
flames through the sky, and sets; the moon and stars 
look coldly down; the traveller seems to himself the 
last life on the planet. Awe that is close on terror 
grasps him: he feels himself alone in the universe 
he, and God. His footsteps cease: why should he go 
on? and whither? for there is no whither. Nothing 
moves, nor can move, but the elemental wind, 
vacantly roaming the empty earth (and those great 
airs, what a sense they bring of age, of eternal soli- 
tude, of cold, sidereal space!). The life of towns, of 
farms, all that signifies humanity, seems totally un- 
real: the Great Question confronts, closes one in, 
and must, but cannot, be answered. At such mo- 
ments, reader, you may find foothold in thoughts 
perhaps long unthought or cast aside "I believe 
in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and 
earth " : and so on to the end. They will not now seem 
contemptible, I assure you. 

There comes in spring, on all but these barrenest 
spaces, a startling interlude, a sudden wave of color. 
Even in the desert, Nature, though here least hu- 
mane, most indifferent, longs for change, and softens 




w 
jz; 

s 



o 



INTRODUCTORY 11 

for a time at the entreaty of her most winsome child, 
virginal, petal-eyed Flora. It is only a transient 
flush, rising, culminating, and fading quickly, al- 
most as fleeting as sunset on cloud or mountain; 
but it is enough: Draco does relent, Colonel Abso- 
lute has been seen playing horsey on the hearthrug. 
It proves the desert livable and possibly lovable: 
and for all the rest of the year one bears in mind that 
brief touch of graciousness. 

In speaking of the color of the desert there re- 
mains the great field of the sky. Let not the reader 
stay, as I did too long, under the conventional no- 
tion of an ever-cloudless blue. Clear skies, of course, 
predominate, but even in summer no long time 
passes without grateful show of vapor glorious 
white or yet more glorious gray. Nearness to the 
Pacific and the Gulf of California gives the sky of 
the Colorado Desert a degree of cloudiness far greater 
than that, for instance, of the Sahara, though the 
rainfall on our desert is as scanty as there. In both 
summer and winter the sun may rise, make his 
march, and set, day after day for weeks, in un- 
dimmed power; but at any season there will not be 
many mornings or evenings together without some 
skeiny film of rose, some shimmering bar of mad- 
der, purple, or coppery gold, though for months the 
sky through all the middle hours of the day may be 
a hard and uniform cobalt. 

There is in fact a constant battle in these skies, 
often to be seen by interested mortals below, like 
the scrimmages of pro and anti deities that went on 
above the plains of Troy. From the spot where I 



12 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

make these notes I have often looked for hours while 
the struggle remained in deadlock. Over the pass 
between San Jacinto and Santa Rosa battalions of 
cloud come rolling, stream out far to the east, and 
threaten the kingdom of the sun. But that old 
tyrant seldom sleeps, or, after the manner of tyrants, 
sleeps with an eye open, and it is hard to catch him 
unaware. His intrenchments are all but impregnable. 
Leagues of radiant air form invisible ramparts from 
which the invaders are continually thrown back, and 
ever from the heated desert new ranks of warriors 
come rushing up to maintain the fight. Now one 
side gains, now the other. Some hero of the gray 
leads a charge, and a tongue of vapor leaps out far 
in the advance, may even fling down a slant of rain 
or snow on the anxious pines of Santa Rosa. But 
before the Grays can establish themselves the Blues 
are at them and press them back. "A Pluvius! A 
Pluvius!" "Phoebus! Phoebus to the rescue!" And 
so it wages, to and fro, strangely and ominously like 
the battles of men; ominously, lest it prove that 
these are no farther from coming to a final end. 

With all the glory of desert evening skies, I miss 
one accustomed element of sunset: I mean that 
spiritual touch, impossible to put into words, but 
which we know so well. Perhaps the word " wistful- 
ness 5 ' states it best, and the desert (so you might 
think until you know it) is not wistful. But yet it is: 
to be old, weary, and wise is wistful, as much as are 
the young, asking eyes of a child. But wistf ulness is 
hard to define. Why in music, for instance, should 
a chord, a turn of rhythm, even an interval, start 



INTRODUCTORY 13 

sometimes a wave that reaches boundless shores, or, 
sinking like a burning ruby into depths we never 
guessed were there, show us ourselves "as gods, 
knowing good and evil 57 ? How does it come that 
the leaf of an autumn bramble expresses a hero's 
soul better than epic verses ever can? And what 
magic is there about sunset and the West that has 
always drawn men's longing (so that, indeed, for 
wistfulness one might fancifully say westf ulness) ? 
Is it that we feel the sun's daily going as so great a 
loss that we must follow him with our pensive hopes? 
Not so with us all, certainly. To me, for one, the 
sun has always seemed an enemy, the ally of tedium, 
a huge Evaporator sucking the spirit and leaving 
naught but the plodding clay. "The gaudy, babbling, 
and remorseless day" well said, Shakespeare! 
But this is verging on metaphysics: the point is, that 
somehow there is not in desert sunset hues that 
deepest, most sensitive note. They are fairyland, a 
sheer marvel, the quintessence of beauty in color; 
but they have not the ineffable quality that goes, 
perhaps, with murkier, less all-revealing skies. It 
may be that, being mysterious to ourselves, any- 
thing less than mystery in Nature must fall short. 
"Abyssus abyssum invocat" 

As a fact, I have seen more of that moving glory 
in sunset skies from the top of a London 'bus than 
anywhere else, even Sierra crest or open vastness of 
the Colorado. Perhaps it is the presence of six mil- 
lion human souls (I do not mean bodies) that gives 
the needed atmosphere, the spiritual haze. 

But the metaphysical must be reckoned with, 



14 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

after all, to explain the strange attraction of the 
desert. Space, solitude, quiet our minds at their 
best are tuned to these, and when they find them 
they expand like the anemone welcoming its native 
tide. The merely objective things of the desert are 
another and transitory matter: I am speaking of its 
underlying, undying charm. It is a somewhat awful 
attribute, with more of subjugation in it than of 
charm. It disembodies us, takes away what hides us 
from ourselves. The aged earth speaks now in sol- 
emn tone to its child, and he must listen. No friendly 
tree or buoyancy of wave meets the daunted eye 
with encouragement or excuse for levity. Here jus- 
tice is the word, not mercy. The universe seems lis- 
tening for your word, and appraising you by your 
silence. If there comes a sound it is so momentary 
as only to startle, swallowed up instantly in the 
waiting void the thin, single note of the cactus 
wren, one of the lonesomest of sounds, more lost 
and eerie than the midnight bleat of sheep on 
Cumberland fells. 

Is there attraction in this, then? To most people, 
No: to a few, Yes: and Yes to an increasing number, 
I think and hope, as the loud roar grows louder; the 
times more complex and out of joint; the strife of 
tongues more clever and useless; simplicity, the 
touchstone of good, more than ever reverend yet 
less than ever revered. 



CHAPTER II 

THE PALM OASES AND CANONS 

Poetry of the palm Palm canons and oases The desert's travel- 
centres Snow Creek Canon Dual characteristics Chino 
Canon The vegetation of drought Palms, snow, and luxury 

Tahquitz the Rumbler Cave-life in Andreas Canon Indian 
relics A palm temple La Reina del Canon Cave-company 

A winter storm Narrow escape for Kaweah Marooned 
Not drowned as reported Tahquitz Canon, a desert Colosseum 

Magnesia Spring Canon Tropic luxury A night vigil for 
cougar Bighorn A cached olla Deep Canon The oco- 
tillo Animal and bird life Palms and flowers Rattle- 
snake company Thousand Palm Canon A palm forest 
"The Twelve Apostles" Seven Palms Oasis Harried by 
wind Two-Bunch Palms Unique landscapes Wagnerian 
moonlight Palm Springs Village Its medicinal spring 
Romantic Palm Canon "Movie" vandals Suggestion: a 
National Park. 

rr\HOUGH the palm is certainly not the most 
X beautiful, it is perhaps the most poetic of trees. 
In symmetry of tapering shaft, fountain-like burst 
of crown, and play of glossy frond, it is the ideal of 
gracefulness in plant life. Incidentally, there is the 
charm of its "atmosphere" of literary allusion, of 
which it probably has more than any other tree can 
claim. To dwellers in cold or temperate climates it 
brings also alluring thoughts of tropic warmth, 
skies normally sunny, and a life emancipated from 
winter flannels. 

Spreading up from Northern Mexico, a number 
of groups of the fan-palm, Washingtonia filifera, are 
found in the canons and oases of the Colorado 
Desert. They are known to but few, and those are 



16 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

mainly prospectors and such stray characters, 
whose business or hobby makes them wanderers in 
that harsh region. Such human life as the desert has 
that is, the actual desert, the unconquered and 
unconquerable wastes of burning sand and moun- 
tain drifts and circles about these spots: neces- 
sarily so, since the presence of palms means the 
presence also of that rarest, strictest necessity, 
water. The Arabs' axiom regarding the date-palm, 
that its foot must be in water and its head in open 
sun, is true of its relative the fan-palm. Thus, in 
the talk of desert men the palm figures constantly. 
You hear of Dos Palmas, Thousand Palms, Palm 
Springs, Twenty-nine Palms, Seventeen Palms, Two- 
Bunch Palms, and so on; and the names mean to 
the traveller not only water, but shade, with the 
chance of grass for his animals, and the relief of 
verdure for his sorely harassed eyes. 

Some of the groups occur about the boundary of 
the sea that anciently filled the great depression 
which is now partly occupied by the Salton Sea, and 
whose beach-mark is to-day startlingly plain at the 
base of the encircling hills. Such groups, probably, 
represent the indigenous growths. A number more 
are found at higher altitudes, but of these many are 
known to have been planted by the present or for- 
mer Indian inhabitants of the region. 

The westerly limit of growth is a rocky defile on 
the south side of Snow Creek Canon, which is a rift 
of San Jacinto Mountain, about opposite White- 
water Station on the Southern Pacific Railway. This 
group marks the nearest approach made by the wild 



THE PALM OASES AND CANONS 17 

palm to coastal conditions of climate, for the spot is 
within a few miles of the crest of the San Gorgonio 
Pass, which here forms the dividing line between 
California barren and California fertile. A thread of 
tepid water moistens the roots of the trees, while 
not a mile away rushes the icy brook that gives its 
name to the canon. 

I camped, at various times, in most of the con- 
siderable canons of the upper part of the desert. 
Each has its special charm, while those that come 
down from the high mountains that shut off desert 
from coast possess a dual beauty the character- 
istics of a true mountain canon, such as trees, cas- 
cading streams, and the varied life that goes with 
them, together with the features of a land made 
savage by torturing sun, unblessed by the mercy of 
rain. The mingling of the two elements gives often 
a fascinating result. 

It was still winter, the end of January, when I 
pitched my little six-by-three-foot tent in Chino 
Canon. This is a great rift opening on the north- 
western arm of the desert directly under the peak of 
San Jacinto Mountain. It gets its name from old 
Chino, a former chief of the Agua Caliente Indians, 
whose rancheria adjoins the little village of Palm 
Springs, a few miles to the south of the canon. I had 
visited the spot years before, and kept an affection- 
ate memory of a warm spring that breaks out near 
the head of the great apron of talus that sweeps 
down from the neck of the canon to the level desert. 
It was toilsome work navigating my burro, Mesquit, 
through these miles of boulders, with a rise from 



18 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

five hundred feet to two thousand feet of altitude, 
and there was neither mood nor leisure for scenery 
until we reached the little clump of palms that 
marked our destination. 

But when camp was pitched and serenity re- 
turned I found a high coign among the rocks and 
took my satisfaction. I was at about the limit of 
growth of the water-loving trees that accompanied 
the creek as far as they dared sycamores, alders, 
cottonwoods, and willows. Here they stopped short 
abruptly, and from here desertward only the starve- 
ling vegetation of drought held the ground. The 
pale shrubs seemed to have copied the look of the 
gray boulders, as if hoping by subterfuge to escape 
the notice of the sun. Each bush of encelia or burro- 
weed grew rounded and compact, and in twilight 
or moonlight would not be distinguished from the 
rocks, except where they grew among the rust- 
brown slabs of the canon walls, when one would 
swear he saw a flock of grazing sheep, every one 
distinct to the eye. 

Straight 'in front the canon opened in steep, 
smooth descent, bounded by high and barren walls, 
the western already dark in shadow, the other in full 
sun and glowing with volcanic intensity of red. At 
three miles' distance these ran out into the level 
like capes extending far to sea a sea of lifeless 
gray that broke southward in one huge crest of sand 
that was like a tidal wave stopped and held in full 
career. In -sharp relief against the neutral hue of the 
sand stood the dark, gleaming fans of palms. The 
distance was closed by a level rampart of moun- 




55 

O 



o 

55 



THE PALM OASES AND CA&ONS 19 

tains in faint ethereal tones of rose, chrome, and 
amethyst. 

I had not many such evening prospects during the 
two weeks I camped in Chino Canon. It was a wet 
winter, and I was not far from being perpendicularly 
below the ten-thousand-and-odd-foot peak of the 
mountain, which was engaged in perpetual storm. 
After days of rain I would determine to move, at the 
first cessation, down to the valley, which I could 
often see stewing in sunshine while I shivered over 
an unwilling camp-fire in the rain (I don't know 
why it did n't occur to me to get into the warm 
spring and wait until the clouds had rained them- 
selves out). But when a change came my mind 
changed with it and I stayed. At last there came a 
drop in temperature, and after three days and nights 
of torrential downpour I awoke one morning to find 
the sun shining and the mountains sheeted with 
snow down to a few hundred feet above camp. 
Then it was high luxury to lie in my thermal pool 
and get a startling effect of shining green palm- 
fronds with background of solid snow. 

The Indians hereabouts have a legend that 
Tahquitz, alias Chowk, their evil spirit, lives in 
San Jacinto Mountain, and attribute to his opera- 
tions the peculiar noises, rumblings, and so forth, 
that are sometimes heard proceeding from his 
haunts. Several times, while in this canon, when 
lying on the ground at night, I heard the sounds 
plainly. There was no tremor of earthquake, but it 
is possible that the heavy rains caused a movement 
of the rocks on the mountain-side. The sounds, 



20 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

whatever made them, were easily transmitted to 
me, since my ear was practically in contact with the 
earth. Who knows but it was "the fellow in the 
cellarage/' old Truepenny himself? 

Some miles to the south is Andreas Canon, an- 
other of the gateways of the same mountain. It also 
is named after an Indian, old Captain Andreas, the 
remains of whose adobe hut and orchard of vines and 
figs are yet in evidence. Here the following winter I 
camped for nearly three months, gratifying aborigi- 
nal instincts by a return to cave life. The cavern 
which served for dining-room, study, and kitchen 
had been the home of Indians, and was adorned with 
their picture-writings, while a sort of upper story was 
quite a museum of age-dimmed records in red and 
black. One upright stone was worn into grooves like 
knuckles, where arrow-shafts had been smoothed; 
another showed evidence of having been used for 
polishing the obsidian points. The great table-like 
rock where I kept a store of hay for my horse Ka- 
weah (Mesquit and I had had a difference and parted) 
was bored in a dozen places with circular holes where 
acorn and mesquit meal had been ground by gene- 
rations of diligent squaws, whose deer-horn awls and 
ornaments of shell and clay I occasionally unearthed : 
as I did also bones in remarkable numbers and of 
questionable shapes. 

Of Andreas, now long gathered to his fathers, the 
word goes that he was given to the distilling of 
aguardiente from his grapes, breaking thereby the 
law of the land. However, considering that the art 
had been learned from the whites, that he had no 



THE PALM OASES AND CANONS 21 

voice in making the law, and that the land in ques- 
tion had been taken from him and his people, there 
seems not much logic in blaming him. Peace to your 
ashes, Andreas! I can certify that your fig trees still 
do bud, and yield better fruit perhaps than some 
of us. 

The same striking conjunction of desert and coast 
vegetation rules here as in Chino Canon. Down to 
the very neck, a bare hundred yards from where 
open desert comes in view, trees grow in full ver- 
dure, curtained in wild-grape vines that make an 
arbor of summer green or autumn chrome and 
sienna over the darkling pools of the creek. At the 
point where they cease they are met by a colony of 
palms, and these give place tc the low-toned herb- 
age of the desert. The canon is notable for a fine 
rank of " palisade " cliffs, which with their massive 
sculpturing and dark Egyptian hue make a wonder- 
ful foil for the beauty of the palms. Some of these 
stand statue-like in vertical alcoves of the wall: 
others bend in tropic grace above crystalline pools, 
or spring in rocket-like curve from thickets of mes- 
quit or arrowweed. 

One cluster, arranged in the form of a great hall, 
especially took my fancy. The palms that compose 
it have kept all their dead foliage, which, hanging 
in straw-yellow masses about the stems, gives them 
impressive girth and solidity. While wind is stirring 
the f ronded capitals, these massive pillars, standing 
in unbroken stillness, seem like the immemorial 
columns of Babylon. My nights in that strange place, 
worked up into mystery by glimmer of star or trickle 



22 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

of wandering moonbeam through the tracery of the 
roof, were the sort of experience one loves to repeat 
in memory. 

In a narrow gateway of the upper canon stands 
a single stately palm, framed by tall cliffs of Egyp- 
tian red. Its solitariness, spiry grace, and statuesque 
pose give it special individuality, and sentimentally 
I allowed myself to name it "La Reina del Canon." 

Evenings by the camp-fire in the cave were en- 
livened by visitors, kangaroo-mice, skunks, and 
tarantulas, who adopted me without reserve into 
the ancient order of cave-dwellers. The mice were 
charming companions, eating beans and hardtack 
with me off our common plate, and only occasionally 
needing an admonitory rap with the spoon. By day, 
quail were frequent callers, aligning themselves on 
a shelving rock overhead to criticise my housekeep- 
ing: and once a lynx halted bashfully when ten 
yards from the breakfast-table. Bighorn tracks were 
often fresh on the cactus mesa beyond the creek, 
and my regular morning alarum was the practising 
of chromatic scales by a canon-wren midway up the 
cliff. 

Andreas Canon had become endeared to me by 
these and other social ties when, about noon one 
Saturday, a gentle but persistent rain began one 
of the occasions one recognizes as meant for the 
cooking of beans. I charged my biggest pot and 
passed the afternoon in holding the fire at that 
scientific minimum that the "free-holy'" 1 justly de- 

1 The red or pink Mexican bean, frijol in Spanish, pronounced 
free-hole' or, affectionately, as above. 




LA REINA DEL CANON 



THE PALM OASES AND CANONS 23 

mands and wondrously repays. The rain continued, 
taking on the industrious look that Californians 
know and love as forecasting a successful season in 
real estate. At intervals I brought in fuel, storing it 
in dry crannies of the cave. 

Kaweah, protected by his heavy blanket, was tied 
close to the creek, under a tree against which I had 
built his manger. Darkness came early, and the rain 
increased to a heavy downpour. I ate supper in 
dusk, fed and watered the horse, covered the hay 
with a tarpaulin, and turned into the blankets on 
my camp-cot to smoke a pipe. This proved more 
than usually cheering. A tent with sousing rain were 
revealed as the ideal conditions for the combustion 
of Virginia Long-Cut. This discovery I had oppor- 
tunity to confirm in the days that ensued. 

Before turning in finally I lighted the lantern and 
took a look at the creek. It had risen a few inches, 
as was natural in a canon stream, but the tent was 
six or eight feet above it and a rod back from the 
bank. Nothing to worry about, so I went to bed, 
and, lulled by the roar of rain on the canvas, was 
soon fast asleep. 

This placidity was ill-judged. Some suffocating 
object, something heavy and wet and cold, came 
down and embraced me with what I felt to be undue 
familiarity. For a few moments I was puzzled, then 
realized the tent: it had sagged with weight of 
water and the pegs had pulled from the softened 
ground. I noticed, too, that the sound of rushing 
water was oddly close. Pushing away the wet can- 
vas I put out a foot. Instead of the expected boot it 



24 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

encountered a cold swirl of water that came half to 
the knee. Next my groping hand took note of the 
abnormal position of the tent-pole, which leaned 
almost horizontal under the ruin of the canvas. I 
saw what had happened: the creek was over its 
banks, had undermined the pole and brought down 
the tent, and was making a clean breach through 
my quarters. 

My thoughts flew to Kaweah. He was some 
twenty-five yards downstream from me and on 
lower ground. Struggling under the water-logged 
canvas I hurriedly got into my soaking clothes and 
somehow got clear of the tent. It was pitch-dark, 
raining like fury, and the water was now knee-high 
and running like a sluice. I stumbled down to 
Kaweah, who neighed shrilly when he saw me. He 
had taken the highest spot his rope allowed him, 
but the water was almost to his belly, and we were 
both in some danger of being swept away. Cutting 
the rope I scrambled with him up the bank and tied 
him on high ground near the cave. 

Then for an hour I slopped to and fro rescuing 
what remained of my effects and storing them in 
dry corners of the cave. Not a few articles had been 
carried away, but most were caught under the col- 
lapsed tent, which itself was anchored by a rock 
against which it had stranded. It was wet work, but 
warming, and I soon worked up a first-rate Turkish 
bath. 

The next need was fire. By now the cave was a 
poor refuge, though it might have looked enjoyable 
to a naiad. Rain dripped everywhere from the shelv- 



THE PALM OASES AND CANONS 25 

ing rocks that formed at best a nominal roof, and 
cascades ran picturesquely down the walls. The 
floor was a mere bog- Only a space about three feet 
square was free from overhead drip, and on this 
islet I built a tiny fire over which I crouched in par- 
tial shelter. I supposed it was near daybreak, but on 
looking at my watch found it was eleven o'clock. 

I cherished that fire as few things are cherished 
on this planet. When gusts blew the rain in upon it, 
I covered it with my hat. When it sulked and sput- 
tered because the bog encroached, I fed it with 
splinters from my tripod. When the wind scattered 
the cupful of embers, I scraped them up reverently 
like a Parsee. At last I got a good blaze, made a billy 
of coffee, and settled to the night's work of drying 
myself, blankets, gun, camera, and "et cseteras." 

The storm maintained a headlong deluge which 
did not moderate for a moment. The creek had risen 
higher, and was making wild uproar as huge boul- 
ders begar; r niD come down from the upper canon, 
thundering and bumping along like barrels tumbling 
down a stairway. With the boulders went the trees. 
The one to which Kaweah had been tied (a full- 
grown sycamore) had disappeared soon after I 
moved him. Only by a few minutes had he escaped 
going with it. Now I watched tree after tree suc- 
cumb. First their tops, which showed dimly against 
the sky, would begin to shiver as the water tore 
away the earth like a terrier at a -rat-hole: then as 
roots broke from their grip the victim stooped lower 
and lower, until water and granite between them 
gave the coup-de-grOce^ and the unlucky alder or 



26 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

sycamore toppled over and was whirled off to make 
camp-fires for fortunate prospectors. 

Daylight came, and with it the end of my fuel. 
By now the cave was worthless: water poured in 
steady streams from roof and walls, and the floor 
had become a pool. Among my salvaged traps was 
a little three-by-six-foot tent of light waterproof 
stuff which I carry on winter horseback trips. This I 
pitched on the highest spot available, first laying a 
thick stratum of arrowweed over the sodden ground. 
Inside I spread half a bale of dry hay: then crept in 
and sat tight. 

This was Sunday. It passed; also Monday, Tues- 
day, and Wednesday, and not for a moment did the 
storm hold off. I read, smoked, ate, slept, and dashed 
out when necessary to attend to Kaweah or drive 
the tent-fetakes deeper into the -spongy earth. When 
I awoke on Thursday a yellow glow was brightening 
my tentlet. It was the sun, shining in the old, whole- 
hearted, California way, and I hurriedac*^ *?.**. % w 
acquaintance. Looking up the canon there was little 
<;hat I recognized. The place where the other tent 
had stood could be known by a scrap of canyas pro- 
jecting above a new creek-bed of dazzling, freshly 
scoured granite, while Kaweah's former quarter? 
were submerged in mid-stream. 

In the afternoon came Pablo, Marcos, and Miguel, 
to round up their remaining cattle and mourn the 
six or eight head that had vanished in the storm 
together with all their possibilities of pesos, came, 
and cuero. Finding me in the act of replenishing the 
bean-pot they expressed slight Indian surprise, and 



THE PALM OASES AND CANONS 27 

mentioned that, certain of my belongings having been 
picked up some miles away where the flood had car- 
ried them, it had been supposed that I was drowned. 
By way of congratulation they stayed to help with 
the beans. It was fifty years, they said, since so 
heavy a storm had visited the desert, and news 
that came later of broken dams and loss of life in 
the adjoining coast region made this seem likely to 
be true. 

Just to the south of Palm Springs there is an im- 
posing gash in the mountain wall which goes by the 
name of Tahquitz Canon. The stream which de- 
bouches here rises on Tahquitz Peak, a subsidiary 
summit of San Jacinto Mountain and whispered to 
be the private eyry of Tahquitz himself. The canon 
is remarkable for magnificent cliffs, forming at the 
mouth a cirque with walls rising sheer for hundreds 
of feet. This titanic Colosseum makes a superb 
effect by morning light, when the vast, crater-like 
shadow is outlined by grim though sunlit rock-bolts 
that guard the towering gateway. It would be a 
worthy portal to Avernus, and when Tahquitz has his 
waterfall in full blast a quite infernal uproar reigns 
in the confined place, while the great southern cliff, 
acting as sounding-board, projects a full-mouthed 
roar upon the ears of the villagers of Palm Springs. 

Twelve miles to the southeast is Magnesia Spring 
Canon (or, to give it the old Indian name, Pah- 
wah'-te, signifying, "the drinker "), where I made 
camp for a couple of weeks in early spring. It is 
different from the canons already described, being 
a long, winding gallery instead of the usual wide- 



28 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

mouthed triangle narrowing suddenly to a gorge, 
and is typical of strictly desert conditions. Here no 
"Cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep/' 
One finds no growth of water-loving trees, for the 
canon does not lead down, as do the others, from 
rain-compelling peaks, and only the slenderest 
thread of water trickles in it, for the most part 
underground. This was enough, however, to main- 
tain one lovely rock-bound pool in which, by skin- 
ning one's knees, a miniature swim could be achieved. 
High falcon-haunted cliffs partly encircled the pool, 
and a couple of palms growing in a niche fifty feet 
above gave a tropic touch of luxury. 

On arriving at the pool I found fresh tracks of 
mountain lion in the damp sand. My main object 
in this canon was the chance of photographing big- 
horn, which are rather plentiful hereabouts, but 
there would be small prospect of these so long as 
lions were in the neighborhood. It would be some 
compensation, I thought, to add a cougar pelt to 
my coyote-skin mattress,* so I built a brush blind 
twenty yards from the spring, made an early supper, 
and took my station, shot-gun with full charge of 
buckshot across my knees, seven-shooter and hunt- 
ing-knife in reserve. There was a half-moon, and on 
the open space of sand "around the spring even a 
small object could be plainly seen. But my warlike 
preparations went for naught. For five hours I 
crouched at gui vive, but no such dark shape as I 
looked for came pacing across the moonlit sand. A 
fox trotted by, stopped with paw upraised, and 
trotted on: and later I made out a group of shadowy 



THE PALM OASES AND CANONS 29 

forms sixty yards away that certainly were bighorn, 
the first I had met in their own haunts. My nerves 
tingled: suppose the cougar were stalking the band! 
But the moon sank behind the cliff, and whea I 
could no longer see my gun-sights I concluded that 
the coyote-skins would do very well alone, and 
turned in. The next two nights I again sat on watch, 
and not unprofitably, though with no result of 
cougars. It is'in the purity and stillness of such hours, 
in tranquil fall of moonbeam on rock and shrub, 
and in such sense of awful but calming solitude, that 
one learns, by the sacredness of Nature, the beauty 
of God. 

The face of the cliff near the spring showed a 
number of likely crannies, which I searched for 
Indian relics. Most of them were packed with bits 
of stick or cactus, the caches of those punctilious 
thieves the trade-rats. In a side canon, however, I 
found a handsome olla (or ka'-wo-mal, to give it the 
Indian name). It had been hidden in a breakneck 
place, fifty feet up a precipitous cliff, where I 
glimpsed it by chance. It stood upright on a bed of 
earth that must have been carried up from below, 
and was protected by slabs of rock with padding of 
palm-fibre. Probably it had held water, perhaps 
stored in case of siege, but that had long vanished, 
and it contained nothing but a deposit of dust al- 
most intangibly fine, like dust of mummies or of 
Time itself, which had somehow gathered in spite 
of the neck being closed with a flat fragment of rock. 
I suppose this mysterious dust would distil, in course 
of ages, from the upper ether itself, some product of 



30 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

cosmic disintegration. How many years the otta had 
stood there is matter for free guessing perhaps 
fifty, perhaps five hundred. Its circumference was 
over fifty inches, and its capacity about eight gal- 
lons. A furious wind was blowing that threatened to 
throw me from the cliff and gave me trying mo- 
ments, but hugging otta with one arm and cliff with 
the other I got my prize safely down. 

Next I moved some miles farther south to Deep 
Canon (To'-ho of the Indians, commemorating 
some "hunter-who-never-gets-his-game"). This is 
a canon of Santa Rosa Mountain, opening just west 
of the long, rocky point that runs out on the desert 
at Indian Wells. It is notable for its vast apron of 
d6bris, through which Mesquit and I struggled for 
endless hours, being forced at last to make a dry 
camp when nightfall overtook us in a jungle of 
cholja. In the morning we soon reached water, and 
also the ocotillos, the view of which in flower was 
my special object here. Since first meeting the plant 
the previous year I had looked forward to camping 
among them when in full blossom, as these now 
were (it was the middle of March), and so entering 
them in my lasting book of remembrance. 

I have described this remarkable plant of the 
Western deserts in another chapter. Here I pitched 
my tent in a thicket of them, enjoying their splen- 
dor of color by day and their weird shadow-play on 
my moonlit canvas at night. The dead canes and 
stumps made an excellent camp-fire, burning with a 
white flame, as of wax, that justified the plant's 
alternative name of "candle-wood." Near by were 



THE PALM OASES AND CANONS 31 

specimens of the agave, or wild century-plant, some 
just beginning to send up their giant flowering- 
stalks. Measuring the rate of growth of one of these I 
found that it gained five inches in twenty-four hours. 

Tracks of bighorn were plentiful about camp 
every day, and their deeply worn trails marked the 
canon walls in all directions. Often at night the 
rattle of falling stones told of their movements on 
the cliff-side above. Wild-cat and coyote also left 
their footprints in my absence. I met here a flock 
of the interesting pinon-jays, which long puzzled 
me by their un jay-like traits, as they flew swiftly 
along the face of the mountain, uttering a wild, 
sweet, plaintive cry. Who ever heard of a plaintive 
jay! Eagles, too, I often saw, and ravens croaked 
from unscalable crags. Friendlier birds were the acro- 
batic flycatchers and phainopeplas that performed 
from the tops of the agaves, and a pair of rose- 
breasted linnets that regularly came to breakfast and 
made me long confidences in^happy cavatina. The 
cactus wrens gained my respect by the nonchalance 
with which they treated the formidable chollas. 
Since the nightingale prefers to lean her breast 
against a thorn, it seems a pity she cannot try the 
effect of a cholla. 

A tramp at dawn up the higher canon was full of 
pleasure. At the point where it narrows to the main 
ravine the stream became a series of cascades linked 
by many a circling pool so fishable in look that there 
was pathos in the thought that they must be forever 
troutless. As the canon doubled and twisted, the 
walls became ever higher and more precipitous. 



32 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

When the sun came up, the western cliff became the 
battlements of some castle in the realm of faery. 
I often halted in wonder as some reach opened be- 
fore me, filled with mystical light. The conjunction 
of extreme beauty of color with savagery of giant 
walls and thundering water gave a strange effect of 
unreality. 

A few isolated groups of palms were set high up 
on the walls. They seemed to have a conscious air, 
as if they had been waiting until now for first recog- 
nition. Mountain-sheep make these lonely groves 
their shelter in summer heat and winter storm; but 
human foot, unless perhaps some Indian hunter's, 
may never have been set in them. 

On little benches here and there I came upon de- 
lightful beds of flowers, usually of one kind. Here I 
first met the exquisite malvastrum, in delicacy and 
fragility more like some hothouse product than the 
child of desert sand and sun. Those who know the 
globe-tulip of our coast mountains may picture this 
as a blossom of the same ethereal character, but 
palest lilac instead of white, and stained at the base 
of each petal with a spot of carmine. A plant with 
half a dozen of the lamp-like flowers is as fairy-like a 
thing as a child could dream. Another new acquaint- 
ance was the fagonia, a low-growing relative of the 
creosote, having starry blossoms of pale magenta. 
Dwarf lupines occupied stretches of pure sand, and 
eschscholtzias, with pale yellow flowerets comically 
small, showed the effect of drought upon the magnifi- 
cent copa de oro of the coast. On the driest places, 
exposed to the sun's full blast, the lovely little 



THE PALM OASES AND CANONS 33 

eremiastrum, or desert-star, looked up, winsome as 
daisies on an English lawn. 

Upon returning to camp I found the first rattle- 
snake of the season had arrived and was enjoying 
my blankets in the tent. He seemed firm but calm, 
as if open to any reasonable offer. While I sought a 
tripod he vanished. In the night I felt something 
creeping over my chest under the blankets, and with 
panic remembered my visitor, who might have come 
.to claim a share of the accommodation. I made a 
really brilliant jump, struck a match, and met the 
reproachful gaze of a large, stout, comatose lizard 
that was searching affectionately for the nice warm 
bedfellow who had suddenly turned unkind. 

Crossing to the east side of the desert, here not 
many miles wide, a wonderful spectacle is seen in 
the crowding groves of Thousand Palm Canon. In 
this wide gallery, opening from the foothills of the 
San Bernardino at near sea-level, the palm seems 
most thoroughly at home, growing in companies of 
hundreds that make what might almost be termed 
a forest. One has a sense of strangeness in threading' 
these pillared aisles. One's steps rattle harshly on a 
pavement of dry yellow leaves whose mahogany- 
brown stems, long, tough, and thorny, impose care 
in walking, while the mind does not easily ignore 
the thought of snakes, tarantulas, and scorpions 
that find the deep dry cover highly agreeable to 
their constitutions. The summer temperature here 
is of the hottest, for weeks ranging daily over 100 
in the shade, and often over 110, with not infre- 
quent excursions into the hundred-and-twenties. 



34 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

A few miles out on the plain another group shows 
a distinctive feature of chance arrangement. Twelve 
palms stand approximately in line, and the number 
has given them the name, "The Twelve Apostles." 
Local fancy takes pleasure in pointing out that one 
of them is headless and dead, the result of lightning- 
stroke. This, of course, is Judas, and verily there 
is something infamous in the mean, misbegotten 
shape. Nothing in the vegetable world is so hideous 
as a headless palm. Other trees when killed or de- 
cayed have at least the touch of the grotesque or 
pictorial. The palm that loses its head loses all : there 
remains merely a hateful stick, not even pathetic, 
only sinister. 

Out on the wind-swept plain to the east of Palm 
Springs lies the oasis of Seven Palms. The name does 
not now describe the group, though no doubt it once 
did so. Placed here and there in picturesque mode, 
singly or in twos, threes, and one larger cluster, a 
score or so of Washingtonias inhabit a space of a 
few acres, surrounding a pool of alkaline water. 
Years ago a settler made a homestead here, and 
his flat-roofed, unpainted dwelling, weathered into 
drab conformity of hue, merges with gray thickets 
of arrowweed. The charm of the place, apart from 
its palms, is in the grandeur of its mountain pros- 
pect, dominated to the south by colossal San Jacinto, 
whose two-mile height soars close at hand, un- 
dwarfed by intervening foothills. San Gorgonio rises 
somewhat more distant, but not less superb, a little 
to the west. The spot has a special drawback too 
the pestilent wind which blows down the pass for days 




2 

< 



O 



a 

2 
5 



THE. PALM OASES AND CANONS 35 

and weeks, or, for aught I know, months and years, 
together, making the daylight hours a misery, the 
nights a howling nightmare. Relief could generally 
be found, however, by the margin of the pool, and 
always enjoyment in noting the quaint, humorous 
ways of the bird and animal life that resorted there. 

Four miles farther north, near the foothills of the 
San Bernardino, are twin colonies, which have given 
the place the name of "Two-Bunch Palms." Grow- 
ing at the edge of a little bluff they are finely placed; 
and from among them one gets again vistas of those 
two great peaks, always claiming the gaze, whether 
serene under cloudless blue, hallowed with snow, or 
darkly freighted with storm. Such things are unique 
in American landscape, and send one's thoughts 
wandering for comparisons to Ararat, Ruwenzori, 
or famed Kashmir. 

I shall not soon forget one spring night when, be- 
neath these palms, I was for once near the intoxi- 
cation point of moonlight. For hours I lay unable 
to sleep, while I was showered with moon arrows, 
"passionately bright, " that streamed from the pol- 
ished fronds as they thrashed and undulated in a 
screaming wind. It was the Valkyries' ride trans- 
lated into moonlight, but outdoing Wagner, almost 
beating the incoherencies of Strauss. 

The village of Palm Springs, ten miles to the 
south, has some fame as a winter health resort. It 
also offers the tourist, by comfortable accommo- 
dations, the means of exploring with ease a few of 
the palm communities. In the village there is a val- 
uable medicinal spring, which rises, with a tempera- 



36 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

ture of 103, beneath a flourishing cluster of palms. 
The spring is on the Reservation of the Agua 
Caliente Indians, and the bath-house is operated for 
their financial benefit. It is a new, crude affair, and 
I confess I enjoyed more the quite primitive con- 
trivances of a few years ago, when to the weird sen- 
sation produced by the gulpings and gurglings of 
the spring, which is 'a kind of quicksand in consist- 
ency, was added the excitement of guessing whether 
the rickety little hut would fall to pieces while you 
were taking your bath or would spare you and col- 
lapse over the next comer. This zest of adventure 
has now been lost, as has also the healthful exercise 
of pursuing the key all over the Reservation to its 
lair in the capacious pocket of old Maria's wrapper 
of antique, well-washed blue. 

The arm of desert that reaches southward from 
the village ends in a long, winding ravine known as 
" Palm Canon." Hundreds of palms grow here along 
the course of a romantic stream, bending in dreamy 
beauty over glassy reach and pool, or disposed in 
natively artistic attitudes on the lower slopes of 
the canon walls. The combination of arrowy brook, 
wild ravine, and tropic multitude of palms makes 
the spot an enchanting one, and it never fails to 
draw a tribute of surprised approval from even the 
callous globe-trotter. In winter and spring a feature 
of contrast is added when one may catch from some 
high viewpoint the gleam of San Jacinto's snow. 
Then it is a scene over which artists rave, the note 
of white giving the last touch to a landscape already 
crowded with powerful colors. 



THE PALM OASES AND CAKONS 37 

Naturally, those nuisances the motion-picture 
people have seized on Palm Canon for their antics, 
with the result of setting fire to some of the finest of 
the palms. But why repine? Rather let us rejoice 
that Nature is thus honored in serving Art. Hardly 
less picturesque than Palm Canon is the adjacent 
Murray Canon. Here again clusters and files of 
palms give brightness to a ravine sombre with high- 
piled rocks. Not far away are Eagle and Andreas 
Canons, similarly beautified with these graceful 
trees. 

It is much to be desired that some square miles of 
this locality, with Palm Canon as a centre, should 
be set aside as a National Park. Scenically the place 
is more than remarkable; it is strictly unique for 
this country, as well as strangely beautiful: while for 
its botanical rarity alone it should be preserved in 
the public interest. As facilities for reaching it im- 
prove, ever larger numbers of people will come to 
view this bit of pure Arabia that has somehow fallen 
within our territory. As it is, I am expecting shortly 
to find installed at the strategic point a notice- 
board, a fence with little gate, and a cool highway- 
man collecting dollars, halves, or quarters " what- 
ever the traffic will bear." 



CHAPTER III 

TREES AND TREE-LIKE GROWTHS 

Flora's gifts to the desert The palm The two mesquits 
Nature's great benefaction Deep-rooted mesquits Cicadas 
A mesquit-clump camp The Gambel quail Beans for all 
The tree that bears screws The palo verde, green but leafless 
Laburnum of the desert A desert Goliath The smoke- 
tree A transformation Complaint of a layman The desert 
willow The ironwood: a desert forest The affectionate cat- 
claw Desert mistletoe A vegetable pirate, the Joshua tree 
The ocotillo, epitome of the desert A miracle of blossoming 
The saguaro, giant o^ the cacti An elf -owl hotel Sunset and 
the saguaro 



to the general notion, the desert 
is far from being neglected by Flora. Even in 
the matter of trees, she has denied to a few valuable 
and interesting kinds the territory they would have 
preferred, and has bestowed them on these unkind 
regions, where they are a first-class boon to the 
scanty animal life that shares their hardships. There 
is a good assortment of shrubs too; and of the 
smaller growths a surprisingly large number, though 
it is only in spring that most of these show them- 
selves. For the rest of the year they exist only in 
embryo as seeds, or as a final minimum of brittle 
stems and shrivelled leafage, making no contrast in 
the universal drab, yet the hope and support of the 
forlorn cattle that stray "with melancholy steps 
and slow" about the parched and starving ranges. 
Among the trees, the palm Washingtonia fiUfera 
claims first place (though I always feel that the 
name of tree hardly applies to those columnar shapes, 



TREES AND TREE-LIKE GROWTHS 39 

so opposite to our thought of out-reaching branch, 
shady gallery, and spreading contour). But I have 
spoken of the palm at length in another chapter. 
And, after all, it is rather an incident of the desert 
than a characteristic, appearing only sporadically 
and as a rule about the margins of the territory, 
limited always to the rare spots that yield the need- 
ful conditions of moisture. 

The principal desert tree is the mesquit. Of this 
there are two species, differing in size, mode of 
growth, and some other details, the most noticeable 
of which is the seeding. Tlie larger, Prosopis glan- 
dulosa, bears a typical bean, the other, Prosopis 
pubescent, a unique seed-vessel exactly like a rather 
large screw. From this feature the latter tree takes 
the name of "screwbean," or tornillo, the Spanish 
word for screw. 

The larger mesquit is the one great benefaction 
of Nature to her desert-dwellers. Were it only in the 
matter of shade, what songs should be raised to it 
by man, bird, and beast; and indeed are raised by 
sparrow, wren, linnet, and, to the best of his ability, 
by that arch black sprite, phainopepla, who thinks 
the topmost spray of a mesquit the cap of the uni- 
verse! Reptile and insect revel in it too, for, as I 
write these pages under the shade of a mesquit 
(driven from my tent by a mid-morning March 
temperature of 108), I am buzzed and bitten by 
gnats and flies of all degrees, cobwebbed by spiders, 
explored by serious beetles, and adopted by cater- 
pillars as a happy idea: while nimble lizards scam- 
per about sniping my tormentors. Every mesquit is 



40 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS' 

a green caravanserai, and one that is patronized to 

the full. 

These islands of shade are naturally the preferred 
spots for camping-places by desert travellers, and 
that they have been so from of old may be known 
by the presence near them of unusual quantities of 
the broken pottery that everywhere amazes one by 
tokens of the large populations that the desert once 
supported. In places, mesquit thickets may still be 
found that extend for miles, though near the rail- 
way great stretches have been cleared for cultiva- 
tion, and the wood, which makes excellent fuel, is 
regularly sold in the towns and cities of the coast. 
The aboriginal passion for rabbit would itself render 
these thickets the pick of desert real estate to the 
Indian, for they are always alive with bouncing bun- 
nies, easy targets for his arrows or throwing-clubs. 

The mesquit is also evidence of water, though not 
necessarily of water near the surface, as in the case 
of the palm. Far down below the burning surface 
sands the great cable-like roots of the mesquit go 
searching for the beds of water-bearing gravel, and 
the plant that shows only a five-foot tangle of thorny 
scrub aboveground may have roots running to ten 
times that depth. As the sand is constantly heaped 
higher about the mesquit by the wind, the .plant 
struggles to keep its head above the drift, and in 
places, as at Seven Palms, mile-long dunes have 
formed that show a mere fuzz of twigs aboveground 
while your feet may be tripped by the great cylin- 
drical roots, as thick as your leg and almost as hard 
and rigid as iron, from which the sand has been 



TREES AND TREE-LIKE GROWTHS 41 

blown away. In examining a small one of these roots, 
with a thickness of about two inches and looking 
like a smooth brown rope 'stretched taut, I noted 
that in a distance of twenty feet it showed no varia- 
tion of diameter. 

Besides its boons of game, fuel, shade, and possi- 
bly water, the mesquit yields food for man and beast 
and insect. The vivid young green of late February 
becomes tinged in March with clouds of fragrant 
yellow catkins. This is the bonanza of the thrifty 
desert bees: now or never they must re-stock those 
rows of empty golden honey-pots in the rocky 
cranny of the hillside, and they go to the work with 
all the proverbial ardor, plus the stimulus of need- 
ful haste. Later the mesquits form the great har- 
borage for those most objectionable creatures the 
cicadas. All day the thickets ring with their nerve- 
racking pipings, like the whizz of steam escaping 
under high pressure. I frankly hate these insects 
for their way of dashing out and squirting at one 
a spray of some vile secretion. I was puzzled to ac- 
count for these disgusting anointings, which fell 
upon me even at night, until, camping under a big 
mesquit near Indio, I tracked the offenders down. 

That camp, by the by, deserves description as 
illustrating the possibilities of growth of the mes- 
quit. Other wayfarers, probably Indians or Mexi- 
cans, had used the place before me, and had spent 
no little labor on making it convenient. From the 
outside it was a dome-shaped, isolated clump, a 
hundred yards or so in circumference and perhaps 
fifteen feet in height. A sort of tunnel had been cut 



42 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

leading to the centre, which when reached revealed 
the fact that the whole clump was one enormous 
tree. The short butt, a yard or so in diameter, broke 
into several big recumbent branches which went 
rambling about on hands and knees, all crooks and 
elbows, and threw out a young forest of twigs and 
branchlets cantankerously thorny. Near the main 
stem there was ample space and head-room for 
camp quarters, and the friend who left his comfort- 
able Pasadena bungalow to visit me there had no 
fault to find with the accommodation, though he 
had now and then with the temperature. It was 
pleasant at odd hours to listen to the conversations 
of a family of Gambel quail that shared our mesquit 
with us, pater's loud clear call, or quieter admonish- 
ment of Mrs. G., answered by absent-minded twit- 
terings or headlong scamperings of the youngsters. 

At this camp Kaweah had to be picketed outside, 
but in a similar mesquit clump, that furnished me 
quarters for a week a few miles farther on my way, 
a stable had been installed by some predecessor, 
with manger and room for two or three horses. 
There was ample space here also for an average 
family's camp requirements. 

The mesquit yields excellent food for both man 
and beast. One authority says that the bean, of 
which husk and all are used, contains over fifty per 
cent of practicable food elements. The Indians now- 
adays do not call on it to the extent they did for- 
merly, when the meal ground by the squaws from 
the beans of this plant was the staple of their diet, 
though they still use it freely: but horses and, need- 



TREES AND TREE-LIKE GROWTHS 43 

less to say, the omnivorous burros and the desert 
cattle rejoice at sight of a bean-hung mesquit. 
Many times, during expeditions that took us far 
out of range of orthodox fodder, the situation has 
been saved for Kaweah by our finding a mesquit or 
two, the twigs pendent with plump clusters and the 
ground whitened with the fallen fruit. I sometimes 
feared that dislocation of the neck would be his por- 
tion as I watched his giraffe-like manoeuvres over 
the capture of some coy, high-hung bonne louche. 
Nature did a kind turn to her deserving poor when 
she reserved the mesquit for the desert. 

The screwbean is a more spindling tree, sparser 
of foliage, and content with poorer alkaline soils 
where the other mesquit seldom cares to dwell. It is 
equally good, perhaps even better, as a source of 
food, but has little to offer in the way of shade a 
mere thin grayness that scarcely breaks the stroke 
of the sun. In the diary of that fine Borrovian char- 
acter, Fray Francisco Hermenegildo Garces, who 
was roaming these deserts, with the enthusiasm of an 
explorer as well as of a missionary, in the years just 
about the birthtime of this nation on the other side 
of the continent, one easily identifies the tornillo 
when he writes that he has found a tree that bears 
screws. Flora had one of her quaintest fancies when 
she fashioned these odd seed-vessels, which one finds 
sprinkled in tousled clusters all over the tree. 

Next in size to claim attention is the palo verde, 
Cercidium torreyanum. To give the Spanish a literal 
translation, it would be the "green stick," or, more 
suavely, the "greenwood tree." It has no recognized 



44 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

English name, and to speak of it as the greenwood 
tree raises a most incongruous association of ideas. 
Shades of Arden, what a difference! Yet the Spanish 
name, taken literally, is apt enough, for green the 
tree certainly is, vivid green and green all over: only 
one must banish all thought of whispering forest 
and woodsy lawn. 

An odd thing is that this very green tree is a tree 
almost without leaves; at least, the leaves are so 
small, and so short-lived as well, as to cut little 
figure in the general effect. It is the skeleton of the 
tree trunk, branches, branchlets, and twigs 
that is green, a green vivid and smooth, though the 
butt of a very old palo verde may be roughened and 
blackened by age. Such scanty foliage as the tree 
puts forth in spring, in response to some old vernal 
urge still strong after 'ages of forced adaptation to 
desert conditions, falls by early summer, and leaves 
the airy, broom-like branches bare against the china 
blue of the sky. Often the branches are hung with 
great globes of the desert mistletoe (Phoradendron) 
so dense as to look like bee-swarms, adding to the 
remarkable appearance of the tree. 

The palo verde, however, is a miracle for bloom. 
In mid-March it takes a tinge of yellow, and soon 
each twig becomes a jewelled chain, petals of whim- 
sical gold set with chips of ruby for anthers. Its 
other Spanish name, lluvia de oro, shower of gold, 
then fits it well. For charm and profusion of bloom 
it is the desert's premier tree, and reminds me often 
of that glory of England's spring, the laburnum. 
Ah, those Thames-side gardens, spilling their o^er- 



TREES AND TREE-LIKE GROWTHS 45 

flow of lilac and laburnum over old rosy brick walls! 
Those sea-washed Devon villages, each cottage 
plot a bower of floral gold! Those steep lakeland 
streets which I used to climb with you, lady of my 
dedication, to the dark-firred Beacon, each garden 
raining yellow largess upon its neighbor next below! 
Excuse the lapse, good reader, and in return I will 
wish that you may never know the sharpness of exile. 

On the side of usefulness the palo verde has its 
virtues as well. Its beans are grist for the pestle and 
mortar of the Indian squaw; and though usually a 
small tree, it is capable of growth to a size that 
would furnish lodgment to man. There is a palo 
verde near the mouth of Deep Canon that I take to 
be the Goliath of its tribe. The trunk at its narrow- 
est aboveground is eight and a quarter feet in girth, 
the largest limb five feet around, and the space cov- 
ered by the tree has a circumference of seventy 
yards. For the desert, that is a triumph of tree 
growth. I do not know of another palo verde that 
comes to half its size. 

The smoke-tree, Parosela spinosa, may hardly be 
called a tree, though sometimes tree-like in size of 
stem. More common than the palo verde, it is al- 
ways a strange and noticeable object. It, too, is 
leafless, but it is wholly pale gray, a mass of prickly 
interlaced twigs that at a distance has much the 
look of a cloud of smoke. It is the characteristic 
plant of the desert "washes" or water-courses. I 
have often found the beds of these fugitive streams 
filled for miles with this ghostly semblance of a river. 
To see this phantom river come winding out, snake- 



46 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

like, upon the plain from some red, mysterious 
canon brings nightmare thoughts of the grim genii, 
Thirst and Famine, that might here have their 
abode. 

In early summer one may see this torrent turn 
suddenly from gray to liveliest color. The smoke- 
tree, like the palo verde, makes up for absence of 
foliage by a huge burst of blossom. In this case it is 
blue, the purest ultramarine, each tree a cloud of 
small, pea-like flowers that as they shrivel and fall 
collect in windrows like drifts of azure snow. (An- 
other name for the tree is indigo bush, though the 
true hue of the blossom is not indigo: yet another is 
desert cedar, which is totally without point.) Some 
day a painter will chance upon this sight, and at 
danger of death by thirst will refuse to move from 
the spot until he has fixed upon canvas the desert 
at its highest color power. He had better, though, be 
a painter unusually reckless of his reputation, for all 
the world will swear he lies. 

The smoke-tree gives me occasion to voice an old 
grudge that I have long held against the botanical 
tribe. Harmless, even kindly, as botanists in general 
appear, how is it that they take delight in embitter- 
ing the lives of laymen by their eternal juggling 
with the names of genera and species? If they really 
wish to discourage us poor "popular" chaps, all 
right; let them say so and we can turn to something 
lighter, say eugenics, or those frivolous things, conic 
sections. For many a year the smoke-tree and its 
relatives were known to all the world as of the 
genus Dalea. To-day the puzzled amateur finds that 



TREES AND TREE-LIKE GROWTHS 47 

name tacked to a quite different class of plants, and 
only by chance recognizes his old acquaintance 
under the title of Parosela. And this is but one case 
in a long and grievous list. When I hear of convoca- 
tions of botanists I smile and say, "This is no inno- 
cent convention. What are they up to now?" 

Often found near the smoke-tree in the gravelly 
washes is the desert willow, Chilopsis linearis. It is 
not really a willow, and only slightly resembles that 
tree in its leafage and irregular shape. In size, how- 
ever, this often becomes a genuine tree, and I have 
found specimens with trunks two feet thick and an 
area of thirty yards diameter or more. The notable 
feature of this tree also is its flower, which is a 
large, fragile, orchid-like blossom, white relieved with 
lavender and yellow, and very delicately scented. 
There is something childlike about it, a hint of 
dainty pinafores in the crinkled edges of the petals: 
altogether a rare, undesert-like bloom. In the with- 
ering summer heat of a torrent bed there is refresh- 
ment in meeting these airy blossoms with their 
fresh, cool look and gentle fragrance a thought 
of violets and primroses in mossy woodland ways. 

The desert willow blooms profusely and remains 
long in flower. The fruit is a long, narrow bean, 
which, on shedding its seeds, leaves the tree hung 
with silky gray pods that flutter in the wind like 
pennons on the lances of Indian warriors. 

One true tree remains, the ironwood, Olneya tesofa, 
called arbol defierro, or pakfierro (alternative hierro) 
in Spanish, meaning iron-tree or ironwood. This is 
a sturdy, trim, well-branched growth reminding one 



48 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

of a well-shaped apple tree. The foliage is abundant, 
yielding welcome shade, and the wood is exceedingly 
hard and makes excellent fuel. Its dull-blue flowers 
are not specially attractive, and it bears beans that, 
so far as I know, are not eaten by man or beast, 
though I have seen my horse nibble the young 
leaves with a resigned air when sugary mesquit, 
humdrum galleta grass, and even that furniture- 
polish sort of stuff, burro-weed, have all left us in 
the lurch. 

The ironwood has not a wide range, and one 
might travel the desert for a long time without meet- 
ing it. In the northeastern part of the Colorado 
Desert, not far from the river, there is a little-visited 
range of hills called the Ironwood Mountains, or 
sometimes the McCoys. On their southern outskirts 
I rode for hours through what, for the desert, might 
be called a forest of these trees, some of which had 
trunks more than two feet in diameter. 

There is a widely distributed, straggling bush that 
at a cursory glance looks rather like an unthrifty 
mesquit. It is the cat-claw, Acacia greggii, an affec- 
tionate creature that grapples you to its soul with 
hooks of steel and loves to keep you there, taking a 
double hold for every claw you gently disengage. 
The leaf is mesquit-like, but smaller and finer, the 
blossom also similar, a fuzzy catkin, and the fruit 
a curious curly bean that dries into gouty-looking 
contortions. You will not go far on the desert with- 
out meeting the cat-claw, nor will you part without 
cursing it. 

A feature of all desert trees, except the palm, is 



TREES AND TREE-LIKE GROWTHS 49 

the great quantity of mistletoe, Phoradendron cal- 
ifornicum, they often carry. It is a common thing 
to see mesquits in which one half of the bulk of the 
tree is made up of dense masses of this parasite. It 
has no leaves, but in spring carries berries of a pretty 
coral color. Though classed by botanists as a "false" 
mistletoe, it has, I know, played the good old Christ- 
mas part with entire success. 

In speaking of the ironwood as the last true tree 
of the desert, I must not overlook three other plants 
that in size may deserve the name the tree-yucca 
or Joshua tree, the ocotillo or candlewood, and that 
giant of the cacti the saguaro. They are hardly to be 
thought of as trees, however, but rather as growths 
allied to trees, but wanting in almost all tree-like 
features. 

The first is Yucca arborescens, of the tribe of that 
"Spanish bayonet" which is so common about the 
foothills of Southern California and so noticeable 
for its gigantic spike of cream-colored flowers. The 
Joshua tree (so named, it is said, by Mormon immi- 
grants who, meeting these eccentric growths as they 
neared the end of their long march, hailed them as 
heralds of the promised land) is more typical of the 
Mojave than of the Colorado Desert, but it extends 
southward into the mountain ranges that divide the 
twin desolations. 

It is a weird, menacing object, more like some 
conception of Poe's or Dor6's than any work of 
wholesome Mother Nature. One can scarcely find 
a term of ugliness that is not apt for this plant. A 
misshapen pirate with belt, boots, hands, and teeth 



50 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

stuck full of daggers is as near as I can come to a 
human analogy. The wood is a harsh, rasping fibre; 
knife-blades, long, hard, and keen, fill the place of 
leaves; the flower is greenish white and ill-smelling; 
and the fruit a cluster of nubbly pods, bitter and 
useless. A landscape filled with Joshua trees has a 
nightmare effect even in broad daylight: at the 
witching hour it can be almost infernal. 

The ocotillo, Fouguieria splendens (commonly but 
wrongly taken for a cactus), is to me the most strik- 
ing and characteristic of the desert plants. In it are 
expressed the desert's intrinsic qualities, its haggard- 
ness and gray sterility, its cruelty of thorn and claw, 
its fierce, hot beauty. In a landscape crowded with 
these lean, sinuous shapes, as one finds them filling 
great tracts of the barrenest desert of the Colorado, 
one feels an added wildness and fascination. Of the 
cacti, a few are really beautiful, many interesting or 
quaint, others ugly but grotesque. The beauty of 
the ocotillo is the beauty of Cleopatra or Carmen, 
fierce and fatal. The scarlet streamer that comes in 
spring at the tip of every stem is like a darting drag- 
on's tongue. A company of ocotillos writhing in a 
hurricane makes as eerie a sight as anything I know 
in the vegetable realm. 

In shape the ocotillo is a sheaf of thin, whip-like 
canes from six or eight to twenty feet long, spread- 
ing more or less widely from a main stump near, the 
ground. The canes are closely armed with curving 
thorns, which give the plant a cactus-like appear- 
ance. For nine or ten months of the year it stands 
gaunt, leafless, seemingly lifeless, and one strange 



TREES AND TREE-LIKE GROWTHS 51 

feature is the suddenness with which, on the coming 
of the rains, it changes from dead, dry gray to living 
green. Small leaves appear as if by magic and feather 
the canes with vivid green. The canes themselves 
become a delicate lavender; even the thorns put on 
a half-inviting look and entice the unwary to closer 
acquaintance. Then a flower-spike starts from the 
tip of each cane, and bursts into a flame-like tongue 
a foot or so long, made up of scores of tubular scarlet 
and yellow blossoms. 

I have been told that the flowers of the ocotillo 
are used as food by some of the desert Indians. I 
tried them once, but failed to find them attractive. 
But I had no recipe: perhaps they should be served 
with a tarantula sauce, or stewed with lizards' tails. 

The giant cactus, Cereus giganteus (Spanish sa- 
guaro), is a common object of the Arizona deserts, 
but in California is only represented to the extent 
of a few individuals, probably not many over a 
hundred all told, that have gained a footing on the 
western bank of the Colorado. It, too, is an abnormal 
plant, but not an ugly one. Indeed, it is beautiful 
in an outlandish kind of way, but so far is it removed 
from all the shapes that we think of as trees that it 
might be a type of vegetation belonging to Mars or 
the moon. 

Ordinarily the saguaro, for ten or fifteen feet of 
its height, is a single dark-green column, regularly 
ridged or fluted, and set with rosettes of spines. Then 
it sends out arms, one or very few, which stand up 
parallel with the main stem; or it may divide into 
a number of equal branchings, taking the form of 



52 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

a candelabrum. A mature saguaro may be fifty feet 
high or more, but the tallest specimen I found on 
the California side of the river was not over forty 
feet. It was an odd-shaped, untypical growth, with 
a few stumpy arms that looked as if they had been 
amputated. 

In nearly every saguaro one finds a number of 
neat round holes, the entrances, originally, to wood- 
peckers' nests, but often used rent free by that 
quaint little goblin the elf owl, Micropallas whitneyi, 
the Tom Thumb of his tribe, hardly six inches high 
when full grown. My tallest saguaro must have had 
a score of these holes, a veritable hotel or skyscraper 
of owls. I was disappointed that I could not make 
camp beside it, but I think I can warrant any other 
traveller who may do so some pretty weird music for 
his lullaby. 

The plant bears large waxy blossoms that grow 
directly on the stem and branches, and the fruit is 
a first-class luxury to the Indians. 

When the red flood of sunset comes on those great 
plains and hill slopes, where no other object breaks 
the far expanse, while the ancient river moves 
silently on to the lonely gulf and the mysterious sea, 
and the traveller's steps halt under that old spell of 
evening, then the dark, upward-pointing finger of the 
saguaro gives an added solemnity to that impression 
of the vast, unchanging, and elemental which is the 
eternal note of the desert. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE SMALLER CACTI, SHRUBS, AND FLOWERS 

The cacti, children of the desert The biznaga or "nigger-head" 
An emergency water-supply The villainous cholla A cactus 
that jumps The Devil's Garden A torturing imp Deer-horn 
cactus and the cactus wren Gorgeous blossoms Beware of 
basilaris Fish-hook cactus or chiLito The ubiquitous creosote- 
bush Solitude and monotony Arrowweed thickets Pro- 
tective shapes Desert holly The self-defensive agave 
Indian confectionery Baking mescal A floral surprise, the 
desert lily The encelia or incense-plant Billows of bloom 
An ambiguous color The desert verbena Rose-purple acres 
A memorable spring flower show. 

THE desert is the kingdom of the cacti, for the 
cacti are the special offspring of the desert. 
With ingenious pains Nature has wrought out this 
unique family, fitted to endure the very reverse of 
ordinary plant conditions. Their part is to hold the 
frontier that meets the Empire of Drought, and 
they are shaped and armed for the task. Since leaves 
yield too much to evaporation, spines and thorns 
are adopted. Rainfall being a matter of doubt, the 
cactus models itself on the canteen, and fills up 
to the limit when it gets the chance. And since a 
canteen is a temptation to thirsty tramps such as 
jack-rabbit and coyote, the spines are hooked, 
barbed, clawed, and made as generally troublesome 
as possible. Yet, it seems as if when the matter of 
blossoms came up, Nature's heart relented: she 
could not bring herself to fashion a forbidding flower. 
After the giant saguaro, described in the previous 



54 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

chapter, the barrel cactus, Echinocactus cylindraceus 
(biznaga or viznaga of the Mexicans) is the one that 
first claims notice. Here and there about the rocky 
hillsides and mesas stand these odd shapes, upright 
cylinders from two to six feet high. The surface is 
beautifully fluted and covered with a close network 
of spines three or four inches long, hard as ivory and 
sharp as needles, real works of art. On the top of the 
cylinder there comes in spring a circle of papery, 
rose-like, lemon-yellow flowers. They sprout di- 
rectly from the cylinder, making a dainty pale gold 
coronet that seems strangely out of place on that 
preposterous tousled " nigger-head" (as the plant 
is sometimes called). 

This portly vegetable is, as I suggested, really a 
reservoir of water. The interior is a sponge of water- 
holding tissue, protected from evaporation by the 
leathery skin. Desert men, of course, know all about 
this convenient arrangement, and draw upon it at 
need: and many a life forfeited to the thirst-demon 
would have escaped out of his hand if the doomed 
wretch had but known the secret. He is an unwise 
man, indeed, who dares that demon without the key 
to many of the desert's problems. 

The process of tapping this source of water is 
simple enough. The top of the " barrel" is cut off; 
a depression is scooped in the pulp ; the surrounding 
tissue is crushed by pounding with axe-helve or any- 
thing that will serve as a pestle; and then a clear 
liquid, rather flat in taste but quite drinkable, will 
gradually exude into the hollow that has been made 
in the pulp. Like Samson's conundrum, "Out of the 



CACTI, SHRUBS, AND FLOWERS 55 

eater came forth meat," one may say of the Uznaga, 
"Out of the drinker came forth water." 

Next, if not first in obtrusiveness, is the cholla 
(pronounced choy'a), Opuntia bigelomi. First it cer- 
tainly is in villainous traits and in the ill-rega'rd of 
every desert traveller. It is an ugly object three 
or four feet high, with stubby arms standing out 
like amputated stumps. The older parts are usually 
black with decay, the rest of a sickly greenish white, 
and the whole thing is covered with horrible barbed 
spines, uncountable in quantity and detestable in 
every regard. It has, moreover, a very vile habit of 
shedding its joints, and these roll by instinct into 
the places where they can most easily achieve their 
purpose, which is to stab the feet of horses and spike 
pedestrians through their boots, as they readily can 
do. Every one who has travelled with horses on the 
desert lias had the job of ridding his animals of these 
devils, which in many places grow so thickly that to 
dodge them is out of the question. The Indians say 
that they jump at you: this sounds like an exaggera- 
tion, but upon my word I don't know. Often when I 
have felt sure that I passed clear of a certain cholla 
I found he had me after all. 

I remember some years ago crossing the Devil's 
Garden, a great cactus thicket between the White- 
water Wash and Seven Palms. My companion and 
his Arizona cow-pony were both old desert habitues 
and past-masters in cactus, while my mount also 
hailed from the Arizona ranges, where cactus is "the 
daily round, the common task." Yet our combined 
sagacity came far short of keeping us out of trouble. 



5 6 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

First one and then the other of us had to stop, kneel 
in the roasting sand (with the sun at somewhere about 
140 Fahrenheit), and pull out one by one the long, 
barbed thorns from the feet and knees of the wincing 
animals. In these minor surgical operations we gradu- 
ally lost sight of each other, and it was not until 
long after dark that we met again at our designated 
camp at Whitewater. 

The cholla is the general enemy. In autumn, when 
the range is at its poorest, I have often seen cattle in 
horrible distress from a great lump of this fiendish 
plant that had got hooked on to their muzzles as 
they searched for browse. At every attempt to feed, 
the tormenting imp of course took a stronger hold. 
As one cannot come near these half-wild cattle of 
the ranges except by lassoing them, many an un- 
lucky steer has died of starvation from sheer in- 
ability to pick up feed. 

I could willingly devote a chapter to abusing the 
cholla. Enough, however, to add that the blossom 
is of a pale, unwholesome green, hardly noticeable; 
and that if the plant bears any helpful or even inno- 
cent part in the scheme of things on this planet, I 
should be glad to hear of it. I do, indeed, remember 
to have seen hornets in search of building-sites in- 
specting the cholla with evident approval, but that 
hardly counts for a virtue. 

Prominent almost everywhere in the view is an- 
other cactus, often called, from its branching, antler- 
like habit, the deer-horn cactus (Opuntia echino- 
carpa). Unobservant people are apt to confuse this 
species with the last-named, and caU it cholla. If 



CACTI, SHRUBS, AND FLOWERS 57 

one should do so, it would be proper to apologize. 
Without being a saint, one may object to being 
taken for a murderer. The deer-horn grows in spread- 
ing shape to a height of six feet or more, a maze of 
bristling ramifications that form the favorite nest- 
ing-place for one of the desert birds. Here the cactus 
wren builds and broods, as secure from snakes and 
other enemies as if she were housed in the interior 
of a hedgehog. I have once seen the nest of this bird 
in a true cholla; probably the device of some super- 
careful mother who had had unfortunate experience 
in speaking with the enemy at the gate. 

The deer-horn bears a rather pretty flower of an 
uncommon brownish green or bronze hue, seen, I 
think, in this plant alone. 

Less frequently met is a species much like Echino- 
carpa, but with stems and joints much thinner, and 
thorns fewer though not less aggressive. This is 
Opuntia ramosissima. It bears a small brown flower, 
a hue that Flora does not greatly love. But though 
she is no Quaker, variety is her breath of life, so 
even brown is adopted as a novelty. 

The handsomest of all the cactus blossoms, to my 
mind, is that of Cereus engelmanni, which grows usu- 
ally in company with the two foregoing species. The 
plant looks like a colony of a dozen or so spiny 
cucumbers, set up on end, generally under the shade 
of a creosote bush or in the lee of a boulder. I have 
no grudge against this fellow, who bites only if you 
strike him. The blossom is a most charming one, a 
sheeny, rose-like cup of superb purple or wine color, 
crowded with golden-anthered stamens and with a 



58 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

pistil breaking into soft green plumes that curl as 
daintily as a moth's antennae. One who is on the 
desert in spring should on no account miss the sight 
of this exquisite flower. 

Almost as handsome is the blossom of another 
common desert cactus, Opuntia basilaris. This is one 
of the flat-lobed or " pancake " species, and is sim- 
ilar in general habit to the common tuna, prickly 
pear, or Indian fig. The flower-buds sprout in a row 
from the edges of the lobes, and make a fine show 
with their cups of silky cerise. This plant, like the 
tuna, is valuable to the Indians, who achieve a 
special delicacy by cooking the young buds in a pit 
heated with hot stones. 

But let the unwary beware; there is more in the 
basilaris than meets the eye. The lobes have a 
downy, innocent look, spines apparently absent. 
"Trust her not, she is fooling thee." The velvety 
surface is covered with myriads of infinitely fine 
prickles that come off at the lightest touch and form 
a sort of plush on the rash person's skin, almost in* 
visible but most aggravating to the touch. The re- 
moving of them, though a fine exercise in patience, 
is one of the most melancholy occupations that I 
know. 

All the foregoing bear cup-shaped, papery blooms 
of what may be called the usual cactus character. 
There is a quaint little cactus, not very common, 
Mamillaria tetrancistms, usually only two or three 
inches high, that has an entirely different flower. 
It is claret-color, fleshy, and vase-shaped, and bears 
for fruit a bright coral-red vessel like a tiny chile, 



CACTI, SHRUBS, AND FLOWERS 59 

from which it gets its Mexican name of chilito. 
I have heard it called " strawberry" cactus, a puz- 
zling misnomer. "Fish-hook" is another and better 
name, arising from the inch-long thorns, curving 
sharply at the tip; and " pin-cushion " has an evi- 
dent bearing on the little green cushion stuck full of 
shining prickles. But as is so often the case, the 
Spanish word is the most apt. Do the Mexicans love 
flowers more than we? Perhaps they understand 
them better, if only because they look at them with 
more simplicity. 

There is another species of Mamillaria, almost 
identical in appearance with the foregoing except 
that its flowers are white, rather like the tube- 
rose. 

Leaving now the thorny subject of the cacti, the 
ruling plant and the one of widest distribution over 
our southern deserts is the creosote bush, Larrea 
glandulosa. It is a handsome bush, often eight or ten 
feet high, airy and spreading, with small leaves of 
brilliant varnished green which give it a pleasing 
effect in the general scheme of gray. From the tarry 
feeling and smell of the foliage it gets its common 
name of "greasewood," or among the Mexicans and 
Indians, hediondia, meaning "bad-smelling," though 
the peculiar odor is not to me disagreeable. In spring 
the plant is set profusely with starry yellow flowers, 
which mature into little woolly globes as pretty as 
the blossoms. Over wide tracts of desert the creo- 
sote is the sole object that breaks the cheerless 
expanse, and I often felt that the sense of solitude, 
vastness, and monotony, was deepened by the 



60 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

presence of this plant, growing for league on league 
almost identical in size and spacing, now stirred to 
a momentary sigh by the fitful wind, then, in a mo- 
ment, motionless as death in the trance-like stillness 
of the heat. 

A noticeable plant about water-holes and oases 
is the arrowweed, Pluchea sericea. It wears the des- 
ert's regular livery of gray, and forms dense thick- 
ets, six or eight feet high, through which it is not 
easy to push one's way. The cane-like stems grow 
straight and stiff from the ground, needing only 
smoothing, by rubbing on a grooved rock, to make 
excellent shafts for the light Indian arrows. The 
feathery leaves have an acrid smell, always associ- 
ated in my mind with the thought of jaded arrivals 
at long-expected camping-places, and eager draughts 
of tepid, unsatisfying water. ^The blossom is a fuzzy, 
dingy, pink affair, appropriate to the unwholesome 
alkaline soils which the plant seems to prefer. 

The general grayness of desert vegetation is largely 
due to one class of plants, the genus A triplex, which 
with its many species makes up a large proportion 
of the total growth. Wide areas of low-lying desert 
are dotted with great hummocks of quail bush, 
A. lentiformis, curious in their perfect, dome-like 
form and easily mistaken at a little distance for 
drifts of sand. This shape, typical of the desert 
growths, no doubt represents an effort at self- 
protection from the general persecutor the sun. 
The canny tortoise seems to have set the model with 
his make-what-you-can-of-that contour; and there 
really is not much to be made of it, either by wind, 



CACTI, SHRUBS, AND FLOWERS 61 

sun, or sand-storm. I often wished that I had been 
cast in a similar mould. 

Another Atriplex, of the species canescens, is no- 
ticeable for the bright-green tassels of its seed- 
vessels, of a papery texture and peculiar shape for 
which it has been given the common name of " shad- 
scale." Since it fruits in the late summer, when the 
desert is doubly deserted, its unique feature is not 
generally known. 

One more relation of the quail bush that is worth 
noting is the little prickly leafed A. hymenelytra. 
The young foliage, of palest gray with rose or lilac 
shell tints, whitens under the summer sun to almost 
a look of ivory. At Christmastide it is sold in the 
coast cities as " desert holly," sometimes with red 
berries of other plants artfully attached to make it 
better fill the part. The leaves are really holly-like 
in shape, but after all a poor substitute for the royal 
green ilex without which Christmas is only half a 
festival. 

Often found growing with the ocotillo, which was 
described in the previous chapter, is the Agave 
deserti. This is a relative of the century plant of 
parks and gardens, and is almost identical with the 
indispensable maguey of Mexico. Again we have the 
desert's eternal note of gray, in the huge bayonet- 
pointed leaves, from the midst of which, when the 
plant is from twelve to twenty years old, a single 
straight flowering-stalk shoots up to a height of 
eight or ten feet, breaking into crowded blossoms 
of honey-dripping yellow. Once having bloomed, the 
plant dies. - 



62 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

Like the ocotillo, the agave makes a striking figure 
in many a desert landscape. On scarred, sun-smitten 
hillsides and down league-long stony bajadas, the 
earth bristles with their blue-white daggers in im- 
penetrable chevaux-de-frise, stuck here and there 
with leaning poles, relics of former years' flowering. 
Flora is again on the defensive, for without those 
pikes and lances she could never hold her own 
against the cattle, bighorn, and deer that covet the 
succulent flower-stems, and whose tracks you find in 
spring all about these forbidden preserves. 

From time immemorial the agave has supplied 
the desert Indians with one of their few luxuries, one, 
moreover, that is both food and confectionery. Now 
that every country store offers easy satisfaction to 
stomach and sweet tooth, this old source of supply 
has fallen into neglect ; but now and then the Indian, 
answering the call of the wild, still goes afield to 
bake mescal. One recent spring I was able to join 
a friendly Volcan Indian who was bound on this 
time-honored function. Briefly, this is the manner 
of it: ^ 

Arrived at the mescal ground, which was on the 
southern desert overlooking the Borego Valley re- 
gion, our first work was to search for plants with 
flower-stalks in the right stage of growth. The deer 
and wild-sheep had been before us, and it took an 
hour or two to secure a dozen young and tender 
shoots that Antonio pronounced bueno. With his 
axe he cut deep into the core of the plant, at the 
base of the great asparagus-like stalk. The shoot 
was cut out, its top struck off, and the leaves trimmed 



CACTI, SHRUBS, AND FLOWERS 63 

away, leaving a clean butt fifteen inches or so long, 
eight or ten thick, and weighing several pounds. 

Next a pit was dug, two or three feet deep and 
somewhat more in diameter. This was lined, bottom 
and sides, with fiat slabs of rock, and a loose coping 
was laid also about the edge. On this coping the 
agave butts were laid. A good bonfire was built over 
the pit, and allowed to burn for twenty minutes or 
so, the embers falling into the pit and covering the 
bottom thickly. Then the butts, already charred by 
the fire, were tumbled into the pit, and with them 
the heated coping stones and all the still-glowing 
embers. Earth was banked up over all, and the pit 
was left for the day. The next afternoon we resur- 
rected our booty after some thirty hours 7 baking. The 
charred lumps had much the . appearance of ele- 
phants' feet. Cutting away the blackened skin we 
arrived at a golden brown mass, as sweet as molasses 
and with a flavor that I first found peculiar, then 
interesting, finally seductive. 

In a cranny of the rocks, Antonio's quick eyes had 
sighted a relic of mescal-bakings of old a long, 
straight pole of the heavy wood of the mountain 
mahogany, one end shaped to a chisel-like edge. It 
was, Antonio said, a peh-wee', the tool used for cut- 
ting out a-mposh' (mescal) by his people of bygone 
days, before the white man and his wonderful things 
of iron and steel had come within their ken. It had 
an uncouth look that suggested the weapons of cave- 
dwellers, and I wondered whether the formidable 
old tool might not have seen wilder service in its 
day than just the peaceable reaping of agaves. 



64 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

I early learned that the desert is full of floral sur- 
prises, but I was not prepared to find among them 
a snowy, virginal lily. Down on the sun-seared flats 
about the upper end of the Salton Sea I came upon 
the wonderful Hesperocattis undulatus, a flower that 
might be looked for in some carefully warmed and 
watered greenhouse, but never in these arid spaces 
of sand. It was mid- April, near the end of the plant's 
flowering season, and only a few of them were left in 
bloom. I was told that a week earlier they had stood 
in thousands all over the gray levels that stretch 
from the edge of the bitter sea back to the ochre 
mountains. Tall and slender, they carried their deli- 
cate large bells, three or four to a cluster, knee-high 
above the mat of wavy, ribbon-like leaves. One rubs 
one's eyes at meeting these Easter-lily-like flowers 
in this "dry and thirsty land where no water is." 

In the same region, but scattered over a wider 
territory, is found another choice flower, one of the 
Mentzelias. Its blossom is creamy white, of the most 
satiny sheen of any flower I know, each petal closely 
pencilled with vermilion in very fine parallel lines. 
The foliage, however, is harsh and scaly, rather a 
drawback to the beauty of the plant, whereas the 
lily is wholly gentle and Madonna-like. 

I must pay tribute also to the great white evening 
primrose, (Enothera trichocalyx, which on moonlight 
nights throws the glamour of fairydom over the dry, 
commonplace sands. The huge four-inch blossoms 
shine up like little moons; but beware how you stoop 
to handle them, for the plants are a favorite har- 
borage for the sidewinder, that wicked little horned 



CACTI, SHRUBS AND FLOWERS 65 

rattlesnake that goes sideways and bites without 
" ringing the bell." 

I have not yet spoken of the plant that makes the 
greatest show of all about the borders of the desert, 
where it covers dark canon walls and the lower slopes 
of mountains with a stipple of gray that changes in 
spring to gold. This is Encelia farinosa, a stiff bush 
up to two feet high, growing in the favorite hemi- 
spherical shape of desert shrubs, with pale gray 
leaves and brittle twigs that exude a yellow resin. 
This resin, it is said, has been used, under necessity, 
in place of orthodox incense, so that Mexicans and 
Indians call the plant " yerba de incienso." The flow- 
ers are yellow stars, profuse and beautiful, and are 
borne on long slender stems that project evenly sev- 
eral inches beyond the outline of the bush, which 
then is like a big gray pincushion stuck full of yellow 
floral hatpins. The plant is very prolific, and, whether 
in flower or not, is a noticeable feature in any land- 
scape in which it finds a place. Another species, E. 
calif arnica, with dark-green leaves, is found oftener 
on the levels than on hillsides. 

The mention of the encelias brings to mind spring 
days a year or two ago that I spent in Deep Canon, 
one of the principal canons of the northwestern part 
of the desert. The winter had been one of unusually 
heavy rains, and every desert plant was doing honor 
to the rare event. It is hopeless to attempt to give 
the reader any true impression of the floral outpour- 
ing that year as it was revealed to me in Deep Canon. 
To put it in one weak figure of speech, it was a tor- 
rent of floral color, billows of red, yellow, and blue, 



66 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

that filled the long canon from side to side; the en- 
closing walls, for hundreds of feet up, all painted to 
one hue of yellow by uncountable myriads of encelia 
blossoms. To name all the plants that entered into 
the spring show would be impossible, but the three 
plants that were most overpowering in volume were 
the encelia, the beloperone, and the phacelia, yel- 
low, red, and blue respectively. The canon was a 
jungle of these plants, the bushes of beloperone espe- 
cially wonderful, many of them six feet high and 
eight or ten feet long, wholly covered with the crim- 
son blossoms. Humming-birds were whirring about, 
nonplussed like myself at the sight (the plant is 
known as flor de chuparosa, humming-bird flower, 
in Mexico, I am told), and honey-loving insects of 
every degree joined in keeping the air in a conglom- 
erate hum. 

The other plant I named, the phacelia, or so- 
called wild heliotrope, grew in loose tangles all about 
the sturdier encelias and beloperones, climbing as 
high as their support allowed and encircling their 
yellow or crimson in wreaths of delicate blue. 

I must not overlook, either, that glory of desert 
canons in late spring, the flame-colored wild holly- 
hock, Spharaleea ambigua. I call it flame-colored, 
but it is not that, and everybody whom I have asked 
to name the color has either named it differently or 
politely declined to try. Along the base of rocky 
walls you find bushes of the plant, with pale gray- 
green leaves and superb sprays of blossom which 
you may call pale vermilion, or apricot, or brick red, 
or flame, without being correct in any of the terms. 






5 



CACTI, SHRUBS, AND FLOWERS 67 

In the neighborhood of Palm Springs and in Deep 
Canon I have seen it at its best, but every one who 
sees it in a good season will agree that it is a splen- 
did, strange, and wonderful flower. 

One other notable flower must be mentioned, the 
so-called desert verbena, Abronia aurita. This, like 
all desert plants, varies greatly in its show of blos- 
som according to rainfall and other conditions; but 
when the season is propitious the verbenas make a 
never-to-be-forgotten impression. The rosettes of 
blossom, of a color between pink and purple, are 
crowded together in solid acres, almost miles, of 
bloom, so closely as to be crushed at every step. The 
gentian meadows of the Sierra and the golden poppy 
carpets of our few yet unploughed foothills are 
matched and outdone by these rosy purple verbena 
plains of the desert. My little sleeping-tent, six feet 
by three, pitched where the ground was freest of 
blossoms, enclosed scores of the clusters, and the 
scent within was like that of an orchid house. 

It would be impossible to give here even a brief 
reference to all the desert growths that are interest- 
ing for their uses, strange in their characteristics, or 
beautiful in their flowering: for instance, the odd 
sandpaper plant, Petalonyx ihurberi, whose name 
indicates its peculiarity to the touch; the dye weed, 
Parosela emoryi, that announces itself too late by a 
deep yellow stain on your hands or clothing; and a 
great number that the Indians value for medicinal 
or other purposes. My notebook shows over a hun- 
dred plants that I found remarkable. Some of them 
will be spoken of in the chapter on Indian lore. 



68 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

From the bladder-pod of February to the lowly but 
lovely navarretia that in midsummer tints wide 
spaces with its delicate harebell blue, there is an 
unbroken flow of color. Any one who may find him- 
self on the desert in spring, especially if it be a spring 
following a winter of good rainfall (as rainfall goes 
on the desert) may count on an experience of wild 
flowers that, if he is a stranger, will yield him a 
memorable and surprising impression. 1 

1 In an Appendix are given brief descriptions of other desert plants, 
by which many, at least, of them may be identified. 



CHAPTER V 

SOME DESERT INDIAN LORE 

Doubtfulness of Indian lore The Tahquitz demon: his haunt 
The Pleiades legend Toluache and its properties The raven 
again ill-omened Indian word-building Cahuilla fire-makers 
A desert Indian views the sea Uses of sundry plants Coyote 
tobacco Bows, arrows, throwing-clubs, baskets Ever-useful 
cacti and yuccas Mesquit and chia The hunter's instinct 
Fruits, wild and cultivated Indian baskets and pottery, passing 
arts Medicines and other things All necessities supplied. 

IN this chapter I pass on to the reader some items 
of information that I have gathered, in some in- 
stances directly, in others at second-hand, of the 
beliefs and practices of the desert Indians, especially 
with regard to the uses of certain plants. The topic 
is a large one, and cannot here be more than touched 
upon. Even so, much of what follows cannot be 
taken as trustworthy. Every one who has attempted 
to delve into affairs ethnological, even if he be fitted 
for the task by study and training, knows the hope- 
lessness of efforts to clear up the doubts and contra- 
dictions that arise at every step. Hence these scraps 
of supposed fact or belief are offered more for the 
passing interest or amusement of the reader than as 
reliable fragments of knowledge. The only items 
not subject to this qualification are those referring 
to the medical qualities of plants, in so far as they 
may have been proved and accepted by authorities. 
Of Tahquitz, or Tahkoosh, the bad spirit of the 
Cahuillas, an Indian friend tells me that his visible 
manifestation is as a meteor: not, however, any 



70 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

ordinary shooting-star, but such as carry a train of 
sparks. If an explosion is heard (the sound of the 
meteor striking), it is said that Tahquitz has caught 
a victim: otherwise he is supposed to have failed in 
his attempt. The Tahquitz meteor seen in daytime 
is called Tahm-ya-su'-wet. It also tries to catch the 
spirits of men. There is a certain rock on Palomar 
Mountain, many miles to the south of San Jacinto 
Mountain (where Tahquitz has his home), to which 
this methodical demon is said to carry his prey, 
there to pound the flesh and prepare it for his maw. 
(My criticism that spirits have no flesh was thought 
irrelevant. " I tell you what we say," was the take-it- 
or-leave-it reply.) The Dieguefio Indians that is, 
those formerly tributary to the Mission of San Diego 
recognize the same evil spirit, having his haunt 
on the same mountain at a spot they call Awik' 
Kai-yai', but they name him Chowk. 1 The curious 
rumblings sometimes heard to proceed from this 
mountain, and which I have noticed myself, are, of 
course, attributed to Tahquitz' s operations. 

A Diegueno Indian with whom I camped, point- 
ing one night to the Pleiades, said, "We call them 
Siete Cabrillas" (seven buzzards). He went on to 
explain that when the First People that is, the 
original inhabitants of the earth were seeking to 
escape from death, they were taken up into the sky 
and became the stars. There were seven sisters, with 
one of whom Coyote (who figures largely in Western 

1 It is seldom one finds anything like agreement on any point of 
belief between the various tribes, or even between villages of the same 
tribe. The remarkable diversities of language that occur among these 
little tribal divisions make another source of confusion. 



SOME DESERT INDIAN LORE 71 

Indian mythology) was in love. The sisters climbed 
up by a rope, and the love-lorn Coyote, catching the 
end of the rope, was drawn up after them. But the 
sisters, once safe, cut the rope behind them and he 
fell; but not back to earth, for, "See," said Antonio, 
pointing to Aldebaran, "there he go. All the time he 
try catch that girl, but he never catch her yet." 

The creosote bush, Larrea glandulosa (at-a-qual- 
sa'-na), produces scantily a red, scale-like gum which 
is considered very valuable. It is used for repairing 
ollas, attaching arrow-heads to shafts, and also as a 
medicine for the throat. Of this gum the barrel was 
made in which the semi-divine hero of the Pdpagos 
(a southern desert tribe) was saved from death in 
the great flood. The creosote bush itself is used 
medicinally, a strong decoction of the twigs and 
leaves, taken internally, being thought excellent for 
maladies of the throat and chest and of the stomach. 

The virtues and vices of the datura, a common, 
rank plant very similar to the well-known jimson- 
weed, with large trumpet-shaped, white or lilac- 
tinted, sickly-sweet flowers which open at night, are 
well known to the Indian. They call the plant tolu- 
ache (to-loo-ah'-che) and put its narcotic properties 
to use in connection with certain of their social and 
religious ceremonies. It is believed to confer clair- 
voyance, so that by its use one may recover lost 
articles; though it is capable of more difficult feats. 
For instance, it was reported to me of a certain blind 
Indian of my acquaintance, who was formerly a 
noted gambler, that he had lost his sight through 
too frequent use of toluache, by means of which he 



72 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

used to read the faces of his opponent's cards. The 
pounded leaves, applied hot as a poultice, are said 
to be effective for relieving pain, however acute, 
* ' but you must not eat hard ' ' (that is, heavy or indi- 
gestible) "food soon before, or it will kill you," said 
Lugardio. As a remedy for saddle-galls it is reputed 
to be sovereign, as is also a powder of the mistletoe 
of the desert juniper, or of the root of the common 
wild gourd, or calabazilla, mixed with sugar. 

The raven, or carrion-crow, eminent for sagacity 
since Xoah's day, and made half supernatural by 
Poe, is a bird of omen to the Indian also. A certain 
part of Santa Rosa Mountain (Wa-hut-now'-ha) is 
known, in Spanish, as Casa de Cuerva, raven's house, 
or in Indian, Ahl-wah-tem-fiem'-ke, house of many 
ravens, and is held in superstitious regard. Rock- 
crystals are believed to be missiles which the raven 
has cast at men with evil intent. I have noticed that 
any piece of glittering rock is apt to be considered 
"bad medicine," and such are always part of the 
stock in trade of the pohl or medicine-man (Spanish, 
hechicero). 

It is natural that the two great contiguous moun- 
tains, San Gorgonio and San Jacinto, should be 
thought to be brothers. Their names are Kwaid'-a- 
kaich and Ai'-ya-kaich, respectively, the former 
being looked upon as the elder. 

It is a pretty idea that is embodied in the use of 
the Spanish word ojo, meaning eye, for a pool or 
spring of water (with ojito for diminutive). The 
Cahuillas have the same poetic thought in their 
word pal-he'-push, for a pool. In the word or phrase 



SOME DESERT INDIAN LORE 73 

applied to their ancient wells, now non-existent, to 
which one descended by steps cut in the earth, we 
have an example of natural language-building. The 
Cahuilla word for a water-jar (Spanish, olla) is 
ka'-wo-mal, and that for earth or ground, te'-mal. 
Hence the well was te'-ma-ka'-wo-mal, or earth-oKa, 
neatly enough. 

Making fire by friction of dry sticks is an art not 
often practised in these days, but two Palm Springs 
Indians with whom I once camped were experts at 
the game. Two pieces of dry palm-fruit stem were 
the tools, one an inch or so broad, length immaterial, 
the other less than half as thick, about a foot long, 
and perfectly straight. A few dead leaves were placed 
in a little heap : the larger stick was laid beside them 
and held in place by one of the men, a hollow having 
first been made in the surface of the wood, with a 
little groove leading from it to the leaves. Then the 
smaller stick, trimmed to a blunt point, was put to 
the hollow, and rapidly revolved by rolling between 
the open hands of the other Indian. His hands moved 
down as he rolled, returning again and again to the 
top. The friction sent a fine stream of wood powder 
down the groove upon the leaves. In less than two 
minutes smoke showed at the point of friction, then 
sparks began to fall on the tinder, and finally a flame 
was started by blowing. Less than three minutes 
sufficed for the operation. It was hard work while it 
lasted, for the fire was endangered by the perspira- 
tion caused in kindling it. 

An Indian woman, one whose industry, dignity, 
and general high character I admire, when on her 



74 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

first trip " inside," was taken by friends of hers and 
mine to see the ocean. The place chosen was a sea- 
side resort near Los Angeles, one that aspires, I be- 
lieve, to the proud title of the Coney Island of Cali- 
fornia. On coming in view of the sea she was deeply 
excited, though self-possessed. The car was stopped 
so that she might gaze her fill. Her childlike wonder 
and murmured words of awe were a study in natural 
emotion. Approaching the water's edge she was a 
little reluctant at the boom and wash of the surf. 
Then she stood quiet and intent, as if striving to 
grasp the hitherto unimaginable fact of such an 
infinity of water. Her companions made no unwise 
attempt to overwhelm her with statements of the 
real vastness of the ocean. When at length they 
turned to leave the beach she still stood enthralled: 
then knelt by the margin and tasted the water, beck- 
oning to it, and speaking to herself, or to it, in the 
Indian tongue. It was hard for her to turn away. 
Again and again she stopped to gaze; and when they 
came among the side-shows and switchbacks she 
had no eyes for these irrelevancies, but at every 
opportunity she turned afresh to the great simple 
marvel of the sea. It was to that, not to Fat Ladies 
or Pink-Eyed Cannibals, that the "uncultured" 
Indian nature reacted. 

The leaves of the quail-bush, Atriplex lentiformis, 
whose hemispherical gray hummocks are almost the 
sole feature of the monotonous silt flats, are used 
for soap, and the seeds are boiled for food. The twigs 
and leaves of the Suaxla, which inhabits the same 
localities, besides being boiled and eaten, yield a 



SOME DESERT INDIAN LORE 75 

black stain that is used for dyeing the material for 
baskets. A more sophisticated use for the plant is 
that of a hair-dye, for which purpose it is inked 
with wet clay and plastered on the head, where it is 
left until dry. 

The common Isocoma acradenia (mah'-dia-wafy 
is a standard remedy for cold and sore throat, and is 
used by pouring boiling water on the bruised leaves 
and inhaling the steam. The leaves after being so 
used may be applied as a poultice on the forehead. 
It may be noted that the genus Isocoma is closely 
akin to another, namely, Solidago, whose etymology 
tells the curative properties of the genus. 

An odd-looking, not uncommon plant, in appear- 
ance like a mass of stiff green straws, is Ephedra 
californica, or desert tea. A decoction of the twigs 
is of well-recognized benefit in stomach and kidney 
complaints. Indians, Mexicans, and whites alike are 
firm believers in its efficacy. It is occasionally found 
in drug-stores. 

For tobacco the desert Indians had Nicotiana 
attenuate. It is a true member of the tobacco family, 
though prospectors, jealous for the honor of Navy 
plug or Black-jack, name it "coyote tobacco " in 
contempt. It was used both for smoking and chew- 
ing. The dried juice of a milkweed, and the gum of 
one species of oak and of the incense-bush, Encdia 
forinosa, supplied the primitive chewing gum. Thus 
it may be proudly claimed that the great American 
habit is truly national, even aboriginal. It was 
thought comme il faut to chew flowers of the poppy 
(Eschscholtzia) with one's gum, a touch of senti- 



76 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

ment not more misplaced than some that the world 
of fashion can show. Tobacco pipes were made of 
clay, but were usually stemless, which suggests that 
the smoker took his whiff lying down perhaps 
an excuse for enhancing the luxury. 

Bows were made of the screwbean mesquit, Pro- 
sopis pubescens, or of willow, and light hunting ar- 
rows of arrowweed, Plucliea sericea, or of carrizo, 
Phragmites communis, with points of mesquit hard- 
ened by fire. The carrizo also supplied a fibre for 
bow-strings. War-arrows, of course, were more for- 
midable, armed with barbed points of bone or ob- 
sidian that were of excellent craftsmanship. I have 
seen such arrow-points several inches long and as 
finely wrought as a piece of jewellery. For clubs 
used in hunting rabbits or birds the wood of the 
mountain chamiso, Adenostoma sparsifolia, was pre- 
ferred. 

The large storage baskets for holding the family 
stock of acorns, pinon-nuts, and so forth, are usually 
made of willow withes (sometimes of a species of 
arrowweed), often in ingenious shapes. They are 
called may'-a-nut-em (the syllable em is the mark of 
the plural). 

The cacti, from tiny Mamittaria to giant saguaro, 
almost all yield food to the Indian, and many of 
them serve other purposes as well. Water in quan- 
tity sufficient to sustain life may be taken from the 
great barrel cactus or " nigger-head, " Echinocactus 
cylindraceus, and the saguaro, Cereus giganteus. The 
former, hollowed out, has been known to be used 
as a cooking-vessel, by means of dropping heated 



SOME DESERT INDIAN LORE 77 

stones into the food which has been placed in it. 
The fruit of another kind serves as a hair-brush. My 
fire-making friends brought a new vegetable to my 
notice, in the shape of the flower-buds of the barrel 
cactus (ko'-pask-em, they called them). They grow 
in a circle at the top of the plant, and we had no 
difficulty in gathering enough for a meal. When 
boiled they taste midway between Brussels sprouts 
and chestnuts, a very satisfactory dish. 

In another chapter I spoke of the agave. All its 
relatives, the yuccas, are plants of many uses to the 
Indians. One still finds old men and women wearing 
sandals of yucca-fibre, and excellent saddle-blankets 
are made from it. The root of one species, Yucca 
mohavensis, makes very fair soap, and its seeds are 
roasted for food. Of another species, Y. whippl&i 
(the well-known "Spanish bayonet/' or quijote), 
both fruit and flowers are eaten. So also are the 
scarlet blossoms of the ocotillo, and the yellow flow- 
ers of the agave; the latter, probably, for the sake 
of their honey, which is very plentiful, but somewhat 
bitter. The ocotillo, by the by, when not in sap, 
makes a capital torch, burning with a white, steady 
light as if there were some waxy ingredient. 

For food purposes, the two kinds of mesquit and 
the chia sages, Salvia columbaria and S. carduacea, 
were the great stand-by of the desert Indians, to- 
gether with acorns and pmon-nuts from the sur- 
rounding mountains. Comparatively little use is 
made nowadays of these wild resources, but one 
may still chance to see some old housewifely crone 
seated on the ground and embracing with out- 



78 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

stretched legs the wooden mortar in which she 
pounds out the family flour; or creeping about 
among the brush, beating with bat of palm-fibre the 
chia seeds into her bowl-basket: a basket that she 
wove, perhaps, threescore years ago, while her 
Hiawatha was stalking antelope or wild-sheep, and 
into which she may have woven more of legend 
and romance than wise men of the Smithsonian 
would easily unravel. 

The hunter's instinct is strong in the men still. 
The other day I met old Tolomeo, patriarch of his 
rancheria, ambling homewards on his wall-eyed 
pony with rifle and half-a-dozen jack-rabbits at his 
pommel. Tolomeo is old, very old, but the jack 
that gives the slip to the old capitan must be en- 
dowed with more than the supernatural speed of 
most jacks, and Lugardio, just home from prosai<^ 
prune-picking in the mountain orchards, finding 
that my plans did not admit of an autumn hunting 
trip, remarked with a sigh, "Then I guess I don't 
get a buck this year again. Two years now I don't 
get me a deer. 'Sta muy male" 

The nourishing properties of chia seed should be 
better known. It is said that a handful or two of 
them, roasted and ground, will sustain a man 
through a day of hard exertion, such as continuous 
running. Mixed with flour it becomes the famous 
pinole of the Mexicans, the staff of life of the com- 
mon people. It is believed to have stomachic as well 
as nutritive value. The mesquit bean is a good sec- 
ond: analysis of the meal has shown it to contain 
over fifty per cent of food elements, largely sugar. 



SOME DESERT INDIAN LORE 79 

The beans of the palo verde, and even of the cat- 
claw, though not so good, were formerly pressed 
into service. 

The curious martynia, with its great curved seed- 
vessels and claws like spring steel, was not over- 
looked. A use was found for it in basket-making, 
and it also served for riveting broken pottery. Holes 
were bored in the pieces to be joined, and the tough 
hooks, inserted in them, gripped the parts together. 
The seeds were chewed by Indian boys, who relished 
their sweet taste. 

Many uses were found for the palm. Its fibres 
were woven into baskets, though these were not of 
the finest grade, and brushes were also made from 
them. The broad fronds were excellent as thatch for 
houses, and strips from them made material for 
plaiting where close texture was not needed. The 
leaf -stems were handy flails for threshing seeds, and 
the fruit, which is small and hard, but with sweet, 
date-like flavor, when ground entered into the com- 
position of the all-embracing atole. 

The sweet tooth is well developed among our des- 
ert Indians, and Nature has provided for it by fur- 
nishing many of the cacti with fruits that are sweet 
and healthful. The flat-lobed Opuntias yield the 
prickly-pear, or tuna, sometimes called Indian fig. 
The little Mamillaria bears a small, red, pleasant- 
tasting fruit: even the hateful cholla has a fruit that 
is said to be agreeable, though I refuse to believe it. 
The saguaro is held in highest regard by the tribes 
that inhabit its range, for the lusciousness of its 
fruit and for its many other uses, included in these 



So CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

being the furnishing of an intoxicating drink little 
less atrocious than the mescal from across the line. 
According to Mr. Lumholtz, the Papagos date their 
year from the commencement of the saguaro har- 
vest, which occurs about the middle of our yean 

In many desert canons the so-called wild apricot, 
Prunus eriogyna, is plentiful and bears good crops of 
small sweet berries. Prime luxury of all, however, is 
a-moosli' (a Diegueno word), which is secured by 
baking the heart of the agave, as I have described in 
another chapter. But these natural dainties are 
coming to be little prized now that sweets of greater 
charm, because americano, are offered in paper bags 
or lace-frilled boxes at the store. 

On the Reservation at Palm Springs there are a 
number of magnificent fig trees, descendants of the 
old historic figs of San Gabriel Mission. One that I 
measured showed a circumference of over nine feet. 
These furnish an abundance of delicious fruit, the 
surplus of which the Indians are not slow at turning 
into money, finding a demand for it in Los Angeles, 
where it brings high prices, as it comes early into 
market. Old Marcos is the proud owner also of a 
few fine date-palms, real Deglet Nur aristocrats im- 
ported many years ago from Algeria and planted 
here by the Department of Agriculture to test their 
adaptability to our climate. No wonder if the tunas 
from his great cactus hedge, full twelve feet high, are 
less prized than of old. 

The Indian who panted for cooling drinks "when 
heated in the chase " was not condemned to water 
alone. A handful of crushed beans of the mesquit, or 



SOME DESERT INDIAN LORE 81 

the berries of the suriiac, Khus ovata, or, when ob- 
tainable, those of the manzanita (Arctostaphylos) of 
the upper canons, added to the water in the olla, 
gave it a refreshing flavor. For society occasions a 
"pink tea" effect could be obtained by serving a 
decoction of ocotillo flowers. 

The vogue for Indian baskets that has arisen in 
late years, quite justified by their beauty of shape 
and design and their admirable workmanship, will 
help to keep alive for a time this ancient and honor- 
able -craft. Many of the older women are wonder- 
fully adept, but it is rare to find a young one who 
has learned the art; and there is, besides, a tendency 
towards discarding the old traditional designs in 
favor of wall-paper patterns or crude attempts at 
realism. The woman whose introduction to the ocean 
I described above is one of the best basket-makers I 
know, and I was pleased lately to find her giving her 
little niece, eight or ten years old, a first lesson in 
basketry. In even a small basket of fine weave there 
may be ten thousand or more "stitches," so it was 
not surprising that little Conchita was not enthusi- 
astic. It was remarkable to meet recently an Indian 
woman of certainly over eighty years who had 
taught herself the craft in the last few years, and 
whose baskets are marvels in design, color, and 
texture. 

Pottery-making is now seldom practised among 
these desert Indians. With the necessity for hand- 
made utensils the art has almost ceased. I found 
pottery still being made recently at San Ysidro, a 
mountain village of the Cahuillas, and at Rincon, a 



82 CALIFORNIA DESERT. TRAILS 

Luiseno rancheria. The shapes were good, but the 
workmanship clumsy or careless. In graceful outline 
and delicate construction, the older specimens one 
finds are admirable. The old alias were sometimes 
decorated, though seldom elaborately. In view of the 
fragility of the vessels it is not to be expected that 
great pains should have been spent over ornament. 
The ground about the sites of old villages is lit- 
tered with an astonishing amount of pottery debris, 
and the traveller reflects with awe upon the centu- 
ries of spanking to which these countless tokens of 
youthful misadventure solemnly bear witness. 

Of medicines that were resorted to by the Indians 
in olden days there were too many to be more than 
briefly touched upon here. Some have already been 
noticed. To name a few others that were most in 
vogue: 

The gum of the incense-bush, Encelia fartnosa, 
was heated and applied for pain in the chest, whence 
the plant was known as yerba del vaso. The twigs 
of the chamiso of the desert mountains, Adenostoma 
sparsifolia (yerba del pasmo), furnished an emetic. 
A famous remedy, almost a cure-all, was the yerba 
santa (Eriodictyon). The wild buckwheat, Eriogonum 
fasciculatum, yielded an eye-wash and alleviated 
pain in head or stomach; and an infusion of the 
leaves of the sumac, Rhus ovata, gave relief in case 
of colds. Another herb of renown was the yerba 
mansa (Anemopsis calif ornica), found in damp places 
and thought excellent in sundry complaints. The 
herbal remedies were supplemented by the curative 
virtues of the thermal springs and by the very 



SOME DESERT INDIAN LORE 83 

effective temescal or sweat-house, prototype of our 
Turkish bath. 

Cord for fish-lines, snares, slings, and nets was 
procured from several plants. The agave and yucca 
were the principal sources, but a superior fibre was 
taken from one of the milkweeds, Asclepias eriocarpa. 
Brushes came from the ever-useful agave. Glue was 
at hand on the mesquit, or was ingeniously prepared 
from other plants. A sort of coffee was made from 
the roasted nuts of the Simmondsia. Paints of vari- 
ous colors were taken from the earth, and splendid 
dyes were obtained from sundry herbs. In short, 
there were few, if any, needs of a natural life in a 
mild climate that these people whom the early 
whites, in conscious superiority of whiskey and six- 
shooter, named "Diggers" in contempt had not 
found the means of supplying. Many more pages 
could be filled with the list of their discoveries and 
appliances, for those I have named are but examples 
drawn at random from an astonishing number. 



CHAPTER VI 

A DESERT RIDE: PALM SPRINGS TO SEVEN PALMS 

A circuit of the desert begun My burro Mesquit And horse 
Kaweah Nonchalant orioles Rebellion of Mesquit Hot en- 
gagements, a parting, and a new start Engulfed in gray Last 
flowers Enchanted sand-dunes San Gorgonio Pass: a blow- 
pipe and sand-blast Wind-trained shrubs The sand-chisel 
Lilac the desert's color Railroad flotsam Nature's hy- 
draulics Seven Palms oasis A desert homestead Effects 
of alkaline water An inhuman wind Coyotes oblige. 

AFTER some months spent about the north- 
western part of the desert, with headquarters 
at the village of Palm Springs, I made ready to 
launch out on a complete circuit, with variations, of 
the Colorado Desert. It was within a few days of 
the end of May, a much later date than I should 
have wished for the start, for the sun had settled 
down to his summer's work, and came up each 
morning at full blaze in a merciless sky, with that 
baleful mien which always throws me into anticipa- 
tory perspiration, and which still brings to mind 
the morning burst of my old dominie into the class- 
room, menacing, bloodshot of eye, and gnawing on 
his fingers like a famishing ogre. 

Delay had been caused partly by a long course of 
unsettled weather, partly by fly-sores on the neatly 
striped legs of my burro, Mesquit. I had purchased 
her at Banning, the desert-portal town lying in the 
neck of the San Gorgonio Pass, where the railroad 
had dropped me in January. We had had bickerings, 
such as are bound to occur when similar constitu- 



PALM SPRINGS TO SEVEN PALMS 85 

tions are thrown together: but on the whole the con- 
nection had been pleasant and I think profitable on 
both sides. In many a canon "we twa had pu'd the 
gowans fine," and in friendly tandem we had "wan- 
dered monie a weary fit" of unprofitable sand and 
cactus; and for my part I had no thought but that 
our fortunes would keep one trail for many a mile 
yet untrod. I meant, moreover, to get Mesquit a 
comrade when we reached the settlements down the 
valley, for though her load for the long journey was 
no more than her accustomed one, I wished to make 
the best arrangements so as to ensure reasonably 
fast travel. Also, I hoped thus to have the means 
of carrying water in excess of the capacity of my 
two canteens, one of gallon, the other of half -gallon 
size. 

For my mount I had bought from an Indian ac- 
quaintance a small, tough horse. Born and bred on 
the desert, he promised (or Francisco promised for 
him) to be excellent for my purpose. His Indian 
name of Po'say (meaning "little") did not quite 
please me, with its inapt suggestion of flowery 
meads, and I rechristened him Kaweah, partly in 
allusion to the name of the tribe to which his old 
master, and therefore he, belonged, namely, the 
Cahuilla (of which Kaweah is a phonetic variant), 
but more out of compliment to the memory of the 
loyal companion to whose virtues Clarence King 
does honor in a book which I am never tired of 
praising, "Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada." 
Let me say at once that in many a hard day's march, 
and sometimes, under necessity, night's to follow at 



86 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

a stretch, Kaweah 'secundus did full honor to his 
name. 

On the morning of starting I had been up since 
four o'clock, and we got on the move while Palm 
Springs was yet rubbing its eyes. As we passed the 
Reservation there came the chatter of orioles break- 
fasting with nonchalance on old Rosa's early figs 
at forty cents a pound. The racket, checked while 
the thieves listened with bored amusement to the 
rattle of her warning bell, a kerosene can with 
horseshoe clapper, hung high among the branches 
of the patriarchal tree, and operated by Rosa's foot, 
so as not to interfere with the fashioning of baskets 
or tortillas, 3 went on again the moment the tattoo 
was ended. Not so, I guessed, the slumbers of her 
neighbors. 

Turning northward I struck toward the western 
point of the great sand-hills that rise conspicuously 
across the valley. I had long been tantalized by 
their artificial shape, their mysterious changes of 
color, and the secret of what lay behind them, 
whether palmy canon, wind-swept mesa, or char- 
acteristic characterless plain. I meant now to find 
a way in their rear, more interesting than the regu- 
lar road down the valley, already familiar to the 
point of tediousness. 

Before we were a mile on the way, certain doubts 
that I had had as to Mesquit's good-will toward the 
expedition hardened into certainty of trouble. Of all 
the crimes that are latent in these complicated 
beasts, the most terrifying is that of lying down 
under the pack. In my dealings with Mesquit hith- 



PALM SPRINGS TO SEVEN PALMS 87 

erto, when I had either led her by halter-rope or 
marched alongside or behind, this had occurred once 
or twice, but, laying it to some momentary qualm, I 
had passed it by. Now, whether it were some sudden 
access of those traits for which the tribe is notorious, 
awakened by a suspicion that we were bound on a 
long hard voyage, or mere spite at seeing me for the 
first time riding while she was left to walk, I cannot 
guess. Anyhow, of a sudden I felt a check on the rope 
by which I was leading her, tow-line fashion, and, 
looking quickly round, saw her deliberately gather 
her feet, kneel down, and compose herself in an 
attitude of luxury. I dismounted and pulled; she 
was uninterested: I shouted and feinted blows; she 
seemed coldly to smile: rope-ended, she put her head 
to the ground and tried to roll, and though the pack 
balked the attempt, I knew by disastrous sounds 
that ruin was rife among the contents. In the last 
reso# I hit on a goad. Prodded lightly, she grunted 
in contempt: prodded urgently, she kicked, but 
shivered: prodded ruthlessly, usque ad sanguinem 
(reader, the case was extreme, and the temperature 
a good hundred and forty in the sun) triumph! 
she scrambled to her feet and stood quaking and 
defeated for the time. 

Another quarter-mile, and the whole business was 
epacted again: a furlong, and yet once more: and, 
in brief, within the space of six miles, which brought 
me to my first intended stop, eight several battles 
were 'fought I cannot say, and won, for the strife 
was but intermitted, never closed. And on three occa- 
sions the load had all to be thrown off and repacked. 



88 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

This settles it, my fine girl, I said at the second 
repacking. Kaweah and I can manage without your 
help, since this is an instance of it; and the last of 
your disastrous tribe shall perish from the earth 
before ever- 1 put faith in burro again. 

To dispose of Mesquit finally from these pages I 
may say that the next day I took her back to Palm 
Springs (with no trouble whatever, now that she 
was not outward bound). There I left her, and with 
no such relentings as Stevenson noticed in himself 
on parting from the classic Modestine. I sorted over 
my baggage, cutting down to the barest needs and 
to the point where they could be contained in two 
pairs of saddle-bags. One of these fitted at the horn 
and one at the cantle of my McClellan saddle, with 
two light blankets strapped behind the rear pair. 
The two canteens were necessities, and I carried 
also a light hatchet, a picket-pin, and a single- 
barrel 2O-gauge shot-gun (though this, useful as it 
was, I later discarded for saving of weight). My 
camera, of course, was indispensable. Thus equipped 
I made a second start. 

The circumstances of the former attempt had not 
conduced to enjoyment of the scenery or other nat- 
ural incidents of the way. Now, with "peace of 
mind, dearer than all," I had leisure and mood for 
observation. I was riding northward to tlie oasis of 
Seven Palms. Almost before the last stunted pepper- 
tree outpost of Palm Springs was passed, I wa's en- 
gulfed in the gray waste, gray not alone of sand and 
boulder, but also, in the main, of vegetable and ani- 
mal life. Isolated bushes of creosote rose here and 



PALM SPRINGS TO SEVEN PALMS 89 

there above the level, enough of them merely to 
accent the general hue by momentary relief of glossy 
olive. Encelia and burro-weed made up the bulk of 
the plants, but by now the yellow stars of the former 
had burned to ashes; the latter makes little show of 
bloom and wears a perennial garb of gray. These 
dense-growing, round-topped shrubs afford the 
minimum relief of shade to the eye. The light is 
thrown back unbroken from their hemispherical sur- 
faces, and all there is of shadow is kept for their own 
needs as if under a close-held umbrella. Of animal 
life little was to be seen but scurrying lizards, them- 
selves mostly gray, but some of ivory white. These 
are bony little goblins with sharp tails and a leer in 
the eye that comes near being devilish. 

A few late flowers were out, principally the ethe- 
real sky-blue navarretia, with which one slowly but 
surely falls in love. Large white evening primroses 
were still blooming under the creosotes, and here 
and -there the daisy-like desert-star (Eremiastrum) 
showed like floral Pleiades. A desert willow in a dry 
water-course kept a few of its frail, orchid-like blos- 
soms, and the indigo sparks of the dye-weed were 
plentiful, but almost lost in the wide sea of gray. 
A month earlier a page would hardly have held the 
list of the flowery multitude: now, by late May, 
floral autumn had come on the desert, and this in 
spite of its being a season of unusually late rains. 

But desert color does not lie in vegetation alone. 
A few miles north of Palm Springs there rises a great 
dome of sand that for color effects I can only com- 
pare to a vast opal. I have seen it pass in a few hours 



90 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

from milky white, through pale chrome, gold, ochre, 
rose, madder, royal purple, indigo, and duskier 
purple, to almost black: such enchantment does this 
desert atmosphere work, even at no distant range. 
As I now passed near it the magic was as totally 
gone as that of Hamlet's dull firmament; it was "a 
foul and pestilent congregation " of sand atoms, 
weary to foot, weary to eye, most of all weary to 
thought, the embodiment of drought, hopelessness, 
infinity of number, infinitude of Time. 

This strip of desert, lying at the eastern approach 
to the San Gorgonio Pass, is a veritable blow-pipe 
and sand-blast. The heated air rising under this 
fierce sun acts as a suction-pump, drawing from the 
coast a compensating volume, and this pass forms 
the main channel for the daily interchange of sea 
and land air that gives the Southern California cli- 
mate its peculiar quality. It is by means of this regu- 
lar wind-current that the great sand-hill has come 
into being. On most days, especially of spring and 
summer, to cross this tract is a highly unpleasant 
job. The force of the wind is phenomenal, and the 
steady, concentrated action results in launching 
volumes of sand with hurricane power against any 
object in its path. 

As an instance of the violence of this wind, I re- 
call an average day of a former spring, when a party 
of whom I was one stopped hereabouts for a meal. 
A sheltered spot was chosen and a canvas sheet 
rigged against the wagon-wheels for extra protection : 
yet a cup of coffee set on the ground would be in- 
stantly blown over unless weighted down with a 



PALM SPRINGS TO SEVEN PALMS 91 

sizable stone, and no amount of dodging availed to 
prevent every mouthful getting liberally sanded in 
transit. The conversation was lively, yet it was not 
a cheerful meal. 

On the present occasion, for a miracle, only a 
harmless breeze was blowing. It was instructive to 
note the effect of these sand-laden winds upon vege- 
tation, and even rock. Wherever a fair-sized stone or 
boulder stood in the windway, some thrifty shrub, 
usually creosote or dalea, crouched in its shelter, 
growing to leeward in a long streamer, like a quick- 
set hedge. Some of these bushes were from ten to 
fifteen feet long, with height and width strictly regu- 
lated by the size of their rock protector. Any 
attempt to extend by so much as an inch beyond 
shelter was rendered hopeless by that deadly sand- 
scour. 

In other cases, where some hardy, low-growing 
shrub kept a foothold, a long dune had formed in the 
rear where the check to the wind allowed the sand 
to settle. Both hedges and dunes ran invariably to 
eastward, following the course of the wind. For vari- 
ety, here and there were creosotes with a grotesque 
look of being on stilts, the soil having been gouged 
away from the roots by the wind to the depth of 
two feet or more. Many are the quaint comparisons 
suggested by the postures of these wind-thrawn 
plants. 

A yet more impressive token of the power of the 
sand-blast is seen in the scarred and corrugated 
faces of boulders. The rocks hereabouts are all of 
the igneous kinds, but often differentiated, as geolo- 



92 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

gists say; that is, not homogeneous, but made up of 
strata of varying degrees of hardness. Many of these 
bear deep-etched testimony to the sand-storms of 
ages, the softer parts being chiselled away and the 
harder left in bold relief. They might have been 
antiques carved from fragments of the bones of 
Chronos. 

The same thing happens, of course, and in very 
brief time, to softer structures. The telegraph poles 
along the railroad used to need renewal constantly, 
being soon cut through, a few feet above the ground, 
by the beat of hail-like gravel and the fret-saw of 
the sand. Now they are sheathed with iron. Frag- 
ments of clear glass quickly take on the appearance 
of ground glass or dull metal. Upon everything, 
living or dead, the flying sand stamps its seal. 

Another noticeable thing, by the by, about glass 
that is exposed to the desert sun is that it quickly 
takes a hue of amethyst or lilac. This tint, expressive 
of light at its highest actinic power, may almost be 
called the characteristic color of the desert. I have 
often been forced to admire the beauty of the shadow 
tones cast by rock or tree a thin, pure, violet hue: 
nay, I have even been charmed with my own image, 
drawn in this ethereal air-color by my enemy the 
sun. 

Half buried in sand I noticed some weather-worn 
timbers. They proved to be railway ties, with 
twisted rails still spiked to them. This was the mark 
of another destroyer, one that comes seldom to the 
desert, but is apt then to come in fury. It was water 
that had tossed this scrap of railroad miles from 



PALM SPRINGS TO SEVEN PALMS 93 

where it had been laboriously placed: either some 
rare, long-continued winter storm, or, more likely, 
a sudden summer flood. A glance at the surrounding 
mountains makes the matter plain. Figure the cer- 
tain effect of a heavy fall of water on those two- 
mile-high walls of almost barren rock. Like raging 
giants the floods come leaping down, torrent reen- 
forcing torrent, and burst roaring from the canon 
gateways. What work of man's hands could with- 
stand that assault, even when the shock is weakened 
by miles of distance? In the path of these desert 
floods a railroad might as well be a bit of fish-line. 
Here, at any rate, as I said to Kaweah, who stood 
with pricked ears, pondering at the sight, the age of 
horseflesh is not yet gone by. 

Partly hidden among dunes of sand bristling with 
a scrub of mesquit, there is an oasis and a pleasant 
group of palms. Its name, dating from bygone 
decades, is Seven Palms, but there are now a score 
or so of the trees scattered about the place. A cow- 
boy acquaintance of mine years ago " homesteaded " 
the spot, captured by the charms of a patch of dingy 
salt-grass, a pool of barely drinkable water, and un- 
limited quail, rabbits, snipe, and duck. Perhaps he 
had also an eye for a landscape which might move 
the toughest of "punchers" to admiration. His 
cabin, sheds, and corral, almost lost in the jungle of 
arrowweed, made up the picture of a typical desert 
home, and three slender palms, in shadow cameo 
upon an amethystine sunset, gave the touch of per- 
fection which is seldom far from the commonplace. 

I made camp under a cluster of palms that grew 



94 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

in a hollow where a spring of alkaline water breaks 
out and spreads a white, unwholesome efflorescence 
among the arrowweed. It is one pf the drawbacks of 
desert travel that the water, scarce at best, is gen- 
erally charged with substances that not only impair 
the thirst-quenching quality, but may have ill re- 
sults on the health. One of the minor effects of alka- 
linity (which is an almost universal fault of desert 
waters) is a swelling and cracking of the lips, and I 
have known hardy cowboys, inured for years to 
desert life, to be disfigured, hardly able to speak, 
and positively refusing cigars, after a week or two 
of water unusually "tough." I came near serious 
illness myself, from this cause, when I camped here 
for some weeks earlier in the year: yet this is com- 
paratively good water, as desert water goes. 

There is another black mark against Seven Palms 
the inhuman wind that constantly blows here all 
through spring and summer. After half a dozen vis- 
its to the place I fail to recall one day uncursed by 
that harrying wind. Ordinary wind I can stand; a 
breeze is often refreshing; but this sort of thing is 
frankly beastly. It seems a sort of horseplay, aggra- 
vating, useless, simply silly. 

On this occasion, though the day had been de- 
cently quiet, toward evening the old nonsense began. 
The palms took up the regulation scream and rattle 
that had blasted so many a night's sleep for me, and 
by sundown you would have thought the Valkyries 
were in full career. I picketed Kaweah on the most 
sheltered patch of salt-grass I could find, and passed 
the evening in my cowboy's cabin with a phono- 




I 



2 
5 









PALM SPRINGS TO SEVEN PALMS 95 

graph that screeched its best, yet failed to drown 
the racket that reigned outside. 

The locality is prolific in coyotes, and in fact has 
supplied me with the trio of skins on which I spread 
my blankets when Mother Earth's ribs are my bed- 
stead. It must have been the songs of some of these 
vocalists that put me and kept me asleep, for in 
spite of the uproar I slept calmly in my palm bivouac 
till Kaweah's shrill neigh called me at daybreak. 



CHAPTER VII 

A DESERT RIDE: SEVEN PALMS TO THOUSAND PALM 
CANON 

An oasis aviary Desert farmers and the non possumus Poor 
man, poor land Two-Bunch Palms A plucky woman-settler 

Thirsty poultry " Desert rat " and poet Pottery fragments 

San Jacinto and San Bernardino Mountains D'esert light- 
houses and sunset A morning of heat Storm brewing 
Hospitable settlers and a phonograph A thunder-storm on San 
Jacinto Abruptness of desert contours Roof-like slopes 
Lilac lights and shadows Questionable landmarks Thousand 
Palm Canon Drought-mountains Xight visitors. 

MY plan on starting had been to make the first 
day's march a few miles longer, and to camp 
at the nest water beyond Seven Palms. This spot, 
known, somewhat uncouthly, as Two-Bunch Palms, 
now became an easy objective for the second day: 
for one's marches in desert country are figured from 
water to water, be the distance little or great. The 
wind had somewhat lessened by morning, gathering 
breath for the next attack, so I lay at middling ease 
for an hour, interested in the morning business of 
the birds that made the grove a literal aviary. The 
matted heads of the palms, with their dead hanging 
fans, made the snuggest of roosts and was as full of 
small sleepers as a boarding-school dormitory. These 
now came bursting out in twos and threes, linnets, 
sparrows, finches, buntings, totalling scores, with 
an enthusiasm for breakfast that I soon found infec- 
tious. They had the weather gauge of me there, how- 
ever, for even in the best-sheltered corner it was 



TO THOUSAND PALM CAK'ON 97 

hard to keep fire enough together to boil my billy 
of tea. 

A few swallows were racing about, like little in- 
carnations of joy. A prospector who is a frequent 
camper here had told me that they built their nests 
against the smooth boles of the palms, and I looked, 
but without success, for this example of the skill of 
the jolly little masons. 

Kaweah showed more than his usual alacrity 
when I led him in to be saddled, and we took our 
way again northward. There was no trail, but none 
was needed, for after a mile or two we came in sight 
of the two palm groups, conspicuous objects against 
the light ochre of the foothills. In recent years a few 
land-hungry settlers have come into this region and 
are engaged in what seem, to my judgment, pathetic 
attempts at farming. Lack of water is, of course, the 
first obstacle, and almost certainly a fatal one. Sur- 
face water, sufficient for household use, is easily got 
in most parts, but this may be counted a misfortune, 
since it merely makes possible a losing fight. Next 
stands the poor quality of the soil, which, with the 
exception of a patch here and there, is much too 
light to produce crops, except of one of two kinds 
that could only succeed by means of copious irriga- 
tion. It is possible that wells sunk to sufficient depth 
would yield a good supply, but there the checkmate 
comes in: it is the poor man who clutches at poor 
land, better being beyond his means (a truism that 
has special point in this State of booms and fantastic 
valuations): while, per contra, the sole chance of 
productiveness with such land lies in a heavy initial 



98 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

outlay for securing water. It is the tribe of Scadder 
alone, I fear, that realizes profit from these " desir- 
able acreages/' and his neatly baited trap is ever to 
the fore in the advertising columns of California 
newspapers. It would be an act of both mercy and 
statesmanship for the Government to withdraw 
from entry these delusive tracts, whose very poverty 
makes their fascination for the impecunious at 
least until official experiment has shown whether 
they can ever be made to repay cultivation. 

Nearing "Two-Bunch" (for brevity the third 
syllable is dropped in common usage) I came upon 
the tiny store that serves this ungrateful land. Here 
a young Englishwoman was wrestling with fate, 
struggling to make ends meet by merchandising on 
the microscopic scale. Her clients are as varied as 
they are few Indians, cowboys, prospectors, 
chance travellers like myself, and such other uncon- 
ventional folk as are content to seek health, wealth, 
or prosperity under circumstances that most people 
would think intolerable. For example, this young 
woman (far from Amazonian in physique) for lack 
of a well fetches her water day by day per burro 
from a mile away, herself going afoot and it is 
along no shady lane or boulevard either. I took a 
new view of chickens when I heard her speak bitterly 
of their heavy demands for liquid, and felt respectful 
sympathy when a scatter-brained young rooster 
upset the water-pan. 

The two "bunches" of palms that give the place 
its name grow near together on a little bluff, where 
the level desert breaks to the foothills of the San 



TO THOUSAND PALM CASJOX 99 

Bernardinos. A spring of good water issues below 
the smaller group, and here I made camp. A settler 
has built a small cabin above the spring, and as he 
was absent I made his house my windbreak. 

On my first visit here, some years before, I found 
an old scarecrow of a fellow in possession, living in a 
kind of burrow or dugout. A more Crusoe-like object 
I never expect to meet, weird as many of these 
"desert rats" are to the view. He could not be said 
to be clad, but antique rags were hung about him, 
and he wore a scrap of debris on his head, under the 
delusion that it was a hat. His hair was snow-white, 
long, and plentiful, his skin like that of a well- 
roasted fowl, and his eyes bright and very blue. The 
blue eyes gave an infantile touch, and somehow half 
prepared me for his proud announcement that he 
was a poet. What more he was or had been I never 
fully knew, though I learned that he had known 
such spheres of life as teamster, preacher, prospector, 
with others perhaps less blameless. Once only I got 
a taste of his poetic quality, but of that all I recall 
is a frequent loud roar of fc O Isrul!" 

A noticeable thing on the desert whenever one is 
in the neighborhood of water is the quantity of 
broken pottery that meets the eye. About Seven 
Palms the ground is littered with fragments in many 
places, and a number of fine unbroken specimens 
have been found by the cowboy settler. Here again 
broken shards were plentiful, and I have often been 
surprised at meeting these evidences of bygone pop- 
ulations in the most unlikely places. The pottery, 
of the common red sort, but sometimes decorated 



ioo CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

with colored designs, is so light that the fragments 
remain on the surface, not buried by the wind. It 
was the custom of these desert Indians to burn the 
bodies of their dead and bury the ashes in a jar or 
olla, often along with such articles as baskets, stone 
or bone implements, and beads. Excavation in these 
places of old habitation often yields interesting 
treasure trove. 

Two-Bunch Palms has one of the finest outlooks 
on the whole desert. On the west, Mount San 
Jacinto stands near at hand in gray severity of gran- 
ite, with many a league-long buttress, gallery, preci- 
pice, chasm, and livid avalanche scar, from the vast 
apron of Chino Canon that casts its burden on the 
desert floor up to sky-piercing, splintery crag and 
high-hung glimmer of snow. The topmost cliffs have 
a fine cathedral look, with their fretted coigns, and 
dark-niched, brooding pines. 

Separated from the northern spurs of San Jacinto 
by the San Gorgonio Pass rises another magnificent 
mountain, San Bernardino. With its height of 11,485 
feet 1 it slightly overtops San Jacinto, but being 
rather more distant it makes from here a less majes- 
tic though not less beautiful impression. The twin 
mountains stand like portals for the traveller's gate- 
way to the fertile coast, the Western ocean, and the 
new-old world of the Orient. When, in winter and 
. spring, they are hooded with snow, they make a 
memorable sight, and when a ruddy sunrise sets 
them aflame they seem torches, lighthouses of a 
continent, beacons of the old westward march* 

1 The mountain has two main peaks, San Gorgonio, 11485 feet, 
and San Bernardino, 10,666 feet. 



TO THOUSAND PALM CAXON 101 

At evening I climbed a hill for a sunset view. A 
curtain of murky gold hung over all the west. The 
sun had set cloudless behind the pass. In clear sil- 
houette the mountains cut the glow, all their rugged- 
ness of contour lost in shadow, leaving only peaceful 
line and quiet color to charm the eye. Near at hand 
the palms pointed upward with a gesture of tranquil 
hope. 

The western gold grew duskier; the world seemed 
dying, life passing again into its first unity. It was 
such a desert hill as this, I thought, that was once 
the favorite haunt of the Son of God. Often He must 
have taken joy, like me, in the full, calm glory of 
the evening star. 

Forage for Kaweah was limited to burro-weed 
and a scant picking of galleta grass, that stand-by 
of the desert horse: but I had brought a little barley 
for emergencies, and Indian frugality had to make 
up the balance. The breeze was broken in the shelter 
of the house, and I took a couple of hours of camp- 
fire comfort before turning in. I slept unharassed 
by wind, and when I awoke, the morning star was 
above the eastern divide, beaming on me like a 
promise for the day. 

That morning, however, proved one of the worst, 
in the way of heat, that I ever experienced. There 
was something positively blasting in the air, a 
deadly quality, as though all oxygen were with- 
drawn. The light itself was a sickly whitish glare. 
I should think this sort of morning must forebode 
vast eruptions such as of Mont Pel6e and the Sou- 
frire. I breakfasted, packed, and then changed my 



102 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

mind and declared to Kaweah that we 'd be hanged 
if we would move so long as that state of things 
lasted. So I off-saddled and lay all morning with 
canteen at hand watching ominous clouds pile 
higher and higher over San Jacinto, then spread 
north and south over San Gorgonio and Santa Rosa. 
A storm was certainly coming, one of those sudden 
violent bursts that fall on this region at long inter- 
vals in summer, brewed almost in an hour in the fur- 
nace of the desert sky. A hundred yards in front of 
me was a palm that had lately been struck by light- 
ning, and was now a ghastly, headless stick, like a 
skeleton finger pointing at its murderer the sky. At 
Seven Palms I had seen others like it, carrying scars 
that told the story. Being the only objects of height 
on the desert the palms are naturally marked for 
attack. The first boom of thunder seemed to be a 
warning, but I could not bring myself to move. 

By noon a little freshness crept into the air, and I 
gathered energy to eat my cheese and hardtack and 
make a start. We were now at the back of the great 
sand-hills, and I turned eastward toward where a 
long gallery opened between them and the higher 
San Bernardino extension ridge. The storm still held 
off us and seemed to be pouring its wrath wholly on 
the western highlands, a thing that often occurs, 
resulting in those sudden floods of water from appar- 
ently dry canons that are so dreaded by desert men. 
When the clouds extend in summer over the open 
desert, rain may often be seen falling, yet never a 
drop reach the earth, all being evaporated while 
passing through the heated air. 



TO THOUSAND PALM CA5TOX 103 

I knew of a settler who had an outlying holding in 
the direction I was taking, and presently carne in 
sight of his homestead, where I hoped to camp for 
the night and replenish my canteens for the long 
stretch that would come before I should reach the 
next water. It was mere luck that my hope was real- 
ized. I had taken for granted that I should find a 
well at the place, but it was a rash expectation. Like 
others hereabout, this devoted settler brings his 
water in barrels from miles away, and had he not 
been at home we must have turned back to our last 
camp. As it was, we received a hearty welcome from 
man and wife, and were made as free of their pre- 
cious water-barrel as though it could be replenished 
by a word. I was even invited to supper and phono- 
graph. 

I can never get over a sense of the marvellous 
with regard to this invention. I don't mean the thing 
itself; it is the improbable places where one finds it 
that staggers me, the contrast of this appendage of 
artificialized life with surroundings often the most 
primeval. Canned beef we look for everywhere, and 
find it a commonplace at Lhassa or the Pole; but 
"canned music" sounds wild on these terms; yet it 
is pretty sure to accompany the other. Probably the 
Lama is already tired of the latest Raucotrola, and 
only refrains from passing it on to the monks of 
Kinchin junga lest it might seem odd to send any- 
thing so old-fashioned. 

I never saw so spectacular a thunder-storm as the 
one that broke on the peak of San Jacinto that eve- 
ning. By sundown the douds had gathered their total 



io 4 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

forces. Sulphurous and terrific they piled almost to 
the zenith, until it seemed that when the stroke fell 
it must crush the mountain out of being. There was 
the usual pause; then Jove gave the signal. A spear 
of lightning shot through the murk, and the battle 
was joined. By the incessant flash and glitter we 
could see what seemed a perpendicular shaft of 
solid water falling from the black vortex of the clouds 
upon the head of the mountain. It was as if a volcano 
had opened, and that dark column was spouting up- 
ward from a huge crater and spreading mushroom- 
wise into death-dispensing clouds. 

It was quickly over: indeed, it could not last long 
at that rate. Then, after that concert of the Thun- 
derer's best, my host turned on "Dem Golden Slip- 
pers," as more suited to our capacity. 

The storm had done its work and the morning 
came clear and, by comparison, cool. I left my hos- 
pitable friends early, and riding southeast was soon 
well into the long pass. A remarkable regularity of 
slope, as well as of level, is one of the desert's com- 
mon characteristics, and one that contributes greatly 
to that sense of austerity which is its universal effect 
on the mind. There is seldom any modulation be- 
tween mountain and plain. Rock plunges into sand 
with startling abruptness; or, where some canon 
debouches, the rock wall will meet at sharp angle a 
bajada a that may run for miles in even grade at a 

1 This Spanish word, signifying a long, downward slope or apron, 
is one of those useful terms that California has kept alive from the 
former regime. Like mesa, it fills a real need in briefly naming a char- 
acteristic element in Western physical geography. Hardly will one 
find a desert landscape in which the bajada is not a feature. 



TO THOUSAND PALM CASON 105 

slant of from five to twelve degrees, and the slender 
angle where it joins the dead level will even then be 
clearly marked. Nature's love for the curve is aban- 
doned here: she works with T-square and mitre-box 
instead of with the free hand that rules elsewhere. 

For mile on mile we marched up this roof -like 
slope over a surface mainly gravelly, but sprinkled 
with boulders and varied with river-like stretches of 
unmixed sand where washes came down from the 
northern mountains. Cactus, encelia, and creosote 
rang the changes on creosote, encelia, and cactus, 
and animal life was at a minimum. In several hours 
I saw but three birds, all cactus wrens, though I 
heard perhaps as many more talking plaintively, it 
seemed to me, of the loneliness of this post-nesting 
season. Even lizards were few, and a red racer was 
the only member of the serpent tribe to enliven the 
way; nor he for long, for these fellows are like the 
Ghost in "Hamlet"; one can barely say "Tis 
here!" "T is here! " when " 'T is gone! " 

At last we came to the divide and could view the 
other side of the roof. The downward slope was as 
smooth as the one we had climbed, but plainly much 
longer. On the north still ran the brick-like wall of 
mountain; on the south a jumble of sand-hills and 
Bullies, most Arabian in look; and ahead mountains 
on mountains, drab in near distance, purple in 
farther, with blues in ever-paler tone as range re- 
ceded beyond range. In the flickering heat they 
seemed as if painted on a canvas that wavered in 
the wind. This, indeed, is a common feeling in view- 
ing a desert landscape. In the intense light, so much 



io6 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

stronger than normal, all seems visionary; the very 
ground underfoot lacks solidity, with its pale lilac 
shadows. 

Of all those thin, spiritual hues that make the 
color-charm of the desert and that painters find so 
baffling, lilac is the prevailing note. It is the most 
ethereal of tints, hardly to be termed color, and 
seeming more of the mind than of the eye. Yet, once 
realized, one finds it universal. Between you and the 
gray boulder three feet away you half see, half feel 
a veil of lilac light, and the distance is suffused with 
it in varying degrees. Overlying the reds and browns 
of the mountain walls it makes its delicate presence 
felt, and covers the crudest facts of geology with a 
film of fancy, a touch almost of faery. 

Desert shadows fall into the same high tone. There 
is nothing of darkness in them, no weight, no sense 
of dimness, but always that aerial tint of lilac infi- 
nitely thin and refined. Over wastes of sand aching 
and throbbing with light one catches the same faint 
hue, lilac, always lilac. 

Canons opened here and there into the hills on 
my right, and in some of them I thought I caught a 
hint of palms. A prospector who includes this route 
in his wanderings had warned me against being mis- 
led by these, but as a group of palms was to be my 
landmark, these appearances tended to doubtful- 
ness and kept me a trifle uneasy. I had a fair idea, 
though, of where I was making for, so kept on hour 
after hour, alternately riding or leading my horse, 
but always in a little question whether I had not 
passed my point awkward, if so, on Kaweah's 



TO THOUSAND PALM CASOX 107 

account, for there was no prospect of forage or 
water for him except by our striking the one right 
place in this maze of possibilities. The heat was 
severe, though short of yesterday's intolerable de- 
gree. It was about noon when I saw a dark spot miles 
ahead, which I guessed to signify my palms. By two 
o'clock we were there and found that the palms 
grew at the head of a long canon that should open 
on desert level. It was Thousand Palm Canon, the 
place I wanted. 

From under the palms a feeble stream trickled 
away, its margin white with alkali; but water is 
water, and an absolute requisite. There were scraps 
of fair pasturage, too, making it, for the desert, a 
desirable camp. It was good to see Kaweah go to 
work at the juicy tules and water-grass, and it 
stimulated my own appetite, jaded by hours of heat. 
I brewed some flat, spiritless tea, made a scratch 
meal, and then lay in palmy shade watching Ka- 
weah's ribs fill out and enjoying a kind of Lotos- 
Eater's ease. The temperature was just at century 
point by my little thermometer, and the whole place 
was kept on echo with drowsy coo of doves and cau- 
tious whistle of quail. Smaller birds formed little 
bathing parties of sixes and sevens, turning on the 
shower-baths with what seemed criminal extrava- 
gance. 

At sunset I wandered half a mile down the canon. 
The drab mountains changed suddenly to rose, then 
crimson, then furnace-red. It is fortunate that these 
transformations come at the hour when one's spirits 
are rising in prospect of the coolness of the approach- 



io8 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

ing night: otherwise they might be wasted, meeting 
a listless, heat-burdened mood incapable of enthusi- 
asm or even interest. The great twin mountains were 
hidden from me here, but the San Bernardino spur 
was close enough for its four thousand feet to show 
to advantage. But though these drought-cursed 
mountains are admirable for color, one's pleasure in 
them is limited, since for mountains to be merely 
admirable is almost for them to be failures. The 
canons yonder, bathed in indescribable hues, have 
no enticement for the imagination, for one knows 
that no streams are there, no trees, no birds, no 
ferny pools, nor spouting cascades: only uncouth 
boulders, scant, unfriendly shrubs, threatening rep- 
tiles, snarling wild-cat and slinking coyote. Such 
mountains never reach one's love. 

The night was warm, though a breeze rattled the 
palm fans over my bed. Once I was roused by the 
approach of some large animal and was barely in 
time to beat off a couple of mules that were making 
for my saddle-bags. There is some instinct in these 
brutes that guides them unerringly for miles on any 
errand of depredation, yet drives them away from 
where their presence is desired. 

Toward morning, raising myself on elbow for a 
drink from the canteen (which, on the desert, one 
keeps at one's bolster, as King Saul kept his cruse 
of water), I noticed the odd appearance of a star 
that was just rising in the east. It grew quickly to a 
little horn, and in a few moments announced itself 
as the moon, nearly at her monthly finale. By the 
time she had climbed to where her light fell among 



TO THOUSAND PALM CA5toX 109 

the ribbons of the palms, it was dawn; and I rose 
promptly in order to get breakfast before my un- 
welcome comrade, the sun, arrived to keep me com- 
pany for the day. 



CHAPTER VIII 

A DESERT RIDE: THOUSAND PALM CAXON TO 
COACHELLA VALLEY 

Stately palm groves Desert holly A settler's camp Hos- 
pitable Edornite Sand-dunes Novel tobogganing Smoke- 
trees The edge of cultivation Burlap-and-hose luxury Ef- 
fects of erosion Unique home-sites Coachella Valley Camp 
in a mesquit "The Twelve Apostles" Heat minus fatigue 
Indio Desert farming: dates and figs: phenomenal growths and 
profits The Romance of Agriculture Sleep and dress on the 
desert Hot baths and -watermelon. 

THIS was Sunday, and I was glad that the pas- 
turage would allow of keeping It a day of rest 
a thing not always possible, even with the best 
of intentions, in these regions where necessities of 
forage or water often drive the unwilling traveller 
on. During the morning I explored my surroundings, 
and was delighted to find myself among the stately 
groves that give this canon its name of Thousand 
Palms. There are several distinct clusters, each of 
many hundreds, growing at short intervals, and in 
side ravines are smaller groups, each showing some 
feature of charm, strangeness, or picturesque arrange- 
ment. In one, a narrow gallery of ochre-hued rock 
that gave wonderful depth to the complementary 
blue of the sky, I came on six palms that grew in a 
compact block, as wide and thick as it was high, 
thatched to the ground with dead, hanging fans. 
One could cut into the mass as one would into a 
cheese, and a fine cell could be carved out of it by 




J: 



TO COACHELLA VALLEY in 

a desert hermit who didn't mind scorpions and 
tarantulas for neighbors. 

I climbed a hill to the east, from whence I could 
overlook a good part of the palms* territory. They 
stood like an army, an actual forest of palms, as 
unique a sight as can be found in our country, and 
as beautiful in its strange, fascinating way. No 
other plant grows with them: the straight, dark 
pillars stand solidly on a floor deep laid with dry, 
fallen leaves which slide and crackle under the foot. 
As I moved among the stiff, uniform shapes I felt a 
sense of that old Egyptian awe, the awe of over- 
powering mass and repetition, of monotony carried 
to the point of terror. It would have seemed quite 
in place to meet here one of those nightmarish pro- 
cessions we see on obelisks, or to discover faint hiero- 
glyphs carved on those red, pylon-like shafts. 

In this canon I first found an attractive little 
plant, Airiplex hymenelytra^ which I have seen sold 
on the streets of Los Angeles at Christmas under the 
name of desert holly. It is a low shrub, with stiff, 
holly-like leaves and the characteristic brittleness of 
desert brush. The whole plant is dead white, and 
looks much like a branch of true holly that has been 
dipped in whitewash. 

The day was warm 106 by two o'clock in the 
afternoon. I drank often of the irresistible though 
unpleasant water, and even managed a bath, which 
left me with a sensation of being made of old india- 
rubber. In the evening the mystery of the night- 
wandering mules was explained when two men came 
up the canon. They were surprised to see me, having 



ii2 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

had no idea of there being any one in that direction 
for twenty miles. I learned that they had ranches, or 
rather claims, in the valley below, and were engaged 
in " developing" water with a view to irrigation. I 
was hospitably urged to move down to the camp 
where one of them was working, a mile or so down 
the canon, and strong inducement was held out in 
the promise of better water. 

Accordingly in the morning I moved. My friend's 
camp was pitched at the edge of one of the palm 
groves, and consisted of a roomy tent, a forge, a 
rough stable, and a mountain of debris, the accumu- 
lation of three years of " baching." For that term 
he had lived here, most of the time alone, working 
at his "water right"; tunnelling, sinking shafts, 
running drifts and ditches, gradually gathering up 
the underground flow that was betokened here and 
there by seepages and beds of tules; a life of cheerless 
solitude plus hardest labor plus purgatorial heat. 
His task was nearly done, he told me, for he now 
had two hundred inches of water almost ready to be 
piped to his "half-section 5 ' of land down in the 
valley at Edom significant name! where he 
hoped to grow dates, figs, and early grapes for the 
tables of millionaires. If spontaneous kindness to a 
stranger deserves reward, my good Edomite's acres 
should soon be as fruitful as the land of Goshen. 

I was struck by the Arabian look of this locality. 
High-walled gullies of red or ochre earth meet and 
interlace, their bottoms filled with coarse gravel and 
boulders mixed with blue-gray smoke-bush and 
stunted mesquit and cat-claw. Among birds, only 



TO COACHELLA VALLEY 113 

the raven seems to tolerate this desolate spot, and 
his morose hue, tragical voice, and general grave- 
yard air do nothing to enliven one's impression. The 
eye, discouraged by the crudity of the scene, in- 
stinctively dwells upon the palm whenever it is in 
sight, overlooking its sameness of form for the relief 
of its grace, finish, and appearance of culture. 

From Thousand Palm Canon I struck south- 
westerly into the open desert. My friend's little 
brook rippled for half a mile out of the canon, then 
suddenly sank into the sands. San Jacinto was 
again in view, but purpled by distance. His load of 
snow seemed noticeably less than at my last sight 
of it only four days ago. 

A few miles to the west there is a tract of dunes 
that looked worth visiting. A huge quantity of al- 
most unmixed sand has accumulated here, and has 
been worked up into remarkable forms. Wind and 
the principle of cohesion operating together have 
resulted in an arrangement of domes, half domes, 
waves, crevasses, all the shapes that snowdrifts take, 
but with the characteristic wind-ripple in addition. 
The glistening whiteness of the sand carried out the 
likeness to snow, but the sharpness of the breakage 
lines is what made the sight so interesting. Long 
curves, beautiful in their ease of contour, led up to 
keen, clean-cut rims from which steep slopes ran 
down at sharp angle. From these edges there was 
always blowing a wavering veil of sand, as fine as 
the spume stripped by the wind from wave crests 
at sea. 

It was fascinating to stand in that universe of 



ii 4 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

sand. The Scriptural phrase, "like the sands of the 
seashore for multitude," seemed almost weak in 
view of these great billows like the storm waves of 
mid-ocean. Here was not only a shore, but a sea of 
sand. The scene stamped itself strongly on my mind 
the strange contours, differing from those of 
other materials; the shadow masses of clear blue; 
the amethyst of the nearer ridges of San Jacinto ; the 
deep afternoon purple of the great mountain itself; 
the gleam of mingled snow and cloud along its crest; 
over all the glowing sky, too luminous and aerial to 
be fairly expressed as blue. 

I had been among these dunes once before, when 
a youngster from a ranch on the farther side had 
guided me to the edge of the tract. I was busied with 
camera and notebook, not noting my companion, 
when a patter of charging feet and a Comanche yell 
made me jump. It was only my guide enjoying a 
desert toboggan-slide. He raced to the edge of a 
thirty-foot dune, threw up his heels, and took a 
header down the sharp incline. Running sand at 
every pore, he pronounced it bully, and recom- 
mended me to try it, adding that it was one of his 
and his sister's regular forms of exercise. But I was 
past twelve, and found it easy to refrain. 

My way lay now more to the south, where, a 
dozen miles away, was the little railway town of 
Indio. This lower northwestern arm of the desert, 
into which Thousand Palm Canon issues, was in- 
tended to be named the Conchilla Valley, 1 from the 
myriads of little shells that powder the ground, 
1 Spanish concha, shell; diminutive, conchitta. 



TO COACHELLA VALLEY 115 

mixed with some of larger size relics of the brack- 
ish lake that for a long period filled this great de- 
pression. By some error the name got upon the maps 
as Coachella, and the blunder has been retained, 
until it is now signed and sealed beyond hope of 
correction. 

A botanical feature hereabouts was the smoke- 
tree, Parosela spinosa, which appeared in great num- 
bers. It is the most prominent plant of the dry 
desert water-courses, and in some of them grows so 
thickly as to form an apology for a forest, though a 
forest of strange kind and serpentine form. It was 
at this time in full bloom, carrying a multitude of 
small, pea-like blossoms of dark, bright blue, from 
which the plant is sometimes called "indigo-bush." 
I have heard it called " desert cedar " also, though it 
would be hard to imagine anything less like the 
sumptuous cedar than this spectral thing, blanched 
and leafless. The other name, smoke-tree, describes 
it well (though it is more bush than tree, seldom over 
twelve feet in height), for the resemblance to a col- 
umn of smoke is plain enough at a little distance. 
At this season it made a beautiful sight in its dress 
of gray and blue. Each plant was humming with 
wild bees and other insects that were making the 
most of the honey harvest, and the fallen blossoms 
had gathered in every hollow like drifts of blue 
snow. 

A few miles brought us to the edge of cultivation. 
A small farm appeared, isolated in the waste, but 
looking thrifty and attractive. Glad of a chance to 
exchange words with my kind, sure to be interesting 



ii6 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

now that they were so scarce, I halted at the gate 
till the good man appeared. He seemed as keen as I 
for a chat, inquisitive, moreover, as to my business, 
and would have me dismount and come to his shady 
veranda. Good man, indeed, I should name him, 
heartily pressing me to put up for the night, or in 
fact as long as I would ! When I accepted the smaller 
offer, " That's all hunkydory then/' he cried, and 
seizing his hayfork led the way to the stable, 
Kaweah close at his heels, for he knew the omen, and 
hay already had the pensive charm of "the good old 
days/' The wife proved as kind as the husband, and 
I shared their supper and breakfast, as well as the 
hopes, trials, and prospects of their desert farming 
venture. 

Their water-supply was a well and pump, oper- 
ated by gasoline engine. Through all the centre part 
of this valley water is plentiful at no impossible 
depth. The water is pure, soft, and good (that from 
the deeper wells is usually warm, often as much as 
100), making the greatest of boons to the much- 
enduring folk who live and work under conditions 
for the most part decidedly onerous. An illustration 
of these people's hardships had comic details. The 
wife was going to the coast for the summer in a few 
days the rule with desert women-folk, though 
not an invariable one and must leave her husband 
alone to face the heat and keep the farm alive. But 
she had a plan, which she confided to me, for his 
comfort. She would send down from town a quantity 
of canvas or burlap, which was to be strung on wires 
along the windward side of the veranda. The poor, 



TO COACHELLA VALLEY 117 

panting man was to take his seat there, lightly ar- 
rayed, and spray water on the screen with a hose. 
The resulting evaporation would temper the breeze 
to a fair degree of comfort. He might even, she 
pointed out, have pipe or newspaper in the other 
hand, a sybaritic touch that strongly appealed to 
me. In the following weeks, when warmth was plen- 
tiful and water scarce with me, I thought many a 
time with envy of my friend sitting with hose and 
pipe in solitary luxury, or perchance comfortably 
soaking in the barrel at the corner of the house, 
which he had pointed out to me with pride as form- 
ing a simple but admirable bathtub. 

The burlap-and-hose combination, by the by, 
plays a prominent part in desert household economy. 
Where ice is not to be had the housewife resorts to 
the home-made refrigerator: nothing more nor less 
than a skeleton box or frame provided with shelves 
and covered with burlap. It is placed in a shaded 
outdoor spot, and water allowed to drip on it so as 
to keep it damp on all sides. The evaporation is so 
rapid in this dry, hot air that the temperature within 
is lowered by many degrees, and even milk oV butter 
may be kept good for a reasonable time. No doubt 
it was this simple invention that gave the good lady 
a clue. If a pound of butter could thus find relief, 
why not a farmer? 

Along the foothills that extend in a dull, mud- 
hued wall along the east side of the valley, groups 
and files of palms grow in almost continuous line. 
A visit to them proved interesting. The erosive 
effects of the storms that fall (usually in late sum- 



ii8 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

mer) on the mountains are seen here in sharp bar- 
rancas and ravines filled with water-worn debris. 
The curiously seamed face shown by these hills at 
a few miles' distance becomes on near approach a 
wilderness of rugged gullies that meet and cross at 
sharp angles and at gradients steep enough to make 
the short climb quite laborious. Huge blocks of rock, 
carried by storm-hydraulics from the higher back 
ranges, lie embedded in the local clay. Vegetation is 
scanty except for the flourishing clusters of palms. 

Standing in picturesque fashion in alcoves and on 
benches, these suggest, even to a mind with no bent 
for real-estate speculation, the thought What 
ideal sites for houses! From the shade of these ele- 
vated groves the fortunate owner would look out 
over the wide, sunny levels to where in the south the 
Salton Sea matches the turquoise sky, or, more 
westerly, to where the great peaks of Santa Rosa, 
San Jacinto, and San Gorgonio rise in fine succession. 
There is attraction, too, in the thought that under 
the progenitors of these palms, which mark the shore- 
line of the ancient sea, the Earliest Californian may 
have moored his canoe while he landed to feast on 
prehistoric clam and turtle. 

In one alcove a recent hurricane had overthrown 
a number of the palms, strewing the ground as if 
with ruined monuments. From the eagle feathers 
that littered the place it seemed that the bird of soli- 
tude finds these silent groves with their vast outlook 
a congenial resort. 

Continuing toward Indio I came to one of the 
young date plantations that in the last few years 



TO COACHELLA VALLEY 119 

have become a prominent feature of the Coachella 
Valley, and that seem to indicate that a decade or so 
hence this region will be one great date-garden. The 
chugging of a gasoline engine guided me to the place. 
It was so good to see the generous stream of water 
that was being led in furrows to the thirsty young 
Deglets and Khadrawis that I asked the friendly 
caretaker if I might camp near by. The request was 
freely granted, and a shady thicket of mesquit 
pointed out as the best spot. The thicket turned out 
to be one great, house-like tree, which I shared with 
a family of quail, a pair of thrashers, a rabbit or two, 
a rabble of rats and mice, and an Egyptian plague of 
flies. It was idyllic at dusk to listen to the dozy mur- 
murings of quail, apparently confessions of penitent 
cheepers answered with maternal forgiveness; white 
the evening star rose above the gloaming mountains 
and the breeze came cooler from the graying east. 

I may remark here a noticeable fact regarding the 
dimate of the desert. Even on days when the ther- 
mometer, hung in complete shade, would register 
105 to 110, walking was not specially fatiguing; 
and this in spite of the drawback of the looseness of 
the soil. It is to be explained, of course, by the dry- 
ness of the air, through which the sun's rays strike 
with scorching yet not oppressive effect. It is a 
sharp, direct heat, like that of a fire and not in any 
degree Kke that of steam. Perspiration is profuse, 
but evaporation keeps pace with it ; and when shade 
is reached, coolness at once enwraps the traveller in 
an air bath as soft and grateful as evening dusk. 

A strong wind blew all night from the northwest. 



120 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

Rats made my mesquit thicket undesirable as a 
sleeping-place, but I spread my blankets in its par- 
tial shelter and passed a comfortable night, awaking 
occasionally to enjoy the moderate breeze, which 
came in playful puffs and sifted me lightly with 
sajxi. Kaweah, picketed dose by, stood stoically, 
tail to the wind, until dawn, when he responded 
promptly to my whistle and whinnied for his morn- 
ing sugar. 

All next day the wind blew without cessation, 
filling even the higher strata of the air with sand, 
until in the north and west only the snowy heads of 
the twin mountains remained in view. They seemed 
like floating clouds anchored aloft to mark the Pass 
of the San Gorgonio for the sailors of the new aerial 
world-routes. By mid-afternoon they too had faded 
behind the brown sand-haze, and sunset came with 
a bar of turbid crimson, sharply met by the usual 
aquamarine of the summer evening sky. Young 
and slender, the moon moved gracefully down the 
field of lucent green, a lily princess in a Caliph's 
ganden. 

The little town of Indio is an example of the many 
California settlements whose hopes have been 
Hasted by the rise of an upstart neighbor. Indio is 
old, for a California town and a desert one, and has 
existed as a "division point " since the building of 
the New Orleans to San Francisco railway. But 
when, a few yeass ago, desert settlers began to arrive 
in earnest, and the tight commenced which has al- 
rieady turned considerable tracts from gray to green, 
a new town, christened Coachella, was started three 




H 

D 

O 

fS, 



TO COACHELLA VALLEY 121 

miles to the south, and has measurably prospered, 
partly at the expense of the older place* I stayed for 
a day or two about Indio, finding barely tolerable 
quarters at a wretched hotel* The sleeping accommo- 
dation consisted of a cot bed, with mattress and 
sheets, on an upper veranda. My request for a 
blanket for emergency apparently was considered 
unreasonable, for the article was not supplied (and 
in fact proved not to be needed at this season of 
early June). 

Indio supports a weekly newspaperette, and my 
arrival, as a stranger, being duly announced, I was 
looked up by an old Los Angeles acquaintance, now 
turned desert farmer, who urged that I make my 
next stop at his farm. Here again a mesquit thicket 
made an ideal camping-place. The only drawback 
was the presence of a horde of the insects locally 
called locusts, really cicadas. These pests kept up 
all day a shrill, monotonous hiss, like the falsetto 
shriek of imps, which I soon came to loathe. There 
was compensation, though, in the friendship of the 
kindly people and the sight and sound of happy 
children. I do not forget, either, the melons and 
cucumbers, tomatoes, chiles, and egg-plants, that 
for a notable week displaced my daily round of 
beans, rice, and dull, insipid flapjacks. 

The country hereabout is the pick of the Coachella 
Valley fanning region. Looking south and west finwn 
camp I saw little but greenness; only isolated spots 
of gray gave token of the desert. On all sides ranks 
and dumps of fast-growing oottonwoods outlined 
the stations of farms; and everywhere along the 



122 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

roads one came on bands of chattering Mexicans or 
silent Indians at work in shady corners, sorting and 
packing into crates heaps of onions, cantaloupes, or 
tomatoes: or met wagons creeping to the railway 
with juicy freight of watermelons. Plantations of 
young dates met the eye on all sides, and here and 
there were palms already bearing clusters of ripen- 
ing fruit so suggestive of the ancient Assyrian fash- 
ion of hair-dressing that I think the idea must have 
been copied from this source. 

One hears wondrous tales of the profits that are 
being made by the owners of these first fruiting 
palms. The pioneer date experimenter, Mr. Fred 
Johnson, showed me four trees from which he had 
realized in the previous year between four hundred 
and five hundred dollars. (It must be remembered 
that in these early days of American-grown dates 
they bring the price of a novelty, as much as a dollar 
a pound for the best fruit, which is a temporary 
condition, of course.) Tempted by these phenomenal 
figures, desert farmers are raising seedling date- 
plants by hundreds of thousands, while those who 
can afford it are planting "offshoots" ; that is, young 
palms imported from the famous regions of Tunis, 
Algeria, Arabia, and Persia. The industry is well 
past its experimental stage, and my forecast of the 
future of this valley is that twenty years from now it 
will be a waving forest of palms, with millionaires 
competing for acreage in the renowned date-garden 
of the United States. 

From this locality come also the earliest of figs* 
apricots, melons, and grapes. The growth of these 



TO COACHELLA VALLEY 123 

crops in this once despised soil is truly miraculous. 
I saw figs of ten or twelve years, monarchical in 
trunk and houselike in spread of branch ; while vines 
at one year from planting were bearing promising 
clusters. 

At the Government Agricultural Station I found 
some novelties which are still in the experiment 
stage; for instance, jujubes, pistachios, even cocoa- 
nuts. Both official and private enterprise are en- 
gaged on these problems, and from all sorts of out- 
of-the-way places strangers are constantly arriving 
who will be encouraged to become "good Amer- 
ican citizens." Not only plant strangers either, for 
other questions arise, such as that of the Blastophaga 
wasp, an insignificant-looking insect who possessed 
the secret of why that best of figs, the Smyrna, re- 
fused to mature its fruit in this country, and who 
for many a year played hide-and-seek all over the 
Levant with our agricultural experts. It is the ro- 
mance of agriculture that one sees here, in process 
of becoming the commonplace of the future. 

The devices to which the white population resort 
for comfort in the hot months are various and amus- 
ing. Beds lurk in unexpected places. Wherever shade, 
or coolness, or protection from wind is to be had, 
there a cot, with mattress and sheets (seldom more), 
may be looked for. In a garden at Indfo I noted 
what looked like a rather roomy rabbit-hutch but 
proved to be the six-foot-six sleeping-room of the 
owner of the place. At a near-by farm there was a 
more elaborate arrangement, a laige, well-furnished 
room, electric-lighted and fitted with telephone, the 



124 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

roof and walls being all of wire screening, and the 
bed shaded from early morning sun by a broad-leafed 
castor-bean plant. Everybody, of course, sleeps out 
of doors, to escape the heat which during the day- 
time fills the timbers and furniture of the house to 
saturation point, to be slowly given off into the 
cooler air during the night* 

Dress is cut to narrow limits, especially by those 
who work outdoors and who are fortunate in having 
the kind of skin that the sun tans instead of flaying. 

I recall two young Swedes whom I met at a ranch 
near Indio, who made quite an artistic effect in 
brown and blue. Curly-headed, hatless, and encum- 
bered only with "shorts" of blue denim, their skins 
were of a fine, pie-crust brown that almost made my 
mouth water, and their bright blue eyes were 
matched to a shade by the hue of the brief cerulean 
garments. 

My heavy sombrero was often the subject of re- 
mark, the comment being that I must suffer from 
its weight. True, I did so; but in spite of that I feel 
sure that this thick, close felt, which thoroughly shuts 
out the sun, is far better than the thin straw helmet 
which is in general favor, and through which the 
sun rays pass only half disarmed. To my half-pound 

II cowboy" I owe it that, though constitutionally a 
sun-hater and a lover of cloud and fog, I stand the 
desert summer with much less discomfort than I 
might reasonably expect. I offer my experience for 
what it may be worth. 

The dusty street of Coachella yielded one or two 
characteristic items, such as a humorous placard 



TO COACHELLA VALLEY 125 

which offered "Hot Baths at the Ice Factory"; the 
spectacle of a bed hung in the air above the com- 
munity water-tank at three storeys elevation; and 
a fleeting vision of the local banker, in rolled-up 
shirt-sleeves, returning from lunch bearing a wedge 
of watermelon with him into the financial shades. 



CHAPTER IX 

A DESERT RIDE: COACHELLA VALLEY TO PINON 
WELL 

The "Coral Reef" Sand-wraiths Belts of desert vegetation 
Vanished races En route for Virginia Dale Mexican camps 

Sunrise The Mud-hills Erosion again Taciturnity of 
Western men Heat and drought The sidewinder Scene of 
a tragedy Hot drinks Wholesale suicide of bees A kindly 
"freighter" Arsenic water Joshua trees, junipers, and pinons 

A "salted" mine Hard pulling View of the Mojave 
The desert's challenge Pinon Wells. 

A FEW miles to the south of Indio there is a 
rocky outpost of the mountain wall known (of 
course incorrectly) as the "Coral Reef." A ride over 
to view it at close range proved well worth while. 
At intervals I came upon farms with fields of alfalfa, 
acres of grapes or melons, and rows of thrifty young 
dates. Between farm and farm lay stretches of un- 
touched desert more dreary than ever by contrast 
with the cultivated areas. In the distance pillars of 
dust, the genii of the whirlwind, moved in ghostly 
dance across the view, like dervishes ceaselessly 
whirling. 

The haze of summer had by now settled on the 
desert, and to-day it almost obscured the mountains. 
San Jacinto's top was marked by scratches of white 
where the last of the snow lay in shaded clefts and 
canons, while San Gorgonio's slightly higher crest 
showed in broader streaks and splashes: both seem- 
ing to hang without support in the pale cerulean 
sky. The hot, fitful breeze, the dreamy mountains, 




a 
a 



I 

w 

H 



TO PINON WELL 127 

and those gliding, melancholy dust-wraiths threw 
us both into a drowse, broken unpleasantly when 
Kaweah stepped on a ground-rat's or squirrel's bur- 
row, with resulting jerk and snort, or when, passing 
a mesquit, clouds of locusts came charging at us 
with goblin eyes and banshee screech, squirting 
their vile artillery. 

Shells covered the ground, mostly tiny spirals 
smaller than rice grains, with a few three-inch, clam- 
shaped ones that gave an iridescent coloring to the 
surface. Pottery fragments were plentiful, plying 
the fancy with visions of strange aboriginal things. 
An occasional litter of cans or bottles raised the 
reflection that future ages, judging us by our debris, 
will conclude that we were an ugly, uncouth lot, 
much inferior to the race we displaced. 

On a near approach the mountains on this south- 
ern border of the valley showed a more than usually 
forbidding aspect. Rising abruptly from the sand- 
level, their forms are almost grotesque, with sugges- 
tions of plesiosaurus and pterodactyl in their vast, 
.ridgy backbones. Yet it is these brick-like shapes 
that at a distance and with sunrise or sunset color- 
ing take on a look that can only be called heavenly. 
Perhaps it is one point of the analogy between Na- 
ture and the mind of man that in retrospect, life, 
even if it has been unlovely, like these crude rock 
masses, may gain a quality of beauty from that which 
enfolds all, the universal Goodness that is God. 

The "reef" itself is an isolated hill, doee to the 
main rise of the mountain,noticeable for the strongly 
marked beach-line, which is seen in a broad band of 



128 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

dark brown that reaches ten or twelve feet above 
the level of the soil. Above this line the rock is 
lighter, the ordinary granite weathered to red and 
ochre. The so-called coral is what geologists call 
travertine, really calcium carbonate, which in a 
sort of sponge-like formation encrusts the rock that 
was once submerged. Little shells are embedded in 
the substance, or remain as they lodged in the inter- 
stices when washed there by some wave of the van- 
ished sea. 

The hill is cliff-like in steepness and almost bare 
of vegetation. A biznaga or two lean out as if curious 
to see the rare visitor, and a few thin creosotes wave 
drearily in the wind. At the rear of the reef the 
ground rises to a bench of gravelly soil in which one 
notes at once a different set of plants the smoke- 
tree, palo verde, several sorts of cactus, bright- 
green creosote, and the odd sandpaper plant. There 
is always this well-marked difference between the 
vegetable life of tracts above and below sea-level, 
the difference being based, of course, upon the dis- 
tinct characters of the soils. Above the old sea-line 
is sand, gravel, and rock, with a varied range of 
desert growths; below is a fine silt whitened with 
shells and with little vegetation beyond dull clumps 
of atriplex and suaeda. This lower belt is much the 
drearier region: yet it is this selfsame silt which, 
where not rendered sterile by alkalinity, shows 
such amazing fertility under cultivation. It is Lower 
Egypt over again, with the Colorado taking the 
place of the Nile. 

A little distance to the west I noticed a small 



TO PlftON WELL 129 

cove, with beach of pure white sand. It was strange 
to think what manner of children once played about 
it, and how many centuries had silently passed since 
their voices ceased with that of the Sea. Now the 
hour is close at hand when children will again make 
its crannies ring. Will they also "have their day and 
cease to be"? And after lapse of other centuries, 
will some other fashion of mankind again come, 
again to vanish into silence? Above all, shall we 
know and watch the recurring drama? In the 
desert one is prone to such aimless dreams. The soli- 
tude, the vast unbroken levels, the wandering, idle 
wind, perpetually turn one's thoughts inwaid, yet 
seem to lead them out in vaguest reverie. If the 
reader finds too much of such matter in these pages, 
I can only say that the fault is inherent in the sub- 
ject, as humanity has ever found. It was always to 
the desert, if possible, that the hermit fled when he 
meant to waste his time. 

The long ridge of mountains that bound this arm 
of the desert on the north and east, and the question 
of what might lie beyond them, had been on my 
mind for a long time. That locality could best be 
reached from the Indio region, so this was my oppor- 
tunity. All I knew of it was that a road, of a sort, 
ran that way into the old mining districts of Twenty- 
nine Palms and Virginia Dale, and that water was 
scarce and forage scarcer. By luck I heard of a 
freighter who made periodical trips over part of the 
distance, hauling supplies from Coachella to a mine 
in these mountains. I hunted him up, and arranged 
to accompany him as far as our road was the same, 



I 3 o CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

buying fodder for Kaweah from the supply he car- 
ried with him for his own horses. 

At four o'clock of the morning of the last day of 
June I left my mesquit bivouac. A camp of Mexican 
onion-pickers was already astir as I passed, fire was 
twinkling under coffee-pot, and men, women, boys, 
girls, and dogs, to the total of a score, were loafing 
and yawning with that air of entire leisure which 
is a mark of their race, and which I, for one, find 
rather enviable. I like to come on these camps, 
especially at evening. There is in them a touch of 
the patriarchal padre in blue "juniper" beneath 
some rustling cottonwood, rolling and smoking eter- 
nal cigarettes: Juanitos and Conchitas in troops 
clambering over him like caterpillars or tumbling in 
congenial dust: madre an attractive figure in reboso 
or with splendid unbound tresses, preparing frijoles 
or chile con carne, or, more likely, Yankee canned 
beef: and Alberto picking out the latest ditty on his 
mandolin, wherewith to capture the heart of Encar- 
nari6n, at the neighboring camp, after supper. 
Rarely does one hear any word of contention, for 
family affection runs strong in the blood of our 
lightly esteemed neighbors from over the line. 

At the cross-road I halted to wait for my teamster 
and enjoy a sunrise. The morning was half cloudy, 
and the sun threw shifting lights on the mountains 
to south and west, bringing to view canons and 
abysses that I had never known were there. These 
bane walls have a trick of concealing important 
features in a way that is impossible with wooded or 
brush-covered mountains. Some momentary rela- 




3 

5 



TO PlNON WELL 131 

tion of sun and cloud may any day give you a topo- 
graphical surprise, even after years of acquaintance, 
as if, some breakfast-time, you should learn from 
your paper that the agreeable elderly gentleman next 
door was an experienced cracksman long wanted by 
Inspector Bucket. 

My friend's caravan, signalled by distant clouds 
of dust, at length came creeping along a huge 
wagon with seven-inch tires, loaded with a ton or 
two of mixed merchandise, ranging from soda-pop 
to Bob Milligan's new suit and a case or two of 
dynamite. In the jockey-box was the week's mail 
for the score or so of men at the mine, and, what 
was of most concern to Kaweah, on the tail-boaixi 
were piled sacks of barley and bales of hay. 

Crossing the railway we turned northward toward 
an opening in the so-called "mud hills" which make 
a feature equally fascinating and repellent in this 
part of the desert geography. In dreariness they sur- 
pass even the great sand-dunes which now lay far to 
the westward. Their ashy gray is the most hopeless 
erf hues, and their few scraps of brush are almost 
ghastly. The fascination lies in the strangeness of 
the shapes into which the material has been wrought. 
The cutting and carving, scoring and scraping, twist- 
ing and twirling, gouging and grinding that has gone 
on here, for ages has given an almost unreal look to 
the region. A romancer of the type of Jules Verne, 
wishing to depict conditions on the moon, or on this 
planet when its turn comes, can here find material 
to his purpose, "local color" bleached to the appro- 
priate monochrome. 



132 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

There was not much opportunity for conversation. 
To ride alongside the wagon was to be enfolded in 
the dust from sixteen scuffling hoofs, for at our slow 
gait it was much as if we stood still while the horses 
milled up dust for our benefit. Moreover, these 
teamsters of the desert roads are of a silent breed, 
and Emmons was true to type. Yet I knew he was 
glad of my company, and I have often proved that 
a heart kindly to man and beast may beat beneath a 
taciturn waistcoat. Occasionally he would call to a 
shirking horse always a single word and with an 
odd way of dropping the leading consonant: thus 
"Etc," "111," "Aise," and "Ooze" stood for Pete, 
Bill, Daisy, and Suse and the slack trace-chain 
never failed to straighten when these monosyllabic 
shots went off. 

The creeping pace and the unknown, spacious 
desolation into which we were imperceptibly moving 
gave me the feeling of starting on some lifelong enter- 
prise. A faint breeze came now and then from the 
west, but it was dry and parching, and brought no 
refreshment. The sky was overcast with a haze 
which diffused the sunlight to a blinding whiteness 
that was more trying than the direct rays, and that 
seemed to intensify the heat by giving it power to 
attack equally on all sides at once. There was some- 
thing of the same deadly quality in the air that I felt 
at Two-Bunch Palms, though not to the same degree. 
We resorted often to our canteens* while the horses 
were treated to frequent rests, though short ones. 
On this kind of day one realizes easily enough how 
imperative is the need for water to the desert travel- 



TO PlftON WELL 133 

ler. One feels that, without drinking constantly, one 
would shrivel, and perceives with horror the fearful 
nature of such an end as death from thirst. 

The track it could on no terms be called a road 
after passing through an opening in the mud hills 
at a point where curious caverns, pinnacles, and 
arches occur, turned westerly into a long valley that 
divides these foothills from the main mountain wall. 
Silt was exchanged for sand and gravel, and the 
vegetation changed automatically with it. Creosote, 
burro-weed, and lippia made a scanty show, with 
tufts of the interesting white "holly," which at this 
season takes on pale tints of seashell pink and laven- 
der, almost iridescent. The going became slower 
than ever. I relieved Kaweah by walking, but there 
was no amelioration for the straining team that now 
could hardly keep way on their huge load, though 
they were splendid Animals and in the pink of condi- 
tion. Looking at my watch I was astonished to find 
it was only seven o'clock. I should have said we had 
been five hours on the road. 

Little as there was of vegetation, there was still 
less of animal life. Birds there were almost none, 
for the distance to water ruled them out. Jack-rabbit 
tracks came now and then, for Jack is almost a total 
abstainer. Lizards there were, for they are every- 
where; and I noted plentiful tracks of the dreaded 
sidewinder, Crotalus cerastes. This is a small, asp- 
Kfce species of the ordinary rattlesnake, found most 
often in the sandy or silty desert, whereas the larger 
rattler likes rocky country and the neighborhood of 
water. Two little protuberances over the eyes, like 



134 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

sprouting horns, give the sidewinder an extra devil- 
ish air, and his small size makes him the more dan- 
gerous, because less easily seen and heard. His track, 
however, is unmistakable, owing to his peculiar 
mode of travel, which seems to be by looping him- 
self along in spiral reaches, so that his trail is'not 
a continuous line, but a series of short, diagonal 
strokes, about nine inches apart. For some reason 
he enjoys wheelruts, and always takes advantage 
of them: but as he moves mainly by night he is not 
often seen by the traveller on the road. 

It is a strange fact, of which I have been assured 
by more than one person wko has put it to the proof, 
that a sidewinder kept exposed to direct summer 
sun will not live longer than a few minutes. 1 The 
explanation must be that the thin skin gives no pro- 
tection to the cold reptilian blood. Certain it is that 
the sidewinder is rarely seen in the open by day, but 
is almost always found coiled in the shade, usually 
about the roots of brush. It would be a praiseworthy 
act of Sol, one for which I could forgive him much, 
if he would one day turn on for a short time such a 

1 I have recently had an opportunity to test this on a sidewinder 
that I brought in to camp for photographic purposes. It was a full- 
grown specimen, and was not in the least injured in process of cap- 
turing. I turned it into an enclosure of boxes, in the open sunshine. 
It was as vicious and full of life as ever at first, but after three or four 
minutes became languid, then ceased to move. Soon the head drew 
back aad the mouth opened, as in the attitude of striking. In ten 
minutes it was dead. The month was September and the temperature 
at the time 106 in the shade. With a midsummer temperature, ten 
or fifteen degrees higher, DO doubt, the time would have been much 
starter, perhaps two or three minutes only, as reported to me by 
another experimenter. It is certainly remarkable that a desert crea- 
tare sbonld be so constituted. 




THE SIDEWINDER, THE LITTLE HORNED RATTLESNAKE 
THAT GOES SIDEWAYS 




CHOLLA CACTUS, THE VILEST OF THE VILE 



TO PlNON WELL '135 

torrid blast as would cook the whole sidewinder 
tribe where they lie snoozing in fancied security. 

Hour after hour went by in a sort of trance of 
heat while we still toiled up that furnace-like valley. 
The wagon ground its ponderous way through sand 
or slid screeching over boulders. At half-past nine 
we reached the point where my teamster was to 
water his horses. Here he kept several laige iron 
drums of water, which he refilled when necessary 
at the mine. He unscrewed the plugs with a span- 
ner, and then bucket after bucket was given the 
eager animals, Kaweah participating. Next we fed 
them, and then, while we ate our own lunch, Em- 
mons casually mentioned that this was Dead Man's 
Point. Why so called? "Oh, a Mexican was found 
dead over there, year before last. At least, part of 
him was found; not much, on account of coyotes. 
He 'd come out afoot from the mines, the Lost 
Horse, think it was, got thirsty and wandered 
around some, and then give out. Name was Lopez 
no, though, that was another feller; well, any 
way, some fellers found him up that gully a little 
ways: saw his tracks going round and round crazy- 
like, and trailed him. Reckon there ought to be 
some bits of his clothes up there yet if you've a 
mmd to look. Yes, it's dry-like around here." 

As we screwed up the drums I had a vision of a 
raving wretch myself? tearing at the immov- 
able plug with bleeding fingers, striking at it with 
swollen, lacerated feet, hearing the water gui^le 
within: in vain, in vain! Heavens! I felt faint 
at the thought, and was glad to mount and leave 



136 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

Dead Man's Point to the coyotes and the murder- 
ous sun. 

Here we turned up a narrower canon leading di- 
rectly into the mountains. The grade became steeper 
and the vegetation more varied. Canon after canon 
debouched into ours, dozens of them, all dry, bak- 
ing, shivering with heat. There is no need to describe 
the country in detail ; it was all alike. We ground our 
way on and up, the sun, now clear, reflected upon 
us from the rocky walls. My canteen, replenished 
after lunch, soon grew too hot to be put to the lips 
with comfort, while the water itself was at a tem- 
perature of over 100, I am sure, and every drink 
threw me into immediate perspiration. 

At three o'clock we came to the next watering- 
place and halted for the day. We had made just 
twenty miles in ten hours of travel. A well is main- 
tained here, after a fashion, by the county authori- 
ties. There was the usual camp litter, also a rough 
bed and a stove, Emmons's property, for this was 
one of his regular stopping-places. A little way back 
he had inquired whether I liked bees or minded being 
stung: also asking Kaweah's sentiments on the same 
point. On approaching the well I caught the bearing 
of his question. The place was literally alive with 
bees. The air was like a swarm in flight, and the well 
itself resounded with the buzzing of thousands down 
there in the dark. However, water must be got for 
the horses, though we had enough for ourselves in 
the canteens, which was fortunate, for bucket after 
bucket came up covered with dead bees, and the 
liquid had a fetid smell from the myriads of decay- 



TO PI&ON WELL 137 

ing insects. So we hauled and skimmed and ladled 
till the animals had got their fill. The canon there- 
abouts must be well sprinkled with bee-caves, and 
some one who enjoys the sort of thing might find 
exciting bee-hunting, with honey by the barrel. 

Then Emmons stripped to the waist and went to 
work with curry-comb and brush at his horses while 
they fed. Xo doubt they earned the care he lavished 
on them, but it is not every faithful animal's master 
that will take his turn and sweat for them as they 
have sweated for him. When supper-time came he 
would not hear of my drawing on my saddle-bag 
stores. "Say, I'll have to call you down," he said 
genially. "If you'd carried your blankets forty 
years, like I have, you'd know better 'n that. How 
many eggs do you eat, that 's what I want to know? 
Will four do you? That 's my figure." And when next 
day it came to settling our accounts, he was scornful 
at the idea of my paying for what I had eaten of his 
supplies. "It's all right about the hay and grain, 
they cost money," he argued; "but eggs and such 
truck oh, shucks!" And shucks it had to be, at 
risk of giving offence. Profane my friendly freighter 
was, alas! at strenuous moments, but it was not pro- 
fanity of the usual gross type, and seemed almost 
automatic. Experience makes me wonder, indeed, if 
there has ever been a really successful Western 
teamster who was free from this vice. 

Waking about midnight, I noticed Emmons get 
up, light a lantern, and again water his animals, 
taking them one by one the hundred yards to the 
well and back; after which he threw them down 



138 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

more hay. Seeing this, I could do no less for Kaweah, 
though I claim no credit for it. (I found it easy to ex- 
cuse Emmons for an occasional outbreak of "cuss 
words" next day, when I remembered how he not 
only " regarded the life of his beast," as the righteous 
man will do, but looked to its comfort as well, and 
at no small sacrifice of his own.) Being up, and the 
night warm and still, it seemed a good time for a 
smoke, so we took a pipe apiece, then a pull at the can- 
teen, and so to sleep again till four o'clock and dawn. 

By half-past five we were again moving up the 
canon. It became constantly narrower, steeper, and 
rougher, the wagon bumping and lurching along in 
a dogged kind of way, serenely confident in the sound- 
ness of hickory and wrought iron. Our surroundings 
became more interesting now that we were well into 
the mountains. There was no outlook, for we were 
shut in on both sides by walls that rose steeply for 
hundreds of feet, and the canon was ever twisting; 
but bushes of fair size began to appear, and bird life 
too came in. It is the open wastes, where nothing is 
and nothing is to be expected, that wear one's spirits 
down. 

One hears a good deal on the desert about arsenic 
water. Prospectors especially are full of tales of 
arsenic springs, where death snatches the traveller 
unaware. I believe competent authorities deny that 
arsenic in dangerous quantity exists in any of the 
desert water, and account for the fact that men have 
died from drinking the water of certain springs by 
the theory that the men in question, arriving at the 
suspected spring suffering from thirst and perhaps 



TO PlNON WELL 139 

weak from hunger as well, drank too freely and suc- 
cumbed to the excess, which, likely enough, was 
rendered more dangerous by the^unwholesome sub- 
stances often found in the water of these desert 
springs. (It is a common experience to find one's 
expected water-supply contaminated with dead coy- 
otes, foxes, birds, or snakes, and water-holes that 
are seldom visited, and therefore seldom cleaned 
out, may become poisonous even from decaying 
vegetable matter.) I have not the means of giving 
a personal opinion, but one knows the hold that 
poison legends, like those of lost mines and buried 
treasure, take on popular imagination: and prospec- 
tors as a class are notoriously open to any touch of 
mystery or superstition. 

I found my companion infected on this subject. 
On leaving our last camp I had filled my canteens, 
using water that had been boiled to prevent ill effects 
from dead bees. Emmons had no particular objec- 
tion to decaying bees, but warned me gravely that 
there was arsenic in the water. He had found it poi- 
sonous himself, he said; but when I asked how he 
knew that it was arsenic that had upset him, he 
replied that every one knew there were arsenic 
springs on the desert, and he figured that this must 
be one of them. However, I reckoned that if a horse 
could take several gallons at a draught without any 
bad effect, I ought to be good for a mouthful now 
and then: so I drank, at first carefully, then freely, 
and noticed only that the supposed arsenic left lips 
and throat gummy, so that there was an inclination 
to drink almost constantly. 



I 4 o CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

The canon became a gorge, with yet higher walls, 
the strata split and upreared at all manner of pain- 
ful angles. Wild-looking shrubs leaned out overhead 
and stared down at us with startled air. Strangest 
of these were the so-called Joshua trees, Yucca 
brevifolia, that now began to appear. Nothing in the 
vegetable world is more unprepossessing than this 
scarecrow, all knees and elbows, with handfuls and 
mouthf uls of daggers for leaves. The name is said to 
have been given the plant by the early Mormon emi- 
grants to California, in reference to its heralding 
their approach to the promised land. There seems 
to be no great compliment involved in having this 
spiteful-looking object for a namesake. 

Next to appear was the ever-interesting juniper. 
I like our California hero, Fray Junipero Serra, all 
the better for his choice of a monastic name, though 
it came second-hand (from that one of Saint 
Frances's band of whom the Saint cried admiringly, 
"Q that I had a forest of such junipers!")- There is 
some very wholesome quality about this plant, even 
in its stunted desert form; and Pliny may be more 
reliable than in some other items of natural history 
when he declares that serpents shun this tree and 
men may therefore safely sleep in its shade. 1 For 
fuel qualities, anyhow, it has no equal, and I always 
hail the chance of a juniper camp-fire. 

The piiion also soon came in, another of my favor- 
ites, gnarly but cheerful, a sort of Puck of the pines. 
Then appeared small oaks and willows, links with 

l ^" Junipems arbor est crescens in desertis, cujus umbram serpentes 
fogiunt, et ideo in umbra ejus homines secure dormiunt." 




< 

3 



TO PlNON WELL 141 

scenes and lands far different from this. All these old 
friends looked wonderfully kindly, and when I halted 
and listened to the breeze humming in the pinons 
it cost me a pang to think that I was in for months, 
possibly years, of life in a treeless land, and I won- 
dered how I, whose ancestor must have been a dryad, 
should ever tolerate it. 

At a point where a side canon ran off to the west I 
noticed a weather-beaten sign-board showing that 
the Dewey Mine lay up there. This "mine," it 
seems, was a notorious case of "salting" (that is, 
baiting a worthless "prospect" with pieces of rich 
ore), a fraud that nearly came off, but not quite. 
Even costly machinery was installed in the effort to 
carry the bluff through. Emmons could not recall 
the fate of the promoters of the swindle, but we 
agreed in hoping that the " darned skunks" were at 
that moment unpleasantly engaged with a pile of 
oakum. 

We were now dose to the summit of the ridge, but 
the steepest rise remained to be climbed. Emmons 
rested his team while he looked carefully over the 
running-gear of the wagon: then attached brake- 
logs to the rear wheels. When all was ready he 
climbed to his perch, gathered the lines, cast a 
shrewd eye over the "road" that rose at a sharp 
angle ahead, and remarked in a casual tone, "Now, 
gals," at the same moment throwing off the brake. 
The well-drilled team responded. The trace-chains 
grated, the wheels screeched against the boulders, 
and the huge wagon crawled up the grade for twenty 
yards. The brake came on with a thump, the horses 



142 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

stopped in their tracks, and the wagon settled back 
against the blocks. Two minutes' rest, and another 
twenty yards: and so on for eight or ten spells. We 
reached the top, and crossed the pass at 4600 feet. 

A fine outlook opened from the crest. Far to the 
west lay my brace of giants, San Jacinto and San 
Gorgonio, a sort of Gog and Magog. Behind and to 
the east was a jumble of brown ranges, with pale 
slips of desert showing here and there between them. 
To the north I looked out over the Mojave Desert, 
the twin sister of the Colorado, from this point a 
wilderness of mountains, arid, aerial, almost phan- 
tasmal. Beautiful, too, they were in their elemental 
solitude, their delicacy of tone, and most so in their 
air of mystery, their magnetic drawing on the imag- 
ination. " Come," they seemed to say, "we are wait- 
ing for you: have waited since eternity began. You 
long to know us: you cannot guess what wealth we 
hide. Come and take it if you dare: we dare you." 
Yes; and if you yield, and go, you may indeed learn 
their secret, perhaps a secret of gold such as never 
yet dazzled man's eye and betrayed his soul: but 
remember, you may never return to this other world, 
the world of men, trees, brooks, all the companion- 
able sights and sounds of homes and towns of com- 
mon people. 

A mile of down grade brought us to Piiion Well. 
]Here is an abandoned, worked-out mine, with old 
buildings and a scattering of other effects tools, 
pipe-lines, and so forth. The old well with rusty 
pump is still in order, and now again we tasted good 
water; and how good good water is, perhaps is only 



TO PlNON WELL 143 

known to men who travel the desert. We made a 
hasty meal, for Emmons had still a few miles to 
cover. My road left his not far from this point, so I 
decided to stay here for a day, enjoying the moun- 
tain air, pure cool water, and picturesque surround- 
ings; resting Kaweah also, who was accommodated 
with a few feeds of hay from Emmons's store. Lunch 
over we bade one another good-bye and good luck, 
and I watched the wagon crawl away down the canon 
toward the lonely camp somewhere in that gray 
wilderness, where a score of men (with never a 
woman) were dragging the deadly gold out of the 
grasp of the Sphinx. 



CHAPTER X 

A DESERT RIDE: PlSON WELL TO MECCA 

Rats and quail Natural water tanks A problem of the trail 
Need of guide-posts A mineral solitude Anxious miners 
Camp at Twenty-nine Palms Sunrise Fourth of July Black 
and white landscape A desert grave Bygone inhabitants 
Rock mosaic The road runner Desert mines Virginia Dale 
the First And the present "Blind pigs" Mining-camp hos- 
pitality Dales and dales The Sheepholes Old "prospects" 

Hard going and slow Desert ranges Changes of vegetation 

Another thirst-tragedy Cottonwood Springs A lucky strike 
of fodder Early morning on the trail The palo fierro and 
ocotillo Right-line contours Chipmunks A hot march 
View of the Salton Sea Mecca and luxury. 

I WOULD willingly have stayed for days at Piiion 
Well but for that annoying trait of the human 
mind that renders ease uneasy so long as there is an 
unpleasant task ahead; and there are enough un- 
pleasant possibilities inherent in an unknown stretch 
of desert to debar the traveller from freedom of 
mind. The rats that haunted the old house played 
havoc, too, with my scanty food supplies. They in- 
fested everything, even the coffee-pot, of dimensions 
that might be named Homeric, that hung on the 
wall, and in which I had thought my bacon would 
be secure. 

Accordingly, after a day's rest we left at half -past 
five in the morning and took the road down the canon 
for a mile, to where a wide valley began. My route 
soon left the main track, striking directly north into 
a strange looking country, a sloping plain broken by 
abrupt hills that looked as if they had burst up from 



WELL TO MECCA 145 

below in some recent explosion. My friendly trees 
ceased at once at the foot of the canon, leaving only 
the Joshuas, which always seem to have been ar- 
rested in the midst of some uncouth antics, brandish- 
ing daggers like a juggler. Deer tracks were plenti- 
ful, and within half a mile I met the three varieties 
of quail, mountain, valley, and desert, or Gambel, 
a thing I have never noted elsewhere. Far to the 
east rose a ragged range, even odder in skyline than 
the rest. 

Another road went off now to the left, leading to 
the Lost Horse Mine, and my own route became a 
doubtful sort of track, with little sign of travel. In 
a pile of rock that I skirted I had been told I should 
find one of those natural tanks of water (tinaja is the 
common Spanish word) on which the desert travel- 
ler often has to place precarious trust precarious 
because they are mere rain catchments. This one is 
known as Squaw Tanks. I easily found the place, 
being led to it by my nose. A small quantity of slimy 
liquid remained, nauseous with putrefying bodies of 
birds, rats, and lizards. A man perishing of thirst 
might have brought himself to drink it, but would 
probably not have survived the draught. It was no 
disappointment to me, for my canteens were newly 
filled, but the incident had a moral for me, neverthe- 
less. 

At the crest of a long rise I looked out over an- 
other great plain studded with brick-red rock piles 
and carrying a thin growth of Joshua trees that 
spread to the horizon, a ghastly pretence of forest. 
In the shimmer of heat they seemed to claw the air. 



146 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

Here yet another track went off, turning easterly to 
a mine, or erstwhile mine, called the Desert Queen, 
and leaving me to a sort of phantom trail which still 
ran northerly mile on mile through the spectral 
forest. 

Presently this trail also forked, sending off a 
branch to the east, and I came to a standstill in 
doubt. I had made careful inquiries at Indio and 
Coachella, and of Emmons, as to forks, crossroads, 
and landmarks, and had been duly warned as to the 
roads I had already passed; but this new turn-off 
had not been spoken of by any one. However, I knew 
that my direction for Twenty-nine Palms was north- 
erly, and the trail in that direction seemed a trifle 
the better marked, so I resolved on that and started. 

In a cactus bush I chanced to notice a scrap of 
board, loosely stuck as if it had been tossed there. 
Going over to investigate, there seemed to be faint 
scratches on it, apparently made with a nail. I 
turned it this way and that, but for some time could 
not make even a guess at what was written. At last, 
by patching possibilities together, the scratches took 
on vague coherence, a questionable "2," a hazard- 
ous "9," and a conceivable "P." The fragment as 
found pointed toward the easterly trail, but from 
the casual way it hung there it might have been 
twisted hither and thither by the wind, so it seemed 
a matter of chance which direction it was meant to 
indicate. It was one of those puzzles that may bring 
one into serious trouble in this country where dis- 
tances are so great, water and food so far between, 
and travel so scanty that it was probably a month, 



PINON WELL TO MECCA 147 

possibly three times as long, since the last person 
had passed or until the next one would appear. 

I resolved to trust the dubious sign and take the 
eastward track. There was difficulty in following it, 
for it was often so faint as to be mere guesswork. It 
is this sort of thing that takes the pleasure out of 
desert travel. The county of Riverside, in which I 
now was, has lately done useful work in the placing 
of metal guide-posts at the main desert road cross- 
ings, but a good deal more needs to be done, while 
other counties quite ignore this need of their desert 
populations. Unfortunately, the maps of the Geo- 
logical Survey do not cover the greater part of this 
troublesome region: and such as are to be had, cheap 
" county " or "miners' " maps, are little better than 
none at all. 

Persistently eastward ran my elusive trail. It was 
nearing a mountain range, the Pintos, and must 
soon turn either north or south, so I kept on, though 
in considerable doubt. At last, when close to the 
hills, it ran into a better travelled track, and with 
relief I found a sign-post with Twenty-nine Palms 
on its northern arm and Cottonwood Springs thirty 
miles to the southeast. 

At this junction, as marked on my map, there are 
supposed to be, near together, two more water- 
holes, Stirrup Tanks and White Tanks. I searched 
for signs of them (the usual signs being the trails 
made by animals going to drink) but failed to dis- 
cover either. I learned afterwards that one of them 
is half-a-mile away in the Cottonwood Springs direc- 
tion; of the other, nobody that I have met has any 



I 4 8 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

knowledge at all. Fortunately, I had an ample sup- 
ply of water, but Kaweah had to be satisfied with a 
promise payable fifteen miles farther on. He is an 
intelligent fellow, and quickly grasps the bearing of 
any indecision that may arise on the matter of trails. 
On such occasions he watches every movement of 
mine with almost human anxiety, and plainly re- 
flects my own doubtful frame of mind. He had been 
as pessimistic as I ever since we left the forks, but 
brightened up when we found the road, and made 
the best of a dry tussock of galleta while I ate my 
lunch: and when we were ready he moved off with 
alacrity and surprised me by offering to canter. 

We were now on a gradual descent, the southern 
rim of the Mojave Desert. From time to time there 
opened vistas of volcanic-looking ranges, with 
glimpses of shimmering gray level or splashes of 
pure white where dry lake-beds glistened with alkali. 
For hundreds of miles this strange dead land extends 
to north and east, known only to venturous pro- 
spectors, a scientific man or two, a few surveyors, a 
handful of miners; to the rest of the world as foreign 
and unimaginable as if it were some territory of 
Mars. Yet what wealth lies locked in that great deso- 
lation, for it is, as indeed it looks, a veritable treas- 
ure house of mineral. Looking out over it one easily 
imagines " goblin or swart fairy of the mine" at 
work on veins of wondrous ore under those gaunt 
hills, ashy gray, livid purple, or dull red as if they 
had been roasted. 

At last, five miles down the slope of a narrow val- 
ley, I saw a speck that might be a building, perhaps 



X WELL TO MECCA 149 

a ranch-house, though no trace of greenness was in 
view as far as eye could see. I pushed on towards it, 
indulging thoughts of eggs, "stove" bread, milk, 
perchance a lettuce. But these hopes faded when 
the supposed farm-house turned into the grouped 
shanties of a small mine. However, I was welcomed 
heartily by the three men on the place, and Kaweah 
was entertained with barley and water the latter 
no trifling gift, for their supply must be replenished 
at Twenty-nine Palms, four miles away. I was 
eagerly questioned for news, for my items were only 
five days old, while their last "news" had passed 
into history two weeks before. The six men who 
were concerned in developing the mine had formed 
themselves into two shifts of three a side, taking 
alternate spells at the works and "inside" (the term 
used by desert men to signify the cities and the coast 
country). The other shift was some days overdue, 
ensnared by the charms of Los Angeles, and these 
poor fellows were continually scanning the horizon, 
like marooned sailors, for signs of the relieving party. 
Evening was coming on, so I soon took the road. 
Tracks led off to other small mines, reminders of the 
lively days of the seventies, when this Twenty-nine 
Palms district was a "camp " of renown. Before long 
the palms came in sight, and we ended a long day's 
march soon after sunset. I off-saddled under a cot- 
tonwood that stood near a deserted house, and found 
pasturage for Kaweah in a little cifoiaga, or marshy 
spot, formerly the site of a village of Chemehuevi 
Indians from the Colorado River. I do not know 
who now owns the land, and, what is of more ac- 



ISO CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

count, the water; but when I come on these aban- 
doned settlements of the Indians, at places where 
they would no doubt have wished to remain, I take 
them for links in an old but still lengthening chain 
of wrong. 

The population of Twenty-nine Palms at the time 
of my visit numbered two, so that my arrival, on 
the eve of the Fourth of July, seemed to cast an air 
of festivity over the scene. The two, one a prospector 
and old haunter of the locality, the other a consump- 
tive from " inside" who was sacrificing every com- 
fort of life for the sake of the dry air of this lonely 
spot, received me cordially enough, but remained 
convinced, I think, in spite of my plain story, that I 
was "lookin' up mineral, ain't you now?" They 
felt it an insult to their intelligence to be asked to 
believe that any one would come to Twenty-nine 
Palms in July for the sake of seeing the country and 
"them old pa'ms." " Country ?" said the sick man, 
waving toward a sunset landscape that would have 
thrown Turner into a frenzy " Country? Th* ain't 
no country round here to 'mount to nuthin'. You 
ever see any, Mac?" And Mac sententiously re- 
plied, "Burned if I ain't forgot what real country 
looks like, anyways." 

Nevertheless, the country was satisfactory to me. 
To lie at dawn and watch the growing glory in the 
east, the pure, dark light stealing up from below the 
horizon, the brightening to holy silver, the first 
flush of amber, then of rose, then a hot stain of crim- 
son, and then the flash and glitter, the intolerable 
splendor, of the monarch, Phoebus Superbus, tyrant 



PlK T ON WELL TO MECCA 151 

of the desert and of me: I jump up hastily and 
hurry through my morning cookery, but not before 
he has taken toll of my day's store of energy. 

Our Fourth was celebrated with make-believe 
shower-baths. At intervals we resorted to the cienaga 
and ladled water over ourselves from a tepid pool, 
and I may say that with a temperature of 112 I 
found it more exhilarating than some displays of 
gunpowder and rhetoric that I remember. Between 
times we talked "lodes" and "pockets," or my 
friends would grind up some bit of " float " and pan 
it out at the spring, with brief excitement over 
"grades" and "colors." Toward evening I walked a 
mile up the slope to the west and enjoyed a memo- 
rable sunset. By some peculiarity of the light, the 
landscape had much the quality of a wash drawing 
in black and white, seen through a thin purplish 
haze. The line of palms made a charming foreground, 
each one a study of airy grace; beyond rose the 
Bullion Mountains, dark dull gray with splashes of 
white where sand had lodged far up, as if it were 
snow; farther to east another range, the Sheepholes, 
of the dead hue of volcanic ash; and over all the 
luminous arch, infinitely remote, with flecks of 
snowy cloud like sheep straying in the blue pastures 
of the sky. Spaciousness and solitude were the ele- 
ments of the scene, and reacted with trance-like 
spell upon the mind. 

As the sun went down a blood-red light suddenly 
came over all the view. I never saw anything more 
startling and instantaneous in its coming, or more 
theatric in its intensity of hue. For the few seconds 



152 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

that it lasted I held my breath. The mountains 
burned as if they were incandescent: Bullion? no, 
the lava of rubies. Then in a moment it had paled 
and like an expiration was gone. 

As I walked back to camp I noticed a small enclo- 
sure, almost hidden among arrowweed. It marked 
the grave of a young girl, most likely one who had 
been brought here in hope of a cure for consumption. 
There is something inhuman in choosing such a 
place of burial for a girl. Nature sets a difference 
even in death, and it seemed a brutal thing to leave 
a girl's young body here. 

Some tokens of old inhabitation at Twenty-nine 
Palms may be seen in remains of shacks and dug- 
outs. One of these had been the den it is the only 
word of one Wilson, the former habituS of the 
place, who held on here in more than pagan squalor 
until he was lately forcibly removed by the county 
authorities. The hut of old Jim Pine, the last of the 
Twenty-nine Palms Indians, stands open to sky and 
gaze, and shows a litter of "rock" specimens (for 
Jim was something of a miner in his day). But min- 
ing camps are in their nature evanescent: why build 
a house, when to-morrow the rush will move on to 
a newer "strike"? But Twenty-nine Palms is still 
a base for prospectors in the desert ranges, on 
account of its water, which is plentiful and good, 
and by reason of being on one of the roads to the 
still important mining settlement of Dale. 

Thanks to the remains of Jim Pine's alfalfa patch, 
Kaweah was in good form when we struck eastward 
next morning toward Dale (or, as it was called in 



WELL TO MECCA 153 

days when it was famous, Virginia Dale) . It was a 
long, tedious march, the country becoming more 
barren at every mile, and the ground a tiresome 
alternation of sand with wide expanses of a sort of 
pavement, made of small bits of stone, reddish or 
black, polished to a slippery degree and set as if in 
a mosaic. It was the first time I met with this pecul- 
iar condition, though I often encountered it after- 
wards. I am still puzzled to account for it: one would 
almost think the fragments had been fitted together 
by hand and rolled down by a road engine. Little 
can grow in such a region. Even the creosote grew 
sparse and stunted here; it is a marvel, indeed, that 
it can exist at all. A few starved encelias showed 
white against the dark ground, and in the sandy 
washes spectral smoke trees quivered in the flicker- 
ing air. Birds were entirely absent except for the 
road-runner, who is a sort of Esau, and whose pecul- 
iar imprint, like a St. Andrew's cross, one meets in 
the most impossible places. 

Ahead ran the ashy Sheephole Range, to south the 
Pintos (a word signif ying spotted, though I saw no 
reason for the name in the barrier of uniform reddish 
rock that kept me company hour after hour). Once 
I caught a glimpse of a high distant ridge that I 
knew must be the Cockscombs, they fitted the name 
so exactly. One or two tracks led off to nominal 
mines, active only to the extent of the assessment 
work which must be performed yearly in onier to 
keep ownership alive. This rite, as it may be called, 
makes the excuse for the owners to set out annually 
from city or ranch, with burro, grub, pick, shovel, 



154 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

and rifle, for two weeks' work on their claims. Natu- 
rally, summer is not the season chosen, water then 
being scantiest and heat most trying, so I saw little 
of these pilgrims of hope: but in winter and spring 
there will be many such parties, ones, twos, and 
threes, creeping about this vast territory wherever 
man, horse, or burro may go (automobile must now 
be added, for the automobilist's maxim is that man, 
with an auto, can go where man has gone before.) 

After six hours' travel, a dot in the distance that I 
had been speculating upon for an hour past began 
to take the shape that I hoped it would an odd 
shape to find in this wilderness, viz. : that of a wind- 
mill of the modern iron type. It marked Lyon's 
Well, which is a watering station for stock, though 
the traveller may see no sign of cattle for days to- 
gether. On nearer approach there appeared a few 
scraps of adobe wall, all that remains of the first 
settlement of Virginia Dale. Of all materials for 
building used by civilized man, adobe is the one 
soonest effaced. Once the roof is gone the rest goes 
quickly "back to the ground from whence it 
sprung/' Fifty years after its palmy days I could 
barely find shelter from the wind in what was left of 
\ irginia Dale. The historian of a mining camp must 
be early on the scene if he is to find anything more 
than the ground on which it stood. 

The pump was out of commission, but I man- 
aged with rope and bucket to supply Kaweah's 
needs. A strong wind^ had begun to blow, adding 
discomfort to tedium, 5 as we turned southward up 
a rocky dope toward a low divide. My next land- 



X WELL TO MECCA 155 

mark, the buildings of an abandoned mine, were a 
welcome sight, for I confess that though I had had 
some experience of Western travel I was often 
anxious on these desert wanderings, where questions 
of forage and water might render a mistake a serious 
matter. 

On reaching the divide, a row of little buildings 
came in sight, two miles away against the foot of a 
mountain. This, I thought, was Dale, and headed 
Kaweah toward it. As we came near I was wondering 
at the deserted look of the place when, turning a 
point, I saw the real Dale perched on the skyline far 
above me. The other place was a sort of parasite, 
whose only reason for being was to help the miners 
of Dale to get rid of their money a matter which 
in a mining camp should be accomplished as speed- 
ily as possible and with as much detriment to one's 
self as circumstances allow. No means of attaining 
these ends has yet been found that can compare 
with investing in chemical whiskey or " dago red " at 
fancy prices, getting gorgeously drunk thereon, and 
then playing monte or poker with a sharper. But 
now, prohibition days have fallen on Riverside 
County, and only one, or perhaps two, "blind pigs" 
grow fat on what they suck from the pockets of the 
miners of Dale. 

One soon comes, in the West, to modify one's 
qualms over acceptance of hospitality from strangers. 
Enrmons had urged me, at Pinon Well, to accom- 
pany him to the mine he was bound for, and told 
me gravely that "the boys" would n't like it if they 
found that I (whom, of course, they had never heard 



I 3 6 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

of) had passed so near without paying them a visit. 
It would cost me nothing, he assured me: the boys 
would regard me as a boon and take care of me as 
long as I would stay. So, too, I found it at Dale. At 
the first house on the stairway-like street I asked 
where I might find lodging, supposing that there 
must be something in the nature of an inn. "Well, 
the Superintendent is away," I was told: "you'd 
better go and see the cashier. He'll fix you up." 
That friendly chap at once took charge of me as of 
an expected guest : insisted on my taking his room 
for my own, and quartered Kaweah in the Com- 
pany's stable. Other conveniences were offered by 
the resident doctor, and in effect I was made free of 
the camp. 

This Dale, I learned, was Dale the Third. As old 
"leads" or veins of ore "peter out" and new ones 
are discovered, the mining camp "follows the lead 3 ' 
in a literal sense. The present camp is about a dozen 
years old, and is supported by one good-sized gold 
mine, named the Supply, though there are a few 
smaller mines in the locality. Fifty or sixty men, half 
a dozen women, a half-score of children, and one 
badly spoiled baby made up the population at the 
time of rny stay. The mine is a highly organized 
affair, with electric-lighted buildings and a water 
supply pumped from wells six miles away. Day and 
night the whirr and crash of engines goes on un- 
ceasing. It was strange to wake at night and hear 
the roar of machinery in that remote place, all the 
more so after weeks of Nature's quietude. 

The village consists of (beside the mine structures) 



PlffON WELL TO MECCA 157 

a score or so of temporary looking houses and cab- 
ins, spotted about without any pretence of order. 
A store, with kitchen and dining-room attached, and 
a cashier's office of stone are all the buildings of any 
size. The post-office shares quarters with a Club- 
room containing an antique pool-table, the felt worn 
to a curiosity and the pockets as hopeless as a 
bachelor's. Relics of the Fourth remained in the 
shape of a wire cable stretched across the street with 
fag-ends of rockets and Roman candles still attached. 

I do not know how the place got its name, whether 
through some Virginian who thus showed his loyalty 
to the Old Dominion, or perhaps by way of compli- 
ment to some charmer of a sentimental Argonaut. 
However that may be, the present site, encircled by 
steep, rough mountains, is really a kind of dale; 
though it brought a pang to think of Martindale, 
Grisedale, Ravenstonedale, and other old Lakeland 
nooks, flowery and green where this was harshly 
red and gray. Yet when I climbed above the village 
at sunset, and the light came warmer on crag and 
gully, the shadows more tender in the hollow of the 
pass yes, that might be Glaramara, and that Con- 
iston Old Man; in that winding gorge UUswater 
might lie, or, scarcely less solitary than this, lonely, 
lovely \Yastwater. 

The view to the north was memorable as an ex- 
ample of the ultra-desolate. Beyond the ragged 
brown foreground lay the pale gray expanse of a 
dry lake, whitened near its centre by the alkaline 
deposit from its vanished waters. Beyond that rose 
the ashy wall of the Sheephole Mountains, quite 



I 5 8 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

lunar in their look of geologic age and dreariness. A 
thread-like line that skirted the lake bed and faded 
in a gap of the hills marked the road to Amboy, forty 
miles away, Dale's shortest link with the rest of the 
world. 

Capping their hospitalities to me, my good friends 
would not allow me even to settle for Kaweah's 
provender, saying that "the Company" expected 
to take care of little things like that. It is unlikely 
that these pages will meet the eye of the Croesus 
who counts this bagatelle of a gold mine among his 
numberless "properties" his name is one at 
which Wall Street holds its breath but anyway I 
hereby make acknowledgment of my obligation. 

We left Dale amid the good wishes of a score of 
the men, who were gathered before the eating-house 
ready for the stampede at sound of the breakfast 
bell. One or two of them I met again at later stages 
of my journey, and was amused to learn what droll 
rumors had been in circulation regarding my object 
in coming to Dale, Your miner must have his little 
mystery, and if needful will hatch one for himself. 
I was even credited with being the agent of mighty 
financial interests, perhaps solemnizing thought 
Croesus himself in disguise. 

The "blind pig" of the suburbs was already astir 
as I passed, and was as portly a pig as could be ex- 
pected. The few sentences that passed while I 
watered Kaweah showed that he was a suspicious 
pig too, which was not surprising in these times 
when even deputy sheriffs sometimes are unfriendly 
to pork. My road led eastward through a narrow 



PlftON WELL TO MECCA 159 

canon where every hillside had a metallic look at 
the most casual glance. Everywhere were prospect 
holes, or deeper workings where the mountain had 
spewed out piles of glittering gray rock. Here and 
there were scraps of machinery, old windlasses and 
boilers, dragged here at enormous expense, now 
mere rusty monuments to the ruling passion ; though, 
to be fair, one must say to man's energy, hardihood, 
and determination, as well. 

The stony track made rough going for Kaweah. 
Fortunately I had had him shod (a new experience 
for him, though he was rising nine when I bought 
him) at Indio, in anticipation of the rocky country 
we should meet in the mountains. I was glad when 
the canon opened southward upon a wide plain, a 
dozen miles or more across, through which the road 
ran straight to vanishing point. The sun was unusu- 
ally severe; the scanty vegetation gave no relief to 
the eye ; and all there was of variety for mile on mile 
was the alternation of glaring sand with darker 
pavement-like stretches that reflected the sun gleam 
with added intensity. The air was in a tremor of 
heat, and under my sombrero my eyes ached so 
that I often closed them and left Kaweah to pilot 
us alone. Sometimes I dismounted and walked in 
order to relieve him, but this was a signal for him 
to slacken his pace to almost a standstill; so having 
no mind to drag half a ton of horseflesh I soon 
mounted again, whereat he sighed, eyed me with 
soft reproach, and stood waiting till a touch of the 
spur urged him to a spiritless shuffle. 
Still far to the east rose the Cocksownbs, ghostlike 



i6o CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

in the flicker and haze. On my right was the Pinto 
Range, now showing a patching of light and dark 
masses that gave point to the name. Ahead were the 
Eagle and Cottonwood Mountains, into which the 
road vanished as if there it must end. Hours passed 
in stupefying heat while I alternately dozed in the 
saddle or dragged the apathetic Kaweah along at 
snail-like pace. The creosotes moved listlessly when 
for a moment the wind came with furnace-like 
breath. There was little comfort in the canteen, for 
the water was unpleasantly hot, and the vacant shell 
of a tortoise, or bleaching ribs of cattle, were objects 
not interesting to a jaded mind. The spry white 
lizards seemed the only things that kept any touch 
of energy, I might almost say of life. 

By early afternoon we reached the entrance to a 
rocky pass that led into the mountains, and stopped 
for rest and lunch. I had saved a feed of barley for 
Kaweah, which he munched with indifference and 
then dozed with drooping head, too fagged to crop 
the scraps of galleta that I pointed out to him. Loath 
as I was to move on, I could not afford more than 
the regulation hour, for there were many miles 
ahead of us before we should reach the next water. 

The wash that issued from this canon was filled 
with a dense growth of the smoke tree, looking like a 
column of men in light gray uniform winding away 
in close-shut ranks across the plain. The flowering 
season was nearly past, but the ground was colored 
deep blue by the fallen petals. Plant life became 
more varied as we gained the higher ground, as is 
always the case in these desert canons, bare as they 



PlHON WELL TO MECCA 161 

look from the plain. I saw yuccas of three species, 
the lycium with its ruby-like berries, the simmond- 
sia, which bears a nut of good flavor, the curious sal- 
azaria, covered with quaint little bladders, even the 
wild buckwheat common on the coast, to say noth- 
ing of the eternal cat-claw and the common desert 
growths. There appeared also a plant or two of the 
rare NoHna parryi, their tall flowering-stalks bearing 
masses of yellow seed-vessels that reminded me of 
hydrangea bloom. 

Soon after crossing the divide I noticed a rude 
cross close beside the road. Later I learned that it 
marked the grave of a man named Riley who died 
here of thirst a few years ago. He had left the Dale 
mines intending to walk to the railway at Mecca. 
The footprints showed that he reached a point 
almost within sight of Cottonwood Springs: it may 
have been dark or dusk, so that he failed to see the 
spot of green a mile farther on that marks the water. 
He turned back towards Dale, but soon turned again, 
staggered as far as this, and here died. A brother of 
his is said to have lost his life in the same way soon 
afterward on the road from Dale to Amboy. Similar 
tragedies occur every year in these deserts, and it 
would seem that the county authorities, or the 
State, or the nation, might afford out of our millions 
of taxation the small sum that would suffice to set 
up guide-posts on these roads, indicating where 
water is to be found, the distance to it, and if neces- 
sary the marks by which the exact place is to be 
known. It is now quite possible for some wretch to 
perish in the tortures of thirst within so short a dis- 



162 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

tance of water that by a final effort he might have 
reached it. 

It was just sunset when I caught sight of a cotton- 
wood in a cleft of the canon wall. In a few minutes 
we were at Cottonwood Springs, among shady trees 
and with excellent water in abundance. We had 
made thirty miles of extra tiring travel, and I re- 
solved to stop for a day and enjoy the beauty of the 
spot. But when, after we had drunk our fill, I 
searched for pasturage, the pleasing prospect faded. 
I had been told that I should find grass in plenty 
here, but except for a few scraps of half -dead "fila- 
ree" there was nothing to serve for forage. For to- 
night we must make the best of a bad job, and in 
the morning push on to Mecca, twenty-five miles 
away. With compunction I picketed Kaweah for the 
night on his meagre billet, he watching me with 
anxious gaze as I moved away. 

I ate a cold supper, drank about five gallons of 
water, smoked a pipe, and turned in, not before en- 
joying a shower-bath of the desert sort, by means of 
my tin drinking cup. With musical rustle of cotton- 
woods I was wafted to luxurious sleep. 

As I was saddling up for an early start, a Crusoe- 
like figure appeared on the hill above a doorless 
cabin that I had decided to be uninhabited. The old 
man proved to be a caretaker in charge of the ma- 
chinery which pumps water from this place to a 
mine eighteen miles to the east. (Such are the diffi- 
culties that must often be overcome before these 
desert mines can be worked.) Crusoe seeming 
friendly, and urging a longer stay, I explained my 



PlNON WELL TO MECCA 163 

case, when he mentioned that in a locked building 
near by there was a little store of hay, the property 
of a Mecca man who occasionally made trips to a 
claim in the Eagle Mountains. He also offered the 
opinion that "a feller's boss hadn't oughter go 
hungry when there was hay layin' aroun'." Enough 
said: I could pay the owner when I reached Mecca: 
so I took French leave, off -saddled, and treated my 
surprised Kaweah to a hearty breakfast. 

Under these circumstances I returned to my 
former programme and passed an easy day, revel- 
ling in shade, cool sweet water, and leisurely meals 
at which Crusoe bore me company. Cottonwood 
Springs is one of the few desert watering-places at 
which the traveller would wish to stay longer than 
necessity requires. Some bygone hermit had planted 
a few apple trees, which promised a tolerable crop, 
and there was even a garden patch where Crusoe 
cultivated radishes, beans, and tomatoes for the 
benefit of the local quail and jack-rabbits. An old 
arrastra (the primitive means of crushing ore in a 
circular pit, by dragging heavy weights over it, 
with horse or mule for motive power) spoke of old 
times and timers, and the samples of rock scattered 
about would have furnished several museums with 
specimens. My friend's conversation bore all upon 
mining affairs and was Hebrew to me ; while mine no 
doubt was equally worthless to him, for the desert 
had dried out every interest but one, and turned 
him into a sort of mineral. 

While I was deep in slumber that night I had a 
sudden alarm of rumble and shouting, and jumped 



164 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

up just in time to escape being trampled by a pair 
of horses that failed to see me until they were almost 
on me, when they reared and backed on the heavy 
wagon. It was the owner of that hay, come at mid- 
night as if to avenge his wrongs. At the moment, 
that seemed to be his mood when he heard my story: 
but in the morning he felt better about it, and be- 
came quite friendly when he pocketed his scanda- 
lous overcharge. 

Sunrise found us on the move down the canon, in 
shadow of high walls from which came ever and anon 
the haunting call of the canon wren, as charming as 
that other 

"Sweet bird, that shun'st the noise of folly, 
Most musical, most melancholy." 

The air in these desert canons at early morning, 
before the sun shines in, is about the finest in the 
world, cool, light, mildly energizing, pure as the 
upper ether. It was enchanting to ride in ease and 
shade, not now too wearied to feel the finer glory of 
the sun-ray as it roused the dull tone of common 
rock into living flush of color, kindled the upper cliff 
to a beacon flame, trimmed each coping and pin- 
nacle with tremulous fire. The canon sides here were 
high and precipitous, and weathered at the top into 
fantastic confusion. Outlined with toppling crags 
and turrets qn an almost overhead skyline were 
spectral yuccas and ocotillos, their rigid shapes fully 
in keeping with the crude rock forms among which 
they appeared. 

In the canon bottom a few palo verdes were still 
in blossom, along with desert willow and cat-claw. 



PlffON WELL TO MECCA 165 

I here began to meet the palo fierro or ironwood, a 
tree that to me has always an interesting, friendly 
look. I had hoped to find it in flower, but it was a 
month too late, and the apple-green foliage was 
sprinkled thickly with brown seed-vessels. This 
locality seems to be about the northwesterly limit 
of the tree's growth. 

To the canon there ensued the usual expanse of 
gravelly plain, somewhat relieved here by a remark- 
ably fine growth of ocotillos. Their short season of 
beauty was over, the leaves had fallen and left the 
thorny canes skeleton-like and gray, and the fiery 
blossoms were dried to the color of rust. But in size 
many of them far exceeded the ordinary. Some were 
over twenty feet in height, with butts as thick as 
well-grown oaks. The typical contour of the desert 
mountains also is specially well marked in this local- 
ity. The steep slope of the rock wall meets the hori- 
zontal abruptly, with no conjoining curve; but from 
every canon a long straight tongue or bajada runs 
out at low angle, and even then the junction with 
the line of the plain is clearly marked. That is the 
desert: no suavity, grace, or curve of beauty, but 
always a stark construction of right lines and angles, 
repeated to the point of obsession. 

A higher mass at length came in sight to the south, 
and I recognized Santa Rosa; then, more westerly, 
San Jacinto swung into view: both faintly drawn 
in the haze, mere bands of uncertain blue hardly 
darker than the sky. A few more miles, and far in 
the west I caught a glimpse of what seemed a white 
iceberg, showing above the long, sea-like horizon of 



166 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

a distant mesa. It was the topmost crest of San 
Gorgonio, the thousand feet or so by which it over- 
tops the two-mile mark. 

I was now again approaching the so-called mud 
hills which here form the inner barrier before reach- 
ing the open levels of the Colorado Desert. Presently 
the road passed into a gorge framed by high white 
cliffs. In this peculiar formation the elements find 
free play, and they have made the most of the oppor- 
tunity. One can hardly credit those plodding work- 
men, water, wind, and frost, with these spectacular 
forms, which seem more in the style of Vulcan's art. 
Thunderbolts might have riven these vast perpen- 
dicular scars, these crumbling turrets and threaten- 
ing towers, which hint more of dynamics than of 
slow erosion. 

A mile down the canon we found ourselves at 
Shafer's Well. It was only mid-morning, so there 
was time for a good rest. I threw off the saddle and 
left Kaweah to pick what he chose out of a scatter- 
ing of hay that some prodigal team had wasted, 
while I niched myself into a scrap of shade and 
watched, between dozes, the antics of a troupe of 
chipmunks. These jolly little scamps, hardly bigger 
than mice, are the most entertaining of the whole 
Sciurus tribe (which is a good deal to say when one 
remembers the Douglas squirrel of the Sierra). Their 
impudence is delicious, quite in the style of the 
Artful Dodger. They are practical jokes incarnate, 
and there is something positively wicked in the cock 
of their tails. 

The cool of evening was still some hours away 



PlftON WELL TO MECCA 167 

when we took the road for the last stage of this part 
of our travels. The gorge became narrower, the walls 
higher and in places vertical. I have changed my 
mind so often with regard to the possibilities of tem- 
perature, whether greater in canons or in the open, 
that I hesitate to say that the heat that July after- 
noon marked a new record in my experience. The 
winding of the canon shut off all chance of a breeze; 
the white walls and the white sand of the bottom 
reflected the sun's rays mercilessly; the canon 
seemed to reverberate with heat and light. Once or 
twice it grew almost insupportable and I fancied I 
felt warnings df vertigo. I have no doubt that the 
thermometer, if a shade reading could have been 
taken, would have shown 125 or over. Kaweah, 
like a true Indian, pushed doggedly on through the 
yielding sand. Bronco he may be, but I have found 
every ounce of him good staunch horse. 

The canon widened, and at a turn behold! the 
Salton Sea lay across the opening, faintly blue, mys- 
terious, romantic, pictorial. At the same moment a 
breeze met us; not cool, oh no, but bringing at least 
a touch of life into the stagnation, even a momen- 
tary tang of good salty ocean. Beyond the line of 
blue rose the opaline barrier of Santa Rosa, and far 
to southward, Superstition Mountain, hardly more 
than a shadow on the sky. 

Passing into the open I looked westward up the 
valley. Dark clumps of cottonwoods marked the 
sites of the nearest ranches, five miles away: a trail 
of smoke, like that from a steamer far out at sea, 
showed where a train was running down from the 



168 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

Pass: hazy in distance, the places of the little settle- 
ments of the Coachella Valley could be guessed : and 
over all, though now low on the horizon, San Jacinto 
and San Gorgonio kept the gateway of the Pacific. 
Mecca, a nondescript hamlet and railway point near 
the northern margin of the Salton Sea, was now 
only a few miles away, and at evening we came to 
rest and welcome at the ranch of a friend who grows 
the earliest grapes of the season, at appropriate 
prices, for "such as choose to buy them." Here we 
enjoyed again for a few days plentiful hay, cultured 
society, newspapers, music, and, what seemed the 
consummation, the sight and sound of water gur- 
gling day and night from artesian wells. 

The round I had made since leaving the valley 
had taken me about a hundred and fifty miles, 
roughly in a circle. Ten miles away was Coachella, 
whence I had started a week before. 



CHAPTER XI 

A DESERT RIDE: MECCA TO FIGTREE JOHN 

Painted Canon Complicated shapes and strange colors The 
Heroic Age of Geologies Work of earth-sprites Solitude 
Hot drinking-water A date plantation Erosion once more 
A "low-down" newspaper Camp at Toro A friendly capitan 

Martinez Indian village Cahuilla Indian wells The old 
fish-traps Alamo Bonito Indian village A thunder-storm 
The Oasis Ranch: a swimming-pool The Salton Sea, its origin 

Engineer vs. River Pelicans Figtree John Valuable 
archives Duke of Conejo Prieto Hair-ropes and rattlesnakes 

A sophisticated "sitter" Camp at Figtree John Springs 
Evening colors Night and coyotes. 

A FEW miles to the north of Mecca a canon 
opens into the Cottonwood Mountains that is 
remarkable for the contour and the coloring' of its 
walls. It is known as Painted Canon. A view of it 
well repaid the discomfort of the ride on a July 
morning with the thermometer at 110 in the shade. 
A broad horizontal band of red on the face of the 
mud-colored foothills plainly marks the point of 
entrance. 1 

These foothills never fail to rouse my curiosity 
by the complicated shapes into which the material 
has been wrought. The material is earth, not rock, 
and is mostly of a pale gray hue, approaching white. 
Erosion, supplementing the work of some violent 
original upthrow, has produced a most intricate med- 
ley of forms. At a mile or two, the light and shade 
effects are so eccentric as to seem artificial. Creasing, 

1 It is not the canon that opens directly into the red formation, 
but the next one to the westward, that is most notable. 



170 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

pleating, braiding, dovetailing, are carried to the 
point of confusion; yet on this vast scale it has a 
look of orderliness that is unnatural: and under 
sunset light this whole foothill range for leagues be- 
comes a chequer of red and purple, a charm of color, 
a mystery of design. 

On entering the canon the sides are at first not 
high, and are built of whitish earth. But as one goes 
on the walls increase in height and verticality, and 
in strangeness of form, while the canon narrows to 
a gorge, then a defile. Novel colors appear. Cliffs 
mainly of dusky red are banded and splashed with 
lavender, chocolate, bright ochre, purple, gray, ashy 
dark green, and brilliant lighter red. Clefts only a 
few feet in width wind away from the main canon. 
Curious shapes are met gullies, cirques, domed 
recesses, tunnels, perpendicular walls of unbroken 
smoothness topped with turrets and spires in peril- 
ous balance. There has been wild work here in some 
Heroic Age of Geologies: enormous mud eruptions, 
I suppose, succeeded by cooling conditions almost 
equally violent, and these followed by ages of varied 
though slower play of elements. Even Kaweah was 
impressed, and stared about him like any tourist 

The passage way became yet narrower, the cliffs 
more vast. I do not think five hundred feet is an 
overestimate of their height in some places, and the 
nearness of the walls to the beholder doubles or 
trebles their towering effect. One feels as if he were 
at the bottom of a well. A feature that interested 
me was the formation, in places, of a sort of lace- 
work, curiously fashioned of earth, which hung in 




IN PAINTED CANON 



MECCA TO FIGTREE JOHN 171 

perpendicular valances from projecting ledges where 
water had trickled over the cliff face; the work, one 
might fancy, of some race of gnomes or fairy cliff- 
dwellers, who inhabited the crannies of the wall and 
wove this airy grill to screen their privacy. 

After some miles I dismounted and sat down in 
the strip of shade at the foot of the cliff. The silence 
was profound. No breeze penetrated thus far, no 
rustle of wing, piping of insect, nor hint of delicate 
footfall broke the trance-like stillness. The dead air 
and the pressure of heat in that confined space 
added to the feeling of absolute solitude. Only the 
swing of an eagle across the narrow ribbon of sky 
told of life, motion, the sentient in Nature. On the 
sand near by lay the carcass of a raven. Then, mo- 
mentarily breaking the spell, from some ledge far 
overhead came a shower of pearl-like notes, the 
sweet, unvarying phrase of the canon wren, plain- 
tive, beseeching, like Orpheus's farewell to Eurydice. 

At this season there was no water in the canon, 
though in winter a feeble trickle is sometimes forced 
to the surface by an outcropping ledge of granite. 
My canteen supplied my own needs, but Kaweah 
seemed unhappy and must have longed to drink. 
So I refrained from exploring farther than some four 
miles of the canon, which continued to wind on, 
apparently into the heart of the mountain. On the 
return I noted a few clumps of the rare Aster orcuttii 
still holding their large lavender blossoms, the only 
flowers and almost the only plants that the place 
afforded. 

Halfway down the canon a hot wind met us. It 



172 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

had a fierce, stinging quality that made the skin 
smart, and seemed as if it would wither the eyeballs 
through the lids. The water in the canteen became 
so hot that it was only while in the act of drinking 
that thirst was allayed. Kaweah hurried along with- 
out need of spur, and when we reached camp drank 
until I feared the water resources of the valley 
would be endangered and made him stop. I poured 
what remained in the canteen into my canvas wash- 
basin, and on using it several minutes afterwards 
found it uncomfortably hot. Its temperature by the 
thermometer was 108. 

When a friend who had a date plantation near 
Thermal an over-modest name at this season 
a few miles up the valley, invited me to visit his 
place, I was prompt to comply. Months of solitary 
travel lay ahead, and I did n't miss any chance of 
society while I could get it. My friend himself was 
absent, but the jolly young Canadian foreman and 
a delightful Mexican family who worked on the 
place made my stay pleasant and profitable. The 
owner is one of the pioneers of the date industry, 
and an importer of the palms on a large scale from 
the African and Asiatic date regions. The plantation 
was a picture of thrift and perfect cultivation, and 
the young Algerians, Arabians, and Persians seemed 
as comfortable as though Santa Rosa Mountain, 
across the valley, were Ararat, Sinai, or the Atlas. 

One of the neighboring canons gave another ex- 
ample of the fantastic in natural carving. The walls 
are in places wrought to almost a cathedral look of 
fineness, and with their whitish color take on, at a 



MECCA TO FIGTREE JOHN 173 

little distance, almost the look of old ivory. Deeply 
worn trails of bighorn marked the hillsides here and 
there, and once the silence was broken by a far-off 
bleat that only augmented the sense of solitude. 

It was a sultry, half -cloudy day when I moved 
southward across the valley to the old Indian village 
of Toro. There was little token of desert in the green 
fields of alfalfa, willow-shaded reservoirs, and flocks 
of water-loving blackbirds that I passed; but along 
the mountain-side ran the ancient sea-line, remind- 
ing me that I was in one of Neptune's cellarages, 
pumped dry by the sun. There used to be a little 
newspaper published monthly at Thermal, that bore 
the heading, "The Coachella Valley Submarine, 
published 122 feet below sea-level." A humorous 
sub-heading described this inoffensive sheet as "the " 
most low-down newspaper on earth." I know of 
others to which such a character might be attributed 
seriously enough. 

Arrived at Toro, I sought an interview with the 
capitan. He bore the unromantic name of Joe Pete, 
but was a good-looking, portly, friendly fellow, who 
willingly showed me a good spot for my camp in a 
grassy corner of his little farm. There were evidences 
of thrift in his neat house of cement blocks and in 
flourishing rows of grape-vines, cantaloupes, and so 
forth; also in his wife, busy with the blackberry 
patch. Two boys and half-a-dozen dogs made it their 
business to interview me, and I was put through a 
short but sharp examination: "What your name?" 
"Where you come from?" "Where you go?" 
"When?" "Where you get you pony?" "How 



174 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

much?" "Can he buck?" and "What you do, you 
prospect? " When my turn came there was not much 
to be got beyond shy grins and much shuffling of 
dusty feet : but I learned that one of the boys was Joe 
Pete's godson, and that he lived with his godfather 
in preference to staying at his proper home, close 
by: which seemed to speak well for the big capitan. 

There were heavy clouds and vivid lightning that 
evening to the north, and I guessed they were 
catching it up at Dale and Twenty-nine Palms* 
Once or twice in most summers an electrical storm 
breaks over these mountains, but the rain seldom 
reaches the open desert. It may sometimes be seen 
falling but is likely to evaporate in mid-air and re- 
turn unspent to the parent cloud. Joe Pete, who came 
over while I was breakfasting to present me with a 
melon, promised two months of what he called 
"Little warm, like this" (it was then about 95, 
less than an hour after sunrise). 

In the morning I went on to the next village, 
Martinez, a short distance down the valley. Some- 
where hereabout there were to be seen until lately 
examples of the wells dug by the Indians of olden 
days. I got an intelligent young Indian to pilot me 
to the sites of three of them, but they were now 
shapeless pits filled with mesquit and other brush. 
The water supply is now the commonplace one by 
pipe and bucket, no longer per squaw, marching 
picturesquely with otta through thickets of arrow- 
weed and mesquit to draw from the pool at the foot 
of the earthen stairway, returning with plentiful 
germs of typhoid fever. I have inquired for these old 



MECCA TO FIGTREE JOHN 175 

wells in other parts of the desert where formerly 
there were large Indian settlements, but have failed 
to find one remaining in tolerable condition. I am 
told that these Indians, the Cahuillas, are the only 
tribe known to have solved the water problem by 
digging wells. 

At the foot of Santa Rosa Mountain, a short dis- 
tance from Martinez, there is an interesting relic of 
aboriginal times that is fairly well preserved, though 
it must be of very great age. A number of years ago 
there appeared in a Los Angeles paper an account 
of the discovery of remains of a prehistoric city in 
this locality. The story had all the marks of a mare's 
nest, but I fancy that this that I refer to may have 
been its foundation. The object is hard to find, being 
indistinguishable until one is on the very spot, and 
even then it might be overlooked. Yet it is as un- 
mistakably man's handiwork as the cliff dwellings, 
when once the eye grasps it. In a little recess or bay, 
perhaps three hundred yards wide, at the foot of 
the mountain one sees a curious arrangement of the 
stones that litter the slope. They seem at first to be 
grouped in circular formation, as if they marked the 
outlines of small round huts. The circles are not 
complete, however, but are like horseshoes, with the 
openings on the upper side. The slope is covered 
with continuous lines of these horseshoes, nearly 
touching one another, the rows extending almost 
from side to side of the recess. The diameter of the 
horseshoes is six or eight feet, and there are several 
rows, one above the other, like terraces along the 
foot of the slope. 



176 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

When one observes that these stone horseshoes 
are placed just at the level of the former sea, their 
nature becomes plain. They were simply fish traps. 
Whether the entire set was built when this was a 
tidal shore, and the sundry rows were meant to 
serve for higher or lower tides, or whether the traps 
date from more recent times when this was an in- 
land (and therefore tideless) sea, and the ranks were 
built downward in succession as the water line gradu- 
ally lowered, I must leave to heads more archaeo- 
logical than mine. When I spoke of the place to one 
of the Martinez Indians he knew at once what I 
meant and referred to the objects unhesitatingly as 
"the old fish-traps." 

A short ride from Martinez took me to Alamo 
Bonito, 1 another Indian village, taking its name 
from the trees that mark its location from miles 
away. It is ruled by Jake Razon as capitan, and to 
him I applied for permission to camp near the water, 
and for Kaweah's rations of hay. At first he was 
suspicious, for which I did n't blame him, especially 
as my military saddle and other traps gave a half- 
official look to my coming. I had broken in on a 
family watermelon party too; but after talking me 
over while they finished the melon, Jake relented, 
and again all was hunkydory, as a former host had 
phrased it. He came over after supper for a chat; 
but his Anglo-Indian-Spanish was too abstruse for 
me, and was complicated by one or two original 
compound idioms that found place in every sen- 
tence, for instance," Sometime-anytime" and "You- 
1 Spanish, alamo = cottonwood; bonito = beautiful. 



MECCA TO FIGTREE JOHN 177 

see-you-bet." I gathered, however, that some local 
authority was bent upon breaking up the few re- 
maining tribal customs of these harmless people, 
such as the periodical fiesta and the use of their 
Indian language. It seems odd that Indian officials 
are so enthralled by the repressive idea, which may 
be summed up as "See what those confounded 
Indians are doing and make them stop it." 

I slept well with Jake's scanty hay pile for mat- 
tress, but was aware once or twice of thunder, light- 
ning, and sprinklings of rain. Just before dawn 
there came a splitting crash right overhead. I jumped 
up and found a partial shelter, which only enabled 
me to soak piecemeal instead of going in for a whole- 
hearted sousing at once, which would have been 
much more comfortable. A mare and colt that had 
been my neighbors all night, gradually nibbling my 
mattress away, dashed wildly about at every flash 
and roar. Kaweah was not interested; he had hay 
to attend to, and munched on, sloppy but happy. 

The farthest outpost of civilization in this direc- 
tion is the Oasis Ranch, a flourishing spot where, 
owing to plentiful water, desert life is almost luxu- 
rious. I had meant to camp there for one night, but 
the cordial welcome I met from the caretakers and 
from some friendly people who owned adjoining 
land was too much for me: though the oranges, 
grapes, and melons, with the charms of a reservoir 
big enough for swimming-pool, also had weight. It 
would be my last taste of such pleasures for a pretty 
long spell, and I willingly succumbed to a three 
days' stay. Pasturage moreover was plentiful, and 



i?8 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

the fig season at its prime. At evening we all took 
to the water, and for an hour the welkin rang with 
shoutings, splashings, and barkings. When I re- 
tired, cooled to sleeping point, repose was enlivened 
by big over-ripe figs that dropped on me at inter- 
vals through the night. 

My route now was for a few miles near the margin 
of the Salton Sea. This body of water is well worth 
a paragraph, and the more so, perhaps, for the rea- 
son that it will probably find no place on the maps 
of the next generation of schoolboys. The central 
part of the Colorado Desert has long been known 
to be below sea-level, a fact, indeed, plainly stamped 
on the face of the country in the water line of the 
ancient beach. The means by which Neptune lost 
this corner of his domain can be stated in few words. 

In far distant times the point at which the Colo- 
rado River debouched into the Gulf of California 
was not, as it is now, at the head of the Gulf. The 
sea then reached farther northward, to the limit 
shown by the old shore line, so that the river's 
mouth was some distance to the south of the sea's 
northern boundary. In course of ages, the great 
stream (then no doubt engaged in the carving of that 
marvellous canon that ranks perhaps first among 
the geographical wonders of the world) built up 
with its silt a dam which in time extended com- 
pletely across the Gulf, leaving the upper part cut 
off from the ocean. This isolated part (which was 
over two thousand square miles in area, and by 
geologists is named Lake Cahuilla, from the Indian 
tribe that inhabited its western side) receiving 



MECCA TO FIGTREE JOHN 179 

practically no supplies of water, tended to disappear 
by evaporation. 

From time to time, however, the river must have 
broken in, with the result that the lake became 
brackish. Thus, the shells that are a noticeable fea- 
ture of all the below-sea-level area are of kinds 
native to fresh or brackish waters. The shell-remains 
of the original sea epoch are now found high above 
sea-level, betokening some great upheaval in remote 
times. It is to the brackish period that the deposits 
of travertine (calcium carbonate) are due. Proof can 
be seen, in marks of old lake beaches at various 
levels, that there was a succession of complete or 
partial fillings and emptyings of the lake basin, the 
inflow no doubt usually coming from the river, but 
perhaps sometimes from the Gulf. 

From Indian tradition it would seem that for a 
long time prior to recent years the lake bed as a rule 
has been dry. Great deposits of salt occupied the 
deepest portion, and, a few years ago, were being 
worked on a large scale. In 1891 there occurred a 
relatively small inflow from the river, creating a 
shallow lake of some two hundred square miles: but 
in 1905, through the weakness of levees and head- 
gates of the canal system that was carrying the 
Colorado River water on to the lands of the new 
Imperial Valley settlement, came a greater flood 
which caused serious loss and threatened a whole- 
sale disaster. For over two years the water rose, 
until it seemed as if it would entirely fill its old basin. 
It was not till early in 1907 that the Engineer finally 
conquered the River. (I say finally, but after all that 



i8o CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

is a word man should never use for his little victories 
over physical nature.) At that time the lake was over 
four hundred square miles in area, with a depth of 
more than eighty feet an imposing body of water. 

That is the so-called Salton Sea. Evaporation has 
somewhat reduced it, and in about twenty years, 
should there be no new inflow, it will probably have 
disappeared, perhaps forever. To-day it is still a 
great expanse, which looked at over its farthest 
extent appears a veritable sea, with no horizon of 
land to mark its bounds. 

Near the western margin of this geologically 
romantic lake my road now ran to the southward. 
The water, faintly blue and ideally calm, looked, in 
the summer haze, like a water-color drawing, and 
the mountains beyond, the Cottonwoods and 
Chuckwallas, might have been an "insubstantial 
pageant" instead of the uncompromising reality 
that I had lately experienced. The Chocolate Range, 
farther to the south, was a mere dream of air tints, 
quite phantasmic. On the nearer shore a white and 
grisly rank of dead mesquits stood like skeletons. 
They had been killed by the flooding of the basin 
and had but lately emerged as the water receded. 
Here and there among the branches were many 
nests of pelicans, which make this inland sea, swarm- 
ing with fish of one or two coarse species, their home 
and breeding ground. The effect upon the mind was 
of a Dead Sea, with horror veiled under a Circean 
smile. Nor did the sight of the old beach line, with 
its hint of vanished ages, of countless generations 
long passed away, at all lessen the impression. 



; MECCA TO FIGTREE JOHN 181 

The Indian patriarch of these parts is old Juan 
Razon, or, as he is better known, "Figtree John." 
In former times he lived, far from whites and other 
Indians, at a spot a few miles to the south. It is to 
be known by a few fig trees and is marked on 
Government maps as Figtree John Springs. When 
the Salton Sea submerged his little estate he moved 
to another spot, called Agua Dulce, on somewhat 
higher ground. I already had a slight acquaintance 
with him, and was pleased now to meet him as he 
was leading his horse to water. When I had sur- 
rendered the can of tobacco with which I had come 
prepared, he invited me to share a watermelon with 
him at his house. I hastened to agree to this excel- 
lent idea. The mellowest sandia was brought from 
his little patch and bisected* with a rusty hatchet, 
and we sat in shade of the ramada and chatted while 
the cooling hemispheres rapidly melted away. To 
my regret, Mrs. John was coy and would not join 
us, nor would a huge girl who gloomily watched 
the melon's effacement through peepholes in the 
brush partition. 

From a chummy, almost fraternal, tone, John 
became impressive. An old satchel was produced, 
and proved to contain archives that revealed my 
friend in higher r&les. First was a photograph, ten- 
derly wrapped, of himself en cavalier, wearing a 
police uniform the feature of which, apart from a 
certain roominess of fit, was its double rows of 
gleaming buttons. The severity of a stove-pipe hat 
gave effect to an attitude of martial rigidity which 
he had thought proper on the occasion of being 



182 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

"taken." A possible defect of 'topheaviness was off- 
set by bare feet which corrected any impression of 
overdress. The steed, appropriate for a desert chief- 
tain, was a minute donkey, whose dramatically 
pointed ears betokened a deep sense of responsibility. 

Next an aged document was perilously unfolded 
and spread before me. In clerkly hand and formal 
phrase it set forth that Cabezon, the last great chief 
of the Cahuillas, did thereby name and appoint 
Juanito (= Johnny, or Little John) Razon to be 
capitan of the Agua Dulce Tuba village, and to 
exercise authority in the name, place, and stead of 
said Chief Cabezon; and called upon his people to 
render respect and obedience to said Johnny in all 
said Johnny's lawful commands: etc., etc.: "given 
under my hand this so-and-so/' and signed with a 
cross in presence of a witness. Then came some 
ragged maps, apparently rough drafts of surveyors. 
These, he held, made him owner of all the territory 
shown, running from the last low ridge of the Santa 
Rosas (the ridge was named Hiawat on the map, 
evidently an Indian word, though John could not 
translate it into Spanish) as far as Conejo Prieto or 
Black Rabbit Peak. No wonder he eyed me closely 
while these valuable papers were in my grasp. 

Before I left I bought of him a mecate or rope of 
plaited horse-hair, of his own making. The price to 
others would have been four dollars, he said, but 
on grounds of friendship I should have it for half 
the sum. This statement warned me that the article 
was not worth the price he asked me for it, but I 
was glad to carry away this souvenir of the dusky 




O 

tt 

w 

g 



O 





O 



MECCA TO FIGTREE JOHN 183 

lord of Conejo Prieto. There is a legend, the truth 
of which I may some day put to the proof, that the 
rattlesnake will not cross a rope of this sort. Many 
cowboys and others are convinced that this is a 
fact, and John also affirmed it stoutly. I have some- 
times, in specially snake-infested districts, laid the 
rope round the place where I spread my blankets, 
and can assert that I have never been bitten. This 
may not be thought convincing, but I doubt if any 
cowboy has better evidence to offer. 1 There is, how- 
ever, a reasonable theoretical basis for the belief. 
Any one who has handled a hair rope knows that it 
is about as uncomfortable an article to the touch 
as a thistle. The arrangement of the belly scales of 
the rattlesnake is such that in the act of crawling, 
the prickly hairs would certainly prove annoying 
perhaps enough so to cause the snake to change his 
course. 

When I suggested a picture it was made plain to 
me that the great do not receive but confer a favor 
in being photographed. John demanded a round 
sum, which in this case seemed not to be modified 
on the score of friendship. When that was arranged 
he took the position and expression of one who 
bears intense pain with determination. Then the 
great girl would be taken with her pet goat. No need 
for any formula of "Look pleasant, please," with 
smiling Juana. When I asked how I should address 

1 I have recently made the experiment with a sidewinder, which is 
a small species of the rattlesnake. It passed over my hair rope three 
times without any token of discomfort. Each tune, however, the 
snake was moving backwards. It is possible that in forward motion 
the effect might be different. 



184 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

her in sending copies of the picture, she sedately 
gave her name as Mrs. So-and-so, Post-Office box 
so-and-so, at Mecca; thoroughly up in the ways of 
the world. No doubt her children will be little Bills 
and Bobs, Sadies and " Soosies," with chewing-gum 
and all modern improvements. 

An hour's easy ride brought me to my camping 
place for the night at Figtree John Springs, no longer 
obliterated by the flood. The water is good though 
tepid, and a few small palms and a cottonwood or 
two make the spot attractive. The margin of the 
lake is now half a mile away. I walked over to it, 
and found an uninviting beach of slimy mud, the 
surface baked by the sun into large curving flakes 
like potsherds. A few dead trees were all that broke 
the melancholy expanse, if I except the decaying 
bodies of fish that added no charm to the landscape 
or the breeze. From the many coyote tracks it 
seemed that this sort of diet is much to the taste of 
that broad-minded animal. Far out, pelicans in 
groups of three or four were fishing for supper, one 
of them now and then launching itself with mighty 
splash upon a school of prey. 

The sunset color was unusually fine, though of 
extreme delicacy. One might suppose that desert 
conditions would work for crudity and staring dis- 
tinctness in form and color. The reverse is the fact. 
The most ethereal tones in Nature are those of 
desert landscapes. The mirage itself is hardly more 
elusive than the reality of these plains and moun- 
tains, faint, vague, mystical. And when the light 
comes level, as at evening or early morning, there is 



MECCA TO FIGTREE JOHN 185 

a quality in the scene that makes it ineffable, almost 
subjective. 

I slept beneath the palms. Overhead the stars 
played hide-and-seek as a gentle wind moved the 
leaves and brought low sounds from the lake, where 
tiny ripples plashed on the beach. Once a deeper 
sound came, as if by subterranean ways, to my ears: 
a heavy train was rumbling down the valley to 
Yuma. I sat up and watched the speck of light from 
the engine, ten miles away across the water, and 
fancied I heard the ghost of a whistle as it neared 
the Salton siding. There was no doubt in the case, 
however, when the coyotes began to sing grace over 
their fish bones. Such a hullabaloo came from the 
shore as one would think must signify some "vast 
immedicable woe." But no, that is the coyote's way 
of enjoying himself. As a rule I enjoy it too, but 
now I wanted to sleep, so fired my revolver to see 
what the effect would be. There were ten seconds of 
sweetest silence: then the hubbub was redoubled 
and mounted to a crisis. Well, I would have it a 
smoking concert, at least, so lighted my pipe and 
talked to Kaweah until the performers-grew tired 
and took their way homeward, their farewells coming 
in touching diminuendo from some distant canon. 



CHAPTER XII 

A DESERT RIDE: FIGTREE JOHN TO BOREGO SPRINGS 

Travertine Rock The desert's dead-line A desolate region 
Fish Springs "Fill up" the word Tom Sawyer and Huck 
Finn: an unhopeful venture A Miltonic sunrise Doubtful 
trail The dreary Salton A vacant land Mirage, ants, and 
antelope A missing spring Economizing water Sign-board 
but no sign Seventeen Palms Vile water Arabian surround- 
ings Watering Kaweah Bad-lands Devil's house of the 
Indians Stone curios Difficult trail-work Nearing the 
mountains Borego Springs, and water. 

\ NOTICEABLE landmark, less than a mile dis- 
j\. tant from Figtree John Springs, is an isolated 
outpost of Santa Rosa Mountain that from its coat- 
ing of calcium carbonate is known as Travertine 
Rock. Standing ringed about by the sandy ocean, 
there is a suggestion of a battleship in its turreted 
shape, an idea further carried out by the strongly 
marked sea line near its top, as if that were the deck 
level, the gun turrets and other upper structures 
contrasting in pale gray of granite with the darker 
bulk of the travertine covered hull. 

In the morning I walked over to examine it at 
close range and climb it for a view over the Salton 
Sea. Close to camp I noted a bench-mark of the 
Geological Survey, giving a minus elevation of 197 
feet below sea-level. (The lowest part, now of course 
under water, of this depression has been found to 
be 287 feet below the sea, eleven feet lower than the 
bottom of Death Valley, on the Mojave, which is 
dry.) But the testimony of bench-marks was dis- 



FIGTREE JOHN" TO BOREGO SPRINGS 187 

counted by that horizontal line, still far above my 
head when I reached the base of the rock, though 
the ground I had walked over sloped slightly up- 
ward. It was like a dead-line, warning me that I was 
out of bounds, and drawing my attention to the 
fact that the whole bulk of the earth's oceans was 
dammed up a hundred feet or so overhead, a few 
miles away. If, I thought, Nature should decide 
just now to shift things round once more, and should 
knock a hole in the dam, I wonder what would hap- 
pen? Something startling, for certain. It would be 
the Johnstown flood multiplied by billions. 

In climbing among the huge boulders that lie 
tumbled round the foot of this ancient island, I was 
surprised at the thickness of their coating of traver- 
tine. In places where it had scaled off I saw blocks of 
the stuff a foot and a half through. I do not remem- 
ber any such thickness at the "Coral Reef" or other 
points where I have found the travertine. Perhaps 
the exposed position of this rock, which, standing 
out in the sea-way, must have caught the full wave- 
wash in times of storm, may account for this exces- 
sive deposit. 

A little way from the foot, on the northeast face, 
I found a narrow cave, twenty yards or so from 
front to rear. Fragments of pottery showed that it 
had been inhabited, probably as a place of refuge. 
It can hardly have been used as a regular dwelling, 
for the floor was very uneven and the sides and roof 
showed no traces of smoke. The rock has hardly 
any plant life: only a few scraps of vegetation find 
foothold where a handful of soil has lodged. About 



188 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

the base an unthrifty palo verde here and there 
holds on to life, its smooth greenness, more like 
paint than verdure, looking stranger than ever in 
this stark spot. For animal life, one small brown 
wren flitted silently among the rhomboids of this 
natural pyramid. 

The view proved worth the climb, though that 
was a warm experience. From here the Salton looked 
like a narrow bay, the head of which was near at 
hand though to south no land horizon was in sight. 
The few cultivated spots on the opposite side showed 
black rather than green, by contrast with the pale 
hue of sand or the white of patches of alkali. The 
mountain barrier beyond was a mirage-like band of 
neutral tone, giving no hint of the color flood that 
would come when the sun passed the zenith, to cul- 
minate at evening in the pageantry of sunset. Far 
to south the Chocolates paled imperceptibly into 
mere sky. Behind, the great mountain rose in leagues 
of barren rock, tremulous with heat but unmistak- 
able as to reality. The sky was pale hard blue, no 
least film of vapor softening its aching glare. Out 
over the water, sea-birds wavered in rhythmic 
manoeuvre, like some ghostly, impossible snowstorm. 

In the afternoon I moved on a few miles to Fish 
Springs. The road ran near the lake margin, some- 
times on land that had until recently been sub- 
merged. There was little of interest in the long levels 
through which we plodded. Pale drab of dried salt- 
grass the ugliest grass that grows alternated 
with stretches of alkali where Kaweah's hoofs broke 
through the white crust and sank into gray slime. 




I 



ffl 



o 



eo 

2 



FIGTREE JOHN TO BOREGO SPRINGS 189 

Rounded bushes of atriplex, repeated without vari- 
ation of size, color, or outline, and shapeless clumps 
of sour-smelling suseda, followed one another with 
dreary monotony. A bit of arrowweed or a stunted 
screwbean was a boon by comparison. Ghosts of 
drowned mesquits made a phantom procession by 
the water's edge, and seemed, in the tremor of heat, 
to be up to some weird antics, like skeletons playing 
leapfrog. The vague shape of the Superstition Moun- 
tains, on the southern horizon, gave the landscape 
an extra touch of horror, recalling tales of men, not 
a few, who have perished in attempts to reach the 
treasure supposed to be hidden in that waterless 
labyrinth. 

Fish Springs is marked by a growth of mesquits 
and small cottonwoods, spread over a few acres of 
damp land close to the border of the sea. The road, or 
rather track, I had been following is used occasion- 
ally by travellers to the Imperial Valley. The usual 
mode of travel nowadays is by automobile, which 
can cover the long distances quickly and, barring 
accidents, without danger from lack of water. It 
was significant of the sort of country I was entering 
to find beside the road a sign-board pointing to the 
water, with the warning, ''Fill up. Last convenient 
water for 45 miles." At Fish Springs itself the water 
is brackish and tepid, nevertheless quite fair water 
for the desert. In the pool were numbers of tiny fish 
about the size of tadpoles. 

As I neared the place I was surprised to hear a 
gun fired and the shot come peppering near, so I 
let out a whistle; but I was more surprised when I 



190 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

saw the gunners. By the edge of the pool stood two 
boys, a long and a short, both about twelve years 
old. On the ground were a scrap of blanket, some 
bits of food, and a half-gallon can of the lard-pail 
kind. The boys were poorly dressed, one shoeless, 
and neither of them in the pink of condition. It was 
near sundown, and if these were their preparations 
for supper, bed, and breakfast (to go no further) 
they seemed inadequate, especially in view of their 
surroundings. The smaller boy held a long, single- 
barrel gun and the carcass of a dove. 

There was an air of uncertainty about the young- 
sters as if they had been discussing their next move. 
I asked whether they were camping there for the 
night, and the half-hearted way in which they 
"guessed so" seemed to show that they didn't 
know what else to do. When I inquired where they 
came from "Indio," said the smaller and shoeless 
boy, who seemed the captain of the enterprise. As 
he glanced disconsolately this way and that I caught 
sight of the stock of an old-fashioned revolver pro- 
jecting from the pocket of his ragged overalls. 
"How did you come?" "We walked," was the reply. 
(Indio was about forty miles away.) " Is that all the 
grub you have?" "No, I just got a bird" (exhibit- 
ing the dove). "Well, you nearly got a man, too. 
Where are you going? " " Borego Valley I guess." 
"Do you know how far that is?" "'Bout ten miles, 
ain't it?" " Do you know the trail?" "No: I know 
where it is though; over that way." "What do you 
carry water in?" "That" the little lard-pail. 
"Do you know how far it is to the next water?" 



FIGTREE JOHN TO BOREGO SPRINGS 191 

"No." "I'll tell you then. It's twenty-five miles to 
Seventeen Palms, and when you get there you can't 
drink the water. Then it's a good twelve more to 
Borego Springs, and five more to Borego Valley. 
Now, do you think the two of you can make nearly 
forty miles on that can of water?" 

My youngster was visibly impressed as I rubbed 
in the water question, and now asked what I thought 
they had better do. In reply to my question of what 
had started them on this wild errand he opened up 
and explained that his father "knowed a feller" 
who had taken up land in Borego Valley, and they 
were going there to work for him. Had reached Fish 
Springs last evening, camped, and in the morning 
started on, carrying the pitiful little pail of water. 
Got a few miles along, water half gone; met two 
Mexicans, who were thirsty and drank the rest of 
the water; felt tired and hot, so went down to the 
lake and had a bath and drank a lot of the water. 
Felt bad and guessed they'd come back to Fish 
Springs to camp for the night. 

"Now," I said, "there's just one thing for you 
boys to do, and I want to see you start to do it. Roll 
up your blanket and things and start back for home. 
I'll give you a note to the people at the Oasis 
Ranch, and they'll see that you have something to 
eat and a place to sleep. Then get back to Indio as 
soon as you can, and never do such a foolhardy 
thing again. It's a thousand to one you'd have got 
lost and died out there if you 'd gone on. Will you do 
what I say?" They promised. 

It was Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to the 



192 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

life, to see those poor little scamps as they started 
up the dusty road. Over the big boy's shoulder the 
long gun waved vaguely to and fro; the little fellow 
carried the can of water, with the bit of blanket 
professionally rolled and slung by a cord at his back: 
the revolver-butt protruding from his flapping over- 
alls in comico-pathetic fashion. As I gauged it, it 
was a case of running away from home. The Mexi- 
cans by drinking their water had very likely saved 
their lives. There is little doubt as to what would 
have been the outcome if they had gone on. They 
would have used up their water in the first ten miles: 
would almost certainly never have reached Seven- 
teen Palms, which is not easy to find even had their 
strength held out so far: and if they had reached it 
they would have drunk their fill of the half-poison- 
ous stuff and promptly succumbed. More likely they 
would have wandered about on a hopeless search 
for Seventeen Palms and would have run the usual 
course of thirst, delirium, insanity, death. 

To-morrow's march would be a long one, so I 
turned in early. Mosquitoes were such a nuisance 
about the spring that before long I had to move two 
hundred yards away. Awaking after an hour or so, 
I could hear Kaweah stamping restlessly, and had 
to go over and rescue him also. The night was un- 
usually warm and sleep unwilling to oblige. At last, 
the murmur of the ripple on the shore and the rhyth- 
mic chant of frogs sent me into an intermittent doze, 
from which I arose by moonlight at half-past three, 
not particularly refreshed. 

I gave Kaweah a hearty feed from the little store 



FIGTREE JOHN TO BOREGO SPRINGS 193 

of barley that I had brought for helping him over 
the hard spots in the near future, and before five 
o'clock we were on the move. A heron rose from the 
lake as we started, and flapped slowly alongside 
for a hundred yards, etched Japanesquely on the 
brightening saffron. In a few moments the sun rose 
in his old tyrannic splendor, and our heron steered 
away as if it might have been one of the "yellow- 
skirted fayes" of that quaint idea of Milton's 

"So when the sun in bed, 
Curtained with cloudy red, 
Pillows his chin upon an orient wave, 
The flocking shadows pale 
Troop to the infernal jail, 
Each fettered ghost slips to his several grave, 
And the yellow-skirted fayes 
Fly after the night-steeds, leaving their moon-loved maze." 

This time his chin was pillowed on the Cotton- 
wood Mountains, and his first shot at me came in 
a blaze of red across the dreary waters of the 
Salton. : > 

The road (if it could be called a road) continued 
southward, paralleling on one hand the sea and on 
the other a long southeasterly spur of Santa Rosa. 
The spur ran out at last in a tongue of yellowish rock 
of the malpais kind, cut by many gullies and bar- 
rancas. Round this spur, which is known as Clay 
Point, my route lay. It seemed as if we should never 
turn that point. The going became worse, loose, 
sand and gravel for hour after hour, and travel was 
slow and tiresome. It was a relief to reach the place 
where we must leave the road and strike westward 
across unbroken desert. The only mark of this spot 



194 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

was a heap of stones, and I felt a little anxiety on 
seeing that no tracks came in there, lest it might 
not be the turn-off for Seventeen Palms but only 
some prospector's sign leading into the bad-lands 
or the mountains. I had started with full canteens, 
of course, but though a gallon and a half may seem 
a good deal of liquid for one person for a day, any 
one who has travelled the desert in summer knows 
how quickly that quantity will be used. In this 
parching land to be without water for a very few 
hours means disaster. Hence, a mistake of direction, 
requiring retracing of steps or leading one into coun- 
try through which it is difficult to find one's way, is 
a thing to be dreaded (and, I may add, is dreaded 
all the more as one gains in desert experience). It 
was the thirtieth of July, and the summer heat at 
its climax, reaching most days 115 to 120, shade 
temperature. 

I stopped Kaweah and glanced back at the Salton 
Sea, which I was now leaving for a time. It is at 
best a rather cheerless object, beautiful in a pale, 
placid way, but the beauty is like that of the mirage, 
the placidity that of stagnation and death. Charm 
of color it has, but none of sentiment; mystery, but 
not romance. Loneliness has its own attraction, and 
it is a deep one; but this is not so much loneliness as 
abandonment, not a solitude sacred but a solitude 
shunned. Even the gulls that drift and flicker over 
it seem to have a spectral air, like bird-ghosts ban- 
ished from the wholesome ocean. 

"E'en the weariest river 
Winds somewhere safe to sea"; 



FIGTREE JOHN TO BOREGO SPRINGS 195 

but for the Salton the appointed end is but a slow 
sinking of its bitter, useless waters, a gradual baring of 
slimy shores, until it comes once more, and probably 
for the last time, to extinction in dead, hopeless desert. 

My outlook ahead and to the south was changed 
now that I had turned the shoulder of Santa Rosa. 
Before me to the west stretched one of the most for- 
bidding tracts of the desert, grayer, more dreary 
than the rest. The shrubs grew smaller and more 
sparse; even the greasewood seemed ready to suc- 
cumb. For mile on mile one sees no animal life either 
of beast, reptile, or bird, hardly of insect. Once I 
noted the track of a sidewinder, but this is a creature 
that moves by night: desert-dweller though it is, 
the desert sun is deadly to it. Far in front was the 
line of the Peninsular Sierra that runs on southward 
down the long length of Lower California. On the 
left, across a glistening alkaline expanse, rose the 
pale uncertain shapes of the Vallecitos and other 
ranges, fading into the C6copa country beyond the 
Mexican border. Close at hand on the right was the 
southern face of Santa Rosa. The shells that whit- 
ened the ground told that I was still on the minus 
side of zero in elevation. 

I looked carefully for tracks that might show I 
was headed rightly for Seventeen Palms. At long 
intervals I came on some faint wheel mark or doubt- 
ful shape of horse-hoof, but they were disjointed 
fragments, signifying little. Every rain storm brings 
down fresh sheets of sand from the washes of the 
mountain canons, and every wind storm distributes 
the sand afresh; so that whatever travel there may 



196 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

be must break its own road. The amount of such 
travel may be gauged from the reply of the store- 
keeper at Mecca to my question whether he knew 
of any one thereabout who had lately crossed this 
piece of country and could give me directions. 
"Seventeen Palms?" he said. "No, I haven't 
heard of any one coming that way for six months." 
The only guiding marks I saw were, once or twice, 
a so-called monument chance bits of stone which 
the trained eye may know to have been placed by 
man, not Nature marking the best route across 
the wider washes. 

For long hours of glare and heat I pushed on, some- 
times riding, sometimes leading Kaweah, who plod- 
ded steadily along like the loyal comrade he has 
ever shown himself to be. Once a mirage suddenly 
grew before me, the common one of a sheet of water 
a few yards ahead ; and once I saw a flicker of some- 
thing white a mile away, which may have been a 
band of antelope. About ten o'clock I found a few 
scraps of blue-stem (galleta grass) and burro-weed 
to eke out Kaweah's scanty barley, and we stopped 
to rest and lunch. In saying that there was no insect 
life in these parts I overlooked the ant. I should like 
to know whether Arctic travellers do not find these 
enterprising explorers always ahead of them. The 
moment I sat down they converged on me. Evi- 
dently the word was passed round that a fellow had 
arrived and was eating hardtack over by the grease- 
wood, and the speed with which every crumb was 
whisked away showed that it was a notable event. 
A short half -hour was as long as I could afford, 



FIGTREE JOHN TO BOREGO SPRINGS 197 

since Kaweah, after a nibble at the uninviting for- 
age, preferred to doze. On some unofficial map I 
s have seen a certain "Sacaton Spring" marked as 
somewhere about here. Judging from the name, it 
would be marked by a growth of sacaton grass, 
which could be seen for miles in this kind of country. 
I searched with my field-glasses, but in vain, for 
any trace of greenness. Fortunately, as I had been 
unable to find anybody who knew of such a spring, 
I had not counted on it. Even if it could have been 
found it might have proved to be like that of the 
next spring to the south, which is too strongly im- 
pregnated with soda to be usable. 

We took up our march. Occasionally a wandering 
breeze blew for a moment, and I opened my shirt 
and my heart to it, but it quickly died away, and 
again the heat struck fiercely down. It was impos- 
sible to maintain any interest in the view, but that 
was no loss, since nothing changed, hour after hour. 
The mountain profiles merged and emerged imper- 
ceptibly, and that was all. It seemed a week that 
I had been creeping over this unending plain. Some- 
how I felt unreal, as if I were a picture of a man in 
my position, and wondered vaguely whether the 
man ever got anywhere. The sole distraction was in 
counting the time for my periodical drinks, two 
mouthfuls per half hour, the first one held for a few 
seconds in the mouth before swallowing. 1 The reason 

1 I have since learned a good dodge from an Indian with whom I 
was out for some days in dry country. A little plug of the creosote 
(greasewood) bush, say three quarters of an inch long and a quarter 
of an inch thick, peeled, held in the mouth, is a good palliative of 
thirst, much better than the regulation pebble. 



198 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

for this economy was not that I feared running 
short of water, but there is always the unforeseen 
to be reckoned with. I found that this small but 
regular ration kept me going, and I had already 
accustomed myself to drink only for necessity, not 
for comfort or luxury. 

The appearance of a sign-board (a fragment of 
box-lid tied to a stake) raised hopes of a word as to 
direction and distance. But whatever information 
it may once have carried was gone as though it had 
never been there. Sun had bleached and sand had 
scoured till not a mark could be made out. This 
sort of thing is as aggravating as a practical joke. 
I was tempted to kick the thing sky high, but re- 
frained when I reflected that it might be named as a 
landmark to some future traveller. 

At last appeared, miles away to northwest, a few 
dots that showed black against the pale yellow foot- 
hills. If they were palms they were my landmark. I 
turned toward them: lost them and found them 
again and again : but finally knew that they were my 
palms; not my destination itself, but a guide to the 
place. Tracks became more frequent and converged 
toward a point in the clay hills that fringe Santa 
Rosa's southern base. A faint trail grew out of 
nothing, and led into a winding gallery of sand and 
boulders, where strange wind-worn and sand-worn 
cliffs showed at every turn. The palms appeared 
again, now close at hand; and in half an hour I 
caught sight of another group (once, I suppose, 
seventeen, but now only six or eight) that marked 
our halting place for the day* ' 



FIGTREE JOHN TO BOREGO SPRINGS 199 

The water at Seventeen Palms is a mere seepage, 
found in two small holes. If the holes were kept 
cleaned out for a day or two, probably the quality 
of the liquid would improve, though at best it would 
be strongly alkaline. At this time they were slimy 
and ill-smelling, and the water, which was brown, 
bitter, and nauseating, would have been dangerous 
to drink unboiled. Kaweah, however, drank eagerly 
when I had cleaned out one of the holes, though he 
is a gentlemanly horse, quite fastidious about his 
water. My small canteen was still full, but as it 
must carry me on to Borego Springs I used this un- 
pleasant stuff, carefully strained, for my cooking. 
Rice boiled in it was thoroughly disgusting in color 
and taste; no amount of sugar could render it more 
than just bearable. The tea had a dirty gray curdle 
and a flavor like bilge, and when I tried cocoa as an 
alternative the mixture promptly went black. 

Traces of former visitors were a rusty stove, 
abandoned, I guessed, by some survey party who 
travelled de luxe with cooks and water-barrels (per- 
haps the Government surveyors whose token I found 
near by in the shape of a bench-mark recording 
417 feet); and an assayer's card nailed on a palm. 
The usual cans and bottles were in evidence, but in 
no such profusion as at most of these old camping 
spots. The locality does not attract prospectors, 
being, I fancy, scanty of valuable minerals; there is 
little to interest hunters; and the bad water, with 
scarcity of forage, puts a general ban on the place. 

A few small mesquits with meagre show of beans, 
and a nibbling of salt-grass, helped out Kaweah's 



200 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

supper. With my back to a palm I hugged the shade 
till the sun went down, then climbed to smoke a 
pipe on the hillside and view the surroundings. 
Without having been in Egypt or Arabia, I could 
easily imagine myself to be looking down on a wady 
of the Red Sea region. The abrupt gullies with banks 
of sun-hardened clay, the gravel-strewed sands, the 
shapeless brown foothills, the sparse thorny scrub, 
the solitary group of palms, made up a scene much 
more suggestive of Arabia Petraea than of any part 
of the American continent. Not less so was the 
Oriental splendor of a gold and crimson sunset. 

A strong breeze began to blow down the canon 
about nightfall. I found a hollow in which I spread 
my blankets (first despatching a warlike scorpion 
that rushed out at me sparring away like a little 
prizefighter) and slept excellently till daybreak. My 
cold breakfast was despatched while Kaweah ate 
his barley, and we bade farewell to Seventeen Palms 
with almost as much satisfaction as we had felt on 
arriving. 

For safety's sake I filled the large canteen, though 
heartily hoping I should not need to draw on it. 
Kaweah refused to drink before we started, pre- 
ferring to fly to ills he knew not of rather than repeat 
the one he had tasted. However, to-day we had only 
half of yesterday's distance to make, with prospect 
of good water at the end. It was sometimes exasper- 
ating to have Kaweah thus refuse water, especially 
at the beginning of a long day's march. When he 
thus washed his hands of the responsibility, confi- 
dent that I would not get him into serious trouble, 



FIGTREE JOHN TO BOREGO SPRINGS 201 

I wished I could make an incision in his hide and 
pump him full, willy-nilly. 

I determined to-day to make a particular effort 
to keep the ''road." The start was plain enough, for 
there was only one outlet to the canon that could 
lead in my direction. It was a long ravine similar to 
that by which we had come, winding among strange 
shapes of clay, the dome being the most common. 
Red and yellow were the prevailing colors, with 
mud-hued grays and drabs for background. Ocotil- 
los, always interesting in their weird way, had come 
in as I entered this clay country, but they looked 
starved and haggard, the shrivelled flower heads a 
rusty relic of their vivid spring. There was little 
other brush to be seen, and all looked at the point 
x>f death. 

This clay formation, wherever found on the desert, 
is the last extreme of the barren, dreary, and danger- 
ous. The vast network of gullies into which it be- 
comes worn may easily become a death-trap for 
the traveller. Sense of direction is quickly lost: in 
the deep sand and gravel of the bottoms a trail is 
almost as evanescent as if marked in water. I was 
recently looking down again on this tract from the 
mountain country to the west. The Indian who was 
my companion pointed to the hazy yellowish patch, 
twenty miles from where we stood, and said, " Chee- 
chlicsh'-noo-ah, devil's house, we call that. Very 
bad place. Man get in there no can get out never. 
One time some of our people camp there. Night 
time one get up and go for drink. He die, never come 
back."^A white man's chance of escape from this 



202 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

"devil's house" might be, say, one twentieth of an 
Indian's under equal circumstances. It is just as 
well, perhaps, that there are few attractions to draw 
travellers to Chee-chlicsh'-noo-ah. 

Reaching more open country we entered *on a 
tract littered with curiously shaped objects of stone. 
Dumb-bells were a common form, and accurately 
circular plates and rings, balls, symmetrical ovoids, 
and many more among them grotesque figures of 
men, quite as realistic as some pagan idols that one 
sees in museums. The region is well above sea-level, 
but probably water was the chief factor in shaping 
these oddities, perhaps at the time when the oyster- 
shell beds were laid down which are now a thousand 
feet up on the adjacent mountain-side. Paralleling 
our course a mile or two to the north ran a level 
bluff of clay, colored in pale tints of rose, lavender, 
green, and ochre, its face marked with vertical scor- 
ings as neatly drawn as if they had been engraved 
by a machine. 

It was the last day of July, and seemed to me even 
hotter than the day before. Again I measured my 
water in half-hourly gulps. I found my thoughts 
turning constantly on water, as Arctic explorers' 
dwell on beef-steaks. Ride for an hour and lead for 
an hour was the programme. I had kept the trail 
pretty well, missing it often in crossing wide washes 
where the gravelly soil held no mark of travel, but 
picking it up again in softer places. To keep it at all, 
one's eyes must be "peeled" every moment. For long 
distances the only indication was the powdery dead 
leaves of the brush, which collect in the faint depres- 



FIGTREE JOHN TO BOREGO SPRINGS 203 

sion. The trained eye, looking ahead, can trace this 
dubious clue, though meeting it at right angles one 
would see nothing and might cross it a dozen times 
yet fail to recognize the trail one is seeking. 

Slowly the. line of the western mountains grew 
higher and darker. The tint was not, however, that 
mystical azure that gives to distant mountain pros- 
pects the usual wistful charm, but a smoky, furnace- 
like hue as if the range were built of slag. I tried to 
believe that I saw the appearance of timber against 
the sky. Could that be my old friend the Cuyamaca, 
or the Volcan? It was cheering at least to imagine 
the green-plushed firs, the singing cedars, and wise, 
sober pines up there, looking down with pity, surely, 
on the blanched, sun-drained desert, so old, withered, 
and gray. 

I felt pretty well withered myself, baked through 
and through. The interminable ridge of clay danced 
when I glanced over at it, as if bent on giving me 
vertigo. At last we crossed a wider wash that I 
guessed to be the channel of the San Felipe Creek, 
one of those phantom streams that for nearly all 
their course run underground, if they run at all. 
Tracks began to come in from some mysterious 
origin in the southeast. Then a patch of green ap- 
peared a mile ahead, which I knew must mark 
Borego Springs. I halted by a palo verde that had 
somehow got lost out here, and recklessly drank my 
remaining Fish Springs water. It was hot, of course, 
and stale and flat, but to drink freely, with no 
grudging of table-spoonfuls, was genuine dissipation. 

It was only early afternoon when we reached the 



204 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

oasis of mesquits and arrowweed. I found the spring 
of good cool water, and we enjoyed ourselves for 
ten minutes before unloading. On the bank above 
the spring there was an old cabin and behind that 
a fine mesquit. Here I off-saddled, then picketed 
Kaweah among the mesquits, which were at their 
best fruiting stage, and left him to a dinner of un- 
limited beans, followed, if he chose, by a siesta to 
match. 



utiAPTER XIII 

A DESERT RIDE: BOREGO SPRINGS TO LOS COYOTES 

Cows and cowboys Peg-Leg Smith and his mine Patron saint 
of prospectors Legend or fact? Following the gleam And 
reaching the goal Dregs of Uncle Sam's domain Anza's ex- 
pedition of 1774 A question of fact In Anza's footsteps 
Hell-hole Alkali flats Desert cattle-range A Borego Valley 
homestead Devon and desert "A beautiful climate" 
Modest request for lard Cholla cactus Coyote Creek Canon 
Ocotillo houses Agaves A lost trail Happiness in trifles. 

BOREGO SPRINGS is one of the important 
watering-places on the Colorado Desert. Lying 
near the mountains, it is a strategic point in the 
operations of cattle-men whose ranges extend over 
the Santa Rosa, San Felipe, Volcan, and Cuyamaca 
country, and who once in a year or two may have 
occasion to drive cattle into or out of the mountains 
by the desert route. These drives are often for long 
distances, say from Arizona or Sonora, and in large 
herds, so that only the few spots that furnish abun- 
dant water are of service for resting and watering 
the stock. Borego Springs makes a convenient one- 
day stage before entering or leaving the mountains. 
When I was camping here with some friends on 
another occasion, we were disturbed in the middle 
of the night by the arrival of a "bunch" 1 of cattle 

1 Nicety is observed in the West as to the use of nouns of number. 
Thus, it is a band of horses or of sheep, but a bunch of cattle, of steers, 
of yearlings, or whatever the case may be. A concourse of hogs, those 
flower-like quadrupeds, also are properly spoken of as a bouquet. So, 
by the by, are fellows. Thus, the leader of a college prayer-meeting 
has been known to open his petition, "We come, a bunch of fel- 
lows "etc. 



206 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

that had just "pulled in," en route to Borego Valley. 
In the morning, when the drove was getting under 
way, we were passing the compliments at the corral 
bars with two of the vaqueros. Names were ex- 
changed. "And who is that young fellow?" one of 
us asked, pointing to a lively young " puncher" in 
red shirt and well- worn " chaps," who was rounding 
up the stragglers. "That 'young fellow' is this fel- 
low's wife," one of the men answered, indicating 
his companion. El habito no hace al monje (the 
dress does not make the monk), says the Spanish 
proverb. 

The old house bore testimony to many years of 
usage by cattle-men, surveyors, prospectors, and 
other haunters of the open spaces. On the back door 
I found an elaborate decoration, dated four months 
earlier. The two men who signed it stated them- 
selves to be in search of that old will-o'-the-wisp of 
prospectors, the Peg-Leg Mine; and in lightness of 
heart had drawn a picture representing Peg-Leg 
Smith himself "looking at Borego Springs from 
Gold Hill." The great man was realistically shown 
mounted on a burro, pipe in mouth, pick on shoul- 
der, and "peg" advanced as if hospitably greeting 
the beholder. 

Peg-Leg Smith, who might by courtesy be called 
the patron saint of California prospectors, deserves 
more than passing reference. In the course of this 
journey I came on his tracks so often that at times 
I felt almost haunted. To be for two hours in com- 
pany with a prospector and not have Peg-Leg come 
into the conversation is among the impossible things 



BOREGO SPRINGS TO LOS COYOTES 207 

of life. I heartily wish that some one would find that 
mine, and put the old eternal anecdotes and theo- 
ries to final rest. "Well, sir" (this is the sort of 
thing), "Dutchy kin say whatever he's a min f ter. 
I claim to know them 'ere Choc'lates purty (blank) 
well, seein' I've dry-washed every (blank) gully 
from Dos Palms to Carga Muchach', an' I tell you 
they ain't no chanst for that (blank) formation in 
the hull (blank) lay-out. Why, look a-here: ole Peg- 
Leg he says . " And off we would go once more 
into the threadbare history, with changes rung on 
"buttes" and "monnyments," "ledges" and "bear- 
ings," till I remembered to go and water Kaweah, or 
put my rice to boil, or whatever excuse came easiest 
to hand. 

To make a brief statement of the case, for the 
benefit of any citizen of the United States who may 
not have heard it: This particular Smith, Thomas L., 
conspicuous among the tribe by the circumstance of 
a timber leg, was a brother of that Jedediah Smith 
who ranks high among Western pioneers. Thomas L. 
became the leader of one of those bands of trappers 
who in the thirties and forties roved over the vast 
spaces of the West in quest of furs and adventure. 
(The peg-leg itself was a souvenir of the adventures, 
he having amputated the natural member himself 
when it was shattered by a bullet in the course of 
a fight with Indians.) On one of these journeys 
the party reached the Colorado River, worked down 
the stream to its junction with the Gila, and crossed 
into California, when they struck northwest toward 
the pass, later known as "Warner's" or the "San 



208 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

Felipe," which was at that time the only known ap- 
proach to the southern coast. 

Before reaching the mountains, some of the party 
one evening climbed a low hill near camp, and no- 
ticed that the dark outcropping rock was thickly 
sprinkled with yellow metal. Strange to say, though 
the men were interested enough to carry away speci- 
mens, they seem not to have guessed that they had 
found gold, until the year of 1848, with the historic 
"strikes" on the Sacramento, turned all men's 
thoughts to one idea. Then it was found that the 
specimens brought from the desert knoll were phe- 
nomenally rich in gold. 

Smith was then in San Francisco along with the 
rest of the world. In 1850 he got together a party to 
make a search for the precious butte. Before getting 
well started, the loss of some of the equipment of 
the expedition put the leader out of humor with the 
affair, and it was abandoned: nor did he ever renew 
the attempt. 

This is all ancient history, and it might seem 
strange that the legend of Peg-Leg's find, rich as it 
may have been, should have survived through two 
generations. But from time to time there have oc- 
curred seeming corroborations of the fact of such a 
wondrous mine in just such circumstances of posi- 
tion and "formation" as are named in the details 
of the discovery. Indians figure largely in these 
later evidences, and not merely to the extent of 
word of mouth. There have been incidents showing 
that they had access to some rich store of gold 
in the region of Smith's memorable " strike," and 



BOREGO SPRINGS TO LOS COYOTES 209 

always the hints have been of "buttes" and the 
mysterious "black formation." These accessory de- 
tails have not only kept alive the belief in the mine, 
but have extended the field of believers until the 
Peg-Leg Mine is a household word in California. 
From first to last (though the last is yet unreached) 
the number of those who have gone out on this 
adventure must run to hundreds, and the tale of 
those who have never returned is tragically long. 
Hardly a year passes without two or three parties 
taking up the search, following some new theory or 
due. My predecessors at this old cabin were among 
the latest additions to the list. I may say here that 
a month or two later I chanced to meet a man who 
had recently seen them, safe and sound, but of 
course unsuccessful, well on their homeward way. 

As for me, though I am not of the breed that Peg- 
Leggers come of, and long ago resolved, following a 
well-known example, to die a poor man, yet I feel 
the fascination of the gold-hunter's game, and have 
sometimes, over my camp-fire, played with the idea 
of sudden freedom from impecuniary cares by stum- 
bling on a mine. Here at Borego Springs I overlooked 
the very ground where, if anywhere, Peg-Leg Smith's 
bonanza is awaiting an owner. From all evidences 
it could not be a day's march away a little hill, 
such as I walk up any day for the view, but be- 
hold ! littered with nuggets that one could pick out, 
like walnuts, with a pocket-knife! It was an exciting 
idea, and I almost resolved to make a practice of 
climbing all little hills hereafter. But there came a 
soberer thought of the poor wretches who had 



210 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

fallen to the lure, "followed the gleam"; and the 
gleam had led them on and on, a little farther, to the 
next rise, the canon beyond, till the terrible "bad 
lands" had them locked in their scorching maze, 
there to wander till, crazed and raving, they stag- 
gered and fell: scrambled with frantic terror to their 
feet and stumbled on (the thought of gold a fright- 
ful mockery now) till they fell once more and did 
not rise again. If ever the Peg-Leg Mine is found, it 
would not be surprising if there are seen about it 
the bleaching bones of the fortunate ones who 
reached the goal. Then it should be renamed "The 
Death's Head," and christened with the dregs of a 
canteen of Seventeen Palms water. 

Kaweah and I kept Sunday very comfortably at 
Borego Springs. For him there were mesquit beans 
in plenty and even a picking of Bermuda grass: for 
me, shade and the thought of a bad piece of country 
in my rear: for us both, good, cool, abundant water. 
A road-runner came round several times to make 
sure his eyes were not playing him false: lizards with 
iridescent head and throat crept down the roasting 
boards and watched me with cunning reptilian stare : 
a few finches cheeped and twittered the friendli- 
est sound I had heard for days. 

A tour of the immediate neighborhood showed 
the usual incidents of these old camps cascades 
of cans, scraps of rawhide, horseshoes, rock speci- 
mens, and stove-in canteens. The corral-gate was 
decorated with the skull of a steer, a satirical object 
for the famishing cattle as they shoved their way to 
the water-trough. Among the names scrawled here 



BOREGO SPRINGS TO LOS COYOTES 211 

and there were some that have gained a measure of 
renown in the story of pioneering in the Southwest. 
More recent were the autographs of a party of 
Government surveyors, from Lieutenant Tripod, 
Chief Engineer, down to "Pete Ortega, Chief of 
Remuda." Slowly the mapping of the dregs of Uncle 
Sam's domain is being completed though it is 
rash to call anything dregs, when date groves flour- 
ish on what a few years ago was marked " Unknown 
Desert," dry lake-beds yield priceless fertilizers, and 
any day the prospector's pick may strike a blow 
that will bring men stampeding in thousands to the 
latest El Dorado, perhaps within rifle-shot of where 
I stand. 

History is always fertile in debatable points for 
students to quarrel over. Even in the history of the 
West, short as it has been within white men's times, 
there are matters of dispute. One of these is a ques- 
tion as to the route of the first Spanish expedition 
by land from Mexico to the .California coast. This 
entrada (to use the Spanish word) was led by Cap- 
tain Juan Bautista Anza, in 1774, its object being 
to make overland connection with the settlements 
of San Diego and Monterey, established five years 
earlier by Don Caspar de Portold and Fray Junipero 
Serra. 

The party, starting from Tubac, in Sonora, 
crossed the Colorado River on the 9th of February 
(first picking up that stout old campaigner Fray 
Francisco Hermenegildo Garc6s, who had already 
been knocking about for years among the wild tribes 
of the region), and made their way across the desert, 



212 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

apparently at first keeping to the south of the pres- 
ent Mexico-United States border. On reaching the 
C6copa Mountains they turned north and crossed 
the line somewhere near Signal Mountain, finding 
water, it is guessed, at what are now called Yuha 
Springs. Travelling still north, the next camp, 
March 10, was at a large ctinaga where the water 
and forage were so bad as to cause the loss of sev- 
eral of their animals. This place, which they named 
San Sebastian del Peregrino, is identified as the 
Carrizo ctinaga. 

At this point students of the records fall into dis- 
agreement. Some suppose that the expedition, keep- 
ing on still north, rounded Santa. Rosa Mountain 
at Clay Point (where I had turned west for Seven- 
teen Palms) and then turned northwest up what is 
now called the Coachella Valley, entering the coast 
region by San Gorgonio Pass. Given our present 
knowledge of the country, that would have been the 
natural route, and many of the details set down by 
the explorers suggest that it was the one taken. The 
other opinion is that on leaving the Carrizo camp 
the party struck northwesterly up the broad arm of 
desert (which I had just crossed in another direction) 
that leads by way of Borego Springs into Borego 
Valley and Coyote Canon; that they made their 
way, by that canon and a branch of it now called 
Horse Canon, up to what is now known as Vande- 
venter Flat. Whichever route they took they reached 
high ground with good forage and water, and of the 
place, wherever it was, the gallant Captain writes: 
"This paraje [station] is a pass, and I named it El 



BOREGO SPRINGS TO LOS COYOTES 213 

Puerto Real de San Carlos. From it may be dis- 
covered some very beautiful plains, green and flow- 
ery, and the Sierra Nevada, with pines, oaks, and 
other trees proper to cold countries. In it the waters 
are divided, some running to the Gulf and others to 
the Philippine Ocean/' 

I do not know all parts of the routes in question 
well enough to venture a decided opinion, but from 
what I have seen I think the southerly is likely to 
have been the one followed. 1 Anyhow, it was pleas- 
ant to think so, for in that case I was now on the old 
Anza trail, and should follow the footsteps of that 
picturesque company of padres, soldados, and arrie- 
ros for a good few miles. On this understanding, my 
Borego Springs was probably the aguaje (watering- 
place) of good quality that Anza, or the padres, 
named for San Gregorio, and where the party rested 
for a day. He notes the fact of an Indian rancheria 
(village), and there is evidence, in the shape of frag- 
ments of pottery, that Borego Springs was long the 
site of an Indian settlement: but that would be sure 
to be the case where good water was to be found. 2 

1 My Indian friend, Lee Arenas, tells me that the Cahuilla tribes, 
inhabiting country adjacent to Coyote Canon, have a tradition that 
the first white men came that way, and speak of a fight that took 
place in the canon with strangers using swords. Anza mentions no 
such incident. His record of the natives hereabout is that they were 
expert thieves, and could pick and steal with toes as cleverly as with 
fingers: further, that they made much play with their legs and feet, 
on which account he named ttemDanzantes (dancers). Lee also says 
that the Indians call the head of the canon La Puerta, but this is the j 
common designation of any point in the nature of a pass. 

2 It was the rancheria of San Gregorio, by the by, that was thrown 
into consternation, naturally enough, by the racket of the thirsty 
mules of the approaching party- On the other hand, it is related of the 
C6copas that they were quite captivated by the mules of some 



CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

I turned in betimes and coyotes obliged with a 
lullaby. It seemed about twenty minutes afterward 
that I awoke to see the red pennon of dawn flying 
on the horizon. It was* inspiriting, however, to be 
now close upon the mountains, with the prospect of 
being for a few days among them, with genuine 
trees, grass that is green, not gray, perhaps even a 
brook to drink from. This variation from my desert 
programme was for the purpose of getting mail and 
supplies at Warner's Springs, the only postal point 
I should even approach until I reached the settle- 
ments of Imperial Valley. 

I turned now northwesterly, following the route 
taken (as I think likely) by Anza and his fellow 
explorers. To my right rose an isolated dark mass 
called Coyote Mountain, which Figtree John claims 
as his birthplace. One could hardly imagine a more 
unattractive place to call one's native spot;Vet no, 
I remember the slums of man's cities. It is there 
one reaches the ne plus ultra of the hideous. On 
the other side at a few miles' distance were the 
abrupt foothills of the Peninsular Range, the high 
ridge of San Ysidro overlooking them and showing 
on its crest tantalizing tokens of pines. ; 

Near here there is a place that has gained, not 

pioneer of about the same period (I think it was Padre Carets: there 
were not many travellers on these deserts a century and a half ago). 
These natives had never seen mules before, and, astounding as it 
sounds, found them charming. Moved with compassion at seeing 
the animals hobbled, at night they removed the fetters and led them 
tenderly away to where a banquet of soothing pumpkins was spread. 
And when a jack fell into a quagmire, they " all came to his assistance, 
took him in their arms, carried him to the fire, and warmed and con- 
soled him." This is like the snug experiences of Nick Bottom. 



BOREGO SPRINGS TO LOS COYOTES 215 

without reason, the unpleasant nameof "Hell-Hole." 
It is a small bit of country, but so maze-like in its 
ramifications that to enter is probably to remain. 
I have talked to a man who, with a companion, was 
once caught in this death-trap. He narrated with 
vivid details the events of days during which they 
wandered about, trying gully after gully for a way 
of escape, and hourly losing heart and hope. Luckily 
it was winter, so thirst, the deadliest enemy, was 
not to be feared ; and they had food enough for some 
days. It was by mere chance that, on the fourth day, 
they stumbled out into the world that they hardly 
hoped to see again. There is a fascination for me in 
these ill-favored bits of geography; but in August, 
with a horse and but a gallon and a half of water, it 
seemed best to confine myself to guessing which of 
those furnace-like canon-mouths might be the re- 
puted gateway to Hades. 

Patches of salt-grass began to appear, mixed 
among wide expanses of alkali (salitres, as the Mexi- 
cans call them) for which this unwholesome grass 
has a liking. The country looked as if it had been 
flooded with a saturated solution of salt: in places 
the very grass-blades sparkled with the salty incrus- 
tation, and Kaweah's hoofs kicked the stuff before 
us like snow. After a few miles I saw something 
ahead which looked like a house and windmill. 
This was a surprise, though I knew that within late 
years land-hungry settlers had turned their atten- 
tion to Borego Valley. On close approach the house 
proved to be a wagon and the windmill a derrick. 
Some one had made an attempt to find water, but 



2i6 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

money or patience had given out, and the wagon 
and tools were left to fall to pieces in the sun. I 
heard afterwards that the outfit had come by the 
same route that I had taken, but the men had lost 
their way after passing Clay Point and had been 
three days in reaching Seventeen Palms. 

Skulls and ribs of cattle, sometimes with shreds 
of hide upon them, gave token that I was in cattle 
country. Leg bones, being easy to manipulate by 
those ghouls the coyotes, are generally hauled off 
to a distance, but the skull and ribs with backbone 
usually stay where the poor brute perished, and 
coyotes, buzzards, and skunks repair again and 
again to the feast until the ultimate remnant glis- 
tens in the sun, a melancholy monument. There is 
something specially ghastly about the ribs with 
their hollow griddle look. Perhaps it is because of 
the resemblance to the human skeleton in this detail 
that the staring emptiness has a horror all its own: 
one realizes the fragility of one's own frame, and 
thinks, with a shock, What, am I such a drum! 

A speck of green that I had been watching for 
half an hour revealed itself as the homestead of a 
settler. Half hidden by a huge mesquit was a one- 
room tent-house of fair size. It was surrounded by 
half an acre or so of cultivated ground, all that was 
possible with the feeble flow of water yielded by the 
well. The man was away, but the barking of the dog 
brought out his wife, a cheery little Devonshire 
woman, who bade me be seated and "Rest, do ye 
now." The first question was, "Have you brought 
any mail?" and great was the disappointment when 



BOREGO SPRINGS TO LOS COYOTES 217 

I explained that I was bound to, not from, Warner's, 
which is their mail station, forty-two miles away. 
It appeared that the postmaster at Warner's was 
under instructions, whenever he heard of any one 
going through to Borego Valley (which might hap- 
pen half a dozen times a year) to press him into serv- 
ice as mail-carrier. The next request was for a news- 
paper. This was another misfortune: and when I 
remarked that if I had brought one it would have 
been a week old, the reply was, "That's nothing. 
If it was a month old it would be news to us. Never 
mind, you can tell us the news, anyway." (This I 
well understood meant news of the war, for Devon 
is England in little, the county of Raleigh, Grenville, 
and Drake.) 

So we sat and chatted of combe and tor, of Tor- 
ridge, Dart, and Tavy, and of the importance at- 
taching to "scraps of paper." Then she must show 
me her garden, the wondrous beans, radishes, and 
tomatoes; above all, an incredible rose that had 
borne six blossoms in the spring. "I do wish it had 
one on now, so you could have it: 't would carry all 
day if you'd keep it in the shade. I do love a rose, 
don't you?" she went on: "seems like I never can 
get my fill of 'em. 'T was four years come Michael- 
mas we took this desert claim. Yes, I Ve worked 
pretty hard over this garden. The jack-rabbits are 
something awful, and the quail too: I suppose they 
come for the water. My husband wants to fill up 
the hole where the water stands, but I tell him 
'twould be cruel. And doves: they don't do any 
harm, though; I loVe to have them come. There 



2i8 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

must be five hundred, maybe a thousand, come 
round that little pool of an evening. It sounds like a 
hundred autos when they fly. This is my second 
turn at what you might call pioneering. First was 
in the State of Washington; that was twenty-five 
years ago. Seems like I strike mostly quiet places. 
Like it here? Why, yes, I think it's pretty good, and 
a beautiful climate. Why, 106 is as hot as we've 
had this summer, and think of them poor folks 
down in Imperial with 120, and hot nights and poor 
water/' 

A whiff as of recent baking led to my buying a loaf 
of the genuine article, together with a little sugar; 
also a few feeds of barley for Kaweah. A musk- 
melon and two tomatoes were added as a present. 
When I urged her to take payment for these luxuries 
she refused, but as I was leaving (charged with three 
letters that had lain many days under the family 
flat-iron) she became wistful, then said softly, "You 
would n't happen to have a mite of lard that you 
could spare, would you now?" She could not bear to 
see me depart without asking this one boon. So we 
divided my little store, and I left with a warning 
that I must look out for snakes in Coyote Canon. 

For several hours we plodded up the broad gray 
valley toward the point where Coyote Canon came 
in. Other canons were passed, their mouths almost 
choked with mixed colonies of ocotillo and cholla. 
This is the most clannish of the cacti, holding the 
foothill benches for miles to the exclusion of other 
growths. These tracts make a strange appear- 
ance, as if regiments of soldiers, in uniform of palest 



BOREGO SPRINGS TO LOS COYOTES 219 

gray, were issuing from the canon and had halted 
on the slope for a review. 

One of these canons, on the west side of the val- 
ley, is known as Palm Canon (not to be confused 
with the other Palm Canon, on the farther side of 
the mountains to the north). I scanned it with the 
glasses, but could see no likelihood of water, so 
reluctantly passed it by. Once or twice paler patches 
could be seen on the gray distance of the plain. 
They were the clearings of settlers, but I saw no 
token of cultivation about these places. If water is 
obtained, as it may be by deep boring, a similar 
miracle to that in the Coachella may follow, for the 
soil seems good, or at least fair, in parts of Borego 
Valley. 

As we neared the head of the valley the ground 
changed to coarse gravel and boulders. The ocotillo 
and cholla took advantage of this congenial mixture 
to make a sort of devil's garden, to which one or two 
other choice spirits, like the "nigger-head" and 
deer-horn cacti, were admitted. Once or twice, in 
spite of our best care, Kaweah got nipped by some 
imp of a cholla. Much alike as the cholla and deer- 
horn are, I found that Kaweah had learned the 
difference. When a bit of the latter caught him, he 
dislodged it by giving a violent kick, but if it was 
cholla, he came to a conspicuous halt and waited for 
me to operate with pocket-knife and pliers. 

At last we turned the shoulder of the mountain 
and entered the narrow canon. Anza's aguaje of 
Santa Caterina may have been somewhere here- 
about, for it is here that Coyote Creek becomes 



220 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

visible. Below this point it takes refuge under- 
ground, in the usual fashion of desert waters. At 
this season the stream was a mere thread of inter- 
mittent dampness, but in March, the month of 
Anza's passage, it would make more of a showing. 
Near the neck of the canon I noticed a cabin built 
of ocotillo canes. It consisted of one room of fair 
size, seven feet high, and roofed with brush. In spite 
of its chicken-house look, it would make a tolerable 
dwelling for summer-time on the desert. By the 
little pile of hay in a corner I guessed that it was a 
cattle-man's house of call. 

The ocotillo is a convenient material for such 
structures, and is so used by some Indian tribes, 
who plaster the walls with mud and so make a house 
that answers for winter as well as summer use. This 
mud and ocotillo combination has a peculiar result. 
When rain comes, soaking the earth in which the 
canes are embedded, the seemingly dead sticks 
spring to life, put on leaves, and may even break 
into blossom. 

Two or three miles up the canon another inter- 
esting plant appeared the agave, a wild type of 
the century-plant. Its circle of bayonet-pointed 
leaves and ten-foot pole of flower-stalk make it 
conspicuous among the low desert growths. Deer, 
bighorn, and cattle are keen for the juicy flower- 
stem, and few of the plants would fulfil their destiny 
if it were not for the chevaux-de-frise that protects 
the citadel. Growing usually in close colonies, the 
interlocking leaves make an almost impenetrable 
barrier, so that the inner members of the group 



BOREGO SPRINGS TO LOS COYOTES 221 

could only be attacked from the air. Thus, the wild 
desert bees find the agave their best means of sup- 
port. 

The brush became heavier as we made our way 
up the canon, until at one spot I counted, close to- 
gether, ocotillo, agave, desert willow, smoke-tree, 
cat-claw, and the two kinds of mesquit. We were 
both on the lookout for water, and when a faint 
trickle showed above ground Kaweah made for it 
at once, sucking up a mixture of sand and liquid as 
if it were nectar of the finest tap. I was not much 
more particular, for the water in the canteen was too 
hot to be pleasant. 

There is said to be a trail up this canon, but it 
was beyond my skill to follow it. Evening found us 
entering a jungle of arrowweed and mesquit. In this 
we struggled for an hour, hoping to fight a way 
through into clearer country. The last daylight left 
us at an impassable place, the creek close by, but 
running in a deep channel with perpendicular walls, 
impossible for Kaweah to descend. We turned and 
stumbled back for a mile in the darkness, Kaweah 
getting badly snagged more than once on stumps 
of mesquit. When we could cross the creek I turned 
upstream looking for a place to camp. 

Reaching a sandy opening among willows I 
stopped and off-saddled, gave Kaweah a hearty 
feed, and ate my bread and cheese by starlight. 
Breakfast had been my last meal, sixteen hours 
before. It was delicious to lie listening to the ripple 
of the creek and hearing Kaweah nibble about. 
These moments gain charm in proportion to their 



222 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

rarity, and the desert traveller meets them seldom. 
How true it is that happiness consists in trifles. 
Water, a little bag of barley, a few stars, a loaf and 
cheese, a tomato, and a cool night coming, that was 
about all: yet even the mosquitoes could not dis- 
turb my tranquillity that long evening on Coyote 
Creek. 



CHAPTER XIV 

A DESERT RIDE: LOS COYOTES TO WARNER'S 
SPRINGS 

Kaweah a tyrant Los Coyotes A grub-staked miner Cre- 
dulity of miners Prospector and poet A player of many parts 

Snakes, assorted kinds Vagaries of McSandy A moun- 
tain trail Flowers and cactus Indian relics Stiff climbing 

From brush to pines An Indian patriarch San Ygnacio 
Supper with Mary Jane Snakes again An Indian alpine 
village Mountain delights The desert's spell deepest Ka- 
weah breaks the ice San Ysidro Warner's Ranch Agua 
Caliente Indians. 

I AWOKE to find the sun making a green-and- 
gold sanctuary all about me, a canon- wren show- 
ering me with cascades of plaintive melody, doves 
sympathizing from a dead branch overhead, and nu- 
merous bumps on face and arms, with mosquitoes' 
kind regards. Kaweah was watching for my first 
movement. With little encouragement this comrade 
of mine would become a tyrant. His annoyance when 
I am half an hour late is not to be mistaken. 

I knew the night before that I was not far from a 
small bay or valley, about midway of the canon, 
known as Collins Valley, or to the Indians as Los 
Coyotes. This was where I had hoped to camp, and 
when, after breakfast, I went prospecting for my 
lost trail, I soon found that another half-mile would 
have taken us there. It had an attractive look, with 
a little patch of grass and tules, a palm or two, and 
many mesquits and willows, even a cottonwood. 
There was also an old cabin, another evidence of 



224 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

being in cattle country, though one may travel for 
many a day and see no cattle, to say nothing of 
implied mankind. 

I went back for Kaweah and my traps, and moved 
to this better camp, where I resolved to stay for a 
day. As I passed the cabin I heard some one exclaim, 
"Well, I '11 be (so-and-so), here's a man at last! Who 
are you, anyway?" I glanced in and saw a big fellow 
stretched on the ramshackle bed that half filled the 
place. He excused himself from rising on the score 
of having "durned near worn his feet off yesterday, 
clambering over these eternal mountains," but hos- 
pitably told me to come in and share the casa, add- 
ing, "There was a rattler around here a while ago, 
but I reckon he's maybe left by now." 

When I had accounted for myself, my new ac- 
quaintance reciprocated with the statement that he 
was Thomas McSandy (the name was not exactly 
that) for the present a prospector, and that he had 
been "grub-staked" by a Los Angeles friend who 
was acquainted with a man whose brother (then in 
an insane asylum) knew of a gem mine, the location 
of which, asMescribed to some official of the asylum, 
was supposed to be somewhere hereabout. On this 
hopeful quest he had been searching the surrounding 
country, and his "stake" of grub being about ex- 
hausted, he had given up the job and was striking 
out next day for home by way of Warner's Ranch. 

The gullibility of mankind with regard to lost 
mines or buried treasure is staggering indeed. The 
number and giddiness of these wild-goose chases 
amount to a phenomenon. No story is too unlikely, 



TO WARNER'S SPRINGS 225 

no clue too frail, to gain the belief of men in other 
respects judicious enough. The "old Indians" who, 
when dying, have spoken of some wondrous canon 
in the Humbug Range; the prospectors found at 
"poison springs" who at the last gasp have babbled 
of glittering ledges or placers, abandoned by them 
under stress of famine; the others who in this or that 
county hospital have whispered to some attendant 
the "sure thing" secret of the long-lost Blue Dog, 
or Holy Smoke; to say nothing of the variegated 
legends of the Peg-Leg these must run into hun- 
dreds, and their devotees into a veritable host. Mc- 
Sandy was but one of a long list that I myself could 
call to mind, to whose credulity no absurdity is an ob- 
stacle if their will-o'-the-wisp has the glitter of gold. 

But McSandy proved to have other erratic ideas. 
Before- we had talked half an hour he boldly an- 
nounced to me that he was a poet. Nothing odd 
about that, of course; in these days of vers libra we 
are all poets if we care to say so : but in sounding for 
his depth I dropped the names of Wordsworth and 
Byron. "Ah," said McSandy, kindling, "they could 
make poetry. Why, d' you know, I can't put up any 
better stuff myself than what those fellows did, 
durned if I can. No, sir." 

I looked at him carefully, but, no, there was no 
sign of humorous intent; candor, regret, perhaps a 
touch of surprise, no more. I hastily changed the 
subject, which, luckily, was 'easy to do, for he had 
wrongs to relate and adventures to recount that 
wotild fill fat volumes. He was amazed, even incred- 
ulous, that his name and exploits as a detective in 



226 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

a celebrated case were not familiar to me; was con- 
vinced that the other side still thirsted for his blood, 
and that emissaries of a certain famous organiza- 
tion were even now on his trail. He showed the 
revolver with which, while a deputy sheriff in New 
Mexico, he had "got his man"; he had lived every- 
where from the Argentine to Alaska, and made and 
lost " scads of money " ; he was full of tales of arsenic 
springs and poisoned desert waters, and of "close 
calls " in Death Valley, where he guaranteed a tem- 
perature of a hundred and forty-five in the shade. 
Yet, oddly, with these feats to his credit McSandy 
showed a total absence of that sense of location 
which is all but indispensable to the desert man. He 
was even hazy on the points of the compass. | 

McSandy preferred to sleep in the cabin, while I 
spread my blankets near by outside. The night being 
warm and not conducive to sleep, my friend un- 
folded new leaves of his career. I learned that he 
had visited Constantinople as seaman on a United 
States warship: had also been a Michigan lumber- 
man; and I forget how many other things. In spite 
of lifelike details, his narrative was an irresponsible 
farrago that kept me on the edge of an explosion. 
From Turks we had come to Apaches; when, "I 
think there's a snake climbing up on the bed," he 
remarked in the midst of some episode. "Can hear 
him creeping and creeping, durn his hide. Ain't 
them rattlers the limit, though? Sure death ev'ry 
time they get you. Say, d' you think I'd better 
make a light and look what he's doing?" He struck 
a match and, no snake being revealed, concluded 



TO WARNER'S SPRINGS 227 

that it was one of them blame trade-rats. But the 
snake topic, once started, is ever a prolific one. 
Did I know how a king-snake kills a rattler? "Well, 
sir, the son-of-a-gun just naturally jumps on top of 
him, yes, sir, jumps clean off the ground and lights 
plum on Mr. Rattler and does him up. Say, he's 
a son-of-a-gun, ain't he now? Snakes don't jump, 
don't they? Well, then, how about this? Up in 
Placer County I killed a rattler one day; cut off his 
head and two inches down the neck; and then that 
rattler up and jumped two foot dear. Why, they're 
powerful jumpers, them sons-of-guns are." 

He desired my opinion as to the best course to 
follow in the event of finding a rattler with one in 
bed. To jump, or not to jump, that was the ques- 
tion. I was strongly for jumping, but McSandy had 
his doubts: he feared that the rattler would "get" 
him ere he was halfway to the door, and would strike 
even in mid-air yes, sir. I brought up the hoop- 
snake legend. "Why, yes, sir," McSandy responded, 
"that's all right. I 've seen them fellers many a time 
down in the Argentine. He puts his tail in his mouth, 
and starts to roll, and roll, and say, I'd hate to 
have one of them fellers a-hooping after me. Joint- 
snake? the feller that breaks in little bits when 
you hit him and then joins up together again? No, 
I ain't ever seen them do it, but I reckon it's so, all 
right." Twenty feet was his estimate of the length 
of red racers that had crossed his path, while as for 
speed, greased lightning was a weak comparison. 
He had full belief also in the deadly nature of 
the tarantula's, scorpion's, and centipede's "sting," 



228 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

with vivid instances to allege in support. When at 
last we had cooled off enough for sleep his mind was 
still busy with snakes, and at intervals I heard him 
softly murmur, "You bet," or, "Son-of-a-gun, he 
is," until final silence fell. 

On McSandy's invitation I had resolved to change 
from my intended route to Warher's, and accom- 
pany him by a much shorter trail, passing the Indian 
villages of San Ygnacio and San Ysidro, places I 
had long wished to visit. 

I bade good-bye, then, to Anza and his band when 
next day we turned westward and made for the 
mountains. I had meant to visit Thousand Palm 
Canon (a second canon of the name; the other had 
been taken early in my journey) which opens two or 
three miles farther up Coyote Creek; but through 
the glasses it did not look inviting, showing only the 
usual vast fan of gravel, boulders, and brush. I sup- 
pose the palms are hidden in the upper gorge. There 
were miles of tedious travel before we reached the 
foot of the canon up which our trail ran, but we 
passed this before the sun was high, and it was 
still early when we commenced the steep ascent. 
Agaves and mesquit continued with us, but soon 
there appeared willows, sycamores, and occasionally 
a palm or two, giving interesting variety. 

After a mile or two of warm climbing we found a 
spring on the hillside and stopped for a rest and the 
luxury of drinking without the medium of a canteen. 
The ground about the spring was ablaze with the 
superb cardinal flower, Lobelia splendens, a plant 
which surely represents Nature's last effort in inten- 



TO WARNER'S SPRINGS 229 

sity of color. Even more charming were a few wild 
roses. Meeting them here, their frank, innocent look 
seemed almost touching by contrast with the un- 
gentle desert forms just left behind. 

The trail was far too steep and rough for riding. 
I was close behind McSandy, leading Kaweah, 
when I saw my supposedly experienced friend stop 
and draw his hand across a lobe of the common 
Opuntia basilaris cactus, remarking that Burbank 
was a fraud, for here was spineless cactus growing 
wild. Mr. Burbank was promptly avenged: it took 
half an hour to free McSandy's hand of the worst of 
the hairlike prickles, and when we came to the next 
water and stopped for lunch he spent an industrious 
hour in finishing the job. 

Though this trail is little known and not given on 
any map, it is plain, from the depth to which it is 
worn, that it has long been used by the Indians in 
passing between their desert and mountain villages. 
The rock that gave us shade was blackened with 
the smoke of ancient fires, and in the earth I found 
beads, scraps of pottery, and yellowed bones some 
of which had a strong look of homo sapiens. Near by 
were deep holes in the solid rock where generations 
of squaws had ground their flour. 

The trail now became yet steeper, one of the steep- 
est, indeed, that I ever tackled. Kaweah was a good 
deal worried, and often inquired with earnest gaze 
if I knew where I was going? We made progress by 
scrambles of forty or fifty yards at a time, some- 
times in the bouldery creek-bed, sometimes on slip- 
pery mountain-side. 



230 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

The changes in vegetation as we climbed were 
full of interest, though the circumstances were not 
the best for noting them. In the wet creek bottom 
grew masses of the same wonderful lobelia, often 
six feet tall and with flowering heads a foot in length. 
Sycamores and alders mingled with the willows, yet 
here and there the desert-loving palms held on, 
though the altitude was well over three thousand 
feet. On the open mountain-side the wild plum was 
common, now hung thickly with yellow fruit. The 
California sumac, Rhus ovata, made blots of heavy 
color on the pale background of rock. A little higher 
the mountain mahogany, Cercocarpus, came in, an 
attractive, individual bush, at this time silvery with 
the silky seed-vessels. Then scrub-oaks appeared, 
and next the ever-welcome jumper. Yuccas still 
held their own on rocky ledges, looking strangely 
out of place. Yet higher, masses of dull gold that 
had been puzzling me proved to be groves of the 
interesting Adenostoma sparsifoUum or false cedar, 
with bright red bark, slender foliage, and huge clus- 
ters of white blossom that were now faded to golden 
brown. The sturdy manzanita was another goodly 
sight; but most so of all, on nearing the crest, the 
pines, often sighed for, who now gave me kingly 
welcome. On this high sky-line they were finely 
pictorial and as much the unquestioned monarchs 
as ever. I have heard that it is a custom in mountain- 
ous parts of Spain to brush the face of a new-born 
child with a twig from a pine. I think something of 
the kind has happened to me, for among these trees 
I find that my face unconsciously takes on a smile. 



TO WARNER'S SPRINGS 231 

It was nearly sunset when we struggled up the 
last rise and crossed the pass at about five thousand 
feet. A short descent brought us to water, but forage 
was scanty, and tired as we were it was necessary 
to push on. Two miles farther we climbed a second 
crest, and looked down on a little green valley. This 
was the home of old Santiago Segundo, the patri- 
arch of the San Ygnacio Indians. At the house we 
found Santiago, his son Felipe, three or four pic- 
turesque squaws, and half a dozen unfriendly dogs. 
The old man was a memorable figure. Tall and well 
built, with features more of Egyptian than of our 
Western Indian cast, and a bearing of natural dig- 
nity, from sandalled feet to thick white hair he 
looked the ideal Indian chief. 

Our request for permission to camp by the stream 
was refused (the only time I have been denied at an 
Indian's, but I could not complain, for the Indian 
has good reason to be suspicious of white strangers). 
It was dark when we came to a larger valley en- 
circled by pine-clad heights, where we found the 
rancheria, of San Ygnacio. It is a romantic situation, 
like an eagle's eyrie on the craggy crest of the moun- 
tains: on one hand is the desert, far and steep below; 
on the other the long : seaward slope, fifty miles as 
the crow flies, to the Pacific. 

.Disappointment met us at the first house we 
tried, which belonged to the tribal policeman; but 
the next attempt brought better fortune, for smiling 
Mary Jane Segundo, the very type of good-humor, 
made us welcome to camp, hay, anything we wished. 
This was a relief, for the day's travel, perhaps twenty 



232 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

miles in distance, had been equal to forty on the 
level, and I had not ridden any part of the way. 
When I made bold to ask if we might share the 
family supper "Sure you may/' came the reply 
from the gloom where Mary Jane hovered with fork 
and lantern over a crackling fire. 

It was an excellent meal. Eggs fried to a charm, 
frijoles at their best, wild honey fresh out of the 
rocks, coffee at perfection, and such biscuit as one 
seldom meets on this mortal plane. There was 
tasaje too, but not for me. I have had experiences 
with "jerky" that after lapse of years remain a 
solemnizing memory. The household consisted of 
our hostess, her mother (who carried her years so 
lightly that I took her for a sister), and two cousins, 
Jos6 and Dionysio, the latter a boy. A good deal of 
laughter went with remarks, in their own language, 
of which we were plainly the object. It might well 
have been our appetites that were the joke. 

I was able to bring Mary Jane items of news of 
her relations on the desert. This made us doubly 
welcome, and it was altogether a pleasant evening 
that I spent in the smoky adobe. The room itself 
was worth observing, festooned with ropes of chile 
and tasaje, adorned with chromos of religious sub- 
jects, and hallowed by a tiny shrine with candle and 
crucifix. 

As there seemed a prospect of rain we elected to 
sleep in the barn with the rats. My companion again 
attributed every disturbance to snakes, and twice 
during the night made a tour of the premises with 
lantern and revolver. As it happened, I killed a 



TO WARNER'S SPRINGS 233 

rattler a few yards away on first going out in the 
morning, whereupon McSandy declared that after 
this he was going to shoot whenever he heard " them 
sons-of-guns snooping round." 

The daylight view of San Ygnacio confirmed its at- 
tractiveness. The little valley was deliciously green, 
water was abundant, and the surroundings were 
almost Alpine in boldness and novelty. The air was 
superb, and the summer climate delightful. Eight or 
ten families make up the little settlement. Perched 
on the rocks beside Mary Jane's adobe was the 
may r -a-not or storage basket in which Indian house- 
wives keep their stores of acorns, pifion nuts, or 
other wild provision. In the house were a number of 
handsome baskets for various uses; jars and ollas of 
native pottery, without decoration but excellent in 
form; bows and arrows, with which Dionysio, as he 
told me, was able to kill rabbits at forty or fifty 
yards; throwing-sticks for the same purpose; and 
much of the paraphernalia of the old Indian ways 
of life. The rumor having spread that a man was 
taking pictures, the children of the village assembled 
for this thrilling experience. When I sent them for 
their bows and arrows, with a view to a character- 
istic group, some of the young warriors returned 
with weapons taller than themselvek 

Down a steep road that followed the windings of 
San Ysidro Creek we took our way for Warner's 
Springs. This wooded country of oaks, pines, and 
cedars was enchanting to me. It seemed incredible 
that one day's travel could so change every aspect 
but that of the sky; though even that was a more 



234 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

cheerful blue, no longer the pale, glary azure of the 
desert. Grass waved along the roadside what a 
contrast to chollas! Late flowers brightened the 
path, replacing gray burro-weed and snaky ocotillo. 
Kingly oaks for dull mesquit; winey breath of cedar 
instead of acrid alkaline dust; frank bird in place of 
furtive reptile it was a blessed exchange. And 
yet, and yet already I felt the magic, the mag- 
netism, of the old, wonderful desert, drawing me 
back: back to its dreariness, silence, and secrecy, 
its cruelty of heat and thirst, its infinite expanse, its 
ageless mystery and calm, its threat of death, its 
passionless repose. I am no misanthrope: I love my 
fellow men, indeed, I eagerly claim my right in 
mortality. But there is a presence in that quietude, 
a sense of wisdom and of the sadness that goes with 
it, which something in me recognizes as brotherhood 
too. The mountains, the ocean, the forest, go deep 
in their spell, but the desert goes deepest of all. 

McSandy, anxious to reach civilization and sup- 
plies, had gone on ahead. Kaweah and I were well 
content to idle in this elysium of roadside springs, 
fresh green fodder, and beguiling sights and sounds. 
Some few miles along, a neat little house appeared, 
the owner sitting patriarchally under its sheltering 
oaks. It proved to be Sibimoat, capitan of the Indi- 
ans of San Ysidro. Half a dozen young bucks were 
loafing on the porch, inert, hardly speaking, simply 
enjoying the passage of time, while their saddled 
ponies stood about with drooping heads. I had often 
known Kaweah to act as mutual friend and breaker 
of ice when we came among Indians. However far 



TO WARNER'S SPRINGS 235 

from home, he is spotted at once as of Indian breed, 
and often recognized as having been present at 
some fiesta or other foregathering. "Ah-h-ha, where 
you get' that pony? 1 ' "Francisco Patencio, Palm 
Springs," I would answer. "Ah, si, I know: good 
pony you get: how much you pay?" and so we 
were launched. Indians and Mexicans never forget 
a horse, and more easily recall the rider by his horse 
than the horse by his rider. 

The San Ysidro Indians' farming land lies scat- 
tered along the course of the creek. For miles I saw 
below me little fenced scraps of bottom land planted 
with beans, potatoes, corn, or barley. The barley 
was being harvested with the sickle, as it has been 
ever since the padres taught the California tribes to 
supplement Nature's roots, seeds, and game by a 
little not too much exertion on their own part 
San Ysidro village itself is a dreary hamlet of a dozen 
typical Indian houses, a tiny cemetery, and a brush 
ramada for the accommodation of visitors to the 
yearly fiesta. 

By now we had left the pines and were travelling 
through less inviting country, so I was not sorry to 
approach a wide valley which I recognized as the 
Valle de San Jos6, or Warner's Ranch. This tract of 
nearly fifty thousand acres is one of the last of the 
old land grants to remain unbroken since Mexican 
times. Over the valley hung the smoke of a forest 
fire. 

The road ran steadily down, opening a view of 
the timbered Volcan Mountain far to the south. 
Finding a trail that made direct for the settlement 



236 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

we plunged through thickets of fragrant chamise 
and glades ennobled with oaks, and at early evening 
came to what was formerly the Indian village of Agua 
Caliente. Some years ago the old population were 
evicted and their neat cottages coolly appropriated 
by the whites. The place is now known as Warner's 
Springs, and has become a summer resort on a small 
scale, the attraction being the hot sulphur springs 
from which it took its old Spanish name. 

McSandy made for his old bivouac, in the dis- 
mantled Indian church. Apart from scruples on the 
religious score, which McSandy thought high-flown, 
I preferred the open air, so chose a spot beside the 
warm creek for my camp. It is reported by some old 
traveller that the Indians of Agua Caliente were in 
the habit, on cold nights, of sleeping in the creek, 
with the grassy bank for pillow. At this season there 
was no need to adopt this simple dodge. Farther on 
in my journey I found people in Imperial Valley 
soaking their couches with cold water before going 
to bed, for better comfort on sultry nights. 

On calling at the store for mail and the news I 
learned that two days after I passed Clay Point a 
party of three men met disaster a few miles farther 
south. One perished of thirst, the others barely 
escaped with their lives. 1 

1 While preparing these pages at least four cases of this kind have 
come to my notice in the local newspaper. The latest, a typical one, 
reports the end of a prospector who was found dying beside one of 
the so-called "poison springs*' on the northern part of the desert. 
He had reached the place famishing for water and probably had drunk 
too much. So every year the desert takes its toll. 



CHAPTER XV 

A DESERT RIDE: WARNER'S SPRINGS TO AGUA 
CALIENTE 

Don Juan Warner The March of Progress Desertwards again 

The cowboy at home "A dura boulevard" Warner's Pass 
and General Kearny A pioneer storekeeper San Felipe In- 
dians: a funeral Voices of the Night The deserted village 
The Ranchita Mine Potency of a fiesta Kaweah disgruntled 

La Puerta de San Felipe The Mormon Battalion Sanguine 
settlers Elysium of Indians The Vallecito An old stage- 
station: its memories A lucky encounter Carrizo Creek Canon 

Forest fires Camp at Agua Caliente Springs Grewsome 
yarns Travellers who "stayed" Sunrise and the Sun An 
easy day, and sunset. 



is not much of attraction at Warner's 
X Springs. A pathetic interest, however, hangs 
about the row of adobe cottages, now used to house 
visitors who come in summer for the medicinal baths. 
I felt inclined to refuse payment for baths to the 
present owners and hand over my "two bits" per 
tub to the first Indian I might meet. Such of the 
old houses as have not been put to use are far on 
the road to the quick obliteration that awaits any 
neglected building of adobe. The church was still 
intact as regards walls, but cracks were starting, and 
the roof was fast going to pieces. Inside, paltry tour- 
ists have scratched their names, and stray prospect- 
ors, like my poet, camp in corners and fry sacri- 
legious flapjacks at the padre's fireplace in the tiny 
vestry adjoining. 1 

1 Recently, a year or so after the time of my visit, I received from 
the Reverend Father Doyle, priest of the Mission of San Antonio at 



238 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

The ranch takes its name from one John or Jona- 
than Warner, a native of Connecticut, to whom it 
was granted by the Mexican Government a few 
years before the cession of California to the United 
States. Of him little is remembered beyond the 
legend that to his intimates he was Juan Largo 
(Long John) ; to others it was ever Don Juan a 
vaguely interesting item. The original adobe ranch- 
house has wholly vanished : its site was pointed out 
to me by a Volcan Indian who remembers it well. 
In Warner's days it formed a halfway house be- 
tween Yuma and the young "Pueblo de Nuestra 
Senora la Reina de los Angeles, " and was the far- 
thest outpost of civilization, and indeed of human- 
ity, in this direction, being the first house met after 
leaving Yuma, well over a hundred miles away. 

Warner's Ranch is to-day a vast cattle range. 
Leagues of sweet grass, with shade and ample water, 
make it a stockman's paradise. There are wide 
stretches of arable land besides, and ere long, no 
doubt, the real-estate dealer will adjudge it ripe for 
his little schemes. A town-site will be platted : the 
truthful " folder" will cast the net: free excursions, 
perhaps a barbecue, will draw the trustful " sucker " 
gently in: and Warner's will proudly join the March 
of Progress. 

I stayed for two days, by which time I had cleared 
the store of its fruits and vegetables. Then bidding 

Pak, where the dispossessed Indians of Warner's now live, an invi- 
tation to attend the reopening and dedication of the old church. By 
the Father's energy, the building has been acquired, repaired, and 
restored to the use of such few of the Indian parishioners as remain 
within reach. 



TO AGUA CALIENTE 239 

good-bye to McSandy I again turned my face desert- 
wards. The forest fire that I had seen burning on 
the western edge of the ranch had been put out, but 
another had started in the Laguna Mountains to 
the southeast. I had meant to take that country on 
my way, in order to get as much as possible of 
mountain pleasures before tackling the long desert 
stretches that lay ahead. This now was barred, and 
I viewed the distant column of smoke with no little 
disgust. 

For hours I rode south and east through the great 
valley, the summer-yellowed grass varied with dark- 
clustering oaks or islands of aromatic brush. From 
these came the shouts of those jolly pirates the 
Steller jays, or the guffaws of red-headed blackbirds, 
like "Laughter holding both his sides. " Nearing the 
eastern edge of the ranch, patches of cactus and 
cat-claw met us with reminders that beyond the 
next ridge stretched the thorny, dreary desert. As 
I ate lunch beside a spring under a hillside oak, 
thoughts of the torturing heat of coming noonday 
camps would intrude, but I turned my eyes to the 
pine-clad heights and revelled in draught after 
draught of the cool, pure liquid tinkling by at arm's 
length. 

I diverged here to call on an old acquaintance 
whom I had last known as a vaquero on a ranch a 
few miles to the south. He had now "given hostages 
to Fortune/' and was established as cattleman on 
his own account. I came to his place about evening 
and met a hearty welcome. It was amusing to see 
how the family-man had qualified the cowboy of a 



240 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

year or two before, and to note the air, mingling the 
old and the new, with which my friend ruled what 
he termed his " outfit." The baby was addressed in 
a dialect quite unlike the orthodox more in the 
Roaring Camp or Circle Bar vein. A special event 
was the young lady's first appearance on horseback. 
This, at the age of twelve weeks, I think beats any- 
thing offered in circuses. 

The cowboy's liking for unlimited range was illus- 
trated by my friend's complaint that new-comers 
were crowding him out. A neighbor a mile away in 
one direction and another four miles off in the other 
were the grounds of objection; and the road was 
"getting to be a durn boulevard: there were two 
fellows went by yesterday." As this is the main 
route from Warner's to Borego Springs I hoped the 
swelling tide of travel might brighten the lot of 
that little Devonshire woman down in the lonesome 
valley. 

A road runs southeasterly from Warner's along 
the flank of the Volcan Mountain, and by it I took 
my way next day toward the desert. It is the old 
Warner's Pass route between desert and coast. By 
this trail came General Kearny and his dragoons 
with Kit Carson in company, on his long march in 
1846 for the conquest of California; and it was from 
Warner's Ranch that he advanced to the battle, 
not much more than a skirmish, of San Pasqual, 
thirty miles to the west, where he met defeat at the 
hands of the despised Californians under Andreas 
Pico. Later, in the early years of American rule, this 
was the route of the Butterfield Overland Stages, 



TO AGUA CALIENTE 241 

which carried mails and passengers between St. 
Louis and San Francisco on a bi-weekly schedule, 
with twenty-one days for running time. 

Too soon the oaks were left behind, and with 
them went the shade. The road trended steadily 
down, and already the desert seemed to be sucking 
my vital juices. Before us opened the San Felipe 
Valley, midway between mountains and desert and 
showing the characteristic features of both. The 
moving specks on the gray expanse were cattle, for 
it was still stockman's country, though rainfall here 
is unreliable, and disaster often points the moral of 
the cattleman's besetting temptation, overstocking 
the range. 

An old pioneer, Wilson by name, keeps a pretence 
of a store on this road, about midway between 
Warner's and the San Felipe. As a store it is merely 
a joke, and I take its real purpose to be that of a 
trap to detain the passer-by until the old fellow has 
satisfied his curiosity. He is the antiquity of the 
region, but unfortunately is so deaf that conversa- 
tion, short of roaring, was impossible. The process of 
business is simple. The customer walks about and 
collects what he needs, if he can find it, from the all 
but empty shelves, while the old gentleman hobbles 
dose behind and keeps the reckoning. 

A cluster of decaying adobes at the foot of the 
mountain marked the deserted village of the San 
Felipe Indians. This small rancheria shared the fate 
of the Agua Caliente village when the Warner 
Indians were evicted, fifteen years ago. One or two 
families, whose instinct for the old home was too 



242 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

strong to be defeated, still live about the locality. 
A few miles farther on I met a little procession of 
three wagons. On the seat of the first were two In- 
dian women: one was driving, the other held upright 
a small wooden cross. In the bed of the wagon was 
a child's coffin, roughly made and unpainted. The 
other wagons held Indian men, women, and chil- 
dren, some of whom carried withered flowers and 
greenery. It was the funeral of a San Felipe boy on 
its way to the old burying-ground. The sad-eyed 
women, the lonely road, the sun, the dust, the old, 
universal errand, brought home to me a sense of 
gratitude in our common humanity; and as I stood 
uncovered, I claimed the Indian child for flesh of 
my flesh, spirit of my spirit, in no empty phrase 
my little brother. 

It was past noon when we came to the San Felipe 
ranch-house. The old, picturesque house of adobe 
which I knew twenty years before had been re- 
placed by a pretentious building that was out of 
keeping with its surroundings. The owner seldom 
visits the place, which is left to the management of 
Teodoro, the Indian vaquero, with a caretaker for 
the house. I bought some hay for Kaweah, and 
camped near the house. The night was enlivened by 
episodes between the coyotes and the ranch dogs, 
Bones, a greyhound, and Maje, a mongrel. "Bo-o- 
o-o-o-o-ones!" went the coyotes in derisive chorus, 
ending with howls of laughter: then "Ma-a-a-a-a- 
a-aje! Ya-a-ah, Ma-a-a-a-a-a-aje!" and again fits 
of maudlin glee. Out would charge Bones and the 
Major with robustious challenge, but the enemy, 



TO AGUA CALIENTE 243 

with no stomach for close quarters, were off like the 
wind. They were back like the wind, too, to break 
out again the moment the dogs settled down, which 
they chose to do close by my sleeping-quarters. 

From the San Felipe two roads go to the desert, 
one continuing down the valley, the other, which I 
took, climbing the shoulder of a mountain to the 
south, and making a circuit behind it. In a rincon 
or elbow at the foot of the rise lay the hamlet of 
Banner, a place of some repute thirty years ago, 
when, with the mountain town of Julian, a few miles 
to the west, it was the centre of a lively mining 
region. Now, the population could be counted on 
the fingers of one hand. The only inhabitant I saw 
seemed to typify the place an old, old man, bent 
and silent, who crept to and fro on the veranda of 
an echoing "hotel." 

The trail here turned eastward, making a sharp 
ascent. As usual, the change of altitude was at once 
registered in the vegetation. Sizable bushes took the 
place of low and scanty brush : tall yucca spears ap- 
peared, their creamy candle-flames now long burned 
out. Then live-oaks began to spot the pale slopes 
with blots of umber. Shafts of old mines were nu- 
merous, and here and there stood decrepit cabins, 
long unused, surrounded with a litter of rusty 
shovels, drills, and crowbars, and specimens of min- 
eral. 

On a shoulder of the mountain I came upon the 
remains of a once notable mine, the Ranchita. The 
machinery was still in place, and the ten-stamp 
battery stood open-jawed as if begging one more 



244 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

meal of pay rock. There was something ghostly 
about the place. The. engines, the complexity of 
pipes, shafts, and belts, the assaying-room with its 
furnace, retorts, and regiments of bottles, all had a 
look of tragedy, as if some deed of horror had oc- 
curred, and caused the whole crew, men and mas- 
ters, to drop their business on the word and flee the 
place for ever. 

A spring of good water and a few old fruit trees 
made an inviting halting-place. I had put Kaweah 
to graze on a precious scrap of grass, and sat down 
to my lunch, when a man on horseback came clatter- 
ing down the trail. It is an event to meet any one on 
these scantily travelled paths, so to stop and com- 
pare notes is the natural thing. This young fellow, 
coatless and baggageless, had come from some lonely 
mine twenty miles off and was casually going up to 
Julian, ten miles away on the top of the opposite 
mountain, to "take in" a fiesta of horse-racing and 
general hilarity, with a barbecue and an all-night 
dance to wind up with. To-morrow morning he 
would light-heartedly start for home, fully satisfied 
with his little jaunt. He was a friendly chap, and 
suggested my turning back and "taking it in" with 
him; and to encourage me he displayed a handbill 
which declared "every cowboy and cowgirl in the 
universe" to be welcome. When I pointed out that 
I did not fall under either head he replied that any 
fellow that rides a pony was eligible. But my road 
lay eastward; and with a "Well, then, adios!" and 
a wave of the hand, he skittered away down the 
mountain. 



TO AGUA CALIENTE 245 

An hour more of climbing took us to the divide. 
Kaweah is never happy in this sort of country. He 
reminds me of the ingenious excuse of the defeated 
Syrians: " their gods were not gods of the mountains 
but of the plain/' It is always weary work with him 
on rocky trails, and puts my temper on a strain. 
So it was a discontented pair that plodded down 
that interminable canon of sand and boulders, jok- 
ingly termed a road. The afternoon was sultry, with 
clouds to south and west portending storm, though 
eastward over the desert the sun glared down as 
fiercely as ever. 

The canon opened at last into a brushy expanse 
called Mason Valley, from the name of some old 
settler. Through a narrow gateway in the mountain 
wall to the north, known formerly as the Puerta de 
San Felipe, the old stage-road climbed up to the 
San Felipe Valley, and thence to Warner's and the 
coast. The first vehicles to pass through it were 
the wagon-train of the " Mormon Battalion," under 
Lieutenant-Colonel Cooke, in 1847, on their long 
trek from Fort Leavenworth to San Diego. The colo- 
nel has given a vivid picture of the difficulties they 
met at this point, where a way had to be hewed with 
axes through the rocky pass before the wagons could 
proceed. 1 

A naturalist friend who makes Mason Valley his 
occasional home had made me welcome to the use 
of his cabin and, much more important, his hay- 
stack. About dusk we arrived at the place, but 

1 The Conquest of New Mexico and California, by P. St. George 
Cooke: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1878. 



246 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

found he was away. Unluckily, too, his well was out 
of order, so we had to go on to the next settler's for 
water. A rainfall averaging two to five inches would 
not seem to offer much inducement to the farmer; 
yet here, as at Borego, three or four men have taken 
up homesteads, and are holding on in hope that 
some day matters will improve, through the striking 
of abundant water by deeper borings. Meanwhile 
it is mainly the jackrabbits that profit by the crops 
planted by the pioneers of Mason Valley, and, in- 
deed, the jacks of this region are giants of their 
land. As they bounded away with that inimitable 
grace and ease, I was almost tricked into thinking 
they were antelope. 

This valley is a natural plantation of agave, and 
I saw many traces of the pits in which generations 
of Indians have baked a-moosh f . These Indians, like 
those of Santa Rosa, were happily placed as regards 
climate. Within the distance of two or three hours' 
travel they had the perfect winter temperature of 
the desert or ideal summer surroundings among the 
timber and running streams of the Laguna Moun- 
tains. With a surplus of game, and a wide choice of 
vegetable food, their life, on the physical side, was 
far from being one of hardship. The canned beef 
and phonographs, "wrappers" and trousers, we 
have conferred, have not made them sincerely hap- 
pier, and the rattle-trap houses we persuade them 
to live in are but a means to consumption and pneu- 
monia. It is seldom a kindness to give anything the 
need of which has not come to be felt. 

From Mason Valley the road passed over a divide 



TO AGUA CALIENTE 247 

into a larger* valley called the Vallecito. Low moun- 
tains bounded it on the north; on the south rose the 
higher wall of the Lagunas, with pines trimming the 
edge and seeming to reproach me for the visit I had 
failed to pay. This long cafion, dropping from valley 
to valley, is the course of one of the desert's consid- 
erable streams, the Carrizo. Only a trained hydro- 
grapher would suspect it, however, for the flow is 
wholly underground for nearly all of the year, and 
comes to the surface only at times of unusual rain. 

The heat was intense, for we were nearing desert 
level, and the landscape wavered like a picture on a 
screen. Ocotillos covered the valley closely and the 
hillsides more scantily, a few struggling up to the 
crests where their skinny arms moved in the breeze 
as if signalling of some rare sight that I should come 
and see. 

At the lower end of the valley some arrangement 
of the strata brings the moisture to the surface to 
form a ctinaga, with a few mesquits and much salt 
grass and sacaton. Near by stood the long-deserted 
stage-station, an ample, picturesque building of 
what at first sight I took to be adobe bricks of the 
usual kind, but found were blocks of natural sod 
from the cienaga. It is the only structure of the kind 
that I know, and the material appears to answer its 
purpose well, better in fact than adobe. It was inter- 
esting to note the rough but solid construction. Not 
only the walls and the square pillars of the veranda, 
but the roof, was built of sod, in flat bricks about 
nine by eighteen by five inches. The rafters were of 
natural pine, unsquared. On this, crosswise, were 



248 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

mats of thin willow poles, interwoven with strips of 
rawhide now brittle with age. On this, crosswise 
again, was a layer, of tules: then the sods, closely 
fitted together, and cemented and surfaced with 
adobe mud. A similar mortar was used in the walls 
and pillars. 

In the wide sunny silence the old house made a 
charming if desolate picture. These structures made 
of the very earth have preeminently that air of fit- 
ness to their surroundings that is the first command- 
ment of taste in building. Hence the peculiar beauty 
of our California Missions. Simplicity is inherent in 
the material, for elaboration is impossible in adobe. 
The low round arch is its highest flight, and the 
style accords with our gentle coast landscapes al- 
most as if the building had grown spontaneously 
from the soil. Though other fashions of architecture 
are greater, statelier, or more ennobled by genius 
and imagination, no other is so natural, so coherent, 
so familiarly pleasing, in a word, so humane. The 
old Vallecitos station, slowly rounding and crum- 
bling back to its original earth, seems in. the same 
way suited and almost necessary to its place. 

I would have given a good deal for the power of 
visualizing the scenes that this old place has wit- 
nessed. Seventy years is not a long term, and the 
Warner's Pass stage-road has at no time seen any- 
thing that could be called a tide of travel: but for 
grip and interest I fancy that the life lived and the 
tales told round that old fireplace would hold their 
own against the best that any Wayside Inn could 
show. Many of those pioneers, the very last of whom 




8 

H 










3' 

O 

Cd 

H 



TO AGUA CALIENTE 249 

are now close upon the final destination, came this 
way, with scars of Apache arrows and notches on 
rifle-butts that meant stories that would make 
"movie" men bite their fingers for envy. Here 
passed bands of jingling caballeros in the ante- 
Gringo days of the forties, and here came Kearny's 
dragoons and Cooke's nondescript "Mormon Bat- 
talion," and many of those Great Plainsmen to 
whom every trail from the Mississippi to the Coast 
was like one's private short cut 'cross lots. Much of 
the great California gold rush came this way, and a 
later generation of gold-seekers found this the handi- 
est route for quests into the Superstitions or C6co- 
pas, Chocolates or Huachucas. Engineers, from 
Lieutenant Emory's 1846 Military Reconnaissance 
of the Thirty-second Parallel down to the party 
whom I met near here a few years ago looking out 
aeroplane landings, have found Vallecitos Springs 
invaluable as a base of operations. And it may be 
reckoned that many a fugitive from justice has 
found this the easiest way to cheat the sheriff by the 
time-honored method of "skipping across the line," 
since the Mexican border is but a few miles away. 

All the morning I had seen hardly a token of ani- 
mal life: a road-runner perhaps, but no other bird, 
nor beast, nor even reptile. Here I found flycatchers 
and a woodpecker or two gathered in a cottonwood 
near the water-trough that the county authorities 
have placed here for the benefit of cattle and cattle- 
men. Dragon-flies were patrolling over the ciSnaga, 
and hornets were busy at their masonic labors on 
a branch overhead. It was altogether a seductive 



250 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

place, and I had to resist an inclination to let the 
afternoon slip away in a prolonged siesta. 

At a little cabin on the farther side of the ciSnaga I 
found a lonely settler who runs a few head of cattle 
on these dry ranges. With him, as it happened, was 
a prospector who for years had made this part of 
the desert his beat. This meeting made my oppor- 
tunity for seeing a remarkable gorge, known as Split 
Mountain Canon, which I had been warned not to 
attempt to explore without a guide who knew the 
intricacies of the "bad-lands" that must be crossed 
to reach it. By good luck this prospector needed to 
visit certain claims of his near the outlet of the 
canon. We agreed to join forces, and arranged to 
meet next day at a spot a few miles farther on called 
Agua Caliente the almost inevitable name for 
any place in California, or Mexico either, where 
warm springs occur. 

Next morning, then, I took my way again down 
the Carrizo Creek Canon. Crossing a divide, the 
high country I had lately left was soon lost to view, 
and on either side rose pale, ashy hills that dipped 
lower and lower till they sank into the level. They 
looked the very stronghold of drought, a scattering 
of drab brush only serving to mark their ugliness 
and hopeless aridity. The ocotillos grew few and 
small, even the agaves were yellow and stunted. 
When the road dropped to the dry river-bed, smoke- 
trees and desert willows appeared as in duty bound, 
but they had a pinched, last gasp look that intensi- 
fied the misery of the landscape. The loose sand 
made the hardest kind of going, and the sun dealt 



TO AGUA CALIENTE 251 

his fiercest stroke. Over the mountains to the south 
hung the brown haze of a forest fire which had 
burned intermittently for a week. The thought of 
those smoking hillsides going up with crackle and 
roar in league-long sheets of flame gave the final 
touch to the torture of the heat. I felt as if the skin 
of my face would crack and shrivel off, and wondered 
if any mortal man could possibly be fighting that 
fire that day at close range. 

At length I saw against the gray hills a tiny spot 
of green that I hailed as my landmark. Arrived there 
I found my man with his two horses already in 
camp. He seemed surprised to see me, and remarked 
that he had not expected me to show up: had 
thought that I should back out and go by the near- 
est way to Imperial Valley, seeing I was so near. 
Split Mountain, he considered, was a crazy place 
for any one to go without better reason than I had 
named. 

The spot was pleasant, for a desert camp. Three 
springs of good though warm water broke out on 
tie hillside and fed a strip of green grass, dotted 
with mesquits, palms, and tufts of arrowweed. Some 
mineral contained in the water has built up mounds 
of a whitish deposit, giving the appearance of gey- 
sers, or miniature volcanoes. As the next day would 
be Sunday, and the forage would carry us over, we 
agreed to postpone our start till Monday. In the 
evening we had a small camp-fire not for warmth 
but for the look of it and Wellson entertained 
me with episodes in the lives of sundry Coyote 
Charlies, Shoot-'em-up Smiths, and other local 



252 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

celebrities. He had also grewsome tales of men who 
had come by their death in the region we were about 
to visit. The spot where Frenchy's boot, containing 
a leg-bone and part of a cake of Navy Plug, was 
found: the " monument" that Newt Dolan must 
have missed in the dark and so taken the wrong 
branch of the dry-wash from which he never 
emerged, and other points of interest, he would 
show me on Monday if he did n't forget. In most 
cases, though, there was no memento: they had 
merely, as he compactly put it, ''gone in and 
stayed." 

A case in his own knowledge was a young fellow 
from Syracuse, who had arranged last summer to 
meet Wellson at Carrizo Springs and accompany 
him through Split Mountain Canon. As he did not 
arrive when expected, Wellson went on alone, leav- 
ing word, in case the other came later, that he was 
not to try to follow him, but wait for his return. 
Next day the young man appeared at Carrizo 
Springs, and, disregarding the advice, started, with 
a small quantity of food and water, to follow Well- 
son by his tracks. He had not been seen or heard of 
since: the bad-lands engulfed him and, like many 
more, he " stayed." 

It was fine to lie at leisure next morning, careless 
of time, and watch the coming of day. An uncertain 
pallor stole into the east while the morning star was 
still low in the horizon. It strengthened impercep- 
tibly to a silvery light, unearthly and shy and holy. 
A stain of orange came, flushing quickly to crimson; 
but the color, vivid as it was, did not escape beyond 



TO AGUA CALIENTE 253 

a narrow belt of horizon, and met the indigo of the 
upper sky, where the stars still shone, with scarcely 
a tinge of change. Then over the crimson came a 
glow of gold. The stars grew pale and suddenly were 
quenched, while the gold gathered into one spot of 
quivering glory intolerably bright. A moment of 
crisis, and up strode The Sun and began flinging 
abroad his terrible largesse. Well, Tyrant, I am but 
a puny son of one of thy puny planets, but hark: 
I defy thee! 

The day was helped along by occasional visits to 
the largest of the springs, where a bathing-hole has 
been formed, I do not know whether by Nature or 
man. A tall rock made a slip of shade where we hud- 
dled between times. The horses strayed from Ber- 
muda grass to screw-beans and back, or lay wonder- 
ing what would be the penalty to-morrow for this 
unwonted ease to-day. At evening, after watching 
all day the dull changes on the colorless hills, I was 
once again startled by the magic of sunset. Leagues 
of gray slope and plain, that had seemed thrice dead, 
drained of color, were changed in a breath to hues 
the most enchanting and spiritual. With no divinity 
at work, could mere physics, laws of refraction and 
so forth, achieve this heavenly splendor by blind, 
automatic result? 



CHAPTER XVI 

A DESERT RIDE: AGUA CALIENTE TO "SAN FELIPE 
CITY" 

Prospectors' rites En route for Split Mountain The cavalcade 

The campomoche Bad-lands again Miners' Hell^ Dig- 
ging for water A spectacular canon Gloom at midday 
Nightfall in a canon Fish Creek Mountain Impossible water 

A "dry camp" Kaweah in distress Horse and master 
Tragedy again An optimistic city Conversational finance 
Feats of the sun A, depressing landscape Approaching Su- 
perstition Mountain A warm canon A prospector's "close 
call " A waterless region Evening luxury. 

LIKE every genuine prospector I ever met, 
Wellson had three articles of faith without 
observance of which no day could hopefully begin: 
one was flapjacks, another bacon, the third coffee. 
(The second of them I find it wise to abjure when 
there is a thirsty day's work ahead.) Thus, though 
we were up at half-past four, the sun was already 
hot when we started from Agua Caliente. Our horses 
carried, beside our other baggage, all the water that 
we had vessels to hold, viz. : three canvas water-bags 
and four canteens, giving eleven gallons altogether. 
At one place on our route it was possible we might 
get a little water by digging, and in hope of it we 
had borrowed a shovel from our Vallecitos acquaint- 
ance. Failing this, we should not find any till next 
day, and the horses must have water once at least 
before then. 

The best known entrance to Split Mountain 
Canon is from Carrizo Springs, some miles to the 



TO SAN FELIPE CITY 255 

east of Agua Caliente; but Wellson believed he could 
find a direct route through the bad-lands that would 
save us that d6tour. We struck directly northeast, 
over a rising plain dotted with dwarfed agaves and 
ocotillos. Ahead was a high divide formed by the 
meeting of the flanks of Vallecitos and Fish Creek 
Mountains. It is between these two mountains that 
Split Mountain Canon runs, a mere rift in width, 
but deep and clear-cut. To the south there gradu- 
ally opened a view of Coyote Mountain (not the 
peak of that name that I had passed on leaving 
Borego Springs), a handsomely shaped block of 
dull reddish brown, standing a few miles to the 
north of the Mexican border. 

Of my companion's two horses, one was generally 
used as pack-horse, the other for riding. Now, how- 
ever, loaded as all the animals were with bags and 
canteens of water, we were both afoot. On a gravelly 
bench we found galleta grass growing in tussocks 
any one of which would have made a meal for a 
truck-horse. It was hard to pass it by, but fortu- 
nately Wellson had brought along half a sack of bar- 
ley, from which I would draw rations for Kaweah. 

It was here that I first identified an insect of bad 
reputation, the campomoche. It belongs to the same 
family as that ferocious hypocrite, the praying man- 
tis, and is a gray, stick-like creature, not easily seen 
amid the dry stems of the galleta where it is apt to 
be found. Taken into the stomach of horses or cat- 
tle, its effect is said to be that of a corrosive poison, 
sometimes strong enough to cause death. I am a lit- 
tle doubtful regarding this fatal quality of the cam- 



256 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

pomoche, in view of the tendency to exaggeration in 
such matters: but the story has come to me from 
several sources. 

Two hours brought us to the edge of the bad-, 
lands, in the form of a deep, abrupt barranca, the 
first of dozens through which we must thread our 
way. In we dived : and, indeed, to plunge into one of 
these mazes is much like diving into unknown water: 
when, where, or whether one will get out is some- 
what a matter of chance. In and out, up and down, 
we went for hours, scrambling up and sliddering 
down. Now and then we left the horses and climbed 
out to get our bearings afresh. It was not reassuring 
to see that Wellson was often at fault, though it was 
natural, since he was gauging landmarks from an 
unfamiliar side. 

We reached at length a rim from which we looked 
out over a still more intricate piece of country. With 
a sweep of the hand my companion remarked, 
"There's the worst stretch of country I know, and 
I know 'most all the bad layouts from Idaho down. 
More men have got lost in that mess of stuff than 
any other place I ever saw, and most of 'em are 
there yet. Miner's Hell I call it, easy to get in and 
the devil to get out. Well, I know where we are, 
anyway, I wasn't sure before, but now there'll be 
monuments, if we can find 'em, so I reckon we'll 
get through." 

It was a remarkable sight. Imagine a cauldron of 
molten rock, miles wide, thrown by earthquake 
shock into the complexity of a choppy sea and then 
struck immovable. Looking down on it one would 



TO SAN FELIPE CITY 257 

say that not a stick or leaf of herbage was there, 
still less any animal life in that sterility of vermilion, 
ochre, and gray. Life there is of both kinds, but so 
scant that it is merely the scientific minimum, al- 
most more theory than fact. 

Our eyes needed to be on the alert every moment 
to get the benefit of the monuments. They were 
sometimes a hundred yards, sometimes half a mile 
apart, and such casual affairs that without a sort of 
instinct one would not know them. However, with 
one or two mistakes we worked our way through 
and found ourselves in the main canon. The name 
of Split Mountain fairly describes its appearance. 
The spectacular part of the defile begins some dis- 
tance from the mouth, but already high walls shut 
us in, and made a narrow corridor with level floor 
of white sand in which a few bits of brush huddled 
close to the cliffs for shelter from the blasting sun. 

Before getting far into the canon we came to the 
place that gave our only chance of water. On a 
boulder was dimly written in English and Spanish, 
"Water 100 feet West. Dig": with an arrow mark- 
ing the direction. Pacing off the distance we looked 
for a likely spot and went to work. The first hole 
giving no encouragement, we tried another, then a 
third : but after half an hour of thirsty work we con- 
cluded that it was hopeless, and ceased. Earlier in 
the year we might have had success: now the water- 
level had sunk out of reach. Traces of others' at- 
tempts could be seen, and I hoped that none of them 
stood for the last struggle of some fellow mortal. 

To us the failure meant pushing ahead at once 



258 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

instead of exploring a certain part of Fish Creek 
Mountain that Wellson wished to visit with an eye 
to mineral. We found a smoke-tree and made the 
most of its hypothetical shade while we ate lunch 
and fed and rested the horses. Before going on we 
gave them each half a bucket of water, which they 
drank eagerly and asked for more; but it was im- 
perative to ration the whole party more severely 
than we had intended. A good deal had escaped 
from the water-bags by leakage, though they had 
been soaked all the previous day in the spring. 1 

We now entered the most striking part of the 
gorge, which reminded me of Painted Canon, near 
Mecca, which I described in an earlier chapter. The 
cliffs here, though they have not the variety of color 
of those in Painted Canon, are vertical, like them, 
and equally high. The width of the floor is about 
the same. There is always a feeling of gloom in these 
places. Let the sun pour his blinding rays as he will, 
a chill is on the mind. The walls seem to draw closer 
about the traveller; the eye itself 'seems to feel 
a sense of dread, and shrinks from realizing the 
threatening height. 

The gorge continued for several miles. Now and 
then some side deft opened, choked with granite, 
here old, there freshly broken. The sky-line was torn 
into wild forms as if by blows of a Titan's hammer. 
Lean ocotillo or starving creosote stared grimly from 

1 These bags, much in vogue in our desert regions, would be im- 
proved by providing a heavy reinforcement, preferably of leather, 
to cover the bottom and extend a few inches up the sides. Without 
this, the pressure of the water in a large bag forces it through the 
canvas. 



TO SAN FELIPE CITY 259 

the rim, or shrank back into niches of the unfriendly 
wall. The only bird I saw was a raven, whose slow 
wing-beats struck heavily on the well-like air and 
whose croak as he flew from point to point before us 
seemed to warn us back, and promise dismal conse- 
quences if we followed. 

Sunset found us nearing the northern outlet of 
the canon. In that deep, silent place, the light as it 
faded away up the vast walls seemed to be with- 
drawing for the last time, clinging and lingering on 
the upper heights with the dull glow of dying lava. 
Close behind crept like tragedy the ashy shadow. 
Now only the topmost edge held the rays, as if 
clutching a last hope. For a moment they bright- 
ened, and the spectral shapes looking down moved 
as if in relief: but on the instant a dark hand passed 
over, and chilled all color to stony gray. 

I pushgd on to overtake Wellson before he passed 
out of the canon, where I might be unable to follow 
his tracks in the darkness. I came up with him just 
as we emerged upon the sloping bajada, which is the 
feature of almost every desert canon mouth. Brush 
grew more thickly, and had a friendly look after 
the barrenness of the gorge. Far across the valley 
to the north I recognized Santa Rosa Mountain, 
unmistakable, though showing a face new to me. 
A dark ridge to the east I knew must be Superstition 
Mountain, now not many miles away. 

We picked our way round the shoulder of Fish 
Creek Mountain, an imposing mass that even in 
half darkness showed a metallic look, very notice- 
able by daylight. I expect to Jiear some day of 



260 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

fortunes coming out of that mountain, which has 
hardly been touched by prospectors, on account of 
the difficulty of taking in sufficient water for a stay 
long enough for effective work. 

Wellson was making for a "dry camp" of his on 
the way to which we should pass an old mining 
shaft in which a little liquid was sometimes to be 
found. This, though quite impossible for human 
beings, Wellson had known his animals to drink 
when hard pushed. 

It was long after dark when we reached the hole. 
We hauled up a bucket of the stuff, the horses 
crowding round for first chance. The stench was 
atrocious, and it was all I could do to avoid being 
violently sick. One after another the animals did 
their best to drink, putting their noses to it thirstily 
time after time, but it was too foul and they would 
not take it. We drew bucket after bucket in hope of 
getting something a degree less disgusting. At last 
one of Wellson's horses reluctantly drank a little, 
rolling back her lips after each mouthful to get rid 
of the filthy taste and odor. Her mate, and my 
Kaweah, who is unusually scrupulous, could not 
bring themselves to touch it, though their eagerness 
was pitiful. 

We led the poor beasts to camp, which was in a 
clump of mesquits near the foot of the mountain. 
With barley and mesquit beans they were well fed, 
at any rate. Then we scratched up a meal by the 
light of a candle-end, threw our blankets on the 
sand and ourselves on them, and smoked for an 
hour while we radiated the day's accumulation of 



TO SAN FELIPE CITY 261 

heat into the scarcely cooler air of the night. We 
had made a fifteen hours' march with one stop of 
less than an hour at midday. 

At first daylight we took the horses again to the 
hole, thinking they would by now be forced to drink. 
Wellson's animals both drank a little, though with 
every token of repugnance; but Kaweah would 
have none of it, though he snuffed eagerly at each 
bucketful I brought him. Probably the water, be- 
sides being alkaline and stagnant, was putrid with 
dead animals birds, snakes, possibly a coyote or 
two. My gorge rises now when I think of the place. 

Breakfast almost ended our own water, and the 
first necessity for all concerned was to get to a new 
supply. Six miles to the north a settler had sunk a 
well and obtained a small flow, sufficient for house- 
hold needs, though not for irrigation. We made for 
this place, my poor Kaweah in distress and panting 
hard as I led him. 

The relations between man and horse who are 
much together, especially when for long spells they 
two are alone, take on a touch of sentiment, on the 
man's side (and I do not doubt on the other's also), 
that to some people might seem overdone. The 
loyalty of the dumb beast, patiently doing his best, 
accepting his master's will without thought of dis- 
pute, and taking for granted that his service will 
be repaid by care for the needs which he is prevented 
from supplying for himself the pathos of this 
becomes better recognized in the daily sharing of 
chances. And whenever, as here, my trusty com- 
panion has had to suffer, I have had pangs, I don't 



262 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

mind saying, that came near bringing tears. When 
it comes to magnanimity, few of us can equal the 
average horse or hound. 

Under a greasewood bush I noticed an old shoe. 
It had belonged, Wellson said, to a man who, the 
year before, had gone crazy for want of water 
and had here thrown away clothes, shoes, blankets, 
everything the usual line of action and, raving 
and naked, had wandered across the desert until, by 
luck, he came to one of the canals of the Imperial 
Valley irrigation system, some twenty miles away. 
There he was found, lying in the water, out of his 
senses and famishing for food, but too weak to 
travel farther. In this case rescue came just in time 
and the man eventually recovered. 

The fact that I was again below sea-level was 
registered both in the shells that sprinkled the pow- 
dery plain and in the water-line at the foot of the 
mountain. To the south, Signal Mountain, an iso- 
lated peak beyond the Mexican line, showed near 
at hand. Ahead was Santa Rosa, and a few miles to 
the east the haze of the plain shaded to faint blue 
where the Salton lay anaemic under the fierce 
evaporation. Behind us rose the spur of the Pen- 
insular Range through which we had yesterday 
threaded our way. 

At length appeared a derrick, and a dot or two 
beside it. This was our destination. The horses 
quickened their pace, and as we approached I was 
relieved to hear a hail, for I had been worrying over 
the possibility that the place might be deserted and 
the pump out of order. In that case we should have 



TO SAN FELIPE CITY 

been In a serious fix, with less than half a gallon of 
water left and the horses badly used up. 

Two young fellows, a Norwegian and an Irishman 
as I later found, who were watching our coming, 
first handed us the water-bag as a natural prelim- 
inary, then made us welcome to San Felipe City. 
We hastened to water our anxious beasts, then 
rejoined the populace, and Felipe the dog, at the 
pump-house. I had heard of this thriving place 
before, and was pleased to find myself within its 
boundaries. Over the door of a shed which adjoined 
the house was a signboard painted 

SAN FELIPE 
71 FEET BELOW SEA-LEVEL 

WATCH IT GROW 
POPULATION 1920, 1000 

It was a good example of Western optimism gen- 
erous, yet modest withal, for what California " city," 
with two citizens already secured, does not set a 
higher mark than a single thousand for the end of 
the decade? 

Here, as in other places I have described, the hope 
on the settler's horizon " is that some person of 
wealth, providentially going daft, may be inspired 
to waste his substance in the reckless sinking of 
wells which shall tap the water-bearing strata that, 
as the settler is convinced, underlie his precious 
daim. 1 Our San Felipe friends, though, had an eye 

1 There are uses to which public money is put that seem less states- 
manlike than employing it in experimental borings in these localities, 
provided the soil is such as to make agriculture profitable if water 



264 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

also to mineral possibilities. The talk centred on 
mines and prospects, claims and " jumpings," water- 
holes and deaths for lack of them; and thousands, 
hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars were 
freely tossed about. Easy Street is the only thorough- 
fare in the city of the prospector's dreams. 

The day was hot, though not specially so: 115 
was the highest point touched by the municipal 
thermometer. The look of our hosts made a com- 
mentary on the general temperature. Both were 
naturally fair-complexioned, but had taken a pleas- 
ing tint of cafe au fait wherever the skin showed (and 
their dress of tattered duck trousers with armless 
and barely coherent shirt did not leave much in 
doubt). The Irishman mentioned that, a few days 
before, the iron head of a drum of water he was 
hauling was blown off by the steam generated within. 
He reported also that in his capacity of cook he 
often found eggs which had lain outdoors partly 
cooked by the sun, so that they did not fall from the 
shell when broken for the frying-pan. Readers who 
have had experience of the summer climate of these 
regions will not be unduly critical of these stories. 

One of Wellson's horses a raw-boned animal 
with a kind of pile-driver action due to a case of 
spring-halt having become tender-footed, we gave 
her a day's rest at the ranch while we paid a visit to 
Superstition Mountain. This low range hardly de- 
serves the name of mountain, for it does not rise to 

were found. Good land would be brought sooner into use, while set- 
tlers would be saved the spending of years upon tracts intrinsically 
worthless. 



TO SAN FELIPE CITY 265 

a thousand feet, and is merely a long ridge, mainly 
interesting for its deadly reputation among both 
Indians and whites. From this side it had a peculiar 
piebald look, unlike any other range I have seen. 

We rode southeasterly toward a low clay ridge 
beyond which lay the Salton Sea. The ground was 
a dead level of silt that rose in puffs and lingered in 
the nostrils like acrid smoke. Shells glittered every- 
where, almost the only thing for the eye to notice, 
for the vegetation was reduced to an occasional hum- 
mock of mesquit of which only the topmost twigs 
showed above the mound of soil that struggled to en- 
gulf them. I tried to imagine some addition or sub- 
traction by which the landscape might be rendered 
more depressing, but had to admit that the maxi- 
mum was reached : it was wholly, conscientiously bad. 

Sand and gravel succeeded to silt as we ap- 
proached the ridge. Pebbles of unusual colors were 
strewn about, mingled with odd-looking bits of 
black baked clay, some like fragments of tile, some 
in large balls or grotesque shapes such as children 
make from a lump of plaster. Large flakes of mica 
glittered here and there, objects of awe to the simple 
Indian mind, which, I notice, takes brightness in 
any form to be significant good or bad medicine. 
I looked for animal life but saw none, except, rarely, 
the track of a lizard. Even flies were absent; as a 
.matter of fact, they almost disappear from the 
desert during the hottest weeks of summer. 

The black clay continued for miles, usually as a 
capping to layers of red and yellow. Turning south- 
ward we made direct for the mountain, picking our 



266 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

way through gullies of sand and boulders bleached 
almost snow-white by the terrific sun. The glare 
from the ground was even more intolerable than 
the direct blast, and the heat was intensified by 
the scarifying dryness. The effect on the eyes was 
acutely painful ; indeed, it is surprising that such a 
sensitive organ can endure these conditions without 
lasting damage. Aqueous humors were never meant 
for this sort of thing. As we neared the mountain I 
found that certain white patches that had puzzled 
me were splashes of sand that had been swept far 
up the slopes, as waves rush up the face of a cliff. 
Along the base appeared again the curious shapes of 
day, many of them as perfect as if turned in a lathe 
or cast in a mould. 

By a narrow pass we turned into the heart of the 
mountain. Precipitous walls, as in Split Mountain 
Canon but not so high, shut us into a winding defile 
where we could not ride abreast. It was midday and 
the place was like a furnace, the temperature not 
less, I think, than 150 in the sun. The formation 
looked like red clay, but the loose rocks that strewed 
the canon were of varied kinds and colors, prevail- 
ingly igneous and many with metallic lustre. I saw 
that my companion occasionally added a bit of rock 
to the museum he carried in his hip pocket. It is 
hard to keep one's mind off the subject of mines 
and metals in this locality where something striking 
in the way of minerals appears at every turn, and 
every lonely canon looks just the place to be hiding 
ledges of "the right stuff." _ 
We rode along looking for shade, but it was a mile 



TO SAN FELIPE CITY 267 

or two before we found it under the overhang of a 
boulder, and then our feet projected annoyingly. 
Into this haven we crept, after feeding the horses, 
and lay for an hour gathering energy for the eating 
of lunch. We had brought the materials for a billy 
of tea, and agreed that it was what we needed, but 
there the matter hung. Finally we tossed up, and I, 
who had suggested this solution in a spirit of fair- 
ness, found myself condemned to walk out into the 
broiling sun and endure the added warmth of a fire. 
^When a strip of shade came under the cliff we 
moved over, horses and men, and hugged the rock 
while we waited for the temperature to pass the 
crisis. Even in the shade the breeze was scorching 
and the sand so hot as to be uncomfortable to sit 
upon. The horses stood with half-shut eyes and 
panted as if broken-winded. To pass the time agree- 
ably, Wellson told stories of various Mikes and Bills 
who had preceded us into these canons, and most of 
whom, apparently, had concluded to remain. 

In turn I related the following incident which had 
been told me at Mecca by Johnny Thomas, one of 
a number of prospectors who keep a sort of rookery 
among the mesquits at the rear of the railway station. 

"Summer of nineteen seven," said Johnny, taking 
his favorite pose, squatting on his haunches, in 
the shade of a screwbean, "I was camped over at 
Cottonwood. I was working on my Blue Dick claim 
then. Old Blue (that was my pack-burro) was a 
renegade. 1 Old man Schneider bought him first from 

1 A burro that runs away at every opportunity. It is a common 
fault, a mark of the depravity of the tribe. 



268 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

the Indians at Martinez, but he could n't ever keep 
him. 'Most everybody in the valley owned him one 
time and another before I had him. Dick? why, he 
was my riding burro. Blue Dick, don't ye see? 

"Well, one morning I wanted to go over and look 
at my Black Owl daim. It was only four miles away, 
so I walked, and left Blue and Dick and my other 
burro, a jenny, grazing in a little side canon that 
was wired across. When I got back they were gone. 
That old devil had got away and took the others 
with him. It was too late to go after them that day, 
but next morning I took my small canteen and 
started to track them. I did n't reckon they 'd gone 
very far, but I used up my water before I 'd much 
more than got on their trail, so I came back again 
to the Springs. 

"As it happened Aleck Cameron and Don Fergu- 
son had just come in to Cottonwood that day. 
They'd been over to Placer Canon in the Palens, 
but there was n't any water in the canon and they 
came back. I borrowed one of their jacks and started 
out again next morning with a gallon of water and 
three or four biscuit. The burros had hit an old dim 
Indian trail that goes over to Pifion. It was a trail I 
did n't know about, but that old Blue devil savvied 
every trail and water-hole from Chuck Warren's to 
the river, durn him. 

"I travelled all day, but the tracks went right on. 
When night came I had about a cupful of water left. 
I was only about three or four miles from Pifion, if 
I 'd known, but I did n't know the country then, 
and the only water I knew about was behind. So I 



TO SAN FELIPE CITY 269 

turned back. I left the jack tied in the brush, be- 
cause I had to find my back tracks and I could n't 
do that unless I walked and sort of felt my way. It 
was n't what you 'd call a trail, more like a jack- 
rabbit run. I could n't eat because I was too dry to 
swallow without drinking, and I didn't dare to 
drink. It was August, long days and hotter 'n blazes. 
I durs n't use up that mite of water, so I 'd take a 
mouthful, and hold it, and then spit it back in the 
canteen. 

" It was the dark of the moon, but I had to travel, 
and I kept moving all night. I used up all my 
matches, looking for my tracks. When it got day- 
light my water was all used up. I was in bad shape, 
faint and awful thirsty, and I had n't made more 
than half the way back to the Springs. When it got 
hot I would travel say two hundred yards and then 
lie down in the shade of a rock or bit of brush. 
Gosh ! I don't know how I kept going, except I knew 
I had to keep on or I 'd die right there. 

"When it came night again I took off my clothes, 
all except shoes, and carried them. It was a hot 
night, but the wind felt good on my skin. I don't 
know how I stayed in the trail; luck, I guess: and 
the only way I kept going was because I had to get 
to Cottonwood that night; I knew I'd never live 
through another day like I 'd just put in. It was three 
in the morning when I got to Cottonwood. I went 
right to the water-trough and put my head in. I had 
sense enough left not to drink any at first. The boys 
were there, and they gave me some weak whiskey 
and then some coffee and other grub. I slept all that 



270 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

day, and next morning I walked the twenty-five 
miles in to Mecca. Frank Coff ey came back with me 
to Cottonwood with two of his burros, and then I 
went back with three gallons of water and ?L loaf of 
bread. The jack was tied where I left him. He was 
pretty sick-looking and lying down. I went on and 
found my burros over at Pifion, and brought them 
all back to the Springs. 

"That was about the closest call I've had. I 
did n't ought to have started with that little can- 
teen, but gosh! us fellers are all fools, else we 
would n't stay with it. Well, after that I was through 
with old Blue: sold him to a rancher for eight dol- 
lars. Don't happen to have the makins, do you? 
Gracias." 

We had agreed to start back at three o'clock, 
but when the hour came, our courage was wanting. 
However, Wellson handsomely offered to boil an- 
other billy, and when it had been despatched we 
braced up and moved off. On emerging from the 
canon we took a direct line for home. It led us first 
over a plain of day thinly covered with sand and 
pebbles, next into a region of "dunes, discouraging 
to the tired horses, and then to the edge of a depres- 
sion that was curiously broken up with fissures a 
sort of miniature bad-land formation. From the 
tracks of wild-cats and coyotes that threaded the 
narrow gullies, it would appear that this is a kind of 
preserve of theirs, though what they live on, unless 
on one another, is a mystery. Tracks of sidewinders 
were here too, in great profusion; quite a nice popu- 
lous neighborhood. 



TO SAN FELIPE CITY 271 

I was surprised to find fragments of pottery 
strewn about this hopeless region. In the canon I 
saw none, but so far as I can learn there has never 
been any water discovered tKere, not even the nat- 
ural tanks that almost all the desert ranges afford. 
It is hard to conjecture why Indians should ever 
have chosen to live in this locality, the most forbid- 
ding on the whole desert: one, moreover, that super- 
stition prompts them to avoid. Perhaps the attrac- 
tion was the fish they may have found here when 
this was the margin of the ancient sea. 1 

The sun did not miss the good shot we offered as 
we rode westward for hours, but at last he fired his 
final round for the day and sank behind friendly San 
Ysidro. I hung my hat on the saddle-horn, threw 
open my shirt, and basked in relative coolness. By 
nightfall we were back at our quarters. Our friends, 
stripped to the waist, were waiting supper for us. 
In the smoky lamplight the scene reminded me of a 
ship's forecastle. Afterwards it was the extreme of 
luxury to lie on a blanket and send up incense to the 
starry bands marching overhead, while the eternal 
talk went on of leads and lodes, veins and stringers, 
placers and pockets, till sleep brought silence. 

1 Lee Arenas tells me of a tradition of his people (the Cahuillas) 
that at one time all the fighting men of the tribe, numbering per- 
haps five hundred, went on the war-path against one of the Colorado 
River tribes, probably the Yumas. His story goes that the whole 
party, with the exception of a score or so, perished somewhere in 
these wastes. With such tales in mind, these potsherds scattered 
about the desert what tragedies may they not imply? This is the 
only instance so far as I know of large bodies of Indians attempting 
the crossing. 



CHAPTER XVII 

A DESERT RIDE: "SAN FELIPE CITY" TO IMPERIAL 
VALLEY 

"Adios" to San Felipe City A metalliferous mountain Diffi- 
cult country Another man missing Crude landscape A 
lame horse The desolate to perfection Mineral novelties 
Bad travelling Consciousness of peril The Thirst Spectre 
Gullies on gullies Water at last The divinity of color Eve- 
ning hues Silence and starlight Coyote Wells The Mexican 
catechism Beauties of Coyote Wells Declined with thanks 
Bunkum, Boom, arid Brag The Mexican border Dixieland 

I2 2 in the shade The land of cotton The miracle of 

Imperial Valley Slipshod farms El Centro Open desert 
preferred The morning tub Beds al fresco Brawley 
Imperial The Bermuda-grass problem Calexico: tokens of 
earthquake Mexicali, Mexico: a gambling hell Holtville 
A desert storm. 

WELLSON grumbled loudly when I roused 
him at five o'clock. We had agreed on a com- 
promise between my four-thirty and his eight-thirty 
for our starting time, but he pretended that six- 
thirty was the hour for getting up instead of for 
leaving. He was comforted, though, when told that 
breakfast was under way, and punished the flap- 
jacks with severity. 

There was a long day's march ahead of us, but 
we took no water for the horses as Wellson knew of 
a water-hole that we could take in our route by 
going a little out of our way. Our mark was Coyote 
Wells, on the road between San Diego and the 
Imperial Valley, and of late also a point on the 
partly built railway which is to connect San Diego 
with Yuma and the East. There was no road or trail 



TO IMPERIAL VALLEY 273 

that would serve our purpose: we had simply to 
make as nearly due south as the nature of the 
country would allow. 

The excitement of seeing any one off is rare at 
San Felipe, so the population assembled for the 
spectacle. Farewells were brief. Anything more than 
" Adios" or "So long" seems prolix to the Westerner. 
Turning in my saddle after five minutes I saw that 
our hosts still stood watching us, perhaps specu- 
lating how long it might be before they had more 
visitors to entertain. 

Passing Fish Creek Mountain I had a better op- 
portunity to note its metallic look. Patches of white, 
which my companion said were beds of gypsum, 
gave contrast to the purple-red of the rock. Cleft 
and canon were marked by scorings of gray that 
shone in the morning light like waterfalls. If I had 
a fortune and an extra life to throw away I should 
be tempted to turn prospector and thoroughly ex- 
plore Fish Creek Mountain. On the other side, Su- 
perstition Mountain showed now as total black. 
Ahead rose the cone of Signal Mountain, with the 
C6copas, a wash of atmospheric pink, trailing off 
southward into Mexico. 

A feature of desert travel whenever one is near 
mountains is the liability to come abruptly upon 
gullies ten or fifteen feet deep, with absolutely ver- 
tical walls. These are water-courses, carved, almost 
at a stroke, by the rush of water from the canons. 
They are great consumers of time, often leading one 
far out of one's course before a crossing can be made. 
Their one good point is that a modicum of shade 



274 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

may be found there under the thorny tangle of a 
cat-claw or a smoke-tree shade of the thinnest, 
yet a valuable relief. While we rested in one of these 
gullies, Wellson, recognizing the place, mentioned 
that a year or two ago a man whom he knew, one 
Walbridge, had come into this locality to look at a 
claim in Fish Creek Mountain. Wellson was to meet 
him on his return at Seeley, in the Imperial Valley. 
" I hung around a day or two, but he did n't show 
up, so I came out to see where he was. That's the 
gully where I found his tracks. I followed till I lost 
them up that canon. Find him? no, I did n't ever 
find him. He'd left his blankets in the livery barn 
down at Seeley, and he did n't ever call for them, 
so I reckon he's in there somewhere yet." 

Between Fish Creek Mountain and Coyote Moun- 
tain is the canon of Carrizo Creek, which we had left 
when we turned north at Agua Caliente. It is a 
wild, disorderly-looking piece of country. Hills and 
ridges of strangest shape and color seem to jostle for 
place. A low cone (to our right appeared to be cov- 
ered with black clay shards like those near Supersti- 
tion Mountain. Another hill of vivid yellow was 
capped with the same material. Others were of entire 
red or purple. Over all, the opaque sky fitted like 
a china bowl, filling every notch and curve of the 
horizon with its stark, uncompromising blue. The 
crudity of the landscape here surpassed anything I 
had yet seen in this region of hard color effects. 

Here we made an unpleasant discovery, that 
Wellson's pack-mare had cast a shoe and was al- 
ready quite lame. Her spring-halt action had dis- 



TO IMPERIAL VALLEY 275 

guised the fact till the hoof was worn to the quick. 
It was a cruel necessity to keep the poor beast 
moving, but there was no alternative. This raised a 
question: whether to keep to the easier but longer 
route, or to strike over the shoulder of Coyote 
Mountain, which would save ten miles, but would 
bring us into rougher territory. I asked Wellson if he 
felt sure of finding his water-hole in case we took the 
shorter way, and as he had no doubts we chose it. 

In the midst of the wide sandy channel of Carrizo 
Creek we crossed a faint track which marked the 
road to Warner's. To us it was of no value, for our 
way lay directly south. In winter, water might have 
been found here, the stream that gladdened Colonel 
Cooke in mid- January of 1847, when he arrived here 
after the perilous crossing of the desert with his 
ragged "Mormon Battalion." In three days and 
two nights they had covered the fifty-six miles from 
Alamo Mocho, without water for their animals, 
which were half starved, at that. Had it been sum- 
mer a wholesale tragedy might easily have occurred. 

Over a region of mesas of baked clay broken by 
gullies that forced us into tedious detours, we slowly 
made our way. If the gaunt and desolate has a degree 
of perfection, here surely it is reached. I do not see 
how Sahara, Gobi, or Arabia could improve on this 
for rigid nakedness and sterility. One here sees 
Mother Earth scalped, flayed, and stripped to the 
skeleton. Yet there is a strange beauty in it all. 
Perhaps the dormant savage in the breast, some 
strain of the paleozoic, wakes up in the presence of 
these chaotic, barbaric shapes. I felt a sort of excite- 



276 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

ment, a half sense of recognition, as if something 
nudged and whispered "Your primal home. 
Come back/' 

The day was of the usual midsummer heat, and 
the horses were getting played out while we were 
yet many miles from the expected water. The mare 
was in great distress, but there was no help for it, 
we must go on. Coyote Mountain was near at hand, 
a sullen monster of brown. Every quarter-mile 
brought some novelty to sight. In crossing a bench 
of reddish clay I noticed numbers of bullets of some 
heavy metallic stuff, the size of marbles and per- 
fectly round. Then came a tract covered with peb- 
bles, various in color, but as even in shape and di- 
mension as if carefully sorted. Again, plates of clear 
gypsum, as large as small window-panes and nearly 
an inch thick, projected from the sides of a gully. 
Next, stumbling over lumps of some brittle material, 
I found that they were compact clods of oyster 
shells (we were a few hundred feet above sea-level). 
It was a region to charm the geologist, though not 
the botanist. A few wretched creosotes and ocotillos 
alone held on to life, shrivelled, leafless, and half 
ossified. ^ 

Wellson now pointed out a red ridge, two miles 
ahead, which was the landmark for our water-hole. 
How to get to it, though, was a question. Before us 
stretched a tangle of gullies and washes, braided 
together like one's interlaced fingers. The two miles 
might turn to twenty, and nightfall find us as far 
from water as ever. We consulted, and resolved to 
make a direct dash for the place. Down we went 



TO IMPERIAL VALLEY 277 

into the maze, dragging the unwilling animals down 
impossible banks and hauling them up equal impos- 
sibilities on the other side, where we took our bear- 
ings afresh, and repeated. 

Physical exhaustion comes quickly under these 
circumstances. For a few moments that afternoon I 
had a sharp realization of peril. A sudden faintness, 
the result of exertion in that extreme heat (it was 
nine hours since we had eaten), came over me, and 
with it the thought of danger, the hopeless danger 
that cannot be fought. Suppose something occurred 
to defeat us of the expected supply of water? Was it 
certain even that we had enough in our canteens to 
last till we got there? Something might go wrong 
anything: what then? How long could I go without 
water, if by any chance I were left without it? In 
that fierce heat, and struggling with that terrible 
country, a few minutes was as long as one could go 
without drinking. In a flash I saw what would be 
my condition in a single hour torture: two hours 
delirium: after that raving madness, till agony 
passed into insensibility, and that into death. 

Let not the reader think that I am overdrawing 
here. Those who travel the desert in the middle of 
summer, and on foot (which makes all the difference), 
know well enough that to be two or three hours 
without water brings a man within the grasp of 
death. In that terrific temperature one's bodily 
moisture must be constantly renewed, for moisture 
is as vital as air. One feels as if one were in the focus 
of a burning-glass. The throat parches and seems to 
be dosing. The eye-balls burn as though facing a 



278 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

scorching fire. The tongue and lips grow thick, crack, 
and blacken. Every organ of the body is deranged, 
for the drought is not local, but runs through every 
vein. Life cannot endure for long when one of its 
elements is literally drained away. The brain's bal- 
ance is overthrown and panic adds its terrors to the 
torment that gnaws each throbbing nerve. Then 
comes madness, and, whether mercifully soon or 
cruelly delayed, the end. 

Meanwhile the sun shines on, showering down 
carelessly his death-dealing rays. Nature is merely 
the mathematician; her business is only to get the 
right answer. Given the season and latitude, the 
physical geography, and the constitution of the 
body, the result works out to a certainty. 

At last we reached a wider gully leading in the 
right direction, and which Wellson thought he recog- 
nized. Here and there were what might be monu- 
ments, and we went on more hopefully. But the 
gully turned west, then north, and we knew we 
were on the wrong track. Wellson climbed a ridge to 
survey the country. It seemed we might have to go 
ten miles round after all, and our water was about 
exhausted. He was a long time away and I began to 
fear he was lost. I was on the point of signalling by 
firing my revolver when he reappeared and reported 
that if we could cross two more difficult gullies we 
should be in the canon that led to water. There was 
nothing for it but to try, though I did not think the 
horses would ever do it, for they seemed not to have 
another effort in them. My poor Kaweah, I wager 
you remember that day. 



TO IMPERIAL VALLEY 279 

Pushing, hauling, shouting, we somehow got them 
to scramble up a breakneck place that caved at 
every step. Then two hundred yards of baked clay, 
like bricks, set obliquely on edge; then down into 
another ravine and across its piles of sliding rubbish, 
with another desperate wall to climb. Still one more 
headlong descent, and one more ladder-like cliff to 
surmount; next a narrow mesa littered with jagged 
rocks. And then, stumbling down a last crumbling, 
precipitous wall, we found ourselves in a canon that 
evidently headed at our desired point. 

It was a huge relief. Three hours had been spent 
over two miles of direct distance. I now once more 
had a mind that could appreciate the wild features 
of the region we were traversing. Cliffs, domes, and 
pillars of clay in strange and vivid colors yellow, 
lilac, rose, green, dark red, ochre, light red, purple 
are the commonplaces of this locality. On all 
sides something novel is constantly coming to sight. 
Great flakes of clear mineral like plate-glass are 
strewn among the gravel or jut from the sides of 
canons, and black pottery-like fragments mingle 
with delicately tinted blocks of stratified rock that 
is veined and twisted into curios. The place is like 
a show. I hope some day to return there and look 
my fill, but I shall not go by the same route. 

Following the narrowing canon for a mile or more, 
we came into a little amphitheatre. Here was our 
water. A prospect shaft had been sunk by some un- 
lucky miner and had yielded water instead of ore. 
The horses crowded up and thrice knocked the 
bucket over as they pushed their muzzles in simul- 



280 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

taneously. Then we threw off packs and saddles and 
fed them the last of the barley. They ate a little, 
but were too dispirited to finish, and stood with 
drooping heads, a picture of equine collapse. Poor 
old Piledriver after a few minutes lay down and 
groaned. Every step of those long, rough miles must 
have been torture to her. 

As for us, we lay in the shade for an hour before 
gaining energy to get the meal we badly needed, and 
waited for sunset before tackling the last ten miles 
of the day's march. There was no forage here and 
our barley was gone, so to camp for the night was 
impossible. A Government survey party, with base 
at Coyote Wells, had been working hereabout not 
long before, and had made a sort of road that 
we could follow, and luckily it was now all down 
grade. 

With all my weariness, I do not think I have ever 
been so charmed as that evening by the sunset color- 
ing. It brought real physical refreshment: one could 
not feel tired and stupid with that magic before 
one's eyes. It passed into the blood, and not only 
soothed the mind, but energized the body like 911 
elixir. Before me stretched a golden plain: behind 
and on either hand, hills of gold and rose: far to the 
south, translucent in distance, the mountains of 
Mexico: yonder, like a billow of amethyst breaking 
on amber reefs, the Superstitions: overhead three 
cranes flew silently across a sky of violet on their 
way to the Salton. It was more than Nature, infi- 
nitely more than ^Esthetics. Some words of the 
Psalter came to my mind " Who deckest Thyself 



TO IMPERIAL VALLEY 281 

with light as it were with a garment." Yes, only that 
expressed it: it was the Vesture of God. 

In dusk, then darkness, we marched on. The 
wind was not merely warm but hot; but the dim 
light gave a sensation of coolness. Our ten miles 
stretched out as the last miles of a long day will do; 
but it was pleasant enough to tramp in starlight 
down the long slope of the mountain (falda y skirt or 
apron, the Mexicans call it, with instinctive accu- 
racy of phrase). Wellson was far ahead, hurrying to 
reach Coyote Wells before the populace should tire 
of the evening programme of loafing and go to bed. 
I hung the bridle over my arm and let Kaweah set 
the pace, which he fixed at a dejected shuffle. 

The night silence of the desert is not like the 
silence of the day. That is terrifying in its vacuity, 
in its refusal of aid to the mind and its throwing of 
consciousness back upon itself. But in the desert 
night the stars, near and warm, give a sense of com- 
panionship and understanding. They are friendly 
guides, marching with you or passing with cheery sa- 
lute. It is especially fascinating to watch them rise. 
Mounting one by one above the plain, they seem 
more significant than as we usually see them, min- 
gled in bright disorder overhead. In their appear- 
ance at the level of the eye (seeming even lower than 
that in the vast desert perspective) there is some- 
thing momentous, as if they were watch-fires kin- 
dled by some signaller who looked for our reply; 
and one follows their calm ascent with a kind of 
pleased curiosity, perhaps also a half recognition 
of an allegory hopeful to ourselves. 



282 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

I was startled from my mood by a gleam of mov- 
ing light to my right, then another on the left. For a 
moment I was puzzled, then knew they must be 
automobiles on the San Diego-Imperial road, which 
here runs parallel and close to the Mexican border, 
and also to the newly built railway. Half an hour 
later we limped into Coyote Wells. While I watered 
Kaweah a lounging, unseen Mexican proposed the 
regular trio of questions: De donde viene? Adonde va? 
and Cuando sale? Where are you from? Where are 
you going? and, When do you start? His reply to 
my own inquiry for the direction of Wellson's quar- 
ters was the eternal Quien sabe? which is their way 
of dodging unnecessary syllables. 

I found Wellson at his camp beyond the railroad. 
A friend (or partner, as the word goes) of his had a 
sort of house, where Wellson kept a little stock of 
hay and barley. Our nags could now make up ar- 
rears. We were all pretty well used up by the day's 
work, about thirty-five miles in distance, but the 
equal of fifty in labor. Yet, though the hardest, it 
was also the best day of my desert travels thus far. 
We ate a cold meal and lay down too tired to unroll 
our blankets or even take off our boots. I don't 
think I changed posture till I awoke at daybreak. 

By daylight Coyote Wells took its place as the 
dustiest, dismallest hamlet in my knowledge. The 
items of its total ugliness are half a score of board- 
and-canvas shacks and a cube of sheet-iron, the 
railway building. I returned from my tour feeling 
almost suicidal, and for relief ate my breakfast by a 
stack of sweet-smelling pine ties, the only thing of 



TO IMPERIAL VALLEY 283 

charm in the place. As a stopping-place on the old 
highway to San Diego it has long had a fame, not 
savory, of its own. To-day indignation was high 
among the Coyoteros over the arrest, the previous 
evening, of the local "blind pigger." It was felt that 
by this hard stroke all that made life worth living 
at Coyote Wells had been done away. I only partly 
shared this view, failing to see how even unlimited 
bad whiskey could make the place less of a purga- 
tory. 

I left my companion fitting the wincing Pile- 
driver with a second-hand shoe. He was westward- 
bound for the mountains, after a day or two's rest, 
while my route led east. He urged me to join him, 
holding out the possibility of my becoming a pro- 
spector myself. But I doubted my qualifications. I 
always feared I was born under "a vile sixpenny 
planet,' 1 and with that belief how could one be a 
prospector? 

I had now reached the southern limit of my jour- 
ney, for in the conditions then ruling, Mexico was a 
country to be shunned. Coyote Wells lies at the 
extreme southwest corner of the Colorado Desert 
in the United States. My way now lay easterly, 
through that part of the Imperial Valley which 
borders on Mexico. 

I must say I dislike these big-sounding names, 
which real-estate speculators think so irresistible. 
To me they savor of Martin Chuzzlewit's Eden, and 
give ever fresh point to the celebrated mot of the 
late Mr. Barnum. Of a piece with the brass band and 
the barbecue, these grandiloquent titles stamp the 



284 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

West as still the land of Bunkum, Boom, and Brag, 
and call to mind the street faker with his shiny 
" topper " and cautionary gush of eloquence. In the 
heraldic quarterings of California the device of a 
megaphone should find a place. 

I rode first toward Signal Mountain, just across 
the border. When last seen it had looked like a pale 
blue iceberg on the sea-like horizon of the plain: 
now, close at hand, it was a volcano-like cone of 
brown rising from a limitless gray of sand. To the 
southeast ran the line of the C6copas, tailing off 
into the yellow murk of a sand-storm type of 
poor Mexico's everlasting muddle. Superstition 
Mountain seemed from here a mere ridge of sand, 
but Coyote and Fish Cf eek Mountains rose high and 
rugged in tantalizing red and purple. I feel I have n't 
done with those fellows yet. 

The country through which I was passing is one 
of intense dreariness, a plain of dust with a scatter- 
ing of desert plants more than usually wretched and 
unkempt. A few ocotillos alone broke the torrid 
stillness with a skeleton dance on the quivering air. 
The sun was blasting, and my canteen of water soon 
became too hot for enjoyment, though I called on it 
incessantly for relief. 

A straight white line marked on the desert proved 
to be a macadamized road which had lately been 
laid for the benefit of automobilists. This gave 
notice that I was approaching the settlements of 
Imperial. Two or three machines passed us, for 
there is a fair amount of traffic between San Diego 
and the new-born towns of the valley. In due time 



TO IMPERIAL VALLEY 285 

I saw far ahead the buildings of the first of these, a 
hamlet named Dixieland, and about midday we 
arrived at a canal (or ditch, as they call it), the 
farthest one in this direction of the great irrigation 
system. 

It was instructive to notice how the desert held 
out without palliation up to the very edge of the 
canal. On the other side began, equally abruptly, 
telephone poles, fields of cotton and alfalfa, pastures 
with cattle, horses, aiid hogs, green, rustling cotton- 
woods, and an unbroken succession of farms. 

Dixieland I found to consist of a brick store, a 
small but ambitious-looking school, six or eight 
little houses, and a barn. Behind this I camped in a 
corner of the corral, but, for a change from my own 
cookery, persuaded a weary woman who lived in 
the bam to get me a meal. I regretted this when I 
faced the discs of tepid paste tendered as biscuits, 
and the bowl of yellow oil which passed for butter. 
However, honey, watermelon, and the kindly heart 
which overcame weariness and 122 Fahrenheit at 
the request of a stranger, made amends for all short- 
comings, even the tablecloth. 

I took my way next morning toward El Centro, 
the central point, as the name proudly announces, 
of the valley. A main crop of the locality is cotton, 
and a general Southern and cottony air prevailed, 
even to the colored brothers plying the hoe. Field 
beyond field of the pretty plants stretched away 
southward to the border, varied with blocks of milo- 
maize or squares of vivid alfalfa. Herds of cattle and 
bands of glossy horses were in evidence, and every- 



286 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

where ditches of red, muddy water led off, branch- 
ing, dividing, and subdividing into a veritable maze. 
As I sat under a eucalyptus to eat lunch, while 
Kaweah ripped away at juicy Bermuda grass, it 
seemed a miracle when I recalled the wanderings 
of the past weeks. 

And indeed it is a miracle, the transforming, 
within a dozen years, of a tract of strict desert into a 
farming region of the highest fertility. The materials 
for the miracle were here, of course, from immemo- 
rial times an alluvial plain and, contiguous to it, 
a great silt-laden river. Lower Egypt offers an exact 
analogy, and early Western explorers noted and 
reported the possibilities, which in fact are patent 
enough. It remained for speculators to undertake 
the work which Government might properly have 
shouldered, and for the public to grasp the idea that 
the word "desert" need not signify worthless for 
agriculture, so long as water, the lack of which is at 
the root of the condition, can be applied. 

I shall have little to say, however, of economic 
matters, which are outside my purpose and also 
very largely outside my knowledge. I could compile a 
chapter of sensational facts and figures easily enough, 
but we Californians are not bashful about trumpet- 
ing our triumphs, and I feel that the sincerest con- 
tribution I can make will be by injecting, not a dis- 
cordant, but a gently moderating tone into the blast. 
In a word, the Imperial Valley has been and is the 
scene of a remarkable agricultural success; but let it 
be realized that there are special drawbacks, in the 
nature of the case, and that it is not the business of 



TO IMPERIAL VALLEY 287 

persons with " interests" in the valley to advertise 
these. 

In the two or three weeks that I spent in the farm- 
ing localities I was unable to accommodate myself 
to the slipshod appearance of the farm buildings, 
both houses and outbuildings. While this is a weak- 
ness of the Western farmer in general, here it ex- 
ceeded; though perhaps it is excusable in view of 
the trying climate that prevails for half the year. 
There is here, naturally, a larger percentage than 
usual of farmers who are unmarried, or whose 
womenkind do not live, at least continuously, on 
the farm: and without the woman the home can 
hardly be. Anyhow, the effect is discouraging, and 
suggests the idea, which is no doubt a true one in 
a great proportion of cases, that Imperial fanners 
as a whole are just "sticking it out," with a view to 
selling as soon as they can. Neither the chance vis- 
itor, nor, I would suggest, the prospective buyer, is 
likely to react happily to this impression. 

We passed through one or two small settlements 
with stores, telephones, and post-offices, and with 
bales of cotton piled awaiting shipment. Automo- 
biles were common, and soon became a nuisance 
with their obscene noises and the clouds of dust 
they gave in return for the right of way. When a true 
democracy arises one of its first jobs will be to abol- 
ish the automobile as an offensive chattel of privi- 
lege. By noon we were in El Centro, the county seat 
of Imperial County and the metropolis of the valley. 

A sharp little earthquake had occurred in this 
locality some weeks before, and its work was plainly 



288 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

seen in wrecked or distorted houses, cracked walls, 
shattered windows, and piles of rubbish. The big 
new hotel, bearing, rather absurdly, the name of a 
recent "best seller" in local fiction, had hastily re- 
paired its damages, but looked conscious of the con- 
cealment. The stores had a prosperous look, but 
many of the dwellings gave the same unpleasant 
impression that I had found in the farms. Some were 
quite sordid in their ugliness, even beyond the usual 
measure of these products of haste and incompetence. 
These ramshackle affairs, with their purlieus of 
bottles and boxes, cans and baling- wire, came as a 
rebuff. Almost before I had found a lodging I sighed 
for the desert again, where, if beauty be scant, at 
least squalor is absent. It is a truth of the widest 
bearing that "only man is vile." 

In the bathroom of my lodging I learned that 
cold and hot are sometimes interchangeable terms, 
or, at least, taps. The cistern being set on the roof, 
by midday the ' ' cold " water had reached a tempera- 
ture higher than that from the boiler. It was only at 
early morning that one could get a tolerably re- 
freshing tub. Another discovery was that El Centro 
in summer is practically a womanless community, 
the feminine half having betaken themselves "in- 
side," as the phrase goes, for the hot term: and an- 
other, that Centrolians in summer are a coatless and 
waistcoatless race. A loose, blouse-like garment is 
the thing on street, in office, at restaurant, and I 
suppose at church and such social functions as may 
be attempted in the absence of womankind. 

It was odd, too, to see beds set out on vacant lots 




CO 

Si 

J 

E 



W 
Q 

< 



TO IMPERIAL VALLEY 289 

in the midst of the banks and mercantile places. 
Whether they were used by bank presidents and 
their kind, or by the common race, I never found 
out: nor whether the recent earthquake had any 
bearing on the matter. With their canopies of mos- 
quito netting they had the look of palanquins or 
howdahs. The Oriental flavor was strengthened by 
the presence of many Hindoos. I fancied there was 
as much dislike as curiosity in the feelings of the 
Mexicans, who turned to stare at these silent, 
turbaned fellows, the latest interlopers on the pay- 
roll. 

The most attractive town in the valley is Brawley, 
near the southern end of the Salton Sea. The first 
settlers had the good sense to plant trees freely along 
the streets, and the busy little place, embowered 
among cottonwoods and eucalyptus, has a much 
more finished and pleasing appearance than any of 
the other settlements. 

Midway between El Centre and Brawley is the 
town of Imperial. This place formerly aspired to be- 
coming the county seat, but in a sharp engagement 
of " interests" it was worsted by its southern neigh- 
bor. Imperial thereupon took to drink, and now 
exists mainly as a pestiferous nest of saloons, a 
resort, especially on Sundays, for beery parties from 
the surrounding country. As a place of genuine busi- 
ness it seems dead, a commentary on the often 
heard argument that the saloon is a necessity for 
any community that wishes to thrive. 

A friend on whose farm I stayed a few days, 
revelling in unlimited dairy produce, drove me over 



290 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

one day to the twin towns of Calexico and Mexicali, 
lying on the Californian and Mexican sides of the 
line respectively. It was a drive of ten or twelve 
miles through good farming country of alfalfa, mi- 
lomaize, cotton, and preeminently hogs. Here and 
there were lines of tall trees, seven or eight years 
old, but looking treble that age. Imperial Valley has 
a distinctive smell, a rather unpleasant acrid one, 
arising, I fancy, from the constant irrigation acting 
on some peculiarity of the soil. We passed through 
the little town of Heber, bare and blinking in sun 
and dust. Everywhere were canals of chocolate- 
colored water edged with vivid green of Bermuda 
grass, as to which I often heard the opinion ex- 
pressed that " something's got to be done about 
that infernal Bermuda, or it'll take the whole val- 
ley/' Already a serious pest, and disseminated 
everywhere by the canals, it is rapidly becoming a 
first-class problem. 

Calexico is situated exactly at sea-level, the other 
valley settlements being all somewhat below. It is a 
town of dusty streets and ugly houses, apartment 
buildings, and stores. The main street runs close to 
and parallel with the international boundary. The 
earthquake had hit the place hard, and carpenters, 
bricklayers, and plasterers were busily gathering the 
dollars dropped by the ill-wind. A few people had 
been killed, for unfortunately the visitation was not 
confined to the gamblers of the neighboring town 
across the line. The channel of the New River runs 
close by, now perfectly dry. In the early summer of 
1906, when the Salton Sea was filling, it was the 



TO IMPERIAL VALLEY 291 

terror of the inhabitants, who in spite of desperate 
work in the building of levees saw part of their town 
carried away by the flood that rushed along this 
perfidious water-way. 1 

Mexicali, across the border, is a mere rank of 
gambling-hell saloons, as offensive to the sight as 
they are disreputable in every other regard. A 
pimply youth with a megaphone was inviting the 
public to enter the widest of these numerous gates 
into the broad way to Destruction, and made me, 
as a stranger, the particular object of his attentions. 
"Wide open " is a literal as well as figurative descrip- 
tion of the place, for the flimsy structure was fully 
open to the street. A dozen or so gambling-tables at 
which you lose your money at faro, monte, roulette, 
or what you please: a thriving bar: an incessant 
racket of "rag-time" from a quartette of tenth-rate 
musicians at the rear: three painted girls, or rather 
children, in dirty pink, who now and then ceased 
their crude blandishments of the men near them to 
shout the words of a ribald song (this was the vaude- 
ville entertainment to which I had been bidden by 
Pimpleface) : and a babel of shouts and cheerless, 
discordant laughter from a hundred or so loafers, 
mostly Americans, but with a sprinkling of Mexi- 
cans, Japanese, and I don't know what that, six 
or eight times repeated, is Mexicali. If ground is 
ever sought for a declaration of war against Mexico, 

1 I have not learned how this stream got its name. Major-General 
Cooke, in the narrative of his expedition of 1846-47, notes that a few 
years after his crossing of this region, when the channel was dry, 
other travellers found a stream running in it. Probably some such 
party gave it its name. 



292 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

I would suggest that the existence of this plague- 
hole on the border at once provides it. 

A couple of burly brigands with huge pistols pro- 
jecting from their hip-pockets, who were lounging 
over the barricade of another of the gambling-dens, 
proved to be mrales, members of that peculiar but 
efficient force that Mexico owes, along with much 
else that is questionable but necessary, to Porfirio 
Diaz. At the custom-house and post-office a trifling 
amount of business was being neglected, rather than 
transacted, by two irresponsible and highly unat- 
tractive clerks. Half an hour was enough of this. 
I managed a surreptitious photograph, to the mysti- 
fication of a C6copa "buck" with hair to his waist 
and fat squaw following, and recrossed to United 
States soil. 

In the eastern part of the valley lies Holtville, 
a small but fairly lively place on the bank of the 
Alamo River, which flows, thick and sluggish, in a 
deep gorge with steep red walls and a trimming of 
rustling cottonwoods. Red and green, with overhead 
blue of sky, make the livery of the Imperial Valley. 

One day while at my friend's ranch we were visited 
by a typical summer storm. The day was unusually 
humid, and we sat in collapse by the hour, existing 
on the momentary breezes from the Gulf. About 
mid-morning a brown wall suddenly grew up on the 
open desert to the east. It came rapidly nearer, 
growing higher every moment, and was soon revealed 
as a cloud of sand, so dense as to seem solid, and 
driven at wonderful speed. Its even line was very 
remarkable: it came on like a tidal wave, and not 



TO IMPERIAL VALLEY 293 

until it had approached to half a mile could I see 
the whirling of the sand on its crest. From the mo- 
ment when it was at that distance until it struck 
the house cannot have been half a minute. With 
shriek and swoop it fell upon us in a blast of sand 
and fine gravel, with the momentum of terrific speed 
and semi-solidity. For five minutes it raged and 
howled in extremity of fury: then almost as sud- 
denly the sand passed and there came a torrent of 
rain that lashed and swirled with equal violence. 
This lasted for -half an hour or so, then came to an 
abrupt stop; and in a few minutes the sun was at 
work again, lapping up the moisture like a thirsty 
dog. The rest of the day and the succeeding night 
we were favored with a free-for-all Turkish bath. 

This particular hurricane, born somewhere down 
in Sonora or possibly on the torrid waters of the 
Gulf of California, after sweeping the desert from 
southeast to northwest, jumped the mountains and 
landed among the orange groves of the coast, where 
it played havoc with the crop of late Valencias: then 
after wrecking the boats of the San Pedro fishermen, 
it finally worried itself into quiet amid the solitudes 
of the Pacific. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

A DESERT RIDE: IMPERIAL VALLEY TO YUMA 

Night farming A night ride The sentiment of wonder Wind 
silence, and solitude Camp at the Algodones The desert's 
moods New experience for Kaweah Sand in action A 
study in simplicity Pilot Knob Mirages The Colorado 
River Kaweah and the subconscious Yuma, a frontier town 

The river-steamers Attractions of Yuma Indian costumes 

A wide view A Bret Hartean specimen Yuma types The 
movies: "one touch of nature" Farming country Indian 
w. Mexican taste The Laguna Dam Village of Potholes 
Mosquitoes The saguaros A fantastic region The elf-owl. 

'THHE "edge of cultivation " is as sharply marked 
JL on the east side of Imperial Valley as on the 
west. The farthest "ditch" draws the line between 
green and gray. Beyond it a long dry march lay 
before me, with Yuma, on the Arizona side of the 
Colorado River, for my objective. In view of the 
great heat, made doubly trying by a high degree of 
humidity, I resolved for Kaweah's sake to cover as 
much as possible of it by night. 

Leaving Holtville in the afternoon I rode east- 
ward a few miles to the farthest outpost of the canal 
system. The district (Number Seven as it is called, 
the valley being divided into numbered irrigation 
units) had a more attractive look than some locali- 
ties I had seen, with better houses, bigger stacks of 
hay, and more frequent trees along the roads. To 
south and west ran the long line of the C6copas, 
to-day showing that smoky-white hue that gives 
desert mountains their most weird appearance. 



IMPERIAL VALLEY TO YUMA 295 

I came to the last canal about sundown and fed 
Kaweah at the haystack of a friendly rancher. His 
wife was away "inside," but I was made welcome 
at the supper-table where he and his two men ex- 
hibited their prowess at " baching." Supper over, 
he and one of the hands loaded their pipes, took each 
a bottle of coffee, and marched out to put in the 
night at irrigating, as it was their turn to use the 
water. The Imperial farmer knows not day or night: 
the water schedule is his rule of life, for no water, no 
crops. 

I snatched a couple of hours' sleep, waiting for the 
moon to rise, which it did about eleven o'clock. 
Then I watered Kaweah and myself, filled my can- 
teens, saddled up, and started. The half-moon gave 
a pleasant light, and though the night was sultry it 
was a great improvement over the travelling condi- 
tions by day. I needed no sombrero, and opening 
my shirt made the most of the faint airs that came 
wandering over the plain that ran unbroken to the 
Gulf, seventy miles away. In the uncertain light the 
dunes took the semblance of creeping shapes, their 
long shadows black as ink on the pallid gray of the 
earth. A scant growth of creosote bush blurred the 
view, and the vagueness added to the impression 
of space and monotony that is inherent in these 
great levels. The mountain outlines far ahead could 
hardly be seen against the dimness of the sky. 

Only the stars and the climbing moon kept life 
and definition, and these held the mind with more 
than their wonted fascination. The sentiment of 
wonder, in its worthiest sense^ finds little exercise in 



296 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

these days. Marvels of science and invention so 
crowd upon us that the faculty, kept at stretch, 
loses its elasticity. It is a pity, for along with wonder 
goes imagination, and even reverence. In this staling 
of the mind whole tracts of life are left untouched, 
with all their harvest of spiritual food. Novelty is 
a spice we cannot do without, but the great things 
are not novel. So night by night the motion-picture 
shows are crammed, while unless a comet comes 
along (and a big one too) the pageant of "this brave 
overhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted 
with golden fire," is not thought worth a glance. 
As for "jocund day standing tiptoe on the misty 
mountain-top/' who is going to get out of bed for 
that? 

Hour after hour went silently by while Kaweah 
kept up his steady pace. Sometimes I checked him 
while I let the silence and solitude possess me. In 
the great indefinite space and under the full half- 
sphere of sky glittering with stars from zenith to 
horizon, I might have been the sole inhabitant of 
the planet. The faint, momentary breeze seemed to 
come from infinite distance ; was born perhaps in Cey- 
lon, and had ranged over starlit oceans and untrod- 
den Asian peaks to pass me here, then roam on, and 
on, and die, maybe, among the snows of Spitzbergen. 
Geography took on a vital meaning. Ahead I seemed 
to look over the plains of Texas to the eastern sea- 
board, the Bermudas, the Canaries, Europe with 
its struggling, staggering nations. I felt the draw of 
my own land, the lodestone till death of every 
Briton. Behind was the vastness of the Pacific, the 



IMPERIAL VALLEY TO YUMA 297 

welter of awakening China. There lay the frozen 
tundra, and there, under friendly Polaris, the no 
longer defiant North Pole. 

As it drew toward morning the breeze came cooler 
and more steady, growing to a low monotonous hum 
that seemed to intensify the silence. No hoot of owl 
or yelp of coyote told of life and Nature's interest in 
her children. But for the moon that now cast our 
shadows beneath us, or some meteor rushing to its 
fate, Kaweah and I seemed the only moving crea- 
tures in the universe. Once or twice I missed the 
track and had to dismount and search carefully for 
traces of travel, hardly visible on the pavement-like 
clay which we were crossing. The creosote grew 
sparser and seemed on the verge of death. The 
skinny arms waving in the breeze moved in ghostly 
rhythm, like spectres at a danse macabre. 

At length smears of cloud showed in the eastern 
sky as the dawn whitened behind them. On the hori- 
zon a mountain line took form. The first dull color 
stole in, then quickly brightened ; and soon the sun 
came rushing up, ploughing his way like a swimmer 
and sending beams to the zenith, as if bragging of 
his power. I went on for an hour in hope of sighting 
some sizable bush for shade; but only skimpy creo- 
sotes, half a dozen to the acre and almost leafless, 
kept on to infinity. I stopped and gave Kaweah his 
breakfast, crouching in his shadow while I ate my 
own. * 

We started on, to take advantage of the com- 
parative coolness. Miles went by in alternate sand 
and clay, riding and leading, half awake and half 



298 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

asleep, until a ridge of dunes in front at last broke 
the interminable level. It was the great belt of sand- 
hills, known as the Algodones, that stretch for forty 
miles southeasterly, parallel with the Chocolate 
Mountains, ending at the boundary line a few miles 
west of Yuma. At the nearer base of these dunes a 
well had recently been sunk by the county, and here 
I hoped to find water. 1 I had ample for my own 
wants, but Kaweah was drooping already, for the 
heat was atrocious and the humidity killing. The 
wind had dropped and heavy clouds were climbing 
up from south and east. I looked anxiously for signs 
of the well, and reported the good news to Kaweah 
when a black speck appeared miles away with a 
white dot near it signifying a tent. It was an hour 
before we arrived, but then fortune smiled, for an 
employ^ of the county road department was camped 
there, and he had a little hay, of which, at sixty dol- 
lars a ton, I was free to use a feed or two. 

We had travelled for fifteen hours with only one 
hour's stop, and I felt it was enough for the day. I 
off-saddled, threw Kaweah a dollar's worth of this 
princely forage, took a mouthful of chocolate, and 
fell asleep before I was ready for another. I awoke 
to find that a gale had sprung up and embedded me 
in sand like a fossil. At dusk I awoke again to a 
crash of thunder and at the same moment a torrent 

1 A few days ago, and a year after I crossed this tract, I read in a 
Los Angeles newspaper of a man who had just been rescued here- 
about. He was going from Yuma to the Imperial, had missed the way, 
and was found, crazed with thirst, and (as usual) naked, crawling on 
hands and knees about the sand-dunes. This is the third case of the 
kind that I have read of within the space of a month. 



IMPERIAL VALLEY TO YUMA 299 

of rain. These are the moods of the desert in sum- 
mer. I crept under a discarded piece of canvas, 
where I ate a cold supper: then watered Kaweah 
and turned in. 

I was up at dawn and before sunrise we were on 
the march. The sand-hills, which form a barrier sev- 
eral miles wide, had lately been rendered passable by 
the laying of a rough plank roadway, which begins 
at this point. Kaweah is conservative and this was 
something new, so there was an argument with 
quirt and spur before he would set foot on it. The 
planks had warped and loosened, and he was kept on 
a continual dance of nervousness: still they were a 
great boon, for without them the five miles of shift- 
ing sand would have consumed as many hours. 

The scene was interesting and in a strange way 
beautiful. The dunes rose in quarter-circle curves, 
broken sharply away to a face of two angles, one 
steep, perhaps 60, the other low, not over 15. 
Everywhere the same form was reproduced, the 
smooth arc, the sharp break at the edge, and the 
long slant at the foot. Along the faces and from the 
edges of fracture, a mist of sand was ever curling off 
and drifting in airy waves and feathers, following 
every contour of the dune. The whole mass of the 
sand was enveloped in this fairy-like veil, creeping 
like smoke, weaving in dainty frills and spirals. The 
vapor-like action was odd to see in a solid substance. 

The color was wonderful in purity and sheer 
power of mass. The smooth, large outlines of 
pale yellow, the water-like transparency of cobalt 
shadow, and the soft brilliance of the early morning 



300 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

sky that was all. But the scale on which these 
elements were drawn, the unity and rhythm of line 
and color, gave it the effect of a triumph of simplic- 
ity in art. 

On reaching the eastern edge of the dunes I came 
in sight of my next landmark, Pilot Knob. This is an 
isolated peak five miles west of Yuma, and marks 
the junction of the river with the Mexican bound- 
ary. The usual route to Yuma here makes a circuit to 
the northeast, but I knew that the railway touched 
the river just east of this peak, and that a road from 
Mexico came in there also. I therefore struck di- 
rectly southeast for Pilot Knob (or, as it was named 
by the Spanish explorers, the Cerro de San Pablo: 
the present name, no doubt, dates from the days of 
the fifties, when the river was navigated by flat- 
bottomed steamboats, carrying the traffic of the 
Arizona mines as far upstream as Ehrenberg). 

There was now some variety of scenery. To the 
east was the southern end of the Chocolates, a red 
and purple wilderness of low but rugged mountains, 
and beyond them the higher ranges of Arizona, 
strongly picturesque. A few palo verde and mesquit 
trees grew at the margin of the dunes, but they soon 
gave way to the everlasting creosote, burro-weed, 
and ocotillo, with an occasional small ironwood. To 
my surprise, the ocotillos were in full leaf, the result 
of recent thunder-showers. To-day another storm 
was preparing, and seemed likely to catch us miles 
from shelter. Several times that morning I noted a 
mirage, the common one of a sheet of pale-blue 
water, with dark bushes showing here and there, the 



IMPERIAL VALLEY TO YUMA 301 

exact appearance of a flooded expanse of wooded 
country. 

I stopped for an hour at noon under a bit of scrub 
that ironically offered shade. Betokening approach 
to the river, a butcher-bird appeared and vented 
his chronic ill-temper in screeches of abuse. Three 
sand-martins made better company. There is some 
spiritual quality in the happiness of all birds of the 
swallow tribe. 

By this time Pilot Knob had become a threaten- 
ing volcano under sulphurous-looking clouds, and I 
resigned myself to a thumping deluge. There was a 
chance that by hurrying we might escape, so we 
pushed on and were soon rounding the shoulder of 
the mountain. It was just twenty-five years since I 
had last passed this point, entering California for 
the first time. Under these circumstances the dark 
pyramid, like a quarter-century milestone, sug- 
gested serious reflections: but those clouds made it 
seem unwise to stand about moralizing, and again 
self-examination was successfully dodged. 

Turning eastward I made toward the railway. 
Soon there appeared an expanse of bright green, the 
willow-covered flats of the Colorado River. A mile 
or two brought us to the railway, and, as I expected, 
to a road which took us to the river. Rain or not, I 
halted for half an hour to pay my homage to one of 
the great rivers of the North American continent, 
and the one perhaps most endowed with geological 
interest, by reason of that marvellous canon which 
may be named the greatest natural wonder of the 
world. 



302 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

The stream here takes a deep bend and the bank 
where I stood commanded a good view. It was not a 
specially imposing sight, I had to confess a wide, 
shallow flood of chocolate-hued water, bordered by 
stretches of brilliant green, these rising to low red 
banks over which one looked in vain for any break 
in the monotony of the level. For seventy miles from 
this point southward to the head of the Gulf of Cali- 
fornia I doubt if there is anywhere an elevation of 
forty feet above the plain. Near by were the remains 
of an adobe building which was once a stamp-mill 
for grinding ore. A heron fished in the shallows with 
that air of magnificent calm which is so soothing to 
see, and a quarter of a mile away a torpid Indian 
moved about, doing something mysterious to the 
few stalks of corn in his little clearing. 

But after all it was the Colorado River, and Ka- 
weah, perhaps, caught a reflection of my own inter- 
est, for he stood long in meditative pose. I wondered 
if he felt stirrings of the subconscious in gazing at 
this stream, on whose headwaters his forebears may 
have roamed and practised those little arts which 
make the Western bronco so interesting and in- 
comprehensible. 

At this point the road from Lower California 
came in. I followed this for a couple of hours beside 
a levee, through thickets of willow and arrowweed, 
and by late afternoon came in sight of Yuma. The 
first feature to appear was the Indian school on the 
hill where the historic Fort Yuma once stood. Then 
the court-house came in view, attractive in its set- 
ting of green, the rest of the town, which lies lower, 



IMPERIAL VALLEY TO YUMA 303 

remaining unseen. That I was on the Reservation of 
the Yuma Indians was brought to notice by a wagon 
that met me, driven by a handsome fellow with hair 
hanging to his waist in the rope-like twists that 
mark the Yuma "buck," and with two squaws 
dressed apparently in counterpanes of green, purple, 
and yellow. 

We crossed the river by the high iron bridge as 
the first raindrops plumped down ; passed through a 
street or two of adobe or mud-and-pole houses, and 
got into a livery-stable just in time to escape a ter- 
rific downpour. Here I left Kaweah in good hands 
for a couple of days while I made up arrears of mail 
and looked about the old frontier town. 

This place may be recognized by some of my 
readers in connection with certain well-worn jokes 
turning on warmth of climate. The popular belief 
that Yuma is separated from the nether regions only 
by a sheet of paper is probably an error, though not 
a serious one. The shade temperature did not go 
over 110 while I was in Yuma, but it was now Sep- 
tember and the back of the summer was broken. 

The town is on the Arizona side close to the junc- 
tion of the Colorado and the Gila, and a few miles 
east of the point where California of the United 
States and Lower California of Mexico meet at the 
river. It is the Puerto de la Conception of Padre 
Carets, 1 and the site of the ill-fated Mission of La 

1 The name of Fray Francisco Tomas Hermenegildo Garces 
should be held in honor. He was a native of Aragon, and one of the 
most intrepid of those priest-explorers who early pushed their way 
into the Western deserts, planting the Cross far in advance of the 
flag. It was in 1771 (he was then thirty-three years old) that he first 



304 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

Purisima Concepci6n, which was founded in 1780 
and came to a tragic end in the following year along 
with the neighboring Mission of San Pablo and San 
Pedro, ten miles down the river. From earliest days 
this was a favorite place for fording the river, and 
from 1849 for many years there was a regular service 
by ferry. In 1850, following the war with Mexico, a 
fort, remains of which may be traced, was estab- 
lished on the hill where the Indian school now 
stands, and the place became known as Fort Yuma* 
In 1852 the first of the river steamers, a stern- 
wheeler, appeared at Fort Yuma, to the intense ex- 
citement of the Indians, who, having assembled at 
the report of the prodigy, beat a retreat on its ap- 
proach, crying out that "the devil was coming up 
the river, blowing fire out of his nose and kicking up 
the water behind him with his feef'One of the old 

crossed the Colorado River, but for several years before that he had 
been knocking about among the Yumas, Mojaves, Apaches, gaining 
their good-will by his geniality, tact, courage, and simplicity. It is 
said that he would eat Indian food and appear to enjoy it as much as 
his hosts a stiff test for even the Franciscan " rule " and his native 
courtesy. His influence with Palma, the Yuma chief, smoothed the 
way for Anza's expedition in 1774, and he accompanied the gallant 
" Captain of Tubac " for the whole distance from Sonora to the coast, 
returning from San Gabriel alone. 

It is sad to record that a few years later Padre Garces fell a victim 
when the "bold and rebellious" Yumas rose against the whites. He, 
with three more priests and practically all the other white men at 
the two newly established Missions (including the military com- 
mander, Captain Don Fernando Rivera y Moncada, and many sol- 
diers), fell in a general massacre in the summer of 1781. The bodies 
of Fray Francisco and a companion priest were found, the following 
year, where they had been buried by a kindly Indian woman in a 
little spot of grass and flowers in the midst of the burned area where 
the Mission had stood. The record says that among the flowers was 
the camomile a pleasant touch of detail. I like the association of 
that modest little blossom with brave, simple Padre Garc6s. 



IMPERIAL VALLEY TO YUMA 305 

steamers rests to-day on its laurels beside the bank 
while another has been transformed into a bungalow 
by an ingenious citizen. The last of their skippers, 
Captain Isaac Polhamus, may still be met about the 
streets of Yuma, and has vivid scraps of history to 
recount, along with memories of soberer hue for 
instance, of days and nights passed in getting free of 
one sand-bar only to immediately lodge upon an- 
other. Several days were often spent in making ten 
or fifteen miles. 

The town is interesting to any one who cares for 
humble ways of life, though scorned by people de- 
voted to progress. It reminded me of California's old 
capital, Monterey. Here as there one finds houses of 
all constructions and ages mixed: there is not yet a 
"choice residential section 11 or "Nob Hill" (charm- 
ing name), but adobe, timber, brick, and "stick-in- 
the-mud" 1 are pleasantly jumbled together, with 
here and there a garden of old-fashioned flowers. 
Date-palms wave over the sidewalks, mingling with 
cottonwoods and even wildling mesquits. Half- 
naked Mexican children play in the dooryards of 
humble homes, and Indians use the main street as 
boldly as the banker, the mayor, or even the police- 
man. Altogether, Yuma comes near my idea of a 
model town. 

Pictorially, the Indians are the making of it. The 
Yuma men are athletic-looking fellows, erect and 
well-featured, the finest, I think, among the South- 
western tribes; and they have ideas of dress that re- 
sult in striking ensembles. One slim young man es- 

1 Structures of willow poles set upright and plastered with mud. 



306 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

pecially took my fancy* He wore a close-fitting lilac 
tunic of knitted silk, closed at the throat with a scar- 
let ribbon; his hair hung in straight ropes to his 
waist and was tied with a cord of bright green; for 
sash he had an orange silk bandanna. Crude as this 
may sound, his lithe figure, open look, and general 
air of efficiency carried it off and made a really fine 
effect. 

The women did not evoke my enthusiasm, though 
they did my attention. They are much inferior to 
the men in physique, though perhaps up to the 
average of our Western Indian women. Their fea- 
tures have none of the clean-cut look seen in the 
men, and as for dress, gaudy is the only word. Over 
the usual shapeless " wrapper," generally of blue- 
and-white check, the women without exception wear 
a square sheet of the strongest hues known to the 
dry-goods world purple, grass-green, flame-color, 
scarlet, ultramarine, yellow. As a rule these have a 
two or three inch border of some violent contrast, 
such as purple on orange or green on blue. These 
startling draperies are fastened at the neck and left 
flowing to the breeze. The head is usually encircled 
with a banda of red, and the straight hair, which 
is seldom so long as that of the men, hangs in a 
shock on the shoulders. A group of Yuma women in 
a lively wind would give a futurist some valuable 
ideas. 

A visit to the court-house revealed a rather de- 
pressing state of things: a fair exterior, but, within, 
a pervading carelessness and a general air of spit- 
toons. However, I was repaid by two views that 



IMPERIAL VALLEY TO YUMA 307 

I obtained one from the room below the dome, 
a sort of dormitory furnished with a number of 
highly unattractive beds, provided, I suppose, for 
unfortunate jurymen. From here I could look out 
on all sides to the green-bordered river winding 
in sinuous course toward the Gulf; or to range be- 
yond range of mountains, of red, yellow, purple, or 
of mere haze; with an extraordinary peak, the Pi- 
cacho, 1 standing up like an artificial obelisk twenty 
miles to the north, and more to the east the equally 
strange shape of Castle Dome, the Cabeza del Gi- 
gante, or Giant's Head: over all an evening sky 
where clouds sailed in majestic squadrons. 

The other view was different but fully as impres- 
sive a human being, in fact, but of a kind that I 
supposed had passed away. He entered the building 
as I was leaving it, and I turned back to have an- 
other look. I knew he was a judge before I saw him 
go into the court-room. Long, thin, goateed, shirt- 
sleeved, with cigar and wide-brimmed Stetson at 
free-and-easy angle he was the devil-may-care, 
reprobate, Bret Hartean judiciary to the life, a sort of 
epic. Without doubt he had a gun in his pocket, 
perhaps another in the leg of his boot. I could 
hardly keep from taking his photograph. I reckon 
him to be the last of a species. Yuma must be careful 
with him, and when he dies he should be gently pre- 
served under glass in some museum of American 
types. I have read of a person who was so gro- 

* It was named by Garces, Pefton de la Campana, or Great Bell- 
Tower Rock, a name quite expressive to one familiar with the isolated 
bell-tower of Spanish architecture. 



3 o8 CALIFORNIA DESERT. TRAILS 

tesquely ugly that he looked as if he were walking 
about doing it for fun. I had that kind of feeling 
about my Yuma judge. 

One who thinks life dry without frequent thrills 
might find a summer evening in Yuma tedious: yet I 
look back on certain after-dinner hours there as 
among the most profitable of my trip. After leaning 
for an hour over the rail of the bridge, hoping that I 
was getting cool, I found it was a mistake and took 
my way up the street to share the general fate and 
lounge among the loungers. Mesmerized by the 
rhythmic thump of a mechanical piano I took a post 
opposite the Motion-Picture Theatre. The main 
street of Yuma makes something of a motion picture 
itself. Three Indians with headdresses of purple, 
green, and pink, sat inert on the curb in front of me, 
smoking countless cigarettes while they made hilari- 
ous comments on passers-by. Men on quick-pacing 
Indian ponies swung along, one now and then jerk- 
ing up at the sidewalk to exchange a remark or bor- 
row "the makings." Hard-featured men, and girls 
bearing the terrible stamp, passed and repassed: 
also Yuma's full complement of sales-ladies es- 
corted by their fellows. A "For Rent" automobile 
drawn up close by showed several pairs of lightly 
clad legs and arms dangling over doors and seat- 
backs, apparently disconnected from invisible own- 
ers. A heavy-looking buck and his heavier-looking 
middle-aged squaw stopped to admire the colored 
posters of the play. In twos and threes the citizens 
slouched in to the show, clerks in the latest shirt- 
styles, with their girls, entering at the exclusive 



IMPERIAL VALLEY TO YUMA 309 

"two-bit" right, while the common ten-centers, 
mainly Mexicans and Indians, passed in on the left. 

The rattle of the music roused in me an appetite 
(last satisfied years ago, I thought for ever) for 
movies, and when I saw the Indian and squaw come 
back down the street and enter, I walked over, paid 
my dime, and followed, taking the seat next behind 
them. 

My attention was divided between the play and 
my front neighbors. The play, already well on its 
course, was the regulation kind of thing, and the 
acting of the regulation stagey sort, with full meas- 
ure of the clenching of hands, smiting of brows, 
rolling of eyes, and heaving of chests that mark the 
authentic movie drama. The story doesn't matter; 
there were stolen interviews, a secret marriage, a 
wealthy, cruel parent, reckless expenditure on cabs 
and telegrams, a baby girl, a death, the good old 
landlady with asides and risky buttons, realistic 
scenes of high-low-life in Rio or somewhere, a 
poodle, and so forth. 

But it was the "one touch of nature" that caught 
us all. The baby, grown to a sunny-haired romp of 
five, came dancing downstairs and threw herself on 
grandpapa's neck with prattle, hugs, and kisses. It 
was then that our hearts gave way. The buck's right 
arm had been lying along the seat-rail behind his 
squaw's broad crimson back; the other hand was in 
his lap. At this point the free arm crept over and he 
clasped the hand of his woman, while the arm be- 
hind drew her closer. Would that I might have 
reached over and wrung those dark and dirty paws! 



310 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

I don't know why I did n't, unless because I am 
English. Nor do I know why I should have thought 
it strange for two Yuma Indians to be at a level of 
sentiment that, as I was slightly ashamed to find, I 
had not left behind. 

When the relentings, explanations, and reconcilia- 
tions were done, and child, father, and grandfather 
had been seen locked in embraces (with great ''busi- 
ness" by landlady and poodle), we lounged out and 
drifted down the street to the ice-cream and billiard 
parlor, where racial barriers fell again before a com- 
mon passion for nickel ice-cream sodas. And so 
home to our respective beds. 

That Goliath of the cacti, the saguaro, which is 
such a notable feature of the Arizona deserts, exists 
in small numbers at two or three points on the Cali- 
fornia side of the river, a few being found about fif- 
teen miles above Yuma. As a rarity in California 
botany I thought it worth a side-trip to see and 
photograph them. 

I took the road leading to the Laguna Dam, 
which was built a few years ago to bring a tract of 
land to the south of Yuma under cultivation. It was 
an interesting region that I passed through, consid- 
ering what Nature had meant it to be. On either 
side of a willow-bordered road there stretched fields 
of corn and hay, and pastures stocked with horses 
and cattle. It seems to be also a stronghold of the 
turkey tribe, for large bands of gobblers and peepers 
were wading about in the tall alfalfa, a head coming 
to the surface here and there like a periscope. The 
houses here were more like homes and less like 



IMPERIAL VALLEY TO YUMA 311 

camps than those of Imperial Valley. Many of these 
had little orchards, a thing one hardly ever sees in 
the Imperial; and nurseries of date seedlings were a 
common feature. 

Now and then a wagon passed us filled with 
Indians bound for town. There was no mistaking 
those tulip-like costumes at any distance. I caught 
glimpses of such chic arrangements as magenta with 
orange, and bottle-green with mauve. The Quakers 
will never stand a chance with these people. One 
rather pretty girl in flame-color and pea-green made 
a fine display of gold-filled incisors as she went by, I 
fancy for my benefit. The contrast of bare, dirty 
feet with this show of wealth struck me as unique, 
perhaps also symbolic. It is a far advance in taste 
that is shown by the Mexican woman, with her 
dark, plain colors and modest rebosa, or the Mexican 
girl's choice of pure and simple white. The Yuma 
men's favorite head-covering is a handkerchief of 
some bright color, twisted into a close-fitting tur- 
ban; but often, and more pleasing, one sees the 
banda, a strip passing round the forehead and fas- 
tened above the long ropes of hair. 

The dustiness of the road was mitigated by a 
green bordering of willows and alfalfa, highly ap- 
proved by Kaweah. Everywhere were canals, large 
and small, the cement head-gates bearing the letters 
U. S. R. S. (United States Reclamation Service) 
which are coming to mean so much to many regions 
of the West. A dredge was lazily nosing with a 
scoop-shovel into the bank of damp red earth, en- 
larging one of the smaller canals. On all sides were 



312 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

.tokens of improvement and, what is better, con- 
tentment; though one or two men I talked with had 
complaints to make on the score of their financial 
burdens under the Government irrigation plan. 

Half a mile after meeting the main canal, which 
is forty or fifty feet in width, I came to the river and 
the head-works of the great Laguna Dam. 1 From 
the weir that stretched across the wide stream went 
up a roar of falling water. The massive head-gates 
bore again the mark U. S. R. S., like the symbol of a 
conqueror or the S. P. Q. R. of ancient Rome. Ad- 
joining the dam on the California side is a Mexican 
village on the site of a former mining-camp of some 
note. It bears the pleasing name of Potholes, refer- 
ring, I think, to the fact that the pay-dirt was found 
here to occur in "pots" or "pockets." 

It was too late for me to hunt saguaros that day. 
I camped amid a confusion of old boilers and other 
d6bris of the construction time, using for sleeping- 
place the bed of a disused wagon, the only clean and 
level spot I could find. Mosquitoes kept me in mis- 
ery, and I was glad when the rising of an arc of wan- 
ing moon told that daylight and relief were at hand. 
At this spot, however, where a rocky bluff brings a 
break in the almost continuous thicket that borders 
the river, this pest was nothing in comparison with 
what I endured in other places. Whenever I entered 
the jungle of willow, cottonwood, and arrowweed, so 
delicious to the eye at a distance, I became the prey 

1 It is worthy of note that Captain Anza, in 1774, remarked upon 
the possibilities of a dam somewhere hereabouts. The old Spanish 
adventurers, both priests and soldiers, had a range of ideas much 
wider than their particular province. 




AN OLD SAGUARO, WITH HOLES OF THE ELF-OWL 



IMPERIAL VALLEY TO YUMA 313 

of myriads of these demons. The hot dank air rings 
with their infernal pipings, and every moment is a 
misery. If equatorial Africa is worse than this, Liv- 
ingstone and Stanley were heroes indeed. 

A few miles to the north I found the outposts 
of the saguaros. Scarred and barren hills broke 
abruptly from levels strewn with fragments of rock 
of unusual hues, and the walls of every gully showed 
broken veins and ledges that made me again ponder 
turning prospector. There was no trouble in dis- 
tinguishing the saguaros: they stood like tall posts 
among the stunted shrubs that sprinkled the mesa, 
varied only by small ironwoods, palo verdes, and 
mesquits where the shallow depression of a water- 
course collected the scanty rainfall. It was my first 
meeting with the saguaro and I was struck with its 
odd characteristics. 

Its typical shape is a slender, straight column of 
equal diameter from top to bottom. From this a 
few stumpy arms may break out, and as these al- 
most always turn upward, parallel to the main stem, 
a common effect is that of a gigantic candelabrum. 
Most of them, however, take original forms, each 
one a study in the weird. In close examination the 
plant is beautiful enough, the stem and branches 
glossy dark green and regularly fluted, and bearing 
in early summer white waxen blossoms which ma- 
ture into edible crimson fruit. The tallest specimen 
I found was a solitary, old, ragged fellow, forty feet 
high, with a grotesque array of excrescences. An 
Alaskan Indian would have hailed it as a wondrous 
totem-pole. 



3 i4 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

Other features of the landscape gave the same 
effect of abnormality. The bare red plain was broken 
by distant hills of livid color and curious outline. To 
north and east, eccentric shapes gave the horizon a 
fantastic appearance. Of these Castle Dome was 
chief, the perpendicular mass of its central column 
looking as if the mountain were spouting up into the 
sky. Nearer at hand were these vegetable monstrosi- 
ties, some straight and stark, others running to all 
sorts of bulbous curiosities. In color and shape every 
object was unexpected and unaccountable. 

Almost all the saguaros I saw were bored with one 
or more round holes about four inches in diameter. 
My totem-pole saguaro must have had twenty of 
them. These are made originally by woodpeckers, 
but are mostly annexed by the little elf-owl (Micro- 
pattas whitneyi), who turns out the unlucky car pin- 
tero (as the Spaniards call the bird of chips), en- 
larges the hole, or perhaps bullies the other bird into 
doing it for him, and moves in, sometimes, no doubt, 
finding a young carpenter or two all ready for the 
house-warming. I searched a few of the holes in hope 
of getting a sight of this midget of his tribe, but if 
any were at home they had taken to the cellar. 



CHAPTER XIX 

A DESERT RIDE: YUMA TO BLYTHE 

Autumn in the air Northward now Indian houses Picacho 
Peak A tinaja Sunset splendor The back of the Chocolates 

Picacho Mine Rock colors Mineral country Mexican 
hospitality The Colorado River: its monotony: whirlpools: 
river of many names Hoag's Landing A taciturn hermit 
A friendlier one Frontier life. Riverside jungles The fas- 
cination of repulsion Mexicans preferred Summer floods - 
Palo Verde Infant prodigies Water required A boom 
"town" Great expectations "Home, Sweet Home" 
Blythe : good points and bad No Mexicans need apply Pumped 
dry by mosquitoes A bit of Arizona Mojave Indians 
Puzzle: find La Paz Buried treasure Country of the dead 

Ehrenberg: population, i The days of old The missing citi- 
zens Evening on the Rio Colorado. 

IT was with a light-hearted feeling that I left 
Yuma. For one thing, cooler weather was at 
hand. People had told me that the middle of Sep- 
tember would bring a break in the heat, and this was 
the 8th of the month. (The previous night, for the 
first time for months except when at Warner's in 
the mountains, I had found it comfortable to sleep 
under a thin blanket). For another, in leaving Yuma 
I was turning northward and in a general way home- 
ward. Three months of travel in this desert country, 
nearly all of it alone, and with everlasting anxieties 
of water and forage, had brought a feeling that 
sometimes bordered on disgust. 

Whether it was these considerations or some real 
difference in the air, somehow I felt as if autumn had 
come. I tried in vain to get at the source of the feel- 
ing. It might have been a bird sitting meditatively 



316 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

on a stalk of milo-maize; or a cow dreamily chew- 
ing; or a flock of blackbirds making jolly chorus in a 
willow; anyhow^it was there, and even when birds 
and cows were left behind, and the desert again en- 
gulfed us, I felt the vague relief. 

I chose the California bank of the river. There is 
a fairly good road, I am told, leading north on the 
Arizona side, while on the west side roads were 
problematical beyond Picacho, some twenty miles 
up. But I find untravelled ways most to my liking, 
and felt pretty sure I could get through, for water 
would be at hand if I kept near the river, and I 
heard of a ranch or two where forage might be found 
before I should reach the settlements of the Palo 
Verde Valley. 

The first few miles led through the Indian Reser- 
vation, and at one or two of the kans (houses) the 
family was already breakfasting (mainly, it seemed, 
on watermelon) under the rdmada, or brush-roofed 
shed, which is the general living-room during the 
hot months. The winter-quarters of most of the 
houses seemed snug enough, with good doors and 
windows, though these looked odd in walls of wil- 
low-poles caulked with mud. One young fellow 
dashed past me on a bicycle, with a shock of hair 
streaming behind him that for length, if not for tex- 
ture, might be the envy of many a pale-face bru- 
nette. 

Passing the last irrigation ditch we entered at 
once on a wide mesa with the ragged red hills of the 
Chocolate Range on all sides, except where, beyond 
the river, the mountains of Arizona were piled in 



YUMA TO BLYTHE 31? 

solid masses of purple or aerial tones of blue. Ahead 
rose the Picacho pinnacle, like a dark pillar of thun- 
der-cloud. It would be strange if the mines on the 
north flank of the mountain had escaped discovery. 
Any prospector or explorer coming within sight of 
that curious peak would be bound to go and see 
what it meant. I saw here an unusually good mirage, 
a sheet of pale blue water with slender towers like 
the minarets of mosques artistically grouped be- 
yond. I used to wonder whether Kaweah saw these 
illusions. I cannot see why a horse should notj his 
eyes being at much the same level as a man's, but he 
never gave any token of noticing them. Are animals 
quicker than we to detect the unreality? 

He had drunk little at starting and refused water 
at the ditch, but by early afternoon he was jaded. I 
searched each gully in hope of finding water left by 
the storm of a few days before, and by good luck 
came upon a tinaja of clear water. By lying down I 
could just make the canvas bucket reach it by using 
the forty-foot picket-rope. It was delicious water, 
cool and sweet, and we resolved on lunch. A chuck- 
walla that lived in a cranny of the gully amused me 
with reptilian antics while I ate. No doubt he 
thought my actions equally uncouth. 

The country became rougher, with antediluvian 
looking hills coming in at every fresh view. Ocotillos 
were almost the only growth, and these, as brilliant 
as if dipped in vivid paint, made a striking show 
against the crude red of the rock. By late afternoon 
we rounded the flank of the Picacho, reaching the 
divide just before sunset. I shall never forget the 



3 i8 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

sea of color that spread before me here. But why at- 
tempt to describe that which I felt it was hopeless to 
try to realize myself? It was superhuman. Words 
were below the trivial; even thoughts would hardly 
come. 

In mere geography, it was the back of the Choco- 
lates that I saw, a red ocean of ridges and pinnacles 
that if one could count them would run to hundreds, 
or more likely thousands. The level sun threw every 
detail into strongest relief, each point sharp and tense 
as if in action. Across this swept the splendor of an 
unearthly sunset. 

The road here swung to the north of the Pica- 
cho, which had become a huge perpendicular cliff 
mysterious in shadow. Near by was another peak 
scarcely less original in outline. A mile brought us to 
the old mining-camp, a cluster of huts and sheds, all 
but one or two of them dismantled, with a larger 
central building occupied now by a caretaker. The 
property is involved in some legal difficulties and 
has long been unworked. This district has been 
noted for its rich placers since the early sixties, and 
it is said that when it was at its best ("in bonanza" 
as the phrase goes) any miner who failed to take out 
three hundred dollars per day was discharged as in- 
competent. Instead of the several hundred men who 
at one time made this a lively camp, I found only 
two or three Mexicans making a small living by 
working over the old placer-ground with dry-wash- 
ers* 

I persuaded the caretaker to spare Kaweah an 
armful of hay from his tiny_store, and ate a cold 



YUMA TO BLYTHE 319 

supper rather than spend time over cooking while 
that wonderful afterglow filled the sky. The porch 
of a disused building where I spread my blanket 
proved to be the battlefield of the rats of Picacho 
and the camp cat, who charged across me from time 
to time. 

We took our way in the morning down a pictur- 
esque canon along which a light railroad used to run 
between the river and the mines. Rusty rails and 
machinery were strewn about, adding their quota of 
raggedness to piles of broken rock and old railway 
ties. The colors of the walls were extraordinary, 
splashed about in a way that suggested the upset- 
ting of cauldrons of molten rock, pink, lavender, 
scarlet, green, and blue. The cool gray of smoke- 
trees made an excellent foil for these lively effects. 

On the river-bank at the mouth of the canon were 
the remains of the old town of Picacho, its popula- 
tion reduced to two or three families. This region 
for many miles up the river is a land of yesterday : of 
mines worked out, towns and settlements dead or 
dying. Yet it may revive, for mineral country can 
never be safely said to be dead. Any day the grizzled 
old man with pick and shovel, frying-pan and gold* 
pan, may strike a blow that will bring it to life liter- 
ally as if by magic. Looking at that extent of moun- 
tains, all known or guessed to be mineralized, but 
in great part unprospected, one feels that bonanzas 
by scores might be hidden there. 

The store, where I had counted on replenishing 
my saddle-bags, was closed, this not being one of 
the bi-weekly mail days. But at the adjoining house 



320 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

I found a kindly Mexican family, and experienced 
again the courtesy of these often underrated people. 
While I drank my milk and talked with the dueno 
in the veranda where the family life went on, the 
phonograph was turned on for my pleasure. It was 
odd to hear the strains of "Pagliacci" by these 
lonely reaches of the Colorado. "Tipperary" did 
not sound so improbable. 

I now turned northward along the river. The one 
difficulty I expected in making my way along the 
stream was the overflowed areas likely to be left by 
the yearly flooding which results from the melting 
of the snows on the headwaters. But fortunately this 
summer the rise had been less than normal and there 
should be little trouble, though I must expect d- 
tours and retracing of steps. 

A hardly discernible track ran alternately along 
the river margin and the gravelly mesa that 
stretched from the bank to the belt of rugged hills. 
This gave variety to the march, sometimes through 
thickets of willow, again in open blaze of sun, while 
at intervals a ravine came down from the moun- 
tains, filled with ironwoods, palo verdes, smoke- 
trees, and the tedious but useful mesquit. At a little 
cove where firm ground allowed of Kaweah getting a 
drink I stopped for lunch and a congratulatory pipe, 
feeling not a little satisfaction in at last travelling 
along this famous stream, which had for years at- 
tracted my imagination. 

The Colorado is not in its lower course a particu- 
larly striking river. That kind of feature it has in 
full measure farther up, where with roar of rapids or 



YUMA TO BLYTHE 321 

nobler quietude of motion it sweeps through the 
vast chasms of the Grand Canon. Here it was a wide 
red flood, majestic in its expression of power, but 
with monotony for its prevailing note. This monot- 
ony, however, as I soon found, comes to be itself a 
feature of impressiveness. The union of silence with 
motion has also its peculiar charm, and the Colorado 
might well be named the Silent River. Its lack of 
sound might pass without notice if it were not 
brought to the attention by sudden swirls or whirl- 
pools that now and again break the stillness with a 
rush of rapid water, followed again by the deathlike 
hush. These periodical suctions are a characteristic 
of this stream, and are caused by the continual 
shifting of the material of the bed. A phenomenal 
quantity of silt is carried by the Colorado, and its 
deposition results in constant changes of the bot- 
tom, a newly formed shoal at one place being bal- 
anced by a displacement at another. On the shores, 
also, every flood rebuilds and tears down the banks, 
which even at this time of low water I often noted 
to be rapidly caving at some point where I might be 
standing. This again causes changes of current in 
the channel, with the result of fresh alterations of 
the bed. 

The river has had various names in the course of 
its history. We first hear of it in 1538 under the 
name Rio de las Balsas, river of the rafts, from the 
Franciscans, Fray Juan de la Asunci6n and Fray 
Pedro Nadal, who saw the Yumas cross the stream 
on rafts. Two years later one of Coronado's officers, 
Hernando de Alargon, the first to discover its mouth 



322 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

and explore some distance above, named it the Rio 
de Buena Guia, or river of good guidance. In the 
same year Melchior Diaz called it the Rio del Tiz6n, 
river of the firebrand, because he found the savages 
carrying torches for warmth. Juan de Onate in 1605 
christened it the Rio Grande de Esperanza, river of 
hope, but in 1700 it received from Padre Eusebio 
Kino the ominous name of the Rio de los Mardres, 
prophetic of the massacre, eighty years later, at the 
infant Missions near Yuma. But the name by which 
we know it, the Rio Colorado, the red river, is em- 
phatically its own, stamped upon it by Nature. Red 
it is, both water and shores, approaching actual 
vermilion, and the hue is accentuated by the com- 
plementary green of the bordering vegetation. 1 I 
should like to view it again in late fall, when cotton- 
wood and willow had changed to that tint of au- 
tumn gold which gives such depth and brilliance to 
the blue of the sky. 

y I whiled away an hour with the shades of the old 
padres and conquistadores, not forgetting the mod- 
ern conqueror, Major John Wesley Powell, whose 
exploration in 1869 has lately been commemorated 
in a monument built on a point above the wonderful 
canon. All the afternoon we moved slowly along, 
flanked ever by barren red mountains, these in Cali- 
fornia, those in Arizona. Reach after reach of the 

1 In an old map, printed in Paris in the sixteenth century, and 
showing California as an island, the Gulf is set down as Mar Bermejo, 
the Vermilion Sea, the name probably deriving from one of the "re- 
ports and narrations" from which the map was avowedly drawn, 
traceable to some early explorer, perhaps Alargon, or Ulloa (one year 
earlier) who may have observed the discoloration of the Gulf water 
by that of the river, near its mouth. 



YUMA TO BLYTHE 323 

river yielded little variety. Now and then a platoon 
of ducks flew up or down stream, or a heron or crane 
rose and flapped slowly off to a new fishing-ground, 
and often a covey of quail, caught unaware, scram- 
bled with anxious chatter into the nearest thicket. 

A smoke-stack, like a steamer's funnel, on the 
nearer bank, with nothing else of man's handiwork 
in sight, marked Hoag's Landing, where a ferry is 
supposed to ply, carrying an occasional passenger. I 
saw neither boat nor boatman, and wonder to this 
hour how long one might wait there for passage. 

A mile or two farther on we came to a discouraged 
looking house and, after some search, a settler of 
similar mien who leaned on the rickety bars of a 
pasture that was occupied by a pair of burros. His 
niggardly words and lack-lustre eye were not en- 
gaging, and when I learned that there was another 
settler six miles above, I forebore to suggest our re- 
maining for the night, and we pursued our way. Be- 
fore we reached the other place sunset had come. It 
is surely by design of Providence that the refreshing 
color-flood comes over the earth just at the hour 
when otherwise man's spirit would tend to grovel. I 
reined up and gazed my fill over the solitary scene, 
now suddenly humanized by the magic of the eve- 
ning light. The Colorado was no longer common- 
place. 

Just above where a rocky island, known as Light- 
house Rock, stood midway in the stream, I found 
the ranch and a hearty welcome from the rancher. 
He had lived in this isolated spot for many years, 
usually quite alone, only at long intervals visited by 



324 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

some wandering prospector. To my inquiry how often 
he got his mail, he replied "Oh, every few weeks," 
in a tone implying that this was not half bad. 

My host had a small but substantial house, with 
plenty of good land and many of the makings of a 
comfortable home. On the river bank he had rigged 
up, single-handed, an engine and pump, which were 
all but ready to lift the water upon his fields. But 
the loneliness and the disheartening fight were too 
much for him, and he declared that he must quit un- 
less he could find a partner. There are few people 
nowadays, I fear, who would be attracted by this 
frontier life, where one's own resources must provide 
almost every item that enters into success and com- 
fort. If lumber is needed, you row up stream, fell 
and hew your timbers, and raft them down to your 
landing. If cement, or nails, your supply is forty 
miles away. If flour, or candles, or coffee, they are 
only to be had at the trouble of a day's journey. So- 
ciety one must dispense with: and if you need a doc- 
tor but one had better not get sick. Even the 
luxury of a diet of wild burro (which is the only 
fresh meat available) might not be thought to offset 
the other deprivations. 

Kaweah met here an old acquaintance in the form 
of barley hay, which he munched with reminiscent 
air. After supper my host and I sat smoking and 
chatting for hours while he unburdened himself of 
hopes and fears, relieved with yarns of cougar and 
bighorn, treacherous river and waterless trail, while 
coyotes yelped and yelled in cheerful rivalry, Cali- 
fornia versus Arizona. 



YUMA TO BLYTHE 325 

A long day's inarch was laid out for next day. I 
bade good-bye early to the friendly hermit, and we 
took our way again northward. At each approach 
to the river, bands of waterfowl flew quacking and 
clattering across the shining water. The track was 
dim, and was cut away in places by the summer 
flood, causing us many ddtours. The thickets be- 
came more jungle-like and difficult, and often the 
axe came into play. There were vistas in these wil- 
low woodlands where one might have thought him- 
self in a wintry forest, every twig and leaf being 
coated with white wool from the seed vessels. Where 
the sun lighted these glades the resemblance to 
snow was exact, but the steamy heat and the mos- 
quitoes forbade such delusion as to the time of 
year. 

There was more of interest when the trail took to 
the mesa. Then the mountains were in view, and, 
forbidding as they were in their look of eternal 
drought and their uniformity of hue, their shapes 
were always stimulating. The mere geographical 
feeling, so to speak, that is excited by mountains is a 
luxury to any one fond of geography; and these des- 
ert ranges, with their look of geologic austerity, have 
a quality that amounts to fascination the fasci- 
nation of repulsion or something near that, a morbid 
and dangerous thing in general, but which some- 
how I find invigorating in a chain of blighted, be- 
witched mountains. One group of hills that I passed 
is named the Barren Mountains, as if in contrast 
with the other ranges hereabout, but it is hard to 
imagine what the difference can be. 



326 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

On the Arizona side of the river about opposite to 
where I now was, a few settlers have taken up land. 
The locality is known as the Cibola Valley, taking 
the name from those Seven Cities that excited the 
old Spaniards so needlessly. 

I recognized a relic of the mining era in the form 
of some cement vats on the bench above the river. 
No shaft or tunnel could be seen, so probably the 
pay-dirt was brought from a distance, this being the 
nearest water available for washing. In the bottom 
of one of the vats was a good-sized rattlesnake. I 
descended and did battle, Kaweah looking down 
like an old Roman watching a combat in the arena. 
He shares my dislike for these creatures, and gets as 
excited as I at the familiar rattle. As an instance of 
protective coloring, this specimen had taken on a 
dark red color that closely matched the ground. 1 

After a dozen miles or so we came to a clearing 
where Mexicans had cultivated their little patches 
of maize, milpitas, as they call them. The white set- 
tler who had lately ousted them was living in the 
stick-in-the-mud house. As it was noon I inquired of 
the wife whether I might purchase a meal and take 
it with them, which after some demur was granted. 
The man did not leave his reclining posture, on a 
dirty quilt in the shade of a ramada, during the hour 
and a half I stayed, except for a hurried visit to the 
table to gulp down his beans and coffee. With apolo- 
gies to the kindly woman, I could not help wishing 
that the "damned greasers," as he termed the late 

^ * I once, in grass country, killed a rattlesnake that was quite green 
in hue. Both the green and the red were regulation " diamond-backs." 



YUMA TO BLYTHE 327 

occupiers, might have been my hosts. Anglo-Saxon 
superiority has sometimes to be taken for granted. 

A wide wash, the Arroyo Seco, comes in here. 
There was no sign of recent rain having fallen here- 
about, but the wash, dry as it now was, showed signs 
that a flood had swept down from the Chocolates 
within two or three weeks at most. I had seen the 
storm that I raced to Yuma, ten days before, break- 
ing over this locality, and now congratulated myself 
that it had not overtaken me in the open, for fresh 
drift was lodged four or five feet high all over the 
wide channel. To be caught in one of these arroyos 
(which are tempting camping-places on account of 
firewood and shelter from wind), when a thunder- 
storm bursts on the mountains, would be much like 
being under a reservoir when the dam breaks. 

Evening found us still far from Palo Verde, but a 
few hours' cool travelling was not a bad prospect. 
Before the young moon had set we had come into a 
well-marked road that comes up from Glamis, forty 
miles to the southwest, and along this we marched 
comfortably enjoying the grateful dusk. At length 
came fences, and then a light. We stumbled into a 
few sloughs that variegated the road, ran into a 
barbed-wire fence or two, and pulled up at an adobe 
store-building where a trio of teamsters were camp- 
ing on the porch. Opposite was a corral and hay- 
stack, pleasing sights for Kaweah. The proprietor 
was routed out and we wound up a long day in very 
tolerable quarters. 

Morning revealed Palo Verde as a hamlet I 
choose the smallest term, but it is too much con- 



328 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

sisting of a store and half a dozen scattered build- 
ings, mostly old or of the modern kind that does not 
need years to make them disreputable. The popula- 
tion might number a score when all should have re- 
turned from "inside." A backwater of the Colorado 
gives the place some attraction, and it appeared to 
be well stocked with fish and waterfowl. Not only 
the youth but the infants of Palo Verde find their 
pleasure in this lagoon. A proud father pointed out 
to me his boy, aged three, who he assured me was an 
expert swimmer, while his next younger, a baby- 
girl, was in training and showing promise. 

As for farming, the district seemed not to have 
made a beginning. A few untidy fields could be seen, 
but not one instance of thrifty cultivation came to 
my notice. This settlement lies at the southern end 
of the Palo Verde Valley, the upper part of which, as 
the next day's travel proved, tells a very different 
tale. No doubt the tide of prosperity, which means 
the flow of water in the irrigation canals, is on its 
way and will break on Palo Verde itself in due time. 

Through a pale, unpleasant land we took our way 
again northward. There was not now much comfort 
to be had from the mountains, for they were farther 
away and almost lost in summer haze; and the river 
had dropped out of sight. The vegetation was of the 
dismal kind usual on these silt levels, hummocks of 
atriplex varied with an occasional mesqult. The 
ground was cracked and gaping with heat, and the 
so-called ranches added the last touch of depression 
with their gunny-sacking and baling-wire make- 
shifts. Here and there an attempt at cultivation had 



YUMA TO BLYTHE 329 

been made, but abandoned. The bitter dust rose 
listlessly from the road and hung about like an an- 
noying companion. A team crept along half hidden 
in its own gray cloud. As we passed I noticed that 
the load was burlap, for baling the cotton-crop of 
the northern end of the valley. 

A new, vacant store-building with one house ad- 
joining proved to be a "town" named Rannells. 
The law of supply and demand cannot be the simple 
thing many of us suppose, for here was a man who 
thought, apparently, that a store automatically 
produces customers. But the mind of the land- 
boomer is one of the last puzzles that philosophy 
will solve. Meanwhile one shakes the head and 
passes by. 

Gradually the look of things improved. The 
patches of cotton seemed less hopelessly starved, 
and here and there a decent house appeared. At a 
little homestead I noticed half a dozen thrifty 
young date-palms bearing a good crop. As I stood 
admiring, an old woman smoking a clay pipe came 
out of the shack and invited me to inspect her treas- 
ures at close range. Did I ever see such dates as 
them? No, she'd bet half a dollar I never did. Them 
was reel Deglets and raised by hand. Laws, I 
wouldn't believe the water they took, them six! 
and did I notice them offshoots, five of 'em? That 
would make near double the number when she set 
'em out; and in three or four years they 'd double 
again, and keep a-doin' it till, laws! in like no time 
she and her old man would have a date place folks 
'd come fromJLos Angeles in their autos to look at. 



330 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

And so on, puffing and chatting away, friendly, 
garrulous, admirably hopeful. 

At the next settlement, called Neighbors, really 
good farms began, with cheerful horses and men, 
big haystacks, and a general air of something going 
on. The well-fenced fields showed excellent crops of 
alfalfa, cotton, and milo-maize. The difference be- 
tween this locality and the one I had just left turns 
wholly on the question of water, the very blood of 
life to desert soil. Teams became more numerous, 
then occasional buggies with women and children. 
Passing a prosperous looking ranch I caught the 
sound of a harmonium. Some one was playing 
"Home, Sweet Home/ 1 

We were soon entering the town of Blythe, 
which I found to consist of a dozen good stores, a 
neat little bank, hotel, moving-picture theatre, and 
so forth, and a few score of modest dwellings. But 
again I rebelled at the slovenliness that makes our 
new Western cities so deplorable. One picks out the 
redeeming features eagerly enough, every tasteful 
building, every bit of lawn, every decent job of 
fencing: but these only give contrast to the general 
vileness. One would think effort had been made, 
real ingenuity called in, to achieve this hideous re- 
sult. 

Blythe has no livery-stable, but I found make- 
shift quarters for Kaweah at a corral surrounded by 
dirty tents and mud-and-pole hovels, and put up 
for a day or two while I attended to matters of busi- 
ness. The opening of a new pool-room was to be cel- 
ebrated that night and the next, with a dance given 



YUMA TO BLYTHE 331 

on the first night by the Mexicans, who are a strong 
element in the town, and on the second by the 
Americans. As I stood at dusk talking with the sad- 
dler and watching the Mexicans trooping to the 
baile in chattering family groups, all the femininity 
in snowiest array, I noticed a few American youths 
and girls passing in with them, and remarked that it 
was good to sec the two elements so friendly. "Huh ! " 
said my companion, "those store-clerks would go 
anywhere there's a show for a dance." "But," I 
said, "don't the Mexicans invite them?" "Sure." 
"And then of course the Mexicans are invited when 
you get up a dance." "What! invite the greasers! 
Well, I just reckon we don't." 

A map published In 1915 by some California con- 
cern for the benefit of autoists shows the towns of 
Ehrenberg and La Paz, on the Arizona side of the 
river almost opposite Blythe. They were noted 
places in their time and should be worth a visit even 
in decline. I took the road eastward, at first among 
farms, then through the jungle of the bottom-land. 
A few autumnal lavender asters had already ap- 
peared, a hundred-fold delightful after the long ab- 
sence of such charmers of the way. Wild hemp (Ses- 
bania macrocarpa) was plentiful in places and still in 
blossom, but its spindling growth and formal leaves 
had made it tedious from first acquaintance. 

It would have been a pleasant woodland lane 
through the willows but for mosquitoes, which here 
were at their worst. Kawcah stopped once or twice 
and looked round at me with a questioning eye, but 
I was no better off than he except for my smaller 



332 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

area. I tried tobacco, but this they seemed to find an 
interesting novelty. When I put Kaweah to a gallop 
I only got more bites in less time and barked my 
shins against the close-growing trees. The mosqui- 
toes here were of the large mottled kind that leave 
a mark like an old-fashioned legal wafer. 

A cable ferry plies at this point, which in the early 
days of the West was a main crossing place for Cal- 
ifornia travel. In answer to my hall a grizzled old 
fellow came out of a cabin on the farther side, and 
in the leisurely manner of ferrymen the world over, 
brought his boat across. This was a new experience 
for Kaweah, and I expected him to balk when I rode 
him on board; but the Egyptians were behind, and 
the river, he knew, was our Red Sea of safety. When 
I asked the ferryman how he endured the mosqui- 
toes, "Why," he replied, " there's no more blood in 
me, you see. They got the last out of me about nine- 
teen ten, so they've quit coming around." 

I found a road following the stream, and turned 
northward over a clay mesa bearing the usual assort- 
ment of plants but with a few saguaros added to give 
the characteristic of Arizona. A mile or two along I 
found a house of the familiar stick-in-the-mud type, 
where a young rancher had taken up an abandoned 
piece of bottom-land. He was no exception to the 
rule of friendliness, and indeed urged me to stop 
with him more or less indefinitely. The house had 
been built by Mojave Indians, whose tribal territory 
begins hereabout, and it still bore marks of their r6- 
gime such as ollas and metates, and on the walls 
crude drawings of trains, city buildings, and so 



YUMA TO BLYTHE 333 

forth. Probably some much-travelled Mojave buck 
had been illustrating to his household circle the 
wondrous things he had seen on a visit to Needles, 
perchance even to Phoenix, the State capital. 

A few other houses of the same kind were passed, 
but all were deserted. In the rear of one, which ap- 
peared to have been a store, there were the remains 
of an arrastra, the primitive contrivance for grind- 
ing ore by crushing it with rocks in a circular pit by 
means of a capstan operated by horse, burro, or 
ox power. One is constantly meeting these remind- 
ers of " the days of old, the days of gold," in all sorts 
of unlikely corners about the desert, and comes to 
have the feeling of being in a region of the dead. 

The young rancher had warned me that La Paz 
was not now much of a place, but had told me 
how to find it. Five miles farther on I glimpsed his 
landmark, a cone-shaped cement monument visible 
from the road on the right. On making my way to it 
I understood the point of his remark that I must be 
careful or I might miss the place. The monument, he 
told me, stood at the head of the principal street. I 
gazed all around. I was in a waste of mesquit scrub 
and arrowweed : perhaps the houses were hidden by 
the brush. I searched for houses, then for any token, 
showing where houses had stood. There was nothing, 
not so much as a scrap of foundation, or adobe wall, 
or of lumber, or even debris. Apart from the monu- 
ment and a few mud bricks close thereby not a sign 
remained of the city of La Paz, which forty or fifty 
years ago was a place of five thousand or more peo- 
ple, the county seat, and hopeful of becoming the 



334 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

capital city of the Territory. Some one has recently 
written about these defunct mining towns, which he 
calls the ghost cities of the West. La Paz is not even 
a ghost, merely a legend. 

The top of the monument had been knocked off 
and a hole broken in the side. I was told later that 
it marked the grave of the wife of an Italian citizen, 
saloon-keeper, merchant, and man of wealth of old 
La Paz. He had lavished diamonds on his lady in 
her lifetime, and rumor said that the jewels had 
been buried with her. Some ghoul felt that he must 
put that to the proof, and did so with crowbar or 
dynamite. Whether they discovered diamonds, or 
only proved that rumor had lied once more, I could 
not learn. 

East of the town there is a spot once known as 
Friar's or Fryer's Gulch, from which, it is said, mil- 
lions were taken out. Fifteen feet square was allowed 
to each man, and fights to the death no doubt took 
place over these narrow boundaries. Ghosts there 
well might be about the old cemetery of La Paz, if 
ghosts could find it, which is more than I could 
do. 

I climbed the bluff to see if from higher ground 
any indication of the former town could be traced. 
The wider outlook did but emphasize the vacancy 
and desolation, to which the ruined grave gave a 
touch of the definitely uncanny. Opposite, across the 
silent river, rose the brick-hued Maria Mountains, 
with range behind range in paling distance beyond. 
In all directions it was the same: everything spoke 
of the dreary or savage, and over all was an eternal 




H 
"J 
U4 
55 
H 



YUMA TO BLYTHE 335 

note of weariness, as of a land long since drained of 
life, and left wan, blasted, and forsaken. 

It was near sundown when we returned to the 
ferry. Hard by is the old town of Ehrenberg, whose 
founder one might fancy to have foretold by his 
lonely and tragic death the fate of the place that 
took his name. Here, however, there was at least a 
skeleton left a dozen or so adobe houses, all but 
one or two wrecked and deserted, gaping open to 
the sky. In the largest habitable building Ehren- 
berg's one and only citizen solemnly keeps store all 
by himself. Until a year or so ago, two saloon-keepers 
competed with him for the business of the place, or 
rather, of the rare passing traveller and the festal 
topers of Blythe who were driven by county prohibi- 
tion laws to cross the river for their harmless little 
lagers and cocktails. Then the incredible happened: 
Arizona itself "went dry," and the priests of the 
flowing bowl and dirty apron sadly closed their 
temples and fared forth into a world suddenly be- 
come virtuous and unprofitable. 

Ehrenberg is probably the only case extant of a 
town with but a single inhabitant; almost certainly 
the only instance of such a place keeping a store go- 
ing* We have read of that doubtful island where the 
people "eked out a precarious livelihocxl by taking 
in one another's washing." Here, though, is an au- 
thentic case of a person making a living off himself. 
This I judge to be unique, and would suggest that 
some political economist go and interview him and 
find out how it is done* 

I would have done this myself, but at the moment 



336 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

I arrived he was just closing up town to go over to 
Blythe for the evening. Thus the twilight hour was 
my own, to wander and muse. I wish I had skill to 
do justice to this Deserted Village of the West. Bret 
Harte would have drawn it to the life. As I prowled, 
an owl flapped from the gate-post of the old corral, 
and a bevy of quail, in the act of going to roost in 
the mesquits that had invaded the main street, 
scurried back with reproachful murmurs into the 
arrowweed thicket by the river. One handsome date- 
palm waved in melancholy grace over a little enclo- 
sure rank with weeds. The schoolhouse, to be known 
by a fragment of blackboard on the wall of its single 
room, is said to have housed the second school es- 
tablished in the old Territory, The confessions of 
early passion which certain young Felipes and Jose- 
fas, Enriques and Marias, were impelled to publish 
on the walls of their Alma Mater are still in evidence 
against them. 

In days when flat-bottomed steamers came up 
from Yuma with freight for the hustling frontier 
towns and mining-camps of Arizona, Ehrcnberg was 
a port of size. The rate for hauling goods from here 
to Prescott is said to have been eight cents per 
pound, or in the case of breakable or perishable 
stuff, twenty-five cents per pound. A small army of 
freighters and an imposing one of mules were con- 
tinually on the road to and from the camps of the 
Harquahalas, the Hualpais, and the Agua Fria. One 
man alone owned fifteen teams, of eighteen mules to 
the team. Those were spacious days in the West, 
when no smaller coin passed than the contemptible 



YUMA TO BLYTHE 337 

"two-bits" ("do* reales"), a sum so mean that the 
very term became a reproach, and so remains even in 
these penurious times. 

I found a number of Ehrcnbcrg's missing citizens 
up on the mesa, a quarter mile out of town. Here, in 
the most thoroughly dismal cemetery I ever beheld, 
were some sixty or seventy graves, mere shapeless 
piles of gravel and boulders, with one, more ambi- 
tious, a yellow hump of adobe. There was no sign of 
its ever having been fenced: it lay open to coyotes, 
cattle, and burros, whose tracks went in and out 
everywhere. I suppose* shallow graves were dug, but 
it looks mem 1 as if bodies had been dropped uncof- 
fined on any vacant space and stones and gravel 
thrown hastily upon them. Each grave was a burrow 
of ground-squirrels. Few had any pretence of cross 
or mark of identification, and on still fewer could 
one make out a date or name. The place seemed to 
put a stamp on the record of bygone Ehrenberg as a 
community unlovely in life, brutal in death. Yet, 
Heaven forgive me for saying so, when many, or 
most, of these dreary mounds may mark the end of a 
life which, though east In harsher setting, may have 
held more of usefulness, kindliness, and genuine 
worth than ours who gather easy "impressions," and 
write books, or sell stocks, or sugar, and are marked 
in Evergreen Cemetery with tasteful marbles and 
non-committal texts. 

The Colorado looked poetic enough as I rode 
down to the ferry. I was not sorry when in answer to 
my call the ferryman shouted from his cabin door 
that he was "u-eookin' supper right now" and I 



338 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

must wait. The sun had long set, but a carmine stain 
still lingered, merging into clear beryl green, and 
that shading to tender purple in which a half moon 
stood vertical and the stars were taking station. 
Three cranes rose with sudden clatter and flew 
slowly down stream, their shadows flickering on 
the calm water which swept past in a broad sheet of 
palest green streaked with crimson. I was glad to 
have time for this to stamp itself upon my mind as 
my parting impression of the Rio Colorado. 

The odors of bean-frying and biscuit-baking that 
came with our ferryman were well calculated to re- 
place sentimentality with thoughts of supper. We 
crossed, I waved adieu to Arizona, and watched 
the boat slip mystically away into the gloom. A 
five-mile gallop through moonlight and mosquitoes 
brought us again to Blythe, which had suddenly 
burst into bunting in readiness for Mexico's Inde- 
pendence Day on the morrow. 



CHAPTER XX 

A DESERT RIDE: BLYTHE TO COACHELLA VALLEY 

Viva Mexico I Homeward bound A hard choice A dirty trick 

A sunrise vision The Ironwood Mountains Desert pave- 
ment Palens and Cockscombs Lack of the humane element 

Entering the Chuckwallas Trail troubles Moonlight and 
mystery Corn Springs Picture-writings Hotel dc Corn 
Springs More trail problems The heart of the Chuckwallas 

The desert and music Quite at sea Lost: The Red Cloud 
Mine More guessing At last a road A long night march 

Kawcah discouraged but game Night company Faint 
yet pursuing Eureka! a sign-post Dawn: peace and war 
Shafcr's Well: rest and water Mecca and civilization The 
desert in review Still the Sphinx The riddle unread. 

IN reaching Blythe three sides of my proposed 
circuit had been completed, and I now turned 
westward toward the Coachella Valley where it be- 
gan. There was no difficulty about waking early, 
this sixteenth of September, for the Mexican half of 
Blythe was up at dawn and making no secret of its 
patriotic fervor. However, we had only a short 
march before us for the day, so made a late start, 
spending the morning in a round of gaiety and gun- 
powder, and joining whole-heartedly in the shouts 
of Viva Mexico I that all but drowned the strains of 
the Mexican National Hymn a fine stirring air 
even when screeched on a broken-winded phono- 
graph. 

A very few miles took us beyond the limit of the 
cultivated land: then at a slight rise we were again 
on the characteristic wide mesa broken by isolated 
mountain ranges. Far in the south the pinnacles of 



340 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

El Picacho were unmistakable, though .mere ghosts 
of hazy blue. Near at hand to the north rose the 
purple ridge of the Marias, shading into the dimmer 
Ironwoods, and those into the long wavering chain 
of the Chuckwallas, around or through which I was 
to find a way. A glance behind showed a wilderness 
of uneasy outlines that stood for Arizona. 

Ten miles out I found the ranch of a solitary set- 
tler who had sunk a well and obtained a flow of 
water, small indeed, but enough to make a promising 
experiment with dates, spineless cactus, and other 
likely novelties. Here I put up for the night, but 
gained the unwelcome news that water was not to be 
had at Ford's Well, some twenty miles out, where I 
had meant to make my next camp. This threw me 
on a waterless stretch of about forty miles, either to 
Gruendike's Well or Corn Springs. As an alterna- 
tive, I could strike across to Wiley's Well, and then 
by an old road along the southern base of the Chuck- 
wallas. The latter plan involved two thirty-mile 
stretches between water, but seemed preferable on 
Kaweah's account. I resolved on the shorter spans. 

As I was saddling up next morning a prospector 
chanced along. He was driving a buckboard with 
two small mules, and was bound for Blythe, having 
come by way of Wiley's Well. Was I going that way? 
he asked. I told him, Yes. "How long rope have you 
got?" he inquired. "Forty feet," I said, indicating 
Kaweah's picket-rope. "That won't do you no 
good," he remarked. "It.'s sixty foot down to water. 
If I had n't had them two long tie-ropes I 'd have 
starved when I got there yesterday. Some 



BLYTHE TO COACHELLA VALLEY 341 

son of (ct octcra) has stolen the rope off the 

windlass. I hope he'll die raving mad for a drop of 
water right where he can see it, like I might have 
done. Roping up's too good for that kind of dirt." 

Perfectly true, for a more scoundrelly trick can 
hardly be imagined, as cold-blooded as if a sailor 
should cut the life-line that has just been his salva- 
tion. It illustrates the chances that lie in wait for the 
desert traveller, and keep him anxious from the time 
he leaves one water-hole till he reaches the next. So 
far as we were concerned, we could have returned 
to this ranch; but in the case of a man arriving at 
that well in bad straits for water, perhaps having 
used his last supply freely in expectation of surely 
renewing it here, death would be a not unlikely 
outcome, 

I changed my plan perforce, but stayed over for 
the day so as to make an earlier start the next morn- 
ing* My accommodating rancher had a fair store of 
hay, purchasable at a price, and I had brought a few 
feeds of barley from Blythe, so Kaweah passed the 
time profitably, while I indulged myself with such 
ancient magazine literature as the house afforded. 

By daybreak we were on the march. The air was 
cool and Kaweah seemed to know that he was 
headed for home, though home was well over a hun- 
dred miles away. We had knocked off a few miles be- 
fore the sun came up, and when It rose I wheeled 
and sat enjoying, as I don't often find possible, the 
magnificence of the desert sunrise. I felt I could af- 
ford to do Sol justice now that a few days would 
bring the end of my journey. Moreover, the equinox 



342 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

was at hand and I could almost pity the bully now 
that his power was waning. 

So it was fine to watch each rift or ridge of moun- 
tain flush to full life as it was overtaken by the 
tide of light: to note the kindling of beacon be- 
yond beacon, and, in fancy, to see it carried on from 
Cockscombs to Cottonwoods, then to Santa Rosa, 
San Jacinto, and San Gorgonio, and thence along 
the great Sierra wall where snowfield, glacier, and 
many an icy lake I knew would start to a sudden 
glory of rose or sapphire. I saw the forests stir in the 
wind of dawn, the deer go down to the brook, the 
cyclamens and gentle lavender daisies awake and 
smile as when we awoke and smiled together. Sud- 
denly I asked myself, Why, what am I doing here, 
raking among the bones of the earth? I have wasted 
a precious summer, and, what is worse, gone back on 
my friends. A bad, bad mistake. . . . Well, at least 
I know one more corner of my inheritance. 

Rounding a spur of the Ironwood Mountains 
(sometimes called the McCoys, after one out of sev- 
eral worthies of that name who figure in the epic of 
the West) we travelled for some miles through what 
might be termed, for the desert, a forest of iron- 
woods. Many of the trees were twenty feet high and 
some of them nearly two feet in diameter of trunk. 
Kaweah had a fancy for the young twigs, so I gave 
him ten minutes to browse as there was no prospect 
of hay until we reached Mecca. 

Wide spaces of this mesa were covered with the 
black pebbles I had noted in other localities. They 
formed a sort of pavement, and had the look of actu- 



BLYTHE TO COACHELLA VALLEY 343 

ally being burned black by the sun. On breaking 
some of the pieces the inside color was always light 
red. These stretches are one of the peculiar features 
of desert geology, by reason of the uniformity of the 
fragments in size and color, and the impression they 
give of having been rolled into place. Their polish 
also suggests friction under enormous weight, as if 
red clay had been vitrified to a kind of flint by heat 
due to compression. 

Long before the Ironwoods were left behind, the 
sun had warmed to his work and taken his old place 
in my regard. Next the Palen Range slowly came 
into view. The travelling became bad, then worse, 
finally heartbreaking. Each wash outdid the last in 
muscle-demand, and Kawcah parted early with his 
morning gaiety. A few miles of this sort of thing has 
greater effectiveness in reducing mental excitement 
than any medical sedative I know. At last the Cocks- 
combs opened up in the northwest, their serrated 
crags remarkable as ever though robbed of their 
realistic red by the haze of heat and distance. Our 
objective, the Chuckwallas, flickered in long forbid- 
ding rank on the southern horizon, seemingly unap- 
proachable. Hours of laborious travel wrought no 
visible change in their obstinate contours. 

Half an hour was all I could allow at noon for rest 
and lunch. The trees had long been passed, and 
without a square foot of shade there was no Induce- 
ment to lose time. 1 found languid interest in watch- 
ing the play of light on distant ranges, and in won- 
dering what legend might have been framed by the 
old Greeks that could give glamour to this profound 



344 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

monotony. When at last deeper tones of color began 
to outline the canons, imagination came feebly to 
life, but I felt, as ever, that the sole human attribute 
suggested by the desert is hopeless, prosaic endur- 
ance, never anything of the dramatic or stimulat- 
ing. All is tedious, explicit, bald. A poet here would 
soon be gasping for want of air. 

All the afternoon we marched steadily, and at 
sundown came to a point where a track branched 
southwesterly toward the Chuckwallas. 1 Before 
turning into it I let Kaweah graze a few minutes on 
such scanty galleta grass as he might find, while I 
lay motionless hoping to radiate off a little of the 
heat I had been absorbing, particularly the last two 
hours, when I had offered a frontal mark to the sun. 
Although there is little slackening of the heat until 
the moment of sunset, thereafter the air cools rap- 
idly, so by the time we were ready to move there 
was a decent temperature; while the mingled twi- 
light and moonlight made a kind of bath of dusk, in 
which my jaded frame was gently massaged with 
soothing psychologic touches. 

The track dwindled fainter and fainter. Some 
storm had lately broken over the Chuckwallas and 
spread a sheet of sand and gravel over the whole 
northern slope of the mountain. Before long we were 
wandering in a chaos of washes. I dismounted and 
led Kaweah, picking every foot of the way with ut- 
most care, yet often going far astray. Luckily there 

1 The name comes from a species of lizard, Sauromalus ater, com- 
mon in many parts of the desert but especially in this range. It is 
harmless, but ugly, with much the look of a miniature alligator. 



BLYTHE TO COACHELLA VALLEY 345 

was a bright moon, in its second quarter, but at best 
It was guesswork half the time. Often I tied Kaweah 
and prospected far ahead before I could pick up the 
trail. 

So much time was being lost in this fashion that 
I determined to cut loose and trust to luck. The 
mountain wall loomed shadowy, the canons uncer- 
tainly marked by darker massing of gloom. The 
route I had in mind followed a canon that led 
straight through the mountains, crossing by a pass 
at the head of which is a water-hole known as Corn 
Springs. Scanning the dark wall before me I made 
out a black slash that by its bearings should be the 
canon 1 wanted. It was doubtful, yet probable, and 
I resolved to take the chance. 

Where we spent the next hour or two I am not 
clear, except that in a general way we were on the 
flanks of the Chuckwallas. Occasionally I got sight 
anew of my landmark, which I identified by a notch 
on the skyline: otherwise I guided by the stars. We 
pulled up at last in the bottom of a deep gully 
choked with a thicket of smoke-trees. Out of this 
there was no way, except by going back, unless I 
could get Kaweah up a thirty foot cliff. I felt sure 
that once on the farther side we should have easy 
going, though it was still doubtful whether the 
canon we were heading for was the right one. 

Kaweah was dead tired, but game. Picking out 
the best looking place I threw the bridle over the 
horn and led by the picket-rope. The bank was 
loose gravel and much too steep for any chance of 
stopping midway. It must be made in one rush or not 



346 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

at all, and failure meant a bad, perhaps serious, fall 
for the horse. I clambered a little way up, gave him 
plenty of rope, and then shouted to him, at the same 
time scrambling ahead. The good little fellow came 
up with a run as if hand over hand, sending an ava- 
lanche of stuff to the bottom. I kept cheering and 
hauling him on, and in a few moments we were on the 
top. There, almost at the edge, was a well-marked 
track, heading for the canon. (I take it to be a cross- 
cut between Cora Springs and Gruendike's Well.) 
I now had leisure for the scenic features of my 
surroundings, which indeed were sufficiently weird. 
To the right was a mesa of the curious mosaic-like 
character that I have described elsewhere: to the 
left was the deep barranca on the brink of which ran 
the track. The moon shone clearly down on the 
gleaming black floor, which might have been the 
pavement of some ruined city of antiquity. At in- 
tervals stood great ocotillos whose gaunt arms 
waved aloft in sinister contortions, while here and 
there a dead one lay bleached to the hue of bone. 
Looking down into the ravine I could make out dark 
forms of palo verde and ironwood, or gray smoke- 
trees, like ghosts, outlined on the pallid sand of the 
bottom. The only sound was that of Kaweah's hoofs 
hoarsely rattling the gravel of the track. Close 
ahead rose the black wall of the Chuckwallas, with 
here and there some bolt of rock taking questionable 
shape under the eerie touches of the moon. The 
total impression was freakish and unearthly: it was 

"A place nor uninformed with phantasy 
And looks that threaten the profane." 



BLYTHE TO COACHELLA VALLEY 347 

At last we passed into the canon, and black cliffs 
rose high on either hand. The ground was again of 
sand, and in the moonlight every track of bird, 
snake, coyote, or bighorn showed sharp and clear. 
Small trees leaned out from crannies to which they 
clung by knotty roots, and from a cave came a 
stream of shadowy bats with click of tiny teeth and 
soundless flicker of wing. 

Somewhere near the mouth of the canon is a 
tinaja known as Granite Tanks, but it was unlikely 
that I could find it without daylight. We kept on 
therefore for two or three miles, coming an hour be- 
fore midnight to a group of small palms and mes- 
quits which gave notice of water. Among them was 
an old cabin, and near by it a spring. We both drank 
deeply. It was eighteen hours since Kaweah had had 
water, and the day had been hot, with unusually 
heavy travelling. I dealt him a good feed of barley 
and picketed him on the half-dry grass: then ate a 
few cold mouthfuls, threw down my blankets, and 
almost literally fell asleep. 

Next day being Sunday, and forage sufficing, we 
took it easy in camp, revelling in shade of palm and 
willow and the proximity of plentiful water. In a 
walk down the canon I noticed near the spring a fine 
exhibition of Indian picture-writings. The figures 
were scratched in firm outline on the faces of smooth 
slabs of rock, and stood out white against the red of 
the granite as clearly as if done but a year or two 
ago. The canon by daylight was picturesque, the 
high walls enclosing a gully-like passageway in 
which grew the usual assortment of mountain 



348 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

plants. Unlovely as these mainly are, one finds them 
interesting in proportion to their rarity, and stops 
to enjoy a twelve-foot smoke- tree or some weak out- 
break of originality in an ocotillo as if they were the 
gnarly heroes of a forest. 

The presence of the house was explained by my 
coming upon an abandoned mine. The place has 
evidently long been the haunt of prospectors. On the 
door was roughly painted the invitation: "Come in 
and Camp: Wood and Water Free": and above the 
fireplace was a square of pasteboard with "Hotel de 
Corn Springs" set out in an attempt at the sign- 
painter's art, with further flights of fancy scrawled 
by departed guests. One wall did duty as a register, 
showing the names of visitors for several years past. 
It appeared that the patronage of this select hos- 
telry runs to a score or two per annum, though this 
is only through the frequent recurrence of one or 
two regulars on whose prospecting beat it lies. 

I was in no hurry to start next morning, as I in- 
tended to make only a dozen miles or so, to the Red 
Cloud Mine, at the other base of the mountains. We 
left about eight o'clock, finding a doubtful looking 
track leading west. A mile brought us to the divide, 
and to the end of anything that could be called a 
trail. Looking across to the south I could see what 
seemed to be a well-marked road climbing the moun- 
tain-side. Here was another of those conundrums 
that plague the traveller in unmapped and little- 
known country. Was it a new route to Dos Palinas, 
the point I was making for, or did it merely lead to 
some mine of which I had not heard? I had been 



BLYTHE TO COACHELLA VALLEY 349 

told that my trail followed the mam canon, yet there 
was no sign of travel that way. This business of 
guessing, when a mistake may spell disaster, gradu- 
ally gets on one's nerves, knocks out the fun, and 
finally puts one out of humor with desert travel. 

I tied Kaweah and prospected ahead, picking up 
at last what seemed to be a continuation of the trail, 
though so broken and casual that it could only be 
followed by using extreme care. The storm that 
had washed over the northern slope of the moun- 
tains had obliterated the track here also. Another 
mile, and the trail, such as it was, turned into a side 
canon toward the south. Disgusted, I resolved to 
trust my sense of direction and keep on westward. 
At the worst I could return to Corn Springs, and 
to-morrow try the other route. 

One has little mind for scenery under these cir- 
cumstances, yet I could not fail to be struck by the 
intense desolation of the country we were travers- 
ing. I was in the heart of one of those scorched and 
scarified ranges that even viewed through the ameli- 
orating veil of distance seem the last word of the 
gaunt and hopeless in physical Nature. Rock, 
gravel, sand, and sky, all alike repressive and re- 
pellent, make up the total, but for a few lean 
shrubs that clutch the blistering slabs of the moun- 
tain wall, and the cacti that crouch among the boul- 
ders and reward every careless step with torture. 
For all of sentient life a raven flies heavily by, or 
some snake glides away or waits coiled and threat- 
ening in your path; and if you overturn a scrap 
of stone, centipede or scorpion will resent your 



350 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

violation of its solitude with instant menace of 
poison. 

I sometimes wonder what kind of interpretation 
music might give of these landscapes. No doubt 
something unique might be achieved by the mod- 
ernists, some crude depiction of the obvious and sen- 
sational: but what I mean is, the impression that 
the desert would make on the mind of a master. 
What the expression would be we are not likely to 
know; for music seems to have lost self-control, and 
cannot wait to comprehend its theme before it is 
ready with some noisy but futile demonstration. 

After awhile my fading hope that we were on the 
right track was strengthened by coming on marks of 
another old mine. There was a puddle of water at the 
bottom of a prospect hole, but it was foul with de- 
caying rats and lizards, and quite unusable. We 
made our slow way down the gradually widening 
canon, now and then on a sort of phantom trail but 
usually picking a trackless way by guesswork and 
probabilities. It was the most worrying job of its 
kind that I met on the whole journey, and the water 
problem kept nudging at me like a pestering fiend. 

Noon came, and we should be nearing the Red 
Cloud Mine. There we should find water, and prob- 
ably a caretaker, though the mine was not being 
worked. The canon had opened into a delta of inter- 
lacing gullies, all rocky, choked with boulders, and 
crossed at short intervals by abrupt, slippery ledges 
which bothered Kaweah considerably. My fear was 
that we might come to some impassable place and 
be obliged to turn back. I had noted the landmarks 



BLYTHE TO COACHELLA VALLEY 351 

carefully, but felt no certainty of being able to find 
the way through this wilderness to our last camp. 

Suddenly I spotted two tents in a side gully. We 
made for them hopefully, but there was no sign of 
recent habitation, nor any indication of water. It 
was the camp of some prospector who came once or 
twice a year, at times when the tanks would yield a 
supply. A trail led up the mountain-side at the rear 
of the tents. This looked inviting, and we followed it 
cheerfully for two steep miles. Then it turned di- 
rectly north and I saw it was useless to go on, so 
with the loss of an hour of valuable daylight we 
turned to our problem. 

Evening was coming on. I climbed a ridge and 
scanned the country. There was plenty of it, and all 
alike. The mine was no doubt somewhere within the 
scope of view, but I could not guess even whether 
it lay to north or south. To hunt for it in twenty 
square miles of wash and gully offered slight chance 
of success. 

I sat down and figured things over. We were now 
clear of the Chuckwallas. To the south was a ridge 
of hills that, as I reckoned, shut me off from sight of 
the Salton Sea. Ahead a wide valley opened, running 
due west for many miles. If I could make southwest 
across country I ought to come out into the Dos 
Palmas road; but it was nearly dark, the country 
was a labyrinth of barrancas the worst of all 
country to get lost in the last traces of any trail 
had been left behind hours ago, and the spectre of 
thirst was keeping me ever closer company. Even if 
I could find Corn Springs again my problem would 



352 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

not be finally solved. On the whole, the open valley 
ahead was the best prospect. It led in the Cotton- 
wood Springs direction and ought to bring me into 
the road by which, two months before, I had come 
from Dale. We would go ahead and see what hap- 
pened. 

We had not eaten for twelve hours, for I had been 
too much preoccupied to think of food. Kaweah had 
not drunk either, but I relied on the coolness of the 
night to refresh him. I gave him the last feed of bar- 
ley, ate a scratch meal myself, and with an encour- 
aging word to my anxious companion we started on. 

Daylight had gone but the moon was well up and 
afforded aid and comfort. Except for the discomfort 
of doubt I could have revelled in the charm of the 
scene. The uncouth Chuckwallas rose dark behind 
and to my right. Moonlight whitened here and there 
the angle of some buttress, touching with charm of 
fancy the leagues of shadowy mountain. Our shad- 
ows marched before us, mingling with filmy pattern 
of creosote or skeleton of cactus or ocotillo. To the 
left the horizon line was a procession of dusky 
shapes, shifting and vanishing like monsters seen in 
a nightmare. 

We had gone for a few miles in a sort of dogged 
muddle, when wagon tracks appeared without warn- 
ing, crosswise of our line of march. Whither they 
might lead in either direction I had no idea, but 
they came as a vast relief. I made a rapid guess and 
chose the right-hand track. Another mile and we 
ran into an unmistakable road and were heading 
westerly into the long valley. It was now only a 



BLYTHE TO COACHELLA VALLEY 353 

question of Kaweah's holding out. He was certainly 
very tired and necessarily very thirsty, while by my 
reckoning we were about twenty-five miles from 
water, whether we reached it at Cottonwood Springs 
or Shafer's Well. But the coolness of night would 
help us out, and Kaweah, blessings on his tough 
little carcass, is pure Indian and would go till he 
dropped. As for myself, though I was muscle-weary 
to the limit (for I had been on foot all day) I felt I 
could travel forever in that refreshing temperature, 
and I still had a quart or so of water. 

All night we toiled along. Played out as Kaweah 
was, whenever I stopped him he was anxious to go 
on, though with dragging step and muzzle almost 
touching his knees. I tried to buck him up with 
promises of the bully times we would have the 
coming winter We'll chuck this everlasting clut- 
ter of saddle-bags, blankets, and canteens, and just 
knock about and enjoy ourselves, eh, pony boy? 
And it was clear how all-in he was when he failed 
to respond to my fraternal slap with humorous show 
of ill-temper such as flattened ears or playful pre- 
tence of a bite. Stars rose, stars set: the moon 
overtook, passed us, and sailed ahead as if rallying 
us on our despicable pace. I was drowsy, but well 
content so long as the track kept on westward, for I 
knew it must bring us into some road that ran down 
to Mecca. So I whistled, dozed, and plodded on, 
cheering my plucky little nag, and counting off the 
miles by the hours we travelled. Rabbits played 
about in the road, careless of our approach until we 
almost kicked them away. Now and again a senti- 



354 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

mental coyote, maudlin with moonlight, vented his 
blighted affections in hysterical yawpings, and once 
half-a-dozen wild cattle rose suddenly out of the 
brush and gathered in a knot as if to stampede us. 
The sight of a man on foot is so strange to these 
roamers of the ranges that they are apt to be danger- 
ous to such a person. The cowboy who looks them 
up twice or thrice a year must be thought a kind of 
centaur, while a pedestrian must seem a fragment 
or monstrosity. 

Slowly we neared the western opening, and new 
shapes appeared on the skyline. I tried to recall 
their outlines; were those the Eagles? those the 
Pintos? those the Cottonwoods? Could I have been 
mistaken in my impression of the lay of the land, 
and would the road after all turn north and lead us 
into some new piclde? l 

One o'clock; two o'clock. By my reckoning we 
should be nearing the cross-road. The moon was 
nearly down. Poor Kaweah plodded along, "faint 
yet pursuing," his spirit as flat as his ears. Three 
o'clock, and no hopeful sign. Then at last some- 
thing showed ahead beside the road. Could it be a 
sign-post? It could, and it was, one of those enduring 
metal posts that the good county of Riverside has 
placed at some of these main cross-roads, and that 
every county whose territory runs into the desert 
should be compelled to provide on all routes of 

1 I learned afterwards that during the night I had passed, without 
knowing it, close to one place where I could have got water. This is a 
spot humorously known as the Hayfields, where a thin growth of 
grass is used by cattle-men for pasturage, and water has been piped 
to a trough. 



BLYTHE TO COACHELLA VALLEY 355 

desert travel. I struck a match and eagerly ex- 
amined the sign. Good luck! I had figured rightly. 
Five miles to the southwest was Shafer's Well. 

Before turning the shoulder of the mountain I 
stopped and looked back to the east. Down a long 
gallery whose walls rose dark and high on either 
hand, a splendid planet, Jupiter himself 

"... with new-spangled ore 

Flamed in the forehead of the morning sky." 

The firmament about him was silvering to the dawn. 
Toward me stretched a purple ribbon of sky glitter- 
ing with a myriad points of gold. The dawn wind 
came as cool and pure as if it were the first breath 
of Creation. The stillness was superb, the silence so 
absolute as to be startling. Could the central calm 
of the universe be holier, more inviolable, than this? 
The thought of war, with its ruin, chaos, and fury, 
was an impossibility, one could not realize so vile a 
blasphemy against the vast peace of Nature. But 
the wild forms of the mountains showed that here 
too war had been waged against the old forces 
of repression, forever too stupid to know that to 
oppose freedom is to be blown sky-high. 

As I turned to move on, the moon was sinking 
behind the western mountain. I watched the soft 
light leave the plain, then pass up the shadowy 
wall like the rising of a silver mist. In these great 
silent actions of Nature, never so impressive as in 
desert solitude, one feds both the majesty and the 
beneficence of natural law, and realizes by such 
tranquillity how trustworthy the universe must be. 



356 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

It was' yet five miles to water, but the knowledge 
that it was at hand made them short. Kaweah 
recognized his surroundings, and livened up so 
much that I suddenly found myself desperately 
footsore, so got into the saddle and rode. Daylight 
came, the stars one by one went out, and cactus and 
ocotillo lost their wizard look and became again 
objects of commonplace dislike or cool botanical 
interest, A coyote, hailing us from across the valley, 
sounded like a friendly halloo. By the time we 
reached the entrance to the canon its white cliffs 
were cheerfully trimmed with rose, and before the 
sun was up we were at Shafer's Well. 

I seized the pump-handle and worked it up and 
down affectionately. I think I never shook hands 
with such hearty feelings for any one as I felt 
for Shafer. As for Kaweah, it would have been 
happiness to pump for him for hours, as indeed it 
seemed to me I did. Then I threw off saddle-bags 
and saddle, washed him down, and began a hunt 
for forage. By the best of fortune some freighter had 
lately fed his team and had left enough hay on the 
ground to make a very fair meal for a thrifty Indian 
pony. My companion fell to work at this, while I 
threw down my blanket roll, followed it myself, and 
fell asleep in the action. It was twenty-one hours 
since we left Corn Springs, and we had travelled 
practically without a stop. 

In the afternoon we made the remaining twelve 
miles down to Mecca. It seemed a foretaste of 
Elysium to get among artesian wells and patches of 
emerald alfalfa. To make water run by turning a 



BLYTHE TO COACHELLA" VALLEY 357 

tap was a miracle; not less so the watermelon I cap-; 
tured at the store. Dates in massive clusters of 
crimson and yellow were ripening to super- Arabian 
excellence at the Government Experiment Station, 
and ranchers' wives who had been "inside" to 
escape the heat were drifting back to spend the 
glorious winter of the desert in darning their men's 
summer arrears of hose. 

We took our way leisurely up the valley, culling 
here a lettuce, there cucumber or tomato, and every- 
where the juiciest of the Coachella's alfalfa. It was 
the last day of September when we reached Palm 
Springs, which we had left at the beginning of June. 
The four months of heat and dryness had left a 
psychological drouth in my bones that I feared 
might be permanent and drive me into regrettable 
courses. Like Teufelsdrockh, "after so much roast- 
ing I was what you might name calcined." However, 
the desert itself had the remedy up its sleeve, and 
produced it a few weeks later, when I found myself 
flooded out of winter camp and subjected to a mon- 
umental sousing that brought me within measurable 
distance of drowning, 

A normal balance of constitution being thus re- 
stored, I could review fairly the summer's experi- 
ence. Unpleasant details, once in the rear, soon 
became only amusing incidents in the general im- 
pression: and these, after all, even while in prospect, 
had made a part of the attraction. There remained 
the satisfaction of having accomplished an old per- 
sistent project; yet the satisfaction was not un- 
qualified. I had wished to see the desert. Well, I had 



358 CALIFORNIA DESERT TRAILS 

seen it. But my ambition had not been merely to 
view it as a new and interesting tract of geography. 
I wanted to know it more intrinsically than that: I 
hoped, by living with it night and day, to learn 
something (though it could be little at best) of its 
lonely heart, its subtle, uncomprehended spirit, its 
repellent yet enthralling beauty, its agelessness, 
changelessness, and weariness, its implacability, 
solemnity, and terror. 

The objective part of my plan I felt to be fairly 
accomplished. Not so the deeper side, however: the 
subjectivity of the desert is of too rare a sort, its 
effect upon the mind is too strange and complex, to 
take form in any clear conception. Yet, since in- 
evitably one strives to realize one's experiences, I 
ask myself again, into what single impression does 
the desert render itself? What one sensation remains 
most strongly on the mind? The mountains, the sea, 
even the vast and changeful sky, have each some 
predominant genius for those who love the fair fea- 
tures of our earth. What sentiment does the desert 
yield by which it may be linked with human emo- 
tions? What analogy exists by which we may come 
into touch with it? 

The answer must be, There is none. At every 
point the desert meets us with a negative. Like the 
Sphinx, there is no answer to its riddle. It is in the 
fascination of the unknowable, in the challenge of 
some old unbroken secret, that the charm of the 
desert consists. And the charm is undying, for the 
secret is Secrecy, 



APPENDIX A 
HINTS ON DESERT TRAVELLING 

(Extracts from Water-Supply Paper 224 of the United 
States Geological Survey, entitled "Some Desert Water- 
ing-Places in Southeastern California and Southwestern 
Nevada," by Walter C. Mendenhall; reprinted here by 
kind permission of the Survey.) 

[Author's Note: Some of the suggestions that follow may carry 
less weight now than when they were compiled (1909), through 
the recent improvement of the main desert roads, with, as conse- 
quences, the advent of the automobile and an increased amount 
of travel, and through the beginning that has lately been made at 
bettering water facilities and installing direction-posts. Never- 
theless, the characteristics of the desert remain, prudence is never 
obsolete, and these hints may prove to well repay some traveller's 
attention.] 

WHERE teams are used, animals accustomed to the desert 
should be procured, if possible, for horses or mules that 
are unused to desert conditions fret on the sandy roads 
and rapidly weaken from drinking the saline waters. 
They are also in danger of pneumonia from the cold of 
winter nights and the wide extremes of temperature. 
During winter journeys blankets should be provided to 
protect the animals at night. 

Travel in the desert far from the railroads and from 
food-supplies is, of course, more expensive than in other 
regions. A party leaving a supply station to go one hun- 
dred miles or more into an uninhabited part of the desert 
must take along everything needed, even to the most 
minute detail. This means that if the trip is to last for two 
weeks, enough hay and grain for each animal and enough 
provisions to last each man that length of time must be 



36o APPENDIX 

taken. For four horses, drawing a wagon that carries four 
persons and their bedding, provisions, and tools, another 
team of four horses must also be taken to haul sufficient 
hay and grain to feed the eight horses for two weeks. 
There are but few places in the desert, away from the 
railroads, where hay or grain of any kind can be procured. 
As the teams are rarely able to travel faster than a walk, 
heavy horses that are good walkers should be selected. 
The tires should be as wide as can be procured. Desirable 
widths of tires for freight wagons are six to nine inches; 
for light wagons, three inches. 



Travellers will often find springs choked by d6bris 
washed in by rain-storms, or contaminated by the bodies 
of desert animals that have fallen in and drowned. It is 
therefore necessary to provide a pick, shovel, bucket, and 
rope for cleaning the wells. 

At all times except in midsummer when the desert 
should be avoided the traveller must be provided with 
clothing suitable for both extreme heat and extreme cold. 
His route over a part of the journey may extend through 
heated valleys that lie near sea-level, or he may have to 
camp in the mountains, at elevation^ of three thousand 
to six thousand feet, where the temperature may fall 
nearly to the freezing-point before morning. For protec- 
tion during the early morning hours he must therefore 
have warm, heavy blankets, and a heavy overcoat or its 
equivalent. Many cases of pneumonia and "mountain 
fever " have been caused by extremes of temperature for 
which no adequate provision had been made. In winter 
the temperature in this region may reach 85 or 95 dur- 
ing the day and fall to the freezing-point before midnight. 
The traveller should be provided with a canvas sheet that 
is long enough to lay under his bedding and fold back 
over it, as well as to cover his head in case of sand-storms. 

The outer clothing should be of a color that will reflect 
as much heat as possible that is, white, gray, or yellow 



APPENDIX 361 

and the underclothing should be of wool. The hat 
should have a wide brim and be thick enough to exclude 
all rays of the sun. The proper headgear is a broad- 
brimmed gray felt, or, for summer wear, a big opaque 
helmet of white or khaki color, the bigger the better. The 
hair should not be cut very short, as it is a natural means 
of protection. 

Travellers with their own outfits and a minimum 
means of transportation will find that they must walk 
much of the time, for teams with heavy loads can crawl 
through the sands at the rate of only two to three miles 
an hour. Sand and sharp flints will wear out the soles of 
shoes and boots very rapidly. Hence stout, hobnailed 
footwear should be worn. 



Owing to the intense heat of the desert there is a rapid 
and abundant growth of minute forms of animal and 
vegetable life in waters that are not too saline. All water- 
should therefore be boiled before drinking. Filters form a 
part of the more elaborate outfits. There are now on the 
market several small, compact filters from which the 
traveller may select such as he may think desirable. It is 
not practicable to distil water except for mining camps 
or for large parties. 

It is advisable to drink heartily in the morning and at 
night and as little as possible during the day. The prac- 
tice of drinking water in excess of the amount necessary 
to relieve thirst may easily become a habit and should be 
avoided. At best it places an unnecessary tax on the sys- 
tem, and, when alkaline waters are used, may easily 
result in illness that could have been prevented by the 
exercise of greater foresight and self-control. It has been 
recommended that raw oatmeal be placed in the canteens, 
and some travellers even add to this a small quantity of 
chocolate and sugar. Condensed cream counteracts in 
great measure the irritation produced in the digestive 
tract by the alkaline desert waters, and is therefore es- 



362 APPENDIX 

pecially desirable. When the water becomes tepid, addi- 
tions of this kind make it more palatable to some, and 
there is less temptation to drink too much. It is well, also, 
during periods of extreme heat to wrap a wet cloth around 
the wrists and to put a water-soaked handkerchief in the 
hat. These are old-fashioned but effective devices. Each 
person in a party should be supplied with a large canteen, 
and extra ones should be taken along in the wagons to 
provide for leaks and accidents. An ample supply of 
water barrels and kegs should also be carried for use at 
dry camps and during prospecting trips, the number 
depending on the amount of stock taken and the route 
followed. 

"Poison springs," said to contain arsenic, have been 
reported from many parts of the desert. The writer has 
examined the water from several of these, but has failed 
to find any arsenic or similar poison, though he has found 
large quantities of sulphate of soda (Glaubers salt) and 
some sulphate of magnesia (Epsom salts). Salt Spring, in 
South Death Valley, is of this character, and prospectors 
are known to have perished there, so that the spring is 
called "poison" by many, but it contains only sodium 
and magnesium salts, and no arsenic or copper. 

The intense heat of the summer, the exhausted condi- 
tion of the famished prospector, and the abundance of 
these harmful salts in the waters are sufficient explana- 
tion of the deaths that have occurred. Such waters are 
dangerous to a hearty, healthy man who uses them with 
the greatest moderation, and they may be quickly fatal 
to the thirst-tormented sufferer who drinks them without 
restraint. 



The traveller who is unacquainted with the route over 
which he is journeying should stop at places where the 
ground has been cleared of brush and where there is other 
ample evidence of the presence of many visitors, and sat- 
isfy himself as to the nature of the camp. It may be a 



APPENDIX 363 

"dry camp," such as are made on long stretches between 
springs, or there may be a spring or well in the vicinity, 
which is covered over to keep out animals, and is hidden 
by drifting sand. Experienced men will have no difficulty 
in quickly determining the nature of the camp. An inex- 
perienced traveller should not enter the desert alone. If he 
cannot find an experienced companion, he should proceed 
with the greatest caution, gathering all possible informa- 
tion about his route in advance, keeping himself abun- 
dantly supplied with water and food, and never leaving 
one water station without a definite idea as to the location 
of the next. 

A traveller can rarely see exactly where water is to be 
found, except by going over the camp-ground and look- 
ing carefully for wells. Many of the wells are mere shafts, 
twenty to forty feet deep, rectangular in shape and cov- 
ered with a few boards, which may in turn be covered by 
drifting sand. Only a few wells are equipped with a wind- 
lass or pump. These conveniences, even if originally sup- 
plied, quickly disappear as fuel for some traveller in need 
on a cold winter night. He uses them to maintain his 
camp-fire, justifying himself in the belief that self-preser- 
vation is the first law. 

Fuel is scarce on the desert, especially in the vicinity 
of the better-known springs, where it has been entirely 
cleared away. The traveller, therefore, usually finds it 
necessary to begin gathering brush and mesquit roots 
long before he reaches the spring, so as to provide fuel 
for cooking. Camp-fires are luxuries that can be indulged 
in only among heavy mesquit and cottonwood timber, or 
off the beaten lines of travel. 



One unacquainted with the desert should accustom 
himself to its clear air and the resulting exaggerated de- 
tail, which makes distant objects look near. No walks 
without water or provisions to what appears to be a near- 
by hill should be undertaken without definite knowledge 



364 APPENDIX 

of its distance. Landmarks should be studied, so that 
they will be recognized from any point of view, that they 
may be known when they are reached again. Before he 
begins a journey that does not follow a beaten and un- 
mistakable track, the traveller should determine his gen- 
eral direction by compass or map or inquiry, and should 
adhere to that direction. The inexperienced traveller 
often gets at once into a panic on losing his way, and 
wastes his remaining energy in frantic rushes in one direc- 
tion and another. This tendency to become panic-stricken 
should be controlled, if possible. Sit down, get out your 
map and compass if you are provided with them, as 
you should be and study the situation carefully before 
acting. At least, rest a little and think it over. If it is hot 
and you are far from camp, get your head into the shade 
of a bush or rock, and wait till night. Thirst will be less 
intolerable then and endurance greater. If you have camp 
companions who are likely to look for you, start a signal 
fire by night or a smoke by day from some little emi- 
nence, and then stay by it until help comes. If you must 
depend upon your own exertions, think carefully over all 
the possibilities and adopt a plan of action and adhere to 
it. Remember the proneness of the lost person to exag- 
gerate the distance he has travelled. It is well to count 
paces and to remember that about two thousand make a 
mile. You will thus have a good check on the distance 
that you go, and at the same time will keep your mind 
occupied. Keep your direction true by travelling toward 
or from some selected landmark, or by the sun during the 
day or a star at night, or by keeping with or against or in 
some fixed direction in relation to the wind. If you think 
these things out and have studied the country before- 
hand, so that you know the relation of a road, or a ranch, 
or a spring, or a river to a given landmark or to the points 
of the compass, you should have no difficulty in finding 
your way again. With some persons, however, the faculty 
of getting lost amounts to genius. They are able to ac- 
complish it wherever they are. The only suitable advice 



APPENDIX 365 

for them is to keep out of the desert. There are safer 
places in which to exercise their talent. Still others have a 
geographic instinct and a power of geographic observa- 
tion which defies time and place. They cannot be lost any- 
where. For such these lines are not written. 



APPENDIX B 

NOTICEABLE PLANTS OF THE 
DESERT 

BOTANISTS must kindly overlook the lack of exactitude 
in these descriptions, which are necessarily brief and 
in which technical terms have purposely been wholly 
avoided. 

It should be borne in mind that a number of plants 
may be met on the desert, especially about settlements or 
cultivated areas, that are not native there. A few of these, 
such as are most likely to come under observation, are 
included below. If there seem to be omissions in the fol- 
lowing list, the explanation may be that the plants in 
question do not properly come under desert classification. 

Abronia aurita. Sand Verbena (not really a verbena, but some- 
what like that plant in its flowering). A low, trailing, sticky, 
soft-stemmed plant, bearing close clusters of fragrant, rosy- 
purple flowers. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Acacia greggii. Cat-claw: Span., Una de Gato. A bush up to 10 
feet high, crowded with small sharp thorns, common in canons 
and on hillsides; often mistaken for a small mesquit, the leaves 
being like those of that tree but smaller. Flower a yellowish 
"spike" (resembling a pussy-willow catkin); fruit a pod, often 
curiously twisted. Blooms in early summer. 

Adenostoma sparsifolium. Red-shank, Bastard cedar: Span., 
Chamiso, Yerba del pasmo. A tall, fragrant bush with red, 
. shreddy bark and fine, stringy foliage. Found in the moun- 
tains bordering the desert, not widely distributed. Flowers 
small, white, profuse. Blooms in late spring. 

Agave deserti. Wild Century-plant: Span., Maguey, Mescal. 
Leaves blue-gray, very large, succulent, with strong prickles on 
edges and a thorn at apex, starting from the ground. Flower- 
stalk 8 or 10 feet high, bearing many sets of clustered, yellow, 



APPENDIX 367 

bell-shaped flowers. Common in parts of the desert mountains. 
Blooms in mid-spring. 

Amsinckia spectabilis. Fiddle-head: Span., Zacate gordo. A very 
common, small, hairy, slender-stemmed plant, with narrow 
leaves and small orange flowers on stalks that curl at the tip. 
Blooms in early and mid-spring. 

Anemopsis californica. Span., Yerba mansa. A low, rank-growing 
plant found only in damp places. Leaves large and coarse: flow- 
ers large, white, with protruding conical centre. Blooms in 
mid-spring. 

Aphyllon cooperi. Cancer-root. A low, succulent plant, somewhat ' 
like a stalk of asparagus, bearing a number of small, purplish 
flowers. The plant is a parasite, growing on the roots of other 
plants. Not common. Blooms in late summer. 

Argemone hispida. Thistle poppy: Span., Cardo, Chicalote. A 
prickly, gray or bluish leafed, thistly looking plant, i or 2 feet 
high, with large, fragile flowers, white with yellow centre. 
Blooms in mid- and late summer. 

Aster orcuttii. A hardy looking plant of the driest desert canons, 
I to 2 feet high; rather rare. Leaves stiff and paper-like, with 
prickly-toothed edges: flowers large and handsome, of lavender 
rays with yellow centre. Blooms in early summer. 

Astragalus coccineus. A low plant with almost white stem and 
leaves and handsome cardinal-red flowers. Found in the desert 
mountains, but rare. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Atripiex canescens. Salt-bush, Shad-scale. A good-sized roundish 
bush with small, grayish leaves, inconspicuous flowers, and 
tassels of striking, bright green seed-vessels. Blooms in early 
summer. 

Atripiex hymenelytra. Desert holly. A stiff, shrubby plant i or 2 
feet high, with whitish, holly-like leaves and inconspicuous ' 
flowers. Found in alkaline soil in dry canons or on open desert. 
Blooms in mid-spring. 

Atripiex lentiformis. Quail-bush. A large gray bush very common 
on silt or alkaline soil, up to 15 feet high, and usually of smooth, 
dome-shaped outline. Flowers inconspicuous. Blooms in mid- 
spring. 

Baileya pauciradiata. Cotton-plant. A small, loosely growing 
plant with pale gray-green stems, narrow woolly leaves, and 
small, lemon-yellow flowers. Blooms in mid- and late summer. 

Bebbia juncea. A roundish, dark green bush a foot or two high, 



368 APPENDIX 

with many slender, almost leafless stems and numerous small, 
yellow, fragrant flowers. Blooms throughout summer. 
Bdoperone calif ornica. Span., Chuparosa. A good-sized bush, al- 
most leafless, with purplish green, downy stems and handsome, 
dark red, tubular flowers. One of the earliest blooming desert 
plants, continuing all spring. 

CACTI 

Cereus engelmanni. Hedgehog cactus. A cluster of spiny short 
stems about the size and shape of cucumbers. Flowers very 
handsome, large, cup-shaped, bright rose-purple with plumy 
green stigma. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Cereus giganteus. Span., Saguaro, Pitahaya. The giant cactus, 
common on the Arizona desert hills and found sparingly in 
California adjacent to the Colorado River. It is usually a 
tall, fluted column up to 60 feet high, with similar vertical 
offsets for branches. Flowers large, white: fruit crimson, edi- 
ble. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Echinocactus cylindraceus. Barrel cactus, Nigger-head: Span., 
Biznaga (or Viznaga). A large, cylindrical, ribbed cactus up 
to 6 feet high (globular when young) covered with long curv- 
ing spines. Flowers greenish yellow, cup-shaped, in a circle on 
the top. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Mamillaria tetrancistrus. Pincushion, Strawberry, or Fish- 
hook cactus: Span., Chilito. A small, round cactus, usually i 
or 2 inches in height and diameter, with a fuzz of fine white 
spines and a longer sharply hooked black one in the centre of 
each tuft. Flowers fleshy, lily-like, of rich claret color: fruit 
scarlet, finger-shaped, edible. Blooms in late spring. 

Mamillarja sp. Like a larger growth of the foregoing, but some- 
what irregular in shape and with waxy-white flowers. 
Blooms in late spring. 

Opuntia basilaris. A flat-lobed, grayish cactus, velvety-look- 
ing, without noticeable spines but set with myriads of minute 
prickles. Flowers very handsome, large, cup-shaped, cerise, 
set in a row on edge of lobe. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Opuntia bigelovii. Span., Cholla. A plant up to 6 feet tall, 
branching in stumpy arms, the whole plant densely clad with 
greenish white spines. The older parts turn almost black. 
The joints detach very easily and litter the ground. Flowers 
greenish white. Blooms in mid- and late spring. 

Opuntia chlorotica. Prickly pear, Indian fig: Span., Nopal. 



APPENDIX 369 

The common flat-lobed cactus of the coast, found also on the 
desert mountains. Flowers pale yellow, sometimes with red- 
dish tinge, set in a row on edge of lobe: fruit dark red, edible, 
but covered with fine prickles. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Opuntia echinocarpa. Deer-horn cactus. A very branching cac- 
tus up to 5 feet high, the joints pale green, very spiny 
though less so than O. bigelovii. Flowers greenish with bronzed 
look outside. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Opuntia ramosissima. Similar in habit to 0. echinocarpa, but 
with much slenderer stems and fewer but stronger spines. 
Flowers small, brown. Blooms in late spring. 

Cassia armata. A low bushy plant with handsome yellow flowers, 
found in the desert mountains, but rare. Blooms in mid- 
spring. 

Centaurea melitensis. Star thistle: Span., Jocalote. A small, usu- 
ally single-stemmed plant a foot or so high, with narrow gray- 
green leaves. Flowers small, yellow: flower-heads very prickly. 
Blooms in mid-spring and summer. 

Cercidium torreyanum. Span., Palo verde, Lluvia de oro. A tree 
up to 30 feet high, noticeable for the smooth green bark of the 
entire tree. Foliage small, scanty, and short-lived, so that the 
tree is usually bare: the twigs bear short thorns. Flowers pro- 
fuse, bright yellow: fruit a pod. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Chilopsis linearis. Desert willow ( not properly a willow, but be- 
longing to the Bignonia family). A small, willow-like tree/up 
to 20 feet high, usually found in washes. Leaves narrow: flowers 
handsome and plentiful, white marked with lilac and yellow, 
fragrant: fruit a pod, very long and narrow, remaining on the 
tree after the seeds have fallen. Blooms from mid-spring to 
autumn. 

Chorizanthe brevicornu. A small, leafless, yellow-green plant, re- 
sembling the dry yellow moss sometimes found on pine trees. 
Flowers inconspicuous. 

Coldenia plicata. A hardy looking, mat-like plant with small, 
deeply-veined, dark-green leaves and tiny white flowers. 
Blooms in mid-spring. 

Croton californica. One of the commonest desert plants. A thin 
bush 2 or 3 feet high, with many slender straight stems and few 
light-gray oval leaves. The plant gathers into a goblet-shaped 
tuft as it dries. Flowers .small, yellowish. Blooms from late 
spring to late summer. 



370 APPENDIX 

Dalea: the genus has been re-named Parosela, q. v. 

Datura meteloides. Jimson weed: Span., Tolguache (or Tolu- 
ache). A rank-growing plant 2 or 3 feet high, common on both 
coast and desert, with large, coarse, dark-green leaves and very 
large, white or pale lilac, trumpet-shaped flowers that open in 
the evening. Blooms from spring to autumn. 

Dithyrea californica. A small coarse-leafed plant found in sandy 
soil usually about bushes. Flowers small, fragrant, of four white 
petals. Blooms in early spring. 

Encelia californica. A stiff, bushy plant with dark-green leaves 
and brittle, woody stems, common on and near the base of des- 
ert mountains. Flowers bright yellow, on straight stalks that 
project well above the rest of the plant. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Encelia farinosa. Incense bush, White brittle bush: Span., Yerba 
de incienso. One of the commonest of desert plants in the neigh- 
borhood of mountains, in form a compact rounded bush 2 to 3 
feet high. Leaves silver-gray, firm in texture: flowers like those 
of E. californica. The plant exudes drops of amber-colored 
gum. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Ephedra californica. Desert tea: Span., Canutillo. A shrub 2 to 3 
feet high, entirely composed of straight, smooth, dark-green 
stems without leaves. Flowers inconspicuous. 

Eremiastrum bellioides. Desert star. A small prostrate plant, 
hardly noticeable except for its pretty, daisy-like flowers, 
borne on radiating horizontal stems. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Eremocarya micrantha. A small, slender herb with small linear 
leaves and tiny white flowers. It dries to a whitish, woolly- 
looking little plant that is greedily eaten by horses. The root 
yields a bright madder stain. Blooms in early spring. 

Eriodictyon tomentosum. Span., Yerba santa. A bush 5 or 6 feet 
high, found in canons, with narrowish, gray-green, woolly 
leaves and clusters of lavender funnel-shaped flowers. (It is the 
coast species, E. glutinosum, or E. californicum, with smooth, 
dark-green, sticky leaves, that was so highly valued for its 
medicinal properties by the Spanish Californians.) Blooms hi 
late spring. 

Eriogonum inflatum. Bottle plant,. Desert trumpet. A plant up to 
3 feet high,- with a few slender, straight, straggling stems that 
end in elongated swellings. Leaves heart-shaped, growing only 
at base: flowers small, yellowish. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Eulobus californicus. A slender, straight, spindling plant, a foot 



APPENDIX 371 

or so high, with small yellow flowers and very narrow straight 
seed-vessels. Blooms in late spring. 

Euphorbia polycarpa. Rattlesnake weed: Span., Golondrina. A 
flat-growing, mat-like plant with radiating reddish stems and 
small, roundish, bronze-green, white-edged leaves. Flowers 
very small, white or pinkish. Blooms in late spring. 

Fagonia californica. A low, open-growing plant found on rocky 
desert hillsides, with hardly noticeable leaves but many pretty, 
star-shaped, pale magenta flowers. Blooms in mid-spring. 
FERNS: These are naturally rare in desert regions, and are found 
only along the bases of the mountains, where falls the greater 
part of the little rain that occurs in this arid territory. Be- 
sides those named there are a few others which are very 
rarely found. 

Cheilanthes viscida. Lip fern. Fronds elongated, dark green, 
very much dissected, and covered with a sticky secretion. 
Found usually in crevices of the rocks in canons. 
Notholsena cretacea. Cloak fern. Fronds triangular in outline, 
moderately divided, and thickly coated with a white pow- 
der. When dry they roll up into brittle balls, but when rain 
comes they unroll and resume life. This and the species next 
named usually grow under the edges of rocks and boulders on 
hillsides, or on the sides of canons. 

Notholaena parryi. Cloak fern. Fronds elongated, rather nar~ 
row, pinnately divided, the upper surface densely dothed 
with whitish hairs, the lower brown and woolly. 
Fouquieria splendens. Candle-wood: Span., OeotiHo. A unique 
plant composed of a number of long gray thorny canes diverg- 
ing at the ground: usually 6 or 8 feet high but sometimes dou- 
ble as much or over. Leaves small, dark green, and short-lived: 
flowers scarlet, tubular, in a long spike at ends of canes. Blooms 
in early spring, or at any time when sufficient rain has fallen. 
Franseria dumosa. Burro-weed. A stiff, brittle, rounded, gray 
bush, common on and near the base of desert mountains 
Leaves small, gray-green: flowers' yellowish, in close spikes. 
The plant has a strong, somewhat turpentiny smell* Blooms in 
mid-spring. 

GRASSES 

Cynodon dactylon. Bermuda grass; Not properly a desert 
grass, but has become established in the irrigated areas, 



372 APPENDIX 

where it is now a pest, being almost impossible to eradicate 
wherever it gains foothold. It is bright green and close- 
growing, with small, pointed leaves. It makes good emer- 
gency forage. 

Distichlis spicata. Salt grass. A low-growing, pale green or gray 
grass, the leaves arranged in double rank, herring-bone 
style. It r is very common, forming a close sod on moist, and 
especially on alkaline, soils. Its forage-value is low, but ani- 
mals will eat it when hard pressed. 

Epicampes rigens. Basket grass: Span., Zacaton. A tall, rigid, 
slender-stemmed, pale green grass forming large tussocks 
from 2 to 4 feet high. It grows among rocks near streams, 
and on dry hills, and though of little use as fodder it is much 
valued by Indian women for basketry purposes. 

Oryzopsis membranacea. Sand grass. A small, tussocky grass 
with slender stems from 6 to 12 inches long, leaves bright 
green. It is found in sandy soil and is a useful forage plant, 
being also valuable to the Indians for its abundant crop of 
edible seeds. 

Panicum urvilleanum. A strong, coarse grass with rather stiff, 
pale green leaves a foot or more long. It grows in loose dry 
sand, and has little, if any, forage value. 

Pleuraphis rigida. Blue-stem: Span., Galleta. A coarse-, almost 
woody-stemmed, stiff grass growing in large dense clumps to 
a height of from 2 to 4 feet, and in the driest of soils. The 
stems appear dry and dead except at the tips, which are pale 
bluish green. It is an excellent forage-plant and of the great- 
est value to desert travellers. 

Sporobolus airoides. Span., Zacaton. A coarse, stiff bunch- 
grass 2 or 3 feet high, flowering in loose, spreading panicles. 
It grows usually in alkaline soil and makes fairly good forage. 

Tridens pulchella. A low, tufted grass from 2 to 6 inches high, 
common on dry hills and mesas, often among rocks, and no- 
ticeable for its small dense panicles of blossom, in which the 
tips of the glumes (flower-bracts) are tinged with purple. It 
has practically no forage value. 

Hesperocallis undulatus. Desert lily: Span., Ajo. A true lily, with 
narrow, ribbony, crinkle-edged leaves lying flat at the base of 
the straight flower-stem, which is about 2 feet high. Flowers 3 
or 4 inches in diameter, fragrant, white with green veining on 
back of petals, several to a stem. Blooms in mid-spring. 



APPENDIX 373 

Hibiscus denudatus. A shrub i or 2 feet high, with scanty gray- 
green leaves and large, handsome flowers, white with dark 
purple "eye." Blooms in late spring. 

Hoffmanseggia microphylla. A tall, loosely growing plant found 
in dry desert canons. Usually a number of the slender cane-like 
stems grow in a clump together. Leaves twice compound, of 
numerous minute leaflets: flowers yellow, in an open elongated 
cluster. 

Hofmeisteria pluriseta. A small bushy plant growing in the crev- 
ices of rocky cliffs, the stems slender but woody, and the leaf- 
blades like a flattened tip on the leaf-stems. Flowers in small 
heads, abundant but not showy. 

Hymenoclea salsola. Salt bush. A common, large, grayish bush 
with small, narrow leaves. Flowers very small, greenish, in 
profuse clusters at end of twigs. Blooms in late spring. 

Hyptis emoryi. Lippia. A tall bush of the lower mountain slopes, 
up to 10 feet high, with rather straight stems usually branch- 
ing from the ground. Leaves gray-green: flowers small, numer- 
ous, lavender colored, in loose spikes. The leaves and blossoms 
have a lavender-like smell. Blooms from mid-spring to au- 
tumn. 

Isocoma acradenia. A small shrub with narrow, dark-green leaves 
and small, yellow flowers; common and widely distributed. 
Blooms in early spring. 

Isomeris arborea. Bladder-pod. A vigorous, ill-smelling shrub 4 
to 8 feet high, with light-green, triply-divided leaves and clus- 
ters of showy, yellow flowers. The seed-vessel is a large pale 
green pod. Blooms from earliest to late spring. 

Krameria parvifolia. A common bush of the lower mountain 
slopes, 2 feet or so high, with few, inconspicuous leaves and 
purplish gray, much-interlaced stems and twigs. Flowers deep 
claret color: seed-vessels small, round, prickly. Blooms in mid- 
and late spring. 

Larrea glandulosa. Creosote bush. Greasewood: Span., Hedion- 
dfa. The commonest and most widely distributed shrub of the 
desert, growing up to 12 feet high, in strong, somewhat brittle 
stems diverging from the ground. The branches and twigs are 
regularly marked with rings. Leaves small, glossy, bright dark 
green, sticky, with strong tarry odor: flowers profuse, bright 



374 APPENDIX 

yellow, maturing to small, round, woolly seed-vessels. Blooms 
from mid-spring to midsummer. 

Lytium andersonii. A strong bush usually 4 or 5 feet high, but in 
open desert a low patch of stiff intertangled stems. Leaves 
small, gray: flowers few and small, tubular, pale lilac: fruit a 
small, transparent, edible (but insipid) red berry. Blooms in 
mid-spring. 

Malvastrum rotundifolium. Five-spot. A small, upstanding, 
hairy plant, often branching, with roundish leaves and hand- 
some cup- or globe-shaped flowers of pale lilac with a carmine 
spot at base of each of the five petals. Blooms in late spring. 

Martynia proboscidea. Elephant's trunk, Devil's claw. A rank, 
weedy plant, not common, with large, roundish leaves and a 
few handsome flowers, white with yellow and purple markings. 
The seed-vessels are disproportionately large, from 6 to 10 
inches long, curved and tapering, splitting as they dry into two 
long, springy horns connected at base. Blooms in summer and 
into autumn. 

Mentzelia involucrata. A plant of the open desert, a foot or more 
high, with thistly-looking, gray leaves and very handsome, 
large, satiny flowers, white or creamy with fine vermilion pen- 
cilling. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Mirabilis aspera. A small, bushy plant with slender branching 
stems and grayish leaves, found near the base of mountains. 
Flowers white, primrose-like, opening at evening. Blooms in 
late spring. 

Mohavea viscida. A small, hairy plant with straight, usually 
single stem and narrow leaves. Flowers large, deep cup-shaped, 
satiny, greenish-creamy with small purple dots: petals saw- 
edged. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Nama demissum. A pretty little mat-like plant, sending out 
spoke-like arms at ends of which are small carmine flowers. 
Blooms in mid-spring. 

Navarretia virgata. A small, dried-out-looking plant of the open 
desert. Leaves inconspicuous: flowers numerous, pale bright 
blue. The last of the noticeable spring flowers, continuing into 
early summer. 

Nicotiana bigelovii. Coyote tobacco. A many-stemmed plant, I 
to 2 feet high, with dark-green leaves and white, narrow-tubu- 
lar flowers. Blooms midsummer to autumn. 



APPENDIX 375 

Nolina parryi. A yucca-like plant of dry mountain-sides, not 
common. Leaves long, narrow, spiky, bluish gre<en: flowers 
whitish, in a compact elongated cluster 2 or 3 feet long, on a 
tall stem rising from the centre of the sheaf of leaves. Blooms 
in mid-spring. 

CEnothera gauraeflora. A small plant with straight, stiff, usually 
single stem bearing a cluster of small pinkish flowers. The bark 
is white and shreddy and the seed-vessels tongue-like and 
curved. Blooms in late spring. 

(Enothera pallida. Sun-cups. A slender-stemmed plant with 
rather narrow, pointed and toothed leaves. Flowers bright yel- 
low: seed-vessels curly with double twist. Blooms in mid- and 
late spring. 

CEnothera scapoidea. A small plant with single stem 6 to 8 inches 
high, and a cluster of little pinkish flowers. One of the earliest 
spring flowers but blooms on into early summer. 

(Enothera trichocalyx. Evening primrose: Span., Yerba salada. 
A low, strong, rather spreading plant with large, rather narrow, 
grayish green leaves and very large fragrant flowers, iwhite 
(pink when faded) with sulphur-yellow centres, opening at 
night. Blooms in mid- and late spring. 

Olneya tesota. Ironwood: Span., Palo fierro (or hierro). A trim 
tree, up to 20 feet high, with thorny twigs and grayish green 
leaves composed of many leaflets. Flowers dull blue, like small 
pea-blossoms: fruit a pod. Blooms in early summer. 

Palafoxia linearis. A common, straggling plant of many slender 
stems up to 3 feet high. Leaves few, narrow, dark gray-green: 
flowers lavender or pinkish, tubular, with long calyx. Blooms 
almost all the year. 

Parosela (formerly Dalea) californica. A stiff, woody bush, up to 
3 feet high, with clear, yellowish bark. Leaves small, gray, nar- 
rowly divided: flowers plentiful, resembling pea-blossoms, dark 
bright blue. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Parosela (formerly Dalea) emoryi. Dye-weed. A gray, weedy 
bush 2 or 3 feet high, easily identified by the orange satin 
which the flower-heads leave on hands or clothing. Leaves 
small, composed of several leaflets: flowers tiny, purple, in 
small close clusters. Blooms mid-spring to late summer. 

Parosela (formerly Dalea) mollis. A small, grayish plant with 
much-divided leaves and tiny, rosy-purple flowers in woolly- 
looking dusters. Blooms in late spring and early summer. 



376 APPENDIX 

Parosela (formerly Dalea) schottii. A large, rather thorny bush, 
up to 6 feet high. Leaves very narrow, dark bright green: flow- 
ers resembling pea-blossoms, dark brilliant blue. Blooms in 
mid-spring. 

Parosela (formerly Dalea) spinosa. Smoke-tree, Indigo-bush. A 
small tree, up to 15 feet high, common in washes. Practically 
leafless, the tree is a mass of whitish spiny twigs. Flowers small 
but very abundant, resembling pea-blossoms, dark brilliant 
blue. Blooms in early summer. 

Pectis papposa. Chinch weed. A low, small, rounded plant, viv- 
idly green, with bright yellow flowers. It has a strong, rather 
unpleasant smell. Blooms throughout summer. 

Perityle ernoryi. A small plant found growing among rocks. 
Flowers white, daisy-like. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Petalonyx thurberi. Sandpaper plant. A low, rounded, whitish 
bush with a peculiar roughness to the touch. Leaves small, 
light-green, scaly: flowers profuse, light-yellowish green. 
Blooms in late spring. 

Phacelia campanularia. Canterbury bell. A small, usually single- 
stemmed plant, with roundish, rather hairy leaves, and large, 
deep-purple, bell-shaped flowers. Found (on the desert) only in 
canons or near water. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Phacelia sp. Wild heliotrope: Span., Vervenk. A straggling, soft- 
stemmed, rather hairy plant, up to 4 feet high, with small, 
compound leaves and profuse, heliotrope-blue flowers in curl- 
ing clusters. Blooms early to late spring. 

Philibertia linearis. Twining milkweed. A strong creeper found on 
willows or other strong supporting plants, growing up to 6 or 8 
feet high. Leaves few and grayish: flowers pale lavender, in a 
close rosette. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Phoradendron californicum. Mistletoe. A parasite very common 
on the mesquit and other leguminous desert trees. It is leafless, 
but has numerous small pink or white berries. 

Phragmites communis. Span., Carrizo. A reed-like grass or cane, 
up to 10 feet high, with long, narrow leaves, found in damp 
places on the open desert. 

Pluchea sericea. Arrowweed: Span., Cachanilla. A straight-grow- 
ing, cane-like plant, up to 10 feet high, abundant in damp 
places both in canons and on open desert. Leaves gray, narrow, 
willow-shaped: flowers small, clustered, dull pinkish purple. 
Blooms in midsummer. 

Prosopis glandulosa. Mesquit: Span., Mezquite. A wide-branch- 



APPENDIX 377 

ing, thorny tree, up to 20 feet high, found singly or in thickets- 
Leaves of many leaflets, resembling small leaves of the pepper- 
tree: flowers yellowish " spikes " (like pussy-willows) ; fruit long, 
narrow pods, in dusters. Blooms in late spring. 

Prosopis pubescens. Screwbean mesquit: Span., Tornillo. A 
smaller and slenderer tree than the foregoing, favoring alkaline 
soil. Leaves and flowers similar to the above, but somewhat 
smaller: fruit twisted pods, like screws, in clusters. Blooms in 
late spring. 

Prunus eriogyna. Wild apricot. A large, branching, thorny bush, 
up to 8 feet high, found in some desert canons. Leaves small, 
bright light green; flowers numerous, white, like small plum 
blossoms: fruit reddish yellow when ripe, with a small quantity 
of sweetish pulp. Blooms in early spring. 

Psathyrotes ramosissima. A low, compact, rounded plant with 
light-gray leaves and small, yellow flowers. Blooms in late 
spring. 

Purshia tridentata. Bitter-brush. A strong, woody bush 5 or 6 
feet high, with a casual resemblance to the common creosote 
bush (Larrea) but rare. Flowers bright yellow. Blooms in late 
spring. 

Rhus ovata. Sumac: Span., Mangla. A large, compact, roundish 
bush or small tree, native to coast regions, but sometimes 
found in or near desert canons. Leaves dark bright green, 
glossy, suggesting those of the laurel: flowers white or pink, 
profuse, in very close clusters: fruit a reddish sticky berry. 
Blooms in late spring. 

Salazaria mexicana. Bladder bush. A roundish bush, up to 3 feet 
high, rather rare. Leaves few and small, gray: flowers showy, 
white and purple; the calyces become inflated and look like 
little round bladders. Blooms in early summer. 

Salvia carduacea. Thistle sage. A thistly-looking plant a foot or 
so high, with large prickly grayish leaves and handsome light 
purple flowers in round-headed clusters. Blooms in late spring. 

Salvia columbarieae. Span., Chia. A small plant a foot or so high, 
usually with a single stiff stem rising from a few deeply-cut 
leaves and bearing one or more clusters of small purple flowers 
dosely grouped in rings. Blooms in mid-spring. 

Sesbania macrocarpa. Wild hemp. A straight, slender, spindling 
plant, up to 8 feet high, found in damp ground in Imperial 



37 8 APPENDIX 

Valley and near the Colorado River. Flowers yellow, pea-like. 
Blooms in mid- and late summer. 

Simmondsia californica. Goat-nut, Quinine plant. A strong 
shrub, up to 6 feet high, with gray-green leaves somewhat like 
those of the manzanita. Flowers whitish, inconspicuous: fruit a 
small, brown, edible nut with smooth, pointed husk. Blooms in 
mid-spring. 

Sphseralcea ambigua. Wild hollyhock. A loose-growing plant, up 
to 3 feet high, with grayish stems and leaves. Flowers numerous 
and striking, of a peculiar light vermilion color. Blooms in mid- 
spring and early summer. 

Stephanomeria exigua. A low, slender-stemmed plant bearing a 
white starry flower something like that of the single pink. 
Blooms in mid-spring. 

Stillingia annua. A very small but hardy-looking plant with stiff, 
saw-edged, light-green, upright leaves. Flowers inconspicuous. 

Suaeda ramosissima. A common, loose-growing bush of the open 
desert, 3 or 4 feet high, with very slender, bright-green, juicy 
stems that give a pink stain on being crushed. Leaves and flow- 
ers inconspicuous. 

Trichoptjtfium incisum. A small, almost white plant, very woolly, 
with small, composite, yellow flowers. Blooms in early summer. 

Washingtonia filifera. Fan-palm. The native palm of the desert, 
found in many canons and occasionally in the open desert, 
though never in dry soil. Up to 70 feet high. Fronds light-green, 
with stringy filaments: flowers small, creamy, in long, droop- 
ing clusters: fruit a small hard berry, black and sweet when 
ripe. Blooms in early summer. 

Yucca brevifolia. Joshua tree, Yucca palm. A tree-yucca, up to 
30 feet high, with stiff, strong arms and tufts of blade-like 
leaves, found hi certain mountain and high mesa localities. 
Flowers whitish, bell-shaped, in large clusters, rather ill- 
smelling: fruit a short, thick pod which remains closed when 
mature and dry. Blooms in early spring. 

Yucca mohavensis. A small tree-yucca, somewhat branching, 
with tufts of very long, dagger-like leaves, found in similar lo- 
calities to those inhabited by the foregoing. Flowers also simi- 
lar: fruit a large blunt pod which becomes soft and edible when 
ripe. Blooms in late spring. 



APPENDIX . 379 

Yucca whipplei. Spanish bayonet: Span., Quijote. The common 
yucca of the coast mountains, with a very large spike of creamy, 
bell-shaped flowers on a tall, straight stalk rising from a sheaf 
of long, stiff, spiky leaves. Fruit becomes hard and splits open 
when ripe. Blooms in late spring. 



INDEX 



A bronia aurito, see Desert verbena. 
Acacia greggii, see Cat-claw. 
Adenostoma sparsifolium, see 

Chamiso. 

Agave deserti, see Mescal. 
Agricultural Experiment Station, 

123, 357- 

Agua Caliente Springs, 250. 

Agua Caliente village, 236. 

Agua Dulce, 181. 

Alamo Bonito village, 176. 

Alamo River, 292. 

Alarcon, Hernando de, 32:. 

Algodones, 298. 

Alkali in soil, 188, 215. 

Alkali lake-beds, 148, 157. 

Alkaline water, 94, 107, 361. 

Andreas Canon, 20, 37. 
. Anemopsis calif arnica, 82. 

Anza, Capt. Juan Bautista, 211, 
304, 312. 

Arabia compared, 105, 112, 200. 

Arbol de fierro, see Ironwood. 

Arctostaphylos, see Manzanita. 

Arrastra, 163, 333. 

Arrowweed, Plucked sericea, 34, 
60, 76. 

Arsenic springs, 138, 362. 

Artesian wells, 168. 

Asclepias eriocarpa, 83. 

Aster orcuttii, 171. 

Asunci6n, Fray Juan de la, 321. 

A triplex canescens, 6l. 

A triplex hymenelytra, see Desert 
holly. 

A triplex lentiformis, see Quail- 
bush. 

Bad-lands, 193, 201, 256. 
Banner, village, 243. 



Barrel cactus, Echinocactus cylin- 

draceus, 54, 76, 128. 
Barren Mountains, 325. 
Beach-line, ancient, 16, 127, 173, 

1 80, 187. 

Bees, 41, 115, 136. 
Beloperone calif omica, 66. 
Bermuda grass, 290. 
Bighorn, 22, 28, 31, 32, 62, 173. 
Birds, 96, 105, 107, 153, 239, 249, 

301, 323- 
Biznaga, 54, 76, 128. 
Blastophaga wasp, 123. 
Blythe, town, 330. 
Borego Springs, 203. 
Borego Valley, 62, 215. 
Brawley, town, 289. 
Bullion Mountains, 151. 
Burro-weed, Franseria dumosa, 

48, 101. 
Butterfield stage-line, 240. 

Cacti, 53 et seq. ; also Appendix B. 

Cactus wren, 14, 31, 57. 

Calabazilla, 72. 

Calexico, town, 290. 

Canon wren, 22, 164, 171. 

Campomoche, 255. 

Cardinal flower, lobelia splen- 

dens, 22%. 

Carrjzo, Phragmites communis, 76. 
2arrizo Creek, 247, 274. 
Larson, Kit, 240. 
Castle Dome, 307, 314. 
Cat-claw, Acacia greggti, 48, 79. 
Cattle, 26, 38, 56, 154, 205, 216, 

224, 241, 354- 
Caves, 20, 22, 187. 
Cercidium torreyanum, see Palo 

verde. 



INDEX 



Cereus giganteus, see Saguaro. 
Cercocarpus, 230. 
Cereus engelmanni, 57. 
Chamiso, Adenostoma sparsi 
folium, 76, 82, 230. 

Chia,77- 

Chilopsis Unearis, see Desert 

willow. 

Chino Canon, 17, 100. 
Chipmunks, 166. 
Chocolate Mountains, 180, 188 

298, 300, 316, 318. 
Cholla cactus, Opuntia bigelovii, 

55, 79, 218. 
Chuckwalla, 317. 
Chuckwalla Mountains, 180, 340, 

343- 

Cibola Valley, 326. 
Cicada, 41, 121, 127. 
Clay Point, 193, 212, 236. 
Cliffs, 21, 27, 28, 31, 170. 
Clouds, n, 102. 
Coachella, town, 120, 124. 
Coachella Valley, 115, 357. 
Cockscomb Mountains, 153, 159, 

343- 
C6copa Mountains, 212, 273, 284, 

294. 

Collins Valley, 223. 
Color, 4, 6, 8, 9, u, 13, 46, 67, 88, 
90, 92, 106, 170, 184, 279, 299, 
319. 
Colorado River, 52, 178, 301, 320, 

337- 

Colorado River steamers, 304. 
Conejo Prieto, 182. 
Contours, 7, 104, 114, 165, 299. 
"Coral Reef," 126. 
Corn Springs, 347. 
Cottonwood Mountains, 160, 180. 
Cottonwood Springs, 147, 162. 
Cougar, 28. 
Coyote, 31, 95, 185, 242, 324, 354, 

356. 

Coyote Canon, 218. 
Coyote legend, 70. 



Coyote Mountain, 214, 255, 276, 

284. 

Coyote Wells, 281. 
Creosote bush, Larrea glandulosa, 

59 * seq. 
Crotalus cerastes, see Sidewinder. 

Dale, mining camp, 155. 
Date-growing, 80, 188, 122, 172, 

329, 357- 

Datura meteloides, 71. 
Dead Man's Point, 135. 
Death from thirst, 135, 161, 252, 

277- 

Death Valley, 186. 
Deep Cafion, 30, 45, 65. 
Deer-horn cactus, Opuntia echino- 

carpa, 56. 
Desert glaze, 7. 
Desert holly, A triplex hymenely- 

tra, 61, in, 133. 
Desert lily, Hesperocallis undu- 

latus, 64. 
Desert Queen Mine, 146. 
"Desert rats," 99. 
Desert refrigerator, 117. 
Desert tea, Ephedra calif arnica, 

75- 
Desert verbena, Abronia aurita, 

67. 
Desert willow, Chilopsis linearis, 

47. 89- 
Devil's Garden, 55. 
Dewey Mine, 141, 
Oiaz, Melchior, 322. 
Dixieland, settlement, 285, 
Dos Palmas, 348. 
Doubtful trail, 106, 146, 202, 344, 

4, 364- 
Dress, 124, 360. 
Dunes, see Sand-dunes. 
Dye-weed, Parosela emoryi, 67, 89. 

Eagle, 31, 118, 171. 
agle Canon, 37. 
Eagle Mountains, 160. 



INDEX 



383 



Earthquake, 287, 290. 
Echinocactus cylindraceus, 54, 76, 

128. 

Edom, 112. 
Egypt compared, i, 6, in, 128, 

286. 

Ehrenberg, town, 335- 
El Centro, 285. 
Elf-owl, Micropallas whitneyt, 52, 

314- 

Encelia californica, 65. 
Enceliafarinosa, see Incense-bush. 
Ephedra californica, 75. 
Eremiastrum bellioides, 33, 89. 
Eriodictyon, 82. 
Eriogonum fasciculatum, 82. 
Erosion, 118, 131, 133, 166, i*9i 

172. 

Eschscholtzia, 32, 75. 
Evaporation, 102, 119. 
Evening primrose, (Enothera tri- 

chocalyx, 64, 89. 

Fagonia californica, 32. 
Farming, 97, H5 I2I ^86, 295? 

328,330. 

Ferns, 4; also Appendix B. 
Figtree John, Indian, 181, 214. 
Figtree John Springs, 181, 184. 
Fish Creek Mountain, 255, 259, 

273, 284. 

Fish-hook cactus, 59- 
Fish Springs, 188. 
Fish-traps, 175- 
Flor de chuparosa, 66.\ 
Forest fire, 239, 251. 
Fort Yuma, 302, 304- 
Fouguieria splendens, see Ocotillo. 

Galleta grass, 48, 101, 255. 
Garces, Fray Francisco, 43, 211, 

303. 
Grand Canon of the Colorado, 

321. 

Greasewood, see Creosote-bush. 
Gulf of California, II, 178, 302. 



Seat, see Temperature. 
Heber, town, 290. 
Hediondia, see Creosote-bush. 
HeU-Hole, 215. 
Heron, 193, 302. 
Hesperocallis undidatus, 64. 
Hindoos, 289. 
Hoag's Landing, 323. 
Hollyhock, wild, Sphosralcea am- 

bigua, 66. 
Holtville, town, 292. 
Hot springs, 17, I9 35- 
Humming-birds, 66. 

Imperial, town, 289. 

Imperial Valley, 179, 283. 

Incense-bush, Encelia farinosa, 
65, 75, 82, 89. 

Indians; Agua Cahente, 17, 3'> 
Andreas, 20; arts, 20, 71, 74, 83; 
at ocean, 74; basketry, 75, 7$, 
78, 79, 81, 233; Cabezon, 182; 
Cahuilla, 26, 72, 81, 86, 172, 
176, 181, 213, 229, 271; Cheme- 
huevi, 149; Chino, 17; C6copa, 
292; Diegueno, 70; ^r 633 * 3O5, 
311; Figtree John, 181, 214; 
fire-making, 73; food-plants, 42, 
45, 51 52, 58, 62, 74, 76, 77, 79J 
hunters, 33, 78; Jake Razon, 
176; Jim Pine, 152; Joe Pete, 
172; Juan Razon, 181; Luiseno, 
82; Mary Jane Segundo, 231; 
medicines, 71, 74, 75, 82; "med- 
icine," 72; Mojave, 332; myths 
and legends, 19, 69; Papago, 71, 
80; picture-writings, 20, 347; 
pottery, 29, 40, 79 81, 99, 233, 
271; relics, 20, 29; San Felipe, 
241; Santiago Segundo, 231; 
San Ygnacio, 231; San Ysidro, 
234; weapons, 60, 76, 233; 
wells, 73, 174; Yuma, 303, 305, 



Indian Wells, 30. 
Indio, town, 120, 



384 



INDEX 



Ironwood, Olneya tesota, 47, 16, 

342. 
Ironwood Mountains, 48, 340 

342. 
Isocoma acradenia, 75. 

Jack-rabbit, 78, 246. 
Johnson, Mr. Fred, 122. 
Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia, 49 

140, 145. 
Juniper, 140. 

Kangaroo-mice, 22. 
Kaweah, horse, 20 et seq. 
Kearny, Gen'l., 240, 249. 
King, Clarence, 85. 
Kino, Padre Eusebio, 322. 

Laguna Dam, 310. 

Laguna Mountains, 239, 246, 247, 

Lake Cahuilla, 178. 

La Paz, town, 333. 

Larrea glandidosa, see Creosote- 
bush. 

Light, intensity of, 106, 132, 159, 
167, 266. 

Lizard, 39, 89, 160, 210, 317. 

Lluvia de Oro, 44. 

Lobelia splendens, 228. 

Los Coyotes, 223. 

Lost Horse Mine, 145. 

Lynx, 22. 

Lyon's Well, 154. 

Magnesia Spring Canon, 27. 
Malpais, see Bad-lands. 
Makastrum rotundifolium, 32. 
Mamittaria tetrancistrus, 58. 
Manzanita, Arctostaphylos, 81, 

230. 

Maria Mountains, 334, 340. 
Martinez, village, 174. 
Martynia proboscidea t 79. 
Mason Valley, 245. 
McCoy Mountains, 48, 342. 
Mecca, village, 168, 356. 



Mentzelia involucrata, 04. 
Mescal, Agave deserti, 31, 61, 77, 

80, 220, 246. 

Mesquit, burro, 17, 30, 84, 86. 
Mesquit, Prosopis glandulosa, 39, 

76, 77, 83, 119, 121- ^ 
Mesquit, Prosopis pubescent, 39, 

43,76. 

Mexicali, town, 291. 
Mexicans, 122, 130, 172, 282, 305, 

311, 320, 326, 331, 339. 
Micropattas whitneyi, 52, 314. 
Mirage, 196, 300, 317. 
Mission architecture, 248. 
Mission La Purfsima Concepci6n, 

304. 
Mission San Pablo y San Pedro, 

304- 
Mistletoe, Phoradendron califor- 

nicum, 44, 49. 

Mojave Desert, 49, 142, 148. 
Moonlight, 28, 35, 108, 295, 346, 

352, 355- 

Mormon Battalion, 245, 249, 275. 
Mosquitoes, 192, 312, 331. 
Mountain-lion, see Cougar. 
Mountain-sheep, see Bighorn. 
Mud-hills, 131, 166. 
Murray Canon, 37. 
Music an analogy, 6, 350. 

NTadal, Fray Pedro, 321. 

Vavarretia virgata, 68, 89. 

Neighbors, settlement, 330. 

tfew River, 290. 

Nicotiana attenuata, 75. 

' Nigger-head " cactus, see Barrel 

cactus. 

^ight, 21, 108, 222, 281, 295, 345. 
Nolina parryi, 161. 

asis Ranch, 177. 1 
kotillo, Fouquieria splendens, 30, 
5> 77, 81, 165, 201, 220, 247, 
284, 317, 346. 
(Enothera trichocalyx, 64, 89. 



INDEX 



385 



Olla, 29, 73, 82, ioo. 174, 233- 
Olneya tesota, 47, 165, 342. 
Onate, Juan de, 322. 
Opuntia basilaris, 58, 229. 
Opuntia bigelovii, 55, 79> 218. 
Opuntia echinocarpa, 56. 
Opuntia ramosissima, 57. 
Oriole, 86. 
Owl, 52, 314- 

Painted Canon, 169, 258. 

Palen Mountains, 343. 

Palm Canon, 36, 219. 

Palm Springs village, 17, 27, 35, 
80,357- 

Palms, 15, 18, 21, 28, 32, 33, 34, 
35, 36, 38, 79, 93, 96, 98, 101, 
102, 107, no, 117, 198, 230, 

347- 

Palo fierro, 47, 165, 342. 
Palo verde, Cercidium torreya- 

num, 43, 79. 

Palo Verde, settlement, 327. 
Palo Verde Valley, 328. 
Palomar Mountain, 70. 
Parosela emoryi, 67, 89. 
Parosela spinosa, see Smoke-tree. 
Peg-Leg Mine, 206. 
Peg-Leg Smith, 206. 
Pelicans, 180, 184. 
Petalonyx thurberi, 67. 
Phacelia, 66. 
Phainopepla, 31, 39. 
Phoradendron calif ornicum, see 

Mistletoe. 

Phragmites communis, 76. 
Picacho Mine, 318. 
Picacho Peak, 307, 3*7, 340. 
Pilot Knob, 300. 
Pincushion cactus, 59. 
Pines, 7, 12, 100, 203, 230, 247. 
Pifion, 140. 
Pifion-jay, 31. 
Pinon Well, 142. 
Pinto Mountains, 147, 153, 160. 
Plant shapes, 18, 60, 62, 89, 91. 



Pluchea sericea, see Arrowweeds. 

Poison springs, 138, 362. 

Polhamus, Capt. Isaac, 305. 

Potholes, village, 312. 

Powell, Major J. W., 322. 

Prosopis glandulosa, see Mesquit. 

Prosopis pubescens, see Screw- 
bean. 

Prospectors, 16, 99, 138, 150, 206, 
224, 250, 254, 340. 

Prunus eriogyna, 80, 230. 

Puerta de San Felipe, 245. 

Puerto de'la Concepci6n, 303. 

Quail, 22, 42, 119, 145, 323, 336. 
Quail-bush, 60, 74- 

Rabbits, 40. 
Ranchita Mine, 243. 
Rannells, "town," 329. 
Rattlesnake, 33, 133, 183, 326. 
Raven, 31, 72, 113. 2 59- 
Red Cloud Mine, 348. 
Rkus ovata, 81, 82, 230. 
Roadrunner, 153, 210. 
Rock-color, 7, 9. 
Rock-mosaic, 10, 153, 342, 34$. 

Sacaton Spring, 197. 

Saguaro, Cereus giganteus, 51, 76, 

79, 3io, 313- 
Sahara compared, II. 
Salt-bush, Atriplex canescens, 61. 
Salton Sea, 16, 64, 118, 167, 178, 

186, 194, 261, 351. 
Salvia cardtiacea, 77. 
Salvia columbaria, 77. 
San Bernardino Mountain, 8, 100. 
San Felipe City, 263. 
San Felipe Creek, 203. 
San Felipe Ranch, 242. 
San Felipe Valley, 241, 245. 
San Gorgonio Mountain, 34, 72, 

102, 118, 126, 142, 166, 168. 
San Gorgonio Pass, 5, 17, 90, 100, 

120. 



386 



INDEX 



San Jacinto Mountain, 8, 12, 17, 
27, 34, 70, 71, ioo, 102, 113, 
118, 126, 142, 165,168. 

San Ygnacio village, 231. 

San Ysidro Mountain, 214, 271. 

San Ysidro village, 81, 235. 

Sand-blast, 90, 92. 

Sand-dunes, 5, 86, 89, 113, 298. 

Sandpaper plant, Petdonyx thur- 
beri, 67. 

Santa Rosa Mountain, 12, 30, 
102, 118, 165, 167, 172, 175, 
186, 195, 259- 

Scorpion, 33, in, 200. 

Screwbean, Prosopis pubescens, 

39, 43, 76. 

Serra, Fray Junfpero, 140, 211. 
Sesbania macrocarpa, 331. 
Settlers, 34, 93, 97, 98, 99, 103, 

112, 115, 121, 216, 246, 263, 
' 295, 323, 326, 329, 332, 340- 
Seven Palms, 34, 40, 55, 93, 99. 
Seventeen Palms, 199. 
Shad-scale, Atriplex canescens, 61. 
Shafer's Well, 166, 356. 
Sheephole Mountains, 151, 157. 
Shells, H4.et seq. 
Sidewinder, 64, 133, 195. 
Signal Mountain, 212, 261, 273, 

284. 

Sign-posts, 147, 161, 198, 354- 
Silence, 14, 171, 281, 355. 
Simmondsia calif ornica, 83, 
Skunk, 22. 
Sky-color, n, 13. 
Sleep, 123. 
Smoke-tree, Parosela spinosa, 45, 

112, 115, 160. 

Snakes, 105, 226; see also Rattle- 
snake, Sidewinder. 
Snow Creek Canon, 16. 
Solitude, 10, 14, 29, 52, 59, 151, 

171, 234, 296. 
Sph&ralcea ambigua, 66. 
Sphinx, symbol of desert, I, 143, 

358. 



Split Mountain Canon, 250, 255 

Spring, 10. 

Squaw Tanks, 145. 

Stars, 101, 281, 296, 355. 

Stirrup Tanks, 147. 

Storms, 12, 19, 22, 92, 102, 103, 

177, 292, 298. 
Strawberry cactus, 59. 
Su&da ramosissima, 74, 189. 
Sun an enemy, 13, 84, 109, 124. 

150, 253. 

Sunrise, 130, 150, 252, 342. 
Sunset, 6, 12, 52, 101, 107, 120, 

151, 252, 280, 323, 338. 
Superstition Mountain, 167, 189, 

259, 264, 273. 

Tahquitz, demon, 19, 27, 69. 

Tahquitz Canon, 27. 

Tahquitz Peak, 27. 

Tarantula, 22, 33, nr. 

Temescal, 83. 

Temperature, 33, 39, 5^, 101, 107, 
in, 119, 151, 167, 169, 171, 174, 
194, 218, 264, 266, 285, 303. 

Thermal, town, 172. 

Thirst, death from, 135, 161, 252, 

277- 
Thousand Palm Carton, 33, 107, 

no, 228. 
Tinaja, 145, 317. 
Toluache, 71. 
Tornillo, see Screwbeacu 
Toro village, 173. 
Trade-rats, 29. 
Travertine, 128, 179, 187. 
Travertine Rock, 186. 
"Twelve Apostles, The," 34. 
Twenty-nine Palms, 146, 149. 
Two-Bunch Palms, 35, 96, 98. 

Vallecito, 247. 

Vallecito Mountain, 255. 

Van Dyke, Prof. John C, quoted, 

4- 
Vegetation, color of, 60, 61. 



INDEX 



Verbena fields, 67. 
Virginia Dale, 154. 
Volcan Mountain, 235, 240. 

Warner, Don Juan, 238. 
Warner's Pass, 240. 
Warner's Ranch, 235, 240. 
Warner's Springs, 235. 
Washingtonia fitifera, see Palms. 
Water, badness of, 94, 107, 139, 

145, 199, 260, 361. 
Water, developing, 112. 
Water from cactus, 54, 76. 
Water, necessity of, 132, 377. 
Water, scarcity of, 16, 54, 97, 98, 

103, 162, 189, 258. 
Waterfall, 27. 



White Tanks, 147. 

Whitewater, 55. 

Wild-cat, 31, 270. 

Wiley's Well, 340. 

Wind, 5, 10, 30, 34, 90, 94, 119. 

Yerba de incienso, 65. 

Yerba del pasmo, 82. 

Yerba del vaso, 82. 

Yerba mansa, 82. 

Yerba santa, 82. 

Yucca arborescens, 49. 

Yucca brevifotia, see Joshua-tree. 

Yucca mohavensis, 77. 

Yucca whipplei, 77. 

Yuha Springs, 212. 

Yuma, town, 300, 302. 



CAMBRIDGE . MASSACHUSETTS 
U . S . A 



05437 



-n ** 

3%