Humboldt Pass Mountains, Nevada
The next day, when nearing the entrance to Moutella Pass, over the Goose Creek Range, I happen to look across the mingled sagebrush and juniper-spruce brush to the right, and a sight greets my eyes that causes me to instinctively look around for a tall tree, though well knowing that there is nothing of the kind for miles; neither is there any ridable road near, or I might try my hand at breaking the record for a few miles. Standing bolt upright on their hind legs, by the side of a clump of juniper-spruce bushes and intently watching my movements, are a pair of full-grown cinnamon bears. When a bear sees a man before the man happens to descry him, and fails to betake himself off immediately, it signifies that he is either spoiling for a fight or doesn't care a continental password whether war is declared or not. Moreover, animals recognize the peculiar advantages of two to one in a fight equally with their human infer! - superiors; and those two over there are apparently in no particular hurry to move on. They don't seem awed at my presence. On the contrary, they look suspiciously like being undecided and hesitative about whether to let me proceed peacefully on my way or not. Their behavior is outrageous; they stare and stare and stare, and look quite ready for a fight. I don't intend one to come off, though, if I can avoid it. I prefer to have it settled by arbitration. I haven't lost these bears; they aren't mine, and I don't want anything that doesn't belong to me. I am not covetous; so, lest I should be tempted to shoot at them if I come within the regulation two hundred yards, I "edge off" a few hundred yards in the other direction, and soon have the intense satisfaction of seeing them stroll off toward the mountains. I wonder if I don't owe my escape on this occasion to my bicycle. Do the bright spokes glistening in the sunlight as they revolve make an impression on their bearish intellects that influences their decision in favor of a retreat. It is perhaps needless to add that, all through this mountain-pass, I keep a loose eye busily employed looking out for bears.
But nothing more of a bearish nature occurs, and the early gloaming finds me at Tacoma, a village near the Utah boundary line. There is an awful calamity of some sort hovering over this village. One can feel it in the air. The habitues of the hotel barroom sit around, listless and glum. When they speak at all it is to predict all sorts of difficulties for me in my progress through Utah and Wyoming Territories. "The black gnats of the Salt Lake mud flat'll eat you clean up," snarls one. "Bear River's flooding the hull kintry up Weber Cañon way," growls another. "The slickest thing you kin do, stranger, is to board the keers and git out of this," says a third, in a tone of voice and with an emphasis that plainly indicates his great disgust at "this."By "this" he means the village of Tacoma; and he is disgusted with it. They are all disgusted with it and with the whole world this evening, because Tacoma is "out of whiskey." Yes, the village is destitute of whiskey; it should have arrived yesterday, and hasn't shown up yet; and the effect on the society of the bar-room is so depressing that I soon retire to my couch, to dream of Utah's strange intermingling of forbidding deserts and beautiful orchards through which my route now leads me.
Stevens' Route in Uta
THROUGH MORMON-LAND AND OVER THE ROCKIES.
A dreary-looking country is the "Great American Desert," in Utah, the northern boundary line of which I traverse next morning. To the left of the road is a low chain of barren hills; to the right, the uninviting plain, over which one's eye wanders in vain for some green object that might raise hopes of a less desolate region beyond; and over all hangs an oppressive silence - the silence of a dead country - a country destitute of both animal and vegetable life. Over the great desert hangs a smoky haze, out of which Pilot Peak, thirty-eight miles away, rears its conical head 2,500 feet above the level plain at its base.
Some riding is obtained at intervals along this unattractive stretch of country, but there are no continuously ridable stretches, and the principal incentive to mount at all is a feeling of disgust at so much compulsory walking. A noticeable feature through the desert is the almost unquenchable thirst that the dry saline air inflicts upon one. Reaching a railway section-house, I find no one at home; but there is a small underground cistern of imported water, in which "wrigglers" innumerable wriggle, but which is otherwise good and cool. There is nothing to drink out of, and the water is three feet from the surface; while leaning down to try and drink, the wooden framework at the top gives way and precipitates me head first into the water. Luckily, the tank is large enough to enable me to turn round and reappear at the surface, head first, and with considerable difficulty I scramble out again, with, of course, not a dry thread on me.
At three in the afternoon I roll into Terrace, a small Mormon town. Here a rather tough-looking citizen, noticing that my garments are damp, suggests that 'cycling must be hard work to make a person perspire like that in this dry climate. At the Matlin section-house I find accommodation for the night with a whole-souled section-house foreman, who is keeping bachelor's hall temporarily, as his wife is away on a visit at Ogden. From this house, which is situated on the table-land of the Bed Dome Mountains, can be obtained a more comprehensive view of the Great American Desert than when we last beheld it. It has all the appearance of being the dry bed of an ancient salt lake or inland sea. A broad, level plain of white alkali, which is easily mistaken in the dim distance for smooth, still water, stretches away like a dead, motionless sea as far as human vision can penetrate, until lost in the haze; while, here and there, isolated rocks lift their rugged heads above the dreary level, like islets out of the sea. It is said there are many evidences that go to prove this desert to have once been covered by the waters of the great inland sea that still, in places, laves its eastern borders with its briny flood. I am informed there are many miles of smooth, hard, salt-flats, over which a 'cycler could skim like a bird; but I scarcely think enough of bird-like skimming to go searching for it on the American Desert. A few miles east of Matlin the road leads over a spur of the Red Dome Range, from whence I obtain my first view of the Great Salt Lake, and soon I am enjoying a long-anticipated bath in its briny waters. It is disagreeably cold, but otherwise an enjoyable bath. One can scarce sink beneath the surface, so strongly is the water impregnated with salt.
For dinner, I reach Kelton, a town that formerly prospered as the point from which vast quantities of freight were shipped to Idaho. Scores of huge freight-wagons are now bunched up in the corrals, having outlived their usefulness since the innovation from mules and "overland ships" to locomotives on the Utah Northern Railway. Empty stores and a general air of vanished prosperity are the main features of Kelton to-day; and the inhabitants seem to reflect in their persons the aspect of the town; most of them being freighters, who, finding their occupation gone, hang listlessly around, as though conscious of being fit for nothing else. From Kelton I follow the lake shore, and at six in the afternoon arrive at the salt-works, near Monument Station, and apply for accommodation, which is readily given. Here is erected a wind-mill, which pumps the water from the lake into shallow reservoirs, where it evaporates and leaves a layer of coarse salt on the bottom. These people drink water that is disagreeably brackish and unsatisfactory to one unaccustomed to it, but which they say has become more acceptable to them, from habitual use, than purely fresh water. This spot is the healthiest and most favorable for the prolific production of certain forms of insect life I ever was in, and I spend the liveliest night here I ever spent anywhere. These people professed to give me a bed to myself, but no sooner have I laid my head on the pillow than I recognize the ghastly joke they are playing on me. The bed is already densely populated with guests, who naturally object to being ousted or overcrowded. They seem quite a kittenish and playful lot, rather inclined to accomplish their ends by playing wild pranks than by resorting to more austere measures. Watching till I have closed my eyes in an attempt to doze off, they slip up and playfully tickle me under the chin, or scramble around in my ear, and anon they wildly chase each other up and down my back, and play leap-frog and hide-and-go-seek all over my sensitive form, so that I arise in the morning anything but refreshed from my experience.
Still following the shores of the lake, for several miles, my road now leads over the northern spur of the Promontory Mountains. On these hills I find a few miles of hard gravel that affords the best riding I have experienced in Utah, and I speed along as rapidly as possible, for dark, threatening clouds are gathering overhead. But ere I reach the summit of the ridge a violent thunder-storm breaks over the hills, and I seem to be verily hobnobbing with the thunder and lightning, that appears to be round about me, rather than overhead. A troop of wild bronchos, startled and stampeded by the vivid lightning and sharp peals of thunder, come wildly charging down the mountain trail, threatening to run quite over me in their mad career. Pulling my six-shooter, I fire a couple of shots in the air to attract their attention, when they rapidly swerve to the left, and go tearing frantically over the rolling hills on their wild flight to the plains below.
Most of the rain falls on the plain and in the lake, and when I arrive at the summit I pause to take a view at the lake and surrounding country. A more auspicious occasion could scarcely have been presented. The storm has subsided, and far beneath my feet a magnificent rainbow spans the plain, and dips one end of its variegated beauty in the sky-blue waters of the lake. From this point the view to the west and south is truly grand-rugged, irregular mountain-chains traverse the country at every conceivable angle, and around among them winds the lake, filling with its blue waters the intervening spaces, and reflecting, impartially alike, their grand majestic beauty and their faults. What dreams of empire and white-winged commerce on this inland sea must fill the mind and fire the imagery of the newly arrived Mormon convert who, standing on the commanding summit of these mountains, feasts his eyes on the glorious panorama of blue water and rugged mountains that is spread like a wondrous picture before him. Surely, if he be devotionally inclined, it fails not to recall to his mind another inland sea in far-off Asia Minor, on whose pebbly shores and by whose rippling waves the cradle of an older religion than Morrnonism was rocked - but not rocked to sleep.
Ten miles farther on, from the vantage-ground of a pass over another spur of the same range, is obtained a widely extended view of the country to the east. For nearly thirty miles from the base of the mountains, low, level mud-flats extend eastward, bordered on the south by the marshy, sinuous shores of the lake, and on the north by the Blue Creek Mountains. Thirty miles to the east - looking from this distance strangely like flocks of sheep grazing at the base of the mountains - can be seen the white- painted houses of the Mormon settlements, that thickly dot the narrow but fertile strip of agricultural land, between Bear River and the mighty Wahsatch Mountains, that, rearing their snowy crest skyward, shut out all view of what lies beyond. From this height the level mud-flats appear as if one could mount his wheel and bowl across at a ten-mile pace; but I shall be agreeably surprised if I am able to aggregate ten miles of riding out of the thirty. Immediately after getting down into the bottom I make the acquaintance of the tiny black gnats that one of our whiskey- bereaved friends at Tacoma had warned me against. One's head is constantly enveloped in a black cloud of these little wretches. They are of infinitesimal proportions, and get into a person's ears, eyes, and nostrils, and if one so far forgets himself as to open his mouth, they swarm in as though they think it the "pearly gates ajar," and this their last chance of effecting an entrance. Mingled with them, and apparently on the best of terms, are swarms of mosquitoes, which appear perfect Jumbos in comparison with their disreputable associates.
As if partially to recompense me for the torments of the afternoon, Dame Fortune considerately provides me with two separate and distinct suppers this evening. I had intended, when I left Promontory Station, to reach Corinne for the night; consequently I bring a lunch with me, knowing it will take me till late to reach there. These days, I am troubled with an appetite that makes me blush to speak of it, and about five o'clock I sit down - on the bleached skeleton of a defunct mosquito! - and proceed to eat my lunch of bread and meat - and gnats; for I am quite certain of eating hundreds of these omnipresent creatures at every bite I take. Two hours afterward I am passing Quarry section-house, when the foreman beckons me over and generously invites me to remain over night. He brings out canned oysters and bottles of Milwaukee beer, and insists on my helping him discuss these acceptable viands; to which invitation it is needless to say I yield without extraordinary pressure, the fact of having eaten two hours before being no obstacle whatever. So much for 'cycling as an aid to digestion. Arriving at Corinne, on Bear River, at ten o'clock next morning, I am accosted by a bearded, patriarchal Mormon, who requests me to constitute myself a parade of one, and ride the bicycle around the town for the edification of the people's minds.
" In course they knows what a 'perlocefede' is, from seein' 'em in picturs; but they never seed a real machine, and it'd be a 'hefty' treat fer 'em,"is the eloquent appeal made by this person in behalf of the Corinnethians, over whose destinies and happiness he appears to preside with fatherly solicitude. As the streets of Corinne this morning consist entirely of black mud of uncertain depth, I am reluctantly compelled to say the elder nay, at the same time promising him that if he would have them in better condition next time I happened around, I would willingly second his brilliant idea of making the people happy by permitting them a glimpse of my "perlocefede" in action.
After crossing Bear River I find myself on a somewhat superior road leading through the Mormon settlements to Ogden. No greater contrast can well be imagined than that presented by this strip of country lying between the lake and the "Wahsatch Mountains, and the desert country to the westward. One can almost fancy himself suddenly transported by some good genii to a quiet farming community in an Eastern State. Instead of untamed bronchos and wild-eyed cattle, roaming at their own free will over unlimited territory, are seen staid work-horses ploughing in the field, and the sleek milch-cow peacefully cropping tame grass in enclosed meadows. Birds are singing merrily in the willow hedges and the shade-trees; green fields of alfalfa and ripening grain line the road and spread themselves over the surrounding country in alternate squares, like those of a vast checker-board. Farms, on the average, are small, and, consequently, houses are thick; and not a farm-house among them all but is embowered in an orchard of fruit and shade-trees that mingle their green leaves and white blossoms harmoniously. At noon I roll into a forest of fruit- trees, among which, I am informed, Willard City is situated; but one can see nothing of any city. Nothing but thickets of peach, plum, and apple trees, all in full bloom, surround the spot where I alight and begin to look around for some indications of the city. "Where is Willard City?" I inquire of a boy who comes out from one of the orchards carrying a can of kerosene in his hand, suggestive of having just come from a grocery, and so he has. "This is Willard City, right here," replies the boy; and then, in response to my inquiry for the hotel, he points to a small gate leading into an orchard, and tells me the hotel is in there.
The hotel -like every other house and store here - is embowered amid an orchard of blooming fruit-trees, and looks like anything but a public eating-house. No sign up, nothing to distinguish it from a private dwelling; and I am ushered into a nicely furnished parlor, on the neatly papered walls of which hang enlarged portraits of Brigham Young and other Mormon celebrities, while a large-sized Mormon bible, expensively bound in morocco, reposes on the centre-table. A charming Miss of -teen summers presides over a private table, on which is spread for my material benefit the finest meal I have eaten since leaving California. Such snow-white bread. Such delicious butter. And the exquisite flavor of "spiced peach- butter" lingers in my fancy even now; and as if this were not enough for "two bits" (a fifty per cent, come-down from usual rates in the mountains), a splendid bouquet of flowers is set on the table to round off the repast with their grateful perfume. As I enjoy the wholesome, substantial food, I fall to musing on the mighty chasm that intervenes between the elegant meal now before me and the "Melican plan-cae " of two weeks ago. "You have a remarkably pleasant country here, Miss," I venture to remark to the young lady who has presided over my table, and whom I judge to be the daughter of the house, as she comes to the door to see the bicycle.
"Yes; we have made it pleasant by planting so many orchards," she answers, demurely.