National Geographic : 1915 Jul
THE WONDERLAND OF CALIFORNIA land, their waters are transmuted by the sun's secret chemistry into olives and figs, peaches and nectarines, citrus fruits, nuts, raisins, dried fruits; amber wines clear as the Sierra air; a wealth of pro duce that justifies a report similar to that which the Israelite spies brought from the Land of Canaan-"a land flowing with milk and honey." THE VALLEY OF HEAVEN From the town of Merced, midway of the valley, a branch railway runs up the river of the same name to California's crowning glory, the Yosemite National Park. Lacking the immensity of the Grand Canyon of Arizona, it is still one of the world's greatest gorges. From the edge of beautiful forests you overlook 7 miles of the canyon, that averages in width from a half mile to a mile and is hewn a mile deep in the solid granite of the range. Many books have been written about the Yosemite and the companion valley, Hetch - Hetchy. Some are wonderful books-great books like those of John Muir-which communicate as much as may be conveyed through words of the grandeur of its vistas, nobility of its gran ite spires and domes, beauty of the lacy falls that leap from the rim into the depths beneath. Yet when all is told the wonder and mystery of Yosemite still re main unfolded. The feeling it inspires lies in the domain of the "incommuni cable," that thrills, but lies beyond the province of words. It has to be seen to be felt. Muir writes of it: "No temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. Every rock in its walls seems to glow with life. Some lean back in majestic repose; others absolutely sheer, or nearly so, for thousands of feet, advance beyond their companions in thoughtful attitudes. Awful in stern, immovable maj esty, how softly these rocks are adorned, and how fine and reassuring the company they keep; their feet among beautiful groves and meadows, their brows in the sky, a thousand flowers leaning confid ingly against their feet, bathed in floods of water, floods of light, while the snow and waterfalls, the winds and avalanches and clouds shine and sing and wreathe them about as the years go by, and myr iads of small winged creatures-birds, bees, butterflies-give glad animation and fill the air with music. "Down through the middle flows the crystal Merced, River of Mercy, peace fully quiet, reflecting lilies and trees and the onlooking rocks: things frail and fleeting and types of endurance meeting and blending in countless forms, as if into this one mountain mansion Nature had gathered her choicest treasures to draw her lovers into close and confiding communion with her." Yet, wonderful as it is, Yosemite is still but one of a hundred-aye, a thou sand-canyons, great gorges from two to five thousand feet deep, great streets of the mountains. THE MONARCHS OF THE TREE KINGDOM This, too, is the country of the big tree, Sequoia gigantea, the king of all forests. Within 20 miles of Yosemite stand three great groves-Merced, Mari posa, and Tuolumne. Below Kings River, however, redwood forests run un broken for nearly 70 miles; and they are also to be found in scattered tracts along the coast and in the interior, running northward for about 300 miles. Here, as with Yosemite, words fail in the attempt to convey an adequate im pression of these noble trees. As old as the Pyramids, taller than man's greatest monuments, and more enduring, they rise in serene majesty above the lower for ests. In the Calaveras grove four trees exceed 300 feet in height. John Muir once measured a fallen monarch that ran 340 feet over all and was 35 feet 8 inches in diameter 4 feet above the ground. A count of the rings proved it to be 4,000 years old. It was indeed, in its prime, a noble tree, 27 feet in diameter at the beginning of the Chris tian era. A curious thing about the big tree in heres in the fact that it keeps an accurate chart of the pulsations of climate. In wet seasons it naturally adds a larger rim to its growth, and so, by their measure ment, a weather curve may be plotted back through the ages.