Jews in the Wild West
Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West
Romantic PassRio Virgin ValleySterile CountyRiver
BottomsAcacia GrovesAbrupt DescentFormation of the countryPah
UtahsIndian Bow and ArrowsOrange color BerriesEffect on the
SystemDigger IndianaBaptized into Mormon FaithSteep descentDivide
between Rio Virgin and Muddy RiversDifficult travellingMuddy River
describedAuthor lends his HorseApproach to the "Great Desert."
WE slowly ascended some sloping hills, which brought us after an hour's ride, on the broad table land. The view then back towards the valley, was sublime beyond description. I made a sketch of it on the spot. Continuing our travel for two hours we halted at a spring of clear water, impregnated with iron. We watered our animals, as it was the last water we should see, until we arrived at the Rio Virgin (Virgin River), twenty-five miles distant; an hour was allotted for the animals to crop some (of the anomaly of this country), bunch grass, which abounded near the spring. We then started for the Rio Virgin, the approach to which, was through the most beautiful and romantic pass I ever saw: it is a natural gorge, in a very high range of mountains of red sandstone, which assume, on either side, the most fantastic and fearful forms; many look as if they were in the very act of falling on the road below them.
The valley of this pass is narrow, but abounds in the most luxuriant grasses and delicate-tinted flowers; a flowering shrub, growing to the height of fifteen feet, exhaling delightful perfume, abounds along the road. Pines and cedars start out from among the rocks, on the sides of the pass, towering one above the other, like Ossa upon Pelion. I have travelled through the beautiful passes in the Rocky and Warsatch Mountains, but I have seen nothing that could excel this, either for the facilities of a railroad, which could be constructed through it without grading, or for the magnificence of the combinations which are requisite to produce effect in a grand landscape. This pass is about six miles through.
Suddenly, as you are about to emerge from this pass, through the opening of the mountains, I beheld the valley of the Rio Virgin at sunset, bursting upon me in all the glory and sublimity of a perfect picture. The view in the distance is unbroken for many miles; generally the scene is blocked in by mountains at short distances.
We descended gently into an extensive valley, sterile to a degree, which seemed to be peculiarly adapted to the growth of a species of palm, called in the West Indies the Spanish needle; this and a dwarf species of artemisia, was the only vegetation visible. The soil is sandy, and embroidered as it were, artificially, with parterres of small pebble stones, arranged with amazing regularity, for many miles, over which over wagons rattled, and bounced amusingly enough to those, who preferred a ride on horseback, to a seat in them. At eight o'clock in the evening, we camped on the banks of the Rio Virgin, the waters of which were also very high. I expect great difficulty in crossing with the wagons tomorrow. Thermometer at noon 90º.
25th.We left camp this morning, at half-past seven o'clock. Our road led over a sandy bluff, which was most tiresome to our animals. After a stretch of three miles, we abruptly descended some two hundred feet into the bed of the river, which we crossed with much difficulty, -as the water was over the bottoms of the wagons.
The road led through a continuous grove of acacias (spirolobeum odoratum), in full bloom, interspersed with a few cottonwoods. We found this road, also, to assume a serpentine course, which created the necessity to recross it seven times by noon camp.
I noticed on this river a beautiful tree, covered with white flowers hanging in tassels like the flowers of the locust; it resembles the willow, with its long narrow leaves. It is about as large as the weeping willow; it is, certainly, the most beautiful ornamental tree I ever saw.
There are two species of acacias, one closely resembling the opoponax, the other bearing long white blossoms and spiral seed vessels.
These trees abound with doves, which, with the mocking-bird, are the only kinds of the feathered tribe I noticed.
The formation on both sides of the river is a conglomerate, or pudding-stone, with layers of sandstone.
Thousands of party-colored flowers cover the dry, Sandy bottoms. It seems a marvel to me how the loose dry sand can yield nourishment sufficient to enable them to grow so luxuriantly.
We travelled twenty miles to-day, along the river, and camped at six o'clock on the road, with good bunch grass on the hills around.
A number of Pahutes came into camp this evening; they were friendly, and also hungry. We gave them supper. I procured from one of them a bow, made of a single horn of the big horn sheep, covered on the outside with deer-sinew, which they chew until it forms the consistency of thick glue; they then cover the back of the bow with it to increase its strength. I also procured from them a quiver full of steel and obsedian pointed arrows, in exchange for some articles of clothing.
26th.We left camp this morning at eight o'clock; our road lay through a complete forest of bushes about three feet high, covered with an orange-colored berry. The Indians, who followed our camp, said they were good to eat.
Nearly all of the party partook of them, as they tasted well. A short time after eating them I fell sick, and they affected me in the same manner as if I had taken an emetic. All the camp were affected in the same manner. No other unpleasant consequences followed our imprudence.
The scenery around is uninteresting. We camped at noon, for luncheon, after having crossed the river five times to-day. The sun is very hot, and riding exposed to its influence is not very pleasant.
After resting our animals and satisfying the inner man, we resumed our journey, and camped on the river, having crossed and recrossed it fifteen times.
The high bluffs immediately over our camp, are covered with Indians, all armed. I hardly think they will have the temerity to attack us. We travelled to-day twenty miles.
The most degraded and lowest in the scale of human beings are the Digger, or Piede Indians, of the Rio Virgin and Santa Clara Rivers. Our camps were frequently visited by them. I have often observed them with lizards, and snakes, frogs and other reptiles, strung on a stick over their shoulders, endeavoring to sell or trade for articles of clothing. At certain seasons they dig for roots to subsist on. They go about perfectly nude, with the exception, sometimes only, of a piece of deer-skin around their loins. They are expert thieves, and great vigilance must be used to prevent them from robbing you before your very eyes.
The Indians on the Muddy River are a little higher in the scale of civilization. At one of their villages at which I rested, I found corn and wheat under excellent cultivation, the women grinding it between stones. This improved state is owing to the Mormons, who travel continually on this route to and from San Bernandino. From them they obtained the seed, and several implements of agriculture. The chief and half-dozen others in this village had been baptized in the Mormon faith. The Mormons have acquired the Piede language, and have collected many of the words and sentences, which they have printed.
The following is an illustration of a few sentences arranged in the Piede dialect:
27th.At eight o'clock to-day, we were on the road, which turned towards very high bluffs. We found the ascent so steep that it was necessary to unharness all the horses from the wagons, and attach them all to one wagon, making fourteen animals dragging one vehicle up this difficult eminencethe men also assisted. This ascent was about 400 yards, and an angle of 35 degrees. We were busily occupied three hours, in taking all our wagons to the table land above. Our course then lay over a barren desert, due west.
The road was covered with a loose fossilliferous rock, very flinty, and painful for our animals to travel. We travelled over the same character of road for twenty miles, and then descended into the valley of the Muddy River, through a deep, irregular canon of at least three miles in length. We reached the river at five o'clock, after a toilsome and most disagreeable day's travel.
We found excellent grass for our animals on its banks; the temperature was 90º Fahrenheit, which is not much above the average of the coldest weather. This river, supposed to be the Rio de los Angeles, vulgarly called Muddy, takes its rise from hot springs in the mountains. The Indian name is "Moap." The Indian name of the Santa Clara is "Tonequint"Rio Virgin, is "Paroos." The water is clear and pleasant to the taste, and by no means deserves the name of Muddy.
As soon as my mule was unsaddled, I was in the water, and enjoyed a delightful bath, which was refreshing after such a long hot ride.
We intend to encamp here for a day, to recruit our animals, and make some little preparation for our travel over the dreaded Jornada, a distance of fifty-five miles, without a drop of water or a blade of grass for the animals. Jornada means a journey, viz.: a journey on which you cannot stop; for your animals, if they rested without food or water for such a distance, would go mad; therefore, it is necessary to continue, and push right through, on one stretch, for fifty-five miles. It is most serious to contemplate, but "no hay remedia."
My mule is in good order, and I trust to him to carry me safely over it. Yesterday I found it necessary to lend my horse to the woman who accompanies us; one of her horses gave out, and my horse was the only spare animal. It is just what I expected; but as she is along with us, we must assist her at all hazards. The camp is filled with Diggers; Fremont calls them Pah Utahs [Paiutes], i.e., Utahs living on the water.
These Indians, we find are great thieves; they appear friendly, and we put up with
their peccadilloes for policy's sake.
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