THE PIONEER WESTERN PARKS
A VISIT to the four California parks would make a very full summer. Indeed, there are those who go again and again to Yosemite or Sequoia and still feel that there are unknown places to explore and much to observe and learn. There must be, in the Coast Range, the Southern Cascades and the Sierra Nevada, within the State of California, at least 2,500 lineal miles of main mountain crests, of which 1,425 miles are in the Pacific Crest Trail. Less than 100 miles of these crests lie in national parks, passing through Lassen, Yosemite, and Sequoia National Parks.
Lassen Volcanic National Park, created by Congress in 1916, ten years after the land was withdrawn from settlement and declared a national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt, has been widely advertised because of the eruptions of 1914-15 and the sporadic outpourings of volcanic ash.
From the Northwest, Lassen may be reached from the highway running south from Crater Lake by way of Shasta and through Burney to the Manzanita Lake section. From the South, coming up through the rather hot Sacramento Valley, one may leave the main highway at Red Bluff for the road up the mountains to Mineral, a town outside the park boundaries, where the superintendent's headquarters are established. A good many visitors also come from the eastern California and Nevada towns by way of Susanville to Mineral, and then on to Lassen Volcanic Highway which connects with the Lassen Peak Loop Highway, a most spectacular drive during the summer months when the road is open for travel.
The park highway leads by many springs and lakes around White Mountain and Summit Lake, over the devastated regions close by Lassen Peak, past Reflection Lake to Manzanita Lake, a distance of some fifty miles from Mineral. Every summer the road must be repaired from the snow and earth slides of the long winter before it is really safe for general use but those who are privileged to make the trip are very well repaid. The park is an irregular rectangle ten by seventeen miles, containing 163 square miles. According to Collins and Lind in "Lassen Glimpses," published in 1929: "The area surrounding Lassen Peak and extending from it roughly for fifty miles east, south and west, and for some hundred miles north, was, back in geologic history during a period of strenuous volcanism, covered by lavas several thousands of feet in depth. These lavas issued principally from a main volcanic cone. By this action the terrain was wrought into the general shape of an immense dome, with the cone near the center and marking the highest point. Thus it may be seen that the Lassen Edifice, as this district is called, comprises a rather large section of country, owing its formation to the activities of a once tremendous volcano of which the present Lassen Peak is remaining evidence.
"Time, and Nature in her further processes of creation, caused decomposition of the lavas by which soil was formed. Forest growth commencedto hold in storage moisture from the rains. Gradually in outward appearance this barren lava field was softened by the beauty of lake and forest, pleasant brooks and lovely flowers. The work of the old volcano was done, yet it has continued from time to time in less significant bursts of present-day activity, as though, like some old gentleman impelled by vanity, to voice in later generations the importance of past accomplishment.
"At the summit of the great dome, fringing the volcano and in reality part of it, though of secondary nature, were other lesser cones and lava vents whose discharge amplified the huge lava flows from their parent. As the main volcano went into decadence so did these others; and as glaciation, weathering and erosion followed, they were in part ground away. The result of this was the appearance of a unique areaa mass of remnant volcanoes interspersed with meadows, valleys, lakes, and streams. In part a fertile land of Nature's agriculture, contrasted by bits of present-day volcanics; all combined to make more interesting the magnificent spectacle of the old volcano rising in the midst. Perhaps nowhere in the world is the work of Nature in relation to physical geography evidenced more clearly or more interestingly. Here is a museuma rather special treasure chest of Nature's varied handiwork."
Of Lassen Peak itself, Collins and Lind have declared: "Lassen Peak is important in the geology of North America as a landmark denoting the fusion of lava Cascades with granite Sierra." It was Lassen Peak, formerly known as St. Joseph's Mountain, which served Peter Lassen as a guiding landmark when he piloted emigrants from Humboldt, Nevada, into the Sacramento Valley in California.
Lassen National Park offers not only a research area of great scientific importance but also an arena where interpretation of the processes of creation may be graphically illustrated for laymen. The climb up the mountain is not difficult and is undertaken by most of the able-bodied visitors. There are many other interesting phenomena in the park; the Cinder Cone and Lava Bed, which lie near Prospect Peak, and the blue waters of Butte Lake, in the northeast corner of the park, where there is a ranger station and a campground, attract many sightseers.
Again quoting from Collins and Lind: "The Cinder Cone country is a small district so startling and beautiful in an unusual way as to seem freakish. Almost a complete circle of ridges from six to eight thousand feet in height above sea level enclose a basin. . . . Evidence has been found to show that an ice pack over one thousand feet thick filled this basin during glacial times. Later it was the site of a rather large mountain lake." Several lava flows resulted in filling in most of the lake, leaving Snag and Butte Lakes.
The devastated area which resulted from the lava overflow from Lassen Crater in 1915 left a trail of destruction which will remain for many years, but reproduction is gradually being accomplished, and along the edges may be seen "young timber extending timidly into the barren flow."
Entirely apart from the marvels and wonders of Lassen National Park which draw visitors from all parts of the world, there is a very strong lure to the residents of a large area in the several adjoining States, which brings in camping and fishing parties who also make a point of climbing Lassen Peak and other mountains; who go on the various excursions around the park, and who also attend the nightly campfire programs conducted by the National Park Service. Lassen National Park renders an important educational and recreational service to the public.
From Lassen one may travel by way of the San Francisco Bay region, which in itself comprises many charming residence neighborhoods clustered around the Bay and its tributaries. Not far from Mt. Tamalpais, which overlooks the Golden Gate, is the charming Muir Woodsa national monumentwhich draws thousands of visitors annually to walk under its ancient coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) and to sit in contemplation by the side of its crystal streams.
From the Bay region, or traveling directly south through Stockton, one may approach the El Portal entrance to Yosemite, either by train or by automobile. From El Portal one drives by the guarding rampart of El Capitan directly up the floor of the valley between the famous headlands on either side and within sight of the Bridalveil, Yosemite, and Ribbon Falls.
Many of those who visited the valley during the eighties and nineties, or even twenty-five or thirty years ago, resent the influx of people. Particularly on holidays during the summer are there great crowds to be found on the floor of the valley. At one time in the history of the park these crowds were more in evidence, though not larger, than they are today. Following carefully made plans the automobilists have been confined by inconspicuous barriers to the roads and to designated parking and camping places. The Yosemite is such a choice place on the earth's surface that it is natural for those who would like to enjoy it in solitude to resent the presence of so many of their fellow human beings in the valley. However, anyone who will look at the picture of Yosemite Valley (on page 22) will realize that great skill has been used to hide from view the hotels, inns, cabins, administration buildings, and living quarters of the park and hotel staffs, as well as twenty-three miles of highway. Indeed, it may be truthfully asserted that one may easily avoid the crowds in Yosemite Valley with a little care.
One of the pleasant experiences in Yosemite Valley is to drift around on the more secluded roads, including the road up to Mirror Lake at the head of the valley, in a car without a top, on a moonlight night. The span of starlit sky above the deep shadows of the cliffs, the sound of the rippling Merced River and the sight and sound of the falls, the reflection of sky and cliff in Mirror Lake, together with the cool, pure air of the Sierra, conspire to make such a night one to be remembered and treasured as long as one lives. While there are many beautiful places in the world, the Yosemite washed in moonlight seems to take on an ethereal quality which removes it from the Planet Earth.
One of the impressive ceremonies in Yosemite grew out of a chance revival of a rite, supposed to have been originated by James McCauley of the Mountain House. D. A. Curry, one of the pioneers in offering hospitality in the Yosemite, occasionally arranged, according to Dr. Carl Russell, to send some of the employees of Camp Curry to Glacier Point, over 3,000 feet above the floor of the valley, to build a fire and push it off. This came to be repeated until it was a nightly occurrence. Mr. Curry would call, "Hello," "All's well," and "Farewell," and the echo would be sent back from above. As the glowing embers of the fire are pushed over the cliff to float in the air until they turn to ash, there is always appropriate music. Visitors at the various campfires on the floor of the valley listen with rapt attention for the calls, the song, and the falling embers. No one who has witnessed it could ever forget Fire Fall!
Practically everyone who goes to Yosemite Valley drives or walks up to Glacier Point, where there are a Hotel and Mountain House, and from which one of the very best views in the park may be had. While Fire Fall is not as impressive at Glacier Point as from the floor of the valley, it is yet an experience to attend the campfire at the Point and to see the glowing embers pushed off the cliff while the calls come from below.
There are so many things to do and so many places to go in Yosemite that those who can, visit the park again and again. The valley, so beautiful and interesting in itself, is but a small part of the park. There are the drives to the three fine groves of Big Trees (Sequoia gigantea), the Tuolumne on the Big Oak Flat Road; the Merced Grove nearby, north of the valley, and the stately Wawona Grove south of the valley. There is the trip by way of the Tioga Road to Tuolumne Meadows and out over the Tioga Pass to Lake Tahoe, revealing some of the most spectacular Sierra country in Yosemite. Within the 1,176 square miles of the park there are 276 miles of roads and 688 miles of trails.
Hiking is very popular in California, due no doubt to the successful Sierra Club and other mountain groups. During the last fifteen years a series of High Sierra Camps has been developed which provide food and shelter for hikers in the form of dormitories for men and one for women, and a mess and cook tent. With two exceptions, all food and supplies must be packed in by mules; but those who take the seven-day hiking trip need carry only a light pack with lunch and change of clothing. This makes it possible for many to take the swing around the back country who could not possibly pack bedding and food for seven days. But everyone gets up the trail to see Vernal and Nevada Falls.
Besides the wide range of accommodations in the valley, which run all the way from the deluxe service of the Ahwahnee, through the cottages, the tent cabins, and the dining-rooms at Camp Curry and other locations, to the public campgrounds, there are places to stay at Wawona Hotel, Big Trees Lodge, Glacier Point, Hotel and Mountain House, and Tuolumne Meadows Lodge.
It may be remembered that many of the mountains which John Muir loved to climb lie within the present Yosemite National ParkHoffman and Lyell, not far from the valley, and a great galaxy of peaks and saw-tooth crests, wearing crystal gems of mountain lakes, which glorify the northern section of the park. On the southeastern boundary are Isber Pass, Triple Divide Peak, Fernandez and Chiquito Passes from which the Ritter-Minarets region, unfortunately outside the park, may be reached.
In addition to all the freedom of the park, to be claimed by those who ride or hike alone, there are many organized activities in Yosemite. Twice a day in summer there is an auto caravan led by a ranger naturalist who explains and interprets the interesting features in the park. There is a daily tour of the valley in open stages. A fine view of the valley is to be seen from the opening of the tunnel on the Wawona Road, just west of Bridalveil Fall. A ranger naturalist leads the seven-day hiking trips.
The Yosemite Museum was one of the first to be established, and furnishes interesting exhibits of the "geology, Indians, early history, trees, flowers, birds, and mammals" of Yosemite. The little group of native Yosemite Indians who demonstrate many of the old customs back of the Museum, draw and hold the attention of all who visit them. There are campfire entertainments at various places in the park, but perhaps the most unique performance (outside of Fire Fall) is the nightly feeding of the bears, which may be observed across a stream. A ranger tells about the habits of the bears while the vast multitude watches their antics from a vantage point of safety.
Yosemite has become one of the most popular scenes of winter sports in the United States. Under its mantle of snow the valley is quite entrancingno less so than it was when John Muir spent his first winter in the Sierra sixty years ago, for snow glorifies even the inevitable buildings and scars of occupation. The ice cone at the base of Upper Yosemite Fall which results from the frozen mist sometimes reaches a height of 300 feet and always adds to the winter beauty of the park. There are many skiing grounds in the park. According to the Yosemite bulletin, issued by the Park Service: "A new ski lodge, where ski equipment may be rented and light lunches and refreshments are served, is located at Badger Pass Meadow; elevation 7,300 feet, in the center of some of the finest skiing slopes in the West." Instructors are on hand to add to the skiing recruits. In the valley, which is protected from the winter winds, there are all kinds of skating events throughout the winter. There is a popular snowslide called "Ash Can Alley" down which merry boys and girls, yes, and men and women, slide in heavy tin pans which look exactly like the missing cover to the home ash-can.
Easter has come to be quite a day in Yosemite. A vast but breathlessly silent multitude assembles at Mirror Lake for the Sunrise Services. The first rays of the Sun as he touches with his magic golden wand the dusky ramparts of the valley and illumines the lake below, strike upon the eyes of the beholders with the dramatic force of a great annunciation. The high clear voices of the vested choir transform the valley into a great cathedral with flying buttresses and vaulted dome, transcending any mystic marvel of church architecture described by Henry Adams.
Yosemite is crowded on Easter, not only for the Sunrise Service, but also for the winter sports. Many of the visitors drive up to see the skiing and find it an exhilarating sightthe snowy mountain background, the bright costumes, the gay skiers.
Geologically, Yosemite Valley has a most dramatic history. To quote the national park bulletin: "The Yosemite Valley was cut to great depth in the first place by the Merced River, which flows through it and the Merced Canyon below. That river was repeatedly accelerated to torrential speed by the uplifts which in the course of many million years have given the Sierra Nevada its great height. Each time the river was accelerated it cut its channel deeper, and so at last it fashioned a narrow V-shaped canyon over 2,000 feet in depth. The lesser side streams, meanwhile, were unable to cut so fast, and as a consequence their valleys were left hanging high above the bottom of the canyon. The original Yosemite Canyon thus became adorned by many cascades of great height and beauty.
"Then came the Ice Age, and the Yosemite Canyon was invaded by a mighty glacier that descended slowly but irresistibly from the crest of the range. During the climax of the Ice Age this glacier filled the canyon literally to the brinks, and extended down to the site of El Portal. It reached within 700 feet of the crown of Half Dome, and overrode Glacier Point to a depth of 700 feet. Forcing its way with tremendous power, it gradually widened the narrow V-shaped canyon to a broad U-shaped trough. It cut back the sloping sides to sheer cliffs and transformed the cascades to leaping water-falls. It also added to the depth of the valley, excavating a lake basin in its rock floor. When at last the glacier melted away it left a lake 5-1/2 miles long. But that lake did not endure, for the Merced River brought down vast quantities of sand and gravel, and in the course of time filled the lake completely, and produced the level parklike floor which adds so much to the visitor's enjoyment of the Valley." In comparison with such mighty public works, Boulder Dam and Grand Coulee seem ineffective and ephemeral!
From a motor-car window, from the back of a horse, or afoot, the Yosemite offers deep interest and intense pleasure for those who love the Sierra. The great variety of wild flowers always excites admiration. The actual tramping of feet and the processes of occupation have indeed destroyed the brilliant flower gardens of John Muir's day, but with management many of these have been restored, and in the mountains and valleys of the park, where there is little traffic, the flowers of Yosemite are still among the loveliest in the Sierra. With the variations of elevation there are zones of plant types. Definitely, the national park bulletin has directed attention to the fact that "Five life zones are represented characterized by a brush belt (chaparral) with its manzanita and wild lilac (Ceanothus sp.) interspersed with live oaks and the Digger pine forest at the lowest altitudes and grading into yellow mountain pine, and then to a timber line forest of mountain hemlock and white-barked pine. Lichens, mosses, and a few alpine flowering plants characterize the alpine-arctic zone . . . .
"Flowering plants in great profusion add new beauty with the advancing season. Early spring marks the flowering of the tree dogwood, followed by such shrubs as the Philadelphus (wild syringa), western azalea, and pink spiraea. Whole mountain sides blaze with ocean spray (Holodiscus discolor). Meadows at lower elevations start white with death camas and mariposa lilies (Calochortus sp.); turn to yellow with evening primroses (Oenothera sp.), buttercups, and goldenrod; blue with lupines and larkspur; to red with Indian paintbrush (Castilleia sp.); and finally pink with fireweed, pussy paws (Calyptridium), and Lessingia. The snow plant (Sarcodes sanguinea) and pine drops (Pterospora andromeda) are common saprophytic plants of the pine forests, the former appearing like a bright red giant asparagus tip. . . . On the highest peaks are found two beautiful plants, the Sierra primrose and the sky pilot (Polemonium eximium). Here also cassiope, a white heather, replaces the pink one which grows at slightly lower elevations."
Only lovers of the high places on the face of the earth can feel the thrill that comes from crossing the lingering snow banks at the summits of passes along the trail and then finding bright beds of the lovely Sierra primrose and acres of the modest cassiope clustering close to the ground around the rocks and shale of the mountainside. The streams of Yosemite are well stocked with fish, and the Waltonians may whip the remote waters of the park or fish quietly in the rivers and tributaries of the Merced Valley.
One wonders if Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra country around it might not serve as a prototype for the mythical Garden of Eden. At any rate, he who has not seen Yosemite has not yet been to Carcassonne!
SEQUOIA AND GENERAL GRANT
The Sequoia and General Grant National Parks were, of course, created primarily to preserve the Big Trees without particular consideration of the general scenic values likely to be included. In Sequoia is the famous Giant Forest, so named by John Muir and described by him as no one since has equaled. Of the long hike he made with "Brownie" the mule, down the crest of the Sierra, we have heard much. In his book on "Our National Parks," he has recounted: "Day after day, from grove to grove, canyon to canyon, I made a long, wavering way, terribly rough in some places for Brownie, but cheery for me, for Big Trees were seldom out of sight. We crossed the rugged, picturesque basins of Redwood Creek, the North Fork of the Kaweah, and Marble Fork gloriously forested, and full of beautiful cascades and falls, sheer and slanting, infinitely varied with broad curly foam fleeces and strips of embroidery in which the sunbeams revel. Thence we climbed into the noble forest on the Marble and Middle Fork Divide. After a general exploration of the Kaweah basin, this park of the sequoia belt seemed to me the finest, and I then named it 'the Giant Forest.' It extends, a magnificent growth of giants grouped in pure temple groves, ranged in colonnades along the sides of meadows, or scattered among the other trees, from the granite headlands overlooking the hot foothills and plains of the San Joaquin back to within a few miles of the old glacier fountains at an elevation of five thousand to eighty-four hundred feet above the sea.
"When I entered the sublime wilderness the day was nearly done, the trees with rosy, glowing countenances seemed to be hushed and thoughtful, as if waiting in conscious religious dependence on the sun, and one naturally walked softly and awe stricken among them. I wandered on, meeting nobler trees where all are noble, subdued in the general calm, as if in some vast hall pervaded by the deepest sanctities and solemnities that sway human souls. At sundown the trees seemed to cease their worship and breathe free. I heard the birds going home. . . . Then I took a walk up the meadow to see the trees in the pale light. They seemed still more marvelously massive and tall than by day, heaving their colossal heads into the depths of the sky, among the stars, some of which appeared to be sparkling on their branches like flowers."
SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
In the Giant Forest is General Sherman Tree, probably the biggest living Sequoia gigantea in the world, though remnants and snags in the redwood forests indicate that there have been larger trees. The bole of General Sherman is fluted symmetrically and tapers so little that it might be considered a column of perfection in some giant edifice which would rival the Parthenon. The crown shows clearly the shaping described by John Muir as characteristic of the old Big Trees. In the book on the "Big Trees," by Judge Fry and Colonel White, the bark of General Sherman is described: "Generally of a rich cinnamon brown, it has a reddish tinge that is accentuated at sunset. In places the bark is deeply fluted or furrowed up and down the tree; in spots it seems fuzzy or furry. But you will also note running the length of the tree, up to the first large branches and even higher, long streaks of bark that are shiny or silvered in comparison with areas near by. On most old Big Trees you will see these silvery streaks of bark, and they are usually a sign that centuries, perhaps a score of centuries, ago a mighty fire raged up the tree, almost devouring it. Using sequoia measures of time, centuries instead of days or weeks or years, that is new bark. It covers great areas of the trees that have been burned."
But it is not General Sherman alone, or even the amount of timber which the Big Tree would yield, that makes us stand spellbound in contemplation of the age-old forces which have produced such a tree. There is an impressiveness and beauty in the redwood forests that could not be captured by any single tree. No other trees better picture the phrase "forest aisles" than the stately columns of the Big Trees rising straight to heaven. It is an experience to walk between these warm brown pillars, where only occasional glimpses of the sky may be discovered. The forest floor is especially beautiful. Again quoting John Muir: "Under the huge trees up come the small plant people, putting forth fresh leaves and blossoming in such profusion that the hills and valleys would still seem gloriously rich and glad were all the grand trees away. By the side of melting snowbanks rise the crimson sarcodes, round topped and massive as the sequoias themselves, and beds of blue violets and larger yellow ones with leaves curiously lobed; azalea and saxifrage, daisies and lilies on the mossy banks of the streams; and a little way back of them, beneath the trees and on sunny spots on the hills around the groves, wild rose and rubus, spiraea and ribes, mitella, tiarella, campanula, monardella, forget-me-not, and many of them as worthy of lore immortality as the famous Scotch daisy, wanting only a Burns to sing them home to all hearts. . . .
"Imbedded in these majestic woods there are numerous meadows, around the sides of which the Big Trees press close together in beautiful lines, showing their grandeur openly from the ground to their domed heads in the sky. . . . For every venerable lightning-stricken tree, there is one or more in the glory of prime, and for each of these, many young trees and crowds of saplings. The young trees express the grandeur of their race in a way indefinable by any words at my command. When they are five or six feet in diameter and a hundred and fifty feet high, they seem like mere baby saplings as many inches in diameter, their juvenile habit and gestures completely veiling their real size, even to those who, from long experience, are able to make fair approximation in their measurements of common trees."
The life history of these Big Tree forests runs from seedlings to giants around four thousand years old. These ancients are not lone survivors of a past age; they stand in living communities amid trees of their kind of all ages. It was to preserve in comparable groves that Sequoia National Park was created.
General Grant National Park, comprising about four square miles, preserves another extensive grove, and can be reached from Sequoia by the spectacular Generals Highway. General Grant Tree is the largest redwood in the Grant Grove, and while it is said that it would not furnish quite as much lumber as General Sherman, a tree with a forty-foot diameter at the base, which is 267 feet high (matching a twenty-seven-story skyscraper) certainly must command our admiration. General Grant, which has a beauty of form and posture all its own, has sometimes been called the Nation's Christmas tree. Certainly when snow lies in soft puffs on its branches, the surrounding forest of lesser trees furnishing a frame of white etched in on the dark green of the conifers and the darker browns, grays, and blacks of the boles, one could accept the symbol and be thankful that a beneficent Government had pledged its honor to protect these Giants.
Sequoia National Park, with the 352 square miles added in 1926, now is a park 604 miles square and contains the highest mountain peak in the continental United StatesMt. Whitneyand the southern climax of the High Sierra. Of the sixty peaks in the United States which are over 14,000 feet high, thirteen are in California and six in the Sequoia National Park. The park offers fine opportunities for pack-train trips both within and without the park. Many of the Kings Canyon pack trips start from Lodge Pole, the end of the road running north from Giant Forest, passing over J. O. Pass and on into the South Fork of the Kings. But the trip par excellence is the trip up Mt. Whitney, across the Kern Canyon. If the marvelously picturesque country is to be seen and enjoyed to the full, at least two weeks is neededa most interesting and enjoyable two weeks!
Walter A. Starr, Jr., in the "Guide to the John Muir Trail and the High Sierra Region," has commented on the park: "The Sequoia National Park region includes the headwaters of the Kern and Kaweah Rivers, separated by the Great Western Divide, which extends north and south, parallel to the Sierra Crest about midway across the park. Between the Sierra Crest and this great divide the Kern flows south. On the western slope of the divide the various forks of the Kaweah take their rise and flow westward, meeting just west of the park at Three Rivers to form the main stream. Scattered over the extensive basin of the Kaweah, in the western half of the park, are twenty-two groves of giant sequoias. . . . From Foresters Pass on the northern boundary of Sequoia National Park, the Muir Trail crosses the high plateau of the Kern to the summit of Mount Whitney. The last part of the route, from Wallace Creek is along the new High Sierra Trail from Whitney to Giant Forest. . . . Foresters Pass is the highest pass on the Muir Trail. The view north, extending to the Palisades and beyond, is one of the finest views from any pass in the Sierra, and is comparable to that from Junction Pass a mile to the east. By ascending Junction Peak. . . a short distance to the East, a panorama even more remarkable is presented, for this peak occupies a strategic position at the juncture of the Sierra Crest and the Kings-Kern Divide, offering an unobstructed sweep in all directions. The view southward along the Sierra Crest includes the Whitney group of 14,000-foot peaksthe end of the grand crescendo of the Sierra."
Hardy mountaineers who desire to test their skill and command the world from the clouds may find peaks aplenty to climb. Sequoia National Park, with the highest mountain and the biggest tree, cannot fail to capture and hold the attention of the American people. There are excellent accommodations at Giant Forest Lodge and public campgrounds at Giant Forest, Lodge Pole, and Dorst Creek. The camp-sites are laid out according to modern standards and, somewhat removed from the highway, provide idyllic conditions for camping. Sequoia National Park is a place where one may penetrate the wilderness and sleep out under the sky, for in the dry season there is little or no rain.
Sequoia is open the year round, and in winter there are fine opportunities for skiing, tobogganing, and snowshoeing. In summer there is also a daily bear feed. The campfire programs are well attended throughout the summer and are educational as well as inspiring. Colonel John R. White, who served the park as superintendent from 1920 to 1939, deserves the congratulations of the American people for the increasing protection which is being given to the Big Trees and for the atmosphere of reverence which he has created in the park.
In California there are eight national monuments (including the Channel Islands), covering 2,802,300 acres, of which the largest and most unique is Death Valley, established as a monument in 1933 and now containing 1,907,720 acres. Once a death trap for the pioneers who sought to cross the sun-scorched sands, it is now a favorite tourist resort, where one can see a great desert bowl nearly 300 feet below the level of the sea, and raise one's eyes to Telescope Peak which pierces the clouds at 11,325 feet in altitude. The Park Service has called attention to the "pastel colors of the rocks, intricately carved and bare of vegetation, the browns and hazy purple masses of the distant mountains, the wide, white expanses of salt and alkali, the sweeping curves of sand dunes."
THE MAGIC ROCKIES
The Rocky Mountain parks deserve a separate and special trip if they are to be seen and appreciated, although, of course, it is possible for those who live in the East to stop over in Glacier and Yellowstone on the way to the Northwest and in Rocky Mountain National Park on the way to California or the Southwest. However, the ideal tour would be to start at Glacier National Park on the Canadian border and then to visit Yellowstone, the Tetons, and Rocky Mountain National Park, staying long enough in each to learn something about it. One might even say that three summer vacations could well be given to Glacier, to Yellowstone and the Tetons, and to Rocky Mountain Park.
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
Except for Yellowstone and Mt. McKinley, Glacier National Park is the largest in the system. Its 1,534 square miles in northwestern Montana include some of the most spectacular mountain crests and peaks in America, spotted with half a hundred glaciers and two hundred glistening lakes. It adjoins the Waterton Lakes Park in Canada, and the two by Presidential proclamation, authorized by Congress and the Canadian Government, form the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
Glacier National Park is readily accessible by train to the eastern entrance to the park, a thousand miles west of St. Paul and a little over six hundred east of Seattle, and by airplane to nearby cities. It is by automobile that our imaginary trip will enter the park from the east, stopping first, if desired, at Glacier Park Hotel, adjacent to the railroad station, but preferably for fishermen or hikers going direct to Two Medicine Lake where, either at Two Medicine Chalet or the public camp, the setting sun may be seen across the mountain-bound lake in which the massive slopes of snow-patched Sinopah are reflected in rose, gray, and white. A boat trip across the lake may be taken to the foot of Mt. Sinopah. Almost everyone takes the easy forest path to Twin Falls. There is excellent fishing in the lake and in the streams. The evening campfires at Two Medicine, conducted by the ranger naturalists, have always been popular; they cap a day's hiking or fishing with just that relaxation which permits attention to a talk explaining or commenting on what has been seen during the day.
Trick Falls, near the highway bridge, on the Two Medicine Road, is so easily accessible that perhaps it is not given its full rating of beauty, as hikers are apt to value the beauty of scenic features by the effort exerted to reach them.
Practically everyone who goes to Glacier makes a visit to Many Glacier Hotel or to the nearby camp, by way of the dead-end access road into the east-central part of the park. The self-guided walks around Lake Josephine toward Grinnell Glacier are entertaining and easy, and even easier are the boat trips on Lake Josephine and Swiftcurrent Lakes.
In the old days, visitors drove to the head of St. Mary Lake and there took a boat to Going-to-the-Sun, one of the most beautiful and secluded spots in the park. Nothing can destroy the fine combination of snow-etched mountains and sparkling lake, but since the Going-to-the-Sun Highway skirts the lake and brings thousands of automobiles to rest on the leveled-off parking space back of the Chalet, much of the romance and wildness of this once-enchanted spot have been dissipated.
Going-to-the-Sun Highway runs from St. Mary, past Going-to-the-Sun, over Logan Pass, to skirt Lake McDonald to Belton, where the superintendent's office is located. It cannot be denied that the drive is very scenic and that it introduces the heart of the park to the automobile visitor. North and south of this highway are great areas reached only by trail.
When the weather is clear and the views are not obscured by rain and clouds, the trip up the east side of the park, partly outside the boundaries, to Waterton Lakes, is very worthwhile and brings visitors into the Canadian Rockies. Just outside the boundary on the west side of the park is a Forest Service road which gives access to many trailsone, in the extreme northwestern section of the park along the Kintla Lakes to the foot of Waterton Lake. A road to the foot of Bowman Lake connects with a lakeside trail finally joining the Kintla Lake trail.
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
One could spend weeks and months in traveling the trails of Glacier National Park. There are many shelter cabins scattered over the park for the comfort and convenience of the hiker, in addition to the many public camps, hotels, and chalets for both hiker and motorist.
The National Park Service has called attention to the geography of Glacier: "Glacier Park has within its boundary two parallel mountain ranges. The eastern, or front range, extends from the Canadian boundary almost without a break to New Mexico. The western, or Livingston Range, rises at the head of Lake McDonald, becomes the front range beyond the international line, and runs northward to Alaska. Between these two ranges in the center of the park is a broad swell which carries the Continental Divide from one to the other. This is Flattop Mountain, whose groves of trees are open and parklike, wholly unlike the dense forests of the lowlands. . . . A trail leads from Waterton over Flattop to the tent camp, called Fifty Mountain, and to Granite Park, where a comfortable high-mountain chalet is located. Here is exposed a great mass of lava, which once welled up from the interior of the earth and spread over the region which was then the bottom of a sea. The chalets command a fine view of the majestic grouping of mountains around Logan Pass, of the noble summits of the Livingston Range, and of systems far to the south and west of the park. Extending in the near foreground are gentle slopes covered with sparse clumps of stunted vegetation. In early July open spaces are gold-carpeted with glacier lilies and bizarrely streaked with lingering snow patches. Beyond are the deep, heavy forests of Upper McDonald Valley."
From these chalets, too, there is a foot trail to the rim of the Garden Wall, where may be seen the "heavenly blue alpine columbine" together with many others, including dryads, globe flowers, and alpine fireweed.
The mere catalogue of trails and trips in Glacier Park would require pages. Since the time when the late George Bird Grinnell made his first trip to Glacier in 1885, later to be publicized in an article in Century Magazine, the park has been a magnet for true lovers of mountains and mountain trips. There are extensive wilderness areas in the park, far from roads of any kind, where only hardy hikers and pack trains may penetrate. Of Glacier it may well be said: "So much to see, so much to learn, so much to enjoy!"
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
The immutables of Yellowstone are today much the same as they were in the seventies when the early exploring trips revealed the marvels of the region. Nearly forty years ago John Muir said of the Yellowstone: "It is a big, wholesome wilderness on the broad summit of the Rocky Mountains, favored with abundance of rain and snow,a place of fountains where the greatest of the American rivers take their rise. The central portion is a densely forested and comparatively level volcanic plateau with an average elevation of about eight thousand feet above the sea, surrounded by an imposing host of mountains belonging to the subordinate Gallatin, Wind River, Teton, Absaroka, and snowy ranges. Unnumbered lakes shine in it, united by a famous band of streams that rush up out of hot lava beds, or fall from the frosty peaks in channels rocky and bare, mossy and bosky to the main rivers, singing cheerily on through every difficulty, cunningly dividing and finding their way to the two far-off seas.
"Glacier meadows and beaver meadows are outspread with charming effect along the banks of the streams, parklike expanses in the woods, and innumerable small gardens in rocky recesses of the mountains, some of them containing more petals than leaves, while the whole wilderness is enlivened with happy animals.
"Beside the treasures common to most mountain regions that are wild and blessed with a kind climate, the park is full of exciting wonders. The wildest geysers in the world, in bright, triumphant bands, are dancing and singing in it amid thousands of boiling springs, beautiful and awful, their basins arrayed in gorgeous colors like gigantic flowers; and hot paint-pots, mud springs, mud volcanoes, mush and broth caldrons whose contents are of every color and consistency, plash and heave and roar in bewildering abundance. In the adjacent mountains, beneath the living trees the edges of petrified forests are exposed to view, like specimens on the shelves of a museum, standing on ledges tier above tier where they grew, solemnly silent in rigid crystalline beauty after swaying in the winds thousands of centuries ago, opening marvelous views back into the years and climates and life of the past. Here, too, are hills of sparkling crystals, hills of sulphur, hills of glass, hills of cinders and ashes, mountains of every style of architecture, icy or forested, mountains covered with honey-bloom sweet as Hymettus, mountains boiled soft like potatoes and colored like a sunset sky."
All these wonders are there today. Yellowstone Lake still reflects the woods and mountains and sky. The two magnificent falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone still splash the waters of the river over the highly colored stones which gave name to the lake and river. Moran's pictures are as truly photographic today as when they were painted.
Yellowstone has four principal entrances which connect with a double-loop road. The drives in themselves are charming and interesting. With "Haynes Guide" and "Trailside Notes for the Motorist and Hiker," covering Mammoth to Old Faithful and Fishing Bridge Museum to Mammoth, one can drive to all the principal points of interest and see understandingly the sights of Yellowstone. There are 328 miles of roads in the 3,437 square miles of the park, and 920 miles of trails. The road mileage has not been increased in the last thirty years, but old dirt roads have been improved with hard surface and sometimes relocated in the interests of safety. One could hardly imagine a more fascinating game than to make leisurely trips around Yellowstone to examine the 3,000 geysers and hot springs at different times of day. There are guided trips from all centers both for automobiles and on foot. There are campfire programs at many places in the park. There are a number of most illuminating museums. And Yellowstone has a bear show in which the grizzly gentry come out to feed, and which attracts a great deal of attention. There are miles of good fishing, hiking, and riding.
The season at Yellowstone is short, for in winter the park lies under a deep mantle of snow and the temperatures reach incredibly low levels. There are hotels, lodges, and public camps at Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful, the Lake, and the Canyon. In spite of the large number of visitors accommodated in the popular centers, amounting at the height of the season, with park and hotel staffs, to veritable towns, it is possible to see the marvels of the park without feeling overcome with the crowds. And there is still much wilderness in the park which it is hoped will never be invaded with roads and hotels and lodges. Every citizen of the United States may be thankful for Yellowstone.
THE GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
Those same Grand Tetons which were landmarks to the pioneers who crossed the continent in the early days, now rear their craggy crests in a spectacular jagged silhouette against the sky. For many years efforts were made to enlarge Yellowstone National Park to include the Tetons, historic Jackson Hole, and the Absarokas. But, as in most other projects to increase the national parks, the resistance on the part of those who desired to make use of the resources has been very great. It was not until 1929 that a twenty-seven-mile strip, from three to nine miles wide, was created a national park. This took in the eastern slopes of the entire range of Tetons from their ragged crests to the string of crystal lakes which gird them at the base of the steep slopes. It is well recognized by park-minded conservationists that every area worthy of being a national park should have a sufficiently wide protective rim to preserve the character of its scenery. It was soon apparent to close observers that the uncontrolled areas adjoining the park were becoming a menace to its use as a park. Along the county road, on private property in Jackson Hole, there grew up the most unsightly structures, and many of these were put to noisy uses totally incompatible with the enjoyment of a national park. Mr. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., observed this when he made a visit to the Grand Teton National Park, and he purchased some 40,000 acres of private property which, with available public domain and some national-forest land, it has been proposed to add to the Teton Park as a permanent protection, but so far selfish local interests have prevented action by Congress to accept the gift and make the transfers. The Jackson Hole country which would thus be added to the park has an interesting history of its own. In the thirties and forties many famous pioneers were identified with Jackson HoleCaptain Bonneville, Father De Smet, Rev. Samuel Parker, Jedediah Smith, Jim Bridger, Kit Carson, David Jackson, Captain William Sublette, Joe Meek, and others. There has been a sprinkling of dude ranches in and around Jackson Hole of recent years, and some of these are still operated on land which Mr. Rockefeller purchased.
One complication which no way has been found to remove is that Jackson Lake, once a part of the crystal string of gems, was terribly damaged some years ago by what is now believed to have been an unjustified reclamation project. The level of the lake was raised without even the precaution of taking out the dead timber, so that those who had loved the lake in early days came back to see the tragedy of its ruin. In recent years, CCC crews have cleared out the dead timber, but the dam and the ugly changes in the level of the lake still mar the scenery of the park. Since there are other storage sites lower down which could give to Idaho the same and more water, it is devoutly to be hoped that a way may be found to redeem the lake.
The Grand Tetons offer excellent mountain-climbing opportunities. The trails are used by both hikers and horsemen, for Jackson Hole is still a center for western saddle horses. There is an excellent museum, and the campfire lectures on the geology of the region are attended by those who come from a wide radius. When the protective additions are made, the Grand Teton National Park will become one of the finest of the national parks.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
The Colorado Rockies have long ranked high in the affections of the American people. There are some of the highest and finest peaks in the entire range in the Rocky Mountain Park. Longs Peak, the tallest, reaches 14,255 feet. The Trail Ridge Road, which crosses the Continental Divide, connects the town of Estes Park on the east side of the park with Grand Lake on the west side, and gives to the motorist some of the finest mountain views in America. According to the national park bulletin, a distinguishing feature of the park is its "profusion of precipice-walled canyons lying between lofty mountains." We are told that "Ice-cold streams wander from lake to lake, watering wild flowers of luxuriance and beauty. The entire park is a garden of wild flowers. . . . There are few wilder and lovelier spots . . . than Loch Vale, 3,000 feet sheer below Taylor Peak. Adjoining it lies Glacier Gorge on the precipitous western slope of Longs Peak and enclosing a group of small lakes. These, with lesser gorges cradling Bear Lake, picturesque Dream Lake, beautiful Fern Lake, and exquisite Odessa Lake, and still others yet unnamed, constitute the wild gardens of the Rocky Mountain National Park, lying in the angle north of Longs Peak; while in the angle south lies a little-known wilderness of lakes and gorges called Wild Basin."
And yet Rocky Mountain National Park, which has so much to make it one of the great parks of the system, has been a sort of stepchild from the beginning. The boundaries were drawn far too closely when it was created in 1915. Rocky Mountain was one of the parks to which the Reclamation Service was given free entry. There was a diversion ditch in the north end of the park which it was legal to extend, and extended it was a few years ago, so that all who ride over the Trail Ridge Road see now the long gash scar of this unsightly intrusion. Grand Lake, which once was the largest and most picturesque body of water in the region, was not included in the park, and although under authorization of Congress, purchase of some of the lands along its border has been progressing, private occupation has quite transformed its once wild beauty. There are many private holdings well within its boundaries, so that it is utterly impossible to give protection to great areas which are scenically a part of the park. And then, to cap the long history of misfortunes which have been visited on it, Congress authorized in 1938 the building of a water-diversion tunnel under the park which will affect the surroundings of Grand Lake, will involve a ditch in an authorized addition to the park, and introduce power lines and plants along the picturesque Thompson-River approach to the park. Technically, if the assurance of the Reclamation Service that no air shafts will have to be sunk inside of the park can be realized, there will be no entry into the existing park; but no one who is familiar with the surroundings can escape the conviction that areas which should have been included in the park will be injured. There is an extensive region south of the park where are some fine peaks, glaciers, and lakes which might well be added to the present boundaries.
There are five public campgrounds in the park and many hotels, lodges, and camps on private lands in or near it. It is to be hoped that the private holdings in the Rocky Mountain Park will soon be acquired and that old injuries will be allowed to heal wherever possible.
OVER THE SEAS
It seems logical to include the trips to the over-seas national parks under the section on western parks, as most of those who visit Alaska and Hawaii sail from western ports.
Regular steamers ply between Seattle and Alaska ports, giving passengers one of the most picturesque coastwise ocean trips imaginable. Once arrived in Alaska, there is a rail trip of 348 miles from Seward to McKinley Park Station. According to the national park bulletin, the trip to the park from Seward "takes the passenger past beautiful Lake Kenai, Moose Pass, Spencer Glacier, and Turnagain Arm, which boasts the second highest tide in the world. It also offers the unique experience of crossing the Continental Divide at its lowest point in North America, where it reaches 2,337 feet elevation. The first view of Mt. McKinley is had from Talkeetna, but the majestic peak is sighted from various other points along the railroad."
Next to Yellowstone, Mt. McKinley is the largest of our national parks and in it lies the highest of North American mountains, its great white expanse at the highest point reaching 20,300 feet. Its sculpturing is in simple broad planes of shining white ice and snow which cover the mighty mountain two-thirds of the way down from its summit, which is 17,000 feet above the plateau on the north and west. Mt. Foraker, near by, is 17,000 feet high; other peaks are somewhat lower but impressive because of the distance above the "take-off." Both McKinley and Foraker have been climbed in recent years.
The Alaska glaciers offer a fine opportunity for study, and both for the scientist and the layman the wildlife of the park is fascinating. Caribou, moose, Toklat grizzly bears, Alaska mountain sheep, wolves, wolverines, coyotes, Alaska red fox, hoary marmots, lynx, beaver, martens and minks, land otters, Mackenzie snowshoe rabbits, Alaska conies, ground squirrels, short-billed gulls, the coy Alaska willow ptarmigan, and surf-birds are all found.
Within the park there are eighty miles of graveled motor roads, and there are excellent saddle-horse trails which lead to the regions about the base of Mt. McKinley and to other points of interest. Unless one is an experienced mountain climber and a part of an organized expedition, the best way to see Mt. McKinley is from the air. Hotel and tent camps are available.
Those who covet wilderness may certainly find it in Mt. McKinley National Park. The trip to Alaska, the visit to the park, with side trips to Glacier Bay National Monument of over a million acres, reached from Juneau by boat, and Katmai National Monument of two and a half million acres, reached by sailing vessel from Kodiak, is guaranteed to satisfy hunger for the back country.
Honolulu, the capital of the Territory of Hawaii, is reached in a four-and-a-half- to six-day ocean voyage from San Francisco or Los Angeles. Honolulu is also a port of call of steamers from the Orient, Australia, and Vancouver, B. C. The Hawaii National Park is in two sections, one including the active craters of Mauna Loa and Kilauea, covering 219 square miles of the Island of Hawaii, where the Port of Hilo is reached by Inter-Island steamers or Inter-Island airplanes from Honolulu. The other section covers the dormant crater of Haleakala on the Island of Maui.
The contrast between glacier-bound Alaska, with its national park open during a short summer season, and the Hawaiian Islands, lying just south of the Tropic of Cancer, with their everlasting summer and lush tropical verdure, is very great.
Kilauea, perhaps older than the much higher Mauna Loa, creates the impression of being a crater in the side of the larger mountain. From Hilo there is an excellent highway to the Volcano House, on the northeast rim overlooking the entire crater of Kilauea, roughly four miles in diameter. The trail from the Volcano House across this expanse of purgatorial desolation, cut by many steam cracks from which hot vapor pours forth, is an introduction to the deep pit of Halemaumau, about half a mile in diameter. Sometimes this pit is sunken a thousand feet or more and sometimes the molten lava boils up to its very surface, a lake of living fire. At night, then, the steam and heat take on a fiery aspect. In some of the great eruptions, as in 1934, "without much preliminary warning, molten lava again returned to the fire pit in Kilauea. This eruption in its early stages was one of the most spectacular on record. Highly charged with gas released from the tremendous pressure, the frothy lava burst through a crack 700 feet long, halfway up the western wall of the crater, cascading in rivers of fire 425 feet to the floor below. The force of the lava cracked open the old floor left by the 1931-32 eruption across its northern and northwest end, and along the foot of the western wall dense clouds of sulphur fumes poured out, as the fiery fountains shot the liquid lava high into the air. As in the previous eruption, blocks of light pumice thrown out from the vents were whirled upward by the heat currents and gales of wind and deposited in shattered fragments over the land for more than a mile to leeward. In a few days the crater had been filled with new lava to a depth of 70 feet, and instead of the countless frothy fountains of the initial outbreak the activity centered in a lake of fire with from 5 to 10 fountains throwing jets of lava from 50 to 200 feet above the lake."
There are thirty-nine miles of highway within the Kilauea area. There are also trails which make possible a three- or four-day riding or hiking trip to the summit crater of Mauna Loa, the round trip covering about fifty miles. Mauna Loa rises to a height of 13,680 feet above the floor of the surrounding Pacific Ocean. The writer once traveled from Honolulu to see a vast flow from Mauna Loa, which came thirty miles, to the edge of the ocean. The flow was about half a mile wide, and by the time it reached the strand along the sea, it was moving very slowly. At night, as the steamer approached, a glow could be seen in the sky, and at intervals the living trees, overtaken by the great glowing embers, would burst into flames. It was necessary to walk across a stretch of "aa"hard, flinty cinders which resulted from thin, hot molten lava.
When those who had traveled from Honolulu to see the great spectacle came close to the face of the flow, it presented at times a gray, ashy and cinder effect, like a great banked furnace. At first the movement was not perceptible, but soon it was seen that every little while the clinkers would stir, and, as though some great giant were poking the fire, great embers as large as a house would break away from the mass, split open to show a red-hot surface, and then gradually gray over again like a dying fire. It was uncanny to see koa and other trees with bright green leaves pushed by the inexorable coals, shrivel and die in the course of a very few minutes, and as the fire grew hotter, finally burst in to flames and disappear altogether.
There have been eruptions from Mauna Loa many times. According to the bulletin of the National Park Service: "Following a rather violent earthquake which occurred at 1:11 a.m., November 21, 1935, and was felt generally over the entire island of Hawaii, and on Maui and Oaho as well, Mauna Loa erupted at 7:35 p.m. in its northern summit crater. . . . The flow of lava. . . was notable in that it produced both the aa and pahoehoe types of lava. The activity continued until January 2, 1936, when forward motion of the flow ceased at a point near the headwaters of the Wailuku River, about 18 miles from the city of Hilo. . . . On December 27 a squadron of United States Army planes dropped 6 tons of TNT near the point of emergence of the lava stream." The flow almost immediately slowed down.
One of the always surprising manifestations comes from the many steam cracks which emit hot vapor in the green-covered areas. The drives and trails traverse the most charming tropical forests, their floors covered with dense forests of tree ferns. The trees, flowers, and fruits comprise many not familiar to those who live in temperate zones.
The stop-over on Maui or the special trip to Haleakala brings to view a mountain a little over 10,000 feet high, once much higher, but with a great crater 7-1/2 miles long by 3 miles wide, with walls over 1,000 feet high. Within these colored walls "lies a superb spectacle. Covering the floor are giant red, black, and orange cinder cones which, though hundreds of feet high, are dwarfed by the immensity of their surroundings."
Thus, both the extinct and the active volcanoes are great sights. And the by-product of the Hawaiian scene, with the tropical life of plants, animals, and people, and the contact with the old Hawaiian traditions, is an added lure which draws many tourists from the mainland to this island territory.
Last Updated: 18-Nov-2009