One day recently as I stood watching the water ouzels feed their young I saw a tiny animal no larger than a small mouse swimming in the swift water. It was a water shrew. When first noted he was working his way without difficulty against the current by keeping close to the rock wall at the edge. Presently however he passed me in mid-stream riding the waves like a surf board enthusiast.
I thought at first that he had miscalculated the force of the stream and had been swept into the current, although he seemed quite at home there. But presently he made for the shore to hunt for insects in the moss there and I saw that he was still in control of the ship. When he was satisfied he boldly launched out upon the swirling waves and rode the breakers down for another ten yards or so like a chip in a rough sea.
It was naturally thrilling to watch that little atom of animal life weighing an ounce or perhaps less, bravely bucking water that would quickly have dashed the life out of a man, and apparently enjoying it.
Due perhaps to the early season the squaw grass has bloomed this spring in the lower forests as we have never seen it bloom before. Squaw grass grows throughout all life zones of the park except the arctic and it reaches the lower edge of it. At various elevations it can be found in bloom from April until October. Often however only an occasional blossom can be found among the mass of plants that fill many open spots of the lower forests, but this season such places are white with the plume-like flowers of the squaw grass.
Yellow, and a few white, Avalanche Lilies were blooming in Paradise Valley and Indian Henrys almost a month ago. Patches of bare ground appeared on exposed southern slopes about two months earlier this spring than usual. Apparently early July is to mark the height of our flower season this year rather than our mid-summer winter-sports season as it has on many years.
When the first explorers and Government surveyors dame into the high mountains of the west they found that almost everywhere they went men had preceded them. These men had left no written record of what they found but rude cabins and trails marked their occupation.
In the National park these prospectors found little to interest them and soon moved on to more promising fields. One however of the many who came found wealth. Not the wealth of gold and silver that so many had searched for, but a wealth of wonderful mountain scenery and flower filled canyons. He said little of his great discovery for the men he met did not understand but he staked his claim, built small log cabin of split cedar and a pony trail. Later the cabin grew into a hotel and the trail into a road and now two large hotels stand on the old claim staked by James Longmire back in the early eighties and his rude road has been developed into an automobile highway over which hundreds of thousands of people annually travel.
This ancient log cabin still stands, little the worse for the years, for cedar is a very durable wood; and now it is to be converted into a small historical museum to carry on the memory of those old pioneers.
The crude furniture, built with the aid of an ax only, is to be replaced, the buckskin latch string again hung out and the old Longmire Homestead cabin opened to the park visitors.
This branch museum will be found near the Iron Mike spring on the Trail of the Shadows at Longmire Springs.
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