THE VOLCANIC NATIONAL PARKS
MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, WEST CENTRAL WASHINGTON. AREA, 324 SQUARE MILES
MOUNT RAINIER, the loftiest volcano within the boundaries of the United States, one of our greatest mountains, and certainly our most imposing mountain, rises from western central Washington to an altitude of 14,408 feet above mean tide in Puget Sound. It is forty-two miles in direct line from the centre of Tacoma, and fifty-seven miles from Seattle, from both of which its glistening peak is often a prominent spectacle. With favoring atmospheric conditions it can be seen a hundred and fifty miles away.
North and south of Rainier, the Cascade Mountains bear other snow-capped volcanic peaks. Baker rises 10,703 feet; Adams, 12,307 feet; St. Helens, 9,697 feet; Hood, 11,225 feet, and Shasta, 14,162 feet. But Rainier surpasses them all in height, bulk, and majesty. Once it stood 16,000 feet, as is indicated by the slopes leading up to its broken and flattened top. The supposition is that nearly two thousand feet of its apex were carried away in one or more explosive eruptions long before history, but possibly not before man; there are Indian traditions of a cataclysm. There were slight eruptions in 1843, 1854, 1858, and 1870, and from the two craters at its summit issue many jets of steam which comfort the chilled climber.
This immense sleeping cone is blanketed in ice. Twenty-eight well-defined glaciers flow down its sides, several of which are nearly six miles long. Imagining ourselves looking down from an airplane at a great height, we can think of seeing it as an enormous frozen octopus sprawling upon the grass, for its curving arms of ice, reaching out in all directions, penetrate one of the finest forests even of our northwest. The contrast between these cold glaciers and the luxuriantly wild-flowered and forest-edged meadows which border them as snugly as so many rippling summer rivers affords one of the most delightful features of the Mount Rainier National Park. Paradise Inn, for example, stands in a meadow of wild flowers between Rainier's icy front on the one side and the snowy Tatoosh Range on the other, with the Nisqually Glacier fifteen minutes' walk away!
The casual tourist who has looked at the Snowy Range of the Rockies from the distant comfort of Estes Park, or the High Sierra from the dining-porch of the Glacier Point Hotel, receives an invigorating shock of astonishment at beholding Mount Rainier even at a distance. Its isolation gives it enormous scenic advantage. Mount Whitney of the Sierra, our loftiest summit, which overtops it ninety-three feet, is merely the climax in a tempestuous ocean of snowy neighbors which are only less lofty; Rainier towers nearly eight thousand feet above its surrounding mountains. It springs so powerfully into the air that one involuntarily looks for signs of life and action. But no smoke rises from its broken top. It is still and helpless, shackled in bonds of ice. Will it remain bound? Or will it, with due warning, destroy in a day the elaborate system of glaciers which countless centuries have built, and leave a new and different, and perhaps, after years of glacial recovery, even a more gloriously beautiful Mount Rainier than now?
The extraordinary individuality of the American national parks, their difference, each from every other, is nowhere more marked than here. Single-peaked glacial systems of the size of Rainier's, of course, are found wherever mountains of great size rise in close masses far above the line of perpetual snow. The Alaskan Range and the Himalayas may possess many. But if there is anywhere another mountain of approximate height and magnitude, carrying an approximate glacier system, which rises eight thousand feet higher than its neighbors out of a parkland of lakes, forests, and wild-flower gardens, which Nature seems to have made especially for pleasuring, and the heart of which is reached in four hours from a large city situated upon transatlantic railway-lines, I have not heard of it.
Seen a hundred miles away, or from the streets of Seattle and Tacoma, or from the motor-road approaching the park, or from the park itself, or from any of the many interglacier valleys, one never gets used to the spectacle of Rainier. The shock of surprise, the instant sense of impossibility, ever repeats itself. The mountain assumes a thousand aspects which change with the hours, with the position of the beholder, and with atmospheric conditions. Sometimes it is fairy like, sometimes threatening, always majestic. One is not surprised at the Indian's fear. Often Rainier withdraws his presence altogether behind the horizon mists; even a few miles away no hint betrays his existence. And very often, shrouded in snow-storm or cloud, he is lost to those at his foot.
Mysterious and compelling is this ghostly mountain to us who see it for the first time, unable to look long away while it remains in view. It is the same, old Washingtonians tell me, with those who have kept watching it every day of visibility for many years. And so it was to Captain George Vancouver when, first of white men, he looked upon it from the bridge of the Discovery on May 8, 1792.
"The weather was serene and pleasant," he wrote under that date, "and the country continued to exhibit, between us and the eastern snowy range, the same luxuriant appearance. At its eastern extremity, mount Baker bore by compass N. 22 E.; the round snowy mountain, now forming its southern extremity, and which, after my friend Rear Admiral Rainier, I distinguished by the name of MOUNT RAINIER, bore N. (S.) 42 E."
Thus Mount Rainier was discovered and named at the same time, presumably on the same day.
Eighteen days later, having followed "the inlet," meaning Puget Sound, to his point of nearest approach to the mountain, Vancouver wrote:
"We found the inlet to terminate here in an extensive circular compact bay whose waters washed the base of mount Rainier, though its elevated summit was yet at a very considerable distance from the shore, with which it was connected by several ridges of hills rising towards it with gradual ascent and much regularity. The forest trees and the several shades of verdure that covered the hills gradually decreased in point of beauty until they became invisible; when the perpetual clothing of snow commenced which seemed to form a horizontal line from north to south along this range of rugged mountains, from whose summit mount Rainier rose conspicuously, and seemed as much elevated above them as they were above the level of the sea; the whole producing a most grand, picturesque effect."
Vancouver made no attempt to reach the mountain. Dreamer of great dreams though he was, how like a madhouse nightmare would have seemed to him a true prophecy of mighty engines whose like no human mind had then conceived, running upon roads of steel and asphalt at speeds which no human mind had then imagined, whirling thousands upon thousands of pleasure-seekers from the shores of that very inlet to the glistening mountain's flowered sides!
Just one century after the discovery, the Geological Society of America started the movement to make Mount Rainier a national park. Within a year the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Geographic Society, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and the Sierra Club joined in the memorialization of Congress. Six years later, in 1899, the park was created.
The principal entrance to the park is up the Nisqually River at the south. Here entered the pioneer, James Longmire, many years ago, and the roads established by him and his fellows determined the direction of the first national-park development. Longmire Springs, for many years the nearest resort to the great mountain, lies just within the southern boundary. Beyond it the road follows the Nisqually and Paradise valleys, under glorious groves of pine, cedar, and hemlock, along ravines of striking beauty, past waterfalls and the snout of the Nisqually Glacier, finally to inimitable Paradise Park, its inn, its hotel camp, and its public camping-grounds. Other centres of wilderness life have been since established, and the marvellous north side of the park will be opened by the construction of a northwesterly highway up the valley of the Carbon River; already a fine trail entirely around the mountain connects these various points of development.
But the southern entrance and Paradise Park will remain for many years the principal centre of exploration and pleasuring. Here begins the popular trail to the summit. Here begin the trails to many of the finest view-points, the best-known falls, the most accessible of the many exquisite interglacier gardens. Here the Nisqually Glacier is reached in a few minutes' walk at a point particularly adapted for ice-climbing, and the comfortable viewing of ice-falls, crevasses, caves, and other glacier phenomena grandly exhibited in fullest beauty. It is a spot which can have in the nature of things few equals elsewhere in scenic variety and grandeur. On one side is the vast glistening mountain; on the other side the high serrated Tatoosh Range spattered with perpetual snow; in middle distance, details of long winding glaciers seamed with crevasses; in the foreground gorgeous rolling meadows of wild flowers dotted and bordered with equally luxuriant and richly varied forest groves; from close-by elevations, a gorgeous tumbled wilderness of hills, canyons, rivers, lakes, and falls backgrounded by the Cascades and accented by distant snowy peaks; the whole pervaded by the ever-present mountain, always the same yet grandly different, from different points of view, in the detail of its glaciered sides.
The variety of pleasuring is similarly very large. One can ride horseback round the mountain in a leisurely week, or spend a month or more exploring the greater wilderness of the park. One can tramp the trails on long trips, camping by the way, or vary a vacation with numerous short tramps. Or one can loaf away the days in dreamy content, with now and then a walk, and now and then a ride. Or one can explore glaciers and climb minor mountains; the Tatoosh Range alone will furnish the stiffest as well as the most delightful climbing, with wonderful rewards upon the jagged summits; while short climbs to points upon near-by snow-fields will afford coasting without sleds, an exciting sport, especially appreciated when one is young. In July, before the valley snows melt away, there is tobogganing and skiing within a short walk of the Inn.
The leisurely tour afoot around the mountain, with pack-train following the trail, is an experience never to be forgotten. One passes the snouts of a score of glaciers, each producing its river, and sees the mountain from every angle, besides having a continuous panorama of the surrounding country, including Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, Mount Baker, Tacoma, Seattle, Mount Olympus, the Pacific Ocean, and the Cascades from the Columbia to the international line. Shorter excursions to other beautiful park-lands offer a wide variety of pleasure. Indian Henry's Hunting Ground, Van Trump Park, Summerland, and others provide charm and beauty as well as fascinating changes in the aspect of the great mountain.
Of course the ascent of the mountain is the ultimate objective of the climber, but few, comparatively, will attempt it. It is a feat in endurance which not many are physically fit to undertake, while to the unfit there are no rewards. There is comparatively little rock-climbing, but what there is will try wind and muscle. Most of the way is tramping up long snow-covered and ice-covered slopes, with little rest from the start at midnight to the return, if all goes well, before the following sundown. Face and hands are painted to protect against sunburn, and colored glasses avert snow-blindness. Success is so largely a matter of physical condition that many ambitious tourists are advised to practise awhile on the Tatoosh Range before attempting the trip.
"Do you see Pinnacle Peak up there?" they ask you. "If you can make that you can make Rainier. Better try it first."
And many who try Pinnacle Peak do not make it.
As with every very lofty mountain the view from the summit depends upon the conditions of the moment. Often Rainier's summit is lost in mists and clouds, and there is no view. Very often on the clearest day clouds continually gather and dissipate; one is lucky in the particular time he is on top. Frequently there are partial views. Occasionally every condition favors, and then indeed the reward is great. S. F. Emmons, who made the second ascent, and after whom one of Rainier's greatest glaciers was named, stood on the summit upon one of those fortunate moments. The entire mountain in all its inspiring detail lay at his feet, a wonder spectacle of first magnitude.
"Looking to the more distant country," he wrote, "the whole stretch of Puget Sound, seeming like a pretty little lake embowered in green, could be seen in the northwest, beyond which the Olympic Mountains extend out into the Pacific Ocean. The Cascade Mountains, lying dwarfed at our feet, could be traced northward into British Columbia and southward into Oregon, while above them, at comparatively regular intervals, rose the ghostlike forms of our companion volcanoes. To the eastward the eye ranged over hundreds of miles, over chain on chain of mountain ridges which gradually disappeared in the dim blue distance."
Notwithstanding the rigors of the ascent parties leave Paradise Inn for the summit every suitable day. Hundreds make the ascent each summer. To the experienced mountain-climber it presents no special difficulties. To the inexperienced it is an extraordinary adventure. Certainly no one knows his Mount Rainier who has not measured its gigantic proportions in units of his own endurance.
The first successful ascent was made by General Hazard Stevens and P. B. Van Trump, both residents of Washington, on August 17, 1870. Starting from James Longmire's with Mr. Longmire himself as guide up the Nisqually Valley, they spent several days in finding the Indian Sluiskin, who should take them to the summit. With him, then, assuming Longmire's place, Stevens and Van Trump started on their great adventure. It proved more of an adventure than they anticipated, for not far below the picturesque falls which they named after Sluiskin, the Indian stopped and begged them to go no farther. From that compilation of scholarly worth, by Professor Edmond S. Meany, President of the Mountaineers, entitled "Mount Rainier, a Record of Exploration," I quote General Stevens's translation of Sluiskin's protest:
"Listen to me, my good friends," said Sluiskin, "I must talk with you.
"Your plan to climb Takhoma is all foolishness. No one can do it and live. A mighty chief dwells upon the summit in a lake of fire. He brooks no intruders.
"Many years ago my grandfather, the greatest and bravest chief of all the Yakima, climbed nearly to the summit. There he caught sight of the fiery lake and the infernal demon coming to destroy him, and fled down the mountain, glad to escape with his life. Where he failed, no other Indian ever dared make the attempt.
"At first the way is easy, the task seems light. The broad snow-fields over which I have often hunted the mountain-goat offer an inviting path. But above them you will have to climb over steep rocks overhanging deep gorges, where a misstep would hurl you far downdown to certain death. You must creep over steep snow-banks and cross deep crevasses where a mountain-goat would hardly keep his footing. You must climb along steep cliffs where rocks are continually falling to crush you or knock you off into the bottomless depths.
"And if you should escape these perils and reach the great snowy dome, then a bitterly cold and furious tempest will sweep you off into space like a withered leaf. But if by some miracle you should survive all these perils, the mighty demon of Takhoma will surely kill you and throw you into the fiery lake.
"Don't you go. You make my heart sick when you talk of climbing Takhoma. You will perish if you try to climb Takhoma. You will perish and your people will blame me.
"Don't go! Don't go! If you go I will wait here two days and then go to Olympia and tell your people that you perished on Takhoma. Give me a paper to them to let them know that I am not to blame for your death. My talk is ended."
Except for the demon and his lake of fire, Sluiskin's portent of hardship proved to be a literal, even a modest, prophecy. At five o'clock in the evening, after eleven hours of struggle with precipices and glaciers, exhausted, chilled, and without food, they faced a night of zero gales upon the summit. The discovery of comforting steam-jets in a neighboring crater, the reality perhaps of Sluiskin's lake of fire, made the night livable, though one of suffering. It was afternoon of the following day before they reached camp and found an astonished Sluiskin, then, in fact, on the point of leaving to report their unfortunate destruction.
Stevens and Van Trump were doubly pioneers, for their way up the mountain is, in general direction at least, the popular way to-day, greatly bettered since, however, by the short cuts and easier detours which have followed upon experience.
Our four volcanic national parks exemplify four states of volcanic history. Lassen Peak is semiactive; Mount Rainier is dormant; Yellowstone is dead, and Crater Lake marks the spot through which a volcano collapsed and disappeared. Rainier's usefulness as a volcanic example, however, is lost in its supreme usefulness as a glacial exhibit. The student of glaciers who begins here with the glacier in action, and then studies the effects of glaciers upon igneous rocks among the cirques of the Sierra, and upon sedimentary rocks in the Glacier National Park, will study the masters; which, by the way, is a tip for universities contemplating summer field-classes.
Upon the truncated top of Mount Rainier, nearly three miles in diameter, rise two small cinder cones which form, at the junction of their craters, the mountain's rounded snow-covered summit. It is known as Columbia Crest. As this only rises four hundred feet above the older containing crater, it is not always identified from below as the highest point. Two commanding rocky elevations of the old rim, Point Success on its southwest side, 14,150 feet, and Liberty Cap on its northwest side, 14,112 feet, appear to be, from the mountain's foot, its points of greatest altitude.
Rainier's top, though covered with snow and ice, except in spots bared by internal heat, is not the source of its glaciers, although its extensive ice-fields flow into and feed several of them. The glaciers themselves, even those continuous with the summit ice, really originate about four thousand feet below the top in cirques or pockets which are principally fed with the tremendous snows of winter, and the wind sweepings and avalanches from the summit. The Pacific winds are charged heavily with moisture which descends upon Rainier in snows of great depth. Even Paradise Park is snowed under from twelve to thirty feet. There is a photograph of a ranger cabin in February which shows only a slight snow-mound with a hole in its top which locates the hidden chimney. F. E. Matthes, the geologist, tells of a snow level of fifty feet depth in Indian Henry's Hunting Ground, one of Rainier's most beautiful parks, in which the wind had sunk a crater-like hollow from the bottom of which emerged a chimney. These snows replenish the glaciers, which have a combined surface of forty-five square miles, along their entire length, in addition to making enormous accumulations in the cirques.
Beginning then in its cirque, as a river often begins in its lake, the glacier flows downward, river-like, along a course of least resistance. Here it pours over a precipice in broken falls to flatten out in perfect texture in the even stretch below. Here it plunges down rapids, breaking into crevasses as the river in corresponding phase breaks into ripples. Here it rises smoothly over rocks upon its bottom. Here it strikes against a wall of rock and turns sharply. The parallel between the glacier and the river is striking and consistent, notwithstanding that the geologist for technical reasons will quarrel with you if you picturesquely call your glacier a river of ice. Any elevated viewpoint will disclose several or many of these mighty streams flowing in snake-like curves down the mountainside, the greater streams swollen here and there by tributaries as rivers are swollen by entering creeks. And all eventually reach a point, determined by temperature and therefore not constant, where the river of ice becomes the river of water.
Beginning white and pure, the glacier gradually clothes itself in rock and dirt. Gathering as it moves narrow edges of matter filched from the shores, later on it heaps these up upon its lower banks. They are lateral moraines. Two merging glaciers unite the material carried on their joined edges and form a medial moraine, a ribbon broadening and thickening as it descends; a glacier made up of several tributaries carries as many medial moraines. It also carries much unorganized matter fallen from the cliffs or scraped from the bottom. Approaching the snout, all these accumulations merge into one moraine; and so soiled has the ice now become that it is difficult to tell which is ice and which is rock. At its snout is an ice-cave far inside of which the resultant river originates.
But the glacier has one very important function which the river does not share. Far up at its beginnings it freezes to the back wall of its cirque, and, moving forward, pulls out, or plucks out, as the geologists have it, masses of rock which it carries away in its current. The resulting cavities in the back of the cirque fill with ice, which in its turn freezes fast and plucks out more rock. And presently the back wall of the cirque, undermined, falls on the ice and also is carried away. There is left a precipice, often sheerly perpendicular; and, as the process repeats itself, this precipice moves backward. At the beginning of this process, it must be understood, the glacier lies upon a tilted surface far more elevated than now when you see it in its old age, sunk deep in its self-dug trench; and, while it is plucking backward and breaking off an ever-increasing precipice above it, it is plucking downward, too. If the rock is even in structure, this downward cutting may be very nearly perpendicular, but if the rock lies in strata of varying hardness, shelves form where the harder strata are encountered because it takes longer to cut them through; in this way are formed the long series of steps which we often see in empty glacial cirques.
By this process of backward and downward plucking, the Carbon Glacier bit its way into the north side of the great volcano until it invaded the very foundations of the summit and created the Willis Wall which drops avalanches thirty-six hundred feet to the glacier below. Willis Wall is nearly perpendicular because the lava rock at this point was homogeneous. But in the alternating shale and limestone strata of Glacier National Park, on the other hand, the glaciers of old dug cirques of many shelves. The monster ice-streams which dug Glacier's mighty valleys have vanished, but often tiny remainders are still seen upon the cirques' topmost shelves.
So we see that the glacier acquires its cargo of rock not only by scraping its sides and plucking it from the bottom of its cirque and valley, but by quarrying backward till undermined material drops upon it; all of this in fulfilment of Nature's purpose of wearing down the highlands for the upbuilding of the hollows.
This is not the place for a detailed description of Mount Rainier's twenty-eight glaciers. A glance at the map will tell something of the story. Extending northeasterly from the summit will be seen the greatest unbroken glacial mass. Here are the Emmons and the Winthrop Glaciers, much the largest of all. This is the quarter farthest from the sun, upon which its rays strike at the flattest angle. The melting then is least here. But still a more potent reason for their larger mass is found in their position on the lee quarter of the peak, the prevailing winds whirling in the snow from both sides.
The greater diversification of the other sides of the mountain with extruding cliffs, cleavers, and enormous rock masses tends strongly to scenic variety and grandeur. Some of the rock cleavers which divide glaciers stand several thousand feet in height, veritable fences. Some of the cliffs would be mountains of no mean size elsewhere, and around their sides pour mighty glacial currents, cascading to the depths below where again they may meet and even merge.
The Nisqually Glacier naturally is the most celebrated, not because of scenic superiority, but because it is the neighbor and the playground of the visiting thousands. Its perfect and wonderful beauty are not in excess of many others; and it is much smaller than many. The Cowlitz Glacier near by exceeds it in size, and is one of the stateliest; it springs from a cirque below Gibraltar, a massive near-summit rock, whose well-deserved celebrity is due in some part to its nearness to the travelled summit trail. The point I am making is not in depreciation of any of the celebrated sights from the southern side, but in emphasis of the fact that a hundred other sights would be as celebrated, or more celebrated, were they as well known. The Mount Rainier National Park at this writing is replete with splendors which are yet to be discovered by the greater travelling public.
The great north side, for instance, with its mighty walls, its magnificently scenic glaciers, its lakes, canyons, and enormous areas of flowered and forested pleasure-grounds, is destined to wide development; it is a national park in itself. Already roads enter to camps at the foot of great glaciers. The west side, also, with its four spectacular glaciers which pass under the names of Mowich and Tahoma, attains sublimity; it remains also for future occupation.
Many of the minor phenomena, while common also to other areas of snow and ice, have fascination for the visitor. Snow-cups are always objects of interest and beauty. Instead of reducing a snow surface evenly, the warm sun sometimes melts it in patterned cups set close together like the squares of a checker-board. These deepen gradually till they suggest a gigantic honeycomb, whose cells are sometimes several feet deep. In one of these, one summer day in the Sierra, I saw a stumbling horse deposit his rider, a high official of one of our Western railroads; and there he sat helpless, hands and feet emerging from the top, until we recovered enough from laughter to help him out.
Pink snow always arouses lively interest. A microscopic plant, Protococcus nivalis, growing in occasional patches beneath the surface of old snow gradually emerges with a pink glow which sometimes covers acres. On the tongue its flavor suggests watermelon. No doubt many other microscopic plants thrive in the snow-fields and glaciers which remain invisible for lack of color. Insects also inhabit these glaciers. There are several Thysanura, which suggest the sand-fleas of our seashores, but are seldom noticed because of their small size. More noticeable are the Mesenchytraeus, a slender brown worm, which attains the length of an inch. They may be seen in great numbers on the lower glaciers in the summer, but on warm days retreat well under the surface.
The extraordinary forest luxuriance at the base of Mount Rainier is due to moisture and climate. The same heavy snowfalls which feed the glaciers store up water-supplies for forest and meadow. The winters at the base of the mountain are mild.
The lower valleys are covered with a dense growth of fir, hemlock, and cedar. Pushing skyward in competition for the sunlight, trees attain great heights. Protected from winter's severity by the thickness of the growth, and from fire by the dampness of the soil, great age is assured, which means thick and heavy trunks. The Douglas fir, easily the most important timber-tree of western America, here reaches its two hundred feet in massive forests, while occasional individuals grow two hundred and fifty to two hundred and seventy feet with a diameter of eight feet. The bark at the base of these monsters is sometimes ten inches thick. The western hemlock also reaches equal heights in competition for the light, with diameters of five feet or more. Red cedar, white pines of several varieties, several firs, and a variety of hemlocks complete the list of conifers. Deciduous trees are few and not important. Broad-leaved maples, cottonwoods, and alders are the principal species.
Higher up the mountain-slopes the forests thin and lessen in size, while increasing in picturesqueness. The Douglas fir and other monsters of the lower levels disappear, their places taken by other species. At an altitude of four thousand feet the Englemann spruce and other mountain-trees begin to appear, not in the massed ranks of the lower levels, but in groves bordering the flowered opens.
The extreme limit of tree growth on Mount Rainier is about seven thousand feet of altitude, above which one finds only occasional distorted, wind-tortured mountain-hemlocks. There is no well-defined timber-line, as on other lofty mountains. Avalanches and snow-slides keep the upper levels swept and bare.
The wild-flower catalogue is too long to enumerate here. John Muir expresses the belief that no other subalpine floral gardens excel Rainier's in profusion and gorgeousness. The region differs little from other Pacific regions of similar altitude in variety of species; in luxuriance it is unsurpassed.
According to Theodore Winthrop who visited the northwest in 1853 and published a book entitled "The Canoe and the Saddle," which had wide vogue at the time and is consulted to-day, Mount Rainier had its Indian Rip Van Winkle. The story was told him in great detail by Hamitchou, "a frowsy ancient of the Squallyamish." The hero was a wise and wily fisherman and hunter. Also, as his passion was gain, he brcame an excellent business man. He always had salmon and berries when food became scarce and prices high. Gradually he amassed large savings in hiaqua, the little perforated shell which was the most valued form of wampum, the Indian's money. The richer he got the stronger his passion grew for hiaqua, and, when a spirit told him in a dream of vast hoards at the summit of Rainier, he determined to climb the mountain. The spirit was Tamanous, which, Winthrop explains, is the vague Indian personification of the supernatural.
So he threaded the forests and climbed the mountain's glistening side. At the summit he looked over the rim into a large basin in the bottom of which was a black lake surrounded by purple rock. At the lake's eastern end stood three monuments. The first was as tall as a man and had a head carved like a salmon; the second was the image of a camas-bulb; the two represented the great necessities of Indian life. The third was a stone elk's head with the antlers in velvet. At the foot of this monument he dug a hole.
Suddenly a noise behind him caused him to turn. An otter clambered over the edge of the lake and struck the snow with its tail. Eleven others followed. Each was twice as big as any otter he had ever seen; their chief was four times as big. The eleven sat themselves in a circle around him; the leader climbed upon the stone elk-head.
At first the treasure-seeker was abashed, but he had come to find hiaqua and he went on digging. At every thirteenth stroke the leader of the otters tapped the stone elk with his tail, and the eleven followers tapped the snow with their tails. Once they all gathered closer and whacked the digger good and hard with their tails, but, though astonished and badly bruised, he went on working. Presently he broke his elkhorn pick, but the biggest otter seized another in his teeth and handed it to him.
Finally his pick struck a flat rock with a hollow sound, and the otters all drew near and gazed into the hole, breathing excitedly. He lifted the rock and under it found a cavity filled to the brim with pure-white hiaqua, every shell large, unbroken and beautiful. All were hung neatly on strings.
Never was treasure-quest so successful! The otters, recognizing him as the favorite of Tamanous, retired to a distance and gazed upon him respectfully.
"But the miser," writes the narrator, "never dreamed of gratitude, never thought to hang a string from the buried treasure about the salmon and kamas tamanous stones, and two strings around the elk's head; no, all must be his own, all he could carry now, and the rest for the future."
Greedily he loaded himself with the booty and laboriously climbed to the rim of the bowl prepared for the descent of the mountain. The otters, puffing in concert, plunged again into the lake, which at once disappeared under a black cloud.
Straightway a terrible storm arose through which the voice of Tamanous screamed tauntingly. Blackness closed around him. The din was horrible. Terrified, he threw back into the bowl behind him five strings of hiaqua to propitiate Tamanous, and there followed a momentary lull, during which he started homeward. But immediately the storm burst again with roarings like ten thousand bears.
Nothing could be done but to throw back more hiaqua. Following each sacrifice came another lull, followed in turn by more terrible outbreaks. And so, string by string, he parted with all his gains. Then he sank to the ground insensible.
When he awoke he lay under an arbutus-tree in a meadow of camas. He was shockingly stiff and every movement pained him. But he managed to gather and smoke some dry arbutus-leaves and eat a few camas-bulbs. He was astonished to find his hair very long and matted, and himself bent and feeble. "Tamanous," he muttered. Nevertheless, he was calm and happy. Strangely, he did not regret his lost strings of hiaqua. Fear was gone and his heart was filled with love.
Slowly and painfully he made his way home. Everything was strangely altered. Ancient trees grew where shrubs had grown four days before. Cedars under whose shade he used to sleep lay rotting on the ground. Where his lodge had stood now he saw a new and handsome lodge, and presently out of it came a very old decrepit squaw who, nevertheless, through her wrinkles, had a look that seemed strangely familiar to him. Her shoulders were hung thick with hiaqua strings. She bent over a pot of boiling salmon and crooned:
"My old man has gone, gone, gone.
"He has come down," quavered the returned traveller, at last recognizing his wife.
He asked no questions. Charging it all to the wrath of Tamanous, he accepted fate as he found it. After all, it was a happy fate enough in the end, for the old man became the Great Medicine-Man of his tribe, by whom he was greatly revered.
The name of this Rip Van Winkle of Mount Rainier is not mentioned in Mr. Winthrop's narrative.
Last Updated: 30-Oct-2009