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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




IF there is any life that is happier than the life we led on our
timber ranch for the next two or three weeks, it must be
a sort of life which I have not read of in books or experienced
in person. We did not see a human being but ourselves during
the time, or hear any sounds but those that were made by the
wind and the waves, the sighing of the pines, and now and
then the far-off thunder of an avalanche. The forest about us
was dense and cool, the sky above us was cloudless and brilliant
with sunshine, the broad lake before us was glassy and
clear, or rippled and breezy, or black and storm-tossed, according
to Nature's mood; and its circling border of mountain
domes, clothed with forests, scarred with land-slides, cloven by
canons and valleys, and helmeted with glittering snow, fitly
framed and finished the noble picture. The view was always
fascinating, bewitching, entrancing. The eye was never tired
of gazing, night or day, in calm or storm; it suffered but one
grief, and that was that it could not look always, but must close
sometimes in sleep.

We slept in the sand close to the water's edge, between two
protecting boulders, which took care of the stormy night-winds
for us. We never took any paregoric to make us sleep. At
the first break of dawn we were always up and running footraces
to tone down excess of physical vigor and exuberance of
spirits. That is, Johnny was—but I held his hat. While
smoking the pipe of peace after breakfast we watched the sentinel
peaks put on the glory of the sun, and followed the conquering


Page 174


[Description: 504EAF. Page 174. In-line image of two men sitting in a row boat at night. They are seated low in the boat and are looking around.]
light as it swept down among the shadows, and set the
captive crags and forests free. We watched the tinted pictures
grow and brighten upon the water till every little detail of
forest, precipice and pinnacle was wrought in and finished, and
the miracle of the enchanter complete. Then to “business.”

That is, drifting around in the boat. We were on the
north shore. There, the rocks on the bottom are sometimes
gray, sometimes white.
This gives the marvelous
transparency of the water
a fuller advantage than it
has elsewhere on the lake.
We usually pushed out a
hundred yards or so from
shore, and then lay down
on the thwarts, in the
sun, and let the boat
drift by the hour whither it would. We
seldom talked. It interrupted the Sabbath
stillness, and marred the dreams the luxurious
rest and indolence brought. The shore
all along was indented with deep, curved bays and coves,
bordered by narrow sand-beaches; and where the sand ended,
the steep mountain-sides rose right up aloft into space—rose
up like a vast wall a little out of the perpendicular, and
thickly wooded with tall pines.

So singularly clear was the water, that where it was only
twenty or thirty feet deep the bottom was so perfectly distinct
that the boat seemed floating in the air! Yes, where it was
even eighty feet deep. Every little pebble was distinct, every
speckled trout, every hand's-breadth of sand. Often, as we lay
on our faces, a granite boulder, as large as a village church,
would start out of the bottom apparently, and seem climbing
up rapidly to the surface, till presently it threatened to touch
our faces, and we could not resist the impulse to seize an oar
and avert the danger. But the boat would float on, and the
boulder descend again, and then we could see that when we


Page 175
had been exactly above it, it must still have been twenty or
thirty feet below the surface. Down through the transparency
of these great depths, the water was not merely transparent,
but dazzlingly, brilliantly so. All objects seen through it had
a bright, strong vividness, not only of outline, but of every
minute detail, which they would not have had when seen
simply through the same depth of atmosphere. So empty and
airy did all spaces seem below us, and so strong was the sense
of floating high aloft in mid-nothingness, that we called these
boat-excursions “balloon-voyages.”

We fished a good deal, but we did not average one fish a
week. We could see trout by the thousand winging about in
the emptiness under us, or sleeping in shoals on the bottom, but
they would not bite—they could see the line too plainly, perhaps.
We frequently selected the trout we wanted, and rested
the bait patiently and persistently on the end of his nose at a
depth of eighty feet, but he would only shake it off with an
annoyed manner, and shift his position.

We bathed occasionally, but the water was rather chilly, for
all it looked so sunny. Sometimes we rowed out to the “blue
water,” a mile or two from shore. It was as dead blue as indigo
there, because of the immense depth. By official measurement
the lake in its centre is one thousand five hundred and
twenty-five feet deep!

Sometimes, on lazy afternoons, we lolled on the sand in
camp, and smoked pipes and read some old well-worn novels.
At night, by the camp-fire, we played euchre and seven-up to
strengthen the mind—and played them with cards so greasy
and defaced that only a whole summer's acquaintance with
them could enable the student to tell the ace of clubs from the
jack of diamonds.

We never slept in our “house.” It never recurred to us,
for one thing; and besides, it was built to hold the ground,
and that was enough. We did not wish to strain it.

By and by our provisions began to run short, and we
went back to the old camp and laid in a new supply. We
were gone all day, and reached home again about night-fall,


Page 176
pretty tired and hungry. While Johnny was carrying the
main bulk of the provisions up to our “house” for future use,
I took the loaf of bread, some slices of bacon, and the coffee-pot,
ashore, set them down by a tree, lit a fire, and went back to the
boat to get the frying-pan. While I was at this, I heard a
shout from Johnny, and looking up I saw that my fire was
galloping all over the premises!

Johnny was on the other side of it. He had to run through
the flames to get to the lake shore, and then we stood helpless
and watched the devastation.

The ground was deeply carpeted with dry pine-needles, and
the fire touched them off as if they were gunpowder. It was
wonderful to see with what fierce speed the tall sheet of flame
traveled! My coffee-pot was gone, and everything with it.
In a minute and a half the fire seized upon a dense growth of
dry manzanita chapparal six or eight feet high, and then the
roaring and popping and crackling was something terrific. We
were driven to the boat by the intense heat, and there we remained,

Within half an hour all before us was a tossing, blinding
tempest of flame! It went surging up adjacent ridges—surmounted
them and disappeared in the cañons beyond—burst
into view upon higher and farther ridges, presently—shed a
grander illumination abroad, and dove again—flamed out again,
directly, higher and still higher up the mountain-side—threw
out skirmishing parties of fire here and there, and sent them
trailing their crimson spirals away among remote ramparts
and ribs and gorges, till as far as the eye could reach the lofty
mountain-fronts were webbed as it were with a tangled net-work
of red lava streams. Away across the water the crags
and domes were lit with a ruddy glare, and the firmament above
was a reflected hell!

Every feature of the spectacle was repeated in the glowing
mirror of the lake! Both pictures were sublime, both were
beautiful; but that in the lake had a bewildering richness about it
that enchanted the eye and held it with the stronger fascination.

We sat absorbed and motionless through four long hours.




[Description: 504EAF. Illustration page containing a man in a boat, and another man jumping from the shore into the boat. In the background there are high trees and smoke.]

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Page 177
We never thought of supper, and never felt fatigue. But at
eleven o'clock the conflagration had traveled beyond our range
of vision, and then darkness stole down upon the landscape

Hunger asserted itself now, but there was nothing to eat.
The provisions were all cooked, no doubt, but we did not go
to see. We were homeless wanderers again, without any property.
Our fence was gone, our house burned down; no insurance.
Our pine forest was well scorched, the dead trees all
burned up, and our broad acres of manzanita swept away.
Our blankets were on our usual sand-bed, however, and so we
lay down and went to sleep. The next morning we started
back to the old camp, but while out a long way from shore, so
great a storm came up that we dared not try to land. So I
baled out the seas we shipped, and Johnny pulled heavily
through the billows till we had reached a point three or four
miles beyond the camp. The storm was increasing, and it became
evident that it was better to take the hazard of beaching
the boat than go down in a hundred fathoms of water; so we
ran in, with tall white-caps following, and I sat down in the
stern-sheets and pointed her head-on to the shore. The instant
the bow struck, a wave came over the stern that washed crew
and cargo ashore, and saved a deal of trouble. We shivered
in the lee of a boulder all the rest of the day, and froze all
the night through. In the morning the tempest had gone
down, and we paddled down to the camp without any unnecessary
delay. We were so starved that we ate up the rest of the
Brigade's provisions, and then set out to Carson to tell them
about it and ask their forgiveness. It was accorded, upon
payment of damages.

We made many trips to the lake after that, and had many
a hair-breadth escape and blood-curdling adventure which will
never be recorded in any history.