This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
(Concluded from page 377. December).
When by our comfortable firesides at home, in coming winter time we read, in the morning print the weather record of the preceding day and night, let us remember, some at least, have not the comforts that are ours to enjoy, but nevertheless, by whose diligence and labor we receive the advantages these reports furnish the world.
An hour's comfortable rest, the enjoyment of the lunch with which we are supplied. And still the storm rages without. Where are our companions, the ladies, where are they? I venture the hope that they have turned back, seeing the storm ahead, surely an hour should have brought them here had they followed on. Just at this moment I hear Meehan's voice, and rush to the door to learn if all are safe. Sallie ! where is she? and Tom! is he well? how fare you all, who are yet behind? I put the questions rapidly, without waiting for replies, and assist them as best I can to a place of warmth and shelter. Five of the fourteen have given out by the way, and turned their faces down the steep; one of the pedestrians only, reached the top. The ascent, by my watch, required five hours. An hour and a half of rest and I am ready to descend, as I care not to be overtaken by night in a narrow mountain pass. The storm by this time has ceased and the clouds passing rapidly away let the sunlight through. I walk to the outer edge of the rocky summit, and there behold such a glorious sight of mighty vastness, as seldom the opportunity is afforded.
To the right the chain of mountains sweep away beyond the Spanish peaks, to Sangre de Cristo, till Sierra Blanca, with its whitened top the highest of them all, 15,000 feet above the sea, cuts off the view; to the left stands boldly up Mt. Rosalie, Torrey's Peak and Gray's, capped with eternal snow, the heights of the Sierra Range with Long's Peak, and Mt. Lincoln in the far distance; behind a cluster of mountain summits seemingly so numberless that I wonder names enough are found for all. Before me stretch the vast plains with mottled covering of light and shade from intervening clouds, below, far below, for from this airy height I can look down as I never looked before; I hear the rumbling thunder and see the lightning's flash of the storm which has passed beyond us on its journey eastward. Not long have I to survey this scene; this grandeur I never may again perhaps behold but mind and memory, twin sisters that they are, will call it up when far away, as now in full realization comes before me the impressions made when I stood on the Righi Mt., by Lake Luzerne and saw an expanse leagues in extent, of water and of land.
Some of our party have gone, the rest are ready, and I bid good bye to the observer, thanking him for his attention, mount my waiting steed and seek the trail again. The snow and hail have accumulated to the depth of four to six inches, and collect on the horses feet, rendering the descent quite as dangerous as the ascent, and requiring the exercise of great caution and care that the loose stones in the way may not prove pit-falls for us, nor damaging to our animals. I had expected to make a collection of alpine flowers, but find the storm has effectually put a stop thereto, so I must content myself with a few that peep out from underneath some sheltered rock where the snow has not covered them. We go down much more rapidly than we went up, not having to give the horses rest so frequently. Just before we reach the "timber line," we meet the train of pack mules loaded with wood. These little animals "burros" they are called, are about the size of Shetland ponies, but have not their long manes and tails. I stop a few minutes to talk to the driver, and he tells me they are very sure-footed and better adapted to the purpose for which they are used, than mules or horses would be.
A kind of saddle is fastened around them, on which is packed the goods to be carried, and all securely lashed together; the weight he thought, would be about 150 pounds to each animal, and they could carry with ease more than that; the pine wood being dry and light makes quite a bulky load, and a very odd looking affair was the pack train as it moved along; the leader, in fact the whole team seemed to know the way and keep close together. Nothing of importance occurs as we work our way downward, save the breaking of the stirrup of the saddle on which one of the ladies rides; mishaps like this may happen at any time, and being well supplied with rope and twine we have but little delay on this occasion. Soon Laguna Alta comes in sight, and we reach the Lake House about four o'clock; a cup of coffee is furnished to those who need, at the modest figure of fifty cents; perhaps it is a relish to some; I judge it to have been so to one gentleman, who says he drank the contents of four cups before he felt he had enough.
Instead of being leader now I bring up the rear, stopping oft to gather specimens of such plants as are new to me, or that I had not seen during the ascent; the contrast of changing forms, is more apparent, and much more limited than I at first supposed; I have never had the opportunity of observing it in this country before, and it furnishes an experience of deep interest to me, in the study of the geographical distribution of plants which has occupied so much of my attention for many years. The beauty of the scenery, shows more to advantage than it did this morning, having the open canon before us, with the valley beyond, a picture which will never tire the eye, but always charm the sight. The toll house is reached at last, and we soon strike the broad highway again; our horses seem also to realize the nearness of the journey's end, and at the word, start off into a "jolly round trot." The iron spring is in sight, and we catch a glimpse of the houses of Manitou, with our own farthest down the way.
Just as the village bell would be striking six, if there was any bell here to strike, but there is not, we, three abreast, gallop up to the steps of the hotel, and are received with acclamations of joy by our friends, glad to welcome our safe return.