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Page 7 text:
Tlic Ait2;usta Scniinayy Aniuial. 3 The heat was intense, and often we could have no ven- tilation on account of the alkali beds. These occur at dif- ferent points through the desert, and while running through them every crack had to be closed, for this sand even if breathed through the nostrils, makes the throat quite sore. The rapid movement of the train sets it in motion, and it enters the cars through the slightest opening. Not only the body became tired of confinement to the warm car, but the eyes grew tired of the dazzling brightness of the sun reflected from the glistening sand and from the yellowish brown crags which scarcely deserve the name of mountains. These I know not how to describe; they shoot almost perpendicularly into the air, and in shape and ap- pearance reminded me of the Palisades along the Hudson, though much higher. There is no vegetation in the desert but the sage-grass, and this is hardly vegetation, merely a tinge of green and as parched and dr} ' looking as the desert itself. The soil, how- ever, on which it grows is said to be rich when irrigated, as Humboldt, truly an " oasis in the desert, " shows. Here the eye of the tourist is rested b} ' seeing again green trees and fresh cool grass ; and even the ear is lulled by the soft music of the fountain of sparkling water. Seven miles to the north-east can be seen, crowned with perpetual snow. Star Peak, the highest mountain in the Humboldt Range. About fifty yards beyond Humboldt, we came to Mirage station, so called from thephenomenon pecul- iar to the desert. The green trees and lakes of bright water, apparent!} ' at a distance of only a few miles, are said to be only optical illusions and to have allured from the beaten track of the trail many emigrants who perished in their attempt to reach the supposed lake. This emigrant trail is near the railway, and in man} places we saw bones of honses and cows, though no human skeletons. In this seemingly God-forsaken land, the passengers, though strangers at first, gradually grew into one great fam- ily. My most obliging friend was the porter, who opened the following conversation with me one night while making down my berth: " Where you from, Miss? " When I an- swered, " Virginia, " he said, " L,aw, now, didn ' t I tell the
Page 6 text:
2 The Aiig2isia Seminary Annual. manding another magnificent view, and we felt more at home from the mere fact that we were once more on the Atlantic side of the Rockys. A great draw-back to the enjoyment of this view is the snow-sheds, which although necessary for travel in winter, are annoj ' ing to the summer tourist, and almost entirely cut off the out-look. Tantalizing glimpses of range beyond range, and of snow-capped peaks, as well as of Webber and Don- ner lakes were to be had through the loop-holes cut in the sides of these sheds. In our descent a panorama of pine- clad hills and splintered mountain pinnacles was spread be- fore us. Frequently we could see as many as three different sections of our own track winding through the valleys and around the cliffs beneath us. At length, having whirled around the last hill, we came to Truckee, where the west-bound trains consider that they begin the ascent. B} degrees, we began to notice a change in the appearance of the soil, and the conductor called our atten- tion to the fact that we were nearing what is known as " The Great Nevada Desert. " But a more noticeable change than that of the soil, it being more sudden, was the change in the temperature. All began laying aside wraps, and in the course of two hours, not only wraps were dispensed with, but flan- nel traveling waists were exchahged for linen ones by the ladies, and heavy coats for tennis jackets by the gentlemen. At noon, we were rushing along through the blazing sands of the desert, and the thermometer registered 1 (»G° in the coolest nook in the car. Picture in your mind the contrast between this and the snow in the midst of which we had eaten breakfast. This run of three days and two nights through the des- ert, although the most interesting part of our whole trip, is the part I least desire to repeat. The desert is absolutely uninhabited, not even the smallest animal being able to ex- ist in this arid region. The monotony of the day was varied only by the occa- sional meeting of a water train; frequently we ran ten hours without making a stop, and then there was but one house at a station, this belonging to the railwa} ' , its keeper being one man " alone in his glorj ' . "
Page 8 text:
If. The Augusta Seminary Anmial. boss you was trom the South ? I knowed it, ' cause all dem Southern ladies is tall. " Among other friends was an interesting bridal party, consisting of a groom of seventj ' 5 ' ' ears, a bride of twent) - three, and a step-daughter of twenty-five dressed in mourn- ing for her mother, who had died only six months before. The marriage had taken place in San Francisco the day we left, and the three were on their way to Europe. We had all been looking forward with pleasure to the Black Caiion, and our young bride was especially exuberent upon reaching it. When vre were about half-way through the Caiion, and all were rapt in admiration, she looked up at her husband and said, innocently " But where is the cannon ? " Another acquaintance was an old gentleman who had gone through the desert in an emigrant wagon with the " forty-niners. " He was familiar with almost every point, and frequently seemed touched when recalling by gone days. We reached Salt Lake City tired and dusty, and were glad to spend two days wandering through its cool avenues. When we pursued our journey, we found ourselves again in a desert not unlike the one through which we had just come; but to this we were only doomed for one da}-. When we reached Grand Junction, where we were to change cars, we found a wreck ahead, and could only run within half a mile of the station. One of our passengers secured a torch, and, with baggage in hand, by the flicker- ing light of the miner ' s torch, we finished our trip through the desert on foot, with that uncertain feeling which it gives one to walk through sand. It was a relief to feel that we were at last rid of those monotonous days and the burning heat, but no sooner had I closed my eyes than I was again in the midst of an alkali bed, and trying to lower my window, or again trudging over that last half mile, and as I dreamed of the fountain at Humboldt, a jar of the train awoke me to look upon green trees and grass, and the clear cool water at the mouth of the Black Canon. Ethel Gibbs.
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