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feet up, got up beside Mr. J. I followed, holding on to the rope and, when within distance, was seized by Mr. J. and drawn up to them. In the gloom of the evening we retraced our steps and after a hard clamber reached a flat rock. overlooking the upper of the two falls, surrounded by great rocks. Here we concluded to camp out all night in preference to attempting to get down in another way on the mountain or in seeking our trail of the morning. Whilst there was yet a little light left, Mr. J. got some wood, of which there was plenty near at hand, and built a good fire on the flat rock, while Mr. S. went out to see if he could find some other way to get out of our difficulty. He soon returned, however, and we three sat down by our bright fire in doleful anticipation of a cold and cheerless night, hungry, without even coats to shield my companions from the cold air that followed the rushing water down the cañon. Mr. S. improvised a bed to obviate the necessity of lying on the hard rock by cutting the leafy branches off the near trees and placing them beneath us. We all lay down by the fire, quiet and yet unable to sleep, the fire toasting our side nearest it while the wind chilled the other side. Mr. S. found a semicave in which he built a fire and made a bed for Mr. J. in which he was shielded from the wind. The night passed slowly and drearily.
"Hutchings, Oct. 24: The moon shone beautifully down in the valley and about midnight stood above our deep cañon, gleaming on the worn rocks and intensifying the shadows. The morning, as it drew on, brought with it more intense cold, and all the wood we could throw on our fire failed to ward off the chills. Dawn at length stole in upon us and we prepared to seek our trail of yesterday. We plodded over the rocks and got up upon the mountainside, where with much labor we succeeded in following up the trail until it struck the main Mono trail. Then, as fast as possible, hurried down into the valley, put the saddles on the horses, poor animals who had suffered for want of water, and rode as fast as we could to Mr. Hutchings' house. Here all day we have been lying listlessly about the house, reading and whiling away our time, resting ourselves and preparing for our trip to the Nevada and Vernal Falls tomorrow."
THE WHITE MOUNTAINS OF CALIFORNIA
BY WILLIS LINN JEPSON
EST of botanical exploration and the perennial desire for the open of the back country had long combined to whet my desire for a summer's work in the White Mountains of eastern Mono and Inyo counties. They form one side of the great Owens Valley trough, and they rise as abruptly from the valley floor as does the Sierra Nevada wall to the west.
Our way of approach was by Silver Cañon, a characteristic cañon of a desert range. Opening into Owens Valley it runs eastward in a nearly straight line for six miles, directly into the White Mountains. As is usually the case in such cañons its narrow floor seems nearly level, but the gradient is about ten feet in ten to sixteen rods. At the point where the cañon parts into three forks our party of scientific men made camp at 6500 feet in order to spend some days in field work on the mammals, birds, and plants. Just at this point in the cañon there is a narrow band of a desert Mahogany (Cercocarpus intricatus) on the cañon wall, a species remarkable for its minute leaves. A gay border of moisture-loving plants edges the swift streamlet in the bottom-yellow Monkey-flower, an annual Indian Paint-brush (Castilleia stenantha), a Columbine, the same as the coast species, and Desert Crowfoot (Ranunculus Cymbalaria).
On our journey to the summit of the range we follow the left-hand or northerly fork, which is really the continuation of the main cañon, finally leaving the cañon bed and zigzagging up its easterly wall. Very soon we enter the zone of the Piñon or One-leaf Pine, which forms here a very fine forest-very open, of course, but giving a distinctive character to these slopes and narrow benches or flats on the mountain side. A full-grown tree is inclined to become very individual, and not a few of them develop the habit of a Coast Live Oak, some standing out in high relief on the steepest rocky walls, some on the little level benches. Towards the upper limit of the Piñon, the com
mon Desert Mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) forms bands on the ledges of the cañon walls up to altitudes of 7500 or 9000 feet. These shrubs have here a blue-green aspect, but of darker tint than the blue rock ledges which they follow.
At 8500 feet one leaves the Piñon and enters a zone of the Limber Pine (Pinus aristata). Like every so-called forest in a desert range of mountains it is very open. The trees are mostly short and stocky, that is, twenty to forty feet in height, sometimes fifty-five feet, with extreme trunk diameters of three or four feet. The bark is a light-colored drab, with streaks of black in the fissures. There is practically no underbrush, although occasionally one finds a fine clump of Desert Spiraea* (Chamaebatiaria millefolium). Leaving the forest the trail leads for seven miles through a sagebrush association where grow a number of interesting herbs, the Sego Lily, various Eriogonums and Arenarias, a Silene and a Lupine.
Just northeast of Big Prospector Meadow camp was made at 8300 feet, on the headwaters of North Fork Crooked Creek. Springs in this range are very scarce, but we are fortunate in having by the camp a fine spring pouring from the granite rocks.
After some days at this point I leave the remainder of the party and start for the highest point in the range, White Mountain Peak. I elect to trail along the sides of the range some distance, instead of climbing at once to the axis. My way leads over a low ridge north of the camp and down into and along Poison Creek, through a luxuriant growth of Tall Larkspur and Selinum, a luxuriance contrasting strangely with the scanty, or at least desert-like, vegetation of the mountain sides. After two miles I turn to the right up a fork of the stream and cross a low divide to a small tributary of Cottonwood Creek, the main water channel of this region.
One of the members of our party saw mountain lions a few days ago at Cottonwood Creek, and as I proceed down the tributary to the main stream I hope to glimpse one of the big cats. Huge blocks of granite lie at right angles, often molded into dome forms or semi-orderly structures. One looks up the little lateral cañons as one passes up the main stream and sees
* See Sierra Club Bulletin, vol. 9, p. 42, 1913.
miniature El Capitans rising from dainty green meadows broidered with flowering herbs.
The flowering herbs in this cañon are of especial interest and so engross my attention that lions are quite forgotten. My botanical press becomes heavy and still more heavy until I am interrupted by a Mexican vaquero, of whom I inquire about the trails to the peak and finally about lions. "But where is your gun?" says the Mexican. "Oh, I never carry arms" is my reply. "El Americano!" I heard him exclaim, as he turned his horse down the trail.
Hours of steady pulling over the rock-strewn bed of the upper Cottonwood brings one finally to the summit of the range, and I start northward along the plateau, passing the night at McAfee Meadow. The next morning the way is still northerly along the axis, White Mountain Peak in full view, standing up out of the range like an eagle's beak with the perpendicular wall to the west.
After reaching the face of the peak proper it is simply laborious climbing for near fifteen hundred feet up, over a wilderness of angular blocks. The United States Geological Survey bench-mark on the summit at the monument gives the altitude as 14,242 feet, which is higher than any of the peaks in the Yosemite group across the gorge of Owens Valley. That is to say, it exceeds Mt. Dana by 1192 feet, Mt. Lyell by 1152 feet, and Mt. Ritter by 1086 feet.
At the summit of the peak grows the Alpine Polemonium (P. eximium), extending down the slopes to 13,500 feet. An alpine Erigeron grows within one hundred feet of the summit, these two species being the only plants found above 13,900 feet. Between 13,200 and 13,900 feet were found a species each of Hulsea, Calyptridium, Draba, and Potentilla. In addition the yellow-flowered Alpine Buttercup (Ranunculus Eschscholtzii) grows on the rocky slopes at 13,700 feet. This is a remarkable species, being the only truly alpine species of buttercup in the high mountains of California. It extends far northward to Alaska and the Aleutians. It only remains to be said that the
Hulsea algida, which is a characteristic alpine of the highest Sierra peaks, from Mt. Whitney to Tower Peak and Mt. Rose. On Mt. Whitney it is found nearly if not quite to 14,000 feet, ranging higher on that mountain than any other species of flowering plant observed by the writer.
Fig. 1. Flats of the axial plateau, about 11,500 feet, between McAfee Meadows and White Mountain Peak, the latter the highest point at the left. The upper limits of the forest band of Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis) and
Hickory Pine (Pinus aristata) show on the slopes of
the eastern mountain wall to the right
A. C. Shelton photo
A. C. Shelton photo