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SIERRA CLUB BILLETIN, VOL. X.
w them come Tohum of he sakes fanule
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PENCIL SKETCHES OF TOTEMS FROM THE NEW STICKEEN VILLAGE
FROM JOHN MUIR'S ALASKA NOTEBOOKS
adored, he was able to give to us something of the majesty of the mountains, the glory of the glaciers, the records of the rocks, the teachings of the trees, the songs of the streams, the friendliness of the flowers. Material as these things are they roused in John Muir a very white heat of devotion-a devotion his writings breathe in every line. John Muir's lofty worship, which thanked God for every good day and each bit of loveliness, must have been most acceptable to the Maker of the Universe, who saw that His works were good. Here is a man we may delight to honor. How the memory of him steadies us when our own understanding of essentials becomes warped.
The first time I ever saw John Muir he spoke of his intention to build some day a home close under the Sierra Madre Mountains. He often later spoke of this longing. And though it was never our good fortune to have him dwelling among us, yet in Muir Lodge we have a sort of shrine for his spirit, where none may sojourn without receiving the benediction of the mountains, which John Muir, more than any other, taught us to know aright. On the wall his pictured face first greets the entering guest.
Such a true, simple heart could not fail to love to be loved. At the time of the dedication of Muir Lodge, he wrote, “I'm very glad to get the picture of the fine Muir Lodge. It's pleasant to be remembered in this way in the midst of this longdrawn-out battle for our national parks."
STUDIES IN THE SIERRA*
By John MUIR
No. 11. MOUNTAIN SCULPTURE, ORIGIN OF YOSEMITE VALLEYS
All the valleys and cañons of the western flank of the Sierra, between 36° and 39° north latitude, naturally classify themselves under two genera, each containing two species. One genus comprehends all the slate valleys, the other all that are built of granite. The latter is far the more important, both on account of the greater extent of its geographical range and the grandeur and simplicity of its phenomena. All the valleys of both genera are valleys of erosion. Their chief distinguishing characteristics may be seen in the following descriptions:
SLATE VALLEYS 1. Cross-sections, V-shaped, or somewhat rounded at bottom, walls irregular in structure, shattered and weak in appearance, because of the development of slaty cleavage planes and joints, which also prevent the formation of plane-faced precipices. Bottom showing the naked bed-rock, or covered by rocky debris, and sloping in the direction of the trend. Nearly all of the foothill valleys belong to this species. Some of the older specimens are smoothly covered with soil, but meadows and lakes are always wanting.
2. More or less widened, branching at the head. Bottom, with meadows, or groves, or lakelets, or all together. Sections and walls about as in No. 1. Fine examples of this species occur on the head-waters of the San Joaquin.
GRANITE VALLEYS 1. Cross-sections narrowly or widely V-shaped. Walls seldom interrupted by side cañons, magnificently simple in structure and general surface character, and presenting plane precipices in great abundance. Bottom sloping in the direction of the trend,
Reprinted from the Overland Monthly of June, 1874. This is the second of a series of seven studies in which Mr. Muir developed his theories of the geology of the Sierra.-Editor.
mostly bare, or covered with unstratified glacial and avalanche bowlders. Groves and meadows wanting.
2. Branching at head, with beveled and heavily abraded lips at foot. Bottom level, meadowed, laked, or groved. Walls usually very high, often interrupted by side cañons. Sections as in No. 1. To this species belongs the far-famed Yosemite* whose origin we will now discuss.
Yosemite Valley is on the main Merced, in the middle region of the range. It is about seven miles long from east to west, with an average width at bottom of a little more than half a mile, and at the top of a mile and a half. The elevation of the bottom above sea level is about 4,000 feet. The average height of the walls is about 3,000 feet, made up of a series of sublime rock forms, varying greatly in size and structure, partially separated from one another by small side cañons. These immense wall-rocks, ranged picturesquely together, do not stand in line. Some advance their sublime fronts far out into the open valley, others recede. A few are nearly vertical, but far the greater number are inclined at angles ranging from twenty to seventy degrees. The meadows and sandy flats outspread between support a luxuriant growth of sedges and ferns, interrupted with thickets of azalea, willow and brier-rose. The warmer sloping ground along the base of the walls is planted with noble pines and oaks, while countless alpine flowers fringe the deep and dark side cañons, through which glad streams descend in falls and cascades, on their way from the high fountains to join the river. The lifegiving Merced flows down the valley with a slow, stately current, curving hither and thither through garden and grove, bright and pure as the snow of its fountains. Such is Yosemite, the noblest of Sierra temples, everywhere expressing the working of Divine harmonious law, yet so little understood that it has been regarded as "an exceptional creation," or rather exceptional destruction accomplished by violent and mysterious forces. The argument advanced to support this view is substantially as follows: It is too wide for a water-eroded valley, too irregular for a fissure valley, and too angular and local for a primary
a valley originating in a fold of the mountain surface during
We will henceforth make use of the word Yosemite both as a specific and geographical term.
the process of upheaval; therefore, a portion of the mountain bottom must have suddenly fallen out, letting the superincumbent domes and peaks fall rumbling into the abyss, like coal into the bunker of a ship. This violent hypothesis, which furnishes a kind of Tophet for the reception of bad moun
a tains, commends itself to the favor of many, by seeming to account for the remarkable sheerness and angularity of the walls, and by its marvelousness and obscurity, calling for no investigation, but rather discouraging it. Because we can not observe the bed-rock to ascertain whether or not it is fractured, this engulfment hypothesis seems to rest safely under cover of darkness, yet a film of lake gravel and a meadow blanket are its only concealments, and, by comparison with exposed sections in other Yosemites where the sheer walls unite with the solid, unfissured bottom, even these are in effect removed. It becomes manifest, by a slight attention to facts, that the hypothetical subsidence must have been limited to the valley proper, because both at the head and foot we find the solid bed-rock.
The breaking down of only one small portion of the mountain floor, leaving all adjacent to it undisturbed, would necessarily give rise to a very strongly marked line of demarcation, but no such line appears; on the contrary, the unchanged walls are continued indefinitely, up and down the river cañon, and lose their distinguishing characteristics in a gradual manner easily accounted for by changes in the structure of the rocks and lack of concentration of the glacial energy expended upon them. That there is comparatively so small a quantity of debris at the foot of Yosemite walls is advanced as an argument in favor of subsidence, on the grounds that the valley is very old, and that a vast quantity of debris must, therefore, have fallen from the walls by atmospheric agencies, and that the hypothetical "abyss” was exactly required to furnish storage for it. But the Yosemite Valley is not very old. It is very young, and no vast quantity of debris has ever fallen from its walls. Therefore, no abyss was required for its accommodation.
If, in accordance with the hypothesis, Yosemite is the only valley furnished with an abyss for the reception of debris, then we might expect to find all abyssless valleys choked up with the great quantity assumed to have fallen; but, on the contrary, we