BYWAYS AROUND SAN FRANCISCO BAY
BY W. E. HUTCHINSON
ILLUSTRATED BY THE AUTHOR
DEDICATED TO MY WIFE THE DEAREST YET SEVEREST OF CRITICS
Sunset in the Golden Gate (Poem) Brook and Waterfall Mountain and Valley Canon and Hillside Wild-cat Canon Autumn Days (Poem) Around the Camp Fire Trout Fishing in the Berkeley Hills On the Beach Muir Woods San Francisco Bay (Poem) In Chinatown In a Glass-bottom Boat Fog on the Bay Meiggs' Wharf The Stake and Rider Fence (Poem) Moonlight Mount Tamalpais Bear Creek The Song of the Reel (Poem) The Old Road
On the Road to Strawberry Canon The Laughter of the Brook Brook and Waterfall The Turn of the Trail Mountain and Valley Sunshine and Shadow Canon and Hillside The Bottom of the Canon Wild-cat Canon The Trout's Paradise Fishing for Brook Trout They have Stood the Storms of Centuries Sea Gull Rock Comrades Among the Redwoods A Chinese Shoemaker In Chinatown The Breaking Waves The Glass-bottom Boat Fog on the Bay Italian Fishing Boats Drying the Nets The Witchery of Moonlight Mount Tamalpais An Uninterrupted View Where the Shadows are Dark On Bear Creek The Old Road It Climbs the Hill for a Broader View Finis
Sunset in the Golden Gate
When day is done there falls a solemn hush: The birds are silent in their humble nest. Then comes the Master Artist with his brush, And paints with brilliant touch the golden west.
The blended colors sweep across the sky, And add a halo at the close of day. Their roseate hues far-reaching banners fly, And gild the restless waters of the bay.
Mount Tamalpais stands in purple 'tire Against the background, Phoenixlike, ornate: Apollo drives his chariot of fire Between the portals of the Golden Gate.
No other hand than His who rules on high, Could wield the brush and spread such bright array Upon the outstretched canvas of the sky, Then draw the curtain of departing day.
Brook and Waterfall
California, the land of sunshine and roses, with its genial climate, its skies as blue as the far-famed skies of Venice, and its pure life-giving air, invites the lover of nature to take long tramps over hill and dale, mountain and valley, and to search out new trails in the rugged mountains.
It is a common sight to see parties of men and women meet at the ferry building, dressed in khaki suits, with knapsacks strapped on their backs, waiting to take the boat across the bay to some of the numerous places of interest. There are plenty to choose from, but most of them go to the same places over and over, instead of searching out unfrequented nooks that give one a feeling of proprietorship when discovered. It is an old saying, and a trite one, that "Familiarity breeds contempt." It is certainly true, however, that we often pass over the familiar and commonplace to go into raptures over some lofty mountain peak, ignoring the gems that lie hidden away at its very base.
There is a quiet beauty in the broad sweep of the valley, a stately majesty in the towering mountains, a restful grandeur in the rounded domes of the tree-clad hills, and an element of strength in the broad sweep of the ocean. One never tires of watching the constant change of light and shade, for they never appear twice alike. But we are in search of unfrequented nooks, the byways that others pass unnoticed, so we leave the prominent to seek out the obscure.
To enjoy the out-of-doors at its best one needs a congenial companion; one who does not tire on the trail nor find fault with the little annoying things that are bound to occur on a long journey, but who, in the silent contemplation of God's handiwork, best expresses his appreciation of its wonderful beauty in silence; for there are times when silent enjoyment of a landscape produces a subtle interchange of thought that speaks louder than words.
Such a one is Hal, more like a brother than a son, and in winding over tortuous trails and climbing the rugged sides of mountains we have become good comrades; bound together by the invisible tie of "Nature Lovers" and the "Call of the Wild," as well as the greater bond of kinship.
One could not begin to tell of the pleasure derived from these rambles over valley and mountain, not to speak of the health-giving exercise in the open air. They are far better than doctors' prescriptions, for they drive the cobwebs from the brain, bring refreshing slumber, a new light to the eye, elasticity to the step, and keep one young in spirit, if not in years.
It was a bright June morning when Hal and I took the ferryboat for Sausalito, then by train to Mill Valley. It was just cool enough to make walking a pleasure, and after the clamor of the city the somber shadows of the forest, with its solitude, seemed like a benediction. On every side the giant redwoods tower hundreds of feet in air, straight and imposing, while the ground, on which the pine needles and crumbling bark have formed a brown mold, is as soft and springy to the tread as a velvet carpet.
The resinous, aromatic odor of the pines, combined with the fresh woodsy fragrance, is like a tonic. Just ahead of us we see a growth of manzanitas, with their smooth purple-brown bark and pinkish white flowers in crowded clusters, standing out vividly against the background of oaks and firs, and we sink knee-deep amid the ferns and blue and yellow lupine. It seems almost sacrilegious to trample these exquisite violet-hooded flowers beneath our feet.
Close to the trail a little mountain brook sings merrily over its pebbly bed, dodging in and out among the rocks, or chuckling in glee as it dashes in mimic fury over some unseen obstacle, as if it were playing hide and seek with the shadows along the bank. And we stop to rest and listen with pleasure to the music of its woodland melody. A song sparrow joins in the chorus with his quaint sweet lullaby, like the tinkling of Venetian glass, his notes as clear and delicate as a silver bell. He evidently believes that singing lightens his labors, for he is industriously gathering material for the new home he is building close at hand aided by his demure mate, who, in reality, does most of the work.
The trail grows steeper and harder to climb as we ascend. We hear the sound of falling water ahead of us, and around a bend in the path, and through an opening in the trees, we come upon a beautiful waterfall pouring over the rocks like a bridal veil.
We drop our cameras and scramble down the rocks, drinking cup in hand, and slake our thirst at this crystal fountain. Was ever a more delightful draught for thirsty mortals than from this little pool hidden away here in this mountain fastness? It is a place in which druids and wood-nymphs might revel, surrounded on all sides by stately trees and moss-grown rocks, fringed with ferns of all kinds, from the delicate maidenhair to the wide-spreading shield variety, bordered with blue and gold lupine (California's colors), and close to the falls, a bush thickly covered with white flowering dogwood blossoms, standing out like a rare painting against the green-and-brown background—a spot to thrill the soul of an artist. Yet how many had ever found this sylvan retreat, hidden away, as it is, from the main highway?
Mountain and Valley
It is hard for us to leave the falls with all their surrounding beauty, and with reluctance we take one last look at this delightful glen planted in the heart of the wilderness, and strike out on the upward trail.
At a turn in the path, where it seems as if we were about to walk off into space, we get a glimpse through the trees of Mount Tamalpais. Towering above us with its seam-scarred sides, rent and torn by the storms of centuries, it rears its jagged dome amid the clouds. We can just make out a train of diminutive cars winding a tortuous course in and out around the curves, the toy engine fighting every inch of the steep incline, and panting like an athlete with Herculean efforts to reach the summit. Across the intervening space a hawk wheels and turns in ever-widening circles. We watch him through the glass, rising higher and higher with each successive sweep, until he fades into a mere speck in the distant blue.
Up we climb, until another view discloses the valley below us like a panorama. We creep out to the very edge, and for miles in either direction it stretches away, as if some giant hand had cleaved for himself a pathway between the mountains. We stand spellbound, entranced by the wonderful beauty of the scene, and drink long draughts of the fresh mountain air.
The dazzling splendor of the noonday sun brings out vividly the variegated colors of the foliage, and banks of white fleecy clouds floating overhead trail their shadows over the valley and up the mountainside like ghostly outriders. The pointed tops of the fir trees, miles below us, look like stunted shrubbery; the buildings in Mill Valley seem like dolls' houses nestling among the trees; while far in the distance the blue waters of the bay glisten in the sunshine, Alcatraz Island rises out of its watery bed, and San Francisco stands silhouetted against the distant hills.
We are lost in wonder at the grand spectacle spread out before us; it is a very fairyland of enchantment, as if brought into being by the genii of Aladdin. For nearly an hour we watch the lights and shadows flicker over the valley, the high lights in sharp contrast to the deep dark purples of the canon.
On the far side of the valley the sloping hills are covered with that most exquisite flower, the California poppy, its countless millions of golden blossoms fairly covering the earth. It is a sun worshiper, for not until the warm sun kisses its golden head does it wake from its slumbers and throw open its tightly rolled petals. No wonder the Spanish mariners sailing along the coast and seeing these golden flowers covering the hills like a yellow carpet called this "The Land of Fire." This beautiful flower is one of California's natural wonders—"Copa-de-oro"—cup of gold. It is as famed in the East as in the West, and thousands come to California to see it in its prodigal beauty. Steps should quickly be taken to conserve this wild splendor, and restrictions should be put upon the vandals, who, not content with picking what they can use to beautify the home, tear them up by the roots just to see how large an armful they can gather, scattering their golden petals to the four winds of heaven when they begin to droop.
An old dead pine, whitened by many storms, its gnarled and twisted branches pathetic in their shorn splendor, is brought into prominence by the background of vivid green into which it seems to shrink, as if to hide its useless naked skeleton.
But the lengthening shadows in the valley warn us to begin our descent, and as we have no desire to sleep out on the trail without blankets or other camp comforts, we begin our return trip by another route. Light wisps of fog begin to gather around the top of Mount Tamalpais, and we hasten our steps, for to be caught in a fog at this altitude may mean a forced camp, with all its attending discomforts.
We pause for a moment on the margin of a little lake nestling amid the hills, its blue waters, unruffled by the wind in its sheltered nook, reflecting back as in a mirror the trees that surround it on all sides. But we may not linger to drink in the beauty of this quiet spot, where the red deer once slaked their thirst at its quiet margin, standing kneedeep in the rushes and lilypads.
Ahead of us a blue jay, that tattler of the woods, flashes his blue coat in and out among the trees; always saucy, impertinent, and suspicious, bubbling over with something important to tell, and afraid he will not be the first to tell it. When he discovers us watching, he sets up his clamorous cry of "Thief! Thief!" and hurries away to spread the alarm. A mighty borrower of trouble, this gayly dressed harlequin of the woods, and yet the forest would not seem complete without his gay blue vestments.
Suddenly we find ourselves in a cul-de-sac; the trail coming to an abrupt end. We retrace our steps, and after much searching, find a narrow trail almost hidden by vines and underbrush. Venturing in, we follow its tortuous and uneven course along the edge of the canon, and, as the evening shadows gather, and the stars come out one by one, tired and dust-covered, we reach the valley, and enjoy the moonlight ride across the bay to San Francisco.
Canon and Hillside
Did you ever see the Berkeley hills in the early morning, just before the sun comes stealing over their rounded domes, or in the evening, just before it sinks beneath the waters of the bay, and casts its waning light over their rugged sides?
There never was a more pleasing sight than their uneven profile sharply drawn against the grayish purple. Watch them as they gradually assume shape out of the decreasing shadows. The blotches of green and brown take form and grow into canons and gullies, rocks and towers, domes and minarets. What a place to build a mosque, and say one's prayers to the rising sun!
Near the Greek Theater, which pushes its vast amphitheater into the heart of the hills, winds a canon, not large and imposing, but very beautiful. It is called by some, after the policy of the University of California, through whose domain it runs, "Co-ed Canon"; by others, from the abundance of charming blossoms and luscious fruit found upon its rugged sides, "Strawberry Canon." But "What's in a name?" By any other it would be as pleasing.
Trees, gnarled and twisted, reach out their arms across the little brook that sings merrily at the bottom. Far into the hills it pushes its winding way, and one must needs scramble over many a fallen tree and mossy rock in following its beautiful path.
One cannot see very far ahead, but at each succeeding turn in the trail new wonders open before us. Here it is so narrow we are compelled to walk in single file, while just beyond it broadens out into a grassy slope, and through an open vista on the right we get a glimpse of Old Grizzly looming up in all its grandeur. To the left, far above us on the hillside, we can see a large cement "C" some thirty feet in length, placed there by the students of the university to commemorate hotly contested games of football between the two colleges. With what jealous care is it watched over on the eve of a battle to keep the contesting team from painting it with their college colors!
In this canon we find that pest of nature-lovers who are susceptible to it, the poison oak. For all its sinister effects, it is a charming shrub so far as appearance goes, with its bright, glossy serrated leaves; but do not invite a too familiar acquaintance, for it is a shrub to be admired at a distance.
At a path that seems quite accessible we climb out of the canon, and strike out across the hills. We stop for a moment's rest at a fence, and while we are filling our lungs with the crisp morning air we see where a spider has industriously spun his web during the night, from a stalk of ragweed to the fence corner. The dew has settled upon it and each silken thread stands out perfectly, shining in the morning sunshine like some old jewelry made of filagree silver. You little realize, you tiny spinner of silken fabrics, how easily your gauzy structure may be broken, and all your work come to naught; for on the fence a catbird, scolding incessantly, has one eye open for a stray titbit in the shape of a little weaver of webs, and you may help to make him an early breakfast.
The meadow larks are sending out their cheery "Spring o' the year" from fence rail and covert, a song most sweet and inspiring. A flock of blackbirds goes sailing past, and high overhead a killdee's plaintive cry echoes over the valley. From here we get a beautiful view of the bay and the Golden Gate, and in the far distance the dome of Mount Tamalpais rises above the clouds.
The ferryboats from Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, and Sausalito are plying their ceaseless traffic from mole to mole. White-sailed ships from foreign countries, outward bound with the tide, conveyed by little bustling tugs, look like monster white-winged gulls; and somber-hued gunboats, their portholes bristling with deadly engines of war, strain at their cables. It is an inspiring sight, and, turning away with reluctance, we circle the hill to Cragmont Heights, stopping to rest on the rocky summit that overlooks the valley.
To our right in North Brae rises a massive pile of granite, known as "Indian Rock." It marks the resting place of a number of Indian warriors who once roamed the surrounding hills, and is a fitting monument to this once noble race.
This is the time of year when the birds set up housekeeping; and such debonair wooers the male birds are! Dressed in their gay attire, they display it to the best advantage before the fair sex. Is there anything so interesting or so amusing as bird courtship? The rollicking song of the male, an exhibition of his vocal powers worthy of a virtuoso, is accompanied by the most comical gymnastics—bowing, scraping, and side-stepping like a dancing-master; all of which, I am sure, is highly appreciated by the demure little lady. I have seen birds courting in the stately figures of the minuet, crossing over and back, bowing and curtsying, in a dignified manner. Listen to the meadow lark as he pours out his heart in a love song to his mate. As near as I can understand him he is saying, "Spring is here, my dear, my dear," and in a lower tone, "Let's build a nest." When such an ardent wooer lays siege to my lady, using such exquisite music to further his suit, she must have a heart of stone that would not quickly capitulate to his amour.
The bobolink, that little minstrel of the marshes, teeters up and down on a swaying cattail, and flirts most scandalously, as he calls to his lady love: "What a pink, what a pink, little minx, little minx! You're a dear, dear, dear."
But we cannot stay to spy upon such love scenes, and we strike out on the trail for home, after listening with pleasure, as well as profit, to these feathered musicians.
It was on February 22, Washington's Birthday, that Hal and I started in the early morning from Berkeley, for a trip to Wild-cat Canon. The birds are singing their Te Deum to the morning sun. The California partridges run along the path ahead of us, their waving crests bobbing up and down as they scurry out of sight under the bushes, seldom taking wing, but depending on their sturdy little legs to take them out of harm's way. A cotton-tail, disturbed in his hiding, darts away, bounding from side to side like a rubber ball, as if expecting a shot to overtake him before he can get safely to cover He need not fear, as we have no more deadly weapon than a camera, though we should certainly train that upon him if he but gave us a chance. High overhead we hear the clarion honk, honk of wild geese, cleaving the air in drag-shaped column, while the dew on the grass dances and sparkles in the sunshine like glittering diamonds.
After a hard climb we reach the top of the hill, and look down at the town just awakening into life, and out across the waters of the bay partly hidden by the blanket of fog rolling in from the ocean.
Did you ever stand on the top of a high hill in the early morning, when the eastern sky is beginning to put on its morning robe of variegated colors, with all the blended shades of an artist's palette, and watch the town, nestling in the valley at your feet, wake up after its night of slumber? Here a chimney sends its spiral of blue smoke straight in air; then another, and another, like the smoke of Indian scouts signaling to their tribes. The lights in the windows go out, one by one; the sharp blast of a whistle cuts the air, the clang of a bell peals out, the rumble of a wagon is heard, and the street cars begin their clatter and clang. All this comes floating up to you on the still morning air, until an ever-increasing crescendo of sounds is borne in upon you, telling that the town has awakened from its nap, stretched itself like a drowsy giant, and is ready once more to grapple with its various problems.
We pass a grove of tall eucalyptus trees on our left, their rugged trunks like an army of tattered, unkempt giants. From the brink of the old stone quarry, we gaze down into its prisonlike depths, the perpendicular walls looking as if they had been carved out of solid rock to hold some primeval malefactor; then we descend the hill on the other side to the canon.
The view on every side is magnificent. Rising out of the canon, on the farther side, the rounded domes of the hills, clothed in velvet green, roll from one to another like huge waves of the ocean, while far to the right old Grizzly stands majestically above the others, its top crowned with waving verdure, like the gaudy headdress of some mighty warrior.
We descend into the canon by a well-marked trail, and the shade of the trees is most grateful after our walk in the sun. We follow downstream, where the speckled trout lie hid in the deep pools, and the song sparrows sing their sweetest, and at last find ourselves at the object of our quest, opposite the caves.
There are three or four of these, large and small, which were used in former times by the Indians. We had fully intended to climb the face of this almost perpendicular cliff, to explore the caves, and photograph the interiors with the aid of flashlights, but decided that the climb was too hard, and the ground too wet and slippery for safety. As a false step or an insecure foothold would send us to the bottom with broken bones, if not broken necks, we contented ourselves with photographing the face of the cliff from a safe distance.
Retracing our steps, crossing the stream, and making a long detour, we tried to reach the caves from above. It was a hard, tedious climb, over rough and jagged rocks, but after nearly an hour's struggle, slipping and sliding, holding on to every shrub that offered the semblance of a grip, we reached the top. Then by a more tedious and dangerous descent, we reached a large flat rock just above the caves. Crawling out upon the rock, and venturing as near the edge as we dared, we found it almost as impossible to reach the caves from above as from below, and finally gave up the attempt.
But we were well repaid for our rough climb, for a more magnificent panorama could hardly be found. We looked for miles up and down the canon, in either direction, so far below us that the head grew dizzy. The trees followed the tortuous course of the canon, and two men that we saw far below us looked like pigmies.
Far above us a sparrow hawk circled above the trees, and we were told that an owl had a nest somewhere among the rocks. We did not look for it, but certainly nothing but an owl, or some other bird, could ever hope to scale the rocks successfully. We rested a long time on the top of the rock, enjoying the view, and regaining our wind for the climb to the top. This we accomplished without accident, save for the few scratches incident to such work. It was the season when the flowering currant puts on its gala dress of pink blossoms, and the banks of the creek for a long distance were like a flower garden. On the higher ground the beautiful Zygadene plant, with its pompon of white star-shaped flowers, and long graceful leaves, grew in profusion. Maidenhair ferns, the only variety we saw, sent forth their delicate streamers from every nook and cranny, forming a carpet of exquisite texture.
When we reached the top of the hill on our return, and looked down upon Berkeley, the sun was obscured by a high fog, and a cold wind came up to us from the bay, making us step lively to keep the blood circulating. We reached home late in the afternoon, worn, and leg-weary, but well satisfied with our holiday in Wild-cat Canon and the beautiful Berkeley hills.
When bright-hued leaves from tree and thicket fall, And on the ground their autumn carpet strew; And overhead the wild geese honking call, In wedge-shaped column, high amid the blue;
When from the sagebrush, and from mountain high, The quail's soft note reechoes far and wide; When hunter moon hangs crescent in the sky, And wild deer range on rugged mountain side;
When old primeval instincts, nature born, Stir in the hunter's blood with lust to kill, And drive him forth with dog and gun, at morn, To sheltered blind, or runway 'neath the hill—
All these proclaim the glorious autumn days, When Nature spends her wealth with lavish hand, And o'er the landscape spreads a purple haze, And waves her magic scepter o'er the land.
Around the Camp Fire
Did you ever camp in the woods on a moonlight night and listen to nature's voices? Have you seen the light flicker through the trees, and glisten on the little brook, its ripples breaking into molten silver as it glides away between banks o'erhung with fern and trailing grasses?
Did you ever sit by the camp fire after a day's climb over rocks and treacherous trails, or after whipping the stream up and down for the speckled beauties, and watch the flames climb higher and higher, the sparks flying upward as you throw on the dry pine branches, and listen to the trees overhead, swayed by the gentle breeze, croon their drowsy lullaby? Thus were Hal and I camped one night in June, at Ben Lomond, in the Santa Cruz mountains, and I shall never forget the glory of that moonlight night.
There is a delightful, comforting feeling about it, and somehow it always reminds me of a theater, one of God's own handiwork, whose dome is the blue vault of heaven, studded with its millions of stars. The silver moon just peeping over the mountain, throwing into grand relief its rugged seam-scarred sides, the calcium light; the pine trees with waving plumes, rising file on file like shrouded specters, form the stage setting; the mountain brook, on whose bosom the moon leaves a streak of molten silver, the footlights; while all the myriad voices of the night, harmoniously blended, are the orchestra. Even the birds in their nests, awakened by the firelight, join their sleepy chirpings to the chorus.
It has something primeval about it, and one almost expects to see Robin Hood or Friar Tuck step out into the firelight. The camp fire carries one back to the days when the red men roamed the woods, sat round their camp fires, listened to the talking leaves, and boasted of their prowess.
What sweet memories linger round the camp fire, where the song of the cricket brings to us recollections of boyhood's days on the farm, when we listened to the little minstrel, joined to the voice of the katydids, as their elfin music came floating up from field and meadow in a pulsating treble chorus. Dear little black musician of my childhood! Your note still lingers in my memory and brings before me the faces of those long since departed, who sat around the fireplace and listened to your cheery song. There was an unwritten law among us boys never to kill a cricket, and we kept it as sacredly as was kept the law of the Medes and Persians.
There is another side to the camp fire: the genial comradery of its cheery blaze, after the supper is over and the pipes lit, which invites stories of the day's catch. The speckled beauties are exhibited, lying side by side on the damp moss at the bottom of the basket. The tale is told of repeated casts, under the overhanging boughs, in the shadow of the big rock, where the water swirls and rushes: how the brown hackle went skittering over the pool, or dropped as lightly as thistledown on the edge of the riffle, the sudden rise to the fly, the rush for deep water, of the strain on the rod when it throbbed like a thing of life, sending a delicious tingle to the finger tips, the successful battle, and the game brought to the net at last.
The delicious odor of the coffee bubbling in the pot, the speckled beauties, still side by side, sizzling in the pan, all combine to tempt the appetite of an epicure.
The camp fire has strange and varied companions. Men from all walks of life are lured by its cheery blaze. Here sits the noted divine in search of recreation, and, incidentally, material for future sermonic use; a prominent physician, glad to escape for a season the complaining ills, real or imaginary, of his many patients; a judge, whose benign expression, as he straightens the leaders in his flybook, or carefully wipes the moisture from his split bamboo rod, suggests nothing of justice dispensed with an iron hand; and Emanuel, our Mexican guide, who contentedly inhales the smoke from his cigarette as he lounges in the warmth of the blazing camp fire, dreaming of his senorita.
Who can withstand the call of the camp fire, when the sap begins to run in the trees, and the buds swell with growing life? The meadow larks call from the pasture, and overhead the killdee pipes his plaintive call. One longs to lie in the sunshine and watch the clouds go trailing over the valley. The smell of the woods and the smoke of the camp fire are in the air, and that old restless longing steals over him. It is a malady that no prescription compounded by the hand of a physician can alleviate. Its only antidote is a liberal dose of Mother Nature's remedy, "God's Out-of-Doors."
What changes the close contact of nature makes in her loving children! You would hardly know these men dressed in khaki suits and flannel shirts, smoking their evening pipes around the camp fire, as the same men who attend receptions and banquets in the city, dressed in conventional evening clothes; and I dare say they enjoy the camp fire, with its homely fare and cheery blaze, far more than electric-lighted parlors and costly catering.
But the camp fire wanes. A stick burns through and falls asunder, sending up a shower of sparks. Charred embers only remain. We spread our blankets with knapsack for pillow. With no sound of traffic to mar our slumbers, soothed by the wind in the branches, and the gentle song of the mountain brook for a lullaby, we are wooed to sleep on the broad bosom of Mother Earth.
Trout Fishing in the Berkeley Hills
Since the days when Izaak Walton wrote The Complete Angler, men have emulated his example, and gone forth with rod and reel to tempt the finny tribe from dashing mountain brook or quiet river.
We, being his disciples, thought to follow his example, and spend the day in the Berkeley hills whipping the stream for the wary brook trout.
April first is the open season for trout in California, but owing to the scarcity of rain we feared the water in the brook would be too low for good fishing. Providence favored us, however, with a steady downpour on Wednesday, which put new hope in our hearts, and water in the stream; and we decided to try our luck on Saturday afternoon, and take what came to our hooks as a "gift of the gods."
Accordingly, we met at the Ferry Building, fully equipped, and took the boat across San Francisco Bay, thence by cars to Claremont, and from there struck into the hills. The wind blew cold from the bay, having a clear sweep up through the Golden Gate, but as soon as we began to make the ascent our coats became a burden.
It was a hard, tedious climb over the first range of hills, but upon reaching the summit and looking down into the valley we felt well repaid for our trouble, as we gazed in awed delight upon the magnificent view spread out below us like a panorama.
The valley stretches out in either direction far below us, as if to offer an uninterrupted flow for the mountain brook through which it passes. We counted twelve peaks surrounding the valley, their rounded domes glowing with the beautiful California poppy, like a covering of a cloth of gold, while below the peaks the sloping sides looked like green velvet. Here and there pine groves dotted the landscape, while madrones and manzanitas stood out vividly against their dark-green background.
Orinda Creek, the object of our quest, runs through this beautiful valley, shut in on each side by the hills. Along the trail leading to the stream blue and white lupines grow in profusion, giving a delicate amethyst tinge to the landscape. Wild honeysuckle, with its pinkish-red blossoms, is on every side and the California azalea fringes both banks of the stream, its rich foliage almost hidden by magnificent clusters of white and yellow flowers, which send out a delightful, spicy fragrance, that can be detected far back from the stream.
The meadow larks called from the hillside their quaint "Spring o' the year," the song sparrows sang their tinkling melody from the live oaks, catbirds mewed from the thicket, and occasionally a linnet sang its rollicking solo as it performed queer acrobatic feats while on the wing.
Ahead of us a blue jay kept close watch over our movements, but at last decided that we are harmless, and with a last shriek of defiance flew away to pour out his vituperations on other hapless wanderers.
Adjusting our rods, and baiting our hooks with salmon roe, we crept down to where a little fall sent the water swirling around a rock, making a deep pool, and an ideal place for trout. Dropping our lines into the rapids, we let the bait float down close to the rock in the deep shadows. As soon as it struck the riffle there was a flash of silver, and the game was hooked. Away he went, the reel humming a merry tune as he raced back and forth across the pool, the rod bent like a coach whip, the strain on the line sending a delightful tingle to our finger tips. But he soon tired of the unequal contest, and was brought safely to the landing net. He was by no means a large fish, as game fish are reckoned, but to my mind it is not always the largest fish that gives the keenest sport.
From one pool to another we passed, wetting a line in each with fair success, scrambling over logs and lichen-covered rocks, wading from one side of the stream to the other, until the lengthening shadows warned us to wind in our lines and start for home. Well satisfied we were with the thirty-two trout reposing at the bottom of our basket.
Our long tramp and the salt sea air had made us ravenously hungry, and the sandwiches that provident wives had prepared for us were dug out of capacious pockets and eaten with a relish that an epicure might covet. I shall never forget the trip back. Night overtook us before we were out of the first valley, the ascent was very steep, and we had to stop every few rods to get our wind.
At last we reached the summit of Grizzly Peak, seventeen hundred and fifty-nine feet above sea level, while to our right Bald Peak, nineteen hundred and thirty feet high, loomed up against the sky. The path on Grizzly was so narrow we had to walk single file, and a false step would have sent us rolling down hundreds of feet.
The view—although seen in vague outline—was magnificent. Berkeley and Oakland lay seventeen hundred feet below us, their twinkling lights glowing through the darkness like fireflies. Out on San Francisco Bay the lights flashed from the mastheads of ships at anchor or from brightly lighted ferryboats plying from mole to mole, while far to the left, Lake Merritt lay like a gray sheet amid the shadows. In the middle distance off Yerba Buena Island two United States gunboats were at anchor, one of them sending the rays of its powerful searchlight here and there across the water, and making a veritable path of silver far out across the bay.
Jack rabbits and cotton-tails scurried across our path and dodged into thickets. An owl flapped lazily over our heads and sailed away down the valley, evidently on his nocturnal hunting. But we had little time or inclination to give to these mountain creatures, as we had to pay strict attention to our footing.
The last descent proved to be the hardest, for the grade was as steep as the roof of a house, but we finally succeeded in scrambling down, and at last reached the grove surrounding the Greek Amphitheater; then home, footsore and weary, but happy with our afternoon's outing on the trout streams in the Berkeley Hills.
On the Beach
We stand in awe at the grandeur of the mountains, thrusting their snowcapped summits into the clouds, and it is indeed a glorious sight; but the ocean, with its ceaseless motion, its wonderful rising and falling of the tides, and its constant and mysterious moaning, is not to be outdone in sublimity, and offers a keen delight to the lover of nature. Its sands and waters are ever changing. Its rugged coast, with rocks scattered in wild profusion, is one of the most interesting spots in all the world.
A piece of wreckage is thrown upon the beach, and you wonder what dire disaster happened far out at sea, and if the rest of the ship went to the bottom with all on board. But take it home, let it dry in the sun, then place it on your open grate fire, and as you watch the iridescent blaze curl up the chimney, dream dreams, and weave strange fancies in the light of your driftwood fire.
A day at the seashore is one of pleasure, a delightful change from woods and uplands to rocks and rushing waters. Some prefer the smooth stretch of sandy beach, where one may lie at luxurious ease in the warm sand, and listen to the waves lapping along shore, or, discarding shoes and stockings, wade out until the white-capped waves, like policemen, drive you back from encroaching upon old Neptune's domain. But we prefer the rocky cliffs, combined with the sandy beach, and such a place is Land's End, near the Golden Gate, in San Francisco.
We started down the steep incline, strewn with jagged rocks, to follow the narrow path along the cliffs. But our outing was marred by meeting two men toiling up the path along the narrow way, carrying an unfortunate sightseer who had ventured too near the edge of the cliff and fallen into the ocean. Only the prompt action of a friend who scrambled down the rocks at the risk of his life saved him from a watery grave. His resuscitation must have been painful, judging by his agonizing groans, but the ambulance officers had been summoned and the unfortunate sufferer was cared for at the hospital.
The incident served to make us more careful, and at the narrowest place in the path we used the utmost caution, for the rocks below rose up like dragon's teeth, ready to impale us if we should make a false step—and that white drawn face haunted us like a specter.
The path along the ocean is a narrow and tortuous one, running about halfway between the water and the top of the cliff. Great granite rocks rise up like giants to dispute our passage, but by numerous twistings the path skirts their base, or wriggles snakelike over the top.
Hundreds of feet below, the waves come rolling in from the ocean, dashing with a giant's fury against the rocks, and shattering themselves into white spray that is tossed high in air, like thousands of white fingers seeking to clutch the granite barrier. Then receding like a roaring lion baffled of its prey, it gathers new strength, and flings itself again and again against the rocks, like a gladiator striving for the mastery.
Here, in a massive pile of rocks, is a deep, dark cavern, evidently worn by the action of the waves that have pounded against it for centuries. Looking out upon the ocean, we see a wave mightier than all the others sweeping onward, as if challenging the rocks to mortal combat, its mighty curving crest white and seething with foam, hissing like a serpent. On it comes, sweeping over half-submerged rocks, growling in its fury, sublime in its towering majesty, awful in its giant's strength.
Nearing the rocks, it seems to hang suspended for a moment, then hurls itself as from a catapult against the barrier with a sound like thunder, filling the cavern to its utmost, causing the ground to fairly tremble with the impact, and sending the white spray high up the face of the cliff, to be scattered like chaff before the breeze. And the old rock that has stood the storms of ages, looks down at its beaten and broken enemy, swirling, seething, and snarling at its feet, and fairly laughs at its puny efforts.
Here we venture to a place that seems accessible in order to procure a photograph. It was a foolhardy undertaking, and we knew it. But fortune favored us, and the much-desired picture was secured. But thus will men gamble with death to gratify a whim, for a false step or sudden vertigo would have sent us crashing on to the jagged rocks below.
Overhead the sea gulls beat the air on tireless wings, or skim close to the water, intent upon their ceaseless search for food. Far out the lighthouse stands anchored to the rocks, the waves dashing against it, as if to tear it from its firm foundation. But it defies them all, and sends the cheery beacon light over the waters, to guide the stately ships between the portals of the Golden Gate.
Directly opposite, the white buildings of Point Bonita stand out against the green of the hills; strongly fortified, and ready at all times to defend the entrance to San Francisco Bay against warlike intruders.
Two hardy fishermen have ventured out at low tide to a large rock and are casting their lines into the boiling waters for rock-cod or porgies, while the Italian fishing boats, with their queer striped sails, form a striking contrast to the massive steamboats, with smoke trailing from their twin funnels, that are outward bound for China or Japan.
Farther on, where the rocks descend to the sea level, we roam the beach and gather sea shells, starfish, and sea urchins; and by a shallow pool we stop to watch the scarlet fringes of the sea anemones, waving back and forth with the action of the tide. Barnacles cover the top of every rock that the tide reaches, and the long, blackish, snakelike seaweed is strewn along the beach.
We watch the tide come creeping in, each succeeding wave running a little farther up the beach and driving us back with relentless energy from its rightful possessions.
The sun sinks down in golden splendor behind the ocean's rim, leaving a track of molten gold that tips as with a halo the edges of the dancing waves. We turn our faces homeward, with a last, lingering look at the majestic expanse of blue rolling waters, and ever in our ears sounds the ceaseless moaning of the ocean.
June, to me, is one of the most fascinating months in California—if any of them can be set apart and called more perfect than another—for June is a month of moods.
If you are an Easterner you would abandon your proposed picnic party, upon rising in the morning, for fear of rain, and, being a tenderfoot, you would be justified, for the clouds—or, more properly speaking, the high fog—give every indication of a shower. But an old Californian would tell you to take no thought of appearances, and to leave your umbrella and raincoat at home, for this is one of nature's "bluffs"; by ten o'clock the sun will be shining brightly, and the fog dispersed under its warm rays.
Then pack your lunch basket, don your khaki suit, and strike out on the trail, while the dew still twinkles on the grass blades like cut diamonds, and the birds are singing their Te Deum to the morning sun.
It was on just such a day that we set out on a trip to Muir Woods and the giant sequoias, one of the most beautiful spots in the State. From Mill Valley the climb is a steep one, passing the picturesque ruins of an old mill erected in 1843. We come to a sort of corduroy path, where some enterprising landowner has placed logs across the trail, with the object of facilitating travel. It is not a very decided improvement on nature, however, for the steps are too far apart for comfort.
Summer cottages are scattered along the trail, perched on the hillside, and placed in the most advantageous position to gain a view of the bay, or on slightly higher ground, where they peek over the tops of the trees into the valley below.
After a stiff climb we reach the top of the last range of hills and begin our descent into the valley, where Muir Woods nestles between the hills at the foot of Mount Tamalpais, in the beautiful Sequoia Canon. We look away to the right and can see the heavy clouds envelop the summit of the mountain, but the highest stands above the clouds, and the sun touches its stately crest with golden splendor.
The forest always has a weird fascination for me, with its soft whisperings, as if the trees were confiding secrets to each other. One can become intimately acquainted with it, and learn to love its quiet solitude, only by living in or near it, and wandering at will through its trackless, leaf-carpeted aisles. Your eyes must be trained to constant watching, you must learn to be a close observer, to note the flowers, vines, and tangled shrubbery that are seldom mentioned by botanists, and your ear must be tuned to catch the elfin music that is heard within the confines of the forest. You cannot travel a rod under the trees without being watched by the small forest inhabitants, who regard you with suspicion, and peer at you from under decaying logs or leafy covert like self-appointed detectives.
Muir Woods comprises nearly three hundred acres, the principal trees being laurel, fir, oak, redwood, and madrone, of which the giant redwood (Sequoia) predominates. The redwoods in Muir Woods are thousands of years old, and rise from two to three hundred feet in air. The bark is from one to two feet in thickness, of a cinnamon color, and the base of the largest trees from twenty-five to thirty feet in diameter. A clear and cold mountain brook runs through the forest, and ferns grow in rich profusion along its margin, some of them reaching a height of six feet.
One cannot but note the profound quiet of the forest, as if these mighty trees that had withstood the storms of centuries were afraid their secrets might be wrested from them.
In some past ages fire has swept through the forest, laying some of these giants low, but other trees have sprung from their charred stumps, and rear their straight trunks and green-crowned heads hundreds of feet above the surrounding foliage. These stately trees have grown and flourished like Solomon's Temple with no sound of woodman's axe to mar the quiet solemnity of this primeval forest. One stands in awe in the presence of these wonderful sequoias, the greatest of trees, and we converse in low tones, as if standing in the presence of spirits of bygone ages.
Muir Woods was accepted by the United States government as a national monument in 1908, by special proclamation of President Theodore Roosevelt, and was named in honor of John Muir, the celebrated California naturalist.
There is no place in California where one can more profitably spend a day in the enjoyment of the wonderful beauties of nature than in this grove of giant redwoods.
San Francisco Bay
Where once the Indian's canoe roamed o'er the bay, With silent motion, sped by warrior's hand; The sea gulls wheel and turn in columns gray, And on the beach the miners' cabins stand;
Now, white-sailed ships sail outward with the tide, The stately ocean liners lead the van; And iron warships anchor side by side, With sister ships from China and Japan.
Italian fishing boats with lateen sails go by, To cast their lines outside the Golden Gate; And ferryboats their ceaseless traffic ply, From mole to mole, from early morn till late.
And so the march of commerce takes its way, And every clime contributes of its store Where once the Indian's tepee held its sway, Now stands the Golden City on the shore.
IN CHINA TOWN
If you are a tourist, making your first visit to San Francisco, you will inquire at once for Chinatown, the settlement of the Celestial Kingdom, dropped down, as it were, in the very heart of a big city; a locality where you are as far removed from anything American as if you were in Hongkong or Foochow. Chinatown is only about two blocks wide by eight blocks long; yet in this small area from ten to fifteen thousand Chinese live, and cling with all the tenacity of the race to their Oriental customs and native dress. They are as clean as a new pin about their person, but how they can keep so immaculate amid such careless and not over-clean surroundings is a mystery not to be solved by a white man.
For a few dollars a guide will conduct a party through Chinatown, and point out all the places of interest; but we preferred to act for ourselves in this capacity, and saunter from place to place as our fancy dictated. Stores of all kinds line both sides of Grant Avenue, formerly called Dupont, where all kinds of Chinese merchandise are displayed in profusion. At one place we stopped to examine some most exquisite ivory carvings, as delicate in tracery as frost on a window pane. Next we lingered before a shop where the women of our party went into raptures over the exquisite gowns and the beautiful needlework displayed. Here are shown padded silks of the most delicate shades, on which deft fingers have embroidered the ever-present Chinese stork and cherry blossoms, as realistic as if painted with an artist's brush.
That peculiar building just across the way is the Kow Nan Low Restaurant, resplendent with dragons and lanterns of every shape and size suspended above and about the doorway.
If you are fond of chop suey, or bird's-nest pudding, and are not too fastidious as to its ingredients, you may enjoy a dinner fit for a mandarin.
We stop before a barber shop and watch the queer process of shaving the head and braiding the queue. The barber does not invite inspection, as the curtains are partly drawn, but we peep over the top and look with interest at the queer process of tonsorial achievement, much to the disgust of the barber and his customer, if the expression on their faces can be taken as an index of their thoughts.
Then to the drug store, the market, the shoeshop, and a dozen other places, to finally bring up where all the tourists do—at the "Marshall Field's" of Chinatown, Sing Fat's, a truly marvelous place, where one can spend hours looking over the countless objects of interest.
One of the pleasures of Chinatown is to see the children of rich and poor on the street, dressed in their Oriental costumes, looking like tiny yellow flowers, as they pick their way daintily along the walk, or are carried in the arms of the happy father—never the mother. If you would make the father smile, show an interest in the boy he is carrying so proudly.
To gamble is a Chinaman's second nature. Games of fan-tan and pie-gow are constantly in operation; and the police either tolerate or are powerless to stop them. Tong wars are of frequent occurrence, crime and its punishment being so mixed up that an outsider cannot unravel them. The San Francisco police have struggled with the question, but have finally left the Chinese to settle their own affairs after their own fashion. Opium dens flourish as a matter of course, for opium and Chinese are synonymous words. You can tell an opium fiend as far as you can see him; his face looks like wet parchment stretched over a skull and dried, making a truly gruesome sight. Every ship that comes into the bay from the Orient is searched for opium, and quantities of it are found hidden away under the planking, or in other places less likely to be detected by the sharp-eyed officials. When found it is at once confiscated.
The Chinese are an extremely superstitious people, and it is very difficult to get a photograph of them, for they flee from the camera man as from the wrath to come. When you think you are about to get a good picture, and are ready to press the button, he either covers his face, or turns his back to you. The writer was congratulating himself on the picture he was about to take of four Chinese women in their native costumes, and was just going to make the exposure, when four Chinamen who were watching him deliberately stepped in front of the camera, completely spoiling the negative. The younger generation, and especially the girls, will occasionally pose for you, and a truly picturesque group they make in their queer mannish dress of bright colors, as they laugh and chatter in their odd but musical jargon.
A few years ago you could not persuade a Chinaman to talk into a telephone, for, as one of them said, "No can see talkee him," meaning he could not see the speaker. Another said, "Debil talkee, me no likee him," but now this is all changed. Some there are who still cling to their old superstitions, but they are few. The march of commerce levels all prejudices, and the telephone is an established fact in Chinatown. They have their own exchange, a small building built in Chinese style, and their own operators. Even the San Francisco telephone book has one section devoted to them, and printed in Chinese characters. And so civilization goes marching on, the old order changeth, and even the Chinaman must of necessity conform to our ways.
But the Chinatown of to-day is not the Chinatown existent before the great disaster of 1906. It has changed, and that for the better, better both for the city and the Chinaman.
Mr. Arnold Genthe, in his Old Chinatown, says: "I think we first glimpsed the real man through our gradual understanding of his honesty. American merchants learned that none need ever ask a note of a Chinaman in any commercial transaction; his word was his bond." And while they still have their joss houses, worship their idols, gamble, and smoke opium, they are their own worst enemies; they do not bother the white men, and are generally considered a law unto themselves.
As we pass on down Grant Avenue we meet a crowd gathered around a bulletin board, where hundreds of red and yellow posters are displayed. All are excited, chattering like magpies, as they discuss the latest bulletin of a Tong war, or some other notice of equal interest; and here we leave them, and Chinatown also, passing over the line out of the precincts of the Celestial, and into our own "God's country."
In a Glass-bottom Boat
About one hundred miles south of San Francisco lies the beautiful Monterey Bay. Here hundreds of fishing boats of all styles and sizes tug at their anchors, awaiting the turn of the tide to sail out and cast their lines for baracuta, yellowtail, and salmon, which abound in these waters to gladden the heart of the sturdy fisherman. One may forego the pleasure of fishing if so inclined, and take a sail in the glass-bottom boat, viewing through its transparent bottom the wonders of the mighty deep.
There were fifteen in our party, ranged along each side of the boat. Curtains were let down from the outside, practically cutting off all outside light and making the bottom of the sea as light as day. Our boatman informed us, after we were well under way, that we were approaching the place called "The Garden of the Sea Gods," one of the most beautiful submarine views on the coast. He did not exaggerate, as we were soon to know, for the scene was truly wonderful, and rightly named. All kinds of sea life began to pass before our eyes, like the fast changing figures of a kaleidoscope. Here the delicate sea moss lay like a green carpet, dotted here and there with a touch of purple, making fantastic figures; a place where the sea fairies might dance and hold their revels, as the peasant girls of Normandy dance on the village green.
Close beside this fairy playground great gray rocks rose like sentinels, as if to warn off trespassers. Clinging to their rugged sides were starfish of all sizes and colors, varying from white to red, with all the intervening shades. Sea urchins, those porcupines of the deep, with long, prickly spines, looking like a lady's pincushion, were in profusion, and clung tenaciously to every rock. Now our boat glides over a canon whose rugged sides extend away down into the depths, and on either side the verdure grows tier on tier, like a veritable forest. We wonder what denizens of the deep are lurking under the shadows and amid the stately aisles, to dart out on the unsuspecting victim.
On we glide over the beautiful sea anemone, half animal, half vegetable, with its colors as variegated as a rose garden. Seaweed and kelp wave to us as we pass, long-stemmed sea grasses moving by the action of the waves, like a feather boa worn by some sea nymph, twist and turn like a thing alive; tall, feathery plumes, as white as snow, or as green as emerald, toss to and fro, and make obeisance to old Neptune. Sea onions, with stems thirty feet long, and bulbous air-filled sacks, reach out their long snaky arms, like an octopus, and woe to the swimmer who becomes entangled in their slimy folds.
We pass over a school of rock cod—large, lazy fellows—who take life easy, while small, slim tommy-cod dart in and out among the rocks or hide under the mosses. Steel heads, as spotted as an adder, glide close to the glass as if to investigate, then dart away pursued by some larger fish, who look upon them as their lawful prey.
Over by that rock a hermit crab has taken possession of a sea snail's shell, and set up housekeeping; with body partly hidden he waves his long bony tentacles, while his beady eyes stare at us from the doorway of his home.
Now a sea grotto passes beneath us, marvelously beautiful with its frostlike tracery. Its arched openings are hung with a tapestry of pink sea moss, which swings back and forth to the action of the waves, as if moved by some invisible hand. We get a glimpse, in passing, of the interior view with its white, pebbly floor, in which the basket starfish have possession—a fitting reception room for sea nymph or mermaid. Pillars of stone incrusted with barnacles and periwinkles rise all around, while long tendrils of sea ferns wave like banners around their base.
Our boatman tells us that we are about to pass from "The Garden of the Sea Gods" into "Hell's Half-Acre." What a change in a moment's time! A desert of rock tumbled in a heterogeneous mass, all shapes and sizes, as if thrown by some giant hand into grotesque and fantastic shapes. No wonder they gave it such a gruesome name.
In such a place one would expect to see the bleaching bones of sailors, lost at sea, or the broken and dismantled hulk of a galleon, half buried in the sand. A shadow crosses our vision, and slowly there comes to our sight a shark, that scavenger of the deep, a fitting spot for such as he to come upon the stage. Slowly he passes, turning partly on his side, showing the cruel mouth with rows of serrated teeth. His eyes look at us as if in anger at being cheated of his prey, then on he glides like a specter, and with a flirt of his tail as he waves us adieu, he passes out of sight. We breathe a sigh of thanksgiving that the boat is between us and this hideous, cruel monster, and another sigh of regret as our boat touches the wharf, to think that the trip is so soon ended. Truly, "those who go down into the sea in ships" have wonders revealed to them such as were never dreamed of in the mind of man.
Fog on the Bay
One could hardly find a more perfect morning than this in early March. The sun was heralded over the hills in a blaze of glory; meadow larks strung like beads on a telegraph wire were calling their cheery notes, and robins were singing their overture to the morning sun.
Boarding the Key Route train, I soon arrived at the Oakland mole, to find it crowded with a restless tide of humanity, waiting impatiently for the overdue boat. Each arriving train added to the congestion, until the building between the tracks and the gangway was crowded with anxious commuters.
Finally, after much speculation as to the delay, the tardy boat arrived, and a steady stream of people flowed by the three gangways to the upper and lower decks. The last straggler was on board and the gangplank lifted, reminding me of the stories I had read of raising the drawbridge across the moat of some ancient feudal castle, and leaving the mole with its imitation portcullis behind we steamed out into the bay. The sun shone from a cloudless sky, and there was not enough wind to straighten out the pennant from the masthead.
We were hardly opposite Yerba Buena Island, however, when we ran into a fog that completely engulfed us. To plunge from bright sunlight into a blanket of gray mist so dense that one cannot see fifty feet in any direction, has just enough spice of danger about it to make it interesting. It was like being cut off from the world, with nothing in sight but this clinging curtain enveloping one like a damp cloud, settling like frost on everything it touches, and glittering like diamond dust.
An undercurrent of anxiety pervaded the ship, for we were running with no landmark to guide us, and with only the captain's knowledge of the bay and the tides to bring us safely through.
Passengers crowded to the rails, straining their eyes into the dense smother, while whistles were blowing on all sides. The shrill shriek of the government tug, the hoarse bellow of the ocean liner, and the fog whistle on Yerba Buena Island, all joined in a strident warning, sending their intermittent blast over the water.
Our engines were slowed down to half-speed, or just enough to give her steerage way, while the anxious captain peered from the wheelhouse with one hand grasping the signal cord, ready for any emergency.
The sea gulls that in clear weather follow the boats back and forth across the bay by the hundreds, were entirely absent, except for one sturdy bird that, evidently bewildered, had lost its way in the fog, and had alighted on the flagpole as if for protection.
Suddenly across our bows a darker spot appeared, which gradually assumed shape, and a Southern Pacific boat loomed like a specter from the smother of fog. The size was greatly enlarged as seen through the veil of mist, and the dense smoke that poured from her funnel settled around her like a pall, adding greatly to its weird appearance.
Our captain was on the watch for just such an occurrence, and three short, sharp blasts from our whistle notified the oncoming boat that we had stopped our engines. But the tide was running strong, and we drew closer and closer together, until we involuntarily held our breath, and nerves were strung to the highest tension. The great screws churned the water into foam as we slowly backed away from each other, like gladiators testing each other's strength, and the Southern Pacific boat vanished into the fog like a ghost, swallowed up, as if wiped from the face of the waters, sending back its deep bellowing whistle as if bidding an angry defiance to the elements.
Slowly we moved forward, feeling every inch of the way, like one groping in the dark, passing boat after boat without accident. One, a three-masted schooner, loaded with lumber, came so near that we could toss a stone on board, and a woman who stood in the bow waved a large tin horn at us, and then applied herself to blowing it most industriously.
At last the bells on the piers at the ferry came floating across the waters, faint at first, but growing louder as we advanced, and never did bells sound sweeter or more welcome I imagine they were thrice welcome to our captain, for they gave him the direct course to our anchorage. Slower and yet slower we moved, our screw scarcely making a ripple on the water, for many other boats were cautiously feeling their way to their respective berths, and we must use all our caution not to run foul of them.
At last came the cry from some one, "There's the light," and flashing out from the pier, its electric rays cutting its way through the wall of fog, shone that intermittent flame, and we knew that only a few feet away was the dock and safety.
As the crowd hurried from the boat, anxious to reach their several places of business without further delay, many turned and looked up at the wheelhouse, to see the man whose nerve and faithfulness to duty had piloted us safe to port. In that blue-uniformed figure, still standing with hand upon the wheel, we saw a person boyish in appearance, but every inch a man.
North from the ferry building, and near the foot of Powell Street, is one of the old landmarks of San Francisco, known as Meiggs' Wharf.
In the early sixties an old saloon was located on the shore end of this wharf, and connected with it was a museum which contained many quaint curios from other lands, some of them of considerable value.
The occupant of this saloon never allowed the place to be cleaned, and for years the spiders held undisputed possession, weaving their webs without fear of molestation, until every nook and corner was filled with their tapestry, and from ceiling and rafter hung long festoons of gossamer threads that swayed back and forth in the breeze. It was a place much visited by tourists, and a trip to San Francisco was not considered complete without visiting this "Cobweb Museum," a name bestowed upon it by its many guests.
It is said that Robert Louis Stevenson loved to visit this wharf and listen to the tales told by the hardy sailors, and that out of them he wove some of his most delightful South Sea Island stories.
Meiggs died in Peru in 1877, where he fled, a fugitive from justice, and has long since been forgotten except by the older residents. The wharf still remains, however, though more familiarly known to the people of this generation as "Fisherman's Wharf"; but the old cobweb saloon and museum are things of the past.
From here the Italian fishing boats leave for their fishing grounds out beyond the heads, and if you visit the wharf in the early morning you may see hundreds of these boats sail out past Land's End, and through the Golden Gate, making a picture worthy of an artist's brush.
When the sun comes flashing over the hills, and the dancing waves glisten with its rosy light, then the waters of the bay take on the color of the amethyst. Go then to Meiggs' Wharf, and see the fishing boats start out with lateen sail full set; hear the "Yo heave ho" of the swarthy Italian fishermen, as they set their three-cornered, striped sail to catch the breeze, and imagine yourself on the far-famed bay of Naples. Your imagination does not suffer by comparison, as San Francisco, like Naples, is built upon the hills, and Mount Tamalpais across the bay, with wreaths of fog floating around its summit, might well be taken for Mount Vesuvius.
Out through the portals of the Golden Gate they sail, like brown-winged pelicans, to drop their nets and cast their lines into the mighty deep; but these picturesque boats are fast giving way to more modern conveyances, and the fussy motorboat, that is not dependent upon wind or tide, will soon relegate the lateen sail to total obscurity.
Go again to the wharf in the late afternoon, and watch these same boats come laboring in against the tide, sunk deep in the water with their day's catch. See them unload, and spread the nets to dry, and if you can find one of these grizzled old salts off duty, and he feels so inclined, he will tell you (between puffs on his short, black pipe) strange and interesting stories of adventure at sea or of shipwreck on lonely island.
Then, as the sails are furled, and all made snug aloft and below, and the boats bob up and down on the long swells, straining at their moorings, the sun sinks down behind the ocean, leaving the wharf in shadow. The lights begin to gleam in the city, the tower of the ferry building gleams like a beacon, outlined with its thousands of incandescent lights, and the ferryboat takes us across the bay and home, to dream of queer-shaped sails, of ancient mariners, and the "Golden City" on the bay.
The Stake and Rider Fence
I love to let my fancy go wandering where it will, To the happy days of boyhood, to the meadow and the hill; To the brooks and quiet places, to the woods that seemed immense, But they always linger fondly at the stake-and-rider fence.
Here, cicadas sing their loudest, and the crickets draw the bow, And the 'hoppers and the locusts join the chorus, soft and low; And you hear the bees a humming like a fiddle with one string, While the air just seems to vibrate with a soothing kind of ring.
There the squirrel scolds and chatters as he runs along the rail, And you hear the rain-crow calling, and the whistle of the quail; And the catbird, and the blue jay, scold with vigor most intense, As they build among the branches by the stake-and-rider fence.
There grew the tasseled milkweed with its bursting silken pods, And the stately, waving branches of the yellow goldenrod; The mullein stalk and asters, with teasels growing dense, God's garden, in the angle of the stake-and-rider fence.
It was homely, but I loved it, and I wouldn't trade, would you? For all the hothouse beauties that a florist ever knew. Yes, I'd give up earthly honors, and count it recompense, Just to wander through the meadow by the stake-and-rider fence.
The beautiful California days, with warm sunshine tempered by the cool winds from the bay, are not surpassed in any country under the sun. But if the days are perfect, the brilliant moonlight nights lose nothing by comparison.
To tramp the hills and woods, or climb the rugged mountains by day, is a joy to the nature lover. But the same trip by moonlight has an interest and charm entirely its own, and mysteries of nature are revealed undreamed of at noonday.
The wind, that has run riot during the day, has blown itself out by evening, and the birds have gone to sleep with heads tucked under their wings, or settled with soft breasts over nestlings that twitter soft "good nights" to mother love. The dark shadows of evening steal the daylight, and canon and ravine lose their rugged outlines, blending into soft, shadowy browns and purples. The moon peeps over the hilltop, the stars come out one by one, the day is swallowed up in night, and the moonlight waves its pale wand over the landscape.
In the deep woods it flickers through the branches, mottling the ground with silver patches, and throwing into grand relief the trunks of trees, like sentinels on duty. It touches the little brook as softly as a baby's kiss, and transforms it into a sheen of gold. It drops its yellow light upon a bed of ferns until each separate frond stands out like a willow plume nodding up and down in the mellow gleam. A flowering dogwood bathed in its ethereal light shimmers like a bridal veil adorning a wood nymph. It lays its gentle touch on the waterfall, transforming it into a torrent of molten silver, and causing each drop to glisten like topaz under its witching light.
Overhead fleecy clouds, like white-winged argosies, sail high amid the blue, or, finer spun, like a lady's veil, are drawn, gauzelike, across the sky, through which the stars peep out with twinkling brilliancy. The scent of new-mown hay laden with falling dew comes floating up from the valley with an intoxicating sweetness, a sweetness to which the far-famed perfume of Arabia is not to be compared.
The crickets, those little black minstrels of the night, chirp under the log upon which you are resting, and the katydids repeat over and over again "Katy's" wonderful achievement, though just what this amazing conquest was no one has been able to discover. The cicadas join the chorus with their strident voices, their notes fairly tumbling over each other in their exuberance, and in their hurry to sing their solos. Tree toads tune up for the evening concert, a few short notes at first, like a violinist testing the strings, then, the pitch ascertained, the air fairly vibrates with their rhapsody.
Fireflies light their tiny lanterns and flash out their signals, like beacon lights in the darkness, while, ringing up from the valley, the call of the whip-poor-will echoes clear and sweet, each syllable pronounced as distinctly as if uttered by a human voice. In a tree overhead a screech owl emits his evening call in a clear, vibrating tremolo, as if to warn the smaller birds that he is on watch, and considers them his lawful prey. The night hawk wheels in his tireless flight, graceful as a thistledown, soaring through space without a seeming motion of the wings, emitting a whirring sound from wings and tail feathers, and darting, now and again, with the swiftness of light after some insect that comes under his keen vision.
If you remain quite still, you may perchance detect a cotton-tail peeping at you from some covert. Watch him closely, and do not move a muscle, and when his curiosity is somewhat appeased, see him thump the ground with his hind foot, trying to scare you into revealing your identity. If not disturbed, his fear will vanish, and he will gambol almost at your feet.
You are fortunate indeed, if, on your nightly rambles, you find one of the large night moths winging its silent flight over the moonlit glade, resting for an instant on a mullein-stalk, then dancing away in his erratic flight, like some pixy out for a lark.
O the witchery of moonlight nights, when tree, shrub, and meadow are bathed in a sheen of silver; when lovers walk arm in arm, and in soft whisperings build air castles for the days to come, when the honeysuckle shall twine around their doorway, and the moonlight rest like a benediction on their own home nest; when you sit on the porch with day's work done, and the fireflies dance over the lawn, and the voice of the whip-poor-will floats up from the meadow, and you dream dreams, and weave strange fancies, under the witching spell of the silver moonlight!
There are mountains and mountains, each one with an individuality all its own. There are mountains whose lofty peaks are covered with perpetual snow, like a bridal robe adorned with jewels, with the rising sun kissing each separate fold into glowing splendor; mountains whose rugged summits rise far above the timber line, somber and imposing, with fleecy clouds floating round the rocky pinnacles like fine spun silver.
Mount Tamalpais is not so lofty as Pike's Peak, or Mount Hood, but what it loses in altitude it makes up in splendor, and a trip to its summit, over the crookedest railroad in the world, offers a view that is unsurpassed.
Leaving the ferry building, we have a delightful ride on the bay, passing close to Alcatraz Island, where the military prison is located, with a view of Fort Point and Fort Baker, passing near the United States Quarantine Station on Angel Island, and arrive at Sausalito, perched on the hillside like some hamlet on the Rhine; then by rail to Mill Valley, a beautiful little town nestling at the foot of the mountain like a Swiss village. Here we change to the observation train drawn by a mountain-climbing traction engine, and begin the climb. The ascent is a gradual one, the steepest grade being a trifle over seven per cent, while the train twists and turns around two hundred and sixty curves from the base to the summit. We enter a forest of the giant redwoods, which, enormous in girth, and three hundred feet high, have defied the elements for thousands of years. Crossing a canon filled with madrones, oaks, and laurels, we look down upon a panorama of exceeding beauty. At a certain point the train seems about to jump off into space, but it makes a sharp curve around a jutting cliff on the edge of the canon, and a broader view bursts upon us, a view unparalleled for its magnificence.
About half way up we reach the double bowknot, where the road parallels itself five times in a short distance, and where one can change cars and go down the other side of the mountain to Muir Woods. We stay by the train, and toil upward, over Slide Gulch, through McKinley Cut, and at last, with aching but beauty-filled eyes, we reach the summit. From the top of most mountains surrounding peaks shut off the view to some extent, but from the summit of Mount Tamalpais there is an unbroken view. Rising as it does almost from the shores of the bay, there are miles and miles of uninterrupted view. Far below us the ocean and the bay shimmer like a mirror, and majestic ocean liners, outward bound, look like toy boats. To the left Mount Hamilton rises out of the purple haze, while to the right Mount Diablo pushes its great bulk above the clouds.
It is claimed that twenty or more cities and towns can be seen from the top of Mount Tamalpais. Whether this be true or not, I cannot say, but it is certain that we saw a good many, near and far, and it is also true that on a clear day the Sierras, one hundred and fifty miles distant, can be plainly seen.
From the hotel near the summit one gets an unsurpassed view of San Francisco Bay, the Cliff House, and the Farallone Islands; and if you are fortunate enough to see the sun sink behind the ocean, between the portals of the Golden Gate, you will never forget the sight. All the colors of the artist's palette are thrown across the sky, changing from red to orange, from orange to purple; each white-capped wave is touched with a rosy phosphorescence, and scintillates like a thousand jewels.
To ascend Mount Tamalpais on foot, following the railroad, is not a difficult task, and is well worth the effort, for then you can take time to enjoy the varied views that burst upon your vision at each turn of the road, and linger as long as you like over each choice bit of scenery. As you descend you feel that the day upon the mountain has been a day of vision and of beauty.
Over the second range of hills that shut in San Francisco Bay on the east is a delightful little trout brook known as Bear Creek. With my camera, a frugal lunch, and an assortment of trout flies carefully stowed away in my knapsack, I started in quest of this little stream that follows the windings of the canon.
If bears had ever inhabited this locality, and posed as its godfathers, they had long since disappeared, and many years had passed since they had slaked their thirst with its sparkling waters. Only the name remained to remind one of other days, and one name is as good as another to a trout brook.
My object was not so much to tempt the speckled trout with gaudy fly from quiet pool or swirling riffle, as to follow the windings of the stream, and spy out the quiet nooks, where the sun comes filtering through the trees, dappling the water; or resting in the shadows where the thick foliage defies its penetrating rays, and spreads a somber hue on mossy rock or bed of ferns. At one place, perhaps a rod from the margin of the brook, was a sort of amphitheater among the trees, where nature had been prodigal with her colors, touching the woods in spots here and there with ocher, umber, and vermilion. She had even brushed with scarlet many of the shrubs and vines, until they glowed with a warm color against the green background.
The pine trees had shed their needles, making a carpet soft as velvet, where woodland elves might revel or the god Pan practice upon his pipes, laughing nymphs dancing to the music.
Is there anything in nature more companionable than a mountain brook? It has its moods both grave and gay, and is as fickle as a schoolgirl. At times it chuckles at you in a musical undertone as you walk along its banks, and again it seems to warn you from trespassing on its preserves, scolding in a shrill falsetto as it dodges under the roots of a fallen tree, or dives among the lilypads, as if to hide from your sight. But when it swirls down the eddy, and comes to rest by an overhanging rock, where the shadows are dark and the water deep, its song is hushed, as if in fear of disturbing the wary trout that lie in hiding in the depths of the pool.
This is a likely place for fish, and I put my rod together and cast my flies, dropping them as lightly as a thistledown, and using all my skill, but no trout rise to my lure; this is evidently their day off, or my flies are too palpable a subterfuge to tempt a self-respecting trout.
Sitting on a log, one end of which projects over the stream, I watch a dragon-fly, or darning needle, float over the water, his flight so swift my eyes can hardly follow it. At last it stops in front of me, perfectly poised for a second, but with wings in rapid motion, then darts away to perform its acrobatic feat of standing on its head on a lilypad, or to feast on the gnats and other insects that it captures while on the wing. Truly it is rightly named a dragon.
The whirligig-beetles, those social little black fellows, gather in large numbers and chase each other round and round in graceful curves, skating over the water as if enjoying a game of tag.
Leaving the beetles at their game, I come to a place where the brook seems to hesitate on the brink of a mimic waterfall, as if afraid to take the dive, but like a boy unwilling to take a dare, it plunges over the brink to the pool below, with gurgling laughter, in a perfect ecstasy of bravado.
A leaf drops from an overhanging bough, falling so lightly that it barely makes a ripple, then sails away like a mimic ship to far-off ports, dancing along at every caprice of the fitful current; only to be stranded at last, cast away like a shipwrecked galleon, on some distant island.
In the shadows the brook seems to have a more solemn tone, in keeping with its somber surroundings, singing its song to the white-petaled saxifrage that peeps out at it over the bed of maidenhair fern, or the bright-leaved water cress; then flashing out into the sunlight, and, like a boy out of school, romping and laughing in utter abandon.
Flowering currants, with rose-pink clusters of blossoms, line the banks, scattering their fragrance far and near. The rancorous cry of the catbird, and the rattling call of the kingfisher, that feathered spirit of the stream, are left behind; the clear flutelike notes of the meadow lark take their place, and the hills, covered with wild flowers, roll back from its margin, as if to make room for its uninterrupted flow.
The Western bluebird floats across the meadow like a flashing sapphire, and the lark-sparrow pours forth his melody, as he teeters up and down on a weed stalk.
But at night the brook is heard at its best, when it performs its symphonies for the flickering moonlight that nestles upon its bosom, and the stars that reflect their lamps on its surface.
Make your camp on its margin and when your fire burns low, and you draw your blanket around you, with the mountain brook singing its lullaby, and the vesper sparrow chanting its melodious vesper hymn, you can say with the psalmist, "I will both lay me down in peace and sleep," and you might add, "lulled by the song of the mountain brook."
The Song of the Reel
Close by the edge of the lily pads, there's a flash and swirl of spray, And the line draws taut, and the rod dips low, and I sing as he speeds away; And I whir and click with the joy of life, as the line runs in and out, And I laugh with glee as I reel him in, the gamy and speckled trout.
And again the silken line is cast, and the fly like a feather glides, Close to the rock where the water's deep, and the wary black bass hides. There's a strike and a run as the game is hooked, and his rush with a snub is met, But he yields at last to the steady strain, and is brought to the landing net.
As the sun sinks low in the western sky, and the shadows longer grow, And the night hawk wheels in his silent flight, and the crickets draw their bow, And the cat-tails wave in the gentle breeze, and the boat glides on apace; Then I reel in the line, while the bamboo rod is laid away in its case.
The bass and the trout, and the wall-eyed pike, the pickerel and muskalonge, Have each and all been lost or won as I caused them to race or plunge, I'm the sportsman's friend, and a foeman bold, and I've filled full many a creel; For what would the fisherman's luck be worth without the song of the reel?
The Old Road
There is an old road that I love to follow. If one may judge by appearances, it is but slightly used by travelers, for it seems to lead nowhere, and is quite content in its wanderings, winding through canons, over hills, and down valleys. I am told by one who ought to know—for he is an old resident—that if you follow its tortuous course far enough, it will lead you to a town called Walnut Creek, but I cannot vouch for the truth of this assertion, as I have never found a town or hamlet along its winding course. In fact, I remember but one place of abode along its entire length, and this, a weather-beaten cottage nearly hidden by the pepper and acacia trees that surround it.
It is a quaint little place, and might have inspired the poet to write that beautiful poem containing the lines,
Let me live in a house by the side of the road, And be a friend to man,
for the cooling draught passed out to me one hot afternoon from this house would certainly class the occupant as a benefactor.
The dew was sparkling on the grass when I set out in the early morning, gossamer spider webs strung from leaf and stem glistened in the sunlight, and up from a tuft of grass a meadow lark sprang on silent wing, scattering his silvery notes, a paean of praise to the early dawn.
A bluebird's notes blend with those of the song sparrow, and a robin swinging on the topmost branch of a eucalyptus, after a few short notes as a prelude, pours forth a perfect rhapsody of melody.
At this place a hill encroaches upon the road at the right, covered thickly with underbrush and blackberry vines, its crest surmounted with a stately grove of eucalyptus trees, while on the left there is an almost perpendicular drop to the valley below. So narrow is the road that teams can hardly pass each other. Why it should crowd itself into such narrow quarters when there is room to spare is its own secret.
Stretching its dusty length along, it soon broadens out as if glad to escape from its cramped quarters, and glides under the wide spreading branches of a California buckeye, which stands kneedeep in the beautiful clarkia, with its rose-pink petals, and wand-like stalks of the narrow-leaved milkweed, with silken pods bursting with fairy sails ready to start out on unknown travels.
Leaving the shade, it climbs the hill for a broader view of the surrounding landscape, and looks down on the bay on one side, and the rolling hills and valleys on the other. Yellow buttercups nod to it from the meadow, and the lavender snap dragons wave their threadlike fingers in silent greeting. Tall, stately teasels stand like sentinels along the way, and the balsamic tarweed spreads its fragrance along the outer edge.
Threading its way down a steep hill; through a wealth of tangled grasses; past a grove of live oaks, from whose twisted and contorted limbs the gray moss hangs in long festoons, by Indian paintbrush and scarlet bugler gleaming like sparks of fire amid the green and bronze foliage, it glides at last into a somber canon. There a bridge spans the brook that gurgles its elfin song to cheer the dusty traveler on its way.
The laurel, madrone, and manzanitas keep it company for some distance on either side, and a catbird mews and purrs from a clump of willows on the margin of the stream. A dozen or more yellow-winged butterflies gathered at a moist spot, scatter like autumn leaves before a gust of wind at my approach, dancing away on fairy wings like golden sunbeams.
At a place where the road makes a bend to the right, and the cat-tails and rushes grow in profusion, a blue heron, that spirit of the marsh, stands grotesque and sedate, and gazes with melancholy air into the water. Bullfrogs pipe, running the whole gamut of tones from treble to bass, hidden away amid the water grasses. Darning needles dodge in and out among the rushes in erratic flight, and a blackbird teeters up and down on a tulle stem while repeating over and over his pleasant "O-ko-lee."
But the road does not stop to look or listen, and once more it climbs the hill where the golden poppy basks in the sunshine, and the dandelions spread their yellow carpet for it to pass over, or, nodding silken heads scatter their tiny fleet of a hundred fairy balloons upon the wings of the summer winds.
Down the road, whistling blithely, comes a slip of a boy, with fishing rod, cut from the adjacent thicket, over his shoulder and a can of bait tucked securely under his arm, happy as a king in anticipation of the fish he may never catch. At his heels trots contentedly a yellow dog. True companions of the highway are they, for no country road would be complete without its boy and dog, and as I pass them I call back, "Good luck, my doughty fisherman," and the road answers—or was it an echo?—"Good luck, good luck."
But at last the shadows creep down canon and hillside, the soft light of evening touches the tops of tree and shrub with a rosy splendor, shading from green to gold, from gold to purple; and through the gathering dusk the road sinks into the surrounding gloom, toiling on in silence with only the stars for company, and the lights from firefly lanterns to guide it on its lonely way.