John Muir


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away my husband.” We promised to bring him back. We stored al unnecessary provision in the hut, and were ready to set out at 1:30 A.M. The wind was fair, but a steady cold rain was pelting us. I thought we might reach the so-called ice mountain before night, judging from what I had seen of the country, but our guide said this was impossible, that a point we reached about 1:30 P.M. was the only safe harbor, and that only by rising early next day would we be able to reach the ice. This I did not believe, but Mr. Young remonstrated against disregarding our guide, and I yielded. Ten days later the mend of our guide’s party went to the ice, killed 6 seals and returned to their huts the same day, showing how easily and comfortably the missionary had been fooled. Half a mile or so to the S. of the bay in which we camped we passed a bluff perfectly bald and plantless, scarce a tuft of sedge or shrub of any sort was to be seen on it, but strange to say there is a large quantity of timber in the shape of broken spruce trunks scattered on the bowlders along the beach, lodged in hollows and slots in the face of the bluff, and projecting from the sides of masses of clay and moraine drift. The logs and root masses are broken up a good deal, but not crushed as they would have been had they ever been through the gl[acier] mills. They looked as if they had been brought down the steep slopes in avalanches, but not a single bush or tree is now left on any spot of any mountain of this region. The wood is all sound, and though water soaked, makes good firewood when split fine. We landed and procured enough for our camp-fire. After our camp was made, I strolled along the shore admiring the beauty of the stranded ice-bergs with which it was lined. The largest were about 50 ft. long and 25 or 30 high, wave-worn into fantastic forms of wild free beauty. I then climbed two of a series of large roches moutonees which are very beautiful in the curve of their lines and brilliancy of polish – never saw any that shone more brightly in all the High Sierra. There are two series of scratches on all I saw, and on some three, the first corresponding in direction with the striae and form lines of the rocks trending with the shore SE, the second E from a gl[acier] that lingered on a lofty mountain to the W of the camp, and the third nearly NE from a later direction of the waning residual gl[acier]. Some of the scratches are probably due to the rock avalanches. All the rocks along this portion of the shore are finely and freshly glaciated, and the waves have not yet worn off the polish even, much less the heavy scratches and grooves and lines of gl[acial] contour. The same is true of the islands out in mid-channel. They trend in the dir. of the length of the channel and show in the most incontrovertible manner that the Sound is only the channel of an ancient gl[acier] which has but recently vanished. There gl[acial] phenomena were looked for by me, and everything seemed familiar. But I am astonished with the treeless character of the region. {Sketch: Tree study of the Kiku Straits. Abnormal forms unusually abundant. Well sheltered from storms. Rock trachyte} Wherever I have been among the gl[acier]s of Alaska and in all the waterways of this winding archipelago, the forests are particularly close and universal, coming down to the shore and to within a few feet of the edge of ice. How then has this disforestment of this region been accomplished. The only cause is this case that I can see is the shifting condition of all the soil and its universal distribution. It is all going or gone into the sea. What is left is the loose and mushy on which it is difficult to walk, made mostly of limestone or fine granite and quartz meal. The mountain above the camp is still laden with soil, but not a spot is

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Original journal dimensions: 11.5 x 18 cm.

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Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library

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John Muir, journals, drawings, writings, travel, journaling, naturalist