January 22. Start at 6:30am for Taupo lake steamer, 25 mile sail, smooth, glassy, reflecting low mountains, hills and cliffs about it. Very beautiful sheet of water, 1400 feet above sea level. The river to which it gives birth, the Waikato, is two times the size of McCloud. Banks very richly embossed, cliffs (even where sheer) covered mostly with ferns and mosses. The various species of Leptospermum all seen at their best here, and now most are in full bloom, amazingly numerous flowers, white with red centers, more or less, twigs generally also red. Some seem silvery white on account of hairs, silky on twigs and the edges of leaves. Some grayish on account of the tone of the bark and great quantity of seed cups. Some are trees 30 feet high, a foot or more in diameter, flaky bark and branches exceedingly rich in leafy sprays like hemlock or cedars of the Himalaya and so arranged as to give great expression and character. There are four or five species and [they] cover enormous areas. Charming plants. About half of day driving across a brown moor full of charming plants. Wiry grass in large tussocks make brown some [seem?] pure desert. January 23. [Waiouru] The mountains are clear this morning at 4:30am., except a few shifting bars on Shasta-like mountain, and one across the volcano Ngouruhoe [Ngaruahoe], 7,500 feet high, near top. Yesterday the volcano showed gloriously against the sky for hours, pouring forth [an] immense volume of steam which immediately curdled into glorious cumuli visibly rising and rolling away on the wind to enrich the other cloud furniture of the sky. The snowy Shasta-like mountain Ruapehu 8,878 feet high, a grand object with its snow and glaciers (at least two on north-east side, a mile long), makes a noble show, the main kingly feature of the landscape, and which beguiled the long stage ride from Tokaanu to Waioura [Waiouru], 44 miles. Never shall forget the brown plain, brown with grass in magnificent hummocks which shine in wind, and many other grasses not quite so wiry and tall, and heathworts. When this cover is removed, the wind blows the soil away. Most of today’s journey was through noble forest to Pipiriki, 42 miles. Hard ride, but scenery of exuberant forest and fern-lined deep narrow dells and gorges surpasses all have seen elsewhere. The noble Rata flowers red now in glory.
Original journal dimensions: 9 x 15.5 cm.
Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library
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John Muir, journals, drawings, writings, travel, journaling, naturalist