February 11. The Hermitage a good rest place as well as a central home for mountain climbers, clean and well conducted in every way, situated at the head of the main valley at the base of Mt Cook, on moraine [at] near point of confluence of the Mueller, Hooker and Tasman glaciers. Alpine in all features except vegetation, which is unlike any other I have seen in contact with glaciers and icy torrents on moraine and moraine soil. Instead of the dwarf spruce, pine, familiar heathworts, saxifrages etc., [we found] Phyllocladus, Dacrydium, Olearia [species] and beech trees (dwarf, prostrate or erect in sheltered spots). One of the most interesting of the trees or bushes is the grass tree, Dracophyllum longifolium, another is a Senecio sp. with silvery leaves. Of herbs, the sturdy yellow-stemmed Aciphylla squarrosa, dreadfully thorny leaves, common on all moors, grassy and hummocky, as well as about glaciers. The Dianella nigra with lovely blue berries like jewelry, a white gentian, a white Gnaphalium (called Edelweiss) and a large noble white-rayed Compositae with silvery leaves. February 12. Start on the return journey after only one day at the Hermitage, and a rainy one. Went yesterday, in spite of rain to Mueller Glacier. In jumping on boulder-clad snout, found my feet had not forgot their cunning. One of the most influential bushes or trees here is the mountain pine, Halocarpus bidwillii forming yellowish mounds of small sprays and branchlets like those of the juniper. Also the alpine Totara Podocarpus nivalis, [a] small thickset rigid tree, six or eight feet high. The above named trees and bushes make dense chaparral on damp moss[es] that are old enough to be well settled [and as] difficult to press through as most of the Sierra Ceanothus sp. Mt Safton [Sefton] has seven or eight hanging glaciers which make a fine display from the Hermitage and the largest of them keep up [a] thundering of avalanches and form reconstructed glaciers at the foot of cliffs. The Tasman glacier is like hundreds or thousands in Alaska; to see much of it requires three or four days.
Original journal dimensions: 9 x 15.5 cm.
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John Muir, journals, drawings, writings, travel, journaling, naturalist