[Charles Sprague] Sargent
Martinez, Oct. 16. 1897
My dear Sargent.
I know very well what you have suffered on account of the deadly danger your daughter was in, for I have two daughters & years ago they were near to death. I see that poor good able & amiable Stiles is dead. This death, disease & pain business of our nature is horrible amid the joy & harmony of our blessed world. and we can only hope & trust that there is a still better world beyond this.
With this I return good Abbot's letters I think his estimate of Pinchot is just, I'm sorry to say. I thank you for letting me see them Remember me to him when next you write. Making his acquaintance I always regard as the best gain of that tree year.
The venerable three H. fellow who calls you
Charlie must be very happy among his trees & flowers though so near fussy smoky Boston. My wife tells me that he must be the H. H. Hunnewell who has done so much for landscape gardening. I hope to see him some day. I think by a stiff prodding letter I received a day or two ago that you must have been setting Atlantic Page on me. He wants me to write an Alaska book. I suppose I'll have to try it some day & may as well begin this winter But book making to sturdy You & Page is an easy matter. to me it is precious hard. However I'll try. In the meantime I am writing a couple of articles on the parks & reserves.
Looking carefully over my old notes of 1879 & 80 I learn that I found Paton Hemlock in the Chilkat Pass at a height of 3000 feet above the sea & saw what I took to be the same tree nearly a thousand feet higher.
This is the northmost point at which I saw it about Lat. 60. I also saw it in abundance on the east side of the Stickeen Canon about 40 miles from the sea at a height of 3000 feet. I also found Abris subalpina & Pinus alba on the head waters of the Stickeen & Mackenzie river but as I did not know these trees at the time I first saw them I will copy out a few of the original notes & let you judge for yourself.
"On the inland side of the general Coast Range (on the Stickeen) a marked change of climate & consequently of forests occurs. The woods are Younger & composed of smaller trees--a foot to 18 inches diameter & average height of about 70 feet. Here the woods are dry at times & whole mountainsides are burned & covered with dead gray masts. The Cottonwood are small & the birch with a few pines, contorta - mingle freely with the coast hemlock & Menzies spruce. The birch is best on shady hillsides & is very effective, giving striking character to the forest--their rounded, free, leafy, wind-obeying
heads of pale green mingling with the narrow coach hemlock & spruce. The Tamarae pine or Black pine as Contorta is called here reserves its seeds for several years, & grows well on sunny mountains, often alone, making Yellow-green growths to a height of about 2000 feet, complying with the demands of glacial sculpture in curves & belts. It is here slender & arrowy, about 60 feet high. its lower branches often killed but with fine tops.
There is another spruce here, more slender & graceful than Menzies, drooping at top like Paton, leaves shorter, not prickle-pointed, from 3/8 to 5/8 inches long, the branchlets also slender. On flood bottoms some 125 feet high. near Glenora 140 miles from tidewater & 750 ft above it. Comes in dense clusters covering the top of the tree yellow & brown in color, not purple, some nearly green, slender ovate long-pointed 2 1/2 to 3 inches long, 5/8 to 7/8 diameter--a very graceful beautiful tree". (Picea alba)?
In walking from Glenora (140 miles from tide water) to Telegraph Creek (155 miles from tidewater) the trail follows the Stickeen river branches, which are planted
with contorta, poplar, & birch & a few piceas & spruces (P. alba, & A. subalpina), Contorta is the principal tree, slender, six to eight inches diameter (One hundred miles farther inland) The timber in some places all willow in the low grounds, much exclusively poplar with a few pines (Contorta) & birches, & a few spruces along low grounds 50 ft high _ no tree seen today over 50 feet high. Thousand acre patches burned. Some green trees burned off at the roots which are on top of the frozen ground & easily killed in dry weather. Had a good view from a high point on the trail of a mountain spur about 6000 ft high which was timbered to a height of 5000 feet."
"Set out for the summit of a peak 7000 feet high back of Glenora, 140 miles from Tidewater. First there is a flat terrace about 200 feet above the Stickine & nearly a thousand feet above the sea. It is about a mile wide & stretches back to the slopes of Glenora Peak. It is covered with birch, spruce (Picea alba & Menzonii) & fir (subalpina) & poplar growing close & tall as compared with the girth
of the trees. Large areas are burned & the ground is strewn with blackened poles. From this terrace the mountain rises in steep slopes. The trees are chiefly spruce & a species of fir (subalpinea). the firs growing highest even dwarfing at a height of about 5000 feet into lowly chaparral. This dwarfing seems to be due as much to heavy snow as to altitude, for at the same elevation on ridges where the snow can never be deep we find both the dwarfed & erect forms close together. This fir forms the most beautiful chaparral I ever saw. The flat thickly foliaged plumes, broad & fan-shaped being imbricated over each other by the pressure of the snow so that the high slopes seem to be neatly & handsomely thatched. In this form it is seldom more than 3 or 4 feet high. Yet it bears fertile cones & seems thrifty & happy as if everything was to its mind. In this dwarfed form it reaches a height of 5500 feet. At a height of 4000 feet few of the erect trees are more than 40 ft high. & one foot in dia at the ground."
"The pine & spruce of the region lying
between the head of Dease Lake & Telegraph Creek in great part give place to handsome fir around the lake, & upward to the north & on the mountains. The tallest about a hundred feet, one foot diameter at ground, feathered with short branches from top to bottom. The cones are 3 inches long, one in diameter, dark purple, bracts short, dark colored, wings of seeds very dark. leaves 5/8 to 7/8 inch long, falcate, blunt, excepting those of leading shoots which are quite sharp. Mostly pale yellow-green. The mountain-side on the west side of the lake is forested with this tree. _ leaves all around the branches."
This I guess is enough Goodbye. Remember me to good lively boyish [Cicuta?] Canby
1897 Nov 16
Original letter dimensions unknown.
Muir, John, "Letter from John Muir to [Charles Sprague] Sargent, 1897 Nov 16." (1897). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 2029.
Reel 09, Image 1140
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