CHAPTER IX. FROM THE MOUTH OF THE UINTA RIVER TO THE JUNCTION OF THE GRAND AND GREEN.
July 6. - An early start this morning. A short distance below the mouth of the Uinta we come to the head of a long island. Last winter a man named Johnson, a hunter and Indian trader, visited us at our camp in White River Valley. This man has an Indian wife, and, having no fixed home, usually travels with one of the Ute bands. He informed me that it was his intention to plant some corn, potatoes, and other vegetables on this island in the spring, and, knowing that we would pass it, invited us to stop and help ourselves, even if he should not be there; so we land and go out on the island. Looking about, we soon discover his garden, but it is in a sad condition, having received no care since it was planted. It is yet too early in the season for corn, but Hall suggests that potato tops are good greens, and, anxious for some change from our salt-meat fare, we gather a quantity and take them aboard. At noon we stop and cook our greens for dinner; but soon one after another of the party is taken sick; nausea first, and then severe vomiting, and we tumble around under the trees, groaning with pain. I feel a little alarmed, lest our poisoning be severe. Emetics are administered to those who are willing to take them, and about the middle of the afternoon we are all rid of the pain. Jack Sumner records in his diary that "potato tops are not good greens on the 6th day of July."
This evening we enter another canyon, almost imperceptibly, as the walls rise very gently.
July 7. - We find quiet water to-day, the river sweeping in great and beautiful curves, the canyon walls steadily increasing in altitude. The escarpments formed by the cut edges of the rock are often vertical, sometimes terraced, and in some places the treads of the terraces are sloping. In these quiet curves vast amphitheaters are formed, now in vertical rocks, now in steps.
The salient point of rock within the curve is usually broken down in a steep slope, and we stop occasionally to climb up at such a place, where on looking down we can see the river sweeping the foot of the opposite cliff in a great, easy curve, with a perpendicular or terraced wall rising from the water's edge many hundreds of feet. One of these we find very symmetrical and name it Sumner's Amphitheater. The cliffs are rarely broken by the entrance of side canyons, and we sweep around curve after curve with almost continuous walls for several miles.
Late in the afternoon we find the river very much rougher and come upon rapids, not dangerous, but still demanding close attention. We camp at night on the right bank, having made 26 miles. July 8. - This morning Bradley and I go out to climb, and gain an altitude of more than 2,000 feet above the river, but still do not reach the summit of the wall.
After dinner we pass through a region of the wildest desolation. The canyon is very tortuous, the river very rapid, and many lateral canyons enter on either side. These usually have their branches, so that the region is cut into a wilderness of gray and brown cliffs. In several places these lateral canyons are separated from one another only by narrow walls, often hundreds of feet high, - so narrow in places that where softer rocks are found below they have crumbled away and left holes in the wall, forming passages from one canyon into another. These we often call natural bridges; but they were never intended to span streams. They would better, perhaps, be called side doors between canyon chambers. Piles of broken rock lie against these walls; crags and tower-shaped peaks are seen everywhere, and away above them, long lines of broken cliffs; and above and beyond the cliffs are pine forests, of which we obtain occasional glimpses as we look up through a vista of rocks. The walls are almost without vegetation; a few dwarf bushes are seen here and there clinging to the rocks, and cedars grow from the crevices - not like the cedars of a land refreshed with rains, great cones bedecked with spray, but ugly clumps, like war clubs beset with spines. We are minded to call this the Canyon of Desolation.
The wind annoys us much to-day. The water, rough by reason of the rapids, is made more so by head gales. Wherever a great face of rocks has a southern exposure, the rarefied air rises and the wind rushes in below, either up or down the canyon, or both, causing local currents. Just at sunset we run a bad rapid and camp at its foot.
July 9. - Our run to-day is through a canyon with ragged, broken walls, many lateral gulches or canyons entering on either side. The river is rough, and occasionally it becomes necessary to use lines in passing rocky places. During the afternoon we come to a rather open canyon valley, stretching up toward the west, its farther end lost in the mountains. From a point to which we climb we obtain a good view of its course, until its angular walls are lost in the vista.