CHAPTER XII. THE RIO VIRGEN AND THE UINKARET MOUNTAINS.
Our course is to the south. From Pipe Spring we can see a mountain, and I recognize it as the one seen last summer from a cliff overlooking the Grand Canyon; and I wish to reach the river just behind the mountain. There are Indians living in the group, of which it is the highest, whom I wish to visit on the way. These mountains are of volcanic origin, and we soon come to ground that is covered with fragments of lava. The way becomes very difficult. We have to cross deep ravines, the heads of canyons that run into the Grand Canyon. It is curious now to observe the knowledge of our Indians. There is not a trail but what they know; every gulch and every rock seems familiar. I have prided myself on being able to grasp and retain in my mind the topography of a country; but these Indians put me to shame. My knowledge is only general, embracing the more important features of a region that remains as a map engraved on my mind; but theirs is particular. They know every rock and every ledge, every gulch and canyon, and just where to wind among these to find a pass; and their knowledge is unerring. They cannot describe a country to you, but they can tell you all the particulars of a route.
I have but one pony for the two, and they were to ride "turn about"; but Chuar'ruumpeak, the chief, rides, and Shuts, the one-eyed, barelegged, merry-faced pigmy, walks, and points the way with a slender cane; then leaps and bounds by the shortest way, and sits down on a rock and waits demurely until we come, always meeting us with a jest, his face a rich mine of sunny smiles.
At dusk we reach the water pocket. It is in a deep gorge on the flank of this great mountain. During the rainy season the water rolls down the mountain side, plunging over precipices, and excavates a deep basin in the solid rock below. This basin, hidden from the sun, holds water the year round.
September 16. - This morning, while the men are packing the animals, I climb a little mountain near camp, to obtain a view of the country. It is a huge pile of volcanic scoria, loose and light as cinders from a forge, which give way under my feet, and I climb with great labor; but, reaching the summit and looking to the southeast, I see once more the labyrinth of deep gorges that flank the Grand Canyon; in the multitude, I cannot determine whether it is itself in view or not. The memories of grand and awful months spent in their deep, gloomy solitudes come up, and I live that life over again for a time.
I supposed, before starting, that I could get a good view of the great mountain from this point; but it is like climbing a chair to look at a castle. I wish to discover some way by which it can be ascended, as it is my intention to go to the summit before I return to the settlements. There is a cliff near the summit and I do not see any way yet. Now down I go, sliding on the cinders, making them rattle and clang.
The Indians say we are to have a short ride to-day and that we shall reach an Indian village, situated by a good spring. Our way is across the spurs that put out from the great mountain as we pass it to the left.
Up and down we go across deep ravines, and the fragments of lava clank under our horses' feet; now among cedars, now among pines, and now across mountain-side glades. At one o'clock we descend into a lovely valley, with a carpet of waving grass; sometimes there is a little water in the upper end of it, and during some seasons the Indians we wish to find are encamped here. Chuar'ruumpeak rides on to find them, and to say we are friends, otherwise they would run away or propose to fight us, should we come without notice. Soon we see Chuar'ruumpeak riding at full speed and hear him shouting at the top of his voice, and away in the distance are two Indians scampering up the mountain side. One stops; the other still goes on and is soon lost to view. We ride up and find Chuar'ruumpeak talking with the one who had stopped. It is one of the ladies resident in these mountain glades; she is evidently paying taxes, Godiva-like. She tells us that her people are at the spring; that it is only two hours' ride; that her good master has gone on to tell them we are coming; and that she is harvesting seeds.
We sit down and eat our luncheon and share our biscuits with the woman of the mountains; then on we go over a divide between two rounded peaks. I send the party on to the village and climb the peak on the left, riding my horse to the upper limit of trees and then tugging up afoot. From this point I can see the Grand Canyon, and I know where I am. I can see the Indian village, too, in a grassy valley, embosomed in the mountains, the smoke curling up from their fires; my men are turning out their horses and a group of natives stand around. Down the mountain I go and reach camp at sunset. After supper we put some cedar boughs on the fire; the dusky villagers sit around, and we have a smoke and a talk. I explain the object of my visit, and assure them of my friendly intentions. Then I ask them about a way down into the canyon. They tell me that years ago a way was discovered by which parties could go down, but that no one has attempted it for a long time; that it is a very difficult and very dangerous undertaking to reach the "Big Water." Then I inquire about the Shi'vwits, a tribe that lives about the springs on the mountain sides and canyon cliffs to the southwest. They say that their village is now about 30 miles away, and promise to send a messenger for them to-morrow morning.