CHAPTER XIII. OVER THE RIVER.
It is our intention to explore a route from Kanab to the Colorado River at the mouth of the Paria, and, if successful in this undertaking, to cross the river and proceed to Tusayan, and ultimately to Santa Fe, New Mexico. We propose to build a flatboat for the purpose of ferrying over the river, and have had the lumber necessary for that purpose hauled from St. George to Kanab. From here to the mouth of the Paria it must be packed on the backs of mules; Captain Bishop and Mr. Graves are to take charge of this work, while with Mr. Hamblin I explore the Kaibab Plateau.
September 24 - -To-day we are ready for the start. The mules are packed and away goes our train of lumber, rations, and camping equipage. The Indian trail is at the foot of the Vermilion Cliffs. Pushing on to the east with Mr. Hamblin for a couple of hours in the early morning, we reach the mouth of a dry canyon, which comes down through the cliffs. Instead of a narrow canyon we find an open valley from one fourth to one half a mile in width. On rare occasions a stream flows down this valley, but now sand dunes stretch across it. On either side there is a wall of vertical rock of orange sandstone, and here and there at the foot of the wall are found springs that afford sweet water.
We push our way far up the valley to the foot of the Gray Cliffs, and by a long detour find our way to the summit. Here again we find that wonderful scenery of naked white rocks carved into great round bosses and domes. Looking off to the north we can see vermilion and pink cliffs, crowned with forests, while below us to the south stretch the dunes and red-lands of the Vermilion Cliff region, and far away we can see the opposite wall of the Grand Canyon. In the middle of the afternoon we descend into the canyon valley and hurriedly ride, down to the mouth of the canyon, then follow the trail of the pack train, for we are to camp with the party to-night. We find it at the Navajo Well. As we approach in the darkness the camp fire is a cheerful sight. The Navajo Well is a pool in the sand, the sands themselves lying in a basin, with naked, smooth rocks all about on which the rains are caught and by which the sand in the basin is filled with water, and by digging into the sand this sweet water is found.
September 25. - At sunrise Mr. Hamblin and I part from the train once more, taking with us Chuar, a chief of the Kaibabits, for a trip to the south, for one more view of the Grand Canyon from the summit of the Kaibab Plateau. All day long our way is over red hills, with a bold line of cliffs on our left. A little after noon we reach a great spring, and here we are to camp for the night, for the region beyond us is unknown and we wish to enter it with a good day before us. The Indian goes out to hunt a rabbit for supper, and Hamblin and I climb the cliffs. From an elevation of 1,800 feet above the spring we watch the sun go down and see the sheen on the Vermilion Cliffs and red-lands slowly fade into the gloaming; then we descend to supper.
September 26. - Early in the morning we pass up a beautiful valley to the south and turn westward onto a great promontory, from the summit of which the Grand Canyon is in view. Its deep gorge can be seen to the westward for 50 or 60 miles, and to the southeastward we look off into the stupendous chasm, with its marvelous forms and colors.
Twenty-one years later I read over the notes of that day's experience and the picture of the Grand Canyon from this point is once more before me. I did not know when writing the notes that this was the grandest view that can be obtained of the region from Fremont's Peak to the Gulf of California, but I did realize that the scene before me was awful, sublime, and glorious - awful in profound depths, sublime in massive and strange forms, and glorious in colors. Years later I visited the same spot with my friend Thomas Moran. From this world of wonder he selected a section which was the most interesting to him and painted it. That painting, known as "The Chasm of the Colorado," is in a hall in the Senate wing of the Capitol of the United States. If any one will look upon that picture, and then realize that it was but a small part of the landscape before us on this memorable 26th day of September, he will understand why I suppress my notes descriptive of the scene. The landscape is too vast, too complex, too grand for verbal description.
We sleep another night by the spring on the summit of the Kaibab, and next day we go around to Point Sublime and then push on to the very verge of the Kaibab, where we can overlook the canyon at the mouth of the Little Colorado. The day is a repetition of the glorious day before, and at night we sleep again at the same spring. In the morning we turn to the northeast and descend from Kaibab to the back of Marble Canyon and cross it at the foot of the Vermilion Cliffs, and find our packers camped at Jacob's Pool, where a spring bursts from the cliff at the summit of a great hill of talus. In the camp we find a score or more of Indians, who have joined us here by previous appointment, as we need their services in crossing the river.