Chapter XIV. Sum Dum Bay
The ferns are less numerous in species than in California, but about equal in the number of fronds. I have seen three aspidiums, two woodsias, a lomaria, polypodium, cheilanthes, and several species of pteris.
In this eastern arm of Sum Dum Bay and its Yosemite branch, I counted from my canoe, on my way up and down, thirty small glaciers back of the walls, and we saw three of the first order; also thirty-seven cascades and falls, counting only those large enough to make themselves heard several miles. The whole bay, with its rocks and woods and ice, reverberates with their roar. How many glaciers may be disclosed in the other great arm that I have not seen as yet, I cannot say, but, judging from the bergs it sends down, I guess not less than a hundred pour their turbid streams into the fiord, making about as many joyful, bouncing cataracts.
About noon we began to retrace our way back into the main fiord, and arrived at the gold-mine camp after dark, rich and weary.
On the morning of August 21 I set out with my three Indians to explore the right arm of this noble bay, Mr. Young having decided, on account of mission work, to remain at the gold-mine. So here is another fine lot of Sum Dum ice, - thirty-five or forty square miles of bergs, one great glacier of the first class descending into the fiord at the head, the fountain whence all these bergs were derived, and thirty-one smaller glaciers that do not reach tidewater; also nine cascades and falls, large size, and two rows of Yosemite rocks from three to four thousand feet high, each row about eighteen or twenty miles long, burnished and sculptured in the most telling glacier style, and well trimmed with spruce groves and flower gardens; a' that and more of a kind that cannot here be catalogued.
For the first five or six miles there is nothing excepting the icebergs that is very striking in the scenery as compared with that of the smooth unencumbered outside channels, where all is so evenly beautiful. The mountain-wall on the right as you go up is more precipitous than usual, and a series of small glaciers is seen along the top of it, extending their blue-crevassed fronts over the rims of pure-white snow fountains, and from the end of each front a hearty stream coming in a succession of falls and rapids over the terminal moraines, through patches of dwarf willows, and then through the spruce woods into the bay, singing and dancing all the way down. On the opposite side of the bay from here there is a small side bay about three miles deep, with a showy group of glacier-bearing mountains back of it. Everywhere else the view is bounded by comparatively low mountains densely forested to the very top.
After sailing about six miles from the mine, the experienced mountaineer could see some evidence of an opening from this wide lower portion, and on reaching it, it proved to be the continuation of the main west arm, contracted between stupendous walls of gray granite, and crowded with bergs from shore to shore, which seem to bar the way against everything but wings. Headland after headland, in most imposing array, was seen plunging sheer and bare from dizzy heights, and planting its feet in the ice-encumbered water without leaving a spot on which one could land from a boat, while no part of the great glacier that pours all these miles of ice into the fiord was visible. Pushing our way slowly through the packed bergs, and passing headland after headland, looking eagerly forward, the glacier and its fountain mountains were still beyond sight, cut off by other projecting headland capes, toward which I urged my way, enjoying the extraordinary grandeur of the wild unfinished Yosemite. Domes swell against the sky in fine lines as lofty and as perfect in form as those of the California valley, and rock-fronts stand forward, as sheer and as nobly sculptured. No ice-work that I have ever seen surpasses this, either in the magnitude of the features or effectiveness of composition.
On some of the narrow benches and tables of the walls rows of spruce trees and two-leaved pines were growing, and patches of considerable size were found on the spreading bases of those mountains that stand back inside the canyons, where the continuity of the walls is broken. Some of these side canyons are cut down to the level of the water and reach far back, opening views into groups of glacier fountains that give rise to many a noble stream; while all along the tops of the walls on both sides small glaciers are seen, still busily engaged in the work of completing their sculpture. I counted twenty-five from the canoe. Probably the drainage of fifty or more pours into this fiord. The average elevation at which they melt is about eighteen hundred feet above sea-level, and all of them are residual branches of the grand trunk that filled the fiord and overflowed its walls when there was only one Sum Dum glacier.