R.P Hirst to my Dear Sister
French Gulch Apr. 2nd. 1854
Mon. Eve. 3rd
After a hard days work, I am seated at a table made of pine clapboards, writing a letter to Peepatit. Jim is mixing bread on the same table. It is night now. The sun that shone all day with the most brilliant luster, has sunk majestically behind the lofty mountains that hem us in on all sides, his last rays tinting most beautifully the tops of the lofty pines that crown their summit. All is still, save the gurgling of the streamlet near our door that darts swiftly over to meet its brother water of Clear Creek. Its mummer recalls to my mind the gurgling of many a brook heard in boyhood days, when life was young, & not a thought of care was there to alloy my happiness; but those days are gone; gone forever! but in thinking of them, the thought is recalled to my memory of home, kindred & friends. I have intended for sometime to give you a description of the scenery near where we are to work, & I may as well do it now as any time. You must understand then, that French Gulch is nothing more than a mountain gorge, or ravine, through which runs a small stream that empties into Clear Creek. The gulch has nothing to attract attention, until you get up it about four miles, & here the scene is grand and beautiful beyond the power of language to describe. Here the mountains close in until there is just room for the little stream to make its way between them; they rise abruptly to the height of a mile or more; their sides, and tops are covered with different kinds of timber, the most of them being evergreens, among which are three kinds of pine, fir, spruce & last and most beautiful, the live oak. This last is the handsomest evergreen that I have ever seen. Then there are different kinds of evergreen shrubs, that are very beautiful, such as I never saw any where except here. Imagine these evergreens waving in the breezes, & at their roots huge piles of rock piled promiscuously together on the mountain side, & you have a picture of nature in her untamed beauty. At the base of the mountains along the margin of this little brook, & for some distance up the heights, the flowers, in grand profusion have been in bloom for two or three weeks while the tops of the mountains are still covered with snow. There is one spot that is particularly beautiful. It is a grove composed entirely of live oakes, the foliage of which is a dark green, & quite bright; a great deal more than pine. This grove is situated on a very steep & rock part of the mountains, commencing at the base near the brook, & the trees are so close, & the green boughs so thick, that the sun can’t penetrate through them. I first saw this place when the ground was covered with snow: So contemplate the foliage, it reminded one of the beauty of spring; cast your eye a few feet lower, & there was the desolation of winter. It presented to my mind a picture of youth, & beauty in connection with white haired age. But ascend to the top of the mountain, & and the scene becomes grand, & sublime. The whole country lies at your feet, & you can survey it at you leisure. The night before I ascended to the summit of the mountain, it had snowed. The branches of the lofty pines on the summit of the opposite mountains were covered with snow & presented the appearance of vernal beauty, wrapped the colorless drapery of the grave. All at once the sun broke forth from behind a cloud that had obscured his splendor, & darted his rays full on this ghost like forest, burnishing their snow white branches with a splendor that was most dazzlingly beautiful. Beneath me could be seen the windings of the gulch between the mountain. Half way down their sides their was no snow, & the trees stood calmly & quietly clothed in their robs of green. But ascend the mountain. At the summit, & get some position where the vision is not obstructed by the timber & you could draw a map of the whole country. You can trace the windings of innumerable streams; the different ridges of mountains &c. Sacramento valley seems to be beneath you, & you can trace the stream in its tortuous passage for many miles below. In front of you across the entire valley of the Sacramento, rises the ridge of the Sierra Nevada. Lawson’s peak rises high above the general level of the chain. A few miles to your right is Bald Hill, the highest mountain in this vicinity, & covered with snow during most of the year. To your left rises Shasta a peak far above all the others, & stands unrivaled amidst this archipelago of mountains, & on whose summit the winter King has everlastingly fixed his throne, amid universal desolation. After contemplating these scenes as long as I wished, I strolled along on the mountain side. I had heard it said that there never was any lightening her, but I came upon a fir, whose shattered trunk, & strewn branches gave evidence, that, that terrific power had been exerted here in all its fearful fury. I at length returned home, tired and hungry, but I considered myself well paid for my trouble. I am as well as usual & am still mining. There is more that I wanted to write but I must close for this time. My respects to friends & love to the relatives. So Good Night This has been written hastily hence the great number of blunders some bad grammar and worse spelling. Look over all of them or send criticism just as you like.
R. P. Hirst
P. S. Yesterday Mr. Geo. L. Whicher came to our cabin & staid all night last night
he is well at present. He is the first one that I have seen from Wi.. that I was acquainted with excepting those with whom I came.
From his letter of April 2, 1854. Prairie Tree Letters, page 68]