May 29, 1861: Upper Carmel Valley
Peter and Averill had each bought a “Sharp” for hunting, so [today] they tried for deer. I climbed the mountain for “geology.” First I passed through a wild canyon, then over hills covered with oats, with here and there trees—oaks and pines. Some of these oaks were noble ones indeed. How I wish one stood in our yard at home. One species, called encina, with dark green foliage, was not extra fine, but another, el roble, was very fine. I measured one of the latter, with wide spreading and cragged branches, that was twenty-six and a half feet in circumference. Another had a diameter of over six feet, and the branches spread over seventy-five feet each way. I lay beneath its shade a little while before going on. Two half-grown deer sprang up close to me, but got out of pistol shot before I, in my flurry, had the pistol ready. Up, still up, I toiled, got above the grass and oats and trees into the chaparral that covers the high peaks. I struck for the highest peak, but backed out before quite reaching it, for the traces of grizzlies and lions became entirely too thick for anything like safety. Both are very numerous here. Finch killed three a few days before we arrived.
But what a magnificent view I had! A range of hills two thousand to three thousand feet high extends from Monterey to Soledad. It is a part of the mountains, yet there is a system of valleys behind, up which we had passed. The Carmelo River follows this a part of the way. I was higher than these hills. Over them, to the northwest, lay the Bay of Monterey, calm, blue, and beautiful. Beyond were blue mountains, dim in the haze; to the east was the great Salinas plain, with the mountains beyond, dim in the blue distance. In the immediate foreground was the range of hills alluded to, the Palo Scrito, in some places covered with oats, now yellow and nearly ripe, in others black with chaparral. Behind lay a wilderness of mountains, rugged, covered with chaparral, forbidding, and desolate. They are nearly inaccessible, and a large region in there has never been explored by white men.
I returned by the same way I had come up. There is a most beautiful tree I had not seen before, with foliage something like but even richer than the magnolia—it is a kind of manzanita. It would be splendid in cultivation in a mild climate.
Averill and Peter returned without any venison, but Averill brought in an enormous rattlesnake, by far the biggest we have yet seen. He was huge, and, Averill says, decidedly savage when wounded. He was four and a half feet long, as thick as one’s arm, and had twelve rattles. His head was over an inch and three-quarters broad, with mouth corresponding. I cut out one of his fangs as a specimen.
We spent an hour in Mr. Finch’s house [this] evening. Two brothers, Americans, have a ranch, and are raising horses. Mrs. Finch seemed a meek, sad woman, with more culture and sensibility than her husband, and evidently pining for other lands and other scenes here in this lonely place, away from the world, almost away from the “rest of mankind.” The house was of sticks plastered with mud, the floor, the earth. Two pretty little girls were playing upon a grizzly skin before the fire. It is a lonely life they lead there.