June 20, 1863: Yosemite Valley
[T]he crowning glory of the valley is the Yosemite Fall, before which I write this. The stream, fed by melting snows back, is a large sized millstream, say fifteen feet wide and two or three deep at the top of the fall. It comes over the wall on the north side of the valley, and drops 1,542 feet the first leap, then falls 1,100 more in two or three more cascades, the entire height being over 2,600 feet! We measured it [today]. I question if the world furnishes a parallel—certainly there is none known…[This] morning Hoffmann and I started very early to climb the cliffs by a ravine a short distance up the valley. He wanted to get bearings for a map of the region. For six hours we had a terribly hard climb, and exciting from its danger. We climbed up cliffs that seemed almost perpendicular, but we measured the falls, and a cliff by its side, which is over three thousand feet high, the upper half of which is perpendicular. A large stone hurled over brought no echoes, it struck too far down for us to hear it. The view from the top was magnificent. The valley, over half a mile—in fact over three thousand feet—below us, its green plain spotted with trees which seemed flat bushes, the river winding through it, the granite domes around, and last of all, the snowy peaks of the higher Sierra just beyond, rising several thousand feet higher—all conspired to form a scene of grandeur seldom met with. I have seen some of the finest scenery of Switzerland, the Tyrol, and the Bavarian Alps, but I never saw any grander than this.
Well, we got back after fourteen and a half hours of severe fatigue, which makes my hand tremble today so that I can write only slowly and crabbedly.