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July 4, 1863: Tuolumne Meadows

July 4, 2013

Lembert Dome 09

Cathedral Range from Lembert Dome; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Camp 117

[Today] we celebrated by riding down the river a few miles and climbing a smooth granite dome for bearings, for we hope to work up a map of this region, of which no map has ever been made. The one you have is entirely incorrect, being made by guess. The view from this granite dome would be a grand one for a painter, although not so grand as those farther south that I have described. We are eight hundred feet above the river—for a foreground we have a series of smooth, low, granite domes, with the grassy flats by them, with a cascade of the Tuolumne in front, a dark pine forest beyond stretching up against the slopes, while beyond and above are sharp granite pinnacles destitute of trees and streaked with snow. Two peaks were especially fine—Unicorn Peak, a sharp needle over eleven thousand feet high, and Cathedral Peak, about the same height—the latter something the shape of a huge cathedral.

A great glacier once formed far back in the mountains and passed down the valley, polishing and grooving the rocks for more than a thousand feet up on each side, rounding the granite hills into domes. It must have been as grand in its day as any that are now in Switzerland. But the climate has changed, and it has entirely passed away. There is now no glacier in this state—the climatic conditions do not exist under which any could be formed.

Mountain Pretty Face

Triteleia ixioides; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

We rode back early, ate a tremendous dinner of preserved chicken, in regard to the day we celebrate. In the evening we built a tremendous bonfire of dead trees, but there were only the two of us to enjoy it.

Specimens collected: Triteleia ixioides subsp. anilina; Streptanthus tortuosus; Carex whitneyi; Eleocharis macrostachya; Eleocharis quinqueflora; Carex vesicaria var. vesicaria; Hippuris vulgaris; Hackelia micrantha; Delphinium depauperatum; Polygonum bistortoides; Achillea millefolium.

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