August 20, 1863: Pyramid Peak
Pyramid Peak lies about four or five miles north of this point. No one was inclined to accompany me on the climb, all dreading the labor. So [this] morning…I started for the ascent alone. It was very early and cool, frost lying on the grass by the river, but not on the hillside. I climbed a steep hill; in fact, it was all climb, but not so hard as I had expected, for in four hours I was on the summit with barometer, bag with thermometer, hammer, lunch, and botanical box. The day was fine, not a cloud in sight, the air very clear, though of course hazy in the distance. I remained on the top over three hours.
The view is the grandest in this part of the Sierra. On the east, four thousand feet beneath, lies Lake Tahoe, intensely blue; nearer are about a dozen little alpine lakes, of very blue, clear, snow water. Far in the east are the desolate mountains of Nevada Territory, fading into indistinctness in the blue distance. South are the rugged mountains along the crest of the Sierra, far south of Sonora Pass—a hundred peaks spotted with snow. All along the west is the western slope of the Sierra, bathed in blue haze and smoke; and beyond lies the great plain, which for 200 miles of its extent looks like an ill-defined sea of smoke, above which rise the dim outlines of the coast ranges for 150 miles along the horizon, some of them over 150 miles distant. It is one of those views to make a vivid and lasting impression on the mind.
I was back at the house by sunset. All were surprised to find me no more tired, but the fact is, I have never felt in more vigorous health and my weight is reduced to good walking condition. I am now less than 140 pounds.