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On the Frontier:

A Desert View

A desert view
A desert view ...

"It's a far cry to Loch Awe," and many hundred miles lie between Wet-mountain Valley and Fort Mojave, on the Colorado River. The connection between these statements is not obvious, neither will it be apparent that there is any such linking this chapter with the last. There is indeed none whatever. In it the scene was laid in the Rocky Mountains. Now I purpose to write about the Mojaves of the Colorado, their country, and their ways; and anything else that may come to my recollection, which is likely to be interesting to the reader. In this book no attempt has been made at a general sequence in the relation of facts ; so if I am entertaining, as I always endeavour to be, why need I care for the unities?

Fort Mojave is generally first approached by the military road from Southern Califonia; and as this route is over a very remarkable country, whose features are totally unlike anything European, and have been seldom described, I will try and give some idea of it by -- in fancy -- travelling it again, in the good company of my reader.

We have left "The land of the orange and vine," by the Cajon Pass -- one of the mountain gateways of the Sierra Nevada -- and stand at an altitude of something over five thousand feet in the Summit Gap. Behind is a charming scene of luxurious verdure, bounded by the blue Pacific. Before us all this is changed. Coming quite up to the base of the mountains, among whose crests we stand, and extending far as eye can see, is a vast panorama, whose essential features are those of a howling desert. Our eyes roam over a dreary expanse of sand, spreading out in immense unequal rolls and undulations to the horizon, broken through in many places, by low detached masses, ranges, and solitary peaks of bare, black, volcanic rocks. Through this forbidding country winds the Mojave River -- or rather its course does. Only at long intervals of years does the Mojave river wind to anywhere.

The desert stretched before us is not totally devoid of vegetation ; some green things are there. The sandy plain, glaring and shimmering in the roasting heat, is in places dotted with the grotesque, weird forms of gigantic cerei candelari ; the tall, dull green columns of the opuntas, and those vegetable hedgehogs, the globe cacti ; and patches of Spanish lances, greenwood, and other desert growths are sparingly scattered around. Every plant has thorns ; none seem to have true leaves. Their forms are all eccentric, strange, and fantastic. What plants are there, are nightmares.

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