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On the Frontier:

The Caves

The Caves is probably a contraction for the Pass of the Caves; that name being the one by which a pass through the range of mountains lying across our road is known, and in the middle of which some caves are situated.

Mojave River near the Caves

It is truly a pass, in the strictest sense of the term. It is a passage through, not over, a mountain range. The mountains, cleft by the pass called The Caves, are a short but steep chain of basaltic and red-sandstone peaks, high, rugged, and bare, loosely connected with each other by obtruding masses of lava-rock, the whole rising abruptly from the general level of the desert. The pass is about eight miles long, and the entrance to it quite narrow ; but we soon find ourselves in a small, long, winding valley, in which beds of tules, immense rushes and bamboo reeds, and thickets of willows and osiers alternate with pools of green alkaline water, strongly impregnated with arsenic and medicinal salts--the Mojave river, risen again to the surface.

This valley has been the chosen place for several Indian massacres, the reeds and thickets affording admirable ambushes, and the unscalable sides of the pass preventing defensive flank movement. Not a few small cairns of stones, each surmounted with a rude cross, mark the spots where wayfarers, who have gone this road before, have "gone under ; " and, impressively if silently, admonish us to " keep our eyes peeled."

Three miles farther on the pass canons again, becoming quite narrow. The walls on each side of us rise to a great height, and the intervening space is a level floor of fine silvery sand. Not a speck of verdure is to be seen; but, in compensation, the cliffs, which are variegated green and red sandstone, have had their faces fluted and columned by the rain-wash of ages into most extraordinary and beautiful architectural designs. And so nature, like time, brings all things even. This portion of the pass is about a mile long, and in its middle we come to the caves, which have given to it its name.

These caves are insignificant in size and few in number, only three being as large as ordinary-sized rooms ; but we find them most welcome resting-places. It is midday, and they afford the only escape from the heat and glare of the sun's rays, which, reflected from the hot dazzling sand, and from side to side of the canon, is just frightful. Their appearance suggests the idea that they have been made artificially, and their construction has been credited both to mine-hunters and to the ancient inhabitants of the country. In my own opinion their existence is due to the scooping action, on soft portions of the rock, of the immense floods of water which have, from time to time, swept through the pass.

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