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Jeanne Carr on Shasta

by Jeanne C. Carr

(Reprinted from the John Muir Newsletter Vol. 4, no. 4, Fall 1994)

(Editor's note: the following, from an unidentified clipping, dated May 17, 1876, is from the Muir Family collection at the Holt- Atherton Library. The source is probably the Sacramento Union).


"The kingdom of God cometh not with observation," and we who went, not without misgivings, to perform an unfamiliar task, found one of the crowning pleasures of our lives. Incommunicable as the impressions made upon the mind by sublime natural scenery may be, it is possible to convey a craving for it which will lead another along the same track. So John Muir's letters, written last year in his wild walks over and around Our Fusiyama, and the earlier blossoming of Mr. Avery's thought flowers, had drawn me Shasta-ward with an irrepressible longing. Despising merely big things, I have a profound respect for high things, but this is also best in all its characters and conditions, celestial or terrestrial.

Somewhere I shall never care to remember where, during that May day's ride from Redding northward, from one of the mountain benches along which the stage creeps slowly, the white wonder of Mount Shasta breaks upon the enchanted vision. No nearer view can enhance the majesty, the glory of it as seen from that spot. The forest billows rise and fall like pulsations from the living soul of the scene; young rivers musically pour their silver floods out of its deep stillness; the many-colored earth carpet, blue, crimson and gold, is only the embroidered hem of that snowy robe, beautiful through every fold.

Once revealed in fullest perfection, I lost sight of the mountain for many hours of day and night, the stage road following the tortuous line of the McCloud, Pitt and Sacramento rivers. I had one noble view by moonlight, compensating for much weariness of the flesh incident to staging over freshly repaired corduroy roads then everywhere deeply rutted by heavy teams. But the morning of the 2d found me at the monarch's feet silently worshipful. There was no smoke in Sisson's chimney, and I was driven past to Mrs. Fellows' where only a month before the stages encountered seven feet of snow. The great fire place and our mountain hunger held me but a few of the precious moments from the crisp, bracing air. Only the faintest line of shadow broke the grand sweep of the snow from summit to base on the eastern side and showed where the canyons might be.

"SPOTLESS FROM CROWN TO GARMENT'S HEM", Shasta stood waiting for "Our Brother, the Sun" who laid his golden rays like an aureole upon the summit before all the stars had faded from the morning sky.

The ride around the base of Shasta for miles and miles is as charming as the braided beauty of pine and fir forests, and singing waters can make it. Up there spring is just opening her eyes, and the blue Nemophilas were everywhere nodding their infantile faces; links in the flowery chain which binds our alps to the plains below. I may not speak of the flowers peculiar to our northern counties, which some winged messenger brought ages ago from Armenia and the base of Ararat. Nor yet of our ride homeward with two enthusiastic teachers, our stay at Sissons', who accompanied us down as far as "Portugee", and introduced as the first (aboriginal) families, who were still in their winter quarters, awaiting the coming in of the salmon. About fifty Indians, were congregated on the evening of our visit, to celebrate with a dance the arrival of one of their young women at the marriageable age. I asked of the chief the name of the maiden, whose charms even the Poet of the Sierras could hardly celebrate. "No name" he said. "Your wife, has she a name? I asked. "No name; woman no name", was the reply. The names of these tribes would already have disappeared but for the patient labors of our Western Bancroft who has saved from oblivion the perishable records of these native races.

The stars and stripes were waving over the Fish Commissioner's station, on the McCloud, where I would gladly have lingered. Would that the Government could rehabilitate the forests as easily as it can repeople the rivers. Then the sound of the ax and the buzz of the steam mill would no longer mean waste and desolate places, where these bright, foodful [sic] rivers now rise and flow.

To the seekers for health and recreation I say go north, brothers, go north. Take your gun and fishing tackle, and fix your eve steadily on Shasta butte. And you, dear sisters, fearless of tan and freckles, shorten your trails, take some stout shoes, and abide at Sissons' until the wild strawberries flavor your dreams, and you are at home in that hospitable wilderness.

Sacramento, May 10, 1876 Jeanne C. Carr

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