Henry Anson Prizer
Friday, August 17th, 1883 - Charley, Pollard and I started from Crested Butte at 12:00 pm. We had partaken of a lunch and the day being fine we were in good spirits. Before we had gone one-half mile one pack slipped off from one jack [mule]; nearing Irwin the other came off; after which we had no further trouble with our packs. A little rain storm met us at Irwin. At night we camped at the base of Beckwith Mt., which mountain Will Pollard wrote as Bethwick. Down Anthracite Creek I caught a few minutes sight of Mt. Marcellina, and also a very abrupt range to the right of it. Between the two, in a very deep canyon, runs a creek. I suppose my first day must contain a description of our outfit, etc. Physically Charley and I resemble each other and have often been by casual acquaintances mistaken one for the other. Will Pollard is a young man of 24, large and strong, a fine man, but too heavy for hard exertions (I think) in the mountains. He is of German descent, well educated, calm, easy temperament, with a theory for everything, and nearly always smoking a pipe. He finished his education in Iowa City, and knows Uncle A. N. C. [Alfred Noyes Currier, Dean of Liberal Arts] slightly.
Our animals are three ponies and two burros. Charley rides a gray mare named Flora, she is a bronco, which I think is a cross between two of the most vicious breeds of ponies known. Will bought a black pony a day or so before we departed, not knowing his name or disposition. We call him "Doc", and trust to good treatment for a like disposition. I am possessor of Jim, a light bay pony, kind and affectionate, strong and obstinate with a capital "O". I broke him myself and he and I put in this first day on good terms. I am dressed with very heavy wool underclothes (a very essential thing in Colorado) a blue flannel shirt, black tie, light colored corduroy pants, broad brimmed tan color hat, laced hunting boots, made of heavy grain leather. On my saddle is tied a duck hunting coat (with so many pockets that Minnie could not count them) and a rubber coat. Around my waist was belted a dozen cartridges 45-100, a revolver and hunting knife. Near Ruby a small boy called out to another smaller one, "Golly, Bill, he's well armed."
Saturday, August 18th - Early morn I learned that we had forgotten our flour, so I saddled Doc and Jim started for Ruby for it - Irwin and Ruby City are the same place.
Our first camp we called "Hellenblazes". As I passed through it on my way back I found the boys had gone on and on the ground the familiar faces of many Kings and Queens lay face up, showing that we had not been the only campers there. The trail from HB led through a hilly country all the way up, through, under and over thousands of burnt logs, over acres of rank weeds, all showing what vast and wasteful fires had passed over these once tall forests of pine. Mr. McCullum and Mr. Buckmaster of C. B. overtook me when near the top of the divide where we pass to the left of Mt. B. About a mile from the top I saw half mile ahead two pairs of long ears which I felt must belong to our burros, "Sam" and "Bill". They are a patient, long-suffering, long-eared, animal, and like all animals should be treated kindly , no matter for what purpose used. After dinner we took our rifles and started for a hunt; before we had been separated 20 minutes I heard Charley shoot twice, and an hour later we had removed the skin from a fat doe and had it hanging above the fire smoking it to keep off the flies, etc. This camp we have named Camp Beckwith, though Will still persists in calling it Bethwick.
Sunday, August 19th - Last night we enjoyed a genuine mountain storm; the clouds rolled and tossed, and the thunder must have equaled the thunder of Jove, and 40 days and nights of such rain would have surely flooded any country small as Palestine. I awoke very late this morning and found the sun had just arisen and was inviting me to do likewise, by shining in my face. After a breakfast of venison and other varieties of food, Will and I began to write letters. Charley promised us a fine dinner, and it was indeed - stewed venison and dumplings being the basis of our meal, which with the variety of canned goods we had, were well appreciated by three hungry mortals. At 3:30 pm we started down the valley to encamp on Coal Creek. We had not intended to travel on Sunday, but circumstances altered. Our trail was rough in the extreme and led through a very rugged valley. Two miles from our camp wild raspberries began to be plenty, and how sweet, large and juicy they were; further on a fine cascade came tumbling down over a couple of hundred feet of rock. I caught three trout for our supper, they were the first of that gamey fish I ever caught. We are camped on a slight rise in the narrow valley just above the creek; our tent is under a large pine and Coal Creek furnishes us music; we have named this camp Trout Camp.
Monday, August 20th, 1883 - Early this morning Charley started back after Jim, Doctor and our burros, the four having taken French leave during the night. Will and I went fishing. Will fell into the creek and I caught a pound trout, all within 5 minutes of leaving camp; inside a half-hour we had caught 9 fine ones and returned to camp, and, dressing them, we laid them whole in the frying pans, putting a small strip of bacon alongside of each one, and while I attended to the fish Will made coffee and cakes. After breakfast we arranged our camp and started for a climb up some very imposing granite cliffs. Before we had gone very far I got a shot at a deer about 200 yds off. It was the first deer I ever saw near enough to shoot at, and maybe that is why I missed it so far, several feet I should judge. But I had the pleasure of seeing it climb the mountain at a speed that defied pursuit. After an hours climbing we stood among as fantastic a group of granite rocks as I ever saw. I think the monumental forms were due to the granite being softer than usual, hence the erosion would be more rapid and irregular. On our way down Will said that I was a regular mountain sheep for I led the way along the rocks where for about fifty feet we could only get a ledge of about 3 inches wide for our feet to rest on, and a slip would have sent us rolling about 200 feet. Before returning we saw C. returning with our strays and when we had arrived at camp he had caught 4 trout and was preparing at 3 pm his first meal.
Tuesday, August 21st - We resumed our journey in the early morning. An hour brought us to several patches of wild cherries growing on small bushes. They were quite good, though hardly ripened. The bushes bore the same resemblance to eastern wild cherry trees that the scrub oak (so plentiful here, 7000 to 8000 ft.) does to the eastern oak. The leaves and bark are formed and taste just the same only they are so stunted that they are both only bushes. About eleven o'clock I came very near having an accident that would likely have left the writing of this days event to someone maybe better adapted to writing diaries, had not Will with his strong arm stopped Jim. In getting off from Jim under circumstances so necessary to speed that I caught my foot in the stirrup and was thrown on the ground and Jim being only a colt was not pleased having a rider dangling at his heels and he started down the mountain about as fast as possible among the large trees and fallen timbers, huge boulders, etc. How I escaped without a broken neck during that bumping is something wonderful. Charley and Will were worse scared than I, but I was bad enough frightened to let them know that I wanted Jim stopped and Will being ahead and below stopped him. I have taken off the spur that caused my foot to catch in the stirrup and while I ride hereafter no spurs will ring on my heel; if horses won't go without them I will walk. We went into camp at 3 pm, Camp Josie, named by Will. After I had caught a few trout for dinner and we had eaten them C. and I went out for a climb. We followed the trail for a half-mile and found, camping in a picturesque place, an old Missourian and son, accompanied by six jacks. Packs which were laying about filled with potatoes, cucumbers, squashes, etc., showed the kind and extent of the burden the burros had to carry over the rough trails behind us to Irwin. From them we learned of a better trail to the north fork of the Gunnison. Leaving them we climbed the hills back of their camp until we had reached a point where we could see away off on our left Mt. Marcellina only from a different side than our first view of it. In front of us, looking so grandly in the setting sun over the granite cliffs, was Beckwith seeming so much larger than when we camped on the south-eastern side of it. This ends a memorable day which I hope some parts of it may never be repeated in my, or any other person's experience.
Wed., August 22nd – We left camp Josie about 9, and then followed nearly 3 hours of the hardest climbing I ever experienced. The trail was plain, but the same old story; fires causing fallen timber and rank weeds which in many places grew to a height of 6 feet, hence it was laborious work, and the weeds shutting out all air, we toiled and sweat and wish for the top long ere we could see the light shine through the aspens and pines ahead of us. We arrived on top between 2 and 3 pm and decided to hunt for a day or two.
There were many tracks of deer and elk, and good grass and water for our stock. After a lunch and secluding our camp among a thick bunch of aspens, we each, taking a different direction, began, for Will and I, our second deer hunt; and though it ended unsuccessfully, I at least learned something about hunting such game.
Thursday, 23rd – Early this morning I raised my head to listen, fancying I heard a noise, and the result proved I had for a snort and a bound through he undergrowth of a deer showed that one at least had found our camp and was curiously disposed to visit us; but my sudden rising frightened him away. After noon we all took a hunt and climbed up on Mt. Gunnison. Ten miles below we saw the two common peaks named Lands End Mountains, and in the West for the first time I beheld the famous Gunnison country, the garden spot of Colorado, stretching away to the south and west was one high mesa along the broken edges of which we could see the different stratas of red, yellow and white sandstones, on the top the miles of unbroken light brown sage reflecting the afternoon sun back on the unlucky one who might be traveling it.
As I looked over this land that such a short time before was the cause of so much trouble, I wondered wherein lay the value that the white man wanted and the pleasure the Indian fought to retain. True beneath our feet lay many pretty parks surrounded by groves of pastoral beauty and through each park ran a small stream which, yet farther down below united with others until in the hazy distance we could see quite a stream flowing at the base of those distant cliffs. And all of this was one of the finest hunting and fishing grounds in Colorado, but it was good only for three or four months in the year for nearly three-fourths of the year those barren sandy valleys, cold and shelterless, must furnish food, etc., or Uncle Sam must.
I almost dreaded to leave our pleasant camping place for those hot hills, dusty roads, muddy waters, etc., but our way was through it and through it we must go.
Friday 24th – Away at 9. For two miles our way was through parks and spruce groves, then we came out on the edge of sage brush Gunnison we saw repeated the scene of yesterday except seeing it in the morning sun all seemed brighter and the sage brush more of a gray color.
Our packs being heavier than before I packed the flour on Jim and Charley and Will had packed blankets on Doc and Flora and we walked. Leaving Mt. G. we descended the steepest hill I ever saw. I thought Sam and Bill would at times fall over on their ear. After 8 hours of walking we reached Minnesota Creek at 5 o’clock where we camped; Will was about used up. Charley and I were tired but can standing walking better than Will can.
Saturday 25th – Sunrise saw us preparing for our journey down into a settled country; three miles below camp the valley widened and now and then a ranch of a few acres fenced in by either a pole fence or one of brush, but the surprising part was the great quantity that had been raised by irrigation on such a small quantity of land. Just below the junction of Minnesota Creek and the north fork of the Gunnison we found or rather arrived at Wades Store and P.O. Mailing our letters we continued on our way. At 3 pm we camped near a ranch where we supposed we could buy milk, eggs and vegetables. Then Will and I went in for a swim, the north fork being quite a stream and cold; we enjoyed it after our hot day of dust, etc.
Sunday 26th – Before breakfast Will and I rode over to the ranch to have a shoe nailed on Doc, while there I bought a pail of milk, 15 potatoes, a dozen eggs; also engaged the lady to have ready for our 3 o’clock dinner a pail of string beans cooked with cream, then she insisted on giving us enough lettuce to last a large hotel all season. After breakfast at 10 o’clock we adjourned to the river and standing on the sand in the hot sun, hidden from view of the natives, we clothed in our last clean shirt proceeded to wash the various stains and soils from our flannels, etc., after which Will and I spent a half-hour trying to learn which could swim the nearest directly across the swift current. The beans were excellent. Charley and I after dinner climbed the rocky, cactus-y side of the mesa and saw the usual fine sunset. By the way I wonder if the sun ever sets any other way but fine. On our way back we met the ranchman and wife out for a horseback ride; they stopped for a short chat and we asked questions. If questions would draw out information we will soon be well posted in regard to Colorado. Nearly all the people living in these valleys are cheerful, pleasant and sociably inclined and do not tire of giving information or of praising the fine vegetables they raise.
Monday 27th – While I rode to the ranch to return borrowed pails, etc., Charley and Will started down the river. I overtook them at the P.O. Hotchkiss, situated at Leroux Creek and north fork junction. Following Leroux Creek for two miles we took a half-hours rest for the animals and lunch for ourselves and then came over the mesa to Dry Creek. That last sentence shows more to me than it shows on paper, to do as it says we had to climb up a steep hill covered with sand, prickly pear, pinon trees and heat, then for ten long miles , and 4 longer hours, we enjoyed a level sagebrush mesa from which the waves of heat off the sand and gray sage brush rolled up into our faces blistering them, beating on our backs so freely that our duck coats were a protection. Coming from the cool mountains we at first felt inclined to murmur at the heat, but Pollard must say something dry and humorous and I must have the pleasure of opposing him while Charley whistled; so by 5 o’clock we were over, none the worse for wear, for Will thought we would lose considerable dirt when the skin all came off our exposed faces and necks; but when we got down to Dry Creek and traveled down it for 4 miles over a rough uncertain trail with an occasional wild rose bush covered with briers to sweep one’s face, and at dark succeeded in finding enough water to camp by, we realized what it was to go at haphazard over Colorado, for the water was in quantity about 2 barrels, and in quality 2 bilious; we had to kneel down and blow away hundreds of gnats and quite a thick scum and then dip quickly; we all drink coffee, a rule it’s well to follow in the mountains. When the water is bad drink lots of coffee.
Tuesday 28th – In the morning I climbed the hill to learn our whereabouts with my field glass for we had come to the conclusion and a wise one that we were going astray. On top of hill no. 1 I found no. 2 and on top of it was the last, from the top of which I could see out over and a pleasant surprise awaited me for before me lay a basin some 2X6 miles in extent. Naturally it was drier than Dry Creek, but pouring down the opposite side I could see was quite a stream which by the aid of my glass I knew was brought over the hill by the ranchers, some 5 or 6 in number. But the basin below me was quite a surprise for there surrounded by hills too barren for sage brush were a half-dozen ranches with corn, oats, wheat, vegetables and I could see a patch that savored so strongly of melons three miles away that I shouted, for that was the kind of patch we were eagerly wishing for. Everything looked so beautiful and fresh that I almost thought I could breakfast there in the morning sun with such a sight before me; looking out a way for us to get over the hills I returned to camp and breakfast after which we went over into the basin which was called “Hart Basin” and as the water they used come from Surface Creek we were on the right course. For trying to reach Surface Creek is a peculiar one, it runs upon the mesa the earth descends on the west side and for a short distance on the east side it is level, and a few irregular hills not very high seem like an embankment thrown up to prevent overflow on that side. Forked Tongue Creek is only three miles away and it runs through a deep canyon, so rugged it was impossible to go from one creek to the other directly across. Night found us within 9 miles of the head of Surface Creek and the same distance from Mt. Leon.
Wednesday, 29th – We moved our camp nearer the top by five miles and stopped near a small lake, in the edge of a grove of small spruce, where from the door of our tent we could look out into a pretty park of some 10 or 12 acres in extent. On both sides of our grove ran a small stream fed by numerous little springs – they came together in a small pool a hundred feet in front of camp, and as these streams both ran between banks that were hidden by the tall grass that naturally became tangled and matted across the water, thus forming a bridge fit only for grasshoppers and bugs of all kinds, thus we found it convenient to step on the slender bridge occasionally just for the “wettin’ of us”. The lake was filled with trout and the woods with game. We soon found our way to the lake and as an Englishman would put it we “killed” seven fine fish. After eating fish and venison, tomatoes and potatoes, etc., we played Old Sledge [also known as All-Fours or Seven-up, it was an early version of the card game Pitch] until supper time and listened to the softly falling rain all p.m. It made me homesick to be in a country or a part of Colorado where I could sit in a comfortable place and hear it and see it rain, and that too on tall grass, such as can be found several months earlier in Iowa.
Thursday, 30th – Breakfast over Charley and I saddled our horses and rode out for a look at our surroundings. A finer pastoral country for summer I do not believe is to be found in the west but everywhere we could see evidence of long and severe winters; after gathering and eating all the wild raspberries we wished we returned to camp to find Will had captured 9 trout, many weighing 1 or 2 pounds – not very large fish when compared with a 40 lb. catfish, but in Colorado one will catch a dozen trout weighing less than one pound before catching one more than that in weight. Dinner over we all adjourned to the lake, and being somewhat egotistical about boating skill, I was first on a raft, left by some hunters and fishers. Of course I could soon get it out where we could see the largest trout jumping out of the water. Charley and Will soon followed and away for twenty feet we went smoothly when I concluded to wade out, how deep the water was I don’t know; I was in too much of a hurry to carry out my sudden decision to measure depths. Suffice it to say that I returned to camp and changed all my clothes, even putting on my turban (which I use for a “night cap” on cold nights) and hanging my broad brim on a stick to warm. After an hour or more Will and Charley came in more damp than I was if possible, without fish or poles, but as it had begun to rain about the time we got on the raft, I would not be ungenerous enough to say they had tipped over or off; that is the reason I walked to shore because I was afraid of getting wet by the rain. So ended one day on the garden spot of Colorado.
|Friday, 31st - Friday seems to be our day
for starting, after a rest, therefore this day we were early on a good
trail, which led us to the top of the divide from which Surface Creek
runs to the south and from where Plateau and it's tributaries flowing
north to northwest finally take a westerly course and joining the Grand
River [the Colorado] at a point some 20 miles northeast of Grand
Junction. The rougher and semi-mountainous part of this divide extends
northeast until near the northern Elk Mts., and the lower level part is
the "Grand Mesa", and it is grand for it stands out alone, the
highest mesa in America, with its edge so clearly defined and
perpendicular that mechanical agencies instead of aqueous seem to have
been used to give it that regularity. This cliff that surrounds all the
Mesa varies from one to several hundred feet in height, and in but a few
places is it possible to ascend. The formation is sandstone. Night found
us camped within one mile of Plateau Creek, on Grove Creek. We found
many other wayfarers hunting poorer homes than they had left, or else
seeking better and usually finding worse.
Saturday, Sept. 1st - Will and I followed Plateau Creek stopping on our way to purchase 1 lb. of ranch butter price 50 cts., but we could stand such a price because the lady kindly gave us all the good rich milk we could drink. Charley overtook us at the mouth of Clear Water Creek, where we lunched, then proceeded to Mesa Creek and camped for Sunday. Although it was somewhat early to camp we had 12 mi. from here to Grand River and no water on the way, so we chose to stop, especially as we had found a ranch where we could procure all kinds of vegetables for a Sunday dinner.
Sunday, 2nd - After breakfast Will and I visited the ranch and found two characters of distinctly American nationality - Jerry Hollingsworth and wife - Jerry a quiet, retiring homely man who lived to obey: the wife - well only Dickens could do her justice, unless George Elliott's Mrs. Glegg would equal her, but to hear her rattle on gave me a good appetite for the food we purchased, paying $1.65 for a tin pail of milk, 4 qts., 1 pumpkin pie (very poor) 1 doz. ears of corn, partly spoiled by a species of cut worm that was found on each ear, a few good ripe tomatoes, and 24 biscuits. Dinner over we each wrote a letter and waded Plateau Creek quickly, to prevent water entering our boots, climbed a sandstone cliff, and proceeded to explore the crevices found there, but shortly we discovered a huge block of sandstone that had slid or rolled down near the bottom, and we discovered that the reddish-brown surface had been scratched off in places leaving, on closer inspection, what I called sandstone etchings. There were rude figures representing many varieties of animals and birds in different positions; deer, elk, bear, wolves, horses and buffalo running and standing; birds and turtles, also men or the forms of men, the latter were all true to life, perfect in form excepting in such deviation as the unskilled Indians and their rude and awkward tools would account for. We spent an hour admiring, laughing at and wondering over this evidence of a mite of civilization in the Indian.
On top of the cliff was a huge anvil-shaped rock which we had wondered at, gazed at, and talked of all Saturday while coming toward it. Now we proposed a closer view, climbing up to the base, we found it to be fully 200 ft. high. It rested on a huge base of conglomerate, composed of coarse sand mixed with pebbles in sizes from a hazel nut to an apple with occasional nests of small boulders of small size, it of a dull brownish grey color. The body of the monument was of a soft sandstone with a capping or a ledge nearly on top of a harder sandstone which had not washed away so rapidly as the main body; this ledge projected over many places several feet, in other places its weight had broken off large blocks, generally cubical in form, on which we rested while admiring a work of nature, and it worthy of as much study as the works of art we had only left a few minutes before. On the top of all was a stratum of sandstone, soft like the body and of different color, and it had by erosion, been left in peculiar shapes - one place looked like a pile of books bound in calf or sheep, another place a row of books seemed to fill quite a shelf, and with a fanciful imagination one could see busts and forms of men and animals, and I thought one capable of reading what was before us, could hammer out a complete work on some department of geology, and then leave unimpaired a fine anvil for the ignorant to wonder over. Our return to camp down the sand cliff and over huge boulders, through crevices in the cliffs that closed so nearly that often it was a tight squeeze for us, finished our Sunday and I believe that our sermon from nature and the aborigines was good for us.
Monday, September 3rd - At 7:30 am we were away over the creek and up through dry sand gullies bordered by monuments of all sizes and shapes, some of a reddish color but not durable enough to be real "red sandstone"; up the gulches we continued for several miles, then through a few stunted cedars, occasionally catching a glimpse of a wagon track nearly obliterated by the weather of some kind (rain I believe never falls here) where some more energetic man than common found his way over where horsemen have a poor trail. I wonder if he did not take his wagon apart in some places. At 11 o'clock we came in sight of the Grand River, and though fully five miles away I could easily see that, for the first time in Colorado, I beheld a river, one that deserved the name of river. Arriving at it we dined. After dinner we replaced our packs and proceeded up the river in search of a ford, passing an occasional cabin, built with cottonwood logs, in log-house style, or with poles placed upright, and daubed in the usual mode. On one ranch we observed pieces of boards nailed on some large cottonwood trees and half hidden by the branches was a platform used by the unfortunate ranchman during the high water. I hardly think one would enjoy life in a tree for several weeks seeing nothing but a yellow swiftly running stream bordered by cactus, and sage brush valley of many miles in extent, with barren rugged hills in the distance. After making several attempts to find a fording place and failing in all, we camped for the night. Charley caught a 4 pound fish which some say is salmon, others call them white fish but judging from their shape I do not believe it belongs to either species.
Tuesday, 4th - While Charley walked up the river to find a better crossing if possible Will and I got breakfast ready, after which I put a bridle on Jim and removing all my garments but a shirt, Jim and I started for the opposite side; Jim disliked to go into such a swift unknown stream, and I was not certain but we would swim for our own shore again, but sturdy Jim, always reliable and true every way, finally got safely over with his rider, and finding it too deep for our pack animals, Charley and I decided to go over and ride a days journey up Roan Creek, and return the next day; if we were pleased with the country we would build a raft and float ourselves over. Expecting a tiresome ride for the horses we only took a can of fish balls and a can of fruit for food, and our saddle blanket for bedding; we wanted to go up the head of Roan Creek over on to and down (not up) Salt Creek. By 3 o'clock we were nearly 20 miles up, but no signs of anything but cliffs on either side and barrenness under foot, therefore we decided to go back that night. But we had ridden up far enough to see the high cliffs of the Roan or Book Plateau on the right hand side of Roan Creek; on the left side of Roan Creek (as you go up) were the Little Book Cliffs. No one but a geologist should attempt the description of these great high white chalky cliffs, with their sloping sides and their perpendicular, yellowish ledges, for a cap, and red sandstone base, barren from top to base, reflecting from their white sides the sun's rays back on the baked earth until even the cactus look thirsty, and the sage wilted. I wonder if the chalk cliffs of England look more white and brilliant on a bright day. How I should like to travel over this country with a geologist and a botanist, though the latter would be idle part of the time, but the former never.
Wednesday, 5th - We returned to Plateau Creek and camped near Jerry's where for cash we could purchase luxuries, and if we choose, hook watermelons, but that is not necessary in Colorado where melons are plenty and purchasers few. On Plateau we found several ranches all raising the finest vegetables, some corn, oats, etc., but it is like their enormous coal beds, no market and 50 miles of rough road to town that is 30 miles to the nearest ranch, 60 for the farthest; they can raise food for their own use, and in a short time the large cattle men will be using every available acre for grazing and what will the ranchers do, they can at most only own a few head of cows for dairy purposes, a living is all they can make.
Along these cliffs one can see veins of coal from 3 to 15 feet thick, of what use? Coal mines are of no use in Colorado unless the R.R. Co.'s buy them for they practically prohibit the transportation of coal except from their own mines and as long as they can supply the state markets at a good price, they will not build branch roads off to other mines and lessen the price.
Thursday, 6th - Having decided to make a more thorough examination of the hills near the Mesa, night found us at the head of a small stream, a tributary of Clear Water Creek. We camped in the shelter of a small grove of aspens which we find grow only in damp soil hence when we see them, we always expect water nearby, at all seasons of the year. Jumping over a log to loosen my joints after being so much in the saddle I caught my foot on a clematis vine and fell headlong into the bushes, frightening a blue grouse, which flying up so near my head in turn frightened me but the grouse was foolish enough to stop in a near aspen and I learned a characteristic of the grouse, they will alight close to the body of a tree and no amount of firing seems to scare them away, they only hug the tree closer. Charley shot 5 times with his revolver at this one before hitting it. I have known them to be shot at 11 times without moving and probably would not then but the eleventh killed; the reason for shooting so often is that the pride of hunters here does not allow shooting birds, squirrels or rabbits only through the head, a rifle ball through the body ruins the bird for eating besides anyone, they think, can hit a bird - sitting - through the body.
Friday, 7th - We started out for a deer hunt about noon, while I was very thirsty and warm, just starting for the creek I heard a sound that inexperienced as I was at hunting I knew was made by a deer running, a moment later two small deer (does) came down a deer trail just ahead of Charley and I. Seeing us ere we could hide they turned at right angles leaving their side toward us, we fired at about the same time, and I saw mine (as I thought) drop, but she was not mine yet, for reloading my rifle, a seconds work, I started for her and when about 25 yds. away she jumped up and before I could shoot she was in the heavy timber. I followed her some distance by the blood but could not overtake her, but considering it was only my second shot at a deer, and one that was running fast at that, I felt satisfied, besides one was all Charley and I could lug to camp situated as it was about 2 miles off, and one mile as hard to get down as the little distance the fox found to get up when after grapes.
Saturday, 8th - About 10 o'clock Charley and I, riding Jim and Flora, rode down Clear Water a few miles to see what work would be necessary to irrigate a few acres, we had already decided about the grazing, and we soon learned that it would be almost impossible to get a ditch out where it would be of any use. While riding along we were watching the coming of a very black cloud; what first attracted my attention was its coming from a land where I thought rain never fell; the Grand Valley. When first seen it was over the Grand River fully thirty miles away and it was an hour exactly getting over us; I do not think that I ever witnessed more vivid lightening or harder, louder thunder; Jim being raised in a country where thunder and lightening are almost unknown hardly understood it, and was quite glad when I led him under a cedar and talked to him, he seemed to understand that my quiet words meant O.K. for he soon wanted to wander out where he saw some nice grass. In the afternoon we came to a tent without occupants and being hungry we took possession; finding a loaf of bread and a can of syrup we ate the loaf and with what syrup we wanted made a good lunch; a half-hour after we met two men on the rail, learning the tent was theirs we informed them of our raid and as we expected they said "welcome" but added that in the other tent (there was a small one and a large one) we would have found meats, fruits, etc. While writing this I am thinking that folks at home would call this stealing and I wonder if customs, circumstances and localities make it stealing in one place and not all. Campers and certain classes of settled people in Colorado expect and wish any one who may happen along hungry to help themselves. They virtually have a sign which might read: "If you're hungry, eat" and all stockmen when out away from home hungry enter and cook or get a meal as best they can from the first cabin or camp they find. They are not afraid of tramps, for they do not tramp much where houses may be 20 miles apart.
Sunday 9th - Arose at 6 o'clock and found the clear frosty air too much for me so returned to the warm blankets; at eight I tried again and succeeded in getting a fire and breakfast started, then I awoke Will and Charley and we soon had venison frying lively; after breakfast Will asked for the time, it was 9 o'clock, but for a joke I said 7 o'clock, he set his watch accordingly, then we began writing. I soon had a cozy place fixed in the shade with my saddle under my head and robe under my body in fact it was such a soft bed on the thick grass that I came near sleeping instead of writing (I had only slept about 13 hours the night before) but at last the writing was finished, and as I lay with my chin resting on my hands I saw a very pretty picture - just visible through the heads of the tall grass and wild oats. I could see the lower hills below us covered with pinion and cedar groves resembling some of our older orchards at home, with their low-growing irregular branches.
On the farther side of the Plateau I see similar hills, above them for miles in either direction east or west I see several strata of red sand stone above which is one of white many feet thick along the top of this high cliff is a blue line which is caused by the afternoon sun shining on the stunted trees growing on top, this is Battlement Mesa beyond, rising yet higher in the sunlight, are the chalky sides of the Roan or Book Plateau and they are up so high that the sun seems to reflect the yellow colored rays far above the sickly color of the top ledge until it looks beautiful with the foreground of blue and white and red of Battlement Mesa, and I, musing about the Indians and whether they appreciated any of the wonders of this land except the hunting and fishing - fell asleep only to be awakened by hearing Will swear. Now Will is a church member and never swears and it was so surprising to hear him say "good heavens" that I awoke and asked an explanation. He said, why here it is 23 minutes past 2 o'clock and the sun is going down. Well my lie made him swear and he found me out next morning when I told him the time.
Monday 10th - For several days past I had felt what many would call a presentiment. I was very anxious to arrive at Grand Junction where we all expected mail, I had mentioned to Will that I was afraid I would receive bad news there, but he, like myself, felt inclined to laugh at my fancies; nevertheless we all hurried that way, leaving our pleasant spot on Monday hoping to reach there Tuesday night but the way like so many other things in Colorado was uncertain, and dusk found us on Monday evening climbing a 3 mile hill to the top of the divide between Plateau Basin and the Grand Valley. The Plateau joins the Grand in a canyon called Hogback Canyon. There is in Colorado a class of (generally sandstone) hills which on account of their shape resembling a hog's back are given that name, and I presume that the hills around this canyon give it that name. The moon came out full and bright as we arrived on top and on our left hand arose the sloping side of the Mesa ending as usual in a perpendicular cliff now shaded by the moon; these top ledges are called Rim Rock which is a very appropriate name. A few minutes before arriving on top I, while walking behind, heard Charley telling me that there was a can that looked unopened and it was a can of peaches, beside it half hidden was another and they made a very acceptable addition to our larder which was now getting rather low. By moonlight we saw a great, yawning chasm too deep to see the bottom, but its three white sides looked steep enough in the moonlight, when we, looking over the edge saw that we were on an overhang ledge or shelf we turned our path quickly.
Tuesday, 11th - Tuesday morning found us at the Grand River ford, although somewhat swift and deep our only mishap was the loss of Charley's hat which went sailing down the river. We camped on the north side for a dairy man had kindly offered take our packs into town Wednesday morning in his wagon, and Wednesday morning found Charley and I driving Sam and Bill into town some 15 miles from camp. Grand Junction, situated at the junction of the Gunnison and Grand Rivers is only about 18 months old, is a town of some 1000 or 1200 people with many fine brick buildings. The D. & R. G. [Denver and Rio Grande Railroad] have machine shops and a roundhouse; they are brick buildings with stone trimmings, casings, etc, very large and would be a credit to a city like Pueblo or Denver; there are also quite a number of houses made of adobe brick and many of logs; it is quite odd to observe fine gilded signs hanging on cottonwood logs, and yet more so to step inside and find not only comfortable but really fine furniture in the various offices so located. Their great want is water, which flows by millions of barrels within the city limits, yet a barrel costs 25 cents. There are but few wells and the water in them being filtered through several feet of alkali soil is not very good; but their poor water furnishes an excuse for the many saloons in town, though I do not know that they have more than is usually found in Colorado towns. We stayed in town until Saturday noon looking up various matters and finally decided to look over the country laying between the Grand and the Dolores rivers. At noon we left the land of alkali which is found very hot in summer, very cold in winter and when properly irrigated very productive. When we had climbed the familiar cedar and pinion covered hills - for they are all alike - and looking back on that large valley from the head of No Thoroughfare Canyon, we felt many doubts about the future of Grand Valley; it is about 40 miles in length by 10 in average width, and it's inhabitants look forward to a time when cornfields, oat and wheat fields, fruit and vegetables shall grow in profusion, that the passing world will view a modern Garden of Eden; they also believe (which is no doubt true) that constant irrigation will wash from the soil the great surplus of alkali and that use will better their land instead of weakening it. I hope that their dreams may come true.
Heretofore I have used the past tense when I should not, which was owing to my diary being often behind. I suppose a diary should be written at the close of each day, but the fact that mine was not does not mar the accuracy of it as a history of our trip nor will it be otherwise from now until the close, for many perverse circumstances prevented our writing regularly, hence I shall finish this more in form of a letter, and shall not write anything that my remembrance is likely to err in, and leave nothing to imagination.
Wednesday, September 12th, 1883 - Wednesday was spent by me in writing letters and getting dinner for Will and Charley who rode over the hills towards the Unaweep. We were camped near the head of East Creek, and on the hills around was abundant grass and occasional clumps of aspens, while pitch pine grew somewhat thinly yet enough to keep two or three sawmills going. Pitch pine is the finest tree that grows in Colorado; they grow larger, make better lumber and are found usually only in grassy localities from 6000 to 8000 feet elevation. The spruce pine grow more slender and closer, being found nearly all together from 8000 feet to timber line and, in their forests are the most impassable paths, the fallen timber, and the materials for the fires that destroy so much valuable timber every year. In a few days we were in the Unaweep Canyon. It extends directly across from the Gunnison River to the Dolores. To begin at the divide of or midway between the rivers, and describe either end answers for both. On the divide there is a wall of granite about 800 feet high - generally perpendicular. Throughout the canyon the granite dips both directions for 8 or 10 miles from the divide where it disappears under the sand stone. Above the granite are the sandstone ledges aggregating 1000 feet in all. They make two very irregular cliffs which one must ascend or descend in going at right angles with the canyon.
Thursday we went over to the Rio Dominguez, which is a beautiful stream fed by springs which pour out from under the sandstone cliffs 300 to 600 feet high. A party of government surveyors encamped there said the altitude was 7400 feet.
Friday we went on a hunt and returned at night with two very fine bucks and a fawn. Saturday Will and I returned to the Unaweep and borrowed an axe and shovel, which was easily done for we had given them a whole deer. Thursday saw the completion of our 12x14 cabin and Friday we found our way back to Unaweep P. O. Making arrangements to leave our camping outfit there, also our burros, we proposed to ride to Crested Butte in four days, 160 miles of mostly rough mountain trails.
Saturday at 9 we were off, each had for bedding a saddle blanket with a pair of blankets besides. We expected to get food at ranches but we could not get our dinner at a deserted ranch, therefore went hungry until night when we luckily found a camper who fed us. We then had the idea to complete our journey, and riding at night over a strange road was slow work and it was 11 o'clock before we found the only water to be had. We also found our surveying friends of the Dominguez here. I slept with my head in a bunch of willows, and found it so sore in the morning that I could hardly wear my hat.
Sunday night found us at Hotchkiss again. We were allowed by a ranchman to sleep on the kitchen floor and next morning were well fed and started on our way. We made fewer miles Monday but had that steep hill to climb then three miles of those fallen trees to clamber over. We camped near where we had stopped on August 22nd. There were some changes on the mountain, the aspens had begun to lose their variegated leaves and the tall weeds which had once been so bothersome were now lying upon the earth wilted by Jack Frost. Tuesday was the day that we had expected to be home but about noon Flora got sick and Charley rode on to Ruby City, or Irwin, to get medicine for her. He had been gone an hour when Will and I had her so nearly cured that we succeeded in getting her to Mt. Beckwith. Around 3, or about dark, a storm came up and we were obliged to keep a fire all night; at 2:00 am Charley got back. He had been on the way longer than he had intended, for when he arrived in Ruby the stage was just starting for C. B., and leaving Jim at the stable he went to C. B., ate supper and getting a horse from the stable there rode back bringing our mail - five letters from home - you may be sure I read them by firelight. Early next morning we left for C. B. once more. I rode the new horse, Prince, and had a chat with him, reminding him of the day when he ran off with me. As we rode again through the burnt-over district the wind blew a gale and in every direction we could see and hear the dead trees falling. I expected that at any moment we would likely have to jump and run, but only one tree fell across our trail while we were in the midst of them. Such a roaring and crackling I never heard but once and that was when the fires ran through the north side timber on C. B. mountain. At noon we were home in Crested Butte, having rode from summer into winter within 48 hours, leaving hot, dusty roads for those that were covered with snow.
Diary entries end here - Monday, September 17th, 1883. -DR
Submitted by Doug Russell July 2004.
I am attaching excerpts from my Great-Granduncle, Henry Anson Prizer's, diary in Word format. In 1883 he went exploring in the Irwin-Ruby area around Coal Creek. I thought you might find it interesting. I have about a quarter of it transcribed. Henry Prizer lived from 1856 to 1912 and lived most of his life in Brighton, Iowa. He would have been 34 when he wrote this.
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