Travel Letters: Scenic Natural Wonders – Yosemite Valley (1886)

MY DEAR MARY, — There never were such precipices and waterfalls, and so I am going to write you a letter. You see, it takes a two days’ drive to get here ; the roads are terribly rough, and when you come suddenly to Inspiration Point and look down into this glorious place, ringing with cataracts that come tumbling over the brink, and with a plunge of ten Niagaras burst into clouds of spray, it is like looking into a big green heaven inclosed with the most stupendous cliffs, so that the blessed cannot get out, nor the wicked get in. After you get here it is very wonderful. One cannot describe it any more than one can paint it. There is nothing like it in the world, and if it were not so many thousand miles away, we would come here from North Andover once every summer. But it is a marvel that one can only get once in a life-time. You can see a bit of a picture of it in the corner.

I am writing this beautiful letter at the right-hand side of the piazza, where the mosquitoes are very troublesome. To-day I have ridden an unfortunate horse up a four-mile hill, and seen another world of waterfalls and hills. I will describe them to you when I get home. The whole journey has been very funny and pleasant. There are people and places all along the road, at Chicago, Kansas City, Alamosa, Santa Fé, and Los Angeles, which I never shall forget. If you could only see the place where we spent last Sun-day ! The oranges made the whole landscape glow, and the roses and heliotropes made it fragrant. To-morrow I start for San Francisco. Think of us on Sunday after next, May 30, at Monterey, and probably the first Sunday in June at Portland, Oregon. Have you heard they have chosen me Assistant Bishop of Pennsylvania ? Would it not be strange to go there again and end my ministry where I began it ? But then it would interfere with our plan of retiring to North Andover in a few years, which is what I am most longing for and looking forward to in life.

Just now a carriage-load of Raymond people, fellow-travelers of ours, went by. You have no idea how friendly and familiar we are with them all. There are men of letters and men of business, and women of all sorts and kinds. Some of them talk good English, some talk bad, and some talk what can hardly be called English at all. Some of them grumble, some of them smile, and some of them look too stupid to do either. The way they make up to each other, and have grown to be like brothers and sisters, is delightful. They are more or less scattered now, but they will come together again at the Palace Hotel at San Francisco on Saturday night, and then until we go, some of us, to Oregon, the company will see much of one another.

There is the queerest primitiveness of life in this blessed valley. Your landlord talks to you like a brother. He asked me just now if I was the father of a Mr. Brooks who was here ten years ago. . . . Then he appealed to us this morning to be prompt at break-fast, because his wife had been working over the stove ever since three o’clock (when the first stage went off ), and was almost dead. So one finds himself part of the family, and the cares of the house are his. Yet, if it were Boston, I would leave it and come to Marl-borough Street and get some lemonade. I wonder what you all are doing and how you are.

Here comes another stage with a tired-looking party of Raymondites, who have been to see the after-noon rainbow on the Bridal Veil. Then a wild Mexican galloping by on his mustang, to show off before us who sit on the piazza. It is all very nice, but by and by it will be over and then I hope you will be glad to see

Your very loving brother, P.