Travel Letters: Sierra Madre Villa, Near Los Angeles, California (1886)

MY DEAR WILLIAM, — I wish you could see how beautiful this place is. It is not exactly like any-thing I ever saw before, though there is something of Italy, and something of India, and something of Syria about it, It is a world of vines and oranges, with palm-trees here and there, the high hills and a few white peaks of the Sierra Nevada standing up behind. The flowers are gorgeous ; masses of roses and hedges of calla lilies all in bloom, honeysuckles and heliotropes growing up like the sides of houses. It is as good a fairy-land as one can find anywhere in this poor world.

The way here over the Desert was dreary enough, but very picturesque and striking, and the descent of the long Pacific slope was very beautiful, with countless flowers and all sorts of strange shapes of hill and valley.

The great continent is crossed, and though we have not yet seen the Pacific, we are within a few miles of it, and shall get sight of it tomorrow when we go to Santa Monica, which is directly on the coast. The journey has gone bravely on, with no mishap. The ” excursion ” part of it is a decided success. It has reminded me always of an ocean voyage. The excursionists are like your fellow-passengers, — you get familiar with their faces, and learn to greet them in the morning. With a few of them you become acquainted, but you are under no responsibility regarding them, and make your own companionships just as you please. The comfort of it is delightful. There are no plans to make, no money to pay out, and no time-tables to be studied. Nothing but a little book to go by, and a man to tell you what to do. By all means, when you come to California be a Raymond Excursionist.