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California - Its History And Romance

( Originally Published Early 1911 )


THE cosmographers have done their worst, at last—or their best. It is wholly a matter of which way you care to look at it. Nothing remains, any more, for the imagination. There is not a terra incognita left on the face of the earth.

From Dan to Beersheba is now a mere day's Marathon for the members of an amateur athletic club. The whole "cow country," even, has been fenced in. All that lingers is the long baffled heel which is to be placed on the South Pole; and that is liable to happen any day. Then the last parallel and meridian will have been checked up, and Marco Polo may rest content in his forgotten grave.

But the situation is not without compensation, though the ultimate Treasure Island has been plowed knee-deep and John Silver need never come back to muster another cut-throat crew. And the compensation is this, that the poet's dreams—ages old—of a "Land of Heart's Desire" have been realized in the actual discovery of that earthly Paradise. It is certainly California.

Happily, there is no country unbeloved. It may be that you wifi have seen a Patagonian pining among the green fields of a sunny land for the desolate plains where he was born. Or it may be that you have turned from the note of a flute in a music hall to see in the eyes of a stranger the hunger of a longing, not knowing that his heart was far fled to a forest where none but himself had been a boy. Native land with some people is a passion; with every man it is at least a memory tender with affection.

Still, it is true that in all ages men have dreamed that there was somewhere on the yet ungirdled globe an ideal land, fairer and kindlier than their own. Long was that fair land sought. Phoenician, Greek and all went forth to seek it—deep-sea voyagers, far-inland wanderers, Jason in the Argo and Marcos de Niza with dusty staff upon Cibola's luring trails. Wave-tossed and footsore they fared upon the quest.

But now there is no longer a dragon-guarded frontier that awaits a daring prow or an adventurous sandal. The knowledge of every land and every sea is complete and available. You can get it all for a penny at the map-seller's store, just around the corner.

It seems that there has never been such a thing as a myth. Everything that man has dreamed of or that he saw in visions from the beginning had some foundation in fact. We speak now with our very voices across seas that were limitless to the ancients and that Columbus spent so many weary weeks to cross. Daedalus was not a myth, but simply a man in advance of his age, as was also "Darius Green in his flying machine." And so, with California known to all the world as it is known today, we see that the "Land of Heart's Desire" was equally as unmythical as were the other strange visions which have dreamed their way across the mist-hung pathways of the centuries.

The proof lies in the fact that those who come to California, like the messengers of Ulysses to the Lotus Land, lose the desire to return whence they came. It is so from the very first wanderer who set foot upon the bright shores of the Sunset Sea, stretching in glory down the world from Shasta's snowy crown to San Diego's harbor of the sun. He found a new land fairer than his own on which to feast his senses, a new love in his heart stronger than the old. Since that far-away day when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed with his galleons from Navidad to lie down with death on a sunny isle of Santa Barbara, California has called with luring lips the wandering sails and caravans of all the world.

The charm of California is no fitful charm. She has never had a faithless lover. Whoever has fallen under the spell of her beauty seeks no other mistress. Son and daughter that she has borne worship her very name. The expatriate clings to her with a deep and undying affection that ends only with the shadow of death. At the touch of her hands the ills that terrorize childhood in the fickle outlands come not to estop the frolics of health; manhood rises to vast achievements and great deeds of progress ; old age lengthens to unwonted years, blessed with serene content.

There is no other land so lovely, so constant, so generous. It lies between the desert and the sea—God's two sanatoriums for weary flesh and weary mind. The Sierra's eternal snows, the desert's clean, hot breath, the Ocean's cool winds and the warmth of the sinuous current of Japan winding through it, all combine to make a climate hopelessly unrivaled by even the most favored shores of the Mediterranean. It is a land of artists' dreams, endless with flower-flamed uplands, swinging lomas and majestic mountains. It changes with every color of the day and is soft and sweet unspeakably under low-hanging stars and great, shining moons.

There is not anywhere a Valley to rival the beauty of Yosemite, or the fruitful area of the San Joaquin; the most splendid harbor in the world is the Bay of San Francisco; the Mariposa Sequoias are the largest trees in existence as they are also the oldest living things on the face of the earth. Never was there a road more glamorous with romance or more eloquent with service than El Camino Real on which still linger the gray ruins of the old Franciscan Missions. Southward wind still the brown trails of the Padres, northward are the hills from which the Argonauts wrung the most stupendous cache of gold that Nature had ever hidden away.

If you were to spend a year of happy wanderings between San Diego's harbor of the sun and the Valley of the Seven Moons, and then another summer still till you reach the trails that lie under Shasta across the hills of Del Norte, Modoc and Siskiyou, then would you know with what tenderness God has fashioned California. Always from the Wander Trail would your eyes behold the glory of the sea, the soft purple of dreamy isles, sun and shine to light your feet by day and the wonder of the stars to cover you at night.

There is no brighter estuary on any shore than the Bay of San Diego, and it is there that California began. It is the place of first things. It is the first Port of Home on the shores of the Pacific on the western rim of the United States. Here were reared on those shores the first cross, the first church and the first town. It was here, too, that sprang from primeval wastes the first cultivated field, the first palm, and the first vine and olive tree to blossom into fruitage beneath a wooing sun from the life-giving waters of the first irrigation ditch.

San Diego is very old in history, yet young in destiny. She looks back on a past that stretches nearly four hundred years into the now dim and misty pathways of civilization. She knew the white man's wandering ships before Columbus was much more than cold in his grave. Her tiled rooftrees and Christian shrines received the salutes of the booming tides before the Declaration of Independence was signed and before Betsy Ross wove from summer rainbows and wintry stars the miracle of "Old Glory."

It would seem that San Diego has more than a share of good fortune in her Bay and the charm that environs it, yet she has in reserve a charm fully as great in the mountain valleys that lie within the clasp of the mighty hills above and all around her. Over vast sunlit passes and down through a thou-sand winding trails of glory these marvelous vales lie in wait for the traveler with an endless and kaleidoscopic delight. In changeful series, one after another, they lure and beckon the wayfarer eagerly and with a joy indescribable.

In these wonderful valleys and uplifted hills still linger memories of the romantic past. Upon the way are the remains of olden shrines ; an ancient mission bell suspended from scarred and weather beaten timbers, all that remain of a chapel; fields where battles were fought, and the pathetic wrecks of villages where, solemn and pleading, linger the remnants of a race starved and wronged and outraged through years of cruel neglect. You shall see many a dark face still in the wild outposts of Campo and in places near—they who once were the sole possessors of all this beauty. No more is theirs the land that rose like a dream of Paradise before the enraptured eyes of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his daring crew in the long dead centuries of the past; no more is the kindly care of the Padres thrown around them. Against the greatness of today they stand as the sole pitiful, hopeless protest—the one sad blot on an enthralling picture.

Through these valleys, beginning with the one called El Cajon, the trail leads wild and high, bidding the wanderer ever to turn that he may still see the bright, distant Bay, the towers of Coronado and the purple islands far out upon the bosom of a turquoise sea. The road goes ever upward until it reaches Descanso, which is called "the place of rest," then down into the valley which lies over San Felipe, and downward yet again into Santa Ysabel and Santa Maria. From thence the road leaps across shining summits into the hot springs of Warners and on and on until the "King's Highway" stretches before you to ruined Pala and the splendor of San Luis Rey.

You shall swing now inward from sight of the sea to the bright Lake of Elsinore. Happily it may be near evening time, and you shall behold the lingering kiss of the sun on the Mountains of Mystery—the peaks of San Gorgonio, San Bernardino, San Antonio, and, beyond them all, the white majesty of San Jacinto, the kingly outpost of the royal hills.

There are mountains everywhere in California—barriers alike against the great ocean and the great desert—gleaming hills of glory upstanding against the bluest of skies or rifling the sometime cloud. Between Shasta in the north and Whitney in the south they stretch their golden chains—and farther still. So vast and mighty are they that half a world might find room and sustenance within their canyons and innumerable recesses—each man with his vine and fig tree, his nine bean rows and a hive for the honey bee.

It were difficult to say which section of these mountains is the most alluring, but where now you stand under the glow of the San Bernardinos you shall behold the Mountain of the Arrowhead, which is certainly the most mysterious mountain in the world. From the floor of the valley below it rises to a height of two thousand feet and is visible with perfect distinctness from a distance of thirty miles.

Nowhere else on the globe has nature produced a phenomenon so startling. There are mountains else-where marked with what purport to be symbols, but they all demand a more or less generous stretch of the imagination. It is not so, however, in the case of the Arrowhead. The representation is absolutely faithful, even to the slightest details. It is as though a giant Indian god had torn an arrowhead from a shaft in his quiver and had hurled it flat into the great green hill how long ago no man knows or ever can know.

With its point downward, the gigantic Arrowhead is a quarter of a mile in length and five hundred fifty feet in width, covering an area of seven and one-half acres. It is caused by a growth of light green vegetation known as "white sage," springing from a gray soil of decomposed granite. This growth and soil are confined to the Arrowhead's absolutely perfect outlines. There is not a flaw in the drawing from shank to barb. Closing in on these outlines is a dark soil on which is a growth of thick chaparral composed mostly of chamiso and greasewood. Thus is the Arrowhead caused. But who or what caused the cause? It is unworthy of any thoughtful person, scientist or layman, to dismiss so strange a subject with the weak assertion that the thing is "merely a freak." Freaks are freaks; the Arrow-head is a perfection.

The Argonauts of '49 tell us that the Arrowhead was there when they first saw California; the Mormon pioneers of the San Bernardino Valley say it ante-dates their coming; the Franciscan Padres saw it a hundred years ago, just as we see it now, and the Indians told the first white man that their fathers and their fathers' fathers had climbed to its great shadows to drink and bathe in the healing waters that still leap scalding hot and freezing cold from its point.

Strangely enough, the only explanation of the mystery is that offered by the Indians, who, in their legends, assert that the mark was made by a fiery arrowhead hurled from the sky in a battle between two gods. The mark may have been made by a lightning bolt, by some god who desired to use it to direct the afflicted to the healing waters. It may be so. Who is so wise as to say no?

Was the Arrowhead there when the mountain first rose from the flood, or was it wrought afterward by some wonderful race of men in a dim age of the past ? If it be man-made, by what skill was it accomplished to withstand the ravages of fire and water, earth-quake and the inexorable destroyer, Time itself, century after century, down to this very hour ? And how much longer will it last ? Is it destined to await the final crash of the universe or will it fade from sight tomorrow, disappearing as mysteriously as it came?

It serves only to deepen the mystery of this strange and wonderfully beautiful mountain to contemplate the fact that the arrowhead is the most universal of symbols. All arrowheads, whether found in California, Ohio, Asia, Africa, Peru or anywhere else on earth, are fashioned from the same pattern. Where-ever savage man, prehistoric or otherwise, made an arrowhead, he made it exactly on the design with which we are all familiar. In illustration, if a tribe of savages were brought from the African jungle to America, everything would be entirely strange to them. They would see nothing familiar, nothing that they could recognize. But if they were brought to San Bernardino Valley they would instantly recognize the symbol on the Mountain of the Arrowhead. Therefore, if it were the intent of the inscrutable power that branded the mountain to draw the attention of all men to it, no symbol at all approaching the effectiveness of the arrowhead could have been used.

Leaving reluctantly, indeed, the fascination of the Mountain of the Arrowhead, the wanderer comes soon on the trails he has set out to travel to the spot where, enfolded in a curve of the King's Highway, bright with beauty and glamorous with the romance of California of the South, lies mountain-belted Riverside. It is clasped in an evergreen valley, walled by the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Madre and the swinging lomas of the Temescals. Above the town towers the mount of Rubidoux, brown-robed like a Franciscan and tipped by a great cross erected by reverent and loving hands in memory of Fra Junipero Serra, founder of the California Missions. To reach this cross there is a winding road, sinuous as a serpent's trail and broad and smooth as the Appian Way. Beneath the cross is a tablet of bronze unveiled on the twelfth day of October, year of Christ, 1909, by William Howard Taft, twenty-seventh President of the United States, and at another point on the road is still another tablet bearing this greeting from John Muir :

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into the trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy ; while cares will drop off like Autumn leaves."

It is even so. From the top of Rubidoux great are the good tidings. You shall look up and see, still higher, the peaks of the Mother Mountains crowned with November snows that wait for August with her drowsy noons. Around and all below you stretch the green groves of Hesperides, heavy with golden apples or decked with perfumed blossoms, the thread of a silvery river wound between ; the flame of flowered hedges leaping across rolling hillocks like the swell of the sea and the lash of its breakers at sunset; red-roofed cottages and the wide porticos of stately mansions against which the roses clamber ; never Winter and never death, but Summer always and undying bloom.

There was a time when the spot where glow these Daphnean groves lay fathoms deep beneath salt water and the Valley of the Santa Ana was an estuary of the great ocean that can still be seen from the top of Rubidoux. Doubtless the ancient cavemen and cliff-dwellers of Mount San Jacinto, twenty miles away, knew Rubidoux only as an island where the gray gulls made their nests. It may be that once a venturesome voyager built a campfire there and boasted afterward of his grand emprise in the San Jacinto caves, upon his return. But, be that as it may, the happy thing is that when the sea shrank and receded from amid these mountain walls it did not carry Rubidoux with it. Man has builded pyramids, but he could not build a mountain.

From Rubidoux the journey lies through citrus groves and bright cities into the Valley of Our Lady, which is set between the great dyke of the Tehachapi and San Diego's harbor of the sun, about midway. You will come to the ancient mission hospice of San Gabriel and the still waiting welcome that was there of old for Juan de Anza, the captain of Tubac, and for every wayfarer that followed after him on the trail he blazed from Sonora to Monterey. You will look upon Mission walls gray with the century and a quarter of age, still strong to endure—the campanile song-haunted with thrush and linnet, the bells eloquent with the voices and memories of the past.

The Mother Mountains hem the Valley in as though with the shining scimitar of a giant god. Its open boundaries are the Sunset Sea's white shores of glory. Its capital is the world-famed city of Los Angeles, metropolis of the wide-flung, magical South-west, reborn to verdant pastures and orchard blooms from desert dust and immemorial wastes.

It is a place of miracles from first to last—miracles of faith that were of old and miracles of progress that are of today. From Pasadena at the foot of the Sierra Madre to Santa Monica on the ocean strand, the Valley of Our Lady is grown into one vast city. A half million people dwell within it, and ever the mighty throng increases. The feet of countless thou-sands of tourists and strangers tread its sunlit high-ways every year. Day by day its vineyards and olive groves are invaded by crowding homes and towering, steel-ribbed marts of trade until there shall be at last no place for the honey bee to keep his hive. The fields that fed a thousand flocks and yet a thousand herds are fighting their hopeless battles against the aggressions of brick and mortar and stone. Few men once knew the place ; and once there was a time when one man owned it all. Now it has been slashed and calipered into squares and triangles, some of which—not larger than a tennis court—cannot be purchased with less than a king's ransom.

From any hill in the Valley of Our Lady, or from the housetops of Los Angeles, you shall see Santa Catalina lying upon the bosom of the Pacific—the magic isle in a summer sea. From July to November Santa Catalina is a glamor of brown hills—a group of segregated Franciscans in their own sea monastery, as though for special meditation apart from the populous brown-robed hills across the dancing waters on the shores of the continent. Yet it is then that the isle is vibrant and joyously boisterous with the hallos and laughter of many children. Whole families transport themselves across the channel from all over California and the sun-blazed South-west during vacation season. In tents and quaint cottages that look like dolls' houses, the world of the Pacific slope is at play on Santa Catalina.

But in winter, when the rains have fallen, the magic isle doffs its Franciscan gown and dons robes of emerald, jewelled and spangled with red and yellow holly, pink and white cherry blossoms, acacias, purple lilac and a thousand wild flowers of every sheen.

And like unto this isle are the isles of Santa Barbara, each one with a charm and beauty of its own, Santa Rosa being particularly beautiful with its sunny central valley and its great shore caves in -which are the sea's centuries of thunders and its voices of mystery.

Of Santa Barbara itself, one need not hesitate to say that there is no other spot on the globe that, for the purposes of comparison, can be likened to it. It is different from all the spots found on the West Coast of the Americas. Sometimes a traveler will say that he is reminded of Capri when he comes to Santa Barbara. Be this as it may, it is a place unto itself, exceeding the Riviera in beauty and in climate.

Sometimes, again, there are those who speak of a "Valley of Santa Barbara," but it is not a valley. Instead, it is a mountain slope creeping down to the sea across the rise and fall of gentle lomas. To the north, Point Concepcion shoulders itself out into the vast waters as the shining, magnificent mountain wall of the Santa Ynez range sweeps in a great, glowing, crescent above the sunset ocean. There, sheltered in warm embrace with a southern exposure, sits Santa Barbara, not more than 100,000 acres comprising her entire domain, but every rood of ground as fertile as the silts of the Nile.

Nor is this all that makes the charm, the beauty, the climatic peace and calm and the fascination of Santa Barbara. Twenty-five miles out to sea a marine mountain range, twin sister of the Santa Ynez on shore, rears its glowing peaks from the tumbling billows in a series of islands. So it is that Santa Barbara faces not the open sea, but a channel or a strait of the sea. Up into this channel flows the warm ocean current from the south and so adds its beneficence to complete the climatic combination that keeps the spot snug and warm and free from all violence in winter, the selfsame combination leaving it cool and refreshing through the long, sunny summers. So, also, do the twin mountain ranges—the one on land, the other out at sea—give Santa Barbara a marine playground as safe and as placid a, the lake of Tahoe. The channel is a yachtsman's paradise. To its long sweep of blue waters—a stretch of seventy miles—come the Pacific-coastbuilt ships of the American navy to be tried out and tested for speed and endurance.

From Santa Barbara the Wander Trail, ever glowing and ever luring, swings inland again upon the glorious vista of the Valley of Santa Clara. From any one of a hundred hills the lovely vale stretches beneath the eye in gardens of roses and miles of orchards, making endless pictures of delight that words are weak to describe. No soul could be so dull as to ever forget the matchless scene of valley and hill and winding stream that spreads itself for the beholder from the fascinating hill town of Los Gatos, clasped in a curve of the Santa Cruz mountains. It is one of the rarest scenic panoramas on the globe. First, there is the town itself, clean and quaint, nestled in the sunny embrace of the great, kind hills. Then, look what way you will, there are endless pictures—soft glens green with spreading oaks, towering groves of eucalyptus, green orchards jewelled with the sapphire of ripening plums, winding, curving, sweeping uplands and the uplifted splendor of mountains in glowing majesty.

Above Los Gatos tower the Santa Cruz mountains in the innumerable nooks of which are clinging vine-yards, gardens and homes that hide under magic trails, surprising the traveler into new delights at every one of a thousand turns. Quaint nooks are these that have each their own vistas of valley and mountain or glimpses of the bright waters of the Bay of San Francisco leagues away in the distance. And, if you will climb the brown peaks of the highest mountain, you may see the Sunset Ocean breaking against its white shores.

Once each year in the glory of the Californian springtime, while yet the world beyond the rims of the Sierras is cold in the death of winter, the people of Santa Clara Valley celebrate the Feast of the Blossoms. The wonder is that half the world is not there when the wondrous vale is one great white sea of living bloom. Neither cherry blossom time in Japan nor blossom time anywhere can compare with the intoxication of beauty in the Place of the Two Shrines when the prune orchards are arrayed in the splendor of the Spring.

He touched my eyes with gladness, with balm of morning dews, On the topmost rim He set me, 'mong the Hills of Santa Cruz, And I saw the sunlit ocean sweep, I saw the vale below—The Vale of Santa Clara in a sea of blossomed snow.

It was Springtime and joy-time, and God had filled His loom With woven plains of poppies and orchards all a-bloom, With web of gold and purple in the fields and uplands green, And the white woof of blossoms that stretched away between.

In the Place of the Two Shrines linger the romance and glory of the golden age of California. There is also found a beauty than which no beauty can be greater. The sweep of the majestic hills is there, and the wondrous fascination of the opulent valley. It is always beautiful, ravished with roses in January as well as in June, and endless with color at all times. But it is in the magic Springtime, when from mountain wall to mountain wall, from the green lomas of Los Gatos to the waters of the Bay, the sea of the blossoms ebbs and flows in tides of perfume, that Santa Clara is by far the most entrancingly beautiful spot in the whole wide world.

The trail that Portola and his men made from San Diego in 1769 upon the quest for Monterey leads through the Valley of Santa Clara and on to San Francisco. It is a trail now beaten with the feet of countless wanderers, and you will do well to follow where so many have gone before. Throughout all the Land of Heart's Desire there are innumerable places of majestic beauty—the snow-crowned peaks of the vast Sierra, the stretches of endless, white surf-beaten shores and great, bold headlands challenging the sea. And there are nooks in the hills and among crescent waters where the red and green roofs of the villages are a kindness to the eye.

But the country lying around and all about the Golden Gate, to which now you have come, is the place where nature revels in moods of splendor, de-lighting in vastness that she softens with the magic touches of an affection ever changeful yet never in-constant.

From the top of Tamalpais, which rises like a green monolith above the blue ocean, there stretch beneath the eye on every side the kaleidoscopes of hill and valley, plain and river, the two hundred and fifty square miles of the great harbor and the limitless sweep of the stupendous Pacific, the Mother of the Seas.

Sometimes the vision beholds a sea of fog, rolling in milky waves and wrapping the world below in deep-hung veils of mystery. Again the veil is lifted and yonder crowd the masts of the ships from near and distant ports, flying the pennants of all nations. The Sacramento and the San Joaquin, like threads of silver, wind down from their native hills, through lush and opulent valleys, to mingle their waters with the salty tides. Bronzed and crypted with iron-throated guns, sleep the pillars of the Golden Gate in the setting sun. The voices of laughing children and the clang of bells rise from the villages nestled at the mountains' feet. Dim in a purple haze lie the Farallones off to sea. Oakland with her busy life, the green meadows of Alameda, the clustering towns of Marin and the sweep of Contra Costa's hills, all send their sunset greetings to the uplifted heights, to the parting ships that put out upon wandering voyages. Then night and its myriad stars in the vaulted blue of the wide, deep overhanging heavens, and the countless lights of the city of St. Francis and her sisters of the waters twinkle in the vibrant dusk.

Ofttimes, mayhap, there be those that wander there whom the eyes of mortals cannot see—St. Francis with sandaled feet and Brother Juniper, his beloved disciple, searching for hungry mouths and ragged beggars and tossed, sore-beaten souls ; Portola in plumed hat and slashed breeches haunting the brown hill which made him immortal; Father Serra harkening to the Mission bells when the Angelus is ringing; the souls of Argonauts seeking again the golden fleece; deep-sea sailors, tattooed and swart, with rings in their ears; and, in the soft, deep glory of the summer night, Juan de Ayala, on the deck of the San Carlos, the first to sail through the Golden Gate.

Nor is it here the bright trails end. Still on they lead in sun and shine far beyond the last estuary of the great Bay, past San Rafael and Sonoma in the Valley of the Seven Moons where the Franciscans reared the last outpost of the Missions. And farther still they lead amid vast forests, tumbling rivers and gleaming lakes to Shasta's snowy glory, and yet onward for many another league. And then you shall double on your tracks, backward across the ranges of Siskiyou and Modoc, through orchard land and meadow, in and out of the haunts of the Argonauts, greeting anon the ancient Sequoias as your elder brothers whom time has towered to the skies. The Yosemite shall beckon to you from the vast stretches of the San Joaquin, into which the German Father-land might be thrown and have room to spare.

So shall you wander, with sunny heart, upon the golden trails of the Land of Heart's Desire. A thousand miles the trail shall lead you, and thrice a thou-sand wonders shall you see—white peaks of glory and sunset shores of dream, yucca and poppy on the upland slopes, gardens deep with roses in each valley's heart, brown roadsides hushed with ruined fanes; and, here and there, a moldered cross upon a haunted hill.