Around the World on a Bicycle

In 1884, the 29 year old Thomas Stevens set out from San Fransisco on the 'modern mechanical invention' of the Penny Farthing to circumnavigate the globe on his 'big wheel'. His book - "Around the World on a Bicycle" - was published in 1888 and his writings are presented here in blog form. Read more in the archive.

Dutch Flat

The weather is capricious, and by the time I reach Dutch Flat, ten miles east of Cape Horn, the floodgates of heaven are thrown open again, and less than an hour succeeds in impressing Dutch Flat upon my memory as a place where there is literally "water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to -;" no, I cannot finish the quotation. What is the use of lying'. There is plenty to drink at Dutch Flat; plenty of everything.

But there is no joke about the water; it is pouring in torrents from above; the streets are shallow streams; and from scores of ditches and gullies comes the merry music of swiftly rushing waters, while, to crown all, scores of monster streams are rushing with a hissing sound from the mouths of huge pipes or nozzles, and playing against the surrounding hills; for Dutch Flat and neighboring camps are the great centre of hydraulic mining operations in California at the present day. Streams of water, higher lip the mountains, are taken from their channels and conducted hither through miles of wooden flumes and iron piping; and from the mouths of huge nozzles are thrown with tremendous force against the hills, literally mowing them down. The rain stops as abruptly as it began. The sun shines out clear and warm, and I push ahead once more.

Gradually I have been getting up into the snow, and ever and anon a muffled roar comes booming and echoing over the mountains like the sound of distant artillery. It is the sullen noise of monster snow-slides among the deep, dark canyons of the mountains, though a wicked person at Gold Run winked at another man and tried to make me believe it was the grizzlies "going about the mountains like roaring lions, seeking whom they might devour." The giant voices of nature, the imposing scenery, the gloomy pine forests which have now taken the place of the gay chaparral, combine to impress one who, all alone, looks and listens with a realizing sense of his own littleness. What a change has come over the whole face of nature in a few days' travel. But four days ago I was in the semi-tropical Sacramento Valley; now gaunt winter reigns supreme, and the only vegetation is the hardy pine.

This afternoon I pass a small camp of Digger Indians, to whom my bicycle is as much a mystery as was the first locomotive; yet they scarcely turn their uncovered heads to look; and my cheery greeting of "How," scarce elicits a grunt and a stare in reply. Long years of chronic hunger and wretchedness have well-nigh eradicated what little energy these Diggers ever possessed. The discovery of gold among their native mountains has been their bane; the only antidote the rude grave beneath the pine and the happy hunting-grounds beyond.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Monday 28th Apr 1884 (20:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

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