From The Mines
Roaring Fork River, Col. June 6, 1880
I am now in camp on Roaring Fork River, fifteen miles from the eastern boundary of the Ute Indian Reservation. Sixty miles from Leadville "as the crow flies," and 150 miles the route I came, "around the horn." The trip from Leadville here is a novelty to one who has never traveled among the Rockies. I will give you a few hints on mountain travel. After the 15th of May, leaving Leadville, we go five miles; then cross the head waters of the Arkansas river, and strike camp, the first night fifteen miles out among the snow-clad mountains. There some parties tell us we can kill a cinamon or black bear by going a few hundred yards up the mountain, but we conclude we have not lost any bear, and let the matter rest; then we roll ourselves up in our blankets and pass a comfortless night surrounded with snow. Towards morning we are warned of the approaching day, by one of "Balsam's pets;" get up at daybreak, prepared breakfast, which consists of bacon, bread and coffee, then load our supplies on our horses first; then lash them on with ropes in a way known only to experienced packers, and they must be well balanced to prevent the pack-animals from getting off the trail. When once off the trail they are liable to fall (many times on the route) from one to two thousand feet below the trail. You can have but little idea of the extent and grandeur of the Rocky mountains, without once traveling among them. We crossed rivers, canyons, and mountain gorges, that you would consider impossible for man or beast to traverse. Some days we would travel ten or fifteen miles down a beautiful valley in a cloud of dust; then again, we would find ourselves plodding along across a mountain range in a fearful snow storm. Snow storms are of frequent occurrence here during the months of May and June, and the high ranges are now covered with the "beautiful," and look as white as ever you saw Bainbridge [Chenango Co., NY] hills in mid-winter. You can judge of the number of men going out prospecting all through the mountains. Five hundred men passed over the trail in five days, and there are hundreds going out on other trails to different points in Colorado. By the way, I saw one man who had found a bonanza in the shape of a toll bridge across Eagle river, a stream of the size of the Susquehanna. The bridge could not have cost over one hundred dollars (made of logs and poles), and he was charging fifty cents for each animal that crossed; making from twenty to fifty dollars per day.
While on the journey I came up to a party who had just brought down a splendid doe, near the trail, and one of the men proved to be Jo Pearsall of Bainbridge. Jo is now camped five miles from here, near the Highland mines. Some of the mines here are very rich, and the owners are asking from one hundred to five hundred thousand dollars for a single mine or claim. A claim (the amount of ground one man is entitled to hold), is fifteen hundred feet long and three hundred feet wide. A certain amount of work must be done on the mine in order to hold it for one year. I will mention a mine that I looked at two days ago. One of the original discovering party had more ground than he could work, and gave it to a boy friend of his, not thinking it was of any value, the young man kept it a short time and bonded it to an Eastern man for fifteen thousand dollars, to be paid in six moths. The mine is now being worked, and is producing rich ore. The mines here are not so extensive as has been represented, as is always the case in new camps. I am satisfied, with the country, and will, or intend to remain here this summer. Hundreds of people are arriving here daily. Some stop, while others go to Ruby City and other new camps. I was on the mountain the 5th of June, and walked upon snow banks ten feet deep. While on the summit I could get a view Southward for 75 to 100 miles of almost an endless chain of mountains. Every day when out among the miners, I notice venison or elk meat hanging in the trees. The air is so pure it will keep for weeks (if you don't eat it). Three of our party are out hunting and expect to bring in two weeks' supply of elk or deer, and possibly a cinamon bear. The time for trout fishing has not arrived, as the rivers and their tributaries are at their highest point with snow water on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. I must tell you that I walked the whole distance from Leadville here, packing my supplies on a horse that I bought in Leadville. Provisions are high here at present. Cows have just arrived and milk is selling at one dollar per gallon; flour, $20 per hundred; other articles in proportion. I think of going to Leadville in two weeks after supplies. One mule train of forty animals passed our tent two days ago with stores of Highland camp. I have now written more than I intended; Farewell.