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At Cloverdale we came into the main highway, which here begins a steady climb up the mountains at the head of the valley, the grades ranging six to ten per cent. The road follows the river canyon and there were many picturesque glimpses of the dashing stream through the trees on our left. At Pieta Station-the railroad runs on the western side of the river-we made a sharp turn to the right, following Pieta grade, which cuts squarely across the mountain range. The road is exceedingly tortuous, climbing the giant hills in long loops and, though none of the grades are heavy, caution was very necessary. Here we ran through the "forest primeval;" nature was in its pristine beauty, unspoiled by the hand of man. No human habitation was in sight for miles and wild life abounded. Rabbits, snakes, and quails scurried across the road and birds flitted through the trees. Wild flowers bloomed in profusion in the glades and flowering shrubs such as the wild lilac and dogwood gave a delightful variation from the prevailing green of the trees. This is a toll road and at the summit of the grade, eight miles from Pieta, a gate barred our way and we were required to pay a dollar to proceed. We found ourselves in no hurry, however, despite the fact that the sun was just setting, for from this spot we had our first view of Clear Lake Valley. Beyond a long vista of wooded hills, set like a great gem in the green plain, the lake shimmered in the subdued light. In the far distance other mountain ranges faded away into the violet haze of the gathering twilight.

The descending road is steeper and rougher than the climb to the summit, though the distance is not so great. At the foot of the grade is Highland Springs, with a summer resort hotel not yet open, and after this a straight, level road runs directly northward to Lakeport. It is a little, isolated town of a thousand people-there is no railroad in Clear Lake Valley-and its hotel is a typical country-town inn. There is another hotel which keeps open only during the summer season, for a small number of discerning people come to Clear Lake for their summer vacation. At the Garrett, however, we were made as comfortable as circumstances permitted, the greatest desideratum being private bathrooms. While rambling about the town after supper I fell into conversation with a druggist and I unwittingly touched a sore spot-which we learned was common to every citizen of Lakeport-when I remarked that it was strange that a town of its size, so favorably situated, should be without a railroad.

"It's a burning shame," he exclaimed, "and we have the Southern Pacific to thank for it. We have made every effort to secure a railway here and in this fertile valley it would surely pay. Besides, the lake, with its fine fishing and beautiful surroundings, would soon become one of the most noted resorts in California-if people could only get here. But for some reason the Southern Pacific has not only refused to build, but has throttled any effort on part of the people to finance a road into the valley. I guess the railroad people figure that as it is they get all the traffic and the people have to bear the heavy expense of transportation by wagon to the main line. If this is so, it's a short-sighted policy, for the development of the country would be so rapid that the branch would be a paying proposition from the start." And he added much more in the same strain, all of it highly uncomplimentary to the "Sunset Route."

I was not familiar enough with the situation to dispute any of his assertions, even had I been so inclined, and let him assume that I assented to all his animadversions against the Southern Pacific. The question whether or not Lakeport and Clear Lake Valley would be benefited by a railroad-the nearest station is Pieta, twenty miles away-was clearly too one-sided to admit of discussion. Besides, railroads interest us only in an academic way. Who would want a railroad to visit Clear Lake Valley if he were free to come by motor car?

From our window in the third story of the hotel we could see the lake and the mountains beyond and I remarked that sunrise would surely be a spectacle worth seeing. Though some doubt was expressed as to my ability to rise early enough, I managed to do it and a scene of surpassing beauty rewarded the effort-it really was an effort after the strenuous run of the preceding day. A rosy sky brought out the rugged contour of the hills and tinged the dense blue shadows with amethyst and gold. As the sky brightened, the lake glowed with the changeful fires of an opal, which merged into a sheet of flame when the sun climbed the mountains and flung his rays directly across the still surface. There was an indescribable glory of color and light, passing through endless mutations ere the scene came out distinctly in the daylight.

We were away early in the morning with a long run over many mountain grades confronting us. As we left the valley we had a better opportunity of noting its singular beauty than on the preceding evening. It is a wide green plain of several hundred square miles, surrounded by mountain ranges. These presented a peculiar contrast in the low morning sun, standing sharp and clear against the sky on the eastern side and half hidden in a soft blue haze on the west. In the center of the plain lay Clear Lake-rightly named, for it is a crystal clear body of water about thirty miles long and eight miles in extreme width. It is fed by mountain streams and empties its waters into the Russian River. For boating and fishing it is unsurpassed, a catch of bass or cat being assured under almost any conditions. The valley was studded with hundreds of oaks, the finest and most symmetrical we had seen in a country famous for magnificent oaks, and one of these, near the Lakeport road, is declared to be the largest and most perfect oak tree in California. Whether it is so or not, a few figures will give some idea of its mammoth proportions. The circumference of its trunk is twenty-four feet and six inches, its height one hundred and twenty feet, and the spread of its branches one hundred and fifty-six feet. And this is only one of hundreds of majestic trees which dotted the plain. Underneath them-for they stand usually far apart-lay the wide green meadows and wheatfields, spangled with multi-colored wild flowers. It would be hard to imagine a more beautiful vista than the one which stretched away beneath these giant trees to the still waters of the lake. Here and there the orange flame of poppies prevailed and again a field of buttercups or daisies, or a blue belt of lupine. The sky above was clear save for a few silvery clouds which floated lazily over the mountains, and, altogether, it was a scene of quiet beauty that made us wonder if there was another spot in all the world like this mountain vale. What a place it would be for a resort like Del Monte or Coronado! If in Southern California it would be one of the most noted beauty spots on earth. A railroad would, of course, do much to make it known to the world in general, though the thought of a railroad in that scene of quiet, out-of-the-world loveliness seemed almost like sacrilege. The climate is mild-orange trees and palms being common-and the rainfall, averaging about thirty inches, is twice as great as in the southern part of the state. This accounts for the unusual greenness of the country and might be an unpleasant feature in winter.

Lakeport marked the northern end of our tour and we resolved to cross the mountains and return by the Napa Valley. At Kelseyville, a few miles south of Lakeport, we inquired of a garage man as to the best road out of the valley and he carefully directed us to take the left-hand fork two or three miles south of the town.

"It takes you over Bottle Glass Mountain," he said, "but it's the shortest road to Middletown."

When we came to the fork we saw that the main traveled road continued to the right and a narrow, forbidding-looking lane started up the big hill to our left. We took it with some misgiving; the directions had been explicit, but we did not like its looks. When we had proceeded a few miles on the increasingly heavy grade we began to realize the significance of the name, "Bottle Glass Mountain," for the road had been blasted through masses of obsidian or volcanic glass and was strewn with numberless razor-sharp fragments which speedily cut our tires to shreds. There was absolutely no place to turn about and so we laboriously toiled up the heavy grades-some of them surely as much as twenty-five per cent-the engine steaming like a tea-kettle until at last we reached the summit. Here we paused to cool the engine and investigate the sorry work of the glass which had strewn the road for some miles. The usefulness of a new set of tires was clearly at its end-no one of them lasted more than a few hundred miles after this experience. We carried away a bit of the glass as a memento and found it identical with that of Obsidian Cliff in the Yellowstone, a material used by the Indians for arrow heads.


 
 
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