As we began the descent from this great elevation, another splendid vision greeted us. We gazed upon it with delight. Beyond a vast expanse of dark green pines we saw, three hundred feet below us, Lake Yellowstone. It stirred my heart to look at last upon this famous inland sea, nearly eight thou-sand feet above the ocean level, and to realize that if the White Mountain monarch, Washington, were planted in its depths (its base line on a level with the sea), there would remain two thousand feet of space between its summit and the surface of this lake! In this respect it has but one real rival, Lake Titicaca, in the Andes of Peru.
Descending to the shore, however, we found that even here, so far from shipyards and the sea, a steamboat was awaiting us. Imagine the labor of conveying such a vessel sixty-five miles, from the railroad to this lake, up an ascent of more than three thousand feet. Of course, it was brought in several sections; but even then, in one or two mountain gorges, the cliffs had to be blasted away to make room for it to pass. It is needless to add that this steamer has no rivals. It was with the greatest interest that I
sailed at such a height on this adventurous craft ; and the next time that I stand upon the summit of Mount Washington, and see the fleecy clouds float in the empyrean, one-third of a mile above me, I shall remember that the steamer on Lake Yellowstone sails at precisely sun-tinted galleons of the sky.
To appreciate the beauty of Lake Yellowstone, one should behold it when its waves are radiant with the sunset glow. It is, however, not only beautiful; it is mysterious. Around it, in the distance, rise silver crested the same altitude as that enjoyed by those peaks whose melting snow descends to it in ice-cold streams. Still nearer, we behold a girdle of gigantic forests, rarely, if ever, trodden by the foot of man. Oh, the loneliness of this great lake ! For eight long months scarcely a human eye beholds it. The wintry storms that sweep its surface find no boats on which to vent their fury. Lake Yellow-stone has never mirrored in itself even the frail canoes of painted savages. The only keels that ever furrow it are those of its solitary steamer and some little fishing-boats engaged by tourists. Even these lead a very brief existence. Like summer insects, they float here a few weeks, and disappear, leaving the winds and waves to do their will.
In sailing on this lake, I observed a distant mountain whose summit bore a strange resemblance to an upturned human face, sculptured in bold relief against the sky. It is appropriately called the Sleeping Giant; for it has slept on, undisturbed, while countless centuries have dropped into the gulf of Time, like leaves in the adjoining forest. How many nights have cast their shadows like a veil upon that giant's silhouette! How many dawns have flooded it with light, and found those changeless features still confronting them! We call it human in appearance, and yet that profile was the same before the first man ever trod this planet. Grim, awful model of the coming race, did not its stern lips smile disdain-fully at the first human pygmy fashioned in its likeness?
This lake has one peculiarity which, in the minds of certain tourists, eclipses all the rest. I mean its possibilities for fishing. We know that sad experience has taught mankind to invent the proverb: "Once a fisherman, always a liar." I wish, then, at the start, to say I am no fisherman; but what I saw here would inevitably make me one if I should remain a month or two upon these shores. Lake Yellowstone is the fisherman's paradise. Said one of Izaak Walton's followers to me: "I would rather be an angler here than an angel." Nor is this strange. I saw two men catch from this lake in one hour more than a hundred splendid trout, weighing from one to three pounds apiece! They worked with incredible rapidity. Scarcely did the fly touch the water when the line was drawn, the light rod dipped with graceful curve, and the revolving reel drew in the speckled beauty to the shore. Each of these anglers had two hooks upon his line, and both of them once had two trout hooked at the same time, and landed them; while we poor eastern visitors at first looked on in dumb amazement, and then enthusiastically cheered.
Can the reader bear something still more trying to his faith ? Emerging from the lake is a little cone containing a boiling pool, entirely distinct from the surrounding water. I saw a fisherman stand on this and catch a trout, which, without moving from his place, or even unhooking the fish, he dropped into the boiling pool, and cooked! When the first scientific explorers of this region were urging upon Congress the necessity of making it a National Park, their statements in regard to fishing were usually received with courteous incredulity. But when one of their number gravely declared that trout could there be caught and boiled in the same lake, within a radius of fifteen feet, the House of Representatives broke forth into roars of laughter, and thought the man a monumental liar. We cannot be surprised, therefore, that enthusiastic fishermen almost go crazy here. I have seen men, after a ride of forty miles, rush off to fish without a moment's rest as if their lives depended on it. Some years ago, General Wade Hampton visited, the Park and came as far as Lake Yellowstone. On his return, some one inquired what he thought of Nature's masterpiece, the cation of the Yellowstone.
"The canon!" cried the general, "no matter about the canon; but I had the most magnificent fishing I ever saw in my life."
One day, while walking along the shore, my comrade suddenly pressed my arm and pointed toward the lake.
"An Indian! " I cried in great astonishment, "I thought no Indians ever came here."
Our guide laughed heartily; and, as he did so, I perceived my error. What I had thought to be an Indian was but a portion of a tree, which had been placed upright against a log. The only artificial thing about it was a bunch of feathers. Everything else was absolutely natural. No knife had sculptured it. No hand had given a support to its uplifted arm. Even the dog which followed us appeared deceived, for he barked furiously at the strange intruder. There was to me a singular fascination in this solitary freak of nature; and, surrounded though I was by immeasurably greater wonders, I turned again and again to take a farewell look at this dark, slender figure, raising its hand, as if in threatening gesture to some unseen foe.