Crossing South Pass

“The  amount of earth and sky in view at once was rather appalling. Something familiar about the situation kept ringing a bell in my memory, and suddenly I audibly recalled the ‘tiny moving speck of humanity in the great, rolling waste of sage,’ without which no self-respecting western novel can get past its first page. Thus oriented into the picture, we went on slowly in approved style. . . .

In spite of its easy grades, the Rock Mountain chain at South Pass is quite a hurdle to cross. To the emigrants it was also a symbol, and many an Argonaut forgot his quest for gold and only remembered in these las few miles of the Atlantic watershed that the backbone of the continent would soon divide him from his family, perhaps forever.

As the teams drew near the top it became increasingly cold, and men shivered around the insufficient sagebrush fires at night thinking wishfully of the extra blankets they had thrown away. The encampment of Shoshones which the gold-seekers found near the top of the mountain got many requests for buffalo robes. . . .

Far to our left, on the rim of the pass, the Oregon Buttes raised their rugged crests. The name, when given, was descriptive, for in early trail days all the shaggy wilderness that lay between the mountain top and the mouth of the Columbia was Oregon. Before us, through the flat sage land, the great emigration road unrolled in an enormous ribbon one hundred feet wide. We paralleled its resistless onward sweep. The omnipotent Artist who created this mighty picture used bold stokes. The swelling summits on each side are too huge for detail . . .

So muc earth; so terrifically much sky; and so close together! The first few wagon trains across the God-given pass feel that they are squeezing between the two.”