The Rocky Mountain Wonderland Part 12

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In many things they are persistent. Once I closed the hole that one had made in a place where I did not want it. I filled the hole full of earth. Inside of two hours it was reopened. Then I pounded it full of gravel, but this was dug out. I drove a stake into the hole. A new hole was promptly made alongside the stake. I poured this full of water. Presently out came a wet and angry chipmunk. This daily drowning out by water was continued for more than a week before the chipmunk gave it up and opened a hole about thirty feet distant.

For eight years I kept track of a chipmunk by my cabin. She lived in a long, crooked underground hole, or tunnel, which must have had a total length of nearly one hundred feet. It extended in a semicircle and could be entered at three or four places through holes that opened upon the surface. Each of these entrance holes was partly concealed in a clump of gra.s.s by a cl.u.s.ter of plants or a shrub.

I have many times examined the underground works of the chipmunk. Some of these examinations were made by digging, and others I traced as they were exposed in the making of large irrigation ditches. The earth which is dug from these tunnels is ejected from one or more holes, which are closed when the tunnel is completed. Around the entrance holes there is nothing to indicate or to publish their presence; and often they are well concealed.

These tunnels are from forty to one hundred feet long, run from two to four feet beneath the surface, and have two or more entrances. Here and there is a niche or pocket in the side of the tunnel. These niches are from a few inches to a foot in diameter and in height. In one or more of these the chipmunk sleeps, and in others is stored his winter food-supply. He uses one of these pockets for a time as a sleeping-place, then changes to another. This change may enable the chipmunk to hold parasites in check. The fact that he has a number of sleeping-places and also that in summer he frequently changes his bedding, indicates that these efforts in sanitation are essential for avoiding parasites and disease.

Commonly the bedding is gra.s.s, straw, and leaves; but in my yard the chipmunks eagerly seize upon a piece of paper or a handkerchief. I am compelled to keep my eyes open whenever they come into the cabin, for they do not hesitate to seize upon unanswered letters or incomplete ma.n.u.scripts. In carrying off paper the chipmunk commonly tears off a huge piece, crumples it into a wad, and, with this sticking from his mouth, hurries away to his bedchamber. It is not uncommon to see half a dozen at once in the yard, each going his own way with his clean bed-linen.

Chipmunks take frequent dust and sun baths, but I have never seen one bathe in water. They appear, however, to drink water freely. One will sip water several times daily.

In the mountains near me the chipmunks spend from four to seven months of each year underground. I am at an alt.i.tude of nine thousand feet.

Although during the winter they indulge in long periods of what may be called hibernating sleep, they are awake a part of the time and commonly lay in abundant stores for winter. In the underground granaries of one I once found about a peck and a half of weed seeds.

Even during the summer the chipmunk occasionally does not come forth for a day or two. On some of these occasions I have found that they were in a heavy sleep in their beds.

These in my yard are fed so freely upon peanuts that they have come to depend upon them for winter supplies. They prefer raw to roasted peanuts. The chipmunk near my cabin sometimes becomes a little particular and will occasionally reject peanuts that are handed to her with the sh.e.l.l on. Commonly, however, she grabs the nut with both fore paws, then, standing erect, rapidly bites away the sh.e.l.l until the nut is reached. This she usually forces into her cheek pocket with both hands. Her cheek pouches hold from twelve to twenty of these. As soon as these are filled she hurries away to deposit her stores in her underground granary. One day she managed to store twenty-two, and her cheek pouches stood out abnormally! With this "swelled" and uncouth head she hurried away to deposit the nuts in her storehouse, but when she reached the hole her cheeks were so distended that she was unable to enter. After trying again and again she began to enlarge the hole.

This she presently gave up. Then she rejected about one third of the nuts, entered, and stored the remainder. In a few minutes she was back for more. One day she made eleven round trips in fifty-seven minutes.

Early one autumn morning a coyote, in attempting to reach her, dug into her granary and scattered the nuts about. After sending him off I gathered up three quarts of sh.e.l.led nuts and left about as many more scattered through the earth! Over these the jays and magpies squabbled all day.

One day a lady who was unsympathetic with chipmunks was startled by one of the youngsters, who scrambled up her clothes and perched upon her head. Greatly excited, she gave wild screams. The young chipmunk was in turn frightened, and fled in haste. He took consolation with his mother several yards away. She, standing erect, received him literally with open arms. He stood erect with one arm upon her shoulder, while she held one arm around him. They thus stood for some seconds, he screeching a frightened cry, while she, with a subdued muttering, endeavored to quiet him.

Once, my old chipmunk, seeing me across the yard, came bounding to me.

Forgetting, in her haste, to be vigilant, she ran into a family of weasels, two old and five young ones, who were crossing the yard.

Instantly, and with lion-like ferocity, the largest weasel leaped and seized the chipmunk by the throat. With a fiendish jerk of his head the weasel landed the chipmunk across his shoulders and, still holding it by the throat, he forced his way, half swimming, half floundering, through a swift brook which crossed the yard. His entire family followed him. Most savagely did he resent my interference when I compelled him to drop the dead chipmunk.

The wise coyote has a peculiar habit each autumn of feasting upon chipmunks. Commonly the chipmunks retire for the winter before the earth is frozen, or before it is frozen deeply. Apparently they at once sink into a hibernating sleep. Each autumn, shortly after the chipmunks retire, the coyotes raid all localities in my neighborhood in which digging is good. Scores of chipmunks are dug out and devoured. Within a quarter of a mile of my cabin one October night forty-two holes were dug. Another night fifty-four holes were dug near by. In a number of these a few scattered drops of blood showed that the coyote had made a capture. In one week within a few miles of my cabin I found several hundred freshly dug holes. Many holes were dug directly down to the granary where the stores were scattered about; and others descended upon the pocket in which the chipmunk was asleep.

In a few places the digging followed along the tunnel for several yards, and in others the coyote dug down into the earth and then tunneled along the chipmunk's tunnel for several feet before reaching the little sleeper.

So far as I know, each old chipmunk lives by itself. It is, I think, rare for one to enter the underground works of another. Each appears to have a small local range upon the surface, but this range is occasionally invaded by a neighboring chipmunk. This invasion is always resented, and often the invader is angrily ejected by the local claimant of the territory.

In my locality the young are born during the first week in June. The five years that I kept track of the mother chipmunk near my cabin, she usually brought the youngsters out into the sunlight about the middle of June. Three of these years there were five youngsters. One year the number was four, and another year it was six. About the middle of July the young were left to fight the battle of life alone. They were left in possession of the underground house in which they were born, and the mother went to another part of the yard, renovated another underground home, and here laid up supplies for the winter.

A few days before the mother leaves the youngsters, they run about and find most of their food. One year, a day or two before the one by my cabin bade her children good-bye, she brought them--or, at any rate, the children came with her--to the place where we often distributed peanuts. The youngsters, much lighter in color, and less distinctly marked than the mother, as well as much smaller, were amusingly shy, and they made comic shows in trying to eat peanuts. They could not break through the sh.e.l.l. If offered a sh.e.l.led nut, they were as likely to bite the end of your finger as the nut. They had not learned which was which. With their baby teeth they could eat but little of the nut, but they had the storing instinct and after a struggle managed to thrust one or two of the nuts into their cheek pockets.

The youngsters, on being left to s.h.i.+ft for themselves, linger about their old home for a week or longer, then scatter, each apparently going off to make an underground home for himself. The house may be entirely new or it may be an old one renovated.

I do not know just when the mother returns to her old home. Possibly the new home is closely connected with the one she has temporarily left, and it may be that during the autumn or the early spring she digs a short tunnel which unites them. The manner of this aside, I can say that each summer the mother that I watched, on retiring from the youngsters, carried supplies into a hole which she had not used before, and the following spring the youngsters came forth from the same hole, and presumably from the same quarters, that the children of preceding years had used.

Chipmunks feed upon a variety of plants. The leaves, seeds, and roots are eaten. During bloom time they feast upon wild flowers. Often they make a dainty meal off the blossoms of the fringed blue gentian, the mariposa lily, and the harebell. Commonly, in gathering flowers, the chipmunk stands erect on hind feet, reaches up with one or both hands, bends down the stalk, leisurely eats the blossoms, and then pulls down another. The big chipmunk, however, has some gross food habits. I have seen him eating mice, and he often catches gra.s.shoppers and flies. It is possible that he may rob birds' nests, but this is not common and I have never seen him do so. However, the bluebirds, robins, and red-winged blackbirds near me resent his close approach. A chipmunk which has unwittingly climbed into a tree or traveled into a territory close to the nest of one of these birds receives a beating from the wings of the birds and many stabs from their bills before he can retreat to a peaceful zone. Many times I have seen birds battering him, sometimes repeatedly knocking him heels over head, while he, frightened and chattering, was doing his best to escape.

There are five species of chipmunks in Colorado. Two of these are near me,--the big chipmunk and the busy chipmunk. The latter is much smaller, shyer, and more lively than the former and spends a part of its time in the treetops; while the big, although it sometimes climbs, commonly keeps close to the earth.

Among their numerous enemies are coyotes, wild-cats, mountain lions, bears, hawks, and owls. They appear to live from six to twelve years.

The one near my place I watched for eight years. She probably was one or more years of age when I first saw her.

Almost every day in summer a number of children come, some of them for miles, to watch and to feed my chipmunks. The children enjoy this as keenly as I have ever seen them enjoy anything. Surely the kindly sympathies which are thus aroused in the children, and the delightful lesson in natural history which they get, will give a helpful educational stimulus, and may be the beginning of a sympathetic interest in every living thing.

A Peak by the Plains

A Peak by the Plains

Pike's Peak rises boldly from the plains, going steeply up into the sky a vertical mile and a half. There is no middle distance or foreground; no terraced or inclined approach. A spectator may thus stand close to its foot, at an alt.i.tude of six thousand feet, and have a commanding view of the eight thousand feet of slopes and terraces which culminate in the summit, 14,110 feet above the sea. Its steep, abrupt ascent makes it imposing and impressive. It fronts the wide plains a vast broken tower. The typical high peak stands with other high peaks in the summit of a mountain-range. Miles of lesser mountains lie between its summit and the lowlands. Foothills rise from the edge of the lowland; above these, broken benches, terrace beyond terrace, each rising higher until the summit rises supreme. With Pike's Peak this typical arrangement is reversed.

Pike's Peak probably is the most intimately known high mountain. It has given mountain-top pleasure to more people than any other fourteen thousand foot summit of the earth. One million persons have walked upon its summit, and probably two million others have climbed well up its slopes. Only a few thousand climbers have reached the top of Mont Blanc. Pike's is a peak for the mult.i.tude.

Climbing it is comparatively easy. It stands in a mild, arid climate, and has scanty snowfall; there are but few precipitous walls, no dangerous ice-fields; and up most of its slopes any one may ramble.

One may go up on foot, on horseback, in a carriage, or by railroad, or even by automobile. It is not only easy of ascent, but also easy of access. It is on the edge of the plains, and a number of railroads cross its very foot.

This peak affords a unique view,--wide plains to the east, high peaks to the west. Sixty thousand or more square miles are visible from the summit. It towers far above the plains, whose streams, hills, and level s.p.a.ces stretch away a vast flat picture. To the west it commands a wondrous array of mountain topography,--a two-hundred-mile front of shattered, snow-drifted peaks.


The peak is an enormous broken pyramid, dotted with high-perched lakes, cut with plunging streams, broken by canons, skirted with torn forests, old and young, and in addition is beautiful with bushes, meadows, and wild flowers. The major part of the peak's primeval forest robe was destroyed by fire a half-century ago. Many ragged, crag-torn areas of the old forest, of a square mile or less, are connected with young growths from thirty to sixty years old. Much of this new growth is aspen. From the tree-studies which I have made, I learn that two forest fires caused most of the destruction. The annual rings in the young growth, together with the rings in the fire-scarred trees which did not perish, indicate that the older and more extensive of these fires wrapped most of the peak in flames and all of it in smoke during the autumn of 1850. The other fire was in 1880.

Pike's Peak exhibits a number of scenic attractions and is bordered by other excellent ones. Near are the Royal Gorge, Cripple Creek, and the fossil-beds at Florissant. The Garden of the G.o.ds, Manitou Mineral Springs, Glen Eyrie, Crystal Park, the Cave of the Winds, and Williams, Ruxton, and South Cheyenne Canons are some of its attractions.

The fossil-beds at Florissant are one of the most famous of fossil-deposits. Here was an old Tertiary lake-basin. In the deposit which filled it--a deposit of fine volcanic sand or ash, sediment, and other debris--is a wonderful array of fossilized plants and insects of a past age. All are strangely preserved for us in stone. A part of the lake appears to have been filled by a volcanic catastrophe which overwhelmed animals, plants, and insects. Whole and in fragments, they are lying where they fell. Here have been found upwards of one hundred recognizable plants, eleven vertebrate animals, and a few hundred insects. Among the fossil trees are the narrow-leaf cottonwood, the ginkgo, the magnolia, the incense cedar, and the giant redwood. Water erosion through the ages has cut deeply into these fossil-beds and worn and washed away their treasures. This deposit has been but little studied. But what it has yielded, together with the magnitude of the unexamined remainder, makes one eager concerning the extent and the nature of the treasures which still lie buried in it.

Helen Hunt, whose books helped awaken the American people to the injustice done the Indian and to an appreciation of the scenic grandeur of the West, lived for many years at the foot of this peak.

Much of her writing was done from commanding points on the peak. She was temporarily buried on Cheyenne Mountain, and on her former grave has acc.u.mulated a large cairn of stones, contributed singly by appreciative pilgrims.

South Cheyenne Canon, like Yosemite, gives a large, clear, and pleasing picture to the mind. This is due to the individuality and the artistic grouping of the beauty and grandeur of the canon. The canon is so narrow, and its high walls so precipitous, that it could justly be called an enormous cleft. At one point the walls are only forty feet apart; between these a road and a swift, clear stream are crowded. Inside the entrance stand the two "Pillars of Hercules."

These magnificent rock domes rise nearly one thousand feet, and their steep, tree-dotted walls are peculiarly pleasing and impressive.

Prospect Dome is another striking rock point in this canon. The canon ends in a colossal cirque, or amphitheatre, about two hundred and fifty feet deep. Down one side of this a stream makes its seven white zigzag jumps.

Pike's Peak wins impressiveness by standing by itself. Cheyenne Canon is more imposing by being alone,--away from other canons. This canon opens upon the plains. It is a canon that would win attention anywhere, but its situation is a most favorable one. Low alt.i.tude and a warm climate welcome trees, gra.s.s, bushes, and many kinds of plants and flowers. These cling to every break, spot, ledge, terrace, and niche, and thereby touch and decorate the canon's grim and towering walls with lovely beauty. Walls, water, and verdure--water in pools and falls, rocks in cliffs, terraces, and domes, gra.s.s and flowers on slopes and terraces, trees and groves,--a magnificence of rocks, a richness of verdure, and the charm of running water--all unite in a picturesque a.s.sociation which makes a glorious and pleasing sunken garden.

It is probable that Pike's Peak was discovered by Spanish explorers either in 1598 or in 1601. These are the dates of separate exploring expeditions which entered Colorado from the south and marched up the plains in near view of this peak. The discovery is usually accredited, however, to Lieutenant Pike, who caught sight of it on the 15th day of November, 1806. Pike's journal of this date says: "At two o'clock in the afternoon I thought I could distinguish a mountain to our right which appeared like a small blue cloud; viewed it with a spygla.s.s and was still more confirmed in my conjecture.... In half an hour it appeared in full view before us. When our small party arrived on a hill, they with one accord gave three cheers to the Mexican Mountains." It appears not to have been called Pike's Peak until about twenty-five years after Pike first saw it. He spoke of it as the Mexican Mountains and as Great Peak. The first ascent by white men was made July 14, 1819, by members of Lieutenant Long's exploring expedition. For a number of years this peak was called James Peak, in honor of the naturalist in the Long exploring party.

Pike's Peak has what Montesquieu calls the "most powerful of all empires, the empire of climate." It stands most of the time in the sun. All over it the miner and the prospector have searched for gold, mutilating it here and there with holes. Fires have scarred the sides, and pasturing has robbed it of flowers and verdure. The reputed discovery of gold at its base started a flood of gold-seekers west with "Pike's Peak or bust" enthusiasm. But the climate and scenery of this peak attract people who come for pleasure and to seek for health.

It has thus brought millions of dollars into Colorado, and it will probably continue to attract people who seek pleasure and refreshment and who receive in exchange higher values than they spend. Pike's Peak is a rich a.s.set.

The summit of Pike's Peak is an excellent place to study the effect of alt.i.tude upon lowland visitors. Individual observations and the special investigations of scientific men show that alt.i.tude has been a large, unconscious source of nature-faking. During the summer of 1911 a number of English and American scientists, the "Anglo-American Expedition," spent five weeks on Pike's Peak, making special studies of the effects of alt.i.tude. Their investigations explode the theory that alt.i.tude is a strain upon the heart, or injurious to the system.

These men concluded that the heart is subjected to no greater strain in high alt.i.tudes than at sea-level, except under the strain of physical exertion. The blood is richer in high alt.i.tudes. For every hundred red corpuscles found at sea-level there are in Colorado Springs, at six thousand feet, one hundred and ten; and on the summit of Pike's Peak, from one hundred and forty to one hundred and fifty-four.

"The danger to people suffering from heart trouble coming into high alt.i.tudes is grossly exaggerated," says Dr. Edward C. Schneider, one of the Anglo-American expedition. "The rate of circulation is not materially increased. The blood-pressure on the Peak is not increased; it is even lowered. The heart--if a person exercises--may beat a little faster but it does not pump any more blood. The pulse is a little more rapid. If a man suffering from heart trouble rode up the peak on a train, remained in his seat, and did not exert himself physically, his heart would not beat a bit faster at the summit than when he left Manitou. But if he walked about on the summit there would be a change, for the exercise would make the heart work harder." But exercise is not injurious; it is beneficial.

As I found in guiding on Long's Peak, the rarefied air of the heights was often stimulating, especially to the tongue. Rarefied air is likened by the scientists to "laughing-gas" and furnishes a plausible explanation of the queerness which characterizes the action of many people on mountain-summits. "We saw many visitors at the summit," said Dr. Schneider in explaining this phase, "who appeared to be intoxicated. But there was no smell of liquor on their breath. They were intoxicated with rarefied atmosphere, not with alcohol. The peculiar effects of laughing-gas and carbon-monoxide gas on people are due to the lack of oxygen in the gas; and the same applies to the air at high alt.i.tudes."

The summit of Pike's Peak is roomy and comparatively level, and is composed of broken granite, many of the pieces being of large size. A stone house stands upon the top. In this for many years was a government weather-observer. A weather station has just been re-established on its summit. This will be one of a line of high weather stations extending across the continent. This unique station should contribute continuously to the weather news and steadily add to the sum of climatic knowledge.

The Rocky Mountain Wonderland Part 12

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The Rocky Mountain Wonderland Part 12 summary

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