We purchased our sleeping car tickets for sixteen dollars to Ogden. We should be two days and a half and two nights in reaching there. We obtained two lower berths and were told if we had applied the day before, we could not have been accommodated, but the travel was light from Omaha that day, which was much in our favor.
On leaving Omaha we found ourselves and numerous baskets and satchels well disposed of in an elegant palace sleeper with only seventeen passengers in our car, no babies to cry, no invalids to exclaim, "Please close the ventilators. Will you shut down that window." We were at perfect liberty to open and close windows for our convenience.
There was nothing especial to engage our attention Wednesday night but the prairie fires. These looked grand and awful. In the distance while the train is slowly moving onward, we see the long belts of lurid flame stretching for miles across the prairie. As the wind rises, the flames rise higher and become more brilliant, brightening the desolate plains with their awful brightness. We see, farther on, haystacks and settlers' homes guarded with deep furrows broken by the plow to protect their little homes. We saw dark objects in the distance guarding their homes from the fire fiend by throwing up embankments.
…..I limited myself to only one meal each day during the entire journey. When the cars stopped at stations any length of time, we improved the opportunity by taking a brisk walk. Generally in approaching Cheyenne and Sherman I have difficulty of breathing. Thursday noon we were at Cheyenne and it was snowing and cold. Could not walk much that day. "All aboard" was sounded about half past three, and again we were moving onward.
In nearing Cheyenne we were interested by the view of the Rocky Mountains. Dark clouds obstructed our view. As we neared Laramie we were having a hail storm. Occasionally the sunlight would break through the clouds, striking full upon the mountaintops, but night drew on and we were all huddled together while preparations were being made for us to occupy our berths. This night the wind blew the coal gas into the windows, nearly suffocating me. I was afraid to sleep. This night was the only disagreeable one upon the route. In the morning after we had taken our breakfast from our well-filled dinner baskets, we felt much refreshed. I wrote several pages back to Battle Creek. Here we began to come to scenery worth our attention.
The cars move slowly and smoothly along, giving the passengers a fair chance to view the scenery. An additional engine is added to help draw the train up the summit of Sherman. We reached Sherman about six o'clock and had no inconvenience in breathing. The elevation between Cheyenne and Sherman is 2,001 feet, the distance nearly 33 miles. The ascending grade averages from Cheyenne 67 feet per mile. The two engines puff and blow as if requiring a powerful effort to breathe. At length the summit is reached and the descent begins two miles west of Sherman. We cross Dale Creek bridge. It looks frail, as if incapable of sustaining the ponderous train, but it is built of iron and very substantial. A beautiful, narrow, silvery stream is winding its way in the depths below. The bridge is 650 feet long, 130 feet high, and is considered a wonderful affair in this route.
We look in the valley below and the settlements look like pigeon houses. We pass rapidly down the grade through the snow sheds and granite cuts. We have now, as we pass on, a full view of the Diamond Peaks of the Medicine Row Range. They are, with their sharp-pointed summits, pointing heavenward, while their sides and the rugged hills around them are covered with timber. When the atmosphere is clear, the Snowy Range can be distinctly seen clothed in the robes of perpetual snow. A chilliness creeps over you as you look upon them, so cold, so cheerless, and yet there is an indescribable grandeur about these everlasting mountains and perpetual snows.
But night draws her sable curtains around us, and we are preparing to occupy our berths for the night. The wind was blowing strong against us, sending the smoke of our heating stove into every opening and crevice in the car. I slept, but awoke with a suffocating scream. I found myself laboring hard for breath, and the coal gas was so stifling I could not sleep for hours, dared not sleep. This was the most disagreeable night that I had on the journey. In the morning felt better than I expected. We again prepared our breakfast, making a nice hot broth. Our two tables were prepared, one in each seat, and we ate our nice breakfast with thankful hearts. The porter, well filled with silver donations, was very accommodating, bringing lunch baskets, making room, and depositing our baggage with all pleasantness. …..As we move on slowly over the great American desert, with no objects in sight except sagebrush and distant mountain peaks, we seem more like a ship at sea.
The massive train, headed by our faithful steam horse moving along so grandly, seems like a thing of life. You look occasionally back from the rear of the cars upon the straight track, hundreds of miles with scarcely a curve, while wilderness and desolation meet you whichever way you may look.
Passing Cheyenne, we soon entered snow sheds, constantly varying from light to darkness and from darkness to light--the only change for miles. I had been growing stronger as I neared Colorado. We telegraphed to Ogden soon after leaving Omaha, for seats in the car for California, and our seats were assigned us just as we were located in the car we leave. Therefore, it is always best to secure good seats when you take the palace car from Omaha, for that secures you good seats all the trip. Now the tickets have to be purchased at the ticket office before the baggage can be taken into the car. We are all settled some time before the sun has passed out of sight beyond the mountains.
We have additional passengers. There is a tall, straight, gentleman eyeing us critically. He has his wife and child with him. His own hair is as dark as the raven's wing, but his wife's hair is as white as I ever saw human hair, curled in ringlets. It gave her a singular appearance, not what I should call desirable. She was rather a delicate looking woman.
We prepare for rest and sleep, only one more night to pass. Scenery viewed on Friday while approaching Ogden. At Green River is the place where specimens of fossils, petrifactions, and general natural curiosities are seen. These petrified shells and wood may be purchased for a trifle. There is a high, projecting rock, in appearance like a tower, and twin rocks of gigantic proportions. The appearance of these rocks is as if some great temples once stood here and their massive pillars were left standing as witness of their former greatness.
There is a rock called Giant's Club, and in proportions it is a giant. It rises almost perpendicularly and it is impossible to climb up its steep sides. This is one of nature's curiosities. I was told that its composition bears evidence of its once being located at the bottom of a lake. This rock has regular strata, all horizontal, containing fossils of plants and fish and curiously-shaped specimens of sea animals. The plants appear like our fruit and forest trees. There are ferns and palms. The fishes seem to be of species now extinct.
A large flat stone was shown us with distinct specimens of fish and curious leaves. The proprietor told us that on a previous trip he brought these two large rocks on horseback eight miles. The rock did not look so far, but he said that was the distance to get access to it. There were on these spots of slabs of rock, feathers of birds and other curiosities plainly seen. We look with curious interest upon rocks composed of sandstone in perfectly horizontal strata containing most interesting remains. These bluff rocks assume most curious and fantastic forms, as if chiseled out by the hand of art.
There are in appearance lofty domes and pinnacles and fluted columns. These rocks resemble some cathedral of ancient date, standing in desolation. The imagination here has a fruitful field in which to range. In the vicinity of these rocks are moss agate patches. To stand at a distance from these rocks, wonderfully shaped, you may imagine some ruined city, bare, desolate, but bearing their silent history to what once was.
We pass on quite rapidly to the Devil's Gate, a canyon where the sweet water has worn through the granite ridge. The walls are about 300 feet high. The water runs slowly, pleasantly moving over the rocks. We pass on while the mountaintops rise perpendicular towards heaven, covered with perpetual snows, while other mountaintops, apparently horizontal, are seen. Here in passing we get some view of the beauty and grandeur of the scenery in groups of mountains clothed with pines.
In Echo Canyon are rocks curiously representing works of art, for example the Sentinel Rock. The average height of all the rocks of Echo Canyon, is from 600 to 800 feet. The scenery here is grand and beautiful. We see holes or caves worn by storm and wind, where the eagles build their nests. This is called Eagle Nest Rock. Here the king of birds finds a safe habitation to rear its young. The ruthless hand of man cannot disturb them.
We come to the Thousand Mile Tree. Here hangs the sign giving us the distance from Omaha. Here we pass the wonderful rocks called the Devil's Slide. It is composed of two parallel walls of granite standing upon their edges. Between these two walls are about 14 feet. They form a wall about 800 feet running up the mountain. This looks as if formed by art and placed in position, the rocks are so regularly laid. This is a wonderful sight, but we reach Ogden and night draws on.
Our last night on the cars was spent in sleeping some and in viewing the scenery. The moon was shining clear and bright. Mary was resting upon her elbow looking out the window much of the night. We passed Cape Horn in the light of the moon. The wintry scene in the Sierra Nevadas, viewed by the light of the moon, is grand. We look 2,000 feet below. The soft light of the moon shines upon the mountain heights, revealing the grand pines and lighting up the canyons. No pen or language can describe the grandeur of this scene. We prefer to enjoy this grand sight rather than to sleep.
In the morning, the last morning upon the cars, we rejoice that we have nearly completed our week's trip, protected by a kind Providence and receiving neither accident or harm, and hardly weariness. We are nearly to our journey's end.