It was no Garden of the Hesperides upon which the Pioneers gazed that memorable July morning. Aside from its scenic splendor, which was indeed glorious, magnificent, there was little to invite, and much to repel, in the prospect presented to their view. A barren plain, hemmed in by mountains, burning beneath the rays of the mid-summer sun. No waving fields or forests, no verdant meadows to rest and refresh the weary eye, but on all sides a seemingly interminable waste of sagebrush, bespangled with sunflowers, the paradise of the lizard, the cricket, and the rattlesnake.
Less than half way across the baked and burning valley, dividing it in twain, as if the vast bowl, in the intense heat of the Master Potter’s fires, in process of formation had cracked asunder, a narrow river, turbid and shallow, from south to north, in many a serpentine curve, sweeps on its sinuous way. Beyond, a broad lake, the river’s goal, dotted with towering islands, its briny waters shimmering in the sunbeams.
From mountains snow-capped, seamed and craggy, lifting their kingly heads to be crowned by the golden sun, flow limpid, laughing streams, cold and crystal clear, leaping, dashing, foaming, flashing from rock to glen, from peak to plain. But the fresh canyon brooks are far and few, and the arid waste they water, glistening with beds of salt and soda and pools of deadly alkali, scarcely allows them to reach the river, but midway well nigh swallows and absorbs them in its thirsty sands.
Above the line of gray and gold, of sage and sunflower, the sloping hillsides and precipitous steeps are clothed with purple and dark green patches; these, the oak-bush, the squaw-berry, and other scant growths, with here and there a solitary tree, a few acres of withered bunch grass, and the lazily waving willows and wild-rose bushes fringing the distant streams, the only green things visible.