From Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada
By Clarence King
Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1872

[Clarence King was a member of the survey team that mapped Yosemite Valley at the time it was donated by the national government to the state of California as a public "pleasure ground."]

We hung our barometer upon a stunted tree quite near the brink, and, climbing cautiously down, stretched ourselves out upon an overhanging block of granite, and looked over into the Yosemite Valley.

The rock fell under us in one sheer sweep thirty-two hundred feet; upon its face we could trace the lines of fracture and all prominent lithological changes. Directly beneath, outspread like a delicately tinted chart, lay the lovely park of Yosemite, winding in and out about the solid white feet of precipices which sunk into it on either side; its sunlit surface invaded by the shadow of the south wall; its spires of pine, open expanses of buff and drab meadow, and families of umber oaks rising as background for the vivid green river-margin and flaming orange masses of frosted cottonwood foliage.

Deep in front the Bridal Veil brook made its way through the bottom of an open gorge and plunged off the edge of a thousand-foot cliff, falling in white water-dust and drifting in pale translucent clouds out over the tree-tops of the valley.

Directly opposite us, and forming the other gate-post of the valley's entrance, rose the great mass of Cathedral Rocks,--a group quite suggestive of the Florence Duomo.

But our grandest view was eastward, above the deep sheltered valley and over the tops of those terrible granite walls, out upon rolling ridges of stone and wonderful granite domes. Nothing in the whole list of irruptive products, except volcanoes themselves, is so wonderful as these domed mountains. They are of every variety of conoidal form, having horizontal sections accurately elliptical, ovoid, or circular, and profiles varying from such semicircles as the cap behind the Sentinel to the graceful infinite curves of the North Dome. Above and beyond these stretch back long bare ridges connecting with sunny summit peaks.

The whole region is one solid granite mass, with here and there shallow soil layers, and a thin variable forest which grows in picturesque mode, defining the leading lines of erosion as an artist deepens here and there a line to hint at some structural peculiarity.

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