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HOME > Classical Novels > Vanished Arizona33 > CHAPTER XVI. STONEMAN'S LAKE
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 The road began now to ascend1, and after twenty miles' travelling we reached a place called Updyke's Tanks. It was a nice place, with plenty of wood and grass. The next day we camped at Jay Coxe's Tanks. It was a hard day's march, and I was tired out when we arrived there. The ambulance was simply jerked over those miles of fearful rocks; one could not say driven or dragged over, for we were pitched from rock to rock the entire distance.  
Stoneman's Lake Road was famous, as I afterwards heard. Perhaps it was just as well for me that I did not know about it in advance.
The sure-footed mules3 picked their way over these sharp-edged rocks. There was not a moment's respite4. We asked a soldier to help with holding the baby, for my arms gave out entirely5, and were as if paralyzed. The jolting6 threw us all by turns against the sides of the ambulance (which was not padded), and we all got some rather bad bruises7. We finally bethought ourselves of the pappoose basket, which we had brought along in the ambulance, having at the last moment no other place to put it. So a halt was called, we placed the tired baby in this semi-cradle, laced the sides snugly8 over him, and were thus enabled to carry him over those dreadful roads without danger.
He did not cry much, but the dust made him thirsty. I could not give him nourishment10 without stopping the entire train of wagons11, on account of the constant pitching of the ambulance; delay was not advisable or expedient12, so my poor little son had to endure with the rest of us. The big Alsatian cavalryman14 held the cradle easily in his strong arms, and so the long miles were travelled, one by one.
At noon of this day we made a refreshing15 halt, built a fire and took some luncheon16. We found a shady, grassy17 spot, upon which the blankets were spread, and we stretched ourselves out upon them and rested. But we were still some miles from water, so after a short respite we were compelled to push on. We had been getting steadily18 higher since leaving Sunset Crossing, and now it began to be cold and looked like snow. Mrs. Bailey and I found it very trying to meet these changes of temperature. A good place for the camp was found at Coxe's Tanks, trenches19 were dug around the tents, and the earth banked up to keep us warm. The cool air, our great fatigue20, and the comparative absence of danger combined to give us a heavenly night's rest.
Towards sunset of the next day, which was May Day, our cavalcade21 reached Stoneman's Lake. We had had another rough march, and had reached the limit of endurance, or thought we had, when we emerged from a mountain pass and drew rein22 upon the high green mesa overlooking Stoneman's Lake, a beautiful blue sheet of water lying there away below us. It was good to our tired eyes, which had gazed upon nothing but burnt rocks and alkali plains for so many days. Our camp was beautiful beyond description, and lay near the edge of the mesa, whence we could look down upon the lovely lake. It was a complete surprise to us, as points of scenery were not much known or talked about then in Arizona. Ponds and lakes were unheard of. They did not seem to exist in that drear land of arid23 wastes. We never heard of water except that of the Colorado or the Gila or the tanks and basins, and irrigation ditches of the settlers. But here was a real Italian lake, a lake as blue as the skies above us. We feasted our eyes and our very souls upon it.
Bailey and the guide shot some wild turkeys, and as we had already eaten all the mutton we had along, the ragout of turkey made by the soldier-cook for our supper tasted better to us tired and hungry travellers, perhaps, than a canvasback at Delmonico's tastes to the weary lounger or the over-worked financier.
In the course of the day, we had passed a sort of sign-board, with the rudely written inscription24, "Camp Starvation," and we had heard from Mr. Bailey the story of the tragic25 misfortunes at this very place of the well-known Hitchcock family of Arizona. The road was lined with dry bones, and skulls26 of oxen, white and bleached27 in the sun, lying on the bare rocks. Indeed, at every stage of the road we had seen evidences of hard travel, exhausted28 cattle, anxious teamsters, hunger and thirst, despair, starvation, and death.
However, Stoneman's Lake remains29 a joy in the memory, and far and away the most beautiful spot I ever saw in Arizona. But unless the approaches to it are made easier, tourists will never gaze upon it.
In the distance we saw the "divide," over which we must pass in order to reach Camp Verde, which was to be our first stopping place, and we looked joyfully30 towards the next day's march, which we expected would bring us there.
We thought the worst was over and, before retiring to our tents for the night, we walked over to the edge of the high mesa and, in the gathering31 shadows of twilight32, looked down into the depths of that beautiful lake, knowing that probably we should never see it again.
And indeed, in all the years I spent in Arizona afterward2, I never even heard of the lake again.
I wonder now, did it really exist or was it an illusion, a dream, or the mirage33 which appears to the desert traveller, to satisfy him and lure34 him on, to quiet his imagination, and to save his senses from utter extinction35?
In the morning the camp was all astir for an early move. We had no time to look back: we were starting for a long day's march, across the "divide," and into Camp Verde.
But we soon found that the road (if road it could be called) was worse than any we had encountered. The ambulance was pitched and jerked from rock to rock and we were thumped36 against the iron framework in a most dangerous manner. So we got out and picked our way over the great sharp boulders37.
The Alsatian soldier carried the baby, who lay securely in the pappoose cradle.
One of the cavalry13 escort suggested my taking his horse, but I did not feel strong enough to think of mounting a horse, so great was my discouragement and so exhausted was my vitality38. Oh! if girls only knew about these things I thought! For just a little knowledge of the care of an infant and its needs, its nourishment and its habits, might have saved both mother and child from such utter collapse39.
Little by little we gave up hope of reaching Verde that day. At four o'clock we crossed the "divide," and clattered41 down a road so near the edge of a precipice42 that I was frightened beyond everything: my senses nearly left me. Down and around, this way and that, near the edge, then back again, swaying, swerving43, pitching, the gravel44 clattering45 over the precipice, the six mules trotting46 their fastest, we reached the bottom and the driver pulled up his team. "Beaver47 Springs!" said he, impressively, loosening up the brakes.
As Jack48 lifted me out of the ambulance, I said: "Why didn't you tell me?" pointing back to the steep road. "Oh," said he, "I thought it was better for you not to know; people get scared about such things, when they know about them before hand."
"But," I rema............
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