Crossing the Continental Divide

September 1872

Pressing on early the next morning, they found it a steady climb to the 11,000-foot mark. "Here," wrote James White, "the air was so light that the climbing horses breathed and panted as though they would lose their breath; and their riders were frequently disposed to take a long breath, which did not seem to hit the spot, nor satisfy the usual demands of the breathing apparatus. This gave an excellent opportunity to expand the lungs and chest. . . .

"We hastened on, and up the sharp ascent, to the summit of the range, which we reached at 11:00 a.m. . . . From this grand range, the backbone of the continent, waters rise from springs, within a gunshot of each other, which flow, one to the Atlantic, and the other to the Pacific. We had now reached an altitude too cold for trees of any kind to exist" (HR, March 1873).

At the top of the range the terrain was rather level but rough and "untrodden, rocky, mountain way." Then they must descend. Ellen White elected to ride in the wagon with Mr. Walling, but soon she found the jerking wagon seat so uncomfortable she chose to ride with the baggage, sprawled over and clinging to the big bundle of tents. Willie described the descent:

As we descend, the cold winds and snowbanks are left behind, but the roads are fearful. They go down so steep you are in danger of slipping over your horse's head, then through little marshes which are numerous near the top of the range, and where you must work sharp to keep your horse above ground, and the rest of the way over loose rocks and boulders, through creeks and over logs, up and down, but mostly down till we reach the park [Middle Park].

Lame and weary, we were glad to stop and camp in the edge of a thick forest surrounding a little meadow through which wound a crooked mountain brook, clear and cold, and full of speckled trout. As usual, we tied the horses where there was good grass, pitched the tents, cut spruce boughs for our beds, and then, building a big fire in front of the tents, retired to rest, and slept well till sunrise (YI, January 1873).