Along the rocky parts of the cañon bottoms between lake basins, where the streams flow fast over glacier-polished granite, there are rows of pothole gardens full of ferns, daisies, golden-rods, and other common plants of the neighborhood nicely arranged like bouquets, and standing out in telling relief on the bare shining rock banks. And all the way up the cañons to the Summit mountains, wherever there is soil of any sort, there is no lack of flowers, however short the summer may be. Within eight or ten feet of a snow bank lingering beneath a shadow, you may see belated ferns unrolling their fronds in September, and sedges hurrying up their brown spikes on ground that has been free from snow only eight or ten days, and likely to be covered again within a few weeks; the winter in the coolest of these shadow gardens being about eleven months long, while spring, summer, and autumn are hurried and crowded into one month. Again, under favorable conditions, alpine gardens three or four thousand feet higher than the last are in their prime in June. Between the Summit peaks at the head of the cañons surprising effects are produced where the sunshine falls direct on rocky slopes and reverberates among boulders. Toward the end of August, in one of these natural hothouses on the north shore of a glacier lake 11,500 feet above the sea, I found a luxuriant growth of hairy lupines, thistles, goldenrods, shrubby potentilla, spraguea, and the mountain epilobium with thousands of purple flowers an inch wide, while the opposite shore, at a distance of only three hundred yards, was bound in heavy avalanche snow,—flowery summer on one side, winter on the other. And I know a bench garden on the north wall of Yosemite in which a few flowers are in bloom all winter; the massive rocks about it storing up sunshine enough in summer to melt the snow about as fast as it falls. When tired of the confinement of my cabin I used to camp out in it in January, and never failed to find flowers, and butterflies also, except during snowstorms and a few days after.
From Yosemite one can easily walk in a day to the top of Mount Hoffman, a massive gray mountain that rises in the centre of the Park, with easy slopes adorned with castellated piles and crests on the south side, rugged precipices banked with perpetual snow on the north. Most of the broad summit is comparatively level and smooth, and covered with crystals of quartz, mica, hornblende, feldspar, garnet, zircon, tourmaline, etc., weathered out and strewn loosely as if sown broadcast; their radiance so dazzling in some places as to fairly hide the multitude of small flowers that grow among them; myriads of keen lance rays infinitely fine, white or colored, making an almost continuous glow over all the ground, with here and there throbbing, spangling lilies of light, on the larger gems. At first sight only these crystal sunflowers are noticed, but looking closely you discover minute gilias, ivesias, eunanus, phloxes, etc., in thousands, showing more petals than leaves; and larger plants in hollows and on the borders of rills,—lupines, potentillas, daisies, harebells, mountain columbine, astragalus, fringed with heathworts. You wander about from garden to garden enchanted, as if walking among stars, gathering the brightest gems, each and all apparently doing their best with eager enthusiasm, as if everything depended on faithful shining; and considering the flowers basking in the glorious light, many of them looking like swarms of small moths and butterflies that were resting after long dances in the sunbeams. Now your attention is called to colonies of woodchucks and pikas, the mounds in front of their burrows glittering like heaps of jewelry,—romantic ground to live in or die in. Now you look abroad over the vast round landscape bounded by the down-curving sky, nearly all the Park in it displayed like a map,—forests, meadows, lakes, rock waves, and snowy mountains. Northward lies the basin of Yosemite Creek, paved with bright domes and lakes like larger crystals; eastward, the meadowy, billowy Tuolumne region and the Summit peaks in glorious array; southward, Yosemite; and westward, the boundless forests. On no other mountain that I know of are you more likely to linger. It is a magnificent camp ground. Clumps of dwarf pine furnish rosiny roots and branches for fuel, and the rills pure water. Around your camp fire the flowers seem to be looking eagerly at the light, and the crystals shine unweariedly, making fine company as you lie at rest in the very heart of the vast, serene, majestic night.