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Sangre de Cristo Glow
Oakland Tribune, June 17, 1923, page 14

A Party of Spanish Fortune-Seekers Turned Back
After They Viewed the Phenomenon;
Its Awesome Beauty Long a Subject of Wonder
to the American Indian

By Jack Bell

Gorgeous beyond compare, incomparable in the many hued shades, and the changes of awesome beauty, uncannily weird, majestically beautiful in coloring, of such magnificence and wonderful glow that it holds one spellbound, and stunes the senses while the reds with indescribable loveliness spread over the sky, the earth and all therein, is - that glorious luminescence - the Sangre de Cristo glow. On two occasions last summer this inexplainable phenomenon appeared over the Sierra Nevada mountains, and was best viewed from Inspiration Point at George Wingfield park.

It was the first time of any known record that this soul-satisfying view has been had over the Sierras. The name, Sangre de Christo mountains situate in mid-center Colorado, famous the world over for their grand peaks, numbering almost a thousand. In altitudes from 12,000 up to over 14,000 feet, and which cut through that state for a distance of 100 miles - the wonder scenic range of mountains in the entire universe.

It was when the early Spaniards were exploring the primal southwest for riches. The caravan came up from Mexico, suffering untold hardships. Soldiers, slaves and the soldiers of fortune composed the party. On and on they toiled through the deserts and over the mountain passes and some time in the late fall they arrived in the Wet Mountain valley. They made camp in the late afternoon on the far east side of the valley on what is now known as Silver creek.

Miles above and parallel with the range was the vapor, for all the world like the handiwork of giant artisans, the clouds lying over the skyline of picket fence-like peaks that stood out in relief against the heavens. The peculiar layer upon layer of lace-like, film-like covering, seemed to be of the thickness of a few hundred feet. Compact, with the edges studded with the heavier, denser scale looking moisture of white and not another single cloud in the immensity of the molybednum blue sky. As the sun drops down behind the Cochetopa hills the clouds turn into leaden grey, for the fraction of a minute.

Then along the western edge of the great cupping of clouds appears a faint, fire-like color. It begins to rise and waver as the sun sinks deeper into the horizon. Now the glow of the Sangre de Cristo begins to creep across the barrier of clouds in the high ether. The living bloodred spreads and bellows across the background of clouds in parallel rays for the entire length. Perfectly timed, perfectly space they appear as they run across nature's screen. The red of blood, in its passage through the background of lesser red haze, the blue of the sky above glows and hues upon the earth and all, while upon the landscape the weaving, changing colors multiply, and make distorted changes, as the lights fade and magnify in their extreme vividness. The mountain streams appear as molten running metal, the trees, upon each leaf the red glow shines, tracing each and every little detail of all living and inanimate things upon the terrain. The effects are ghostly and unreadl. The birds of the air and the beasts of the field remain immobile, with the passing of the glow - all is stilled with the quiet of a world house of worship.

The tired Spanish grandees, soldiers and slaves gathered about their fires as the eventide approached. The sun dropped behind the range of mountains - the chill of October was in the air. They wrapped their capes and blankets closely about them, preparatory to much needed rest.

With eloectrifying suddenness the lights of blood red in the corrations began to flash under and in the clouds. THey cast themselves upon their knees, crossed themselves and looked upon the marvelous scene stagged by the creator of all things. With muttered prayer they humbled themselves and watched with superstitious awe and breathlessly with outspoken fervor and loud pleadings asked to be forgiven their sins - to be saved from destruction.

"It is the sign - the sign of Sangre de Cristo," - they cried.

Then one of their number cried out in agonized tones of fright, and with the red, blood-red glow casting itself over and round him - he pointed into the northwest, and there standing forth in the majesty of perfection with the glow waving strong and growing dim, stood the perfect outline of a perfect crucifix, and when the light faded in intense tone, the dark lines of the perfect cross stood out in white relief, the snow in the breaks of formation being filled with white, the red halo covering and quivering over the whole. This is the present Mount of the Holy Cross, up the Continental divide.

As the sun sank lower and lower, the blood reds were replaced by cinnabar red, and on and on through the variations of red colors. Soon the edges of the miles of broad parallel rays that were in eivdence through the clouds begin to fade. Now the edges of the bars become darker and darker as the leaden colors of the night meet and dissipate the glows and multi-reds. Night falls with desert suddeness. The mist that hung over the range dissipates, the white stars gleam and sparkle, the night birds wend their various ways, in the beyond the coyote yelps his weird taps to the departing day, adn the stillness is only broken by the animal prowlers of the night. The reveille appeared with the glory of a desert-mountain morning. The Spaniards and their train, at first peep of day, looked in vain for some indication of the thrilling, unheard of display of the night before.

The legends handed down by the Indian sages of the southwest tribes of Indians seem to bear out the fact that this party of fortune seekers turned back the morning after this display of nature - their argument, so the tale recites, being that the "Sign of the Sangre de Cristo" was a warning to return from whence they came. As a matter of fact, there appears no work of mining done by the Spaniards in this vicinity, or further north than Rita Alta peak.

Briefly, the cause of this phenomenon is the inverted corpuscles in the air when clouds attain a certain height, and lie directly over the mountain range - but the sigh is rare, as has been told. The lights last from two to three minutes.

Seated in comfort and ideal surroundings at Inspiration Point in Wingfield park in the early eventide of spring, summer and fall, the point of the island wedge that drives up and into the dammed waters of the Truckee river, one is transported into the realm of dreamy pleasant reverie. Inspiration Point divides the fast flowing stream into two equal parts. There is music in the fall of the water over the concrete barriers, as the water rush down below the artistic bridges that span the flows.

Looking westward from Inspiration Point, surrounded by wonderful trees, green lawns and the many flowering bush and flowers - it is ideal for rest and recreation.

In the waters of the dam the leaping, jumping, striking, silver circles of the golden and scarlet trout, the broad rippling surface of the Truckee river rushes by in crystal, swirling song. Borders of the feathered willows, the stately cottonwood, dignified maples, graded emerald green banks slope down to meet the water in perfect accord.

Reno is the only city in the United States where wading sportsmen can get their fill of this grand sport in the heart of the whirl and bustle and noise of passings of all kinds of traffic in absolutely city central location and in the door-yards of the select residence district of the city.

On the banks of the Truckee the sidelines of the park are situate. Towering trees of natural primal growth, lawns and flowers on every hand. Equipped playgrounds that are second to none. Tennis courts and all also that go for the pleasure and recreation of the public.

Between the Virginia street bridge, the main business artery, and the electric lighted bridge one mile up the river are the popular promenades. Following the shores on the south bank of the stream is Lovers' Lane. The broad trail lies at the base of the high gravel mesa. A perfectly beautiful foliage borders both side of the walk. In many places the spreading willows are entwined overhead, and for the entire distance shade is assured. In the space between the river and the path flowers bloom in season and along both sides are the solid rows of wild roses. The trees stand straight and are full-limbed and graceful. In varying distances are the comfortable benches and several covered summer houses builded with the steps leading down into the stream.

On the north shore is Riverside drive. It follows the stream in all its graceful bends. This drive is lined with magnificent trees in lovely, equal distribution, so that the walk between river and drive is invariably cool and shady in mid-summer.

It is along this stretch of water that the premier fishing is to be had. During the season it is very ordinary to count hundreds of men, women and children busily engaged in this fascinating sport in the evenings.

Many were the large rainbow taken from this paradise for anglers this past summer. Rainbow weighing as heavy as six and a quarter pounds were captured on bait. A great number from three to four pounds were caught by anglers with very light fly tackle and with flies as small as No. 18. Two miles above the city one four-pound fish was captured on very light tackle and a No. 12 Beaverkill fly.

Within the confines of George Winfield park one zealous angler took over 1400 legal size trout of all varieties on the Midge flies during the season.

On no other stream in the world can be found the grand sport, the wonderful surroundings and the conveniences as this quarter of a mile in and about this park affords.

Within a fifteen-minute ride in an automobile hunting grounds can be easily reached where every known specie of water fowl and bird abounds. They come in incredible numbers over the marshes, canals and little ponds south and east of the city limits. The season is at its height and now in mid-December hunters are returning with their limit of 25 ducks and geese. During the hunting season limit bags of sage hen and quail of the diffeent varieties were bagged in a short motoring distance from the center of town. During the open season for deer, magnificent specimens weighing up to 240 pounds dressed weight have been hung in front of restaurants.

Then a drive of 40 miles brings one to Pyramid lake - a most wonderful body of water 40 miles long - with the pelican rookery, Indian villages, and the caves that housed the races long extinct. The fishing in Pyramid is without peer anywhere for lake trout. A 30-pound specimen does not even create a ripple of excitement among the ardent trollers. The catch this past season was a record one. Same story as of the skilled anglers who had such success within the city of Reno. Antelope in numbers can be seen within a few hours' drive; the timber wolf, the coyote, bobcat and bear - in the foothills to the west among the hog backs of the Sierras, where the fishing on the Truckee is of the best. Deer can be seen almost any day as they come for water, and cross the turbulent Truckee.

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