Photograph of Mary Nimmo Moran in costume in Moran's Newark studio, 1876, courtesy East Hampton Library

Letter from Thomas Moran to Mary Nimmo Moran

Kanab, 13 August 1873

My dear Wife,

The noon after my last letter was dated we left camp for the Grand Canon at the foot of To-Ro-Weap Valley. The first camp we made was at Pipe Springs 20 miles. The next day we reached what is called the Wild Band Pocket 20 miles. It is a gulch with a rock bottom that holds water after the rains and is frequented by a band of wild horses which we saw in the distance. All places that hold water after rain are called water pockets. The Wild Band Pocket is situated in as absolute a desert as I ever saw. The water was thick with a red mud, but was good, and when you want water you are not particular about the color of it. We shot some rabbits and had a game supper. The wolves were howling all round us but they did not come near. I ought to mention that we had an Indian guide named Jim, a Pi-Ute with whom we had a good deal of amusement. His business was to look after the horses of which we had seven with us. The next day we got into a volcanic country full of old craters and lava and reached the In-nu-pits peccavo, or Witches pocket in the lava rocks at the foot of Mt. Trumbull where we found a large pocket of clear water but of bad taste from decomposed vegetation. This day we travelled 35 miles. Luckily the weather was cool during the whole trip. From our camp at the pocket the wall of the Grand Canon was visible some 15 miles down the valley. The Indians are very superstitious and Jim did not much like our camping so near the pocket. During the night I was awakened by a wolf crunching the bones of a rabbit we had eaten. He was not more than 12 feet from where we were lying, and it being moonlight, I saw him clearly. Colburn had his gun in bed with him but when I rose up the animal took to his heels and disappeared. There must have been more than one in camp that night as Colburn's spur had disappeared having been carried off by a wolf for the leather on it. Indian Jim said that he had a bad dream, that an Indian shot him and he wanted to clear out very early. About noon we made another water pocket in the lava rocks about a mile from the Grand Chasm. The water was full of red mud again. After dinner (flour cake and bacon) we struck out for the Canon. On reaching the brink the whole gorge for miles lay beneath us and it was by far the most awfully grand and impressive scene that I have ever yet seen. We had reached the Canon on the second level or edge of the great gulf. Above and around us rose a wall of 2000 feet and below us a vast chasm 2500 feet in perpendicular depth and 1/2 a mile wide. At the bottom the river very muddy and seemingly only a hundred feet wide seemed slowly moving along but in reality is a rushing torrent filled with rapids. A suppressed sort of roar comes up constantly from the chasm but with that exception every thing impresses you with an awful stillness. The color of the Great Canon itself is red, a light Indian Red, and the material sandstone and red marble and is in terraces all the way down. All above the canon is variously colored sandstone mainly a light flesh or cream color and worn into very fine forms. I made an outline and did a little color work but had not time nor was it worth while to make a detailed study in color. We made several photos which will give me all the details I want if I conclude to paint the view. We stayed at the Canon all the next day. In the evening Jack Hillers the photographer was bringing a canteen of water from the pocket when a huge rattlesnake glided between his feet and he got a thorough scare. We searched for the snake with some burning sage brush and I killed it with a stone. It measured fully 3 1/2 feet long. The stone mashed the rattles so we could not tell how many he had. On our trip to the Virgin River Jack had another narrow escape from a rattlesnake. He was talking to me and had both his elbows right over a rattler which Colburn shot. The Indian boy I told you had been bitten by one died after living nearly 3 days. We left the Canon pocket for camp at the In-nu-pits peccavo, and Indian Jim was very desirous that we should go somewhere else to camp as he said the little imps would hurt the horses as well as ourselves, but we told him the In-nu-pits were all dead long ago and we finally pacified him, though I don't think he slept much. Just after supper Colburn sitting by the fire found a large Tarantula beside him. He cleared out in a hurry and we killed him. This was the third Tarantula we killed. Between snakes and Tarantulas it made us feel a little uncomfortable at night down there, but we are very careful and there is but little danger of our getting bitten. The next day we cam back to the Wild Band pocket and it rained on us all afternoon and night. Yesterday we reached camp, having been away 8 days on the trip. When we got back we found Maj. Powell had arrived and he had all the Indians in camp and all the squaws making Indian toggery for him. He is going to get me an Indian suit made. This afternoon the Major and I are going up toward the Virgin River on a little trip to see some lakes in caverns about 7 miles from here and shall return this evening. Tomorrow morning a party of 8 including Colburn, myself, and Powell start for the Ki-bab plateau to see the Grand Canon at that point. It is 3500 feet deep at that point, and I am inclined to think it is a finer subject for a picture than the To-Ro-Weap view. This trip will take 8 days and I shall then be ready to come home. If I come down here again you must come too. You would just go wild over what there is to see here, and it is perfectly safe though a pretty hard trip to make. I have just received your letters, 4 in all, and the first I have gotten.I am so glad that everything is all right with you. I am sorry that Archie has to go to work in the way he has. The Major is waiting for me to go to the Lakes so I must close. I had a good many things to say but must cut short. This is perhaps the last letter I shall write from here as I expect to start for home on my return from the Ki-bab. Work hard to improve your drawing dear as I shall have plenty of work for you this coming winter. 70 drawings for Powell, 40 for Appleton, 4 for Aldine, 20 for Scribner's all from this region beside the water colors and oil pictures. Kisses and love to you all

Your loving Hub, Tom


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