October 17, 1841

“Sunday, 17th. This morning we set forth into the rolling mountains; in many places it was so steep that all were obliged to take it on foot. Part of the day we traveled through valleys between peaks, where the way was quite level . . . Encamped on the side of the mountains, so elevated that the ice remained all day in the streams–but we had not yet arrived at the summit. Killed another ox on this evening–made 12 miles.”

Following the Walker River, the Bidwell-Bartleson Party entered the Sierras at Antelope Valley. They faced the challenge of crossing a daunting range of snow-capped mountains and steep canyons. Could they do it?

On the day before Bidwell had written: “This evening the Company was convened for the purpose of deciding by vote whether we should go back to the lake and take a path which we saw leading to the N.W., or undertake to climb the mountains. We had no more provision than would last us to the lake–nearly all were unanimous against turning back.”

No one wanted to go back to the desert. They were already on short rations, down to their last one or two oxen, but the mountains at least promised water and the possibility of game. The desert had nothing to offer but sand, heat, and starvation. So the decision was made; they would tackle the mountains. On the 17th they started up into the mountains, hoping to break through to California.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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