October 18, 1841

“Monday, 18th. Having ascended a about half a mile, a frightful prospect opened before us–naked mountains whose summits still retained the snows perhaps of a thousand years, for it had withstood the heat of a long dry summer, and ceased to melt for the season. The winds roared–but in the deep dark gulfs which yawned on every side, profound solitude seemed to reign. We would along among the peaks in such a manner as to avoid most of the mountains which we had expected to climb–struck a small stream descending toward the W., on which we encamped, having come 15 miles.”

The “small stream” that they camped by was Clark’s Fork, which flows into the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River. They didn’t know how far they had to go yet, but at lest they were headed downstream.

Michael J. Gillis traced this journey in his article for the Overland Journal entitled “The 1841 Trans-Sierra Route of the Bidwell-Bartleson Party.” On the 18th he says that the group was climbing up Golden Canyon, and crested the Sierra Nevada at an elevation of 9,425 feet.

“In only four days, thanks to good weather, good luck and some savvy scouting, the Bidwell-Bartleson Party had made its way to the west side of the Sierra Nevada. One of the most daunting portions of the travelers’ trip now lay behind them. Unfortunately, their joy at successfully locating a pass over the summit was quickly tempered by the sobering panorama that now lay before them. Snowcapped mountains were visible in every direction. Many days of difficult traveling were still ahead.”

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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