“Wednesday, 21st. Our route today was much better than expected, though in any other place than the mountains it would be considered horrible. Capt. B. with his 7 or 8 overtook us, but we heard nothing of J. John. Distance about 10 miles, could see no prospect of a termination to the mts., mts., mountains!”
Surrounded by mountains, and unable to proceed down the steep and rocky canyon, the party traveled along the ridge between the Middle and North Forks of the Stanislaus River. The landscape was “recently burned over” by forest fires. This desolate terrain offered no game and almost no grass for the horses, the mules, and their one remaining ox.
In his 1877 Dictation, Bidwell describes how Bartleson’s group, who had tried to get down the canyon, spent all day retracing their steps, although the distance was no more than half a mile. “At one place it took all of the men either pushing or pulling to help each mule back up again, and for the whole distance the loads had to be carried on the backs of the men.”
Tough going indeed, and no way to know how long it would last.