Still Stuck in the Sierras

From John Bidwell’s trail journal:

Thursday, 28th. Surely no horses nor mules with less experience than ours could have descended the difficult steeps and defiles which we encountered in this day’s journey. Even as it was, several horses and mules fell from the mountain’s side and rolling like huge stones, landed at the foot of the precipices. The mountains began to grow obtuse, but we could see no prospect of their termination. We eat the last of our beef this evening and killed a mule to finish our supper. Distance 6 miles.

Yum! stringy old mule meat. How John Bidwell must have longed for a loaf of bread. He always said he couldn’t imagine how men like the fur trappers could live on meat alone, and no bread.


A healthier mule than Bidwell had. Photo by William Henry Jackson, 1871.

And those poor animals, done to death at the bottom of a cliff. It’s a wonder there was anyone with a horse left by the time they got out of the mountains.

Keep in mind that the Bidwell-Bartleson Party at this point does not know that they have entered California, and they don’t know how much farther the mountains go on. The nights are cold, snow will be falling soon, and they have run out of food. How anxious they must have been feeling!

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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