On the Trail — October 15-16, 1841

Friday, 15th. Advanced upstream about 12 miles and arrived at the base of very high mountains. The creek had become a small spring branch, and took its rise at no great distance in the mountains. But we saw plainly it was impossible to progress further without scaling the mts., and our Indian guides said they knew no further.

walker-015

Along the Walker River

Saturday, 16th.  This morning 4 or 5 men started to ascend several of the high peaks to ascertain if it was possible to pass the mountains. Just as they were going to start Capt. B. came up. He was in rather a hungry condition, and had been traveling several days without provision, excepting a few nuts which they had purchased from the Indians . . .

Bidwell later recalled that Bartleson and his men had also obtained fresh fish from the Indians—fish which gave them all dysentery, and made them so weak they could hardly stand. No wonder they were eager to reunite with the rest of the party.

We were glad to see them although they had deserted us. We ran out to meet them and shook hands, and put our frying-pans on and gave them the best supper we could. Captain Bartleson, who when we started from Missouri was a portly man, was reduced to half his former girth. He said, “Boys! If I ever get back to Missouri, I will never leave that country. I would gladly eat out of the troughs with my dogs.” He seemed to be heartily sick of his late experience, but that did not prevent him from leaving us twice after that. (Echoes of the Past)

On the evening of the 16th the group discussed their situation and took a vote. Should they go back to the lake and take a different route they had seen there or should they attempt to climb the mountains? He doesn’t say which lake he is talking about, but I think he means the Great Salt Lake. Maybe they could retrace their steps and by going northwest head for Oregon after all.

“Nearly all were unanimous against turning back.” Turning back would have been suicide. They didn’t have the provisions for it, and they knew it.

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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