October 19, 1841 — A Perfect Terrestrial Paradise ?

Tuesday, 19th. Descending along the stream,we found several oak scrubs which confirmed us in the hope that we were on the waters of the Pacific. But the route became exceedingly difficult-–the stream had swelled to a river-–could not approach it-–could only hear it roaring among the rocks. Having come about 12 miles a horrid precipice bid us stop — we obeyed and encamped.

Those who went to explore the route had not time to come to any conclusion where we could pass. We had descended rapidly all day; the mts. were still mantled with forests of towering pines. The roaring winds and the hollow murmuring of the dashing waters conveyed in the darkness of the night the most solemn and impressive ideas of solitude.

To a person fond of the retiring life, this, thought I, would be a perfect terrestrial Paradise, but it was not so to us, when we knew that winter was at hand, and that Capt. Walker (the mountaineer) had been lost in these very mountains 22 days before he could extricate himself.

In July 1833, by order of Captain Benjamin Bonneville, Joseph Walker led forty men on an exploring trip across the Sierras. John Bidwell probably read about him in Washington Irving’s popular account of the Bonneville expedition. Walker and his men had spent 22 grueling days scaling granite bluffs and slogging through heavy drifts of snow. With that in mind, Bidwell had no desire to spend any more time among the beauties of a autumn season in the Sierra Nevada than he had to. The sooner they got out the better.

Joseph Walker, circa 1860-1865

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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