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April 9, 1861: Nipomo

April 9, 2011

Dana Adobe 03

Dana Adobe, Nipomo; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Camp 24

[Today], we came on here, to Nipomo Ranch, about twenty-two miles. Our road first wound through some valleys, then struck into the valley of Santa Maria River. This river is now entirely dry, not a drop of water, its valley a perfectly level plain, with the exception of an occasional terrace or old riverbank, about six or eight miles wide. We struck down and across this valley about ten or twelve miles, a most tedious ride. We were dry, but no water was met with for the twenty-two miles traveled except a sink-hole with stagnant, alkaline, dirty, stinking water. Our lunch of dry bread and drier cheese, which we ate as we rode along, was hardly “sumptuous.”

Baby Blue Eyes 01

Nemophila menziesii; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

The ride was very tedious as we wound our slow way over the plains, here a drifting sand, there a partial pasture. Nothing relieved the eye; the senses tired with the level scene. The profusion of flowers, beautiful elsewhere, now tired us with their abundance and their sameness; wind filled the air with gray dust, sometimes shutting out the sight of the hills like drifting snow. Lovely green hills lay on each side at the distance of a few miles. Many cattle and horses were feeding on the hills or on the plain. Water every four to six miles in the side canyons was sufficient for them. They seemed mere specks on the plain—a herd of a thousand like a few flies on the floor. This valley runs to the sea, and in that direction a mirage kept ahead of us in the hot air—a very good appearance of water, but not nearly so perfect as I saw on the plains in Bavaria.

How we hailed the first tree of shade we came to, a fine sycamore on the dry riverbank, with fine shade—the first we had seen for fourteen miles. We stopped a few minutes, then pushed on, crossed the dry bed of sand half a mile or more wide, and struck up a side canyon about two miles, to water, at this ranch. To be sure, the water is alkaline and stinks from the droppings of the many animals, but made into tea it is drinkable, and we can stand it if those who live here can. They, however, have a “spring,” so called—a hole dug in the bank half a mile or more from here, where the water is cleaner. Bad water has affected the bowels of most of the party except me—I escape any material bad effects.

Specimens collected: Astragalus pomonensis; Eriophyllum multicaule; Nemophila menziesii.

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