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May 11, 1861: Salinas Valley

May 12, 2011

Palo Escrito Peak, high point of the Sierra de Salinas; photo by Bob Burd

Camp 31

I climbed the ridge southwest of camp1. I ascended about 3,000 or 3,500 feet, a hard climb, and had a good view of over a hundred miles of the Salinas Valley from the Bay of Monterey to above where we last struck it, or over the extreme limits of about 130 to 150 miles, with the successive ridges beyond. Four thousand to seven thousand square miles must have been spread out before me. I have never been in a land before with so many extensive views—the wide valley, brown and dry, the green belt of timber winding through it, like a green ribbon, the mountains beyond, dried and gray at the base, and deep green with chaparral on their sides and summits, with ridge after ridge stretching away beyond in the blue distance. Then to the north, a landscape I had not seen before, with the whole Bay of Monterey in the northwest. To the west and south of me was the very rugged and forbidding chain of mountains that extends from Monterey along the coast to San Luis Obispo and there trends more easterly—the Sierra Santa Lucia.

I have found much of intense geological interest during the last two weeks. I had intended to spend at least two weeks more in this valley had we found water or feed as we expected. Not finding it, and having four weeks on our hands before the rendezvous with Professor Whitney at San Juan, I decided to push on to Monterey, which I had not intended to visit. We are now within eight or ten leagues of there—will be there in a few days. I feel now that we are indeed working north and I long to be in San Francisco again. It is now over five months since I have attended church (Protestant) and have only had that privilege three times since I left New York.

1In the Sierra de Salinas.

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