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May 12, 1861: Salinas Valley

May 12, 2011

Camp 31

Mountain Pretty Face 03

Triteleia ixioides; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Today has been a windier day on the plain than any other day we were on it. I am glad enough we are sheltered here in camp. Clouds of gray dust, rising to the height of five or six thousand feet have shut out the view in the north all the afternoon, and even the hills opposite could not be seen at times, and all day they have been obscurely seen through this veil. If it is thus in May, what must it be here in July or August, as no rain will fall for at least four months yet! It was interesting yesterday, while on the peaks above, to watch the great current of air up the valley, increasing with the day until at last the valley seemed filled with gray smoke.

Globe Lily 01

Calochortus albus; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

While speaking of the plain, I forgot to mention the mirage that we had. The sun on the hot waste produced precisely the effect of water in the distance; we would see a clear lake ahead, in which would be reflected the objects on the plain. This was most marked on the dry sands near Soledad—we could see the trees at the Mission mirrored in the clear surface—but it kept retreating as we advanced. The illusion was perfect. At times the atmospheric aberration would only cause objects to be distorted—wagons and cattle would appear much higher than they really were, as if seen through poor glass.

Yerba Santa 01

Eriodictyon californicum; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Specimens collected, May 10-12: Eriodictyon californicum; Linanthus androsaceus; Mimulus aurantiacus var. pubescens; Adenostoma fasciculatum; Triteleia ixioides; Calochortus albus; Pentagramma triangularis subsp. triangularis; Sonchus asper.

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