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October 29, 1861: Suscol

October 29, 2011

Suscol House 02

Soscol House, National Historic Landmark #79000506; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Camp 63

[Today] was a cloudy morn, but soon partially cleared up. Hoffmann and I started for a sharp rocky peak some six or seven miles east, and, as the fields were fenced, we took it afoot—a long walk. We reached it, a sharp rocky knob 1,332 feet high1, from which we got bearings of all the surrounding country. A cold wind swept over the summit, but although the sky was cloudy, the air was clear, and the prospect extensive. The arms of the bay, with the winding bayous (called here “sloughs”) in the swamps around them, were very beautiful, the effect heightened by the rugged mountains on the north and northwest.

As the wind was so high and raw, we crept behind some bushes on the lee of the hill and hung up the barometer behind them and waited there half an hour for observations, taking a quiet smoke and enjoying the lovely prospect beneath. The wind shrieked over our heads. The pipes smoked out, observations taken, barometer put up, as we emerged from the bushes we saw a dense mass of clouds sweeping down from the north with rain. The whole aspect of the sky in that quarter had changed while we were in the bushes. We struck for the camp “double quick” pace, but had not made over one or two miles when the clouds came sweeping over us. Our way here lay along the crests of a series of ridges for about three or four miles—the ridges in places quite sharp, in other places branching off in spurs—easy enough to see in the clear air, but blind enough in the dense gloom of the thick fog that shrouded us.

With this cloud and fog came a fine rain, sweeping with the wind. But a few minutes were necessary to wet us to the skin, cold and uncomfortable, but the smell of the rain, the damp air, the smell of wet ground, was delightfully refreshing. It carried me back to days of summer showers, to green grass, fresh air, and no dust—this feature was positively delightful, in spite of the discomfort of the wet.

We pushed on our blind way, facing the stiff wind, and as we neared the end of the ridge where we were to descend into the valley the rain ceased. In a few hundred feet we got below the clouds, and the lovely Napa Valley, with its neat village, pretty farms, green trees, and pretty sites, lay below us, lit by patches of sunshine here and there. A spot of sun lay directly on the village of Napa, six or seven miles distant, producing a delightfully beautiful effect.

We found it had rained but little at camp, not enough to lay the dust. The rest of the afternoon was quite fair, but not clear, and dense masses of clouds hung over the ridges we had left. We changed our clothes for dry ones. Mike soon had the goose roasting, and at half-past four it was served up in good style and partaken of with an appetite any epicure would envy. The skeleton was dismembered, the bones polished, and every vestige that was eatable soon disposed of.

The evenings are getting longer. The weather drove us all to the tent to sleep, and after all the preparations for rain were made, the long evening was whiled away with reading and euchre, varied by a game of “seven-up.” But we had no more rain.

1Probably Elkhorn Peak, 1,201′, on the border between Napa and Solano Counties.

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