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May 6, 1862: Clayton

May 6, 2012

Camp 70

[Today], the camp came on here, about ten or twelve miles. I waited to observe barometer to get the height of the camp above the sea, then footed it across here, a part of the way across hills, the rest across the Pacheco Valley, a plain of many thousand acres, several miles wide, sloping gently from Mount Diablo northwest to the Straits of Carquinez.

Sandwort 02

Minuartia douglasii; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

The plain is covered for miles with intervals of scattered oaks; not a forest, but scattered trees of the California white oak (Quercus hindsii), the most magnificent of trees, often four to five feet in diameter, branching low. They are worthless for timber, but grand, yes magnificent, as ornamental trees, their great spreading branches often forming a head a hundred feet in diameter. Across this great park the trail ran.

On arriving I found the camp pitched in one of the loveliest localities, a pure rippling stream for water, plenty of wood, fine oak trees around, in a sheltered valley, but with the grand old mountain rising just behind us.

Professor Whitney had met us, and a party was here from San Francisco to visit us and climb the mountain. A little town, consisting of a tavern, store, etc., is rapidly growing up scarce twenty rods from camp, where a “hotel” accommodated them. The party consisted of Rev. T. Starr King, the most eloquent divine and, at the same time, one of the best fellows in the state, Mrs. Whitney, Mr. and Mrs. Tompkins (a lawyer whose wedding I had attended last winter), Mr. Blake (a relative of Mrs. Whitney and an intimate friend), and a Mr. Cleaveland (one of the officers in the United States Mint)—a better party could not have been selected.

[This] evening, a lovely moonlight May evening, we lighted a great camp fire, and our visitors enjoyed it, so new to them, ever so charming to us. The moon lit up the dim outline of the mountain behind, while our fire lit up the group around it. We “talked of the morrow,” spun yarns, told stories, and the old oaks echoed with laughter1.

Specimens collected, May 5-6: Trifolium fucatum; Minuartia douglasii; Ranunculus hebecarpus.

1Thomas Starr King: “A party of wise, hospitable and delightful men, who are making the Geological Survey for the State, are encamped in a field nearby. Their camp fire begins to burn soon after the evening star is out. We stretch out with them on the grass near that blaze, and with a great content amid so much beauty and such rich hope for the morrow, enjoying wit and Whitney and wisdom till midnight warns us to rest.” (Thomas Starr King, Patriot and Preacher, Charles William Wendte)

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