May 31, 1862: Mountain House
Camp 60[This] morning we left that camp. The morning was clear and warm, and as we came out on the plain, in the hot sun, a beautiful mirage flitted before us—the illusion was perfect. It seemed as if a marshy lake lay along ahead of us, a few miles off. Often the trees were reflected as perfectly as if it were really water, but on approaching, it would keep away from us. About noon the wind rose, however, and with it the mirage left the plain.
We passed on beyond the trees and came into camp here, a camp as unlike the last as day is unlike night—among foothills utterly treeless—before us stretching the plain, also treeless, not a bush even greeting the eye for many miles. From a nearby hill yesterday we could look over an area of at least two hundred square miles and not see a tree as far as the river, where, ten miles off, there is a fringe of timber along the stream. The hills are already brown. Over them swept a fierce wind and it took all hands to get the tent pitched.