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June 10, 1862: Del Puerto Canyon

June 10, 2012

Del Puerto Canyon 01

Lower Del Puerto Canyon; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Camp 74

[Today] we came on about fifteen miles to Camp 74, in the Cañada del Puerto, or, to translate, “Door Canyon.” It was a tedious ride along the plain, for since we left Corral Hollow we have had no road. We take our way across the trackless plain, sometimes sandy, at other hard, gravelly soil where we can trot a little, but oftener a clay soil, now dry and cracked by the heat, so that the mules must pick their way slowly. The cracks are from two to four inches wide, running in all directions. You cannot imagine how tedious it is thus plodding along, two or three miles off from the foothills to avoid the gulches that come down from them. Sometimes we come to one and must follow along it a mile or more to find a place to cross, then keep on our weary way.

Once we came upon a herd of thirty or forty antelope, a kind of small deer. We came up to within two hundred yards, or less, of them, when they galloped leisurely away. They are most beautiful and graceful animals, with slender legs, large ears, and erect heads. They are as fleet as the wind when really alarmed, but these only ran a short distance and then stopped to graze again.3

The Puerto Canyon breaks through the ridges, which are made by strata of rocks tilted up at a high angle. The outside ridge is of hard rock, and the canyon comes through by a very narrow “door,” which gives name to the valley behind, which widens out. There is a fine stream now—soon it will dry, however—with cottonwoods growing along it. We camped in a beautiful spot just within the “gate.”

Here we found another sheep ranch—a cabin, and two men keeping four thousand sheep. One of the men was going to Grayson’s Ferry, and would carry a letter to the express, so I sat up until midnight writing to Whitney. One of these men was a fine looking man—had been here five or six years—but he lived decidedly slovenly. His cabin was dirty beyond description, his scanty utensils dirtier, his bed a dirty sheepskin, and his blanket merely another dirty sheepskin. He says that in the summer, when they take the sheep back farther into the hills, months will pass without their seeing any other persons. Last summer, for three months, they only saw three men, hunters probably, who had come through the mountains.

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