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April 9, 1863: Kings River

April 9, 2013

Kings River 01

Kings River at Laton; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

[Today] we came on to Kings River, forty miles. Two men came with us, and in taking us across the swamp by a “better way,” the horses came through safely, but Kate got mired again and Gabb had to get off and wade it and lead her. A mule mires much easier than a horse, having so much smaller feet. This day’s ride was even more tedious and monotonous in its features. The land was wetter, so was green, but we were nearer the center of the plain, which is here not less than sixty miles wide! We rode upward of thirty miles without any tree or bush—except once a single small willow was visible for two hours, but we passed nearly two miles from it; it was a mere speck.

Hour after hour we plodded on. The road was good but a dead level—no hill or ridge ten feet high relieved the even surface—no house, no tree—one hour was but like the next—it was like the ocean, but it depressed the spirits more. The coast ranges were dim in the haze on the west; the snows of the Sierra Nevada eighty to a hundred miles distant on the east were hardly more distinct; while north and south the plain stretched to the horizon.

About six miles from Kings River we struck a belt of scattered oaks—fine trees—and what a relief! For, except a few cragged willows, shrubs rather than trees, in places along the sloughs, we had seen no trees for the last 130 miles of the trip! We crossed Kings River, a swift deep stream, by ferry, and stopped at a house on the bank, the most like a home of anything we had seen for two hundred miles. The owner was a Massachusetts Yankee, and his wife a very intelligent woman—I noticed an atlas of the heavens hanging up in the sitting room—but she was a Kentuckian and smoked cigarritos as industriously as we did pipes.

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