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May 13, 1863: Keyesville

May 13, 2013

Caliente-Bodfish 05

Kern River basin from Caliente-Bodfish Road; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

[Today] our provisions were gone, and our supper [last night] and breakfast [this] morning were even more meager than usual. We came on to Keysville that day. We had some grand scenery—on the east, high granite mountains, with enormous precipices of naked rock, while on the opposite sides were mountains nearly as high. On crossing the last high ridge, before sinking into the valley of Kern River, from the summit, a wide view burst upon us, all of rugged, barren, granite mountains, with but few scattered trees—a scene of wild desolation. At the forks of the Kern River is another little basin, like Tehachapi and Walker’s basins—all lying in the middle of the chain, all surrounded by high, granite mountains.

Keyesville 01

Keyesville; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Near these forks is Keysville—you can scarcely see the name on the map. It is the largest place within ninety miles—much more on the west, south, and east—yet it contains but eight houses all told. But it was the largest place we had seen in a month’s travels. We got hay and barley for our hungry and jaded animals, and “square meals” for ourselves, so we stopped over a day. A store, with no floor but the ground, a saloon and “hotel” with ground floor and not a chair about the establishment, are the accommodations which we consider princely after our much harder fare. We have a bunk of boards to sleep on (using our own blankets). Our bedroom has no floor but that made by nature. Such were our accommodations—the best we had seen for some time, and the best we were destined to see for some time to come.

Keyesville 03

Keyesville; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

The spot is picturesque—the granite mountains are steep and high, and the Kern River runs through a wild, picturesque canyon. The place derives its importance from a few gold mines near, and from being on the road to the Slate Range, Coso, Owens River, and other mining districts. It was a peculiarly lively time there. Indian troubles in the spring had expelled the miners from some regions. The Indians were now nearly quelled and the miners were returning; but revolvers, rifles, and carbines formed a conspicuous part of every equipage, and I saw no other party so small as ours trusting itself alone.

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