August 29, 1863: Michigan Bluffs
[Today] we were off early, but were directed on the wrong trail and it cost us much labor. We followed on down the volcanic table, with a deep canyon on the south, the air very hazy and thick, the foothills becoming lost in the haze in a few miles. We were rapidly getting into a warmer climate. At noon we struck a mining town, Last Chance—hot, dusty in the extreme. Here we found we were on the wrong trail and had to cross three deep canyons. A trail is cut down the steep sides. We descended some 1,500 feet, then rose another volcanic table as high as the first—the top of this canyon, from table to table, is not over three-quarters of a mile to a mile, its depth about 1,500 feet. We crossed this table, passed the little place called Deadwood, and then we had the El Dorado Canyon to cross—still worse—nearly or quite two thousand feet deep, its sides still steeper. Here is a toll trail, very narrow—often a misstep on the narrow way would send the horse and rider, or mule and pack, down hundreds of feet, to swift and certain destruction. It was fearful, yet we had to pay $1.50 for the privilege of passing it. There is a cluster of mining cabins in the canyon. A nugget has just been taken out that weighs seventy-eight ounces (over eight pounds)8 and worth some $1,500.
Well, we came out of that and stopped…at Michigan Bluffs, a mining town. The town is supported by claims in “washed gravels” that form bluffs nearly two thousand feet above the bottom of the canyon, yet stratified by water. Our horses cost us two dollars each for keep over night.