October 26, 1863: Indian Creek
[Today] we left this place and came on thirty miles, over a good but rough trail.
Here let me say that our way is a mere trail—no wagon road enters this part of the state. The region is too rough to admit them, except at an enormous cost of construction, so the county builds a trail, just as wagon roads are built in other places, suitable for riding or packing.
We followed down the Klamath River eighteen miles, the trail abounding in the most picturesque views to be imagined, the mountains rising three or four thousand feet on both sides from the swift river. Once we crossed a spur and rose perhaps two thousand feet or more above the river, commanding a grand view of the canyon beneath, into which we descended again at another turn of the river.
Here and there a poor Chinaman plies his rocker, gleaning gold from sand, once worked over with more profit, but there are few white inhabitants left until we reach Happy Camp.
We passed some huts of Indians and some Indian graves. Over a squaw’s grave I noticed a calico dress, such as white women wear, once doubtless a prized article, now fluttering in tatters from a pole stuck in the grave. We passed many deserted cabins and houses during the day—some were once quite neat.Happy Camp is a group or village of miners, with hotel, saloon, etc., but the place looks on its decline. We merely passed through it, left the river here, and struck north up Indian Creek for twelve miles. There were no houses until we reached Indiantown, where we spent the night. There is some mining here, but not what there once was, the place like all the rest is falling into piteous dilapidation. We stopped at a miserable hole, once a “hotel.” Our horses had no hay so they gnawed their ropes and the wooden posts. We fared a little better—we got some salt pork and biscuit. We found that the dirty, blear-eyed, old, broken-down landlord showed traces of once having had some intelligence. He told us his history, and King chanced to have corroborative evidence of its truth. He was once wealthy, one of the “solid men” of Brooklyn, president of the Northern Transportation Company, a rich and powerful business corporation. He broke and came to California in charge of government stores, in 1847, before the discovery of gold here, and has been here since. Here he grew rich twice, but lost all both times in reckless speculation. Now he is poor enough, looks miserable, broken-down, and sad. There seems no probability of Fortune ever again taking him by the hand as of yore. These histories I so often run against here sadden me and make me pity the poor wretch who makes his grand end and aim of life the acquisition of gold, and who is under the influence of the insane desire to grow suddenly rich.