July 18, 1864: Cedar Grove
[Today] we continued, and in about four miles came on a camp of half a dozen men, prospectors, who had crossed the mountains from Owens Valley and had worked their way thus far. Never before were so many white men in this solitude. Three of them were going back, and luckily for us, showed us the way into the canyon of Kings River.
It was a horrible trail. Once, while we were working along the steep, rocky side of a hill, where it was very steep and very rough, old Nell, our pack-mule, fell and rolled over and over down the bank upward of a hundred and fifty feet. Of course, we thought her killed. She rolled against a log which stopped her, but a part of her pack went farther. Strangely, she was not seriously hurt. We got her back to the trail, put on her pack, and she has packed it since. A bag of flour went rolling down the hill, burst, and we lost a part of it.
On July 4, 1864, eleven of us started from Independence on a prospecting trip through the Sierras. Our first task was to build a trail up Little Pine Creek on the east cliff of the mountains….We called the pass “Little Pine Pass,” after Little Pine Creek, which heads near the pass. It was a rough trail we built, but it sufficed for our purposes and we got our animals up over it….When we got up over the pass five decided to return, leaving six of us to go on.
We went westerly down the South Fork of the King’s River until the cañon became impassable. In the cañon we met a number of scientists headed by Professor Brewer. They named Mt. Brewer after him. Prof. Brewer was trying to find a way across the mountains, and we told him how to get into Owen’s Valley over the pass by the trail we had just built.
We sank into the canyon of the main South Fork of Kings River, a tremendous canyon. We wound down the steep side of the hill, for over three thousand feet, often just as steep as animals could get down….We got into the canyon of the South Fork of Kings River, and forded the stream, which is quite a river where we crossed, and camped at a fine meadow in the valley. It [is] a very picturesque camp, granite precipices rising on both sides to immense height. The river swarm[s] with trout; I never saw them thicker. The boys went to fishing and soon caught about forty, while the soldiers caught about as many more.