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August 10, 1864: On the Way to Mt. Goddard

August 10, 2014

LeConte Divide

Mount Goddard from the LeConte Divide; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Camp 192

Four of us started at 5 o’clock to reach Mt. Goddard, supposed to be seven miles distant….Ridge after ridge was crossed, each sharp and rocky and most of our way was at 11,000 feet and over….The only possible way led along the divide between the Kings and San Joaquin Rivers….

At 2 pm, after nine hours heavy walking, we surmounted the seventh ridge to see that the mountain was at least five hours walk farther. Hoffmann had a sore foot and I was nearly given out–so we stopped. Dick and Spratt resolved to make the peak….

We did not think they could accomplish it. Dick took the barometer and I took their baggage, a field glass, canteen, and Spratt’s carbine, which he had brought along for bears. Hoffmann and I got on a higher ridge for bearings, and then started back and walked until long after sunset—but the moon was light—over rocks. We got down to about eleven thousand feet, where stunted pines begin to grow in the scanty soil and crevices of the rocks. We found a dry stump that had been moved by some avalanche on a smooth slope of naked granite. We stopped there and fired it, and camped for the night.

We had brought along a lunch, expecting to be gone but the day. It consisted of dry bread and drier jerked beef, the latter as dry and hard as a chip, literally. This we had divided into three portions, for three meals, a mere morsel for each. This scanty supper we ate, then went to sleep. The stump burned all night and kept us partially warm, yet the night was not a comfortable one. Excessive fatigue, the hard naked rock to lie on—not a luxurious bed—hunger, no blankets—although it froze all about us—the anxieties for the others who had gone on and were now out, formed the hard side of the picture.

But it was a picturesque scene after all. Around us, in the immediate vicinity, were rough bowlders and naked rock, with here and there a stunted bushy pine. A few rods below us lay two clear, placid lakes, reflecting the stars. The intensely clear sky, dark blue, very dark at this height; the light stars that lose part of their twinkle at this height; the deep stillness that reigned; the barren granite cliffs that rose sharp against the night sky, far above us, rugged, ill-defined; the brilliant shooting stars, of which we saw many; the solitude of the scene—all joined to produce a deep impression on the mind, which rose above the discomforts.

Early in the evening, at times, I shouted with all my strength, that Dick and Spratt might hear us and not get lost. The echoes were grand, from the cliffs on either side, softening and coming back fainter as well as softer from the distance and finally dying away after a comparatively long time. At length, even here, sleep, “tired nature’s sweet restorer,” came on.

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