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"Rock upon rock--snow upon snow"

Pictured is Tom Chaffin at Frémont's Long Camp near Carson Pass. Tom, a professor of journalism and history at Emory University in Atlanta, is the author of a new biography, Pathfinder: John C. Frémont and the Course of American Empire (See below)

What did Tom's route to the camp and Frémont's have in common?

Snowshoes; they both came on snowshoes.

Tom is using a pair of eastern woodland style "bear paw" snowshoes made of bent ash with rawhide lacing. Frémont's vouchers show no expedition purchases of snowshoes.

Where did Frémont get his?

Frémont: January 28, 1844, near Bridgeport--During the day a few Indians were seen circling around us on snow shoes, and skimming along like birds; but we could not bring them within speaking distance. Godey [Alex Godey, at right], who was a little distance from the camp, had sat down to tie his moccasins, when he heard a low whistle near, and looking up, saw two Indians half hiding behind a rock about forty yards distant; they would not allow him to approach, but breaking into a laugh, skimmed off over the snow, seeming to have no idea of the power of firearms, and thinking themselves perfectly safe when beyond arm's length.

Frémont: February 3, near Markleeville--We occupied the remainder of the day in beating down a road to the base of the hill, a mile or two distant; the snow being beaten down when moist, in the warm part of the day, and then hard frozen at night, made a foundation that would bear the weight of the animals next morning. During the day several Indians joined us on snow-shoes. These were made of a circular hoop, about a foot in diameter, the interior space being filled with an open network of bark. (illus after Kroeber, Handbook of the Indians of California)

Frémont: February 3, near Grover's Hot Springs-- While a portion of the camp were occupied in bringing up the baggage to this point, the remainder were busied in making sledges and snowshoes. I had determined to explore the mountain ahead, and the sledges were to be used in transporting the baggage.

Frémont: February 6, Charity Valley--Accompanied by Mr. Fitzpatrick [Thomas "Broken Hand" Fitzpatrick, at right], I set out to-day with a reconnoitering party on snow-shoes. We marched all in single file, trampling the snow as heavily as we could. Crossing the open basin [Faith Valley], in a march of about ten miles we reached the top of one of the peaks [Elephant Back], to the left of the pass [Carson Pass] indicated by our guide [Melo--a Washoe Indian]. Far below us, dimmed by the distance, was a large snowless valley [Sacramento and San Joaquin], bounded on the western side, at a distance of about a hundred miles, by a low range of mountains [Coast Range], which Carson recognized with delight as the mountains bordering the coast. "There," he said, "is the little mountain [Mt. Diablo]--it is fifteen [sic] years since I saw it; but I am just as sure as If I had seen it yesterday."
It was late in the day when we turned towards the camp [Charity Valley]; and it grew rapidly cold as it drew towards night. One of the men became fatigued, and his feet began to freeze, and building a fire in the trunk of a dry old cedar [probably Sierra Juniper], Mr. Fitzpatrick remained with him until his cloths could be dried, and he was in a condition to come on. After a days march of 20 miles, we straggled into camp one after another, at nightfall; the greater number excessively fatigued,
only two of the party having ever traveled on snow-shoes before.

Charles Preuss, February 8, Near Forestdale Creek--We are slowly working our way through the snow. Sleds and snowshoes make such a good track that the horses, without packs, will probably get across. The men are now the pack horses. It was impossible to sleep last night; all the blankets and hides could not keep a person warm. During the day it is beautiful.

Kit Carson--The snow was six feet on the level for three leagues. We made snow shoes and walked over the snow to find how far we would have to make a road. Found it to be the distance afore stated. After we reached the extremity of the snow, we could see in the distance the green valley of the Sacramento and the Coast Range. I knew the place well, had been there seventeen [sic] years before. Our feelings can be imagined when we saw such beautiful country.


Frémont: February 6, Faith Valley--During the morning we had the pleasure of a visit from Mr. Fitzpatrick, with the information that all was going well. A party of Indians had passed on snow-shoes, who said they were going to the western side of the mountain after fish. This was an indication that the salmon were coming up the streams; and we could hardly restrain our impatience as we thought of them, and worked with increased vigor.

Hudson's Bay Company. Peter Skene Ogden journal entry Wednesday, Jan 16, 1827:
The Americans are now most anxious to procure snow shoes, ands I am equally so they should not, as I am of the opinion they are anxious to bring over a party of Trappers to this quarter...I have given orders to tell all not to make any for them. This day they offered 25 Dollars for one pair and 20 for another, but failed...

go Discovery of the Long Camp.
go What is the Long Camp, anyway?.
go How did they get there?
go Just who discovered Carson Pass, anyway?
go How do I hike there?
go What was the approach to this place? See other campsites on the way.
go An overview of the route from Markleeville to the Pass--an important determination of latitude!
Frémont's Long Camp is now a Geocache site. Click the Geocaching icon to visit the page.
Anyone with a GPS device can participate in this popular new hobby. There are probably many geocaches right near you. LFlood found it: Thank you for your scholarship and efforts to preserve our history. This is a highly deserving cache location. I'm glad it is still in its pristine state.

A new University of Oklahoma Press edition of Tom Chaffin's now classic Pathfinder: John Charles Fremont and the Course of American Empire.

"The most eloquent, understanding, and yet very candid biography of Frémont that has appeared to date"--Howard R. Lamar, Yale University

©1999, 2007
Bob Graham