To Meadow Creek. 27th September.
We rose with the dawn, the cats, and the hens, sleep being impossible after the first blush of light, and I proceeded to inspect the settlement. It is built upon the crest of an earth-wave rising from grassy hollows; the haystacks told of stock, and the bunchgrass on the borders of the ravines and nullahs rendered the place particularly fit for pasturage. The land is too cold for cereals: in its bleak bottoms frost reigns throughout the year; and there is little bench-ground. The settlement consisted of half a dozen huts, which swarmed, however, with women and children. Mr. Kennedy introduced us to a Scotch widow of mature years, who gave us any amount of butter and buttermilk in exchange for a little tea. She was but a lukewarm Mormon, declaring polygamy to be an abomination, complaining that she had been inveigled to a mean place, and that the poor in Mormondom were exceedingly poor. Yet the canny body was stout and fresh, her house was clean and neat, and she washed her children and her potatoes.
We had wandered twenty-five miles out of the right road, and were still distant fifteen to sixteen from the first mail station. For the use of the floor, flies, and permission to boil water, we paid our taciturn Mormon $2, and at noon, a little before the bursting of the dusty storm-gusts, which reproduced the horrors of Sindh, we found ourselves once more in the saddle and the ambulance. We passed by a cattle track on rolling ground dotted with sage and greasewood, which sheltered hosts of jackass-rabbits, and the sego with its beautiful lily-like flowers. After crossing sundry nullahs and pitch-holes with deep and rugged sides, we made the mail station at the west end of Rush Valley, which is about twenty miles distant from Camp Floyd. The little green bottom, with its rush-bordered sinking spring, is called by Captain Simpson “Meadow Creek.” We passed a pleasant day in revolver practice with Al. Huntington, the renowned brother of Lot, who had lately bolted to South California, in attempts at rabbit-shooting — the beasts became very wild in the evening and in dining on an antelope which a youth had ridden down and pistoled. With the assistance of the station-master, Mr. Faust, à civil and communicative man, who added a knowledge of books and drugs to the local history, I compiled an account of the several lines of communication between Great Salt Lake City and California.
Three main roads connect the land of the Saints with the El Dorado of the West--the northern, the central, and the southern.
The northern road rounds the upper end of the Great Salt Lake, and falls into the valleys of the Humboldt and Carson Rivers. It was explored in 1845 by Colonel Frémont, who, when passing over the seventy waterless miles of the western, a continuation of the eastern desert, lost ten mules and several horses. The "first overland trip” was followed in 1846 by a party of emigrants under a Mr. Hastings, who gave his name to the "cut-off” which has materially shortened the distance. The road has been carefully described in Kelly's California, in Horn's “Overland Guide," and by M. Remy. İt is still, despite its length, preferred by travelers, on account of the abundance of grass and water: moreover, there are now but two short stretches of desert.
The southern road, viâ Fillmore and San Bernardino, to San Pedro, where the traveler can embark for San Francisco, is long and tedious; water is found at thirty-mile distances; there are three deserts; and bunch and other grasses are not plentiful. It has one great merit, namely, that of being rarely snowed up, except between the Rio Virgen and Great Salt Lake City: the best traveling is in Spring, when the melting snows from the eastern hills fill the rivulets. This route has been traveled over by Messrs. Chandless and Remy, who have well described it in their picturesque pages. I add a few notes, collected from men who have ridden over the ground for several years, concerning the stations: the information, however, it will be observed, is merely hearsay.
The central route is called Egan's by the Mormons, Simpson's by the Gentiles. Mr. or Major Howard Egan is a Saint and well known guide, an indefatigable mountaineer, who for some time drove stock to California in the employ of Messrs. Livingston, and who afterward became mail-agent under Messrs. Chorpenning and Russell. On one occasion he made the distance in twelve days, and he claims to have explored the present post-office route between 1850 and the winter of 1857-1858. Captain J. H. Simpson, of the federal army, whose itinerary is given in Appendix I., followed between May and June, 1859. He traveled along Egan's path, with a few unimportant deviations, for 300 miles, and left it ten miles west of Ruby Valley, trending southward to the suite of the Carson River. On his return he pursued a more southerly line, and fell into Egan's route about thirty miles west of Camp Floyd. The employés of the route prefer Egan's line, declaring that on Simpson's there is little grass, that the springs are mere fiumaras of melted snow, and that the wells are waterless. Bad, however, is the best, as the following pages will, I think, prove.