James Richmond's
California Story

A Wilderness Encounter

Carson City? Yes I was there for many days. Did I like it there? Oh, yes but it was getting away from there that bothered me the most. How did I get away? I was a strong young fellow in those days and I walked away. Yes, I went away from there to California. Over the Sierra Nevadaís, how else could I go? I took the Sonara trail, as it was called in those days. Slung my knapsack and blankets on my back, had two revolvers, and a bowie knife in my belt and I was fully equipped for my tramp.

I started out one morning on foot, alone. Was there no other trail? Yes, one called the Hermitís Pass. I had a pass on that route and could have gone all the way by stage but I had been over that Route many times and therefore wished to try a new one and do a little prospecting as I went along. I will tell you of my trip over the Hermitís Pass some other time.

I was told this was a fair trail the way I wished to go. A hunter arriving the day before reported a road building gang working within a dayís hike from Carson City, so I started out taking lunch, of course. Meals never bothered me much in those days. I thought I would be in camp by nightfall with a good appetite. I found the old quotation verified "The best laid plans of mice and men often go aglee."

How long before I reached camp? About two and a half days both up and down hill. Sometimes thickly wooded and the trail hemmed in by Chaparral bushes then again bleak and rocky peaks, barren and desolate. The wild Grandeau of it all was fascinating, I tramped all day and rolled up in my blankets at night.

Yes, I had quite a fast, as long as I cared about carting my luggage on an empty stomach. Not a mouthful of food but some good spring water and spice bark. There were partridge and quail but too quick for me. Coyotes would come in on the trail, give their whining, yelping bark. I sometimes fired at them to send them off and get rid of their noise. They are a sneaking, prowling, cowardly animal. They would hang around for days and never dare to attack a man.

My first day off I was surprised by larger game. I had walked a good half day and the Chaparral and Mesquite bushes were thick on each side of the trail with their sharp thorns making almost an impenetrable wall on each side. Just as I came over a slope I came upon a bear. He seemed to be as surprised as I was. We halted and looked at each other, I presume for at least a minute. We were both considering. I know I was and supposed the bear was doing the same. He seemed to have a very meditating look on his face. My thoughts were, no side escape through the bushes and chances are against me in a face to face encounter, yet which I saw no chance to avoid. When to my surprise he wheeled quickly around on his haunches and trotted off on the track. I waited giving him a fine start, I didnít wish for him to think I had any desire to hurry him had no wish to be outdone by a bear in politeness. I felt the need of a short rest. I started on after a while and came to a place where the bear had made a break through the bushes, down a hill and switches off to the side trail. I felt the best of friends must part and twas well to part good friends.

Trudged along till nightfall and no sign of the camp. I wasnít so hungry that I couldnít sleep, so I rolled up in my blankets on my mossy couch amidst mountain silence which soon was broken by the roaring of a Montana lion, the barking of wolves and the whining of coyotes. A mountain serenade! I didnít care to dance to their music. I roused myself and soon had a pine tree blazing and crackling. If I could have no supper I did not propose to furnish one for the mountain lion. I kept the fire burning all night. In the morning a awoke thanking the Lord who had watched over me through the night. It didnít take o long to complete my toilet and eat my breakfast of spice bark.

Another day of lonely walking and by section stakes five miles apart I had by nightfall traveled forty-five miles and still no camp. I searched around for a good place to build a fire and roll up in my blankets and was wondering how much farther before I reached the camp. I built a fire and went to sleep feeling as if y stomach had rooms to let. Spice bark was not very filling, yet I knew I should be thankful for that much. I knew I must be on the right trail and that sooner or later I must reach the unless the road had been abandoned.