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Journal of Western Travel

by John McTurk Gibson
edited by Weldon Hoppe
August 24th, 1859 -- Moved over the outlet of the river before breakfast. There is more water here at the outlet than there was at the last crossing of the river. Immediately after crossing we lay over until 1 o'clock P.M. when we made a start to cross the great American Desert. Leaving the river to our right where the water covers the whole bottom forming a complete marsh, we cross the river for the last time about ten miles further on. Here there is comparatively little water and what little there is runs away to the left and finally disappears altogether in the desert. Now comes the tug of war, bones and wagon-irons lie in huge piles together, complete corrals apparently formed. Where the cattle have died they lay, and the wagons have consequently been relinquished. Nothing burnable however remains now, only the ironwork. On and on the scene is still the same only a little more so as we advance, and then too the darkness of the night prevented us from seeing all its horrors. Occasionally the bleached and whitened bones would glisten horribly and ghastly in the fitful starlight, rendering the inky darkness only more palpable. No one can form any adequate idea of the almost fabulous destruction of property that has at one time or another occurred on the plains since the first discovery of gold in California. Every man must see it before he will believe it. After driving about fourteen miles we took supper, rested an hour, and drove nine miles further and stopped a little at the Wells on the Desert. Here we can obtain water for the cattle at 25c a head and hay at 12½c per lb or $250 per ton. Bought a little hay and water, by this time it was past midnight.

This morning we moved across to the other side of the outlet and camped until 1 o'clock, then we started across the desert a distance of 40 miles. After travelling 10 we crossed the outlet for the last time. At some seasons of the year there is no water in this. It all sinks before reaching here. After travelling 14 miles we fed and took supper, then started for the well which is 23 miles from the sink. We reached there at half past 11 o'clock. Here we got hay and water. Hay 13½ cts per pound and 50 cts per yolk to water. This water is quite brackish. We spent one hour, then after travelling 12 miles fed again hay and flour. By this time the sun had got up, then we started for Carson River. Reached it about 9 o'clock. It was getting quite warm here by that time. After reaching the river and travelling up 2 miles, we camped for the day. Team and men very much fatigued. Our dog gave out and we hauled him. The first 15 miles had no sand, the next 15 has sandy places not exceeding one half, the remainder is very heavy sand. We saw some scorpians in this region. I shook one out of a coat this morning that Gibson slep on last knight. They are of different sizes, this one was 2 in. long with legs on the fore part of the body. The body extends back with a short horn on the end of it. They are black on the back, the sting is sertain death. This desert is strewed with bones, iron, gun barrels and everything else. All the gun barrels have all been drawed across wagon tongues or something else. We saw quite a number of gun barrels along the Humboldt.

Copyright © 1997 Weldon Hoppe
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