Peter Lathrop, January 2003

(Updated maps March 2004)

Hi Bob,

Discovered your web site and have enjoyed all of the articles. They got me thinking and gave new insights into Frémont's route in Alpine County. My daughters and I hike/explore this area in the summer from the end of the spring snow until the fall snow, with soaks in Groover's. We mainly go off trail to find places of historical interest. The girls, age 8 and 12 now, like to name the points we climb to: Elephant Back was renamed "Return of the Heffalump". Dave Harrison, who teaches at the same high school as I, lent me a copy of The Crossing, which I also enjoyed. I tried to purchase a copy at Sorenson's and at Placerville, but both places were out. I am therefore enclosing an order for the book. Some of the thoughts your writing have inspired follow.

I believe that Frémont did not camp at Groover's Hot Springs. It has been argued that if he had camped by the hot springs the night of February 3rd he would have described them as he did those in the Black Rock Desert. It is unlikely that he would have passed-up the opportunity to enliven his report with a description of this natural feature or of the taste of the water. Also, the heated water keeps the area downhill from the springs snow free, and nurtures a good growth of grasses and forbs. Frémont reports: "There being no grass exposed here, the horses were sent back " These observations have been used to argue that Frémont went up Pleasant Valley instead of Hot Springs Creek. There is a better explanation which closely follows Frémont narrative and Preuss's map.

The Preuss map clearly shows that the route was on the north side of Hot Springs -Hollow. This follows the written report: " along the steep hillsides, and over spurs, where wind and sun had in places lessened the snow." This would be true of a south-facing slope. Even now that slope is open whereas the south side (north facing slope) is heavily forested. The circle on the map representing the camp at the springs is north of the creek, "at the foot of a high and steep hill, by which the hollow ascended to another basin in the mountain." There is a hill above the hot springs, but the slope on the north side is much higher and steeper, and it was up that slope they climbed to "another basin'".

There is a set of springs on the north side of the valley, which fit the description. These "springs" are actually where two streams converge. Due to slumping of the steep hillsides the streams have tunneled under the dirt, so that the water appears to come out of the ground. Snow cover makes them look even more spring like. They were both flowing full this fall during a drought year--in fact they are the water source for the State Park. The water is fresh and does not contain the minerals of the hot springs. The springs are surrounded by a grove of incense cedars, which shade the ground and prevent grass from growing. The description of "the little stream below" better fits the view from these elevated springs than the hot springs. It should be noted that a line of trees along Hot Springs Creek screen the hot springs from the north side of the hollow.

NOTE March, 2004: I previously had the route too high, mistaking the peaks which Preuss shows the route going over as the top of the ridge. From the views recently taken, it is obvious that they folowed the bushwhackers rule of never go up if you have to come back down.

I explored the bottom of the slope-between during Thanksgiving break and found no evidence of a spring or "springs." Tried to observe the "springs" location in snow right after Christmas, but the snow was deeper: 3-4', than I was prepared for. Had to contemplate my unpreparedness in the hot springs.

Peter Lathrop

See other DEM renderings

Other Peter Lathrop contributions to this website concerning the 1844 Frémont expedition route between January 31 and February 20, 1844

go A Hypothesis For the Five Frémont Expedition Routes in the Carson Pass Area.
And his look at the campsite on the East Carson River of January 31 to February 2, 1844--Frémont's gateway to the high mountains.
go Kit Carson to Frémont: "There," he said, "is the little mountain"
go The first descent camp, February 21, 1844.
go The route from Pyramid Lake to Bridgeport.
go Frémont's Route from Grovers to the Long Camp: the location of the campsites for February 4th through the 10th, 1844

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Bob Graham