A Special to longcamp.com

Frémont's Route from Grovers to the Long Camp
The location of Fremont's Campsites for February 4th through the 10th, 1844
Peter Lathrop, Minden, NV
© 2016 

The locations of Fremont's campsites of his 2nd expedition during the years of 1843 to 1844 from February 4th through the 10th have been somewhat of an enigma. These uncertainties are based on the vagueness of the drainages shown on Preuss's map.

The lack of detail and the relative terns used by Fremont such as: "on this side of the open bottom ", "at several places between this point and the ridge", and especially on the mileages given in The Expeditions of John Charles Fremont. It should also be taken into account that at this time period in the expedition they had no way of accurately measuring mileage, and, furthermore, they were unaccustomed to traveling on the snowshoes that they had copied from those they saw used by the Washoes.

If one takes the recorded mileages to represent the distance added to the total advance of the expedition the results can be baffling. For example on the 6th they went ten miles to a view of the Sacramento Valley(1). If those ten miles were from the campsite of the night of the 4th, the Short Camp in lower Charity Valley, they could have reached Little Round Top or Thimble Peak. Both of these routes would have given them a view of Lake Tahoe and would have taken more than one day. [Ironically both would actually have given them a view of Mt. Diablo.(2)] Fremont's total given mileage adds up to eleven and a half miles which would put them at the Meiss Saddle, future than the Pass. However if the given mileages are the distances traveled that day from wherever Fremont camped the preceding night the campsite in Charity Valley and at the two "grassy spot" locations on either side of Faith Valley fall into place. This is especially true when viewed from a higher elevation such as the top of Markleeville Peak. We only have data on Fremont's movements, those of the other member of the expedition are only given in the part where they intersected Fremont's or were on his orders.

On February 4th they "were obliged to abandon the hollow" of Grover's Springs and advanced up three miles to where the same creek is called Charity Creek. [In fact this same creek has three different names: Charity, Hot Springs, and Markleeville.] They camped where the "stream passed over a small precipice", the Short Camp, SC, located at 38°40'60"N 119°53'43"W.

JCF: Two Indians joined our party here; and one of them, an old man, immediately began to harangue us, saying that ourselves and animals would perish in the snow...and, with the aid of signs, we easily comprehended the old man's simple ideas. "Rock upon rock--rock upon rock--snow upon snow," said he; "even if you get over the snow, you will not be able to get down from the mountains." He made us the sign of precipices, and showed us how the feet of the horses would slip, and throw them off from the narrow trails that led along their sides.

The next day Fremont went exploring down Faith Valley to the top of a granite hill now north of Blue Lakes Road at 38°42'26''N 119°55'45"W; the latitude is given by Fremont. It is logical that he returned to the campsite of the 3rd, Grover's Cold Springs, GCS(3), as on the next morning he set out with Fitzpatrick who had been "directed to camp by the springs" on the 4th. [It would interesting to know if he camped at the hot springs on this and the following night, but that Jessie, his editor wife, thought it better to not admit that he had missed them on the 3rd and someone else had discovered them.] The distance of ten miles to the view point makes sense from this location as opposed to the site in Charity Valley, as mentioned above. They also returned the same ten miles thus spent two consecutive nights at the GCS camp site.

On the 7th when Fremont hiked from GCS to the "first grassy spot", FGS, the given distance was four miles putting it one mile beyond SC. FGS is on the open ridge coming down from the east to the saddle between Faith and Charity Valleys. They would have camped in the vicinity of 38°40'35"N 119°54'58"W, being a bit lower than where Fremont viewed the "pass" and "ridge" on the 3rd with Mélo, the Washoe guide.

The next day, the 8th, Fremont traveled the approximately one and a half miles across Faith Valley to the "second grassy spot", SGS, centered around the hill at 38°40'47"N 119°56'33"W. This location fits the description of: "encamped at the foot of a long hill," the long hill being the 'Windy Ridge' where they pastured the horses while at Long Camp, LC. This location stands out well from Markleeville Peak. There is a discrepancy in Fremont's records as to whether the distance is one mile or one and a half miles, the actual direct distance is a bit under one mile.-- Perhaps half-miles we rounded down in the Tables of Distances.

Now we face the three mile mystery concerning the distance between the SGS and LC for it is but a mile and half between the two points as the average for possible routes. Careful reading of his Report solves this dilemma. On the 8th, which started as a beautiful day, two men who were returning from expanding the search of the 6th, are sent back to Mr. Fitzpatrick at the "intermediate camp", the SC, as snow clouds rose in the SSW. These clouds made Fremont "apprehensive of a storm which would destroy our road". The storm does arrive so that on the 9th Fremont and four other men "stayed in camp" until late afternoon when more sleds arrived at that site. An added clue is that on the 13th after LC had been established, Fremont reports that they " had the satisfaction to see the people working down the face of the opposite hill." That puts Fremont's crew on the west side of Faith Valley a bit past the SGS while the other men were on the east side near FGS, with no road between them: ergo, no sleds could have arrived at SGS on the 9th hence they must have waited out the storm at FGS. Therefore on the 10th Fremont would have traveled the distance from FGS to SGS plus the additional distance to they LG site. This would round off to three miles. It can also be pointed out that there are better places near FGS to wait out a SW snow storm, the direction from which snow storms usually blow into Alpine County, that at the exposed hill of SGS. So on the 10th the continued "on with three sleds" these last three miles to LC where "two large trees had been set on fire, where the snow had melted away" there they found a comfortable camp". The "Long Camp" was to be Fremont's home camp for the next eight or nine nights.

We can summarize Fremont's movements on the following chart.


(1) Peter Lathrop, January 2003 (Updated maps March, 2004)
(2) "There," he said, "is the little mountain"
(3) A Hypothesis for the Five Fremont Expedition Routes in the Carson Pass Area

go See Peter Lathrop's study of the preceeding Markleeville to Charity Valley route
go 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 The first descent camp, February 21, 1844.
go The route from Pyramid Lake to Bridgeport.
go Kit Carson to Frémont: "There," he said, "is the little mountain"
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Bob Graham