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Long Camp

Frémont: February 14th, 1844. "Annexed [facing page 234 in the 1845 government report] is a view of the dividing ridge of the Sierra, taken from this encampment. With Mr. Preuss, I ascended to-day the highest peak to the right; from which we had a beautiful view of a mountain lake at our feet, about fifteen miles in length, and so entirely surrounded by mountains that we could not discover an outlet... I obtained to-night some observations; and the result from these, and others made during our stay, gives the latitude 38° 41' 57" [sic], and the rate for the chronometer 25.82."

go See a correlation of the two views above.
Why hadn't anyone found this site in 152 years?

Because the latitude printed in the narrative of the 1845 Report is wrong. It is wrong in the original printed Report, and it is wrong in every subsequent printing.
go Why is the latitude in the Report wrong?

I located the campsite on October 14, 1996. This winter photograph was taken on February 27, 1997 after hiking in on snowshoes. There was a little less snow than when Charles Preuss made his drawing between the 10th and 19th of February, 1844. It is difficult to reproduce an artist's perspective. The drawing actually covers an angle of view of approximately 90°. A "normal" focal length lens was used to maintain foreground to background perspective, and a series of overlapping handheld snapshots were taken and later pieced together.
Finding the place.

NOTE: I seriously doubt that the "snow hole" was actually on that exposed lower knoll shown in Preuss' view of the "Long Camp."
I am certain that the higher knoll was Preuss' vantage for the drawing.
I am sure that it, or the lower knoll, was Frémont's open position for his latitude observations.
But I think the "snow hole" detail was added into the Preuss drawing for interest/scale/drama, as was certainly done in his drawing at Pyramid Lake.
My guess is that the campsite was actually either immediately to the south (some yards), or was lower down closer to today's road Forestdale/Blue Lakes Road.

Did Charles Preuss make use of the camera obscura?

Charles Preuss, February 11th, 1844. "We are now completely snowed in. The snowstorm is on top of us. The wind obliterates all tracks which, with incredible effort, we make for our horses. The horses are about twenty miles behind and are expected to arrive tonight, or rather, they are now no longer expected. How could they get through? At the moment no one can tell what will really happen. It is certain we shall have to eat horse meat. I should not mind if we only had salt. I feel terribly weak and have little appetite."

go See a map of the campsite near Carson Pass


View Larger Map

You can navigate on this Google® map (or Google Earth) by dragging, zoom in/out, or change from satellite to roadmap, terrain, and Google Earth imagery

This advance camp was reached on February 10th, 1844, and was occupied through February 19th as nearly 20 miles of road for the horses and mules was being built from Markleeville to Carson Pass. Frémont called this the "Long Camp" in his Report to Congress. "Long Camp" either refers to the number of days that it was occupied, or to the fact that the "camp" was spread out over that 20 miles and an elevation difference of nearly 3000'. The horses were near Markleeville under the charge of Baptiste Tabeau, and Tom Fitzpatrick's intermediate camp was at Grover's Hot Springs.

Frémont's "the highest peak to the right" is now called Red Lake Peak (El. 10,063'), and the "mountain lake" is Lake Tahoe--its first recorded sighting.

go Lake Tahoe discovered! Two accounts: Frémont's narrative of February 14, 1844, and a recent climb of Red Lake Peak by Peter Lathrop of Carson City, NV.

The small dark peak in the center (El. 9,007') is the place from which, on February 6, 1844, Frémont and Kit Carson saw the Sacramento Valley and the Coast Range on the horizon. "There," said Kit, "is the little mountain--it is 15 years since I saw it; but I am just as sure as if I saw it yesterday."

go Mount Diablo--Carson's the little mountain? An examination by Bob Graham and Peter Lathrop.

An email from a Long Camp visitor.

Since July, 2004, Frémont's Long Camp is now a Geocache site.
Click the Geocaching icon to visit the page.
Anyone with a GPS device can participate in this popular new hobby. There are probably many geocaches right near you. Geocacher MarshallOD found it:
I parked at the three way junction about 1/4 mile below the cache to walk and stretch my legs. I appreciate the opportunity to stand at this historical place and imagine Fremont's passage through the area. My pen wouldn't give up any more ink, so I took a photo of the cache, which I'm attaching as my "log."

go How did they get there?
go See the preceeding Charity Valley base camp reached on February 4, 1844, the one where the Washoe Indians told Frémont that he could not cross the mountains in winter--"Rock upon rock; snow upon snow."
go See what Tom Chaffin has to say about this place.
go To appreciate the correctness of the Preuss drawing above, compare his drawing of Pyramid Lake.
go And a more difficult correlation of the Wind River Chain.
go Just who discovered Carson Pass, anyway?
go Why is the latitude in the Report wrong?
go How do I hike there?
go See an article by Tom Chaffin on this discovery in OUTSIDE MAGAZINE.
go What was the approach to this place? See other campsites on the way.
go An overview of the route from Markleeville to the Pass. An important determination of latitude!

I wrote a companion book about this called
The Crossing.


©1999, 2007
Bob Graham