WILL WE EVER GET TO CALIFORNIA?
Take a moment and look at this valley in front of you. Look left and right as far as you can. What you can see represents about one long day's travel for a wagon even though the terrain is fairly level. Wagon travel in the mid 1800s went at a snail's pace through the landscape.
Imagine the heat, dust, and mind-numbing monotony as people plodded along under a scorching August sun. In your car or truck, it will only take you about 15 minutes to drive across this entire valley on I-80.
A few miles west of the end of this valley is the start of the Applegate-Lassen Trail - a cutoff that left the Humboldt River and traversed water-scarce desert country to passes leading to northern California and southern Oregon. The Applegate-Lassen route, which even today crosses one of the least known and infrequently traveled parts of the United States, was the first opportunity for emigrants to "exit" off the main road to California.
“I wonder what our friends at home would think if they could look at us, as we are traveling along, the dust often rising so thick that we cannot see a rod. Everyone so covered that we are all of a color, all ash color, hair, faces, clothes and wagons, and all in them. The men with long hair, long beards, traipsing along by their long teams, with their ox whips over their shoulders, and when we come to a hill or sand bed the women and girls get out and plod along, sometimes almost suffocated with dust.” - Asenath Larimer, August 25, 1852