"The passage of this emigrant train, which forced its way through this almost impassable section of the Sierra Nevadas in 1852, was one of peculiar hardship and suffering - excelled in this respect, perhaps only by the ill-fated one of '46 that starved on the Truckee." Hutchings' California Magazine 1858
Driving from Highway 395 to Sonora, California might take you four hours. In contrast, in 1852, the first pioneers struggled across this section of the Sierra Nevada for 35 days!
Observe the landscape before you. Imagine you are a member of the Clark-Skidmore Party. Exhausted, starving, running low on provisions, you must raise and lower your wagons by hand around these forboding [sic] peaks.
General Morehead, your guide, promised it would be less than 10 days to reach Sonora and Columbia. But after moving tons of rocks to fill chasms, and draining Fremont Lake to make it passable, General Morehead is still nowhere in sight. He, Nathan Clark, and five others went ahead to get help days ago. Will they return?
Ahead is East Flange Rock. Relief Valley lay beneath. The group makes its way here and waits for rescue. Unlike the 1846 Donner Party, the Clark-Skidmore emigrants' odyssey ended successfully when they were rescued and reached their destinations.
Forging a new route
through the wilderness cost dearly, but for some in the Clark-Skidmore Party, the rewards were great. John App married Leanna Donner, survivor of Donner Party, just a few weeks after arriving in Columbia. They settled in Jamestown, opening the very profitable App gold mine. Their home still exists today as a testament to their spirit and endurance.
To continue your travels in the footsteps of pioneers and learn more stories about the California Trail: visit USDA Forest Service ranger stations on Highway 108, the Tuolumne County Museum and Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau in Sonora, California.