Homeward Over the Rockies
FRÉMONT had so planned his homeward journey that he might see the greatest possible amount of new country. He intended to travel five hundred miles south, skirting the western base of the Sierras, to a pass which had been discovered far below the San Joaquin, near the upper course of the South Fork of the Kern River, by Joseph Walker, the famous Santa Fé trapper who had served under Bonneville and had broken the trail from Great Salt Lake west across the Great Basin to Monterey.1 Having crossed the Sierras by this pass, Frémont meant to strike southeast toward Santa Fé. This town could be reached by the ancient "Spanish Trail" running across from Los Angeles; but his design was to halt before actually arriving at the capital of New Mexico, and turn off into Colorado, where he could make for the headwaters of the Arkansas.
Simple as the route seemed, it involved two thousand miles of heavy travel, much of it through a rough and semi-desert country. There was not a settlement anywhere, and the names of the points and rivers on the way--Indian and Spanish names --showed that few Americans had ever traversed it. But this was precisely the reason why it appealed to Frémont's imagination. It would enable him to trace the Sierra Nevada southward, identify the streams flowing from it to the coast, explore the boundaries of the Great Basin between the Sierras and Rockies, ascertain whether any great rivers other than the Colorado flowed southwest from the Rockies--thus making absolutely certain there was no Buenaventura--and examine____________________