Today, August 13, 2014, I visited two Nevada County historical societies and each offered a piece of information of why one route might have been chosen over the other. Going south through the valley could have presented the problem of lack of water, excessive heat (he travelled in late July or early August), or Indian problems. Going east and through the mountains would have plenty of water, would be more temperate, but problems with the Indians might have been greater. Another possibility suggested was that John knew someone coming west to Sonora and wanted to meet and travel together with him. In fact, John did join with a wagon train known as the “Clark-Skidmore Party” and travelled with them to Sonora. Now, that trip was not as easy as it may sound, but that will be the focus of travelling this segment of his journey.
There were no expectations of finding anything today, but there was the helpful information (above) that was found and it is very important. The Searls Historical Library in Nevada City, California had in their collection a (digital) lithograph of the view of Nevada City from atop Prospect Hill in 1851. This is a view of which John App would have been familiar. I purchased the image. I drove to Prospect Hill hoping to take a picture back toward Nevada City as it appears today, but a similarly good view was not available due to the multitude of houses in the area and the very large trees. I managed to take one photo that gives a general look. The present day town of Grass Valley had the “Empire Mines” located nearby in 1850. This was a collection of several mines as I understand it, and it is entirely possible that John learned from mining here. It is now a state park and I took some representative photos of buildings and equipment (some of the equipment would have existed in 1850). I also took a few photos of the geography of the northern mine area and, who knows, maybe the view is similar to what it looked like in 1850 especially the hills. I’d like to think so.