Following John App’s Journey to California – Arriving in Sonora

On Saturday, August 16, 2014, two National Park Rangers and I had scheduled a trip to an area of the Stanislaus National Forest to get a good view of the last part of the route of the Clark-Skidmore Party though the Walker River route and nearly to Sonora, California. Unfortunately, their vehicle would not start and by the time it was repaired there was not enough time to make the lengthy trip. This was the first “research casualty” and a bit of a disappointment, but can be overcome with a workaround.

The Parks Service has boxes of 35 millimeter slide photos taken over the years by rangers who have hiked the entire route and they will provide me with some really nice pictures when they have them digitized. This is important because to appreciate the enormity of the Clark-Skidmore situation you must actually be there or see photos. Just reading about it does not do it justice.

For example, late into the trip a guide was leading the party to Sonora but he missed a critical turning point to reach Sonora safely. The reason was that when the guide went out to meet the group he did not blaze his trail well (very bad news). There was a point where a mountain Lake was completely blocking their travel. There was no way to go around it, and they did not have the resources to go back. Thinking outside the box, they decided to partially drain the lake so they could take the wagons and traverse over one end of it. I had read that it was an especially muddy crossing, but it paid off as they all broke out their shovels and moved “thousands of tons of earth” to allow the lake to drain a little. It is one thing to read about this and it is another thing to be there (even looking at a photo) to see the geography, imagine the men’s’ weakness from lack of food, and to realize they did this at 10,000 feet in altitude!

The following photos are from along Highway 49 when I arrived, and not of the route that the Clark-Skidmore Party travelled. I will post pictures from that route tomorrow. It is unbelievable!

Just outside Sonora, California
Just outside Sonora, California


Just outside Sonora, California

Just outside Sonora, California

John App & wife Leanna (Donner) App gravesite on the outskirts of Jamestown, California

John App & wife Leanna (Donner) App gravesite on the outskirts of Jamestown, California

About storiesretoldblogger

I am an Elkhart, Indiana native and became interested in applying video to history when consumer video cameras were first introduced on the market in the late 1970’s. My production company, Stories Retold, specializes in preserving oral history, traditions, and values with video. Primarily interviewing individuals, I sometimes document families, and on occasion document an entire community. My niche is developing a personal relationship with clients which helps me to tell their story just the way they would like to have it told. Everyone has a story worth preserving, and I enjoy discovering interesting stories from people with whom I come into contact on a daily basis. In years to come, these videos will be priceless as they portray original stories complete with visual images and actual voices filled with all the primary material and emotion that was intended to be. I gain a strong sense of personal satisfaction with each completed project whether it involves an individual or an entire community.
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2 Responses to Following John App’s Journey to California – Arriving in Sonora

  1. jkattau says:

    I can’t even imagine!!!!

  2. Dick Murphy says:

    I am enjoying your journey… Thanks for sharing with me!

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