Fremont Camps '06
		La Garita Mtns, Colorado
		August & September 2006

Background:  John Fremont led his 4th expedition to survey a possible
railroad route along the 38th parallel (--remember Korea?) in the
late fall of 1848.  His wife was the daughter of Senator Benton of
Missouri and through him was financed the expedition.  St Louis is
on the 38th parallel.  Starting to get it?  ;-)

The expedition of about 35 men and 120 mules (& horses) didn't leave
St Louis until October 3, 1848.  By late November they approached Mosca
Pass into the San Luis Valley.  The winter of 1848-1849 was apparently
extreme and almost incomprehensible to us today who have climbed
and skied in the high country in winter.  It was the worst possible
year for this expedition.  When they entered the San Luis Valley,
they found 6 inches of snow and temperatures to 20 degrees below
zero F.  In early December!

They had picked up Bill Williams as a guide and he led them W, rather
than NW to the passes at the head of the Saguache Creek--exactly
the wrong way.  On December 12th they struggled up Boot Mtn, thinking
it might be the divide only to find a higher ridge further west--
Mesa Mtn (12,944').  On the 16th they traversed the south side of
Mesa Mtn and dropped into Wannamaker Creek, but they had not crossed
the divide.  It was ~20 miles to the west at Spring Creek Pass.

They had fought snow up to 15' deep.  On the worst day they
progressed only 300 yards.

Camp Dismal at the head of Wannamaker Creek was as far as they went
The mules had been over-stressed since they crossed Mosca Pass and
fighting deep snow--4' to more than 15'.  At Camp Dismal at Wannamaker
Creek most of the mules died.  On December 22nd, Fremont decided to
move camp back across the divide to the south and seek relief from
the settlements near Taos.  Christmas Camp, or Camp Hope, was
established at the head of Embargo Creek.  On December 26th, the
first rescue party, including Bill Williams, left.  At great
pain, the camp was moved around the head of Embargo Creek to the
head of Groundhog Creek from December 21 to January 3rd.  Finally on
January 11th, Fremont himself with others left as the second rescue
party for Taos.  They encountered Bill Williams and others hardly
advanced south of the La Garita Mtns.  There is lots of speculation
the Bill Williams was misleading on purpose, for money from others
who wanted Fremont to fail or who wanted a railroad somewhere else.

In the end, only about 17 men--but no animals--survived.  See Patricia Joy
Richmond's Trail To Disaster, 1989.


Christmas Camp was discovered in 1942 by a forest service ranger.
Richmond got interested in the 70s and finally pinpointed the exact
route of the expedition.  Many before had been wrong, including
Allan Nevins in books in 1928 and 1955.  So Richmond started to
explore and ultimately found--identified--almost all of the camps.
In the 70s, there were still many stumps standing that the expedition
members had hacked off for firewood.

Ok, time to look for Fremont Camps....