Pilot Peak, Kit Carson, the Donner Party and Conquering California

I recently drove down to Area 51 in Nevada to film with the SyFy channel on a show called Ancient Artifacts. On the way back, I took I-80 out of Salt Lake City heading west.  Once you cross into Nevada on 80, you can see a mountain towering by itself to the north.  I took this photo from the off-ramp.

This is Pilot Peak, named by John Fremont after Kit Carson scouted it for him during their 1845 expedition west. This expedition forms a good part of my upcoming title, Duty, Honor, Country, coming 12 April, as one of my fictional character, Elijah Cord, is assigned to accompany the expedition to keep tabs on Fremont.

Kit Carson was already a legend in the west by the time of this expedition as a scout and modern Fort Carson in Colorado is named for him, where, by the way, my old unit, the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) is now stationed.

Pilot Peak was important to early travelers because the most infamous part of the California Trail was just prior to it: the salt flats of the Great Salt Lake Desert.  Carson found springs at the base of Pilot Peak and this was a lifesaver for many an emigrant party.

Fremont named Pilot Peak and as you can see, it’s easily spotted.  The Donner party ended up having to divert to the springs at Pilot Peak during their trek, and this extra time might have cost many of them their lives later on when they tried to cross the Sierra Nevadas and were trapped by a blizzard.  Back then, making ten miles a day was considered good time.  Think about that next time you zip along at 70 miles an hour on the Interstate.

Fremont’s 1845 expedition ended in California, during the Mexican War, where he led the United States forces against the Mexicans there and ended up bringing California into the United States, history many aren’t aware of. There was also an execution of three unarmed Mexicans outside of San Francisco, which is a scene in Duty, Honor, Country and has ramifications in my story into the Civil War when Fremont was commander in the west for the Union and Ulysses S. Grant was a brand new one-star general looking for a command.  And thus history can turn on the smallest or the largest of events.

A new blog post every day leading up to the 150th Anniversary of the start of the Civil War on April 12th and the publication of Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point & the Civil War, the first in my series.

Tomorrow: Thomas Jefferson founded the United States Military Academy although he disliked the military

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2 responses to “Pilot Peak, Kit Carson, the Donner Party and Conquering California

  1. Having driven from Salt Lake to the Utah/Nevada border many times I find it amazing that anyone, let alone young boys on horseback averaging 7mph, would travel across the Salt Flats. The ground is caustic, the heat immense, the skink by the lake awful, and on a sunny day the shine off of the white salt is blinding.

    And in case you were curious, that weird sculpture out in the middle of nothing is called “Metaphore, Tree of Utah” by Karl Momen, a Swedish sculptor.

  2. Pingback: 10 Questions To Make You Think « Revolutionizing Awareness

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