A Circle C cattle drive spans the valley, the foothills, and the Tehachapi Mountains at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, so I gave a trail drive its own page.
The Circle C cattle drive begins with cutting out the 1,000 steers intended for market. They gather them a few miles south of the main part of the ranch. The steers are counted, and the horses that will be part of the remuda are collected as well.
The men gather every night for a good meal, singing, and telling stories. Then the night guard heads out to watch over the cattle and keep them calm.
The Kaweah. It’s not long until the cattle drive takes the Carters through the wetter part of the San Joaquin Valley. It’s hard to believe this area between the Kings River and the Tule River could ever have supported the lush growth. Everything is so dry in the 21st century. But back in the 1800s, the whole valley was lush, with a lake (Tulare Lake) being the largest freshwater lake west of the Great Lakes! It’s no longer there. But in Andi’s day, the mosquitoes were a real problem in the marshy valley. Today, all that remains is a 300+ acre Kaweah Oak Preserve, which gives you an idea of the forest Andi walked through and what it might have looked like that day and night.
Crossing the Kern River
This turned out to be the most dangerous and devastating part of the cattle drive. The Kern River was rising quickly because of the melting snowpack in the Sierras way up river. The Carters loose not only cattle and horses making the crossing, but lose one of the trail hands as well. Rivers at near flood stage are dangerous.
The Tehachapi Mountains
The San Joaquin Valley ends abruptly just past the town of Bakersfield and funnels into a narrow passage called the Grapevine. It goes straight up into the mountains. (Today, Interstate 5 follows this route.)
In the spring, the pass through the Tehachapi Mountains is covered with wildflowers of all colors. In Heartbreak Trail, Mitch tells Andi it’s “God’s paintbrush.”
The weary group arrives at Fort Tejon in the Tehachapi Mountains, grateful for the easy access to water for the cattle, plenty of shade, and a rest. The fort was active in the 1850s, but by the time of this cattle drive (1883), a rancher owned all of the land. Today all of the area is owned by the Tejon Ranch.
After passing through Tejon Pass, then up and down a few more valleys and passes, they come out into the San Fernando Valley. There is one more pass to navigate, the Cahunga Pass, which drops down into Los Angeles.
It has taken about three weeks to make the trip from the Circle C ranch to Lost Angeles. Not much to the town. Why would anyone name it the “City of Angels”?
The end of the drive, the Los Angeles stockyard. The cattle are pushed into these makeshift corals, read to board the train to meat markets south or east, or in the case of the Circle C steers, to be sold to the US Army.
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