This is practically the first historic route into California, for, as I have shown in the chapter on Fremont’s Explorations, it was the one the Pathfinder practically followed on his memorable trip that led to the discovery of Lake Tahoe.
Hence, when the gold excitement attracted its thousands to California, many of the argonauts took this road, following the Humboldt River and turning south at the Humboldt “Sink,” crossing to the Carson “Sink” and then ascending to the headwaters of the Carson River, over into Hope Valley and thence down to Strawberry Valley and on to the mines. This was the origin of the road, and it was in steady and continuous use until the startling news of the discovery of the Comstock Lode in Virginia City aroused the mining world. From every camp in California rude and stalwart men eagerly set forth to reach the new Camp. It was a genuine stampede. The chief question was: “Will the new Camp make good?” It answered this question by transcending the expectations of the most sanguine. Silver and gold were taken out in fabulous quantities. Chunks of almost pure native silver, weighing scores of pounds, were hewed out of the chambers where they were found, and men went wild with excitement. Houses sprang up over-night. A vast population soon clung to the slopes of Mt. Davidson. Mining and milling machinery was needed, and demanded with tremendous urgency, to reap the richer harvest. There was no railroad, and the old Emigrant Road was not in condition to meet the needs. Few people can realize the wild excitement that reigned and the string of teams, men riding on horseback, or afoot, stage-coaches, freight wagons, that poured in endless procession over the road. Nothing like it has been seen since, except during the Klondike rush. As soon, however, as it was possible to secure the proper authority newer and easier grades were surveyed and private individuals undertook to build certain sections of the road under the condition that they were to be granted the right to collect toll for so many years. These rights have long since lapsed, and the road is now a part of the excellent system of El Dorado County, which, though a mountain county, boasts some of the best roads in California.
Tallac to Echo, 11-1/2 Miles. Leaving Tallac, an easy and pleasant eight-mile run on almost level roads through Tallac Meadows brings one to Celios, once Myers’ Station (6500 feet). Now begins the upgrade, winding its way up the mountain side to the crest from which Starr King wrote his exquisite description, elsewhere quoted. This is one of the superb outlook-points where the full sweep of Lake and encircling mountains is in full and complete view.
After a few minutes for gazing the journey is resumed, soon crossing a bridge, near which stand the remnants of the old toll-house. On the right a foot-trail or bridle-path leads to Glen Alpine. A few miles of fairly rapid descent and Echo is reached, 49-1/2 miles from Placerville.