Why did I love this book?
The California gold rush of 1849 led to statehood in 1850. Brewer was charged with conducting a geologic survey of this new acquisition, and he led his band on a 14,000 mile trek while the Civil War raged, measuring peaks, finding fossils, cataloging fauna and flora, and visiting mining districts. All this is captured in elegant letters written to his brother. Although trained in agriculture, Brewer was a remarkable observer of nature with fine skills in interpreting the landscape. His uncomplaining accounts of sleeping on the snow in blankets and eating the same plain fare day after day will make modern backpackers cringe.