Publisher description for Hard road west : history and geology along the Gold Rush trail / Keith Heyer Meldahl.

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In 1849, news of the discovery of gold in California triggered an enormous wave of emigration toward the Pacific. Lured by the promise of riches, thousands of settlers left behind the forests, rain, and fertile soil of the eastern United States in favor of the rough-hewn lands of the American West. The dramatic landscape they encountered is so familiar to us now that it is hard to imagine how frightening—even godforsaken—its sheer rock faces and barren deserts seemed to our forebears.

Hard Road West brings their perspective vividly to life, weaving together the epic overland journey of the covered wagon trains and the compelling story of the landscape they encountered. Taking readers along the 2,000-mile California Trail, Keith Meldahl uses the diaries and letters of the settlers themselves—as well as the countless hours he has spent hiking the region—to reveal how geology and topography directly affected our nation’s westward expansion. He guides us through a corrugated landscape of sawtooth mountains, following the meager streams that served as lifelines through an arid land, all the way to California itself, where colliding tectonic plates created breathtaking topography and planted the gold that lured travelers west in the first place. At each turn, we see astonishing and dangerous spectacles, from glacial passes so steep they could break a settler's will to deadly dry basins, still scarred by wagon ruts and rich with memories of struggle and perseverance.

Combining popular science writing and high adventure, Hard Road West seamlessly joins past and present in a fascinating tale of struggle and inspiration embedded in the American landscape.

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Pioneers -- West (U.S.) -- History -- 19th century.
Pioneers -- West (U.S.) -- Biography.
Frontier and pioneer life -- West (U.S.)
Overland journeys to the Pacific.
West (U.S.) -- History -- 1848-1860.
West (U.S.) -- Description and travel.
West (U.S.) -- Geography.
Landscape -- West (U.S.) -- History -- 19th century.
Landforms -- West (U.S.)
Geology -- West (U.S.)