By Cate Culver

For The Union Democrat

After the Sonora-Mono Wagon Road was completed in 1865, many farmers from the San Joaquin Valley packed up the farm wagon and went to the mountains to camp. There were no official campgrounds or regulations. Camping was free and unrestricted. Families camped where they wanted and stayed as long as a month.

They longed to relax in the upland forests alongside the rivers and enjoy the cool breezes. This type of outdoor living was called “household’ camping. Simple primitive canvas tents or lean-tos provided shelter. Folding tables and chairs were a necessity. Makeshift shelving was wedged between trees for the kitchen. Large nails were driven into trees for hanging tools and utensils. Campers strung ropes between trees to hang blankets for privacy, and hammocks swung between tree trunks. Cooking was done over the open campfire. Few housekeeping chores were needed and allowed time for relaxation and visiting. You were camped in God’s country surrounded by nature.

Excited children played in the sparkling creeks, built dams, and waded, while adults fished for trout in the river. The time was passed with the simple pleasures of dreamy days, relaxing under the tall pines with the rushing river nearby. Most who came returned year after year to be rejuvenated in spirit and health.

Historian Cate Culver’s book on Sonora Pass will be published this summer.