"While I was upon the point where a bucket of water turned upon the ground would divide, one part running toward the great basin, and the other toward the ocean, I witnessed a sunset whose gradeur [sic] was at most inspiring. Before me were peaks of mountains each side of the Yuba, becoming lower and lower as they receded to the west. They were in the Sacramento Valley! How any slow and tedious hours, and days, and months of toil had I undergone to enter it! Here it lay before me. The parting rays of sunset gilded the craggy mountain peaks of his golden valley, imagination converting their fantastic crags into castles and turrets at pleasure. Durrand is the only artist living who could represent it upon canvass – the warm- almost hot – misty atmosphere of his picture, which I never before thought quite natural, and which is so unlike the clear pure air that pervades the pictures of Thomas Cole,, enveloped the whole landscape After feasting my eyes with enchanting scene, I began to descent into the Yuba valley."
Austin Howard 1849
Quoted in Tail of the Elephant
Link to the Osborn Letter - emigrant to California over Donner Summit.