Getting There Was Half the Fun
Compiled and arranged by Peg Presba
Mountain Democrat, April 2, 1998
(Text used by permission)

              The late Margaret Kelly must have been a delight to her many students throughout El Dorado County.  She had an eye for things of historical importance, a good sense of humor and a way with words.  She spent a great deal of time in the 1920's at Bret Harte Hotel and Deer View nestled, as she put it, “in the heart of the forest primeval.”   A.P.T. Elder, builder and owner of this wilderness haven must have felt he found a treasure in the kindred spirit of Margaret Kelly who could paint such picturesque scenes of “Deer View” with her writings on the subject.  Elder capitalized on these very words and used them in his literature, pamphlets and newspaper articles on the place.  The following is a sampling of Kelly’s enthusiastic essays on “Deer View” and the thrill of getting there.

Old car going to Deer View

16-Mile Exciting Journey

            Placerville begins the lap of the run to “Deer View,” only 16 miles, across the Sierra Nevada mountains, which because of the sharp and hazardous grades, requires three hours to negotiate.  The most daring chauffeur needs no warning words of caution.  A single bad move, and death awaits him at every turn, while by careful driving and managing of the car, the three hours’ run thrills with interest and excitement.

            Before you are scenes of the far away vistas of hundreds of miles of mountains, piercing the sky.  You are rolling through and over “The old gold diggings of ‘49” all along this 16 mile exciting journey.


A Yawning Sepulcher Awaits the Wayward Driver

            At “Negro Hill” only a few miles out of Placerville, you stop on the brink of a black gulch and look into the yawning sepulcher whence $12 million in gold were taken in a few months.  The car is ascending the rocky steeps, until you have a view, in all directions, of hundreds of miles of mountains piled on top of each other, and then lowering your eyes, you look down thousands of feet into the wild depths of the South Fork of the American River Canyon, over which you must cross.  “It is impossible!” you gasp.

            You cannot turn back!  The car must go on.  The driver is an experienced man at the wheel, and right here I warn anyone never to try to make the trip across the South Fork of the American River Canyon with an inexperienced driver.  You now come to the first hair-pin curve, whose turn brings you face to face with death if there’s a single false move, a bursting of a tire, a slip of a brake, you are hurled into eternity.  Two thousand feet below you are the leaping, dashing, splashing waters of the American River.

            The ladies crowd up close to the men, who throw their strong, protecting arms around their wives and sweethearts for assurance of safety.  It is all a matter of supreme faith in your car, its equipment and your driver.  The car swings slowly to the left, and it rests on the very rim of the canyon, 2,000 feet deep.

            You slowly slip down the thin, narrow roadway, your eyes riveted on the dashing, leaping waters which seem to toss back their smiles and salutations to you, inviting you to come on, as though wanting you, wishing for you.  Not a word is spoken, only the exclamations, “Wonderful! Wonderful!   Miraculous!”  The men comforting their women with “Have no fear - we are safe!”


Hair-pin Turns and Slim, One-track Cable Bridges

            Now you are on the thin, slim, one-track cable bridge hanging from Nature’s solid masonry on each side across the American River, 300 feet below.  This bridge was built by the old miners and early ranchers many years ago, twisting, wrenching, and wrapping the cables with their own hands.  You begin to climb out of the canyon by one hair-pin curve after another, and 10 miles yet lie between you and Deer View until you are nearly one mile higher than San Francisco.

Old car crossing Mosquito bridge 

The Forest Primeval

            You enter the forest primeval six miles from “Deer View.”   Here the scene changes from rugged mountain sides to the quiet and solitude of the mighty forest, only the companionship of big trees, hundreds of years, and some of them thousands of years old, you climb Slate Mountain and on by the forest ranger’s lodge.

            At Little Soap Weed Creek, you enter a forest of still larger trees, until lifting your eyes at a turn in the trail the chimneys of “Deer View” burst on your view.

            The clearing or amphitheater lies there open before you - the orchards, the gardens, the clover fields, 12 acres in all, with its mineral spring and great natural spring, the delicious water, sweet and healing, the high, clear, pure mountain air laden with the odor of the balsam from the pines.

            This is “Deer View” in its wonderful setting of great and mighty trees, some of them growing when Joseph was sold into Egypt, when Cyrus conquered Belshazzar’s army, when Solomon was building the temple in Jerusalem - surrounded by these silent sentinels of the ages in “Deer View.”  No other place like it in the world.

            What became of the man with the dream?  What became of this magnificent hostelry in the mountains?  We’ll try to sort out some of these facts from fiction in next week’s El Dorado Gold.

Deer View Hotel Bret Harte

Fact and Fiction About Deer View

Deer View Today

Mountain Democrat Online

Back to Mosquito Links

AdamsAmigos Home