After establishing a forward base camp at Mule Springs, about 50 miles west from the cabins at the Lake and 50 miles east of Johnson Ranch, the 1st Relief decided to split up.
Billy Coon and young George Tucker were assigned to stay and watch over the extra provisions they had stored inside a brush tent. Since it was impossible for animals to remain at Mule Springs due to a lack of food, and no ability to manage the deep snow, Eddy and Verrot were tasked with taking them back to Johnson Ranch. Eddy had been weak from the start, still recovering from his Forlorn Hope ordeal. It was clear he was not up to the challenge of the deep snow ahead. He had already endured more than most could have imagined.
Unbeknownst to Eddy, his wife and infant son had been buried that same day at the cabins after succumbing to starvation and exhaustion. What a tragic fate for a man of such morality and courage.
The ten men who were to go onward readied their 50 to 75 pound packs which each contained a blanket, tin cup, hatchet, dried beef and flour. The hefty load and snow depth of 10 to 30 feet made forward progress extremely arguous. They walked single file, each stepping in the foot prints of the preceding, sinking up to their knees at times. Each took a turn breaking the trail. It was physically exhausting and mentally debilitating.
They slowly plunged forward, working down from the ridge to the bottom of Bear Valley canyon. After two and half days and having built snowshoes which they found to be useless, they reached the eastern end of Bear Valley where they camped and dug for the cache left by Reed and McCutchen in November. It was gone, having been eaten by bears.
Cold rain and snow fell upon the shivering and soaked rescuers. They spent an extra day drying and thawing out and creating a cache of some of their provisions which eased their burdening packs and ensured supplies for the return trip.
They’d spent 10 days trekking from Johnson Ranch to Bear Valley. They’d been cold, wet, sleepless and nearly drowned. Now they gazed upon the steep, sheer wall to Emigrant Gap. What lay ahead were high mountains, deep snow, frigid temperatures and another 40 miles to go.
What they’d already endured was heroic. They had steeled themselves with grit and determination. But in the morning came munity.