The story opens with Dr. John Townsend lamenting about selling everything and joining a wagon train to take him and his family to California. The year is 1843. His wife, Elizabeth, tosses and turns in a fever beneath the piled blankets. He fears the air is too dry for her and wants to take her to where she can breathe easy. After much
consideration, they do indeed sell everything except for a few precious items, his surgical tools, Elizabeth's grandmothers china tea set , and his small writing desk and journals.
They soon have everything well stocked in their wagon to begin their journey. They meet up with a group of wagons heading west, and begin their journey. With high spirits, and a newly elected wagon captain, they set off into the great unknown. Although the families grow closer over time and help each other with assorted camp life, many challenges spring into their path. Rivers that aren't quite passable, the loss of livestock, and the fear of Indians are just a few.
One day, they come to an impasse. They are camped at the Great Sink and cannot find a path that will get them over the mountains. At least not a path that the wagons can cross. They debated leaving the wagons and just walking out with packs on their backs. But with much discussion, they discarded that idea because of the women and children. They wouldn't be able to carry enough supplies. Then an elderly, naked Indian strolls into camp, much to the astonishment of many. He sits down with the Captain and Doctor, and many other men and they have a discussion by drawing pictures in the sand.
The next morning, the men follow the Indian into the mountains. He wants to show them a path they could take , a path to get them through the mountains. All the way, he is shouting to them, "Truckee". Since they didn't speak Indian, they just nodded. In Indian, it means "everything is satisfactory". Since they didn't know this, they thought that was his name. So they named the mountain pass after him, "Truckee's Trail."
Getting the wagon train through the mountain pass though was only one of the major challenges this strong group of men and woman overcame. Soon , winter would be upon them, and time and supplies were running short.
The long-lost diary of Dr. John Townsend is reconstructed and carrys the reader through the trials and tribulations that this great group of Americans went through. A fascinating read about what adventures and sacrifices they went through to get to the land of "milk and honey." With the book filled with some true accounts, and some excerpts from diaries and letters from real and fictatious characters, the book is lend some authenticity of the true account.