A Horseback Ride from Mexico to Oregon

IMAGE: Portrait photo of J. Smeaton Chase

J. Smeaton Chase

In 1911, a middle-aged Englishman set out on horseback from El Monte, California. Decked out in riding breeches and leather puttees, a brown tweed coat and broad-brimmed Stetson hat, he was beginning a journey that would take him over nearly two thousand miles of trail and road from the Mexican border to the Oregon line. He would sleep in the homes of isolated ranchers and camp under towering redwoods, and enjoy alike the hospitality of noble Spanish Californio families and of tramps bivouacked by the roadside. Along the way he took notes, combining observations of the topography, botany and humanity he met on the trail with snippets of poetry and public-school erudition. On returning to Los Angeles, he compiled his notes into a book.

This traveller's name was Joseph Smeaton Chase, and his book is California Coast Trails: A Horseback Ride from Mexico to Oregon. Published in 1913, it has become one of the seminal works of California history and travel literature.

Here, for the first time, the entire text of the original 1913 edition is made available in HTML format, including all sixteen of Chase's original photographic plates — free to anyone equipped with a web browser. We hope that this new electronic edition will bring the many pleasures of Chase's work to a wider public.

So pack your kit, saddle up your horse, and set out on a journey along the California coast of nearly a century ago with your friendly, funny, humane and companionable guide — Joseph Smeaton Chase.

Happy trails!

— The Editors of the Double Cone Register,
the journal of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance

IMAGE: Cover of the 1913 Edition of California Coast Trails
Cover of the 1913 Edition of
California Coast Trails


Several excerpts from California Coast Trails, relating specifically to the Northern Santa Lucia mountains and the Big Sur coast, have previously been published by the Ventana Wilderness Alliance in issues of the Double Cone Quarterly, under the title "Following the Trail of J. Smeaton Chase":

The first two chapters include photographs of some areas through which Chase travelled as they are today, and are worth a look for that reason. In addition, the Fall 1998 issue of the Double Cone Quarterly contains a review of the book which may be of interest.

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