The Good Mountains of John Steinbeck were referred to in the timeless novel “Grapes of Wrath”, written back in 1939. For some
years I occasionally connected Steinbeck with this observation of the San Gabriel Mountains, as observed along Route 66, the “Mother Road”, traveled by thousands and thousands of migrants migrating to California from Oklahoma’s 1930′s dust bowl. Had I really read that?
Well, this morning, I found the passage just after finishing breakfast on this last day of March. Here’s an excerpt from John Steinbeck’s novel, Grapes of Wrath, page 152 (Penguin Books, reprinted 1987). Imagine yourself driving that asphalt two-lane heading for California and the unknown.
“Then out of the broken sun-rotted mountains of Arizona to the Colorado, with green reeds on its banks, and that’s the end of Arizona. There’s California just over the river, and a pretty town to start it. Needles, on the river. But the river is a stranger in this place. Up from Needles and over a burned range, and there’s the desert. And 66 goes on over the terrible desert, where the distance shimmers and the black center mountains hang unbearably in the distance. At last there’s Barstow, and more desert until at last the mountains rise up again, the good mountains, and 66 winds through them. Then suddenly a pass, and below the beautiful valley, below orchards and vineyards and little houses, and in the distance a city. And, oh, my God, it’s over.”
Steinbeck is, of course, describing the southward view from what we now know as the I – 15 freeway, probably near Lenwood. His “good mountains” are the San Gabriels and the pass happens to be the Cajon Pass. The San Gabriel Mountains seem to have always held an allure as the “good mountains” to head towards and be in. I wonder what John Steinbeck’s connection to the San Gabriels happened to be… More to follow.