3. First Ride
The departure of the first mail from San Francisco was a bit of a farce. The letters were actually carried by ship to Sacramento but to mark the occasion and satisfy the large crowd gathered outside the Alta Telegraph Company, James Randell threw the mail over a flag-bedecked horses saddle and tried to mount- from the wrong side. His mount objected and after the onlookers had pointed out his mistake, he got on the right side and to rousing cheers galloped down to the steamer Antelope and passed the container to the purser.
The situation in Sacramento was very different. At 2:45am Billy Hamilton set off without fanfare in pouring rain in conditions he described as black as the inside of a cow. He made four fast changes at the stations leading up into the Sierra Nevada (Snowy Mountains) and handed the mochila to Warren Upson a full half hour early. The path over the mountains was comparatively well trodden being used by mule trains moving to the new silver mines in Nevada, but this night they were all taking shelter from what proved to be one of the worst storms in local history.
The wind driven snow piled higher and higher and visibility was near zero. In places where the trail ran along the edge of a canyon there was a real risk of going over but Warren battled on wearing out four horses by the time he reached flatter country on the other side of the divide and could change one more time for the sprint to Carson City. The townspeople there could hardly believe he had come over the mountains and only a little behind schedule. Confidence in the Ponys ability to operate rose for if it could get through in these conditions nothing could stop it.