Western Exploration

“The West was to me a region of buffalo and wild Indians, and to go there required real courage, but I never feared anything and so determined to go.” - Marcus E. Jones (“Early Botanizing.” Desert, Vol. 2. June, 1930. )
In the late 19
th century, traveling across the vast stretches of the western United States was no easy task. Newly developed railroads connected certain hubs at which Jones was able to meet up with his outfit and driver, but nearly all of his botanical expeditions into the backcountry required extensive travel by horse and wagon, in most cases at least hundreds of miles. Often Jones would leave his outfit at camp to botanize in less accessible areas, walking up to twenty miles each day in search of specimens. Shorter, more treacherous routes could only be traveled on horseback, with gathered specimens strapped onto the back of a mule.
Marcus E. Jones Bicycle Botanizing
                                Click image to enlarge

The bicycle, which gained popularity at the end of the 19th century, allowed Jones more freedom in his expeditions, since it allowed him to cover longer distances without the need for a driver or wagon outfit. Still, cycling between towns through the desert heat on unpaved roads—if there were roads at all—was no leisurely ride. Jones described such an expedition in the November 1933 issue of Desert (see right).

Jones briefly made use of a motorcycle in 1913; though after a serious accident in which he broke several bones and dragged the “machine” for miles before he found help, he abandoned it and purchased a Ford Model-T later that year. “Lizzie” made covering long distances much easier for Jones, and he used it for most expeditions up until his death.

Building upon the foundation set by early American botanists, Jones’ work offered a more complete understanding of the flora of the western United States, including areas that have since been developed. In addition to their botanical contributions, these early botanical explorers, Jones included, also did much to document the geography of isolated regions of the West.