Eighteen years have passed since Sam Morgan came West from Pennsylvania and learned the perilous business of trapping in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains.
Now, in 1840, he seems to face a bleak future. The fur trade has played out and he must find other means of making a living.
Sam decides to return to California with his daughter Esperanza and start a new life. The great golden land represents a bitter memory — his beloved Crow Indian wife Meadowlark died there in childbirth — but friends convince him that his destiny lies on the Pacific shore.
Meadowlark’s uncle, Flat Dog, his family, and Hannibal MacKye, the half-Delaware mountain man, join Sam and Esperanza for the journey west, where they hope to trade for a herd of Appaloosa horses to sell at a profit in California.
At Fort Hall on the Oregon Trail, Sam and his people encounter a terrified woman, Lei Palua, who has escaped the clutches of a psychopath called Kanaka Boy, whose gang of killers and rapists has been terrifying Indian villages in the Northwest.
Sam Morgan and his people take Lei Palua under their wing unaware that her one-time lover and now bloodthirsty nemesis dogs her trail, vowing to kill her and all who stand in his way.
SAM MORGAN HEARD his partner, Hannibal, get up and step to the dead fire. Morning by morning, they took turns rising first, using cold fingers to get a little flame going and start some coffee.
First light would come along within a few minutes. They both had an instinct for first light, and it would arrive with the first sip of coffee.
Sam savored the warmth of his buffalo robes and the pad of his folded blanket coat under his head. In the aspens the mare Paladin and the other horses chuffed from time to time, clomped, and dreamed of a country free of horse