Hiking up Horse Creek Canyon towards Matterhorn Peak, it is surprisingly easy
to identify the exact locations that Jack Kerouac describes in his account
of the hike in "The Dharma Bums." For example, the big boulder by which they
made camp is easily found. To be absolutely sure, I talked to Gary Snyder after
one of his poetry readings, and he confirmed to me, with a
big Zen smile, that I had the right spot.
In Kerouac's own words: "That rock we were camped against was a marvel. Here now the earth was a splendorous thing—snow on the ground, in melting patches in the grass, and gurgling creeks, and the huge silent rock mountains on both sides, and a wind blowing, and the smell of heather."
As a matter of fact, not only can you easily identify the big boulder; in addition, there is only one place to have a campfire there, with a little natural rocky bench to sit on. So you can sit there in this lovely little mountain valley, surrounded by a dramatic jumble of huge walls, ridges, peaks, and pinnacles piled on top of each other, and know with absolute certainty that your butt is in the exact same location where Jack Kerouac's and Gary Snyder's butts were 50 years ago.
Please note: The population of California has more than tripled since Jack Kerouac and Gary Snyder camped here. The area is now part of the Hoover Wilderness, and the Forest Service has put certain restrictions in place regarding overnight stays and, in particular, regarding campfires. If you don't understand that these restrictions make perfect sense and that you should abide by them, then you have understood nothing of Jack Kerouac's and Gary Snyder's spiritual heritage.