John Steinbeck begins his novella with a description of his beloved Salinas Valley that is filled with animals and the beauty and permanence of nature.
It is a rich, fecund area with a river that runs "deep and green." There is a permanence to this lush valley that has warm water, water that twinkles over the "yellow sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool," and all sorts of animals and men and boys come to swim and camp at this pool that a myriad of animals drink from, as well.
On one side of the river, "the golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan mountains," but the other is green with willow trees whose branches catch the debris from the winter waters that rush to the pool. Among these green willows, there is a hard, worn path that many a man and boy have made. The boys swim in the summer days, and the men camp during the nights.
The visual imagery of color and the tactile imagery of the sandy banks and hard paths of men and boys, the audio imagery of words like "crisp" leaves that the humans and animals alike walk on, along with that of the rushing waters all suggest a peaceful reflection of life. Thus, with the water, animals, and mountains as a backdrop, there is a sense of life and permanence. It is no wonder that George Milton wishes to camp here before hiking out to the ranch where the job is only temporary and there is no privacy and little peace.