The setting is outdoors on the bank of the Salinas River not far from the town of Salinas, which is still the biggest urban settlement in the area. It is about 125 miles south of San Francisco and is a very rich agricultural area. John Steinbeck grew up in this region and often wrote about it in his stories and novels. George and Lennie have found a pleasant place to camp for the night. They have built a fire. Steinbeck evidently chose to open his novel in a beautiful natural setting to serve as contrast with the unnatural world inhabited by the itinerant farm workers who all live together in a bunkhouse and spend ten hours a day working for low wages and plain food. The fact that they are only camping highlights their homeless condition. Steinbeck also establishes this setting because Lennie will come back to hide here after accidentally killing Curley's wife. George will be the only person who knows where to find him because he gives Lennie explicit instructions to come here and hide if he should get into any trouble at the ranch where they are going to start work the next day.