Alcander, who preferred to be called "A.J.", graduated from Townsend Academy when he was 16 years old. At that time he embarked on a 35-day journey to Brunswick, Missouri, to fulfill his desire to see the western states. After visiting Leavenworth, Kansas, he returned to Brunswick to engage in merchandising. In May of 1848 he went home to Vermont, and when he turned 21, he started a commission business in Boston, Massachusetts.
By early December of 1848, news of the gold discovery in California reached Boston. Bayley, accustomed to adventure and roughing it on his trip to Missouri and Kansas, decided in short order to head for the west coast. He organized a company that purchased the ship Edward Everett, and they set sail for San Francisco from Boston on January 11, 1849, an arduous six-month voyage around the tip of South America. He had every intention of being part of the mining efforts in California, so when he and his company dropped anchor in San Francisco on July 6, 1849, they secured teams and set off for the Mokelumne River mines. In a few weeks, the group disbanded.
For the next couple of years, Bayley spent his time between prospecting in and around the mining districts of Hangtown (now Placerville) and Coloma and engaging in commerce in Sacramento, where he opened a storage house at one point and established a law office at another. He settled in Coloma in March of 1850, where James Marshall had unwittingly touched off the great California Gold Rush by discovering gold in January of 1848. Bayley took charge of the Winters Hotel there, to the tune of $500 a month.