What a trip!
23.09.2013 - 23.09.2013
We have had a growing interest in the Oregon Trail since moving to the Northwest a few years ago. This trip of wandering the West has allowed us to explore some of the sites we've only read about up to now.
In an earlier post, I mentioned the National Oregon/California Trail Center in Montpelier, Idaho. The volunteers there do a great job of storytelling, and making one feel that you really are leaving everything behind on a possibly fool-hardy trip to unknowns in Oregon or California.
We spent a couple of hours at Fort Laramie, in eastern Wyoming, exploring the restored buildings, and understanding the importance of this trading post and army outpost as a welcome respite to wagon train travelers coming across the prairies. In the restored and furnished general store, I could visualize the line of women waiting to buy coffee and flour, the men examining the leather straps and saddles. (And, the Indian activities at this fort were important, but rather sad.)
Just a few miles up the road, outside Gurnsey, Wyoming, are the best-preserved wagon ruts yet found. The wagons were forced to travel single-file through narrow sandstone passages above the Platte River, and we actually walked in those same deep ruts that the hopefuls did 150 years ago. Just 2 miles down the road is Register Cliff State Monument, a sandstone cliff in which wagon train travelers carved their names, some the date they passed here, some the state they came from. It is interesting for me to note that the state most represented is Ohio!
The following day, we drove southwest of Casper, Wyoming to see Independence Rock. This is a significant "milepost" of sorts for the wagon pioneers, an easily recognizable granite rock, probably no more than 50 or 60 feet high and about two football fields in length. The pioneers thought that if they reached this rock by the 4th of July, they would likely make it over the Rockies before winter set in. We walked the entire circumference of the rock, again imagining the wagons camped down near the Sweetwater River, and celebrating their accomplishments at making it this far, trying to put aside the fears of the arduous route ahead over the mountains.
We crisscrossed the old wagon trails several times in Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming. Each time our respect for these emigrants has deepened.