Following the Oregon Trail

I am awestruck by the early pioneers who traveled west on the Oregon Trail. SO when givent he chance the kids and I took off for a weekend following the Oregon Trail.

I grew up playing the ever so infamous game “Oregon Trail“; in fact upon our journey this past weekend, we actually spotted a copy in a museum.

We really didn’t go to far, perhaps the same distance the pioneers would have traveled in the same amount of days, but we saw so much. History came a live before us and our appreciation for those who had walked the trail prior grew.

Before leaving I had ordered a set of binoculars for the kids in case we saw any wildlife (which is more common than not when visiting Wyoming). It turns out they were handy for seeing long distances from the top of Independence Rock, and for viewing a flock of birds flying over head. The kids loved playing with them and I enjoyed the views as well. They were easy to carry and perfectly sized for small hands. So before I continue with the story of our adventure; a link to purchase your own set off www.Amazon.com.

We started by visiting Valore Buffalo Jump just over the Wyoming Line, and although it wasn’t part of the Oregon Trail, it held a history of the Native Americans who traveled this land long before the pioneers, and whom surely circled a few wagon trails along the way. We learned to throw an addle and dug for arrow heads, while learning about the way of life for my ancestors.

Traveling from there we began a driving route along bits and pieces of the Oregon Trail, seeing markers and signs telling of different stories of those wagons that came through, until we reached Casper where we encountered our first museum. We walked around a log cabin and climbed inside a tepee, while gazing out over the city (imagining the vast valley the pioneers must have seen). We watched a short movie and saw mounted animals and statues of the time period of the wagon trains. We played with scaled down wooden wagons and ferry’s and sent a telegram.

We journeyed a little further to Fort Collins and wandered from log cabin to log cabin. The fawns jumped along before us, making the time lapse seem less distant. We walked the path in the blazing sun towards the log bridge and read the marker posts on the way. Thankful for the air conditioning in our car upon our return, feeling the emotions rise inside for those women in long cotton dresses, trudging along in the same heat all those years ago.

The nest day we drove further down the road, past lakes and red cliffs till we rounded a corner and saw ahead of us Independence Rock. On place I remember fondly from that childhood game. The music was playing softly in my mind as we drove up on it, and I could see the picture of the little girl sitting in front of it.

We quickly learned that the rock was so named because the goal of the traveler was to reach it by July 4th. (Being that we made it on the 15th I believe we would have made the mountain crossing before the blizzards hit).

The rock was huge and at first seemed daunting but we found a spot to climb and made it to the top. We wandered the rocks formations for an hour, reading names and looking at dates. We took our binoculars out and gazed across the horizon. It was beautiful. I could imagine the feeling of relief the pioneers must have felt seeing that rock and reading the names knowing others had made it.

We then traveled to Martin’s Cove, where so many Mormon Travelers had become trapped int he freezing cold, using hand carts. I couldn’t help but cry, thinking of the helplessness they must have felt and reading the stories of those souls who did what they could to help those traveling on foot. The museum was simple but beautiful and the hosts were friendly and helpful. You could pick out a hand cart and pull your spouse or children down the path towards Devil’s Gate, if you wished to experience the past hands on.

Devil’s Gate was our final stop, as work was calling my name and I knew I had to get back. It was a magnificent gap in the rocks of the mountain that the pioneers once passed through or around. We watched it from afar, as our time had been cut short. I do hope to return again soon and walk the trail, to experience the gate up close, and to further my journey along the trail.

There are so many beautiful and awe-inspiring locations in our great nation, but to walk the footsteps of those who founded, pushed forward and expanded it, was truly one of the greatest journeys we have taken.

 

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