|Modern day "prairie schooners" make their way easily up and down hills and through mountain passes|
These two water photos are all I have to show our progress for this part of our road trip. However, I was constantly aware that some of the routes we traveled were along the historic Oregon Trail. As we tired from a long day in the car, I couldn't help but think of those long-ago covered wagon travelers, inching across the map toward a new life in an unknown and strange land.
As a child, I was always fascinated by the idea of a family packing a Conestoga wagon and heading west. In our neighborhood in San Francisco I got my friends to play covered wagon; one child would sit on a gate pretending to be the driver holding the reins of the pretend oxen; the other kids would sit behind and would be the family.
Here is a photo of the interior of one of the wagons that might have traveled the Oregon Trail. I've borrowed it from the website for the National Oregon/California Trail Center at Montpelier, Idaho. According to the Center, a wagon needed to be strong enough to carry a load and passengers for the five month journey, yet light enough not to exhaust the oxen pulling it. The wagons had no springs: I thought about that as we comfortably and safely drove over smoothly paved highways, up and down mountains, and over rivers.
According to the Wikipedia article on the Oregon Trail, the main Oregon Trail was 2000 miles long, an east-west large-wheeled wagon route that ran through the present-day states of Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon. Again, from the Wikipedia article: From the early to mid-1830s and particularly through the epoch years 1846–1869, the Oregon Trail and its many offshoots were used by about 400,000 settlers, ranchers, farmers, miners, and businessmen and their families.
If bouncing along unpaved, rutted trails for months at a time wasn't difficult enough, the dangers were many: River crossings were most dangerous, but folks traveling this way were also at risk of being run over by the heavy wagons or shot when loaded firearms were accidentally discharged. Weather, diseases, stampeding animals, snakebite--the list of hazards goes on. See the article, Trail Basics: Dangers for more.
Traveling in our little Prius, by contrast, was quiet and comfortable. We had an adjustable cabin temperature, comfy seats, GPS apps to guide our way, access to constant weather and news reports, and even an altimeter to figure out the height of the mountain passes. We could stop to admire the view or to get a snack whenever we wanted. I wish we might have invited one of those travelers from the past to ride along with us.