Saturday, June 16, 2018

End of the Journey

     After driving some 3800 miles, we arrived at the end of the Oregon Trail, located in The Dalles, OR. The emigrants were headed to Oregon City and the Willamette valley, another hundred miles farther on. But the official end-of-trail marker is here because for the last hundred miles there is no trail.

Marker erected in The Dalles, OR, by Ezra Meeker who retraced the trail in 1906

     The emigrants had a choice to make in The Dalles. They had to get over the Cascades, which at times run right down to the river, so they could not follow along the banks. One choice was to load their wagons onto a raft and float down the river. Unfortunately, they often had to leave their oxen behind ... animals they needed to work their farms in the Willamette valley. But with or without the oxen, the river was pretty wild in the 1840s, before all the dams were built, and a lot of the rafts hung up on the rapids and were broken apart. The river route was a dangerous choice.

View today of the Columbia from The Dalles

     The alternative was the Barlow Road, constructed in 1846 by Sam Barlow and some 40-odd men, which skirted around Mount Hood. But this route also proved a rough ride. It took an extra week or ten days and involved a steep and exhausting climb for the already exhausted people and animals.

Brave the Columbia, or trek around Mt. Hood?

     We ourselves couldn't make that choice. There's no way to get our car down the river, and we were told that while some of the old Barlow Road still exists, it's pretty rough, even for an all-wheel-drive vehicle.

     Still, we couldn't help but wonder, traveling all this way in a modern four-door sedan, how the emigrants did it. By most estimates, some 30,000 people died on the trail, mostly from cholera and other diseases, others from accidents and a few by Indian attack. But most of them made it -- some 500,000 of them during the 1840s and '50s, all in search of a new life in Oregon, California or Utah.

Two modern-day pioneers
     It was a tough journey -- for them, not for us. But they were up to the challenge. And it made us wonder if we modern Americans are prepared for the challenges we face, which sometimes seem intractable and unsolvable, but which, let's face it, are less daunting than what our forebearers faced on the Oregon Trail.


DJan said...

Glad you made it, safe and sound. And thank you so much for the picture of the two of you. I don't think I've never seen one before! :-)

Barbara said...

Great posts. I had a wonderful time

b+ (Retire In Style Blog) said...

We have stood at the end over looking the Ocean many times. I never cease to be amazed at the journey. We have actually gone up over the LOLO Pass in Montana to follow the Lewis and Clark expedition. Our explorers were either very courageous or very naive. I often wonder which it was. I hope you loved our state as much as we do. Thank you for coming to visit.


Red said...

I enjoyed you description of the trip and it's link to history. They had to be tough.

Jono said...

Thanks for a wonderful travelogue. I also meant to ask you does your wife know about that cute chick you are traveling with?
I am glad you didn't contract cholera, also.

Juhli said...

Thanks for sharing your journey and a great end of the trail picture. I think the pioneers were often desperate for a better life although I'm sure a few were in it for the adventure.

Kay G. said...

Amazing to think of what the settlers endured on their journey to the Oregon Trail. Americans are tough, we should remember that! said...

Glad you made it safe and sound and didn't try to forge the Columbia River. So do you fly back now or stay and visit the area??
Cute picture of you both :)

gigihawaii said...

Great photo of the two of you intrepid pioneers. Next, on to Mars.

Diane Dahli said...

Glad you are back! Your trip was a great way to gain an understanding of your history. I'm currently working on my ancestry, and would love to retrace the route my family took many years ago to pioneer Canada's North West. It won't happen in the near future, so I'll aim for another time!

Rebecca Olkowski said...

Did you make it to the Willamette Valley? There have some amazing wineries there. Sounds like an amazing trip.

Jennifer said...

I often wonder about the grit of our generations as well. Then I realize it's still there. Our parents showed it during WWII. Our generation did during Vietnam. It keeps going. In each generation, there is that group who stands up and shows a grit and determination that isn't seen in the rest. The challenges are different, but the grit is still there.

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Mary ~ Reflections Around the Campfire said...

What an epic journey, Tom! Thanks so much for letting us tag along with you!

Celia said...

Thanks for the amazing journey. Every time I drive the Columbia Gorge I think about how people got here and where they all went. Tough, determined people.

DDD said...

Lovely couple!
Thanks for sharing your amazing journey

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