Saturday, October 10, 2009
Wagon Train Ride on the Oregon Trail, 1994
Richard and I, along with our son Ryan and then girlfriend Tere decided to vacation together back in 1994. We headed to Wyoming with our destination point being Atlantic City, Wyoming. Historic South Pass City is old mining town, it is the closest thing to Atlantic City and can be found on a AAA map. South Pass City was a boom town, boasting 2,000 inhabitants in 1871. By 1875 South Pass City was nearly deserted. Both places are south and west of Lander, Wyoming. Atlantic City pretty much consists of a dozen houses, two bars and a couple of A frames for overnight guests. It is located in the middle of Bureau of Land Management country and cattle are seen grazing right outside the bar/restaurant's door.
We often learn lessons in life that might be considered by others before an event is planned. I, however, think only the best about anything and never consider that it could be any thing different that what is advertised. It was in the AAA book afterall! The company we were doing the Wagon Train ride with, is no longer in business, I don't wonder why. In all seriousness, we had a great time. Just not exactly what we maybe envisioned.
When we arrived at the starting point our first hint of things revealed themselves. It was a fallen down house (shack) and barn. Electric fence pens for horses with no grass (what am I thinking we are in the desert). One wagon, a team of horses and some saddle horses. The couple were very nice, but lived in Mississippi and come to find out they leased this bit of land for their "Wagon Train Ride on the Oregon Trail" business. It was later discovered they lease these horses and probably all other components to host their business. It is not to say we didn't have a wonderful time, we did, but things are not always what they seem and that is the lesson.
The plans were to take a Wagon Train trip on the Oregon Trail, which consisted of an entire day of traveling in a covered wagon. We made stops at historic landmarks along the way and after hours of travel we arrived at an aspen grove with tipi lodges to spend the night. The road we traveled still holds the scars of the early pioneers, the wagon wheels etched themselves in the hard desert floor. This is also the trail the Mormons used to pull their handcarts across this country on their journey to Utah. One of the landmarks we stopped to view was the site of one group of Mormon travelers that lost their lives due to the onset of early winter. Unprepared for the cold of winter, they died on this open and windy plain. As romantic as the west seems, it is raw and unforgiving. I respect those who survived and those that still live out there. It is a hard life. The sun and wind and cold and wind is constant. And yet, it is some of the most beautiful country you'd ever want to see. The sky was always beautiful, day or night. The land makes you wonder how anything can survive.
Our host for the covered wagon trip were very nice, as I think back I wonder, "did they know any more about the area than we already knew?" Were we just "easterners" looking for a connection to the history of the west? Today, I'd answer yes......... we wanted to know and experience a few days of what life might have been like, we didn't even scratch the surface to really knowing.
We had wonderful meals, campfires and we even were treated with a visitor who showed us knapping. That is the art of making arrowheads. He was married to an Shoshone native woman and they lived on the Wind River Indian Reservation at Lander. He was an artist and we were invited to their home and his studio after the wagon train ride was over. We found when we visited them, they kept two beautiful bobcats and trapped beaver to feed them. His studio was wonderful, with many beautiful items from jewelery to antler and horn items, his name was Tom Lucas and he was quite a craftsman.
While camping in this aspen grove, I was thrilled to discover the red -shafted woodpecker, a kin to our eastern yellow-shafted woodpecker. This was my first experience sleeping in tipi lodges, I loved it! (When I looked at pictures to post with this, I laughed at the tipi's, our host's had no idea how to put up a tipi lodge.) Richard and Ryan brought their guns and set up targets (cans) to shoot at and they had so much fun. In the late afternoon, we noticed a four wheeler coming our way......... a couple were riding the four wheeler and they were drawn to our tipi lodges. When they got off the ATV Richard was sure he was meeting Annie Oakley! She had on a holster with guns in them! The couple pretty much hung out with the boys and continued to shoot, while the women tended the fire and cooked. I'm thinking I would not have been a very happy pioneer, I wanted to hang out with the horses and the boys too!