As I prepared to write Where the Trail Ends
, Karly, Kiki, and I set off from Portland to explore what
was left of the Oregon Trail. More than three hundred thousand Americans traveled west
on this trail, adults and children alike walking the two thousand miles from Missouri
to the Willamette Valley. The girls and I decided we would drive instead of walk
My daughters have never joined me for a research trip
before, and they enjoyed
dressing up like pioneers at the Baker City museum, swimming in Idaho’s hot
springs, and taking a simulated wagon ride with a “real” wagon master. The five
days of driving? Well, they didn’t enjoy the first day so much, but after Monday,
their imaginations ignited and they spent the rest of the trip telling stories,
enjoying the scenery, and inventing new games. Who knew two kids could spend
hours playing with a McDonald’s French fry box? It’s a car…a boat…a plane.
by Karly Dobson (age 9)
The first thing I liked about the Oregon Trail was sitting
in the car watching the buitiful
sunset! It was sooo magestice. The
second thing was watching the cute little prairie dogs running all around
Shoshone Falls. The last thing I liked about the Oregon Trail was of coarse,
being with my mom and Kiki.
We drove almost eighteen hundred miles, making it to Wyoming
before we turned our “wagon” around. I honestly don’t know how so many families—along
with their wagons and livestock—crossed over the raging rivers and towering mountains
into Oregon Country. My admiration for these emigrants grew with every mile we drove.
The children on the trail worked hard, many of them counting
the rotations of a wagon wheel as they walked so the captain could keep track of how
far their party had journeyed. Depending on the terrain, they walked ten to
twenty miles each day. For six months. Adults would often give children coffee beans to chew so they wouldn’t fall asleep and get injured. Thirty thousand people lost their lives on this arduous
journey due to accidents, drowning, and cholera—one grave it is said for every
eighty yards of the trail.
by Kiki Dobson (age 8)
I was on the Oregon Trale and I saw horses.
We staed in hotels and I saw cowboys.
Last but not lest, I lern that oxen are strong.
The more stories the girls and I heard, the less we
complained. After all, our wagon party enjoyed pizza and a swimming pool every
night before we slept in our hotel. The pioneers spent hours cooking beans and drying bison, but we didn’t
even have to get out of our car to buy a Happy Meal.
In 1840, there were only four hundred Americans in Oregon
Country and many of those came by sea. It was thought the mountains would be
impassable for Americans to cross, but once the first wagons made it across,
Americans flooded the land jointly owned by the United States and Great
Britain. Most emigrants left their possessions behind in Missouri, trading
furniture and household goods for oxen, bacon, molasses, ammunition, cooking
stoves, and beans. Some people still attempted to take a piano, headboard, or
heavy trunk in their wagon, but those items rarely made it across the
Even though they arrived with little, these resilient Americans
tamed the wilderness in this new country and built homes to protect them from
the winter rain before they began harvesting the fertile land. In 1859, Oregon
became the 33rd state.
Our journey hardly compared with those pioneers who were coming to Oregon for the first time, but still it was a journey none of us will forget. Like those who came before us, we traveled together, ate together, worked together and played together. And it's that togetherness, perhaps, that helps us do things we never thought possible—like walking two thousand miles to Oregon Country...or writing a novel about those who did.
Karly's Video Tour
(with her sister inserting a few of her own comments)