My takeaways?…I think it did a good job of showing WHO went – eg farmers, not necessarily merchants. Immigrants. People from the midwest, not the east. Young(er). Also, I appreciated they way they broke down the different geographic parts of the trail. I took pride in the fact that most of the detailed first-hand accounts were written by women (see feminist curator’s take on the left). I really appreciated the last section about what happened when they got to Oregon City. What happened next? Right! Thousands of pioneers came over decades. Weren’t the best claims taken in the first month or so? What then? I am still wondering why estimated numbers of emigrants varied so much from year to year – for example in 1850 very few, while in the previous and subsequent years, lots. We stumped the Sunday staffers with our question on that. Anyone?
Though you can hop out of your car and see the RUTS right off the highway on your way out, the staff said we should take the hike down to them – .8 miles there and back through the same sagebrush the pioneers traversed. It was late in the day, and hot, but we booked it, to avoid getting back before closing time.
It may have colored my “experience” of the RUTS a bit, but I wasn’t overwhelmed with a sense of “x happened right here” that I expected. Maybe it’s just too big an event to get that feeling about. Maybe it was the unseasonably hot weather and the prospect of a mile hike back up the hill. Our water and peanut M&M supply was low. I don’t take this lightly as I am a big believer in the power of “being there” to help you understand history. Nothing alarming, just a little twist on the power, which I will continue to drill down on. Still overall, a really cool place and way to learn about it.
The guy doing the demo said there was an old Indian who came out of the mountains in 19-oh something, and became a sort of artist in residence at a museum in San Francisco, and it’s because of that old Indian that anyone alive today knows anything about flint knapping. Hmm. We asked his wife, who was sitting nearby, if she had any dangerous hobbies, and she said camping, so we quizzed them on places to camp as we headed toward Idaho. Score. See upcoming post on Hells Canyon.
So, just to add some authenticity to this experience, we had our own little pioneer mishap with our trailer’s tongue jack (see similar: tall thin cylindrical thing in the middle with a handle in the pic at right) when we were leaving our campsite that morning. Let’s just say the tongue jack (and trailer) is 50 years old. While Ben was turning it (thank god for the laws of physics) to lift the 4,200 pound trailer so we could place it on the truck’s hitch, it slipped, again, and again. Damn, physics. I of course screamed and
called (not literally as there was no cell service) for AAA, then took a walk, at Ben’s request. He in the meantime pulled out two other jacks (for the car) and placed some legos (not really, but sort of) between one and the trailer tongue, so he could lift it high enough to get it on the truck. There were some rope harnesses involved as well. Sorry, Ben would have killed me if I took an actual picture of it. So we have a new tongue jack, an electric one. Take that pioneers! Off we go to Hells Canyon, then Idaho, a reverse migration?