Enroute from Bruneau Idaho to Hood River Oregon I stopped in at the Oregon Train National Historic Interpretive Center. It was a very well done visitor center celebrating the many pioneers that made the journey across the country on the Oregon Trail.
If today’s travelers were to undertake a four-month, 2,000-mile journey on foot without the aid of modern conveniences, many would be in for a harsh reality. Despite the lingering romance with which many view the emigrant tide on the Oregon Trail, the journey was tough.
“Crazyass passion is the staple of life and persistence its nourishing force. Without them, you cannot cross the trail.” – Rinker Buck, The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey
Navigation was a constant challenge, there were “maps” created by previous pioneers, various rivers and landmarks along the trail as well as celestial navigation was used to guide their way and gauge their progress on the journey.
They also followed paths that had been gone over many times by other travelers before them. Wagon ruts that were weathered away over time but still visible to the eye became important for navigation west.
By the time the last wagon trains crossed in the 1880s, the mass migration on the Oregon Trail had left an indelible mark on the American landscape. Decades of wagon & foot traffic carved up certain sections of the trail, leaving imprints in stone and wearing down grasslands so much that nothing grows on them to this day. These pioneer wagon ruts can still be seen around the interpretive center and in all six of the states that once encompassed the trail.
Standing there looking out at the wagon ruts still visible on the landscape was a wonderful experience.
“True navigation begins in the human heart. It’s the most important map of all.” – Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey
We have certainly come a long way from those early forms of navigation. Today I have great paper maps and a pretty much endless supply of information thanks to the Internet. Planning my travels and navigating from place to place I don’t need to rely on wagon ruts and the stars. I was however finding some challenges as a solo traveler navigating a large RV down the road while reading and following a mapped out route.
“Flying solo, you have a fair workload. I’m not only flying the balloon but doing the navigation, communications, repairing the burners, taking care of the equipment.” – Steve Fossett
Recently I purchased a new Rand McNally RV GPS, while still learning its little quirks it has been extremely helpful when traveling from place to place. The unit allows me to enter information about my rig including height, weight and length to hopefully warn in advance and route around things like low overpasses and bridges. So far it has been a positive purchase and one that I would recommend to other RV operators.
Even with the addition to an electronic navigator I love to refer back to maps and a variety of apps and programs in planning my nomadic existence. I tend to be a compulsive planner and generally make plans and reservations in advance of arriving at a destination. This has actually resulted in cancelling or changing reservations several times when I realized that I wanted to stay in a place for longer than originally planned. As I travel up to Alaska my goal is to be more spontaneous and only make advance reservations in places like the National Parks (Banff, Jasper, Denali) and spend more time “winging it”. Will report back on how that goes!
In the meantime, one of the things I learned at the Escapees Event was how to embed maps into my blog. You can now check out where I have been and where I am heading by clicking on the “Maps” tab at the top of the blog. Even better, the maps contain black boxes which show where I stayed and blue icons that link back to blog pages written about those locations. Add that to my newfound video capabilities and it truly is amazing what you can do on a blog! Below is a current route map – check it out! Always fun to meet up with folks on the road and this should make it easier to do so.
Spending this week in Hood River – a beautiful place to land and one that is high on my list of potential homesites one day. More about Hood River experiences in my next posts.