Thursday, September 20, 2012

On the Trail of Pioneers

We had a great opportunity for a school field trip last week. It was up in the mountains behind our little homestead.

In Oregon, school students are required to learn their state history in fourth grade. We were a bit late and studied it last year in fifth grade. Oregon's most interesting history is from the mid-nineteenth century when pioneers were arriving to settle the state via the Oregon Trail, which passes through here, over Mt. Hood to the Willamette Valley on the western side. Last spring we went to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center to learn about the difficulties the pioneers faced in making the trip past the mountains. They had to choose between using the Columbia River or traveling the Barlow Road over the mountain.

Last week some hearty folks set up a pioneer re-enactment camp up on the Barlow Road. We headed out early one morning to find them.

A narrow paved road led us through the Mt. Hood National Forest, deep into the woods. This pair of deer was not a bit shy about having visitors.

The camp was set up at the exact place where the Barlow Road crossed the White River.

Oregon is proud of its heritage and its place in U.S. pioneer history.

The reenactment camp was made very authentically and the volunteers were dressed in period clothing. There were six stations set up for demonstrations of different tasks that nineteenth century travelers had to perform and the kids got to try their hand at everything.

Like making fire using a flint and steel.

This home-made contraption was for making rope.

The boys were curious about making one of these for themselves.

Rope was handy on the trail when they had to lower wagons over cliffs on the mountains.

At one station the kids got to try their hand at carding wool.

Another station focused on the archeological study going on in that area near the White River. They talked about all the possibilities for finding evidence of the people who passed through the area and the volunteer showed us things that had been found.

The final station we visited had toys that nineteenth century children played with on the Oregon Trail.

Before we left for home, we made a side trip up the mountain to a spot I had visited before.
I tweeted this photo to Ree Drummond. I thought she might like to know where this is for future reference.

We got to this section of the road, higher in elevation than the camp, but unfortunately it was closed due to a bridge that had been washed out by spring slides. We didn't make it to the pioneer woman's grave.

But we did find an artisan spring and had some pure mountain water.

We again have to recognize how privileged we are to live in this beautiful and fascinating place.


  1. Living in a place that is rich in history is indeed a privilege. Learning of the struggles of the pioneers keeps us mindful of the blessings we take for granted every single day. The rope contraption would have been my favorite, too. To think they had to lower their wagons over cliffs on the mountains with rope! Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Your comment about The Pioneer Woman's grave cracked me up! I'm sure Ree got a kick out of it too. I felt like a real pioneer woman the last couple days when my leaf lard arrived as 5# of pig fat. I now know how to render lard and I never even knew that I wanted to learn! What a great experience your field trip was for you and the boys. Oregon does indeed have a rich history.

  3. Is this an annual event? What a fun field trip that would be. I grew up near Jacksonville, in S. Oregon, and we had some fun field trips to places like this down there.


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