janet fisher~writer

Following strong women through history

Category Archives: Backtracking the Oregon Trail

Backtracking the Oregon Trail

Afterword I hope you’ve enjoyed our journey retracing Martha’s footsteps as we backtracked the Oregon Trail. As noted in the beginning it took us five days to cover the miles that took them five months. We streaked across modern highways in an air-conditioned car. Martha walked all the way, one step at a time. She …

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Backtracking the Oregon Trail #9

Day Five ~ Back to the Beginning The land was mostly dry and dusty. . . . The Platte River making its lazy way between sandy bluffs, curving along a wide swath of bottomland. The shallow stream could sometimes be as much as two miles wide and a few inches deep. . . . Islands and sandbars, quicksand. Muddy, …

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Backtracking the Oregon Trail #8

Day Four ~ The North Platte River North Platte River looking west Martha looked up the long dry slope they had to climb. Bluffs came right to the river’s edge here, so they couldn’t pass. They had to go around and that meant up. She clasped a child in each hand and started walking. . . . Thank …

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Backtracking the Oregon Trail #7

Day Four ~ Chimney Rock Her left boot was getting a hole in it, letting the gritty dust in to nestle between sole and foot and bite in worse than the grit outside the sole. . . . Step after step . . . past natural wonders . . . Chimney Rock . . . Scotts Bluff. . . . She couldn’t get her breath. She was three months pregnant. …

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Backtracking the Oregon Trail #6

Day Four ~ Scotts Bluff She walked past natural wonders . . . Chimney Rock . . . Scotts Bluff . . . the Devil’s Gate. The oppressive heat sucked her energy. Dust filled her nose and eyes, even her ears. Sounds dimmed—the creaking wheels. Cattle bawling. Thudding hoofbeats. Ropes squeaking. . . . —A Place of Her Own: The Legacy of Oregon Pioneer Martha Poindexter Maupin, Janet Fisher. (Guilford, …

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Backtracking the Oregon Trail #5

Day Three ~ The High Plains Wind whistled across the high desert. The sun shone warm on her back, not a cloud in the sky. Nights had been cold, though, everything white with frost in the mornings. The acrid smell of sage clutched her nose. She’d been tasting it for days. The scrubby plants dotted …

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Backtracking the Oregon Trail #4

Day Three ~ Fort Hall Martha batted away mosquitoes as she sat in the shade with the girls and several other women and children outside the sturdy structure. Fort Hall. What a relief to find this semblance of civilization so far out in the wilderness. It also meant they’d covered a fair amount of their …

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Backtracking the Oregon Trail #3

Day Two ~ The High Desert The tattered wagon covers didn’t look white anymore. Gray dust coated every surface, working its way down into every nook. . . . Animals and people alike looked thin. So little grass. Even when they heard about grass ahead, they’d find much of it eaten off already by the …

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Backtracking the Oregon Trail #2

Day Two ~ The Blue Mountains [The roads] were harder than before. Steeper. Rockier. Dustier. Rivers wilder. There was an occasional tree now, sometimes wooded areas even, with tall conifers and cottonwoods. . . . The trail here was littered with the bones of oxen and fresher dead beasts—along with discarded trunks and furniture—and another …

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Backtracking the Oregon Trail #1

Introduction I recently returned from a road trip with my daughter Christiane and granddaughter Calliope. Christiane got a new job as Assistant Professor at Kansas City Art Institute and was moving back to the Kansas City area. I decided to join her on the drive east to help with my granddaughter, who’s nine years old, …

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