Whenever I tell someone that I’m following the Oregon Trail, revisiting it as a modern pioneer, they either smile politely and nod, or if they are curious they’ll ask- what exactly does that mean?
Well, in this particular, personal case, I have chosen to narrow down my experience to the 1840s. I’m following thier routes. I’m following thier practices/ recipes and routines, as I make my way toward the end goal of Oregon City, Oregon. The 1840s is still considered the beginning of the emigration. They weren’t really sure where they were going. They didn’t have much of an idea of how to prepare or what might befall them, they were just ready for a change. Ready enough to sell off everything but what could fit into a wagon or two and set out to meet their options for a different life. I can appreciate that…
While I will dip into the other two centuries where Oregon Trail travel was still very popular- I couldn’t help myself if I tried, but I’m trying to focus my “experiences” in that first decade.
So…what are the rules?
I don’t have any hard-fast rules, but chose to go with the flow and implement what I can. Obviously, I’m not traveling by horse and buggy, but I am in my trusty truck Xander (which counts as 300 plus horse power(?), and my little covered wagon of a camper- Marlee, a 24 foot, just enough to make me somewhat comfortable between worlds. (I need to have my office and computer, for work, and then there’s coffee… do I really need to justify that?? Lol)
I have done some research… but not too much more than what we might have learned in school, if our teacher really liked the time period. I have never seen these things before and I want them to be as much of a first impression when I share them, but also as I safely can. Meaning, I'm not going into something totally blind.
So, I am learning as I go. I study up on where I am headed and then when I get there, and am seeing the things for the first time. Once I'm there, whatever catches my interest, or "moves the story forward" I’ll deep dive and learn more about them. And then in the facebook group History Revisited, I share what I am learning in little bite size pieces and lots of photos. And now, for those who want more detail or more information, I’ll add that here. (Eventually there will also be a podcast, but I just can't seem to get my act together to make that a thing. It's very time consuming and I need to not spread myself too thin. Easier said than done. I have SO much I want to do!)
I am doing my best to follow the trail in “real time”. Now I can’t plod along in the slow lane, blinkers on at 5 miles per hour the whole way, so I make jumps. I’ll go a certain distance and then do a big circle around where I land to cover all of the interesting sites and museums and then I’ll move to the next spot. So if it took them 6 weeks to cross Nebraska, it will for me too. (And I’m going by the recorded maps and journals to plot out my timeline and things I see. I am a tourist nerd!)
As far as experiences go, I am trying not to go “out to eat”. I have stocked up on the same supplies as the pioneers were encouraged to do and am curious to see how I fair with just that. It’s a lot of beans, bacon and bread…
Right now, I’m still early in the game, so I am still finishing off all of my “fresh food”. Like eggs, cheese, lettuce, fruit and milk (for my coffee- not sure if I’ll cave and get more half n half for the coffee, or if I’ll learn to do without or just give it up entirely…)
I’ve given up ready-made food, so nothing in a box, nothing pre-made. I do make use of the luxury of refrigeration. All of my meats are either refrigerated or frozen. All of my beans are raw, everything has to be made from scratch. (I did purchase some granola already toasted and sweetened with vanilla in bulk)
I have given up soda. I do have a filter for my water, let’s not get crazy. Don’t want to die of dysentery.
I'm not being drastic or unreasonable, but I am trying to stretch my boundaries to make it a learning experience.
I would love to be able to get up at 4 and eat my breakfast cooked on a fire every morning and be ready to start my day by 7:30, but I haven’t found that much dedication yet. (I have recently retired and to me, retirement is all about NOT having an alarm! Lol) Maybe it will come, but for right now, I still let myself sleep until I wake up and I make my coffee in the automatic coffee pot. (I honestly didn’t think about getting a firepit coffee pot, otherwise I probably would have tried it!)
The object is not to see how much misery I can handle, it’s to experience parts of their life so as to bring it forward. I have never made bread from scratch, never needed to. I’ve never cooked using cast iron. I’ve never had to walk everywhere, conserve water, ration out my food, milk a cow or learn about disease…
What makes history fascinating to me was their day to day life. We are the same on the inside. But the things they did from one day to another are so very different from the life that I have. I have never really had to do certain things in order to survive.. except, perhaps pay attention to traffic rules and what not.
I want to revisit this historical era with modern eyes and appreciate- truly appreciate how good I have it. How absolutely amazing these people were that faced these unknowns.
I can always bail on my alternate universe and slip into a Walgreens or a Taco Bell, but I’m just… trying this. I want to see how my body adjusts for one. But I think a bit of humility may be in order for two. I take things for granted. I’m spoiled. And even though I’m choosing campgrounds that are primitive or a step above, I’m still spoiled. I draw the line at sleeping on the ground! This body is TOO old for that!
Are there rules? Kinda? I might be making them up as I go along. But I sure am enjoying the ride.
It’s just an experiment. There’s no right or wrong. Win or lose. Pass or fail. It’s more than a vacation, but less than a Discovery Channel series.
But I do take it seriously. I am sincere as I am revisiting history and becoming acquainted with a time gone by and documenting things as I go. As a modern pioneer… I’m off on adventure. A new view of an old route.
I’m glad that you’re here with me. I am always open to suggestions to things I should try or places I need to see along the way. I have a list of 1840s recipes, I’d like to sort through and see how many I can make. I’d like to know about their survival skills. I'd like to shoot a black powder rifle. I’d like to milk a cow and make butter and fresh ice cream. Id like to ride a horse and gallop freely across the prairie. I’d like to cook over an open fire. I’d like to learn how to sew and do leather work. I’d like to dive in a bit more and learn about the people who made this trip before me. Maybe I’ll even sleep outside under the stars by the fire, once.
There are lots of options that may present themselves as I make my way through unseen territory and experience brand new things from a time gone by, brought back to life from a modern day perspective.
I guess we will have to see what presents itself.
If you want to take a bigger part of my adventure, be sure to join the History Revisited Facebook Group. That's the most immediate interaction. I post all my photos and love to converse with everyone there! Jump in and join us!
There's another option if you're interested in a more personal experience with my travels. It's the PostCard Club. This is a group that receives postcards from me where ever I go, about 3-4 times per month and then if you'd like, you can upgrade to receiving magnets every month or even an entire gift box filled with goodies from places I stop along the way. Souvenirs, locally made edibles, other unique items I find every stop I make. To find out more or to sign up- click here.