My brother gifted me with a trip to visit him in Idaho in October. Seeing that part of the country has always been a dream of mine because the westward expansion is one of my favorite times in history. The novel of my heart, "Rebecca's Journey," takes place in 1845 on the Oregon Trail.
The first day we visited Bonneville Point (see photo above). It was here that several emigrants stopped on a rocky and dry outcropping that overlooked a valley that must have reminded them of the Garden of Eden. It surely took my breath away. I could see homes. Roads curved around the area and looked like ribbons from my vantage point. A stream wound through the valley, its banks studded with trees. A herd of horses grazed. Everything looked like toys from on high. What must the emigrants have thought when they saw this valley knowing they had to continue working their way around and through hills and mountains? Did any of them stop and settle here? I think so. At this point the travelers were about two thirds complete with their harrowing journey.
And, day two . . . I visited THE Oregon Trail in Baker City. I can't begin to tell you how that made me feel. Tearful. Rapid heart rate. Giddy. The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center is jam-packed with information and exhibits. It is realistic. I saw and touched many tools, wagons, clothing specimens, photos, and diaries. The emigrants packed their entire lives into a wagon bed measuring 10 feet by 4 feet. They set out in faith. They walked, and they walked, and they walked. . . I stood in real wagon ruts remaining from the treks west (see photos above).
Actually visited Register Rock (see photo above). The signatures scratched on with knives and rocks reflect names and dates.The signatures make the emigrants seem brave for lack of a better word. Several large signature rocks mark the Oregon Trail. The most famous is Independence Rock, named because the emigrants had to reach this place on the trail by July 4th in order to avoid the winter storms and snows in the mountains.
To me the entire area was beautiful. Mountains on four sides. Valleys. Horses everywhere. History everywhere. I can tell you this--seeing the terrain and the hazards gave me a new appreciation of the difficulties the emigrants faced. I must change several scenes. I must add and delete much. I've heard of authors visiting the sites of their novels and how much it helps with the writing process. I know why it is so special and so important.
The nearly two week trip took me to other parts of Idaho. It took me to Oregon. It took me to Wyoming and Yellowstone. It took me to South Dakota and Mount Rushmore. Even now, my words bring back my memory pictures of the trip. Like I said, a gift. I'm a writer and this trip left me speechless more often than not.