Friday, November 25, 2011

A Trip of a Lifetime

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.


Rebecca Lynn said...

Were you in Montana? That's my stomping ground, not far from the Yellowstone entrances. :) Sounds incredible!

Winona said...

Rebecca--We were in Montana at that entrance to Yellowstone. Your stomping grounds are astounding. I loved every moment and every vista.

Trooper said...

When you tell another of that part of our country with its beautiful but impassible barriers and thinking how God laid out the rivers and shaped the mountains to make passage not easy but barely passable in wagons and created a land so fertile; Speechless is a word I understand. Write your book and let others relive that period and understand the bravery and hardship necessary to reach the foot of the rainbow, the Willamette Valley.

Moonine Sue Watson said...

I went to a workshop given by a lady who went on a reenactment trip. Every thing had to be authentic. I wondered if I could endure it. Have you ever read the Lewis and Clark journal? It covers a lot of the same area. I think you'd like it. I've lived in and visited several of those areas. I never tire of going back.

...paul said...

You make it sound wonderful Winona; and I'm sure this trip will enrich and enliven your novel.

Janet K Brown said...

I'm so glad you got to take that trip. Even your blog about it makes it live for me, too.

Jan Rider Newman said...

Great post, Nona. I know Rebecca's Journey will be richer for your own journey and your pioneer spirit.

Anna said...

Wow, what a beautiful experience, Nona. My husband has family in Montana, and I love traveling through the Dakotas and Wyoming...Mt. Rushmore took my breath away. So glad you shared this with us!

Anna Kittrell

Paula said...

As I read this post, I could feel your passion for writing Rebecca's Journey. I know you'll do a wonderful job with it. I can't wait to read it.

Anonymous said...


I'm glad you enjoyed my part of the country (saying "my" because if you recall I live right in the heart of where you spent your vacation...the Willamette Valley of OREGON!)

I only wish we could have met somewhere and had lunch :(

I'm so glad you had the opportunity to see everything firsthand, because pictures don't really do it justice.

Looking forward to reading Rebecca's journey!

Christi Corbett