More than 2,000 miles long the Oregon Trail began in Missouri and ended in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Originally created in the 1830’s by fur trappers who needed a route to pursue their trade, the trail expanded to accommodate covered wagons and East met West as settlers came to make homes along the way in Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon. Other roads burst forth from it and facilitated the California Gold Rush.
So with this history in mind, let’s visit a new bestselling book called The Oregon Trail by the unusually-named Rinker Buck, a middle-aged divorced man with personal and financial problems and an interest in American history. While visiting a museum he realized how little he knew about the Oregon Trail and before the dust had settled Buck had decided to travel the length of the trail—in a covered wagon. The adventuresome Buck is accompanied by his brother, a dog named Olive Oyl and 3 mules. What could be a one note contemporary story is an endlessly fascinating travelogue filled with history (Buck quotes original diaries of those who traveled a century plus before him), geography, disaster (any mechanical or weather disaster that could happen does happen) and differing personalities of both man and beast. Adventure and history readers will love this wonderfully entertaining book and feel every bump on the trail that the author describes. Look for this book on the New Book Shelves at the Monrovia Public Library.
After reading Buck’s account, look for other books that will give you other historical perspectives. Francis Parkman, a historian who lived 1823-1893, explored the expanding West in The Oregon Trail: Stretches of Prairie Rocky Mountain Life. The well-to-do Bostonian who was partially blind savored the experience of traveling the trail and meeting Native Americans and trappers and his book, like the new The Oregon Trail, captures the wonders of exploring a new world. David Lavender’s Westward Vision: The Story of the Oregon Trail and Oregon Trail by Ingvard Eide complete the picture of the development of overland travel that led to a more expansive United States.