Our take: John Treadwell Dunbar, a freelance writer for the Canada Free Press, shares a visual account of his experience while visiting key landmarks along the Mormon Trail in western Wyoming.
This was a rut I was grateful to be stuck in on one crisp, blue-sky morning in western Wyoming. Standing deep in a trough on a sparsely wooded hill overlooking the North Platte River near the outskirts of Guernsey, I felt the earth rumble as oxen mooed, whips cracked and covered Conestoga wagons creaked up the steep rutted incline hauling heavy loads of the essentials, and the trivial. Hardened women in bonnets and long skirts followed coughing in the dust, and men in hats on horses yelled at their livestock and encouraged children and the old staggering to keep pace.
Among this rolling wave of humanity were hundreds of poor English and Scandinavian Mormons on foot who had no idea what awaited them in October of 1856 as they pushed and pulled two-wheeled carts with bloody hands ever-onward to Zion and the Valley of the Salt Lake for 1,300 tiresome miles in the ultimate test of their faith.
While I watched this scene unfold in my imagination, a chill rippled up and down my spine. It was hard to believe I was actually standing in the middle of the historic Oregon Trail. As wagon ruts go, the ones I stood in at the Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site near the Nebraska border are impressive, carved into soft sandstone by the passage of 500,000 emigrants between 1841 and 1869 on their westward trek along the overlapping 2,000-mile-long Oregon, California and Mormon trails. Whereas most Oregon Trail ruts have succumbed to harsh weather and the slow march of time, this patch of rutted sandstone has withstood nature’s relentless wear and tear admirably.
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