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Authentic Experience on the Oregon Trail

 A couple years ago I got interested in the topography and history of the old Oregon Trail, mostly in southwestern Wyoming.  

This seems a little strange since I never visit 'Pioneer museums' across the West.  The Oregon Trail sounds like a chapter in a 5th-grader's history book, so why would it appeal to a hip urban sophisticate like me? (eyes-rolling emoji)

It might have been the book, "The Oregon Trail" by Rinker Buck, that got me going on this. (Rinker  did much of the Oregon Trail in a wagon pulled by mules, about 10 years ago.)

Yesterday I was cutting a diagonal southeast in southwestern Wyoming.  So why not do (in reverse) the road that Rinker Buck said was the most difficult part of the Oregon Trail?  (I am pulling a light trailer with a rear-wheel-drive van.)

WARNING: don't forget to turn off your traction-control system when you are doing steep climbs!

It certainly helps to pull off at wide spots on the road and walk to the next wide spot.  When you are pulling a trailer you must also focus on the turn-around spots. (Three point turns usually.)

But it wasn't so hard getting to the top of the ridge.  There was a good flat camping spot, a great view, and a 5G signal!

But I could see a second ridge waiting to ambush me!  I was feeling stubborn and macho by then, so I proceeded to the second ridge.  Big mistake. 

There was a mud puddle at the bottom of the second ridge.  Where did the water come from, anyway?  The climb began in earnest with a sharp switchback-turn. 

I left my rig blocking the road, and walked up the second ridge.  It gave me a chance to move a few rocks and rehearse the positioning of my tires.

It seemed like a worthwhile hassle to install the tire chains (cables actually) that I had not yet used.  In the first couple seconds I could tell that they would help.

The summer's hardest decision: should I surrender at that first switchback by backing into some grass and sagebrush, and call a tow truck?  Or should I try to get through the switchback and make it to the top of the second ridge?

Remember that getting stubborn usually just gets you into deeper problems!

The 'chains' helped so much that halfway through the switchback I decided to violate my principles and plunge onward.  It was pretty easy to get to the top of the ridge.  Thankfully nobody was coming down that ridge while I was going up!

This experience was mildly terrifying.  But there was an over-arching rationale to it.  I wanted an authentic, non-touristy experience on the Oregon Trail.  I got what I deserved, good and hard!

Saw this guy at a BLM campground a couple years ago.