Now it was time to head home. That did not mean that there wasn’t something to see. I do pity the folks that fly everywhere—they miss so much. Our itinerary for the drive home included: Mt. St. Helens, Multnomah Falls and following a portion of the Oregon Trail.
We wanted to see Mt. St. Helens for several reasons. 1) For fourteen years I worked for a pharmaceutical company whose home office was in Spokane, Washington. I remembered the first-hand accounts of the volcanic ash turning day into night, also, receiving shipments from Spokane covered with volcanic ash and the vials of ash that the folks there kindly filled,stoppered and sent to us. 2) Joe was born just 27-days after the volcano blew. and 3) The historic, natural and scientific significance interested us.
On the morning of May 18, 1980, Mt. St. Helens blew her top, killing 57 and literally devastating 230 square miles of forest. 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways and 185 miles of highway were destroyed making it the most economically destructive volcanic event in U. S. history. Here is a brief video describing the eruption—Mount St. Helens Eruption Podcast.
Unfortunately for us, it was overcast and rainy so visibility wasn’t the best. Here are a few photos from our visit.
Toutle River valley as seen from overlook
4 ft. diameter tree stump left by the blast.
Miniature Lupine took a foothold in the hardened volcanic ash.
Next we visited Multnomah Falls on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. Multnomah Creek drops a total of 620 ft. in two steps, to create this beautiful site. There are hiking trails and a visitor center. It was easy to get to off I-84.
We next followed the Oregon Trail as best we could diverting from the “I” when we could to view nearby landmarks. As we travel this land of ours in our modern-day “covered wagons,” we may forget the brave souls that risked everything for a better life. This same journey that would have taken 4 1/2 to 5 months by covered wagon can now be achieved in about four, eight-hour days.
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Almost 270,000 (depending on your source) emigrants trekked westward via the Oregon Trail and it’s three major off-shoots, the California, Bozeman and Mormon trails. The estimated cost per person was anywhere from $50 to $200 depending on what the person needed to purchase for the trip. Deaths were common and it is believed that between 10 and 20,000 individuals succumbed to the rigors of the journey for various reasons.
An excellent book on the subject is, Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey, by Lillian Schlissel. In an excerpt of an 1853 diary in that book, Maria Parsons Belshaw tallies graves and dead stock by day. In a three-week period she has counted 68 graves, 5 dead horses, 4 dead oxen and 145 dead cattle. In that time period they had traveled 306 miles. Very sobering statistics.
As we sped along the “I” at 65 mph. we followed a similar path as the emigrants. Past the Dalles in Oregon, where wagons were floated down the Columbia on rafts. Over the Snake River, which was particularly treacherous for the emigrants before the ferry was established. Casualties were common. Past Boise and American Falls,ID and to Fort Bridger, which was a major resupply point for emigrants. Here we diverged from the Oregon Trail and stayed on the “I.”
Our next stop was Scotts Bluff National Monument, which is off U.S. 26 on Hwy. 92, in western Nebraska. The 800 ft. bluff served as a landmark, not only, to emigrants but also to Native Americans and to modern-day travelers. This was a must see for us.
Scotts Bluff with Wagon reproduction
Joe on trail at Scotts Bluff
Wagon tracks are still visible through Mitchell Pass at Scotts Bluff
Mitchell Pass was a major milestone for emigrants. The pass was located between two large bluffs and, although difficult and hazardous, it was the preferred route for many emigrants.
At Ogallala we crossed the Platte River. Platte means flat water and it is said to be a “a mile wide and an inch deep, too thin to plow and too thick to drink.” The Platte River run the entire length of the state of Nebraska and the Oregon Trail paralleled it’s path. For a great portion I-80 does the same. So from Ogallala to Grand Island we followed the Platt River.
There are a lot of things to see along I-80 in Nebraska. As we have been along this route many times and have seen these sites, we did not stop until we reached Grand Island.
As I remember this stretch of the trip was un-Godly hot. I don’t know how we did it. I remember having all the windows in the RV open and no air conditioning. Whether it was broken or the RV was not equipped with it I don’t know.
Sadie trying to stay cool on the front seat of the RV with the windows open.
At Grand Island we stopped at a park in town and Sadie got to take another swim.
The following day we were home.
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