Tuesday, April 21, 2015


     The pastor at my church is a really great story teller, and his sermons are often sprinkled with stories of growing up in Missouri or Ohio.  They always have a point related to the current Bible readings, but they are fun and they really spark your imagination. He often talks about summers in a cabin in Missouri, and draws wonderful word pictures.  One of his stories was about his Mother announcing that the family was going on a trip to see the source of the river along which their cabin was located. I know his mother, and I can almost hear her saying it!
     The descriptions of this source were so vivid that I wanted to see Bennett Spring for myself.  It's on the way to St. Louis, and only 12 miles off the Interstate, so when planning this long trip, I decided to leave a few days early and see this wondrous place for myself. Today was the day, and I'm camping right now at Bennett Spring State Park. It's early spring here, the trees are just starting to leaf out, the dogwoods and redwoods are in bloom, and the woods are simply lovely. There are a few sprinkles now and then, and it smells like the springs I remember growing up in Northeastern PA.  Here are just a few pictures of my camp, and the area. Tomorrow I'm going to walk some of the trails through the woods and see if I can find some Trillium, or Jack-In-The-Pulpits, or other flowers I remember from my childhood. Today I saw white violets, so maybe some of the other ones will be here too!
My campsite

Bennett Spring

The River

Thursday, April 16, 2015

On The Road Again

It's been almost two years since my last long camping trip, and I've been itching to do another one since that time. Last summer I did two shorter trips – one to Rocky Mountain National Park, and the other to the Grand Canyon.  They were both great trips, and I tried blogging about them, but wireless connections were so terrible that I gave up.

Now I'm ready for another big trip, this one all in the Continental US.  I'm traveling and exploring the Oregon Trail.

In 1990, while waiting for my first book to be published, I was invited to teach a class at Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas. A very good friend, Barb Eikmeier, was living there and arranged a class. It was a great trip, and a fun class, and while I was there, Barb and I did several other things, like antiquing (that part of the country is antique heaven) and seeing the local sights. One of the places she took me was to the place on the Fort where you could see the ruts of the wagons that had crossed the Missouri River to start the long trip to the Oregon Territory. I was amazed that you could still see the ruts, and it really sparked my imagination. What must it have been like for those brave and bold men, women, and children, to leave the world they knew and embark on a journey to a place they had never seen, only heard of, and to risk all the dangers of that kind of a trip?  As a fun coincidence, Barb is again living near Ft. Leavenworth; I'll get to see her, and she has promised to take me to that place on the river again!

I read several histories of traveling the Oregon Trail, and my interest just increased;  then about a dozen years ago while driving in Idaho after a teaching gig, I came across an area where I was sure I could see wagon ruts climbing a hill and disappearing over the top. After some more research, I discovered that there are many places where evidence of the trail still exists. The National Park Service has published a series of booklets with detailed descriptions of those places. I was sold – the Oregon Trail was going to be my next trip! 

I'm taking several books with me, including the NPS booklets, a guide book for things I might find along the way that are not Oregon Trail related, and my favorite book, The Oregon Trail: A Photographic Journey.  On each right-side page is a photo that the authors (Bill and Jan Moeller) have taken, and on the left side page is a short description, and usually a quote from a traveler's diary. I hope to see some of the places they photographed, and perhaps, take my own photos.

I'll start in St. Louis, where my oldest son lives with his family. My grandson Zach is being confirmed next Sunday, and I will be there for that, and then leave from there. The goal is to travel the whole trail without going on any Interstate Highways, just local roads.  I'm not sure if that will be possible the entire way, but most of it will be. I leave on Monday for St. Louis, with a stop at Bennett Spring State Park in Missouri – a place my pastor has talked about occasionally and made me want to visit.  As a fun coincidence, my friend Barb is again living near Ft. Leavenworth; I'll get to see her, and she has promised to take me to that place on the river again!
I hope you'll follow me along on this journey – it will be fun, and we may all learn something!! I should put a sign on Lizzie (my minivan) – Oregon or Bust!