California/Oregon Trail

Approaching the Destination

Day 19 (June 14): How can I describe how amazing it was to stay in a clean, organized house? Our Airbnb was amazing, despite being extremely affordable, and it was so nice to be able to cook on a stove and relax on a sofa while I folded our laundry. We stayed up late watching TV, drinking wine, and getting our laundry done, and were up far too early but still happy. Took us awhile to get out of there, probably because we were enjoying it so much, but we finally rolled out around 9:00.

Fort Churchill State Historic Park was our first stop of the morning. While this fort was built in 1861, after my family would have already arrived in Sacramento, who am I to turn down an opportunity to see a historic fort? And it is on my California Trail map, built for later emigrants and settlers. The Fort had the ruins of the structures from the 1860s, though Daniel said that he read a plaque saying they were restored to look like the ruins about a hundred years ago – So, still old, but not quite as old as I was thinking.

We took the opportunity to go for a hike, since there were a lot of advertised trails around the fort, and somehow managed to meander around three different trails, getting so far back in the boonies that we finally gave up and turned around. Yet another adventure? Regardless, we were 7,000 steps in and good and tired when we got back to the car and guzzled ice water.

We drove on to Mormon Station, which was built in 1851 as a trading post for the emigrants, and though I don’t mention it in my book, it is almost certain their wagon train would have stopped there. Unfortunately the original burned down in 1910, but the replica is pretty cool! They have a little museum inside of it, available to see for a $1, And I found yet another book on the California Trail I had not seen before! I’m going to need a bookcase just for these books.

Woodfords Station is another stop on my California Trail map that didn’t really have much information available online. I got the impression that it didn’t play a historic part in the trail until a Pony Express station was built in 1860, but according to the inscription I found when we actually arrived, it was actually serving emigrants in the 1850s!

We were at a cute little boardwalk type place with a cafe and a visitor center. Being in California, suddenly masks were required, so we didn’t go in the visitors center, but went for the cafe, which should not require them. They had something called a pioneer sandwich, which of course I had to order even though I wasn’t even remotely hungry, and we got sarsaparilla to go with it! Authenticity, folks!

At this point, the internet again went out, and I had to depend on the fact that we were on a historic interstate and hope that there were markers along the way. We didn’t get internet back again until we arrived to our camping place tonight. Fortunately, there were in fact markers, and we found Carson pass!

Although fairly well known, it was surprisingly difficult to track down emigrant activity through Carson Pass. Though, in google’s defense, I only spent like half an hour looking, and found the below from from the California Pioneer Heritage Foundation the most informative:

“On July 28th, they moved east through the area now known as Carson Pass, where Capt. John C. Fremont and his guide, Kit Carson, had crossed 4 years earlier. On February 14, 1844, Kit Carson had carved his name on the side of a pine tree in the pass, which was at an elevation of 8,600 feet. A large corral was built to hold all of the animals, while they worked at lowering their wagons down the steep slopes with sharp drop offs. This sharpest drop off there would become known during the gold rush period as the “Devil’s Ladder,” because of the difficulty getting wagons and teams past it. They would use block and tackle with ropes wrapped around trees to lower the wagons down the steep slope. (Some of the journal entries during the gold rush era talk about as many as 250 wagons waiting their turn to be assisted up this area of the trail.)”

There was really just a visitor center here that we couldn’t enter because of covid, and lots of trails that we didn’t have time to hike but I got pictures!

We went out of the way tonight to head over to Camp Richardson at Lake Tahoe for…what else?…to see and spend some time at the lake. I confess, I didn’t understand what the big deal was. I mean, it’s just another lake right? But when we came around the corner and saw that gorgeous shining body of water surrounded by mountains on all sides except for the sandy beach, I could hardly believe it. It’s seriously was like a haven in the middle of nowhere. So, we grabbed our bathing suits, didn’t bother to set up the tent, and I am now chilling on a beach looking out over the water. And the mountains. Does it get any better?

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