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Archive for Saturday, September 29, 2007

Retracing trail resurrects history

Karen Vixie, 53, a teacher from Paradise, Calif., sits in a wagon while the moon rises after a passing storm Sunday. Vixie and her husband, Dave Vixie, joined a wagon train on the Kansas leg of the Oregon Trail. Vixie said she wanted to get a feel for what it was like to cross the prairie the old-fashioned way.

Karen Vixie, 53, a teacher from Paradise, Calif., sits in a wagon while the moon rises after a passing storm Sunday. Vixie and her husband, Dave Vixie, joined a wagon train on the Kansas leg of the Oregon Trail. Vixie said she wanted to get a feel for what it was like to cross the prairie the old-fashioned way.

September 29, 2007

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Happy Trails

In late September, a group of history enthusiasts set out in wagons and on horses to recreate the Kansas portion of the Oregon Trail. Enlarge video

You know about the horses. You know about the wagons.

What you may not know is that many settlers crossed the Oregon Trail in the 1800s on their feet. But Karen and Dave Vixie know it all too well.

Last week, they joined a wagon train that followed the Kansas portion of the trail, both of them walking stretches that covered 13 or more miles a day. The trail goes through Lawrence.

"We wanted to feel what it was really like for the pioneers," said Karen Vixie, a special education teacher from Paradise, Calif. "Yesterday we walked - well, he walked all the way. I took a little break. It was amazing how they could walk day after day, after day."

"I put a couple of good-sized blisters on there," Dave Vixie said.

The trail started in the 1840s, about the time the Oregon Territory was declared. The territory is now the states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Married settlers were promised 640 acres of free land, and at least 80,000 emigrants made the 2,000-mile trek.

More than 50 people in 10 wagons, along with a number of horses and mules, gathered Sept. 24 in a pasture northeast of Belvue, near Wamego. During the next few days they crossed hills, creeks and prairie - headed northwest roughly along the trail route. The convoy covered 83 miles in five days, ending at the Hollenberg Station near Hanover.

They were led by Ken and Arleta Martin, of Oketo, who had already worked out permission to cross private lands with the wagon train.

Eldon Pickett, who lives north of Lawrence, made the journey with his horse, Cody. It was his third time riding the Oregon Trail.

"The whole reason I got involved in it is because I love horses so much," Pickett said. "Any excuse I can use to get out, use my horses, I love it."

Dave Vixie, also a teacher, said the experience would help him in the classroom.

"We learn best through experience," he said. "We learn much more by learning from the inside out."

- Photographer Richard Gwin can be reached at 832-6351. Managing editor for convergence Joel Mathis can be reached at 832-7142.

Comments

jrlii 6 years, 6 months ago

Unlike what the movies suggest, most of those emigrant wagons were ox-drawn, especially early in the migration.

Generally an ox drover walks beside his team. Different members of the family might switch off, but it is still a LOT of walking between Independence and the Pacific Northwest.

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