In the years when my kids were in elementary school, every kid in probably 4th or 5th grade got to take a field trip to Guernsey, Wyoming to see the Oregon Trail ruts located there. I don’t know if that is a field trip the schools take anymore, but they did then. Of course, I had seen the Oregon Trail many times before, because my parents loved showing us the history all around us, including stopping at just about every place where the Oregon Trail crossed the highway on our travels. Still, I did not recall seeing the ruts located at Guernsey before, so as a parent who got to go along, it was quite a treat. I was fascinated by the fact that those wagons could make ruts in the rocks. So many of the areas of the Oregon Trail are just a path, or you can’t even tell it’s trail. You just know that it’s where the trail is because of the marker. But there, in the rocks near Guernsey, years after the Oregon Trail was in use, the ruts remain.
The Oregon Trail is a 2,170 mile wagon route trail that meandered from the Missouri River to Oregon. It was first laid by fur traders and trappers from about 1811 to 1840. During those years, it was only passable on foot or by horseback. Then by 1836, the wagon trains began to head from Independence, Missouri to places in the west. The trail had been cleared to Fort Hall, Idaho by then. As time went on, the trail was cleared all the way to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. These days, the trail crosses our highways in many places, and markers have been placed so the travelers can learn a little history of the trail and what might have happened at each part of it. At the time my parents were showing us all those markers, my sisters and I usually groaned about stopping yet again, at another of the endless Oregon Trail markers that, at that time, we dreaded being forced to read all about. These days, when I think back, I can appreciate the things they tried to show us in this great nation of ours. And I can appreciate the ruts in the rocks outside of Guernsey that have endured for 184 years.