It was summer, 1849. When we left Independence, Missouri months earlier our wagon was loaded with 2495 pounds of gear and supplies including five barrels of flour, 600 lbs of bacon, 100 lbs of coffee, three rifles, and three pistols. We were a bit lighter now, having covered over half of the more than 2000 miles along the trail to Oregon City. Stopping at the Snake River to water our mules, we thought about our manifest destiny. Just a few years earlier John L. O’Sullivan had written in the New York Daily News:
“It is…our manifest destiny to overspread and possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for development of the great experiment of liberty.”
I don’t know if we thought about the destiny of those who already occupied the land where our wagons would carve lasting ruts into the earth. Or if we thought about how the landscape which stretched out before us was formed thousands of years ago by a torrent of water that would carve out a canyon. And I’m pretty sure, unless we had a crystal ball, that we would have never imagined a man attempting to fly over that canyon on a motor powered vehicle. Or that one day, people just like us, who made a long arduous journey to the west looking for a better life would be forced from their homes and taken to a guarded camp just north of this river. We just pressed on leaving a groove in the dirt. We could have never imagined that over 170 years later other travelers would come here just to take pictures of the path our wagon wheel left.
June 25, 2020
After weeks of traveling at a leisurely pace along the Snake River visiting the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey NCA, stalking birds on the Bruneau Delta, climbing sand dunes at Bruneau State Park and looking for signs of the past at Hagerman’s Fossil Beds, we ended up back where we had started 2 weeks earlier in Twin Falls to do laundry and reprovision for another couple weeks on the road.
But before we left the area and our now favorite river, the Snake, we had a few more spots to check out.
We had been crisscrossing the Oregon trail for the last week. There were supposed to be wagon wheel ruts at Hagerman Fossil Beds but by the time we got to the overlook, it was too hot to hike out and see them. We finally got our chance to see a little bit of mid-1800s history carved in the ground by thousands of wooden wheels at a campsite right outside of Twin Falls, the Milner Historic Recreation Area. And so started our day of time travel.
From Milner, we headed to Twin Falls and back some 15,000 years once again to the Bonneville flood and the ensuing deluge that tour through the canyon to form the Shoshone Falls. Standing at 212 feet and spanning 900 feet of the canyon, they are often referred to as the Niagara of the West.
Not far from the falls we leapt forward in time to the 1970s. Weeks earlier when I had told Greg that we were going to visit the Snake River he immediately asked me if we were going to see the Evel Knievel jump site. Huh? I did a little research and found the site was just up a short path from the falls.
We ended our day in the 1940s at the Minidoka National Historic Site. Idaho was the home of one many internment camps set up during World War II where Japanese Americans were sent after being forced from their homes on the west coast. Perhaps a somber way to end our day’s time travels but it was a good reminder, especially in current times when we face so many challenges, of the hardships and injustices that many of the millions of people who make up this country have had to endure and how they managed to persist in spite of them.