Skip to content

“Saddling” up on the Oregon Trail?

Great stories often inspire personal adventures. When Laurie and I watched the movie The Way about a man who hiked the Camino de Santiago across Spain, she said, “That’s how I want to start retirement.” In April of 2016 we started our life on the road with the 500-mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.

Recently we listened to an audio book about two brothers who retraced the route of the Oregon Trail in a restored covered wagon towed by three mules. We were surprised to learn that much of the trail, down to wagon ruts over a century old, still exists. Their 2011 adventure was the first wagon trip along the trail in over a hundred years.

As we were listening to that book Laurie said to me, “I wouldn’t want to do that journey with mules and a wagon, but how about on bikes?”

I’m an easy “yes” to when she makes suggestions like this.

This adventure is also tied into my family history. Some of my family moved west in the 1800s via the Oregon Trail. In fact, a grandmother, many generations back, died, and was buried, near the Tygh Valley in eastern Oregon during her journey. My mother and cousin have visited the grave which is fenced and marked. She was part of an ill-fated 1845 expedition led by Stephen Meek. Meek became lost and the settlers endured 24 fatalities, including my ancestor, before reaching safety. The story is told in several books and a truly terrible movie.

In Oregon City, near where my father grew up, is the End of the Oregon Trail museum. You can see replica wagons, a short movie, and exhibits about the journey that pioneers took in search of a better life out west. 

Oregon City:
The end of the Oregon Trail

I’m not sure that we would do the entire 2000-mile route from Missouri to Oregon City via bike but doing at least a segment through Oregon is very tempting.


The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck. This is really two books. One is about Rinker and Nick Buck’s journey along the Oregon Trail meshed with fascinating history about the trail and his personal life. Excellent book. Unfortunately, Rinker’s anti-religion, anti-cop, and political views are the second book woven into the first. 

The movie Meeks Cutoff. Some people adore this movie. But I think it’s possible that more people have died of boredom watching this movie than actually died during this expedition. I can’t prove it, but it’s possible.

Trip Update: In Tuscon, Arizona until Saint Patrick’s Day. Las Cruces, New Mexico, Austin and Dallas, Texas, and Salt Lake City are on our planned itinerary.

Question: What story has inspired one of your own adventures? 

4 thoughts on ““Saddling” up on the Oregon Trail?”

  1. “Ordeal by Hunger: Donner Party”, “A Majority of Scoundrels”, tales of trappers & mountain men in the US west, Lewis and Clark, all inspired our route from Cleveland, Ohio, on our return to Seattle after 10 months on a Boeing-NASA contract.

    We crossed the Missouri at Council Bluffs and followed the Oregon Trail markers as much as possible until we turned northwest @ Umatilla, OR. We owe ourselves the rest of the trail from there to Oregon City.

    Don’t miss the other “Trail” museum outside Baker City, OR.
    We thought it superb.

Comments are closed.