Monday, September 16, 2002
Go West, Young Man! (and women & children & oxen & chickens....)
Team North is following in the footsteps of those who passed 150 years ago, during the period of the Overland Migrations. In the years immediately following the Louisiana Purchase,only a few hardy souls ventured west, mostly mountain men in search of lucrative beaver skins, and also a handful of missionaries.
The first major migration was that of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons), who had been driven from their homes in Illinois and seen their leader assasinated and their tabernacle destroyed. They were heading out of the United States, to find refuge from religious persecution. But before many of them reached their new home by the Great Salt Lake, the United States had acquired that land from Mexico. They followed the Platte River across Nebraska and Wyoming, then following the advice of the mountain men, particularly Jim Bridger, who had settled in the area, they crossed the Rockies at South Pass, the lowest point on the Continental Divide. A few years later, gold was discovered in California, and the rush was on. Thousands and thousands of people followed the Mormons across the country during the next few decades. Many of them cut north after crossing the Continental Divide to reach the lush lands of the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and many more pressed on through the Great Basin desert of Utah and Nevada, but all of them took the same basic route along the Platte, and across South Pass. One observer at South Pass described a line of covered wagons as far as the eye could see, stretching in either direction.
Once the emigrants left the Platte, the route was dry and difficult for people and for livestock. Springs, such as Emigrant Springs, where Team North is visiting today, became important waysides. Notable formations such as Split Rock, Liberty Rock, Pilot Butte, and Oregon Buttes let travelers know they were on the right track (if the wide path worn by oxen and wagons weren't enough), and soft cliffs and buttes such as Names Hill and Register Rock still display the names of many brave travelers.
Monday, September 16, 2002
Burr Trail and the Waterpocket Fold
Team South leaves the sandstone-enclosed riparian, green world of Calf Creek and drives to Boulder where they turn east on the Burr Trail Road, one of the many scenic drives in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Once a dirt road, Burr Trail is now paved for the first 31 miles, all the way to the boudary of Capitol Reef National Park where the pavement inexplicably ends and the Burr Trail reverts to its old, dirt-self again.
Burr Trail ends at the Notom-Bullfrog (dirt) Road. Here Team South turns north and drives along the Waterpocket Fold, a spectacular monocline approximately 100 miles long but less than three miles wide. Capitol Reef takes its name from the eroded white, pale-yellow sandstone domes which dot the crest of the reef. These domes reminded early travelers of Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
At Highway 12 the team temporarily leaves the route of the Journey for the campground near the visitor center.