The theme was posted like bait from a giant fishing hook from the sky. Basically, no dream is too big. If money and time weren't obstacles to interfere with your relationship with nature. For me, this wasn't as easy as it seemed. I guess I've never allowed myself to dream about something like that. I mean, it's one thing to dream of seeing Antarctica, which won't happen for me. So why dwell on it? It's another entirely to dream of a Scottish trip. That one just takes more planning and saving than my normal adventures. The dream hike needs to be one that stretches the boundaries of my financial and physical abilities. THE TRIP. Once in a lifetime. The one that grandchildren will tell their kids about.
So out came the bucket list. Careful thought removed some of my plans. Then, as the un-original guy that I am, the hair pulling that is creative thought. Alaska, Peru, the Alps? The Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, or the Pacific Crest Trail as thru-hikes? Really, why wasn't there an easy answer? So out came the iPhone with a handy voice recorder. I'm more creative when talking.
So I came up with more trips than my life will ever accommodate. Encompassing most of the Earth. In all seasons. Then pared it down to two ideas. Then one. My dream hike would be the Oregon Trail(now called the Oregon National Historic Trail). Originally called the Oregon-California Trail, it was about 2130 miles long, beginning in one of four locations in Missouri and Nebraska. The trail followed the Platte River to its headwaters in Wyoming, crossed the Rockies. Then, it followed the Snake River to the Columbia River, which pours into the Pacific.
|Ezra Meeker, 1907. Public Domain|
This is the first vastly traveled overland route from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean. In 25 years(1843-1868), an estimated 50,000 pioneers traveled it on foot or in wagon trains. Their trip lasted 4-6 months. They endured all of the elements, including man caused. Westward travel in that period was deadly. Of the 400,000 emigrants to travel the westward trails, between 10-20,000 died from disease, Indian attacks, freezing, drowning, and Scurvy. Add murder and being run over by a wagon to that list. Fortunately most of those things wouldn't worry me!
I would attempt to follow the historical path. Not the one created for motorists to symbolically recreate the voyage. My reason is to contemplate what they went through. The drudgery of the plains for several months. Following up with a triumphant ascent of the Rockies and descending the treacherous Snake River Valley. I can imagine nearly losing my mind while dealing with grasshoppers and chiggers. But being able to watch native prairie grass bending to the wind. To be amused by entire villages of Prairie Dogs. Then to gradually increase in elevation from the low plains to the high, then over the grandeur of the Rockies. I could experience nature's wrath in entirely different ways. Wind and dust storms, snow and ice storms, rain and dry.
|Matthew Trump, 2004 by Creative Commons Licensing|
The main difference is that it could be done safely. I'd carry better gear and be better prepared. I could revel in my success when the Willamette Valley had been reached. There is no blazed trail for this. But the landmarks still exist. It would take months to plan, and would be a lesson in compromise. Avoiding private property and Interstate highways would be a challenge in its own. If it was a solo trip, the mind-bending solace could nix the whole plan. But I'd be among very few in my generation to ever accomplish this trip. The world would bow to me. Just as it was for the original travelers of the trail, it would be the beginning of something new within me. I would think back on the journey every day until death.
After all of this dreaming, it occurs to me that any time spent on the trail is my "dream hike". Maybe that is the purpose to this little exercise. To remind dimwits like me that every step glorifies life. What is your dream hike?