Garden Update: Early-November

Them's some sweet potatoes...
Them’s some sweet potatoes…

I’ve got a few posts rolling around in my head but, frankly, I just haven’t had much time recently.  Midterms were a few weeks ago and I gave 3 exams last Friday, so now that I have a window of downtime, here’s the last bit of updating for the garden.

Brooke gave up on the tomatoes weeks ago, after she crossed the at least 40 pint line for tomato sauce.  Seriously, that last batch of tomato sauce she made was a slog – I could tell she was totally done with tomatoes for the year.

But at the time, we still wanted to wait for the sweet potatoes.  Finally, just after Halloween, Brooke pulled out the potato crop to see what we ended up with.  Not too bad, but I don’t think we got as much as we did in Iowa.  Still, for our purposes, it was still a pretty good haul.

...the potatoes in our garden basket...
…the potatoes in our garden basket…

We haven’t tried eating any yet, but have no reason to think they won’t be solid.  Brooke’s busy processing pears from my aunt and uncle’s house, so these things aren’t exactly a priority.

Still, just wanted to post this for posterity’s sake.  We’ll probably plant some again next year, so we want to remember  how many we got this year!

Inaugural Oktoberfest

A beautiful day for a party!
A beautiful day for a party!

Over years in St. Louis, Brooke and I found that we enjoyed “hosting,” whether that was for church small groups, family gatherings, or for parties.  Up in Iowa, we had our first Oktoberfest party largely because we lived in the middle of nowhere and we rarely had visitors, so we organized a gathering of mostly work friends for a cold and rainy evening.

Flash forward to 2015, now with two kids and still with a house that doesn’t get visitors (aside from family) all that often.  At this house, though, we’re a bit closer to other people (including family) and we also know more people from work and the neighborhood.  In an attempt at celebrating our German heritage and the end of our garden’s growing season, we organized another Oktoberfest, hopefully the first of many.

The weather ended up being perfect.  Seriously, it couldn’t have been any better.  There was a chill in the air, the temperature never broke past the low 70s, and the fire was actually useful instead of just decorative.  We started the party at 3:00 pm to make life easier for the folks with kids, as we didn’t know how late this thing would go and we didn’t want people to come for dinner and then leave an hour later because it was bedtime.

We had a little over 30 people over during that period of time.  Quite a few kids were there, and most of the folks were from Missouri Valley.  We had a few neighbors come over, as well as one of Meg’s friends from her old school, so she had a pretty great time.  Brooke made potato soup, pretzels and sausages (we ran out of the latter, despite Brooke wondering if we bought too many!), and other folks brought desserts, dips, beer and more.  Speaking of beer, I made a German Alt and a Bavarian Hefeweizen.  A few over 20 bottles were had, as well as some of the other domestic offerings we provided.  All in all, we had a lot to recycle after the party was done!

Ultimately, I think people had a good time.  It didn’t go as far into the evening as I’d hoped, but we had people there for over 4 hours, so considering when the event started, that was probably long enough.  As kids get older and as we meet more people around here, I bet that’ll change a bit.  Still, I think the party was a success and we look forward to doing it again next year!

It’ll be hard to beat the weather from 2015, though…

Garden Update: Early October


This will be relatively short, but as I’ve been posting about this all summer (and now Fall), I figured I should present the aftermath of a relatively successful first year with the garden.

Clearly, the main garden is mostly dead.  There’s some broccoli struggling to survive, but that’s about it.  As you can see, though, the corn stalks have been pulled down (and re-ordered into decorations for our upcoming Oktoberfest party), and the pumpkins have all died off.  We ended up with something around 12 pumpkins, but only 4 of them survived to be useful.  The rest were chewed on by beetles, so we may need to do a bit more proactive spraying next year.

Slowly dying...still...
Slowly dying…still…

The tomatoes and peppers, on the other hand, are shockingly still producing!  They’re looking a bit saggy, but that’s more because they’re still growing and I’m not trimming them or tying them up.  There are absolutely some areas of death and destruction, however, as leaves continue to die off due to a lack of water.


Behold the death of the tomatoes.
Behold the death of the tomatoes.

The picture just above this one shows a little bit of the dying leaves in the middle of that dense forest, but still, there’s plenty of green still in there.  As of today, we haven’t had a frost yet, so the tomatoes are still coming on and there are still flowers on some of the plants.  Even some of the peppers we planted, that hadn’t made anything yet, have finally put on some full-size veggies for us to pluck.

Still harvesting!
Still harvesting!

I think Brooke’s generally tired of canning tomatoes already, so I haven’t bothered to pick the really tiny ones anymore.  I’m still grabbing the larger ones as they slowly develop, and as you can see above, there are some pretty big ones in there that are finally turning red.  I pick them when they’re starting to turn so we can keep them protected inside.

As of right now, Brooke’s canned about 24 pints of tomatoes, and there’s still quite a few bags left in the freezer to be canned (she thinks another 15 pints or so) after we’ve got more batches like these accumulated.

So ultimately, not too bad for our first year’s harvest!  We still haven’t dug up the sweet potatoes, so I’ll likely do a post on that yet.  Surely they’re done, but with the party coming up, we didn’t want to disturb that area of the yard with a ton of digging.  Soon, though!


The real thing...
The real thing…

We had a few names rolling around in our heads when we settled upon “Calvin,” but while there are a few reasons why we ultimately went with it, the most obvious reference for our generation is the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip.  I was a relatively big fan growing up and still have multiple book compilations in my office.

Well, when the “Calvin” name was announced, the comic strip was obviously mentioned, and we were asked whether we were going to give him a “Hobbes.”  Famously, Bill Watterson, author of the comic, never licensed his materials to third-parties, so you can’t buy an official “Hobbes” stuff animal.  Etsy has had some recently, but when I just searched, they were no longer available, so perhaps the lawyers made a few phone calls…

Anyway, Calvin was going to turn 2 (today, as of this posting, incidentally…happy birthday, buddy!) and Brooke and I wanted to get him the stuffed animal.  Brooke found a pattern at Instructables and wanted to give it a try, as the material was reasonable and the stuffed animals on Etsy were generally not (some reaching as high as $150).

Every project has a beginning...
Every project has a beginning…

She actually took care of the initial work when I was gone at work for an evening,taking care of the bulk of the work before the kids were even in bed (as the sewing machine is right outside their bedrooms).  This didn’t take all that long, though if she were going to do it again, she’d watch the head a bit more closely, as it’s more round than the real thing.

A little closer...
A little closer…

She had to sew the arms, legs and head on by hand, but that wasn’t the time-consuming part: that went to the stripes.  Each stripe had to be done by hand, so she spent many evenings sitting in front of the TV, sewing each stripe on.  The whole thing wasn’t quite done by the time we had Calvin’s birthday party this past weekend in Columbia, so she took all her materials along to work on.  Finally, after many nights of work (most nights for around three weeks?), she finished up, just in time to give it to him.

All done!
All done!

Pretty good, right?!  For my part, I’m pretty impressed.  It looks quite a bit like the real thing and just as good as most of the options available on Etsy (when you can find them).  Brooke also personalized a little “Cal” onto the bottom of it, forever marking this “Hobbes” for this “Calvin.”


At least, to the only person that matters, he’s perfect. :-)

Happy birthday, Calvin (and Hobbes)!

Another Important Milestone

Meg, hogging the camera...and Calvin, focusing on the goose in front of him
Meg, hogging the camera…and Calvin, focusing on the goose in front of him

Last night, Meg had a church kids event to go to.  I took her, expecting to need to wait until the event got going.  The organizer was there, along with a few kids, but they were going to wait upstairs for more kids to get there before getting started.

I asked Meg if she wanted me to stay for a bit.

“No.  Bye, Daddy.”

Hug, kiss, and I was out the door.  With Meg left in a new situation with mostly new people.  Bonkers.

We’ve struggled with leaving Meg places for, oh, her entire life.  Any time we’d switch to a new school, we’d have to plan for, literally, weeks of struggling to get her situated and used to the new place and new people.  Every morning, we’d have to build in an extra 10 minutes or so in order to extract ourselves from the “dropping off” stage of our day.  By the end of the session, be it school or some kind of day camp, she’d be just fine!  But that initial “drop off” would be a huge hassle, as Meg tried to exert her dominance and ultimately would fail.

We expected the same thing with Kindergarten this year.  As recently as a few months ago, it took a few weeks before she’d stay at the YMCA without throwing a fit.  We had to resort to bribery to get her to do it.  And last year when we started at the Lab School, even with taking Calvin along to the same place, she’d cry as we tried to leave.

Yet Kindergarten?  Shockingly, it only took a day.  After only one day, she was good to go.  Yes, there was crying that first morning, but after she realized there were a few people she knew in her class, she did alright.

And at church last night?  A place we’ve attended a few times, but never in this context and never with these kids?  I was practically shoved out the door.

Likely, this was because the adult is a woman who’s also a Kindergarten teacher and who we’ve connected with on Sunday mornings.  But still, this is like a whole other child.  One I don’t recognize.

One who’s growing up.

And we couldn’t be happier!

Garden Update: Late-August

Slowly dying...
Slowly dying…

Yeah, I know, it’s technically September now. Whatever.

The main garden has looked like this for a few weeks now.  Brooke pulled out the green beans a few weeks ago and the corn has been done for awhile (we ended up with 24 pint jars, a few quart-size bags we gave to others, and a decent amount we could eat on at dinner – not bad for a first year).  We didn’t end up with much corn, sadly.  Some of the ears were actually pretty good, while others were under-developed or pre-chewed by insects.


In total, I’d say we had less than 15 ears out of our 3 rows of corn.  Some of the plants never quite finished up.  The ears we did get tasted sweet, yet the overall texture of the corn was a bit tougher than we’d prefer.  Still, Brooke turned it into a corn casserole and it was absolutely edible.  Not the greatest, but functional.

The pumpkins also finally did something.  Brooke planted pie pumpkins, so they’re smaller than regular, Halloween-style carving pumpkins.  So far, we’ve got 3, with at least a few more still green on the vine that we’re nursing along.


No word on how they taste, but we wanted to pick them because a). they looked done, and b). beetles have started showing up, so we were afraid they’d chew into the stem and ruin the pumpkins.  We’re thinking pumpkins are a safe bet for future planting, and had we planted them sooner (and watered, like, at all), perhaps we’d have even more.

The tomatoes kinda took over...
The tomatoes kinda took over…

We’ve had to keep trimming the tomatoes to limit their growth. I think our trellis system has worked pretty well, but putting the trellises close together has meant that it is kept pretty shady in between them. I’ve trimmed them since this picture was taken, so more tomatoes have started finally turning red.  Not a ton yet, sadly.

That's about it, so far...
That’s about it, so far…

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got a decent number, and we’ve had more than a few good slicing tomatoes.  We just haven’t had a huge number of them develop all at once to make it worth Brooke fire up the oven to process and can them.  We’ve got lots of little tiny ones still, too, which are great in salads and eating individually, but again, you don’t get much sauce from them.  We’ve been trying to water them a bit more judiciously in hopes of keeping them alive long enough to keep developing.

One thing worth mentioning, for posterity, is that we were able to turn our A/C off for the last two weeks.  You know, prime tomato-ripening weather?  In August?  Yeah, didn’t have much of it.  Lots of green tomatoes and no hot weather to turn ’em red.  Thankfully, it’s 90 F outside again, and it should remain that way at least through this week.  I was just out there watering and saw quite a few more red tomatoes, so perhaps we’re finally getting to the point where we’ll get something out of it.

Lastly, the sweet potatoes are still truckin’ along.  No actual sweet potatoes to show, but the plants have certainly gotten larger!

Vines that are hopefully attached to sweet potatoes...somewhere...
Vines that are hopefully attached to sweet potatoes…somewhere…

Hopefully the next post on this subject will be the last one until next year!  Still some work to do…


Cute little girl! ...who spilled syrup on her dress on the first day of school...
Cute little girl! …who spilled syrup on her dress on the first day of school…

A big day in the Linsenbardt household!  And a long time coming…

For the past few weeks, Meg has been pretty apprehensive about starting Kindergarten.  Then again, we run through this every time a new school comes into play, and this has happened more than a few times to her.  As the drill usually goes, on the first day, things are fine until you get to the room you’re going to leave her in, then she wells up with tears, and then she starts bawling…with a mix of a few screams…  Typically, you end up just leaving her there, crying, because the teacher says “It’s okay – just go.”  Eventually, she makes it through the day and you pick her up, and you repeat the same process for 2 or 3 weeks.

So far as the first day is concerned, today was no different.

Again, she’s been dreading this for a bit, telling us she didn’t want to go, that she wasn’t excited, that she was scared of going to Kindergarten.  Perhaps we noticed it more because she’s been home with me (near constantly) for the past month, so it’s inescapable.  Last night, when Mimi called to say “good luck,” Meg at least said she was excited, though that’s the first time I’d heard that expression from her.  Perhaps the Open House on Monday night helped a bit, introducing her to the new environment, her new teacher, and that at least one or two old friends from her previous preschool would be in her class.  Either way, yesterday was seeming a bit better.

Today?  Well, she got up, she ate her waffles, I bribed her with 5 M&Ms to get the picture above (which totally has syrup spilled on her dress…lovely…), and then we left for school.  Brooke and I both went this time, though Brooke will take over “drop-offs” from now on and I’ll handle “pick-ups.”

We got there and walked toward her classroom and were then directed toward the gym.  We unfortunately didn’t make this clear to Meg that there was a good possibility they’d gather in the gym before going to their classroom, so it’s likely that disrupted her plans a bit.

Before we even hit the gym, the tears were already rolling.

To save some text here, I’ll just say that it took about 10 min for us to get out of there.  Her teacher came in to help her feel more comfortable (and offer that she could help hand out name tags to her peers), and when that wasn’t quite enough, I offered to take her to Dairy Queen today after school.

That calmed her down.  Bribery will get you everywhere with Kindergarteners.

Ultimately, we survived the first part of what will be a long, long story this year!

Good luck, Meg!

The Oregon Trail: Days Six and Seven

The Oregon coastline
The Oregon coastline

We left Portland on Saturday morning and, rather than take the interstate down to San Francisco, we opted for the coastline via US-101.  Is this a longer trip?  Yes.  Is it much more interesting than taking I-5?  Absolutely.  US-101 connects up with the famed Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1), so it’s effectively the Oregon leg of that roadway.  For much of the trip, we were driving along the Pacific coast, which Brooke hadn’t seen before.  We stopped off at a beach or two to check it out and, believe you me, that water was cold.  We saw multiple cars with surfboards on top as we made this trip and never saw a single surfer actually in the water.

It was two-lane highway for much of this trip, but we had intended this to be a day-long drive down toward California.  Thus, we weren’t really in a rush or anything.  We stopped off at a seafood restaurant, Mo’s, to get the “local seafood treatment” (though what I ate was just fried fish from Alaska, so not that much fresher than what I’d get at home…oh well…).

Dirty tree hugger...
Dirty tree hugger…

The coast of Oregon took a few hours, and then US-101 headed inland.  We’d return to the coastline after awhile, but first we got to drive through the Redwood Forest (which is one of the main reasons we took this route instead of I-5).

Know what?  Those trees are big.  Really big.  Your encyclopedia collection didn’t lie to you.

As you drive through, you marvel at how tall the trees are.  Granted, I’ve seen some tall trees, so in some ways, these don’t seem that tall.  But when you actually get out of the car and stand next to one of them, your perspective changes a bit.  The tree above, located near a pull-off parking area, was just some random tree: it isn’t a special “biggest tree in the forest” or anything.  It’s just that they’re all this big.  Which is crazy.

We’d like to return here someday to do some camping and hiking.  We just didn’t have the time on this trip to spend very long, but we’re really glad we passed through the Redwood Forest.  It’s one of those things you can look at in pictures, but can’t truly experience until you stand next to one.

Vineyards through the car window.
Vineyards through the car window.

US-101 weaved back to the coast for a bit, and then continued inland toward San Francisco.  We stopped in Redwood Valley, CA for the night at an Airbnb house.  This was our first experience using Airbnb and we were pleased with the results.  The house we stayed in had a separate apartment area with a mini-fridge, its own bathroom, a queen-size bed, a table and chair, and had its own access out of the house.  I’m quite sure this was a dice roll that could have turned out poorly, but based on the reviews for the woman we stayed with, and the location, we went with it and were pleasantly surprised.  I think we’d definitely recommend Airbnb again as an option for a place to crash for the night, but just make sure you look at the reviews and make sure you’re fine with the accommodations being offered (i.e. if you don’t want to stay in some grandma’s basement on her couch, don’t do it…because those places are on there and the experience will be just as they describe).

Redwood Valley, CA is less than 2 hrs from San Francisco, so we still had a little driving to take care of the next morning.  It’s also about 70 mi from Napa Valley, so there are tons of vineyards along the route.  And when I say “tons,” I say “you know how much corn we grow in Iowa?  Well, imagine an Iowa cornfield of grapes and that’s what you’ll see.”  Seriously, the vineyards in Missouri near Hermann simply can’t compare, just in sheer volume.

One thing we noticed as we made this leg of the trip through northern California was the lack of water.  California is going through a pretty serious drought this year and it was evident almost as soon as we left the Redwood Forest.  You can see in the picture above some healthy vineyards, but the dry grass underneath.  Among the trees in the background, you can also see dry fields of grass.  An errant match could pretty easily take up all those grapes in minutes.

A beautiful morning near Golden Gate Bridge.
A beautiful morning near Golden Gate Bridge.

After a few short hours, we crossed into San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was a lot bigger than I expected!  US-101 is what crosses it, so it wasn’t exactly hard to find.  It’s 6 lanes wide with some walking/biking in the middle.  Due to some construction, it took us a few minutes to figure out how to get this picture, but we eventually got to the grounds of the Presidio to take a look around.

Once the requisite pictures were taken, we found a place to park (for far cheaper than in Portland…) so we could walk toward Alcatraz.  As I’m a big fan of “The Rock,” I actually kinda wanted to check out the site, but it would have taken hours to take the ferry to the island and then take the tour.  In some ways, thankfully, the decision was made for us, as tours were all booked through mid-August by the time we checked in mid-June.

The Palace of Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts

So, instead we walked toward the Bay so we could at least see it from the shoreline (it’s visible from the Golden Gate Bridge, too).  On the way, we accidentally walked through another site from “The Rock,” the Palace of Fine Arts.  We didn’t really know what these buildings were even there for (apparently they were built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, so it’s kinda like their equivalent of St. Louis’ Forest Park and the 1904 Worlds Fair exhibits).  I think I was a bit more impressed than Brooke was, but the buildings were all pretty cool and the grounds were beautiful.

"Welcome to The Rock."
“Welcome to The Rock.”

Eventually, we cut through the multitude of tourists on bicycles and got to the coastline where I could get a picture of Alcatraz Island.  Here is my picture of Alcatraz Island.  I’ve been close enough to “The Rock” to take a picture.

I’m satisfied.

"Everywhere you look..."
“Everywhere you look…”

Speaking of “being close enough to take a picture,” we also saw the “Full House” house.  Not much to say here except yeah, we totally drove by it.

The Mission district.
The Mission district.

The last thing we did in San Francisco was check out The Mission district, which is where much of their Hispanic community calls home.  They also have quite a few restaurants and “Mission-style burritos,” where they were obviously invented and appropriated by the likes of Chipotle and Qdoba.  This area of town felt a bit “seedier” than where we were taking pictures of Danny Tanner’s fictional house, which was great because it also felt less touristy than what we’d already seen.

After that, we took off!  It was early-afternoon and we didn’t have anything else we really wanted to commit to for the next few hours, so we headed east, back home.  That night, we stayed at a KOA in Winnemucca, NV (after stopping off at our first In-n-Out Burger in Reno, NV), and then continued for a really long 14 hr day to Limon, CO.  The next day, we had an 8 hr drive home and that was it!  Though taking the interstate was far more boring than the initial trip out, it was good to “book it” home, as we were both in the mood for our own bed and consistent Wifi access.

It was a great trip!  Lots of memorable moments and cool things to see along the way.  We aren’t sure we’d change much about it, but I think we’d both like to hit up the Pacific Northwest again someday, perhaps when the kids are old enough to go hiking with us in the Redwood Forest, or have a beer in Portland.

Now.  What do do for our 15th Anniversary…hmmmmm

The Oregon Trail: Day Five


Yeah, I know: we already did a “Day Five” post…but it didn’t really address Portland.  Part of the genius of this Oregon Trail adventure of ours was that it would take us out to the Pacific coast, allowing us to see Portland, the Redwood Forest, and San Francisco before returning home via boring interstate highways.

We stayed at a Ramada in Portland for a few nights, getting much needed rest in actual beds with actual Wifi access (i.e. things we hadn’t really experienced for the previous 4 days…).  On Friday, July 10th, we explored Portland (and visited Oregon City in the morning).

Parking was something of an issue.  We tried heading up from Oregon City directly into Portland (15 min drive?), but quickly discovered that parking in downtown Portland on a Friday after 10:00 am is all but impossible for a reasonable price (or really, at all, for any price).  So, we drove around a bit before deciding to head back to the hotel, where we could leave the car and hop on their light-rail system to hit downtown.  Yes, it was backtracking and, yes, it took 45 min to take the train to get downtown.  But, once we were there, our lives were much easier.

Brewer's Choice sampler at Deschutes Brewery
Brewer’s Choice sampler at Deschutes Brewery

It appears that you can’t throw a rock without hitting a brewery in Portland and, while I would have loved to spend the day just hitting every brewery we could, that would have limited our ability to do other things (we’ll have to go back!).  Thus, we stopped by Deschutes Brewery for some appetizers and a few beers.  They’re a national brewery, at this point, but the stuff we tried isn’t bottled and is more limited to the Portland region.  It felt a lot like Schlafly Bottleworks, though I’m sure Schlafly modeled themselves after northwestern breweries when they formed decades ago.

Powell's City of Books
Powell’s City of Books

Near the brewery, we also stopped at Powell’s City of Books.  Yes, it’s “just” a bookstore, but it’s a really big one that takes up a full city block and is a few stories tall.  Just about any book you could imagine was here.  We picked up a few books for the kids as souvenirs (parents of the year!), but were really just in awe of how many books you could cram into this space.  Definitely worth a stop if you’re in town.

Stumptown Coffee
Stumptown Coffee

As we were in Portland, we also had to partake in local coffee wares.  Much like beer, the options for coffee in Portland are almost limitless, but it sounded like Stumptown Coffee Roasters are perhaps best-known and end up providing a lot of their beans to the other coffee houses in town.  In the end, it was really just a regular ol’ coffee shop, but at least we can say we had fresh coffee in Portland, right?

Pioneer Square
Pioneer Square

We walked by Pioneer Square on our way to dinner.  I guess this is their equivalent of Jackson Square in New Orleans, a location where you may hear live music, where there are local street vendors with food and souvenirs, and just a general gathering place for tourists.  Really, we just walked on by after seeing it…

Luc Lac Vietnamese Restaurant
Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen

The last thing we did was eat dinner.  Believe you me, the options in Portland are wide and ranging, but considering we’d had fast food, American-style food, Italian food (Brooke did, at least…) and knew we’d have Mexican down in San Francisco, we figured something more Asian would be a good idea for a change.  Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen had a lot of great reviews on the intertubes and we had a recommendation from a Portlander, so we gave it a go.  The place was packed, and it only got worse after we got our table…and we were there around 4:30 or 5:00 pm.  We got a smattering of different dishes (the small plates above were $2 each) for exposure to a lot of options.  Good stuff!

After that, we went back to the hotel.  By this point, we were ready to just chill for the rest of the night, as we’d be hitting the road again toward San Francisco shortly…

The Oregon Trail: Days Four to Five

A display showing an aerial view of Three Island Crossing
A display showing an aerial view of Three Island Crossing

After leaving Twin Falls, we headed toward Three Island Crossing State Park, a stop along the Snake River, where emigrants traveled after they left the Platte River way back in Wyoming.  The western desert of Wyoming was treacherous, and there were days of travel between leaving the Platte River and finding the Snake River.  For much of Wyoming and Idaho, the Oregon Trail follows some unreliable creek beds, so water was pretty scarce, potentially for weeks, depending on the time of year you were trying to cross the territory.

Thus, in this whole region, the landmarks for us to see were a bit more sparse.  It was very much like crossing a desert: few gas stations, not much water, not many communities.  Harsh territory where many emigrants lost their lives, unfortunately.

Three Island Crossing was a more lush area though, with grass and water, and a thriving Native American community (i.e. supplies).  In this area, the pioneers shared resources with the Indians, at least for awhile.

We didn’t take a plane with us, so getting this aerial view of Three Island Crossing wasn’t doable.  Thus, I present this picture (above) to illustrate how difficult it was to cross large rivers (like the Snake River, here in Idaho) and how there are certain locations (like this one) that are targeted by emigrants heading west to Oregon and California.  The yellow line on the display shows how the wagons got across, moving from island to island until they got to the other side.  Even with this crossing, many wagons still didn’t make it, or got stuck on one of the islands while trying to cross.

Alternatively, if you had the money, you could always take the ferry across, nearby.

A full-scale replica of a ferry at Glenns Ferry, ID.
A full-scale replica of a ferry at Glenns Ferry, ID.

At Three Islands State Park, they also had a full-scale ferry you could see, but sadly couldn’t actually use.  Again, this wasn’t a cost-effective option for many travelers, but in 1869, if you had the money, it was safer than trying to ford the river.

From Three Islands State Park, we continued west along the Snake River toward the Columbia River, but again, there wasn’t much to see on this leg of the trip.   We did stop near Boise, ID at the Oregon Trail Historic Reserve, which is really just a walking park around some distinct wagon ruts.

Some more wagon ruts.
Some more wagon ruts.

It was nice, but nothing worth writing home about (except here…obviously).  Again, there just wasn’t much we were interested in seeing as we went through Idaho.

For example, there are multiple forts along this track, however a). we’d already seen a bunch of cool forts, and b). the “forts” that they had to see were replicas, not actual buildings from the time period.  Fort Hall was an important stop along this portion of the trail, but the only thing there is a “replica museum” that over-charges people to see it.  Fort Boise was a British garrison, and also important, but again, there’s a monument left in Parma, ID and a “replica site” of the trading post open limited hours.  Thus, we found these sites to be skippable.

Fort Bridger was on the Wyoming side and we skipped it.  It’s possible this site would have been cool, as it had a few buildings left and some museums.  However, the Oregon Trail diverges at this point where some emigrants didn’t actually go that far south.  Depending on whether you were on the Mormon Trail or the California Trail, you’d want to head through Fort Bridger on your way to your destination.  The early travelers of the Oregon Trail likely went through Fort Bridger, but it looked to us like the trail heads north along Hams Fork and Craven Creek (current highway US-30).  Perhaps it depended on the time of year for whether you’d stop at Fort Bridger, or if you’d keep on heading westward.  Either way, it shaved a few hours off our trip, so we skipped it.

Back to Boise, ID though.  We passed through Boise (and stopped at a local Sierra Trading Post, which was sadly disappointing) and then crossed into Oregon.  Unfortunately, it turns out that Oregon doesn’t have an Oregon Trail Guide available through the National Park Service.  Crazy, I know.  All the other states have them, but not the state the Trail ended in.  Therefore, we didn’t really have specific sites to stop at.  Also, at this point, the trail kinda just follows I-84 all the way up to the Columbia River Gorge, so that’s what we did: drove on the interstate for awhile.

Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge

After hours of interstate driving though, we reached our destination: the “end” of the Oregon Trail.  Technically, this was the end of the overland portion of the trail, as following the Columbia River into said gorge meant that at some point, wagons could no longer actually follow the river and had to travel on the river to get to the Willamette Valley.

So, on July 9th, we reached the “end” of the Trail.  But, it wasn’t the “official” end.  That’s in Oregon City.  However, the End of the Oregon Trail museum closed after we got there that night.  So, we stayed in Portland (more on that in another post) and went down to Oregon City on July 10th.

The End of the Oregon Trail Museum
The End of the Oregon Trail Museum

This museum was a bit disappointing, methinks.  Maybe we played it up in our heads a bit.  Perhaps we’d just seen a lot of other museums on our trip.  Who knows.  Regardless, while the outside of the museum was pretty cool (with the large structures resembling wagons), the inside was disappointing.  They had a mock General Store (representing the beginning of the trail); they had a display of “Trail Medicine” (which looked like an undergraduate history project…mostly some written displays and some antique bottles with spices in them…); and they had a genealogy station set up in a room mocked up to look like a place to register your land.

Which, by the way, is the reason Oregon City was the “official end” of the trail: Oregon City was the closest location in the region where you could register your land claim.  If you came to Oregon on the Trail to get land, you had to go there.

The video shown at the museum was actually pretty interesting, as it just consisted of readings from diaries of emigrants on the Trail.  Though it largely told the same story that we’d heard for 2000 mi, it was interesting to hear it from a first-person perspective.

The Willamette Valley
The Willamette Valley

While in Oregon City, we took a quick walk along the valley to get a better look at what emigrants saw when they got here.  Sadly, it’s a bit more “industrial” than what was there 150 years ago, but we got a sense of the place.  It was definitely a far cry from the landscapes we’d seen on our travels through Nebraska, Idaho and Wyoming.  A fitting end to a treacherous journey.

That was it!  We’d made it!  It took us 4 days (technically, though we didn’t visit this museum until Day 5…) to cover what used to be a 4-6 month journey.  By this point, we were ready to not be in the car for 10+ hrs a day, so we enjoyed Portland a bit.

But that’s for another post…