Your kids may have heard about the Oregon Trail, but have you taken them to stand in those wagon wheel tracks in Wyoming (photo at right)?
So many wagons traversed West that the tracks are deep enough for an adult person to stand in. Even as an adult I was awe stuck by this fact; it was hard to conceive of the thousands of wagon trains it took to make tracks five feet deep.
Or, how about the Grant-Kohrs Ranch in Montana? From 1870 to 1920, the ranch had cattle grazing over 10 million acres in the Northern Rockies. Today it is a National Historic Site with several intact structures and park rangers to tell you the story.
Last time I was there the ranger had a pot of coffee brewing over an open fire by the chuckwagon. Seeing a ranch like this firsthand certainly beats anything you will see in a movie.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of a history trip is teaching our children to understand where we came from, the hardships our ancestors facedevery day just to survive, the work involved in producing food and clothing, the struggle through inclement weather to get to a one room school, and how it took everyone working together to establish and maintain a community. These are valuable reminders of who were are and how we got to where we are today.
Getting Ready for the Trip
Before planning your history adventure, sit down with the family and talk about events or places that might be of interest to each person, then visit your local library to learn more about the places you have chosen.
One of our favorite pasttimes is to get out the maps and pour over them while making our decision. I know how many of you love your GPS, but believe me the maps are great fun and also a great teaching tool in themselves. Check out all of the historical places along your planned route – you will be surprised how many interesting places exist that you have never heard of.
Leave the video games and DVD players at home. Take time to stop for those unplanned places you pass – one of those could end up being the best part of your adventure.