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Wagon Masters on the Old Oregon Trail
Following the trails of the old west is a passion for this group of teamsters. Most participants in the modern day migration have been on a number of cross country trips. This time they followed the route of the old Oregon Trail along Highway Thirty from Montpelier to Soda Springs. Just west of Soda Springs they turned off onto the Hudspeth Cutoff. The cutoff opened in 1849 with the promise of a shorter path to the California Trail. It's a more difficult passage but the group chose the Hudspeth because it offers travel along some less developed sections of the old Oregon Trail. There's also a lot less congestion than other routes.
"When we figure out where we're going to go I look at a topical map and if there is a gravel road or dirt road or just a regular cross country road I'd rather go on that than I would stick around and go on an oiled road. I look at a map and we've got to go east or west or north or south and if we can go where the old trails went that's where I like to go. And when you climb up in that seat and tell that mule to go your dependency is on that mule. It isn't in a vehicle and that's probably what I love about it.
Brothers Joe and Frank Adams have enjoyed driving wagons and teams for years and have dozens of trips under their belt. Excursions like these can take anywhere from several days to a few months. This unique form of recreation is more of a lifestyle than a pastime.
"But if I had to do it for a living you couldn't hire me. If somebody said, Frank you've got to harness up those mules in the morning and get over the hill I'd say you go find somebody else, I'm not going to do it. But I'll do it myself because I just love to do it. It's not easy at all but it makes you work. You can get on the pavement and drive down the road but you just as well do it in your car. It isn't any fun. As long as you can get out here and get on one of these trails where you have to drive and have to work and watch your animals and take care of things then it's interesting."
The Hudspeth Cutoff is well marked and many sections of the route are still very primitive. The rough nature of the trail and the steep grades along this corridor give teamster Glenn Beck an idea of what the pioneers travelling west experienced.
"I really enjoy seeing the markers as you go and the ruts and the actual trail. It's kind of fun to look out there and say this is where they went and this is the hill they climbed and this is what they did. It makes you think about the pioneers and what they went through. Of course we get a little taste of some of the experiences they had, not all of it but it makes you want to learn more about it. As you are right on the trail it seems like it means more to you."
Watching history pass by, travelling slow enough to savor the experience, taking the time to appreciate the moods of Mother Nature…those are some of the attractions of rolling down the trail. Although it requires plenty of hard work and overcoming a mixture of challenges, for these adventurous teamsters there's nothing else they would rather do.
"It grows on you and it's a more laid back lifestyle. The first one I went on I kept saying I'm on vacation? People couldn't pay me enough to do this. This is work. And then after a week or two you forget that you are on vacation and it's more of a lifestyle and all of a sudden your cares kind of go away and you start sleeping better. You don't have any newspapers or TV or radio or telephone or anything and all of a sudden you just find the stress is kind of gone."