Remembering the Applegate Valley

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Remembering the Applegate Valley

Postby straightspoke » Fri Aug 13, 2010 9:58 am

The final day of CO 2009 included a delightful and colorful morning cruising through the fertile Applegate River Valley. 160 years prior, as we were reminded, the westward bound emigrants were drawn to this valley by the promise of “tall grass and clear waters” of the Applegate. Oregon natives may know this history well, but for me the story of how the Applegate Valley got its name is an interesting one. And I connected the emigrant trail story to a bicycle story last May in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.
The Applegate family moved west on the main Oregon Trail in the early 1840’s. Tragedy struck the family on the Columbia River near The Dalles when their raft capsized and three family members including two boys were drowned. The Applegates determined that a safer route, without the rafting, was needed and eventually surveyed the South Road into Oregon. This route turned southwest not long after crossing the Continental Divide, found the Humboldt River in northern Nevada, then traversed northern Nevada’s desolate Black Rock Desert and around Klamath Falls arrived in southern Oregon, allowing access to the Willamette Valley. (Please correct or add to this account if you can.)
Here’s the cycling connection: My daughter dragged me out to the Black Rock this last May for a rendezvous with her friends. During that weekend, we rode our mountain bikes along the portion of the Applegate emigrant trail that traverses the Black Rock Desert. It’s an interesting ride in 2010 but clearly would have been an awful place to travel in wagons in the 1840’s. I’m posting some photos to give you a sense of what it looks like out there.
Black Rock Desert playa
on the playa
at the black rock

If these photos convey anything, I hope they will add contrast and context to the phrase “tall grass and clear waters” of the Applegate!
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Re: Remembering the Applegate Valley

Postby SummerBreeze » Fri Aug 13, 2010 3:24 pm

It just amazes me what people went through to get to the Northwest. My great gramma did it back in the 1800s from Independence, with two little girls and an ox-drawn wagon. And I grumble if there's no V-8 at the rest stops!! Can you imagine all those desolate miles plodding along beside your wagon and everything you owned in it and no convenience stores or aid stations or anything? Don't think I'd a done it, would you?
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Re: Remembering the Applegate Valley

Postby Marble » Fri Aug 13, 2010 5:08 pm

Thank you for the story.
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Re: Remembering the Applegate Valley

Postby straightspoke » Sat Aug 14, 2010 3:26 pm

As for difficulties and hardship for the emigrants, I don't think we can have a real clue. But it's interesting to consider, and I hope I've got my facts straight again, that the mortality rates weren't too different on the trail from those staying back home. Childbirth and appendicitis were pretty risky events in those days wherever you were.
Anyway, we can be grateful that our lot this September will include a cycling vacation!!!!
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