In this issue

  • "First Year in Oregon, 1840-1869: A Narrative History" Now Available Online
  • News From Ladd Canyon in Oregon
  • Submit Your Volunteer Hours
  • Northwest Chapter Monthly Zoom Meeting
  • Colorado-Cherokee Trail Chapter Zoom Speaker Series
  • Northwest Chapter Outing Set for April 16
  • Gateway Chapter Presents "Buffalo Soldiers: From Slave to Soldier" on April 21
  • Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association Annual Meeting
  • 2022 OCTA California-Nevada Chapter Symposium in Anderson, CA
  • 2022 OCTA Southern Trails Chapter Symposium in Temecula, CA
  • Mormon Pioneer Trail Symposium, August 18-19, 2022, Council Bluffs, Iowa
  • Casper Convention, August 28 - September 3, 2022
Books & Publications
  • April Issue of the Trails Head Chapter "Traces" Newsletter
  • Missouri River Outfitters "Journal" for April 2022
  • Alcove Spring Newsletter, Winter 2022
  • Order Fresh Coffee and Help OCTA's Bottom Line

News From Ladd Canyon in Oregon

LA GRANDE — Four years ago, Dale Counsell and his son, Scott, found an unforgettable link, not to an internet website but to an era when digital technology was still the stuff of science fiction.

The Counsells were in Ladd Canyon on their family’s ranching land when Scott Counsell spotted a metal chain link sticking up from the ground and told his father. Curious, the Counsells began digging. What they found was not precious metal but something to treasure, a horse-drawn logging sled Dale Counsell said was used by a family who had owned the land as homesteaders in the late 1800s.

Nobody knows how long the sled had been buried but it was obvious the time underground had taken its toll.

“It was in terrible shape,” Dale Counsell said.

A skilled craftsman who loves history, Dale Counsell then refurbished the sled by replacing its wood while retaining its metal elements. Today, the sled is on public display as one of the latest additions to an Oregon Trail interpretive site on Hot Lake Lane, 2 miles west of the Lodge at Hot Lake Springs. The sled is loaded with logs from tree species common to Union County — white fir, lodgepole pine and tamarack, also known as western larch.

“The job Dale did restoring that sled is incredible,” said Ronnie Allen, of La Grande, who with Dale Counsell created the Lower Ladd Canyon Oregon Trail site five years ago.

The interpretive site is about a mile from the base of Lower Ladd Canyon Hill. Allen said Oregon Trail pioneers came off the hill directly to where the interpretive site is located.

In the mid-1800s, Oregon Trail pioneers made overnight stops at the location, he said. Allen estimates that from 1843 through the early 1860s, between one and five wagons were at the site continuously during the summer months.

The sled now at the site was likely used not only to transport trees but also hay, supplies and people, Counsell said.

The logging sled is one of several significant additions made to the Oregon Trail site over the past month. Other additions include an ox yoke, donated by Craig’s Antiques, of La Grande, that was used by oxen to pull a wagon across the Oregon Trail, Allen said.

“It shows heavy wear consistent with pulling covered wagons over the Oregon Trail,” he said.

Yokes, like the one displayed, were wooden beams normally used between a pair of oxen to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs.

Oxen are regarded as the unheralded heroes of the Oregon Trail, Allen said. He noted that the vast majority of the pioneers coming West on the Oregon Trail used oxen instead of horses. Pioneers preferred them because they are calmer and easier to work with than horses.

“They are not as temperamental as horses,” Allen said.

Pioneers took excellent care of their oxen, Allen said, because they knew that without the animals, they would be in dire circumstances.

Oxen sometimes drank water from wooden buckets on the Oregon Trail when they could not be taken to streams or springs. The buckets pioneers used to bring water to their oxen were virtually identical to a bucket that was also recently added to the Oregon Trail interpretive site, Allen said.

It is easy for visitors to the site to get a feel for the type of wagon oxen pulled across the West for it has two replicas of them. Both are farm wagons more than 100 years old that are like those used on the Oregon Trail. Allen said farm wagons started being used on the Oregon Trail due to a shortage of the more popular Conestoga wagons.

No actual wagons in which pioneers traveled across the Oregon Trail still exist, Allen said. He explained by the time pioneers made it to Oregon, most wagons were in terrible condition. Those that were functional were used for farm work until they worn out. And after about five years of farm work, he said, “they were useless.”

Allen, who received a Distinguished Service Award in 2019 from the Northwest chapter of the Oregon-California Trails Association for his work in helping create the Oregon Trail interpretive site in Lower Ladd Canyon, said there will be more additions to the center in the future.

“It is an ongoing project,” he said. “There really will be no end to it.”

From the La Grande Observer, March 26, 2022

Please Continue to Report
Your Volunteer Hours!!!!

Please continue to turn in your volunteer hours, mileage, expenses paid by you and not reimbursed, time traveling to meetings (including the San Diego Symposium), research, etc. We are attempting to collect data on an ongoing basis throughout the year to present the most accurate picture of all of the incredible work done by our huge team of advocates.

To submit hours, visit our online volunteer hour reporting portal for a simple, fast way to share your hard work with our federal agency partners and budget planners in Congress. Your volunteer hours are matched with appropriations and the Volunteers in Parks program to the financial benefit of our trails. Please report all you have done! It's the most important thing we do!

Northwest Chapter Monthly Zoom Meeting
Robin Baker will present on the work over the past couple of years to verify the Laurel Hill chutes used by Barlow Road travelers. Other chapter business to be discussed will include future event scheduling.

See more information about Robin's presentation and his hiking and exploration background below.

Join Zoom Meeting. Note that this month’s meeting is at 10:00 AM (Pacific).


From Robin:

My Saturday, April 9th presentation is titled "The Barlow Road on Laurel Hill." I will cover 5 topics:

  • Explorations on Laurel Hill (2017-2021)
  • Historical maps of the area
  • Jim Tompkins’ chute narrative
  • An imperfect Barlow Road chronology
  • Photos of ruts on the ground today

My background is in hiking and exploration. I joined the Mazamas in 1965 and mountain-climbed, backpacked, and hiked with them for several years, climbing all the Cascade Mountain volcanoes and numerous other peaks. I was an avid backpacker throughout the 1970s and 1980s, doing extensive solo off-trail backpacks in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, and Columbia Gorge, among other locations. At 73, I no longer climb or backpack, but am still an avid hiker and enjoy birding and botany while out on the trail.

Starting an OCTA Field Team from Scratch: 
Lessons and Tools Used in the Northern
Colorado Cherokee Trail Project

Ethan Gannett and David May

Beyond the MET manual and basic map training, a new OCTA field team in Northern Colorado is exploring the challenges of starting and fielding a team from scratch.  They will review project planning, the process of gaining access to private and public lands, tools created to gain the trust of owners and influential parties, and the process of fielding for the first time.  The presentation will also describe how to build a network of trusted advisors for the journey.  Ethan and David note that "while we are a new team and still learning the craft, we hope that what we have to present will be valuable to other OCTA members curious about our endeavors and approach."  Ethan is a retired VP of Engineering at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.  David is a retired President/CEO of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce.
The Zoom link is enclosed and please feel free to forward this message to others.
Join Zoom meeting:

Saturday, April 9:
  • 1:00 Pacific
  • 2:00 Mountain
  • 3:00 Central
  • 4:00 Eastern

Northwest Chapter Outing Set for April 16

You are invited to NWOCTA’s first outing of the 2022 season. Roger Blair and Rich Herman will be conducting a tour and hike of the Boardman Bombing Range. The hike is about four miles in length on Nature Conservancy property at the western end of the Bombing Range. It is not on the active portion of the Range, but there will be a stop to view the interpretive panels at Well Spring. It is an easy, level hike of excellent ruts. However, the trail is near the road along the southern boundary of the Range and should anyone not be able to complete the full length, there will be a pickup vehicle for anyone wishing to not complete the full hike. If there is interest, we can offer an opportunity to view the Sage Center in Boardman at the outset of the trek. 

The hike and tour will be held April 16, 2022. We will meet at 10 am in Boardman and caravan from there to the ruts. If you are interested in participating, please email Roger Blair ( and/or Rich Herman ( stating your interest. You will be sent instructions regarding where/when to meet, along with a list of motels in Boardman for those who wish to overnight the night before or after and any other necessary logistic information.  

Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association (KCAHTA) Annual Meeting
The KCAHTA annual meeting is to be HELD on APRIL 18, 2022, at the TRAILSIDE CENTER (9901 Holmes Rd, Kansas City, MO 64131).  The meeting will be from 5:30 – 7:00 PM.  The room is available beginning at 5:00 PM for visiting and refreshments.  

Gateway Chapter Presents
"Buffalo Soldiers: From Slave to Soldier"
April 21, 2022, at 7 PM Central

Books & Publications

April Issue of the the Trails Head
Chapter "Traces" Newsletter

Read the issue by clicking here

Missouri River Outfitters "Journal" for April 2022
Read the issue by clicking here

Alcove Spring Newsletter, Winter 2022
Read the issue by clicking here

Go West, Young Man: A Father
and Son Rediscover America
on the Oregon Trail

At the sound of the bell on the last day of kindergarten, B.J. Hollars and his six-year-old son, Henry, hop in the car to strike out on a 2,500-mile road trip retracing the Oregon Trail. Their mission: to rediscover America, and Americans, along the way. Throughout their two-week adventure, they endure the usual setbacks (car trouble, inclement weather, and father-son fatigue), but their most compelling drama involves people, privilege, and their attempt to find common ground in an all-too-fractured country.

Writing in the footsteps of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, Hollars picks up the trail with his son more than half a century later. Together they sidle up to a stool at every truck stop, camp by every creek, and roam the West. They encounter not only the beauty and heartbreak of America, but also the beauty and heartbreak of a father and son eager to make the most of their time together. From Chimney Rock to Independence Rock to the rocky coast of Oregon, they learn and relearn the devastating truth of America’s exploitative past, as well as their role within it.

Go West, Young Man recounts the author’s effort to teach his son the difficult realities of our nation’s founding while also reaffirming his faith in America today. It also features extensive interviews with OCTA Past President Duane Iles, the Historic Inscriptions on Emigrant Trails and Graves and Sites on the Oregon and California Trails author Randy Brown, and OCTA Association Manager Travis Boley, among others

You can
order your own copy of the book on OCTA's website for only $19.95. It would make an excellent Christmas gift!

Colorado-Cherokee Trail Chapter
Zoom Speaker Series

The next Zoom event of the Colorado-Cherokee Trail Chapter are scheduled for April 9.  

The Zoom links are enclosed, and the presentation begins at the times below:
  • 1:00 Pacific
  • 2:00 Mountain
  • 3:00 Central
  • 4:00 Eastern

April 9: 
Starting an OCTA Field Team from Scratch: Lessons and Tools Used in the Northern Colorado Cherokee Trail Project
Presentation by Ethan Gannett and David May 
Beyond the MET manual and basic map training, a new OCTA field team in Northern Colorado is exploring the challenges of starting and fielding a team from scratch. They will review project planning, the process of gaining access to private and public lands, tools created to gain the trust of owners and influential parties, and the process of fielding for the first time. The presentation will also describe how to build a network of trusted advisors for the journey. Ethan and David note that "while we are a new team and still learning the craft, we hope that what we have to present will be valuable to other OCTA members curious about our endeavors and approach." Ethan is a retired VP of Engineering at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.  David is a retired President/CEO of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce.
Zoom link:
2022 California-Nevada
Chapter of OCTA Symposium

Image Courtesy of the California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento, California

The California-Nevada Chapter of OCTA invites you to their spring symposium in Anderson, California (which is just outside of Redding). The symposium will be held from May 6-8 and the Gaia Hotel & Spa will serve as symposium HQ. Room rates are $104/night and the rate is valid until April 20. 

The Nobles Trail will be a feature of the symposium, but a highlight will be a presentation about Pierson B. Reading, a prominent Northern California pioneer who entered the Sacramento Valley in 1843 with the Joseph Chiles Party after they traveled down the Pit River. He received the northernmost Mexican Land grant, Rancho Buena Ventura, and made the second gold strike in California in 1848 on Clear Creek, west of his ranch.

Another highlight of the symposium will be a historical enactment by the Voices of the Golden Ghosts. Their mission is to bring to light the interesting and important pages of African American involvement in the Gold Rush, as their stories have been nearly lost from the history books to date.

On Sunday, symposium attendees will have an opportunity to visit Shasta State Historic Park for a tour and historic presentation by Jonathan Sutliff, park interpreter. Participants will see what remains of the old city at the end of the Nobles Trail, tour the museum, visit the historic cemetery where Phoebe Colburn is buried, then do a post symposium tour back up the Nobles Trail as far as Shingletown.

The tour will feature the crossing of the river where the ferry was located as well as the location of Fort Redding. Other highlights include the Dersch Ranch, a station and camp on the trail, Foot of the Mountain Station, and Charlie’s Ranch, site of bear and bull fights that brought people from as far away as Sacramento and San Francisco to witness the excitingly brutal action that was finally outlawed in 1859.

The tour will end at Shingletown, which was named for the shingles it produced for Shasta and neighboring gold rush towns.

For more information and to download the registration form, please visit our website. The registration deadline in April 20, so do not delay!

2022 Southern Trails Chapter of OCTA Symposium

The Southern Trails Chapter of OCTA is pleased to announce their FREE spring symposium in Temecula, California from Monday, April 25 through Wednesday, April 27. 

From 1 to 4 PM on Monday, a welcome event is planned at the historical Saint Catherine’s Catholic Church Chapel of Memories located in the Sam Hicks Monument Park next to the Temecula Valley Museum. There will be private access to the museum and the displays as part of the event. Walking Tours of Old Town Temecula will be led by a guide as well as self-guided walking tour maps are available.

Tuesday features an Historic Road Rally from 9 AM to 5 PM. This is an exciting event, driving your own car on a pre-planned route with historical stops and knowledgeable leaders. It will be a fun day starting at the Little Temecula History Museum Red Barn for orientation and returning to Temecula in the late afternoon. We will be making stops along the way that include some walking on easy paths.

Finally, Wednesday wraps up with a visit to the Vail Headquarters and the Little Temecula History Museum, which will offer an exciting day with speakers in the morning in the Museum, lunch at the Vail Headquarters as well as a tour, displays and education as we turn back the clock to the 1800’s! Local experts will share some of the history of Riverside County as we look back through time. We’ll share important facts and stories along with the chance to interact with the authors of a variety of books on the topics. Then we’ll enjoy Vail Ranch Headquarters for the afternoon.

Learn more on
the registration website

Save the Dates! 40th Anniversary for the 
2022 OCTA convention slated for Casper

The Oregon-California Trails Association and the Wyoming Chapter of OCTA will hold OCTA’s 40th annual convention, “Leaving the Platte,” in Casper, Wyo., August 28-September 2, 2022.

The conference will include two full days of talks and presentations, and two full days of bus tours to trail sites east and west of Casper on the Oregon/California/Mormon trails—and north of Casper on the Bozeman Trail.

We also plan a private-vehicle trek pre-conference from grave sites near Fort Laramie to Register Cliff and the Guernsey ruts, and a pair of post-conference, private-vehicle treks to South Pass—one up the Seminoe Cutoff and the other over Rocky Ridge.

Speakers will include keynoter and historian Todd Guenther on the history and meaning of South Pass; Camille Bradford on the huge Oregon Trail centennial gathering at Independence Rock in 1930 organized by her stepfather, Howard Driggs; Clint Gilchrist of the Mountain Man Museum in Pinedale, Wyo., on the fur trade and its connections to the historic trails; a panel on collaborations between the Bureau of Land Management and the LDS Church on management and interpretation of the trails along the Martin’s Cove-South Pass corridor; sessions on the turbulent history and current-day preservation of the Bozeman Trail, which ran north from the North Platte to the gold fields of Montana—and much more.

Activities will include demonstrations by famed South Dakota wheelwright and wagon maker Doug Hansen and a mochila exchange by Pony Express riders.

Other events will include a banquet, a barbecue, an auction, raffle, book room and an authors’ night. Conference headquarters will be the Ramkota Inn in Casper. Registration materials will be sent out in April 

Wyoming has some of the longest and best-preserved trails, swales and pioneer grave sites in the nation. See you in 2022!

Click for much more information on Wyoming’s trails. We will visit many of these sites during the conference.

Order Fresh Coffee and Help
OCTA's Bottom Line

OCTA member Richard Gibson reached out to us with a review of the coffee. He wrote:

"I wanted to say to the group and to the KC ROASTERS that I am thoroughly enjoying my OREGON TRAIL ROAST BLEND COFFEE. It is mellow but full of flavor and is easy to warm back up or drink when cold! Great Idea for whomever came up with this promotion for OCTA! THANKS. I still have another package unopened!"

OCTA Board Member Jean Coupal-Smith added:
"This is a wonderful brew! I love the rich, bold flavor, even though its medium roast and I usually drink dark roast. I rate it up there at the top with my favorite Starbucks blend of Cafe Verona. It is very smooth."

We concur whole-heartedly with Richard and Jean, though this E-News editor is of the opinion that the Butterfield Bean Medium Roast is slightly better than the wonderful Oregon Trail Medium Roast Blend. We remain excited that KC Coffee Roasters created two specialty coffees with 10% of every purchase being donated to the Oregon-California Trails Association. They are currently featuring Oregon Trail and Butterfield Bean blends. Visit their website at to order now.

And an extra special thank you to Idaho Chapter President Jerry Eichhorst, whose keen eye discovered this ad from a 1929 issue of the Idaho Statesman!
Copyright © 2022 Oregon-California Trails Association, All rights reserved.

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