'The Oregon Trail' by Rinker Buck

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'The Oregon Trail' by Rinker Buck

Staff recommendation

Two brothers travel in a covered wagon for four months, following a 19th-century American highway to Oregon, the first time someone retraced the Oregon Trail in the same way the pioneers had traveled. In The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, retired journalist Rinker Buck chronicles his trip and the history of the trail.

During the 19th century, the Oregon Trail was the super highway of the West.  Pioneer travel on the Oregon Trail peaked during the 1840s and 1850s. Later, the California, Santa Fe, and Mormon trails would follow a similar route. The Pony Express, railroad routes, telegraph lines, and interstate highways also would be influenced by the Oregon Trail. Because of historic preservation efforts in the 20th century, you can still see the Oregon Trail and what pioneers would have seen over 170 years ago.

As a young boy, the author had been on a covered wagon trip with his family in Pennsylvania, and he recalls that trip as part of his narrative. It was that childhood adventure which inspired him to travel the Oregon Trail in 2011. In preparation, Buck spent time researching the trail's history and its place in American history. Readers will learn how the Oregon Trail developed, and that there wasn't one continuous route to Oregon.

Buck describes the why and how for historical authenticity he chose the wagon and the mule team. During their four-month journey from St. Joseph, Mo., to Baker City, Ore., the author and his brother Nick dealt with rainstorms, fixed broken wagon wheels and axles numerous times, walked miles to find water, and encountered the challenges of navigating the trail.  Unlike the pioneers, the Bucks could call friends and get help from locals. 

Black-and-white photos and pencil illustrations accompany the text.

I really enjoyed reading this book. The Buck brothers certainly had the trip of a lifetime!
-- Elisa Babel, Adult Librarian
    Oregon Trail cover