Wandering Amylessly: In a rut? Channel your inner “pioneer spirit” to meet the challenge

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June 19, 2022

By Wyo4News feature writer Amy Larsen

When traveling throughout the state of Wyoming, my mind wanders to the time of the early pioneers. Due to the low population of Wyoming, the landscape hasn’t changed that much since the great western migration, the early explorers, trappers, and before them the Native American tribes, so it is easy to let my mind go there. Plus, ruts of the trails are still visible in places, artifacts are still discovered, and names are forever etched in stone, making it easy to wander into the past.

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Places like Fort Laramie, Independence Rock, and South Pass still serve as landmarks to welcome the traveler. Along these historic routes, I find myself wondering if I would have made it out on the trail. Suppose I would have been one of the 500,000 people who left in search of something more. Would I have the courage, strength, and perseverance to make it my destination? I even wonder what it is I would have been searching for?

Recently I was thinking about how everyone who came along these trails had a purpose for being there. They were all searching for something. It may have been food, fortune, adventure, or salvation, the reasons varied, but the desire was the same, to start a new life full of new hope and new promise. I imagine when they set out, they had realistic expectations that it wasn’t going to be easy, but I imagine there was no way for them to possibly know how hard it was going to be.

Amy “in her rut.” (Photo submitted by Amy Larsen)

They didn’t have google earth, maps, or cell phones. They had directions that had most likely been shared with them verbally, maybe some handwritten maps, and their entire lives in a wagon. They took off with family, friends, and strangers, all on the same, albeit different journey. After the first groups had gone, trails were easier to discern, and ruts started to be formed by the thousands of wagons looking for whatever the future held. Eventually, they knew where to cross the rivers, what landmarks to look for, and that they had to be at Independence Rock by Independence Day to make it safely to Oregon before the weather changed. (Yep, total fun fact I just learned!)

As I was at some of the Oregon Trail ruts earlier this year, I jokingly posted on social media that “some day’s work just has you in a rut.” So often, “being in a rut” is associated with doing the same thing repeatedly, making no progress, being boring, and needing to make a change. A few weeks ago, however, when I found myself again “in a rut,” I took a second and looked out in the direction the trail was heading and realized that maybe being in a rut isn’t always a bad thing after all.

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Every person that carved those ruts was looking for a change, but every day was different and 10-12 miles closer to where they were headed. They were not stuck there; they were making progress. I am sure walking, cooking, camping, and walking again every day for up to six months felt monotonous, but when a landmark was reached, and names of families were discovered, there had to be a relief, joy, and a renewed passion to keep moving forward. As I sat in the ruts, I kept thinking about how these ruts are a symbol of people who kept moving forward, who blazed the trail ahead of me, proof that if they could make it through this rugged and unforgiving terrain, then I could too. While I am on my own journey, others have gone before me. I am not alone in whatever I am going through. Somebody has been there, and there is proof of that all around me.

We may never know all the stories of those who formed the ruts in front of us, and that’s okay, as it is our journey, not theirs. They are just helping us complete it. I may never know whether I could have been a pioneer in the mid-1800s or not, which is okay, as I am figuring out my own purpose, my destination, but with the same desire as those early pioneers. I know there is something more out there for me, for all of us, and as we continue to wander forward, I hope we all sometimes find ourselves in a rut. It really is not a bad place to be.

A quick shout out to all the dads who have been blazing trails and creating ruts for us to follow! Happy Father’s Day!

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