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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

National Oregon/California Trail Center - Montpelier, ID

After leaving McCall, ID, my husband joined me as we took a couple of days to travel to my next teaching stop.  We followed the real Oregon Trail eastbound from Boise, to Twin Falls, to Pocatello, and ended in Montpelier, ID.  A most fitting place to stop following the trail.  We visited several areas where the wagon ruts still exist, which was quite exhilarating!!  And the mountains, valleys, rivers, and gorges were spectacular.

The National Oregon/California Trail Center, you see, sits on top of the actual land that was once known as the Clover Creek Campground.  From where the Oregon Trail began in Independence, MO, Clover Creek was 1,100 miles into the 2,000 mile journey, and was a welcome three day stop for the emigrants.  Before building the Trail center, the founders worked very closely with Oregon Trail historic experts who assisted them in pinpointing the actual Clover Creek land.  When digging the Trail building foundation, they discovered two fire pits and lots of artifacts underground.  The Trail founders then situated the building on top of the camp sight in order to preserve it. 
This is a view inside one of the exhibits.  Notice the dirt floor?  You can really see the dirt floor looking at the far right of the picture.  Why pay so much attention to the dirt on the floor?  Because the founders saved every bit of the actual trail dirt they dug out of the campsite for the foundation and replaced it inside the exhibit areas!  Pretty cool, huh?  

(By the way, these benches and historic setting are where the local chapter of the Prairie Women's Sewing Circle meet each month!  Isn't that the coolest setting ever??!!!  Right on bonafide Oregon Trail land!!!)

You can (and most definitely should!) take the living history Trail "tour" which is lead by a very knowledgeable "Wagon Master" who will tell you all about what you need in preparation for your arduous journey.  The wagon and all the provisions on the shelves in the rear of the picture would have been all you're allowed to take.  1500 lbs worth of goods, mostly food stuffs. Not much room for quilting frames or treadle sewing machines!

Before leaving Independence, MO, you would have visited the local Mercantile.  (This is such an awesome recreation of a dry goods store of the era.)  

Of the many items for sale at the Mercantile, you would have picked up a few bolts of fabric, not for making clothing, household goods, or quilts, but for trading with the Indians.  You might trade fabric for buffalo skin, which would be much warmer to sleep upon instead of a thin burlap mat.  (Parish the thought, right?!)  Coffee beans, a small flour grinder, and bullets would be on your list as well.  The Wagon Master would acquire (and be the only one allowed to have) a bottle each of whiskey, laudanum, and a strong liniment.  All three could be used for what ail's you!!

I was so into the living history tour that I plum forgot to take pictures of the rest of the tour, but suffice it to say, it was quite enthralling!  A collection of real wagons that actually made the 2,000 mile trip, and all the vintage camp paraphernalia that goes with it are displayed around the areas where the two original campfires were found.  I was like a kid at Disneyland!

The modern areas of the Trail Center honor and reflect its nineteenth century history in every nook and cranny.  When you ask to be directed to the restroom, they indicate the closest "white porcelain" bushes for you to use.  The staff are almost never out of character, making the entire experience so much fun.

Classes are held upstairs in a light and airy room....

...where you're surrounded with 1800's artifacts the museum as acquired.  

Didn't they do an awesome job creating a fun place to eat at the Trail Center?

 While you might think they serve "trail grub", you'd be wrong.  They have a very talented executive chef capable of serving Prime Rib to over 100 guests!  Everything was delicious!

The Trail Center is also home to a state-of-the-art auditorium.  I was loving the covered wagon background as I gave my lecture and trunk show.  

All in all, my visit to the National Oregon/California Trail Center was one I will never forget.  My heartfelt thanks to Executive Director, Becky Smith, Jill, Cindy and Dave who all went above and beyond to make our trip wonderful!  And my thanks, also, to all the quilters who came out for the lecture and workshop...I had a great time meeting you all and hope to see you again soon!  Stay tuned to my blog for news about a return trip here in the Spring!

After leaving Idaho, my hubby and I traveled to Jackson Hole, WY, spent two days driving thru and exploring Yellowstone National Park, then made our way to Cody and Casper, WY.  
My hubby is heading home while I'm off to Houston, TX for Fall Quilt Market.  Rest assured I will be reporting on the wonderful new stuff I find there.  Follow me on Instagram and Facebook for daily goodies.  

Thanks for visiting today!!


  1. I've been there through the tour but I have never seen the classroom, auditorium and eating spaces. Very fun! looks like you had a good group.

  2. Next trip east, I'm putting this on my list of places to stop!! Thanks for all the great information and pictures!

  3. Looks like a great time. My friend Sandy lives nearby and is able to take some of the classes they provide,