We learned a new word today: swale.
We learned other, more trivial knowledge from the underside of my bottle cap, but that's a diversion ;-)
We were actually on our way to Minor Park, where we understood we'd be able to see evidence of the trails which started nearby. But first we had to find them.
We found something rather more unexpected for a Kansas City park on a Sunday morning: a cricket match. True to form, they were taking a break for tea!
But a little further on, we spotted an information board and here we were. This was the place where the pioneers had crossed their first river and had to haul the wagons out of the water and up a fairly steep slope. Most would have set off from Independence that day and this is where they might have spent their first night.
And here was what we were hoping to see: the swales! The tracks worn in the earth by all of those wagons heading out westwards.
We had left our wagon nearby whilst we looked around and now we knew what we were looking for, we headed out to Independence, the starting point or "jumping off place" for the settlers.
We had read that the meeting place for the wagon trains was the SE corner of Courthouse Square.
Yes, there on the corner was a marker stone.
It would have looked rather different then, of course, as the pioneers gathered all the supplies they needed for their long journey from the eager salespeople of the town.
To learn a little more about all of this, we headed on over to the National Frontier Trails Museum.
To start with, there was a wagon to prepare and perhaps, a slogan to come up with. We don't have a canopy to write a slogan on, but having prepared our wagon, all suggestions are welcome!
Clearly the pioneers had similar quandries to us when it came to packing. What to take? What to leave? But it was a simpler life back then, so perhaps it made it rather easier to decide?
Having packed the wagon, hitched up the mules or oxen and secured it all together, it was time to jump off. They were on their way.
The museum gave us a great picture of the trails and what life was like for those who chose to travel like this. The enormous numbers of people who moved across the country together surprised me and seeing a picture like this made it easier to imagine how those swales had been worn into the earth. There were stories similar to those I'd read, about how the pioneers would find that they had to discard some of their belongings as they went to lighten their load. Those travelling behind them might come across these things by the side of the trail and make use of them - or unscrupulous traders from Missouri might collect them all up and resell them to later, unsuspecting customers.