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The covered wagon

Today we were real western explorers like the Oregon trail adventurers and the Donner Party… only they had a little more success than we did, because some of them got to their destination. Mom decided to drive the car-house a little further up the mountain from where we’d slept to see if we could find the trailhead. The problem was that The Witch in Mom’s Phone was ignoring us, so we had to try to figure things out for ourselves. When we came to a place where 4 trails crossed, we parked the car-house and decided to continue exploring on foot.

Since we’re good explorers, we know that most car trails go toward the spot where the mountains are the lowest, and most running trails tend to go toward where the mountain is highest. Therefore, if we chose the car trails that went toward the nearest peak, and stay away from the ones that went downhill then eventually we would find the spot where the road and trail parted ways. So first we ran up the trail that went uphill in the direction of the peak. But after about 2 miles the most giant tree I’d ever seen was lying on its side blocking our way. So we turned around a tried a different way.

Next we followed a trail that went uphill, but seemed to be moving away from the peak. This one ended in a big, round dirt area less than a mile from the intersection. We knew that the trail wasn’t in the direction that we’d come from, so that left the trail that went downhill and away from the peak. At this point I didn’t think we would find the trail anymore, but I was enjoying exploring.

After going down the “no chance” trail for just over a mile, much to our surprise we found a sign in the middle of the wilderness. It was the trail that we were looking for! It had been less than 2 miles away from where we’d given up and spent the night! The problem was that the trail was an 11-mile loop, and we’d already run more than six, and Mom had drunk most of our water. So we couldn’t see the whole thing without death overtaking us, and would have to turn around at some point.

The trail was messy with sticks and pine cones all over it, like no one had cleaned up in a really long time. It climbed steep like a ladder, not shallow like a staircase so I bet if we just got to the top we would get really high and there would be some great views for Mom to sniff. But Mom said that she was getting icked out by all the spiderwebs getting caught in her sweat, and she was hungry and wanted to go back to the car-house now.

“Mom, do you think we’re safe 10 miles up on the mountain with The Witch ignoring us?” I asked. Then I remembered how our last car-house had been scared of steep downhills and shuddered when we were driving on them. “Do you think the car-house can get back safely???” “Gosh, I sure hope so. Otherwise we’re in some serious doo-doo…” Mom said, like she wasn’t really convinced herself. “I don’t know how those covered wagons made it through this terrain in the Old West days.” “What’s a covered wagon?” “When the Oregon trail explorers traveled this way they put everything they needed in these old-fashioned wagons that were white and round on top and didn’t move very fast.” “Our mail-man-van has all our stuff in it and is old fashioned and white and rounded and doesn’t move very fast! Is it a covered wagon? Are we Oregon Trailers?” “Not exactly, but close enough…”

We did make it safely off the mountain… just like the Donner Party. The next trail was almost 5 hours away and the old us never would have been able to find it without The Witch’s cooperation, but Mom is getting better at exploring. She’d taken a picture of the list of all the turns we needed to take, just in case. “Let’s just hope that we don’t have to take a detour,” Mom said. “If we have to deviate from the instructions, then we’re screwed.”

Once it got to be afternoon it was getting pretty hot in the covered wagon, so we stopped for a swim to cool off and so that Mom could wash the sweat and cobwebs off of her. I like swimming out into lakes and ponds to chase sticks, but I don’t trust water that moves on its own like rivers and the ocean. Mom kept throwing sticks into the water, and I kept running out to a big underwater rock that I could stand on to wait for them to drift by. The sticks kept coming close, some of them within an inch or two of my nose, but they never came close enough for me to pluck them out of the water. I watched stick after stick go by, and barked after them once they had drifted out of reach. “Hey! Stick! Stick, come back!” “Why don’t you swim after it, stupid?” Mom laughed, not unkindly. “Because I’m a runner, not a swimmer. Duh! Why don’t you throw better? You’re worse at pitching than you are at running.” “Oscar, when you want something great you can’t just wait for the current to bring it right to you. Sometimes you’ve got to put in effort to help luck along. You’ve got to swim after it!” “Who’s the life coach here?!” I asked. “If you chase the wrong stick, then you wind up up to your neck in cold water and drifting away from your rock where you were warm and dry and had a good view. Then you have to paddle like crazy just to get back to where you were in the first place. You wind up spending all your energy on paddling rather than chewing up the stick like you wanted to to begin with. There will always be more sticks. Success is about waiting for the right opportunity.” “But look at us this morning. We climbed that whole mountain and then stopped just before we found the trail, and as a result we didn’t get to explore it.” She did have a point there… “Well that’s because The Witch is out to get us. Usually if you don’t succeed it’s someone else’s fault,” I explained. “I’m pretty sure that’s not good advice,” Mom said.

We continued driving for many more hours, using a very zoomed-out map for guidance that showed practically the whole Oregon Trail. We were supposed to be less than an hour away when we pulled up short in front of a sign blocking the road. “ROAD CLOSED AHEAD” the sign shouted.

This was very, very bad. Mom looked at the zoomed out map and saw that we would have to go half way across Oregon to find another route. “Unless…” she said, zooming in. “…it looks like there’s a road here!” So we backtracked for about an hour and a half until we found the road. By now we were both cranky and ready for dinner, but we also needed to find a good place to stop.

After driving 10 miles, that road turned into a dirt road too. “I think this road must be 40 or 50 miles long, Oscar…” Mom said, looking at the map. “I think that we’re going to need to take the long way around to get out of here.” “Sometimes you just need to go just a little bit further to get the prize,” I reminded her. “Remember the stick? According to your logic we should keep going on the dirt road and just try a little harder,” I reminded her. “Okay, fine, you’re right,” Mom conceded. “I give up… Let’s go find the nearest campground.”

-Oscar the land lubber


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