Renegade Roads

Wagons Ho!

Joseph Meek and Robert Newell knew the landscape of the West by 1840, since both had been working beaver streams throughout the Rockies and beyond for more than a dozen years. They would make their own history by taking the first wagons to Oregon late that fall,

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Wyoming at 125: Still Bucking

Wyomings-125th-AnniversaryThose of us who are Wyoming-born residents relish the fact that we live in the least-populated state in the nation. As our former governor Mike Sullivan often said, we are a medium-sized city with really long streets. We have far more antelope, deer and elk than people,

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Love Song to the Plains and the Desert West

RR_Great-Plains_Courtesy-Library-of-Congress_Oklahoma-PressEach year Western Writers of America (WWA) adds a distinguished writer to the Western Writers Hall of Fame (HOF).

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Steinbeck’s Trail

John-Steinbecks-TrailAt a book signing a while back, legendary Western writer Max Evans (The Rounders, The Hi Lo Country, Goin’ Crazy With Sam Peckinpah and All Our Crazy Friends) was asked to name his favorite writers. The first one he mentioned was John Steinbeck.

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Gems Along the Continental Divide

RR_Cripple-Creek-Battle-Mountain-Mines-1900The backbone of the continent—the Continental Divide—is rocky  and rugged in places, and geologically diverse.

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Idaho Celebrates 125 Years of Statehood

Shoshone-Falls-and-Snake-River-CanyonIdaho marks a century and a quarter of statehood in 2015 and while much has happened to define the state during the past 125 years, the landscape remains much the same. The mountain ranges and rivers that form the northern half of the state mean it can still be a challenge to travel from Bonner’s Ferry or Sandpoint to Boise or Pocatello, but the journey on sometimes-circuitous routes is as important as any of the destinations.

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The Northern Plains to the Pacific Northwest

Mount-Ranier_olympia_WA_1916North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Washington mark their quasquicentennials—125 years since achieving statehood—this year and it is a good time to visit a few key places that represent their history.

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Lincoln’s Western Past

Abraham-Lincoln-out-westAt first, I think I’ve made a wrong turn somewhere, because this doesn’t feel like the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. It’s more like…Disneyland.

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Kansas Cattle Towns, Then and Now

Cowboy-in-Newton-KansasThe only market that Texans can rely on at present for their stock is Bakster [sic] Springs, Kansas …” a Texas drover wrote from present-day Oklahoma back in 1867.

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Exploring the Old Oregon Country

Invermere-Aerial-Columbia-River-ValleyDavid Thompson was fourteen when he began his life in North America as a clerk’s apprentice with the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). He may have been in HBC’s employ for decades if he had not had a chance to do a bit of exploring across Canada.

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Nez Perce in Yellowstone

Fort Yellowstone-Cavalry_Gen. Oliver O. HowardEmma Cowan awoke early the morning of August 24, 1877, to the sound of strange voices coming from outside the tent she shared with husband George on their vacation in Yellowstone National Park. Peering from under the canvas, Emma saw Indians.

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The Valiant and Brave

Henry-Flipper-first-black-graduate-of-US-Military-AcademyFrankly, I don’t get re-enactors. Like that overweight, redneck Civil War buff I saw years back, firing his musket, then yelling at advancing Yankee re-enactors: “Eat [bleep] and die!” I can’t see a Reb in 1863 being so plump.

These guys, however, I understand and like. But they’re not “re-enactors.”

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Following the Old Spanish Trail

los-angeles_spanish-trailUnlike the Santa Fe or Oregon Trails, you won’t find any trail ruts on the Old Spanish Trail. For that matter, it’s even hard to find tapas restaurants.

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The Toughest Man West of the Pecos

John-Chisum-Ranch-New-Mexico"Chisum! John Chisum! Weary. Saddle worn.”

Sorry. Every time I think of John Simpson Chisum, I think of the 1970 John Wayne movie Chisum, and Andrew J. Fenady’s theme song.

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On the High Plains Trail . . .of Hall of Fame Western Writers from North Dakota to Wyoming.

L_Amour--Owen-Wister-The-VirginianVanette Johnston was moved to tears when Western Writers of America (WWA) inducted her late husband Terry C. Johnston into the Western Writers Hall of Fame during the annual convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, in June 2013.

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Trail of Tragedy

Sand-Creek-RR_Imdian-delegation-Sand-Creek-Massacre_colorado-history-centerI’ve waited until May to come back, figuring that a late fall or early winter trip would be too depressing. Besides, driving across rural southeastern Colorado in November can be deadly.

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The Frontier Christmas Trail

Santa-Lucia_carolers_nagle-mansion_Georgetown_CO.Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Well, actually they were roasting on a gas barbecue grill, but those warm chestnuts made good hand warmers in the crisp, cold December air at Christmas Market in Georgetown, Colorado.

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Nevada’s Buckaroos, Bonanzas and Boomtowns

Valley-of-Fire-State-ParkI’m standing in Mesquite, Nevada, with Max McCoy, historian, teacher, journalist, novelist, traveler and writer who knows how to turn a phrase.

“This scenery,” he says, “makes me want to really [mess] someone up.”

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On the Trail of Ancient Artists

petroglyphs_valley-of-fire_las-vegas-nvThe tourists from Canada said they could not “read” the petroglyphs carved onto the rock walls at Valley of Fire in Nevada. “They don’t appear to be speaking Blackfoot,” the man told me as he inspected one of the carvings. He was joking, to a point.

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Hail, Columbia!

Columbia-Gorge-and-RiverAll across the Pacific Northwest are reminders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-06, although no tangible physical evidence remains. There are rivers, schools, universities, a wildlife refuge and other features named for the exploring party including the two captains.

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History and Art Along the High Road

Haystack-Taos-Valley_boggs_E-L-BlumenscheinA broken wagon spoke deserves all the credit.

Think about it. Needing to repair their wagon, Eastern artists Bert Geer Phillips and Ernest Leonard Blumenschein stopped at a sleepy little village in 1898, and Taos, New Mexico, has not been the same since.

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True Westerners

Rick Wallner

Rick Wallner

The best book on Bent’s Fort is David Lavender’s Bent’s Fort , although Mark Lee G...

Justice for Jack

Justice for Jack

Pioneer Jack Swilling should be remembered for his many contributions to Arizona...

Liberty, Not Death

Liberty, Not Death

Children soothed their thirst by scraping their fingernails on barrack windows t...

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