Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

Finley Marine took her role as wagon master to heart during a Monday visit to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

Marine was one of about a dozen kids who turned up with their parents and grandparents to “Become a Pioneer” during the morning session of the event on the first day of spring break.

Park Ranger Rachael Nickens organized the group and assigned the role each person would take, such as wagon master, scout and farmer. She also distributed essential head gear: hats for the boys and bonnets for the girls.

“It was a good group of kids,” Nickens said of the day’s first visitors, who were at the center in time for the 10 o’clock start of the first pioneer session. “They worked well together and they were all different ages.”

That was part of the fun for 9-year-old Wagon Master Finley.

“I liked packing the wagon and seeing what different things they could pack,” she said of imagining life along the trail. “We had to make choices.

“I had to be a leader and work with other people,” she said.

Finley, an animal lover, said she would have enjoyed traveling the Oregon Trail with the pioneers and spending time with the animals.

She also empathized with the difficult decisions the pioneers had to face, such as leaving behind family valuables and beloved pets.

Finley and her mother, Alexandria Marine, traveled from their home in Portland to spend time with Alexandria’s parents and Finely’s grandparents, Karen and Dave Yeakley, during part of spring vacation.

Finley photographed her grandparents’ farm, which is visible in the valley below while inside the Interpretive Center atop Flagstaff Hill along Highway 86 about five miles east of Baker City.

Finley’s mother said her daughter would have been good help on the Oregon Trail because she’s a hard worker. Before traveling to the pioneer event, Finely was up helping her grandma feed her six horses and 25 barn cats.

Finley said she’s eager to take home photos of her visit to the Interpretive Center and the farm to share with her friends and her social science teacher.

The Shaw family of Nampa, Idaho, traveled to Baker City for an overnight stay to escape the snow that fell in their hometown over the weekend.

Natalie Shaw said she thought the Interpretive Center would offer something of interest to all of her children, who range in age from 13 to 2.

Her eldest, Caleb, particularly enjoyed getting the chance to make sparks on his own as part of a flint and steel demonstration provided by Zach Grogan, another park ranger at the Center.

“I haven’t been able to do it myself before,” Caleb said.

Caleb added that while he’s studied Oregon Trail history in the past, Monday’s visit to the Center provided a new experience.

“It was enjoyable to see a more visual representation,” he said of the displays, which include life-size animals and pioneers who lead visitors on a walk through the Trail Center where excerpts of diaries and other exhibits of life along the trail are purposefully arranged.

Monday’s “pioneer” visitors first walked to the outdoor wagon encampment to get into character before returning to the Center.

“Separating themselves from their electronics is now a little hard on the young ’uns,” Park Ranger Nickens said.

See more in the March 28, 2018 issue of the Baker City Herald.