Tuesday, December 11, 2018 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Josiah Gregg

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As the forest of Cross Timbers was now beginning to be seen in the distance, and fearing we might be troubled to find a passway through this brushy region, south of the Canadian, we forded this river on the 29th, without the slightest trouble, and very soon entered our former trail, a little west of Spring Valley. This gave a new and joyful impulse to our spirits; for we had been traveling over twenty days without even a trail, and through a region of which we knew absolutely nothing, except from what we could gather from our Comanche pilot. This trail, which our wagons had made the previous summer, was still visible, and henceforth there was an end to all misgivings.
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p.217

 
Josiah Gregg

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On our passage this time across the 'prairie ocean' which lay before us, we ran no risk of getting bewildered or lost, for there was now a plain wagon trail across the entire stretch of our route, from the Cimarron to Arkansas river. This track, which has since remained permanent, was made in the year 1834. Owing to continuous rains during the passage of the caravan of that year, a plain trail was then cut in the softened turf, on the most direct route across this arid desert, leaving the Arkansas about twenty miles above the 'Caches.' This has ever since been the regular route of the caravans; and thus a recurrence of those distressing sufferings from thirst, so frequently experienced by early travelers in that inhospitable region, has been prevented.

 
Josiah Gregg
 

We were now about to launch upon an unknown region — our route lay henceforth across that unexplored wilderness, of which I have so frequently spoken, without either pilot or trail to guide us for nearly 500 miles. We had to depend entirely upon our knowledge of the geographical position of the country for which we were steering, and the indications of a compass and sextant. This was emphatically a pioneer trip; such a one also as had, perhaps, never before been undertaken — to convey heavily laden wagons through a country almost wholly untrod by civilized man, and of which we, at least, knew nothing. We were therefore extremely anxious to acquire any information our visitors might be able to give us; but Tabba-quena being by no means experienced in wagon tactics, could only make us understand, by gestures, mixed with a little wretched Spanish, that the route up the Canadian presented no obstacles according to his mode of traveling. He appeared, however, very well acquainted with the whole Mexican frontier, from Santa Fé to Chihuahua, and even to the Gulf, as well as with all the Prairies. During the consultation he seemed occasionally to ask the opinions of other chiefs who had huddled around him. Finally, we handed him a sheet of paper and a pencil, signifying at the same time a desire that he would draw us a map of the Prairies. This he very promptly executed; and although the draft was somewhat rough, it bore, much to our astonishment, quite a map-like appearance, with a far more accurate delineation of all the principal rivers of the plains — the road from Missouri to Santa Fé, and the different Mexican settlements, than is to be found in many of the engraved maps of those regions.

 
Josiah Gregg
 

Instead of following the trail of the year before, I determined to seek a nearer and better route down the south side of the Canadian river, under the guidance of the Comanche; by which movement, we had again to travel a distance of four hundred miles over an entirely new country. We had just passed the Laguna Colorada (Laguna Colorada is in the northeastern part of what is now Quay County, New Mexico, about twelve miles west of Tucumcari Mount.)... when our fire was carelessly permitted to communicate with the prairie grass. As there was a head-wind blowing at the time, we very soon got out of reach of the conflagration: but the next day, the wind having changed, the fire was again perceived in our rear approaching us at a very brisk pace. The terror which these prairie conflagrations are calculated to inspire, when the grass is tall and dry... are sometimes sufficient to daunt the stoutest heart. ...all those who have crossed the Prairies have had more or less experience as to the danger which occasionally threatens the caravans from these sweeping visitations. The worst evil to be apprehended with those bound for Santa Fé is from the explosion of gunpowder, as a keg or two of twenty-five pounds each, is usually to be found in every wagon. When we saw the fire gaining so rapidly upon us, we had to use the whip very unsparingly; and it was only when the lurid flames were actually rolling upon the heels of our teams, that we succeeded in reaching a spot of short-grass prairie, where there was no further danger to be apprehended.

 
Josiah Gregg
 

The historian, with a vast chronological account of a people, parallels it with a skip trail which stops only at the salient items, and can follow at any time contemporary trails which lead him all over civilization at a particular epoch. There is a new profession of trail blazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record. The inheritance from the master becomes, not only his additions to the world's record, but for his disciples the entire scaffolding by which they were erected.

 
Vannevar Bush
 

Although, but a few days' travel above where we now were, the Canadian runs pent up in a narrow channel, scarcely four rods [or 22 yards] across, we here found it spread out to the width of from three to six hundred yards, and so full of sand-bars (only interspersed with narrow rills) as to present the appearance of a mere sandy valley instead of the bed of a river. In fact, during the driest seasons, the water wholly disappears in many places. Captain Boone (Nathan Boone, the youngest son of the noted pioneer Daniel.), of the U. S. Dragoons, being upon an exploring expedition in the summer of 1843, came to the Canadian about the region of our western boundary, where he found the channel perfectly dry. Notwithstanding it presents the face of one of the greatest rivers of the west during freshets, yet even then it would not be navigable on account of its rapidity and shallowness. It would appear almost incredible to those unacquainted with the prairie streams, that a river of about 1500 miles in length, and whose head wears a cap of perennial snow (having its source in the Rocky Mountains), should scarcely be navigable, for even the smallest craft, over fifty miles above its mouth.

 
Josiah Gregg
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