Thursday, November 4, 2010

Book Review: ***Hard Road West: History and Geology along the California Trail

Written by Keith Meldahl and published by the University of Chicago Press 2007.  This book will tell you more about how mountains are formed than you can even think of to ask.  It then takes all that information and relates it to the pioneer trail.  Why the pioneers choose the route they took, and how is it that those circumstances were there.  For example the pioneers tried to stay by water, fuel and feed whenever they could.  So it stands to reason that they follow rivers.  But how is it the Sweet water does not go in and out of mountain ranges, but presents a relatively smooth descent to South Pass.  This book gives the answer, explaining that at one time their were mountains there, and they fell.
Why does the trail wander into the Black Hills instead of hugging the Platte.  It happens the Platte goes through narrow canyons.  The book points out that the river in many places predates the mountains.  And that is why you have these narrow canyons like Devil's Gate.  The river was there as the mountain rose over millions of years, and slowly cut the chasm.
If you like geology, you would love this book.  If you want to understand the Pioneer Trail, and the hardships with the journey, this book is for you as well.

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