Wagon Train rolls through town, over Echo | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Wagon Train rolls through town, over Echo

by Denise Sloan

There’s a slow moving band of oddly dressed people in peculiar looking clothing on horseback or riding in antique wagons and buggies, seemingly in no particular hurry to rush back into the 21th century.

They make up the Highway 50 Association Wagon Train which is making its 52nd annual trip this week through South Lake Tahoe and on to their final destination of Coloma where gold was discovered.

It was the discovery of this precious metal that originally sparked the flood of wagon trains from back East to the uncharted West from 1849 through the late 1860s.

This colorful band of modern day historians come from every walk of life but all have one thing in common – a love of history.

This editor has been riding the Highway 50 Wagon Train for 12 years now, learning more and more about the way life was 150 years ago, and writing about those on-the-road history lessons.

An obvious lesson is that the trails certainly weren’t paved, so the pioneers frequently stopped to cut down trees to forge a path. When they came to a cliff, the original travelers unloaded their food and clothing, dismantled the wagons and lowered everything, include the livestock, by rope to the bottom of the cliff. After reassembling the wagons, reloading their provisions, and catching a quick meal of hard biscuits and dried meat, they persevered until the next obstacle gave them another challenge.

Re-enacting what our forefathers endured, the Highway 50 Wagon Train is the only bi-state moving historical event.

“There are so many different, interesting types of people who ride Wagon Train,” said Diana Newborn, this year’s wagon master. “We have ranchers, doctors, lawyers, dentists, cowboys, police officers and reporters.”

Moving along at the brisk pace of about 2 1/2 miles an hour, Wagon Train departs the Horizon Casino today at around 8 a.m., makes a lunch stop at the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Center, travels down Highway 50 to the “Y” and on to the Amacker Ranch for an overnight stay. South Lake Tahoe’s Mounted Patrol Officers Chuck Owens, Jeff Reagan and Rebecca Inman will be escorting Wagon Train through the city.

Tuesday morning the train of wagons, buggies, wranglers and horseback riders depart Amacker Ranch around 8 a.m. with a brief rest stop in Meyers before snaking over the precarious cliffs of Echo Summit on their way to Strawberry. The group gets a great parting view of Lake Tahoe as they climb Echo Summit.

For those traveling in the more modern fashion, expect slight traffic delays as the California Highway Patrol escorts Wagon Train west along Highway 50. The road is closed one lane at a time, over Echo Summit, in alternating directions, creating motorist delays of about five to eight minutes.

Should motorists encounter a short traffic delay, participants of Wagon Train hope that they would take a moment to reflect on our heritage, think of what travel was really like 150 years ago and appreciate these dedicated historians who are working to keep history alive. For those who become excited about seeing the Wagon Train, please do not honk the car horn as it scares the horses and could cause an accident.

Upon their arrival at Strawberry Meadows, the travelers enjoy an extra day of rest and a chance to reshoe horses and make repairs to wheels, wagons and buggies.

On Thursday, the train departs Strawberry around 8 a.m. and travels to Riverton to spend the night. Friday’s trek takes the train into Pollock Pines where a parade, barbecue, dance and crafts fair celebrates its arrival.

On Saturday, The El Dorado County Hangtown Posse hosts its annual Wagon Train Parade in historic Placerville at 11 a.m. The train then continues on to Coloma Saturday evening for a street dance and barbecue, plus family activities and living history demonstrations on Sunday.

Anyone may join Wagon Train for a day or two or the rest of the trip.

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