Chuck Dodd’s Emigrant Experience Tours

The Applegate-Lassen Trail runs from the Humboldt River, across the Black Rock Desert and through High Rock Canyon in northwestern Nevada, and on to Goose Lake in northeastern California. (See map.) About 130 miles of that trail is in country that, today, is essentially as it was when the emigrants first saw it in 1846, more than 160 years ago — the setting of the trail remains nearly free of the impact of modern man. We can sometimes travel the trail today for three or four days without seeing another human being.

This pristine setting gives us the opportunity to recapture the “emigrant experience” — to comprehend — to feel — what it was like for the men, women, and children who traveled the trail with covered wagons some 160 or so years ago.

As important and wonderful as it is, the physical context of the trail — by itself— is not enough to gain a real comprehension of what the emigrants experienced 160 years ago, any more than dressing up in period costume would, by itself, be enough to gain that comprehension.

Chuck Leading TourOn his tour, Chuck Dodd brings it all together by adding the informational context of an historian to the pristine physical context of the trail to give participants on the tour an overall comprehension — a real feeling — of what it was like for the emigrants who followed the trail to Oregon and northern California.

On his “emigrant experience” tour, Chuck helps you recapture what the emigrants experienced by reading the descriptions they wrote as they traveled the trail and by showing you the drawings made by one — J. Goldsborough Bruff — when he traveled the trail in 1849.

Comparing the emigrants word pictures of what they saw and Bruff's drawings with what we can see today shows us that little has changed in the Black Rock Desert and High Rock Canyon from the way it was 160 years ago. That gives us the historic physical environment of the trail.

But the descriptions do much more. The emigrants described the challenges they faced and how they met those challenges, the tragedies and sorrows they experienced, and even the humor that irrepressibly penetrated their sweat, the dust, the smells, the heat and cold they endured. The descriptions tell us what the emigrants felt — through the descriptions we can come to understand the emotional content of the “emigrant experience.”

The descriptions are themselves powerful enough to make us wonder with amazement that they could have done what they did (and to wonder whether we could have done it), but reading the descriptions in the physical setting in which the emigrants actually experienced what they described brings our comprehension home at the most basic, gut level.

There is, however, yet more. Although the Applegate-Lassen Trail covers about 170 miles, it is but a small part of the thousands of miles that comprise the complex network of the California and Oregon trails. And the experiences of the few thousand who traveled that trail is only part of the body of experiences of the hundreds of thousands who traveled those trails. So, on his tour, Chuck weaves the broader historical context of the overland migration that was so much a part of our nations westward expansion in the mid-nineteenth century into the story of the Applegate-Lassen Trail and the emigrants who traveled it.

Chuck Dodd’s tour brings us the “emigrant experience” on the Applegate-Lassen Trail.

In 2010, Chuck is leading his tour as a post-convention tour, for the annual OCTA convention, August 16th through August 19th. Four days along the trail; dry camping three nights. Four wheeled drive, high clearance vehicles.

Important: See more specific information about Chuck's post-convention tour.