The Santa Fe Trail #1


Map of the Santa Fe Trail (credit: NPS; click to zoom)

The American Solar Challenge is on again in 2021, and includes a road race along the Santa Fe Trail on 4–7 August, from Independence, MO to Santa Fe, NM (exact route still to be decided).

To get myself in the mood, I’m reading a second-hand copy of Land of Enchantment, the memoirs of Marion Sloan Russell, who first travelled the Santa Fe Trail in 1852 as a young girl of seven (following the southern route, the “Cimarron Cut-Off”) under the leadership of François Xavier Aubry:

Each night there were two great circles of wagons. Captain Aubry’s train encamped a half mile beyond the government’s. Inside those great circles the mules were turned after grazing, or ropes were stretched between the wagons and thus a circular corral made. Inside the corral were the cooking fires, one for each wagon. After the evening meal we would gather around the little fires. The men would tell stories of the strange new land before us, tales of gold and of Indians. The women would sit with their long skirts drawn up over a sleeping child on their laps. Overhead brooded the night sky, the little camp fires flickered, and behind us loomed the dark hulks of the covered wagons. … It was strange about the prairies at dawn, they were all sepia and silver; at noon they were like molten metal, and in the evening they flared into unbelievable beauty—long streamers of red and gold were flung out across them. The sky had an unearthly radiance. Sunset on the prairie! It was haunting, unearthly and lovely.

Not everything was quite so lovely; a theft in Santa Fe forced Marion’s widowed mother to abandon a further trip to California. Instead, she ran a boarding house: first in nearby Albuquerque, and later in Santa Fe itself. Let’s hope things go more smoothly for the solar cars of 2021.

Other posts in this series: Santa Fe Trail #1, Santa Fe Trail #2, Santa Fe Trail #3, Santa Fe Trail #4.


4 thoughts on “The Santa Fe Trail #1

  1. Pingback: The Santa Fe Trail #2 | Scientific Gems

  2. Pingback: The Santa Fe Trail #3 | Scientific Gems

  3. Pingback: The Santa Fe Trail #4 | Scientific Gems

  4. Pingback: ASC 2021: road race, day 1 | Scientific Gems

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