Have you ever wondered what it must have been like to cross the prairies and the Rockies, then make the truly perilous trip through the snowy mountains to California during the first half of the 19th Century?
Celia Hayes (best known to the blogosphere as “Sgt. Mom“) has written a great book — To Truckee’s Trail: the Greatest Adventure… Never Told — which will take you on this harrowing journey in a way that reading history can’t. What’s unusual about this is that unlike many historic novels it has a documentary feel to it (it is loosely based on real characters and events). The action is punctuated by diary entries, and a (fictionalized) 1932 interview of one of the members of the party who lived into his late 90s and recalls his childhood memories.
It is a riveting read. Close calls with Indian war parties, political treachery, near starvation and freezing to death, and inevitable illnesses and deaths. It’s truly amazing that they made it.
Some great observations along the way. I loved this one:

A good wife will re-load for you, a great one will take up a knife and slit your enemies’ throats.

Very rugged people, these pioneers.
I found myself wondering how so many of their descendants came to evolve into the soft people we’ve become today.
Don’t miss this book. It’s a real treat. I loved every page.
UPDATE: Thank you, Glenn Reynolds for the link, and welcome all!
I have to say, it renews my faith to know that the quote above refers not just to nameless women in in the 1840s, but to Dr. Helen!
UPDATE: I’m delighted to see that Sgt. Mom has linked this post — and even more delighted to see that thanks to Glenn’s link there’s a resulting uptick in sales!