Monday, March 20, 2017

Traveling the Oregon Trail Backwards, Part 4

Sleepless Night in the Morton Mansion and the Unforgettable Guernsey Ruts

I'll be honest. I didn’t want to leave the car at the Guernsey Ruts. Now in the fourth day of our road trip adventure, the grueling pace had caught up with me. It didn't help that I’d spent a restless night despite the grandeur and comfort of the Morton Mansion.

This article is brought to you by Janalyn Voigt

Morton Mansion

The historic home of John Morton, mayor of Douglas and state representative for Wyoming’s Converse County has now closed its doors to overnight guests, joining the ranks of many vintage hotels and historic homes I’ve slept in during my travels. If you have an interest in staying in such places, sooner is usually better than later. I like to think that by reserving accommodations in historic homes and vintage hotels that I’m helping preserve them.
The Morton Mansion in Douglas, Wyoming; image by Andrew Farkas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Guernsey Ruts

I dragged myself from the car and chatted with family members while following the paved path that circled upward from the parking area. With much to see and far to drive, we’d left early, and the day’s heat hadn’t built yet. Birds trilled and wildflowers showed their faces. At the top of the rise, we stepped into history.

Traders, trappers and missionaries all traveled a route through this place, with the first recorded crossing by a fur trader named Robert Stuart on his way to Astoria, Oregon in 1812. Captain John Bartleson and John Bidwell led the very first wagon train here in 1841. Thousands followed in the years between that event and the completion of the railroad, which throttled travel on the Oregon Trail. The local geology virtually guaranteed that travelers on the Oregon Trail would cross in this same spot, and the wheels of their passing gouged the soft sandstone as much as six feet in places.

Guernsey, Wyoming Oregon Trail ruts; image by Paul Hermans (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0,
via Wikimedia Commons
Standing in ruts worn by thousands of emigrant wagons is an unforgettable experience. It brings home to you, in a way nothing else can, the sheer number of people who traveled West. What were their thoughts and feelings as their journeys took them through this section of the trail? What stories did they live out in their lives? Such questions can occupy a storyteller like me for a long time. The people who carved their mark in this place are all gone, but the pioneer spirit they bequeathed to us remains.

A state park preserves about a half mile of the Oregon Trail, which continues beyond the ruts we saw. It was tempting to linger, but with more stops planned for the day, we moved on. Walking in the Guernsey ruts made an impression on me that would later breathe life into my western historical fiction series.

I would call upon my experience of this and other locations on the trip while writing Montana Gold, a western historical romance series with the Oregon Trail always in the background. Hills of Nevermore, the first installment, is now available for Kindle preorder. Order Hills of Nevermore before the May 1st launch date for the best price.

Can a young widow hide her secret shame from the Irish circuit preacher bent on helping her survive? 
In an Idaho Territory boom town, America Liberty Reed overhears circuit preacher Shane Hayes try to persuade a hotel owner to close his saloon on Sunday. Shane lands face-down in the mud for his trouble, and there’s talk of shooting him. America intervenes and finds herself in an unexpectedly personal conversation with the blue-eyed preacher. Certain she has angered God in the past, she shies away from Shane.
Addie Martin, another widow, invites America to help in her cook tent in Virginia City, the new mining town. Even with Addie’s teenage son helping with America’s baby, life is hard. Shane urges America to depart for a more civilized location. Neither Shane’s persuasions nor road agents, murder, sickness, or vigilante violence can sway America. Loyalty and ambition hold her fast until dire circumstances force her to confront everything she believes about herself, Shane, and God.
Based on actual historical events during a time of unrest in America, Hills of Nevermore explores faith, love, and courage in the wild west.

 Preorder Hills of Nevermore 

About Janalyn Voigt

My father instilled a love of literature in me at an early age by reading chapters from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Robinson Crusoe and other classics. When I grew older, and he stopped reading bedtime stories, I put myself to sleep with tales I 'wrote' in my head. My sixth-grade teacher noticed my interest in storytelling and influenced me to become a writer.

I'm what is known as a multi-genre author, but I like to think of myself as a storyteller. The same elements appear in all my novels in proportions dictated by their genre: romance, mystery, adventure, history, and whimsy.

Epic Fantasy: DawnSinger and Wayfarer are the first two novels in the epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven. The final books in the series, Sojourner and DawnKing, are under contract with my publisher.

Historical Fiction: Hills of Nevermore, first installment in Montana Gold, set during Montana's gold rush in the days of vigilante justice, will release May 1, 2017.

Romantic Suspense/Mystery: Deceptive Tide (Islands of Intrigue-San Juans) is set to launch in 2017. This title is romantic suspense, but I am also moving into writing mystery novels written in the classic style of Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt.

Sign up at to be notified when these titles release and for book extras and reader bonuses.


  1. The first time I stood in Oregon Trail ruts (at Rock Creek Station in Nebraska) it was an emotional experience for me. I'd been reading diaries published in the Covered Wagon Women series. Thinking about those women and what they endured ... wow. Thanks for an informative post.

  2. Stephanie, I know what you mean. I found the experience breathtaking.

  3. Janalyn: This article series very well done! Interesting comment on road weariness. My late hubby Stephen Bly traveled this route forward for research on several novels, including The Retta Barre Oregon Trail Series for kids and pre-teens.

    1. Thanks, Janet. I'm considering following the trail the other direction, too. That's neat about Stephen's trip.

  4. Janalyn, a very informative post about Guernsey-ruts. I've never been there. Road trips are fun but they can be overwhelming with the tiredness of sleeping in different places and all. God bless.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the article, Marilyn. I hope you find the chance to visit the Guernsey ruts some time.

  5. It's hard to imagine traveling that 'road' if you can call it that, and enduring the hardships of the pioneers. And we complain if we have to wait too long in a fast-food line while ordering! As the lead proofread on this book (Hills of Nevermore) I can testify that it's a very accurate rendition of the Old West and an enthralling story. Loved your article!

  6. Comparing the pioneers' lives to modern times sure gives a perspective. Thanks for the compliment on Hills of Nevermore.